We traveled on Celebrity's Constellation for a two-week Baltic cruise starting on July 5, 2003. The ship was great. We enjoyed the food and atmosphere. We didn't attend much of the entertainment, so I can't say much about it. The singing group Lighthouse was wonderful. The only shows we saw were the Broadway song and dance shows, which were fine. The service was very good. The room steward, Oliver, and the waiter, Marius, took very good care of us.
We explored most of the ports on our own and had a great time. If you want to do the ports on your own, you must do a lot of research and have good guidebooks. Don't count on the ship to provide any information to help you tour. Take a good guidebook and write ahead or check on the Internet for information on the ports. We used Rick Steve's Scandinavian book and website. We also used the CruiseMates website.
Celebrity provided a free shuttle in almost every port. When they didn't, it was because the sights were too far for a shuttle or they were within walking distance. Gdynia and Warnemunde were the onlyports without shuttles. We did not do a lot of shopping anywhere. We used ATMs in every port except St. Petersburg, where the vendors all took dollars.
We purchased our air from the cruise line. We flew United and SAS over and British Airways back. SAS was much nicer than British Airways. We got into Stockholm a couple of days early and stayed over in London a couple of days after. We did not stay in the cruise line's hotels. English was spoken everywhere we went. We had no problem communicating.
We started from Stockholm. We boarded on Saturday but the ship didn't leave until Sunday. Unfortunately, the shuttles stopped at 5 p.m., so to go into town on Saturday evening you had to take a taxi; it was too far to walk. The tourist information center in Stockholm was in a temporary location, so we had a little trouble finding it. We ended up at the visitors' bureau at the train station. We bought the Stockholm Card and then took the hop-on bus tour. Both worked very well for us. We saw the Vasa Museum, the Nordic Museum, Skansen, the Royal Palace, and walked through Gamla Stan. I liked Skansen best. The cruise out of Stockholm through the archipelago is beautiful.
The first port was Riga, Latvia. It was the first time Celebrity had stopped there. The local bus company provided maps when we got off the bus. We chanced onto a wreath-laying ceremony at their Freedom Monument. (I believe it was the 10-year anniversary of their legislature.) We also walked around the town. We went to their market, which was amazing. It is in the old zeppelin hangers and there are stands that sell everything from fish, meat, vegetables and baked goods to canned goods. Not many tourists found it, but it was worth the walk. I bought some amber jewelry. (No, I haven't checked to make sure it's real, but it's pretty and I like it.) We really enjoyed Riga. It was clean and vibrant. There was lots of building and renovation going on.
Next stop was Helsinki, which was more touristy. It also has a market, but it is aimed at least partially at tourists. There were arts and crafts, food, and produce. We bought some wonderful strawberries. Some of the tourist items could be bought at Stockman's Department store for less. Stockman's has a nice souvenir section. We did a walking tour of some of the historical sights.
We spent the next two days in St. Petersburg, the one port where we took the ship's excursions. We did not have visas. We took a bus overview of the city, a tour of the gardens at Peterhof, a night cruise of the canals, and a tour of the outlying palaces. They were all fine, except the boat tour, which did not go well. St. Petersburg is a very interesting city. Some of the buildings have been renovated and are beautiful. Others are very dilapidated. There was not much building going on. Lots of street vendors at every stop sold the same souvenirs. The ship sold some of the same things after we left St. Petersburg. I would think about hiring a guide and car if I came again. It doesn't seem like a very easy city to do on your own.
We then went to Tallinn, Estonia, a medieval city. We did a walking tour around the historical sights. The market here is definitely touristy. It looks a lot like a Renaissance Festival; the vendors are even in costume. There are some interesting galleries, if you get off the main streets.
The next day was at sea. We needed the break. We went to the wine tasting for Captain's Club Members, which was fun, and to the formal tea.
We docked in Gdynia, Poland for tours into Gdansk. We were there on a weekend and the local people were out for their holidays. There is an amusement park and you can walk into town. We happened on a very moving memorial plaque for Sept. 11. The market here was touristy, but for Polish tourists. It looked a little like Panama City, FL. We walked into town, but we didn't have any information on what we were seeing. Try the waffles with cherries and cream! There's not a whole lot to see in Gdynia. I would make the effort to get into Gdansk.
We docked in Warnemunde for tours to Rostock. The ship docked right at the train station so there weren't any shuttles. We took the train into Rostock. It was very easy to do. Rostock is another medieval city. We walked around and saw the historical sights. The market here mostly sold food, and we had a great jelly donut (Berliner). We also had some very good food at a local restaurant. Warnemunde is a beach resort. The beach is right outside of town and was packed. There are lots of shops and restaurants.
We had two days in Copenhagen. The shuttle took us right into downtown, and we did Rick Steve's walking tour. The shuttle stopped at 5 p.m., so if you want to go into town in the evening you need to take a cab or buy the ship excursion to Tivoli, which is basically just a shuttle. We did walk back from town, but it was a long walk. The ship docked near the Little Mermaid. We had smorrebrod at Hviids Viinstube. The archaeological museum of the foundations of the castle was interesting. We also went to the National Museum. The next day we went to Christianshaven and Rosenborg Castle. We had some great pastry. After leaving port we saw a tall ship in full sail.
Our last port was Oslo, Norway. The fjords are beautiful. We took the ferry over to the Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Folk Museum, which were both very interesting. In the afternoon we did a walking tour through the historical parts of town. The ship docked right next to an old fort.
We had another day at sea and then docked in Dover. Disembarkation went very well. We used the ship transfer to Victoria bus station and walked to our B&B from there.
We had a great time. Let me know if I can answer any questions.
My family and I just returned from the sailing on 19 April. We had a wonderful time. My husband and I were in a balcony room, which we enjoyed immensely. My teenagers were in an inside room down the hall.
We went to San Juan the day before, so arrived at the ship around 1:00 p.m. I think we were on the ship 45 minutes later. I've only been on 3 cruises, but this was the most efficient of them all. There was a lot of security, i.e., personnel checking picture ID's and documents. We checked out our rooms, had lunch on the ship, then walked into Old San Juan. by the time my husband got back at 4:00 the luggage had arrived.
All 4 of us had a great time. I cannot say enough about the politeness of the Celebrity staff. The food was very good -- always beautifully presented. We did eat at Oceanliners one night, with our children..age 18 and 16. They were very impressed with the service. -- just like at home -- :) Our dinner was exquisite, with the grand finale of a Chocolate souffle. Thatalone is worth going back for. Other food available -- the pool "lite cuisine" excellent. The traditional hamburger grill. The Seaside Cafe at lunch had certain theme days, i.e., Mexican, that were a big hit with the kids. The Ice Cream bar was excellent, as was the Pizza Station in the back of the Seaside Cafe. As you can see, all of us had more than enough choices.
Entertainment: I had read a lot of reviews, some of which said that Celebrity's Entertainment was their weak spot. I thought it was great. I will also say I am easy to entertain. If someone will get up on a stage and sing to me, I think that's as good as it gets. The Magic Show and Comedienne were good, the singing and dancing professional. The Josh Hanlon Band was a delight to listen to. Pamela Blake, a former Broadway Star did a show one evening. I didn't stay up late enough to go to the other bars, but heard very favorable comments.
Ports of Call: First day in the Dominican we went over to the beach. Lots of people, but very organized. We got there late, but the staff on the beach found us chairs and a spot in the sun/shade..whatever we wanted. Yes, we did tip. We stayed on the ship that evening, since our vacation last year was at Casa de Campo and we had seen that. In the other ports we did our own thing. Renting a cab in Barbados. For $80 we got a whole tour of the island, did Harrison's Cave and Malibu Beach. We enjoyed the ship in St. Lucia. There isn't much to do in the town -- this would have been a good day to book an excursion thru the ship. In Antigua we again rented a cab and went to the beach.
This was Easter week. There were plenty of kids on board. The one day at sea the pool was packed, and yes, people were saving chairs starting at 0700, and not showing up for them until 1100. Annoying but predictable. What I did like about Celebrity is the lack of announcements every 30 min. There was plenty to do if one wanted to be kept busy the whole cruise. We will definitely book on Celebrity again.
Context: We were a group of 11 family members traveling including 4 children under 6. The grandparents (early 60s) had recently been on Silversea as well as the RCCL Monarch. My husband and I (late 30s to 40) were on the Infinity Southern Carribbean in March 2002 without kids, and on the RCCL Explorer of the Seas in July 2002 with kids. The others (32-35) had not cruised recently. Most of us live in the Philadelphia area and we are used to going out to fine restaurants (more of the newer, trendy type) and going to shows in both New York and Philadelphia. We would have been very disappointed with food that was just ordinary or banquet food. Because the ship is moving to Europe for the next 6 months, I will not say much about the ports we visited in this review.
Embarkation: I can sum it up in one word: HASSLE. The Constellation moved from the Pan American pier to the pier at Old San Juan. As a result the taxis drop passengers off with their bags at the sidewalk and it is up to the passengers toget the luggage to the "gate" themselves where they have to show ID and have a porter take the luggage. Porters do not come through the gate to help you get the bags from the sidewalk to the gate like they do at the Pan American pier, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, or virtually every other cruise ship embarkation port. Given that we were a group of 11 traveling with young kids this was very difficult for us. Fellow passengers were shoving so getting through the line was not easy and the officials in San Juan exercised no line control. When I finally got to the front of the line to get my ID checked, I stood there, literally blocking my fellow shoving passengers, while the men in our party handed me the luggage one-by-one which I pushed through the gate so a porter could take them. Other passengers in the meantime pushed their way in front of the rest of the party so we had to wait for the others to work their way through the line to show their ID. I don't know who was responsible for this mess but it was disgraceful. Once we finally got to the terminal, the agents checking people in were the slowest I ever experienced, even though we had filled out the online passenger information, and though we were all Captain's Club. After we finally checked in, we went to a table where we registered the kids for the fun factory, and got information on the program. From then on, getting to the ship was a breeze, though they routed us so we had to walk past every shop in the terminal (this is the long way around the terminal). Once onboard, we were met by friendly staff offering champagne and orange juice and 2 people escorted us to our 4 cabins.
Passengers: This is one area in which the cruise differed substantially than the Infinity cruise the year before. First there were between 450-500 children aboard as it was a holiday week. Second, I would say 50% of the guests were from Puerto Rico. Often it was difficult to find fellow passengers who were not speaking Spanish. Most announcements were still in English though in some shows they also did announcements in Spanish. Some of the staff told us that the bars were not as busy this week as usual, and the golf pro said not as many people signed up for golf outings as usual. The kids were generally happy and well behaved though there was the "too frequent" annoyance of getting on the elevator to find all of the buttons had been pushed. I noticed this more toward the end of the week. Also, I did notice one night a lot of teens hanging out on the 11th deck outside the tower, many of whom were smoking or drinking. They all seemed to be Puerto Rican as they were speaking Spanish. There were also a lot of uniformed security officers walking around frequently, but I did not notice them do anything about the drinking teens. To be honest, they weren't loud, unruly or bothersome so maybe security left them alone. One of the guards told us they were with a private company hired by Celebrity to "patrol" public areas whenever there are a lot of kids on board.
Cabins: My husband, myself and one child were in cabin 7045 (cat 2B) connecting with cabin 7047 with my parents and my other child. Our cabin steward was Benedito and he was one of the kindest, most gracious people I have ever met. The cabins were clean and everything was in working order. They were decorated in a pale green motif with lots of wood trim. The minibar is in a cabinet built into the wall with the TV and another cabinet above it. If you want access to the minibar you have to ask the cabin steward to unlock it. The pull out sofas are big enough for one small child only. I can't imagine a teenager or adult sleeping on them comfortably. Also cabin 7045 is slightly bigger than 7047. With the pull-out sofa extended there is about 1 foot of space between the bed and the desk in 7045 to get through to the balcony. In 7047 there is no space when the bed is extended so you literally have to crawl over the bed to get to the balcony. We tried to move the bed back but could not. Also the king sized bed in 7045 was slightly longer as it curved out in the front, while in 7047 it was square. With the doors closed we could hear people in the connecting cabin. However, we could not hear people on the other side of us and, they reported to me that they could not hear us (which is good because my kids were not always quiet). We had plenty of storage space for everything and were able to keep the cabin fairly neat. The balconies seemed to me to be the same size as the cat 1B I had on Infinity, and the Cat 9 I had on Explorer. There are frosted glass partitions between cabins on the balconies and if you lean forward you can see into the stateroom of the people next to you. My brother and his family were in Cat 9 cabin 7055 (inside). They had 2 bunk beds that came down out of the ceiling, and you could not see them when they were up. They had the same amount of storage that we had, though the room was laid out differently. My brother reported that the bunks were comfortable. He is 6 ft. 1 inch tall and slept comfortably in the bunk a few times while his younger children slept in the bed. My sister had an inside cabin by herself and it connected to the cabin next to hers. She observed some noise from the adjoining cabin.
Room service: We did get room service a few times and it never took more than 10 minutes. It was usually delivered by Zifka (spelling) from Bulgaria. She was also an in-room babysitter and watched the kids for us one night while they slept, and watched my brother's kids for them 4 nights. Another Bulgarian lady in housekeeping, Pavlina, stayed with our kids while they slept a couple of nights. We were pleased with both ladies and felt comfortable with both.
San Marco restaurant/Food: We found the food to be very good to excellent. My parents reported terrible service at breakfast on Sunday morning in the main dining room. I ate there Friday with the kids and service could not have been better. For dinner when we arrived Saturday we discovered they messed up our table assignments and split our party up so that our tables were not even on the same level. This was rectified and the next day we were all put at 1 table by the window on deck 5. Our waiter Neels from South Africa, was the most exuberant person I met on the ship. He is young, attractive, tried very hard to please, and was a lot of fun. Our assistant waiter "Mr. Z" (we could not say his name and he did not talk much) was the hardest working person I observed on the ship. Between the 2 of them we had excellent service. Of all the meals, the only one I did not care for was the duck (it was well-prepared, I just did not like it). The leg of lamb was terrific (contrary to previous reports about it being tough and inedible), the rack of lamb was as good as any I have ever had in fine restaurants, and beef dishes and all fish dishes were excellent. The spinach salad the first night is my favorite, but all salads and soups were superb. I thought it was a very nice touch that they have a different children's menu every night (though you could always order the "usual stuff:) - RCCL had the same kids' menu every night. My kids loved all the food, but my kids are not picky eaters. My nephews are picky eaters and there was plenty to please them. Some nights my kids even ate from the adult menu. And some nights, we adults ordered some items from the kids menu. If you are a fan of creamed corn or macaroni and cheese, ask your waiter to bring you some when they are on the kids menu. They were both TO DIE FOR. The creamed corn was so good we placed a special order for it later in the cruise. It is not on the adult menu. We also experienced terrific service from our sommelier Bruno, and our drink waitress Vesta. Vesta was only too happy to get me my soda every night even though I purchased the sticker.
Seaside Café: We were very impressed with both the quality of the food and service in the buffet. In the morning, even after you got your breakfast, servers came around offering coffee, and others came around with trays of pastries, just like they do in the dining room. They did have waiters helping to carry trays but more often than not I ended up carrying my own, even if I was trying to manage the kids at the same time. The food at lunch was very good, and they always had a pizza station at the aft starboard side, as well as a "made to order" pasta station at the aft port side. In the aft section of the café they had soups, salads and sandwiches. This section was open later than the main buffet. We never ate there for dinner. My husband and sister-in-law went up for sushi one night which was set up in the same place as the pasta station at lunch. They announced they did not enjoy the sushi because the rice was cold. They never went back. I did enjoy the "afternoon tea" set up in the Seaside. The tea sandwiches are something they did not have on Explorer and I really enjoyed them.
Soft Drinks: We purchased the soda sticker but we noticed the water on the ship tasted funny. As a result, all fountain drinks tasted funny, especially at the beginning of the cruise. My sister says she would not get the sticker again because she hated the taste of the drinks.
Ocean Liners: As we enjoyed ourselves in San Marco so much we ended up cancelling our reservation.
Pool and chairs: I did notice people having trouble finding chairs around the pool on the sea day if they did not get out early. Because my kids are early risers, we were always out early and had no problem getting padded chairs around the pool in around the same location. People were not very aggressive and I did not notice excessive hogging like I did on RCCL. The smaller pool at one point was so crowded with children that it was not possible to get in it. The kids all seemed well-behaved however.
Bars: We found the bar service by the pool to be exceptionally slow during the day. Our favorite bar became the Martini Bar, which was run by the infamous Sudi and his side-kick Kirk (aka Tom Cruise). We had such a good time with them. They were truthfully some of the best entertainment we had on the ship. I highly recommend that anyone cruising on a ship in which Sudi is working to look him up. Not only does he make a fabulous drink but his charm and "magic" are engaging. Whenever he saw one of us, he never failed to ask where "the rest of the family" was. One night when my husband and I "snuck away" from our family in the Rendezvous Lounge, Sudi made our martinis for us then told us to go back downstairs to the Rendezvous, where he would bring our drinks. A few minutes later he showed up with our drinks, socialized with my family, and even teased my sister because she was not drinking a martini.
Entertainment: This is still Celebrity's weak point. There is a dearth of entertainment between the end of the first dinner seating and the end of the second dinner seating, except for the "headliner" shows. Because the main entertainment seems to be squeezed into the time after second dinner seating, I think guests at that seating might think there is more entertainment on the ship. Truthfully, I prefer second seating but because of our children we could not do it this time. We thought the duo in the Rendevous Lounge, Karen & Carl, were just awful. Everyone in our party felt they were like a "Saturday Night Live" skit where they make fun of lounge singers. But this couplewas serious. My parents went to most of the main shows and though they were all very good. We went to the comedian (Cary Long) /magic show(Gossamer Magic) and thought it was excellent, particularly Cary Long. Musical reviews are not our thing so we avoided them ourselves. We enjoyed the guitarist who played outside the Seaside Café on deck 10,Cory Heydon in the evenings, but he was pretty mellow. We enjoyed the piano player in Michael's Lounge, Jim Brookhart, but he was also mellow. I was desperately hoping for some sort of funny, entertaining piano lounge act like Matt Yee on the Explorer. Sometimes in the evening we wanted to laugh and have a more raucous, and not mellow time earlier in the evening. I think if they moved some of the more "fun" entertainment to an earlier time slot, people might stay up later. The mellow entertainment just made us sleepy. We did enjoy the sock hop one night, and the activities staff did a great job getting everyone involved. We also enjoyed the "Not so Newlywed Game" which was moved to 11:15 in the evening (it was around dinner hour on the Infinity). I was disappointed that they no longer have the Caribbean night on the pool deck on Wednesday - it is Saturday while sailing out of San Juan. After that, there is never anything going on at the pool deck at night for the rest of the cruise. We did go to the Casino. I had said the casino on the Infinity was the nicest casino I had ever seen on a ship because of the way it was laid out. It was much nicer than the one on the Explorer which held 1500 more passengers. The Constellation is virtually the same. My parents agreed it is a much nicer casino than what they experienced on any other ship.
Fun Factory: Because of all of the children on this sailing, Celebrity ran the full, 4 tier program. My kids were in the youngest group, the Shipmates. Celebrity definitely has the most underrated children's program out of the major cruise lines. As compared to the Explorer, the facility seemed much larger, with a huge ball pit and double decker twisting slide in the facility. The ship does not have a water slide like the Explorer. Also, they do not even fill the small baby pool in the play area except on the day at sea. They also had a large, circular room for drawing and coloring. The bathrooms were also much cleaner than the ones on Explorer. The activities were similar to the ones on the Explorer, except that throughout the week they had several activities that were "family" activities - ie. parents could (were expected to?) come. These were the talent show, karaoke, bingo, Caribbean party night (for the kids not adults), and the final night when they showed the kids cruise in review at the cinema. We went to all of the events if my kids were going to be there - many parents did not go. To tell the truth, it became a pain, there was really not enough room for all of the kids plus their parents at some activities (notably karaoke and the Caribbean party which were in the tower), and to be at the kids activities we missed out on some adult activities (like the Captain's Club reception). As a pleasant surprise, the Fun Factory was open Saturday evening - the night of embarkation. They even had the slumber party that night. You just had to pick up the kids prior to the muster drill. Explorer did not offer this notwithstanding it was a holiday week. The Fun Factory also offered a complementary children's dinner pizza party every night of the cruise - not just on the formal nights. We allowed the kids to go twice, though they would have liked to go every night. I liked most of the counselors except one. That one told me one of my daughters had been crying "all day" (it was evening when she told me that and they had only been there a few hours that day - and my daughter does not usually cry "all day"), and that they tried to reach me but could not. When I checked with another counselor, Lilli, I was told she had not been crying and they never had to call me. Not sure if the other counselor confused me with another kid's mother, but I could not figure out her problem. Also BIG DRAWBACK: Constellation does not have pagers for parents like they do on Explorer. It was a little disconcerting to know that in case of an emergency I could not be reached easily. Celebrity invested so much in a nice children's facility, they should have the pagers. My kids announced they liked the Fun Factory better than the kids club on the Explorer but then, at this age, they live for the moment.
Enhancements: We really loved the chilled towels at poolside and when boarding the ship in ports. I also enjoyed the sorbet (only came around with it on the sea day) and the lemonade (only saw that when I was by the pool while docked in St. Thomas). I never noticed pool side massages or fashion shows. We never went to the topless deck but I know where it is and it is a very remote location. We did enjoy the late night bites on 2 occasions. The rest of the nights we were not up when they came around.
Spa: All of the women in our group but me had treatments in the spa and all reported that they LOVED them. All had massages. My mother also had a facial and my sister had a wrap. They indicated there was no pressure to buy products at the end of the treatments.
Disembarkation: It was very orderly. We had beige tags (for Captain's Club Founder Members) and were the first major color called off the ship, after the people with much too early flights. Instead of having general announcements, they give you a letter telling you where to report and what time based on your color. Beige reported to the Celebrity Theater at 8 am. Other colors reported to other places at later times. Once assembled there, one of the activities staff was there to tell us when to go, and to escort us off the ship. Disembarkation in the terminal was much better than embarkation. Porters were readily available, and the luggage was lined up in a neat an orderly fashion. Porters then took us right through customs and then out to the curb to get us a taxi. Very easy.
Summary: I would not hesitate to recommend the Constellation, but it is not for everyone. I would not recommend it to someone who is looking for nonstop wild entertainment. Even at its best, the entertainment is never wild. A Puerto Rican lady in our next door cabin told me her family has taken the RCCL Radiance before and liked it better because there was more of a "party" atmosphere. Her elderly mother remarked "A harpist! Am I dead?" I do believe people with late seating would find the entertainment more acceptable.
I have one word for the March 29, 2003 sailing of the Constellation..WONDERFUL! This was our sixth cruise, first with Celebrity and everthing was outstanding. The service, food quality, options, ports of call, I could go on and on. Martin from the Czech Republic, Rodi from Bulgaria and Lourdes from the Phillipines...
These were "our people" and couldn't have been more professional. Do not hesitate for one minute to take the Southern Caribbean cruise. We are fortunate to be able to take a cruise once a year and we are looking forward to our next Celebrity Cruise in 2004.
This was our fifth cruise, and our second with Celebrity (we have also cruised with Royal Caribbean and Carnival). Here are our impressions of the cruise experience, including helpful tips.
We traveled from the East Coast to Barcelona to begin our trip. A Celebrity representative met us at the airport's baggage claim, and escorted us to our bus to take us to port. The boarding process was seamless and quick. On board, our luggage was delivered to our room within the hour.
About the Ship
Celebrity Constellation, at 91,000 tons and 964 feet with a passenger capacity of 1,950, dwarfed all other ships in the ports of call we visited. The ship made its inaugural voyage in May 2002, so is relatively new. The Grand Atrium is airy and well-lit, boasting specialty shops, café, bars and restaurants. We had a deluxe ocean view stateroom with verandah, which was quite spacious and well appointed. About half of the staterooms have verandas. A variety of artwork enhanced the ship, as did the furnishings and window treatments.
We found the Thalassotherapy Pool a wonderful place to get away from it all. The salt-water pool is heated,as is the whirlpool, and no children are allowed in this area. The pool had its own café serving light and healthy breakfasts and lunches. The AquaSpa offers a number of unique treatments, although we didn't take advantage of them. The gym had state-of-the-art equipment. Surprisingly, we did not have to wait to use the treadmills or other machines, as we often did on other cruises.
Tip: Celebrity asks passengers not to use an iron in their stateroom. I imagine that in the past, passengers have been careless, which resulted in burns to the furniture, etc., and since this is a new ship, they want to ensure it remains well maintained. Pressing fees were relatively expensive at $2.50 per item.
The passengers were quite diverse. We found the average age to be about 65, with a smaller number of young honeymooners and singles. We met people from all over the United States as well as Europe and South America. The accommodations for disabled passengers were good, as they seemed to maneuver with little trouble.
We chose the late seating to allow time to unwind after touring all day before getting ready for dinner. However, we found that the late seating, which started at 8:45 p.m., was a little too late. We were usually eating our entrée at around 10 p.m. and finished dinner around 10:30, so we ended up going to bed on a full stomach. Late seating on other cruise lines is usually about 8 or 8:15 p.m., which is considerably better.
Overall, the food was good to excellent; there was only one meal that we didn't really enjoy. The menus were varied, with good size portions and excellent presentation. The menu also included light, lower-calorie choices. The waiters and assistants were very professional, going out of their way to accommodate our needs.
We also dined at the specialty restaurant, Ocean Liners. It has a $25 per person cover charge, but it was well worth the money. The food, service, and ambiance of the restaurant were incomparable. The restaurant has its own kitchen; in addition, some dishes were prepared tableside, which enhanced their presentation. The meal lasts for two and one-half hours, which affords you the time to enjoy the dining experience. Wines are recommended for each course of the meal, and average about $10-$15 per glass, with some bottles of wine priced up to $6,500. (Needless to say, we didn't order one of those!)
The entertainment was average, with a variety of singers, dancers, Broadway production numbers, a comedian, and a classical pianist. The classical pianist and the comedian were probably the best of the bunch. The ship also offered movies in the cinema, although they seemed to repeat the same movies a couple of times.
Onboard activities were what you might expect -- table tennis, shuffleboard, board and card games, trivia, bingo, volleyball, etc. I did participate in the wine tasting class, which for $8 allowed you to sample five varieties of wines, introduced you to the correct way to taste wines, and offered hints in selecting, storing, and serving wine.
Ports of Call
This was our first time in the Western Mediterranean, so we signed up for full day tours in the larger cities we visited, i.e., Rome, Florence/Pisa, Naples, and a half-day tour in Monte Carlo. I kept a diary, and each night before dinner I wrote about my day's experience. It was a good way to remember what I did and saw on each given day. And through the years we will have something to look back on and reminisce. We were pleased and surprised to find state-of-the-art, 45-passenger buses at each port waiting to take us to our tour destination, or providing complimentary shuttle service to the center of town and then back to the dock.
The tour guides were extremely knowledgeable and professional. Be prepared to walk quickly in order to keep pace with them, for they don't slow down! Also, by booking tours through the ship, we didn't lose precious time getting lost, and were provided with safe, dependable transportation and experienced guides who were natives of the countries visited. We were also pleased with the lunches included as part of the tours. The restaurants were beautiful; the food was excellent and included wine, water, and tea/coffee.
We would have liked to spend two days in Rome, Florence/Pisa, and Barcelona; there is so much to do and see in these cities that one day is not enough. And we could have done with less time in the smaller ports, i.e., Malta; Palermo, Sicily; and Malaga, Spain. Also on the issue of time, we had only one day at sea in which to unwind and take a breather from a hectic schedule, and would have enjoyed two days.
Tip: Buy stamps and mail postcards from each port of call. The ship charged $1.25 to mail a postcard (which included postage and handling). The average cost of stamps to the U.S. was 65 to 75 cents. Something that I didn't do, but would have found helpful, is to label each canister of film with the port of call, so that I would remember where I was and what I took. After a while, all the statues and churches begin to look the same!
The Euro is the standard and most acceptable form of foreign currency, with the exception of Malta, which has its own currency. Vendors in some of the cities we visited did not accept U.S. dollars or traveler's checks.
In closing, my husband and I rated this the best vacation we have ever taken, and plan to do this again in the future. It was well worth the money and time!
Kuki's Look at the Celebrity Constellation
This cruise was sort of a repositioning cruise for the Constellation; ending her Baltic season as she headed over to the Mediterranean.
The itinerary began in Dover, England- Zeebrugge, Belgium- LeHavre, France- Vigo, Spain- Cadiz, Spain- Lisbon, Portugal- Palma de Mallorca, Spain- Villefranche, France- Livorno, Italy- ending in Barcelona, Spain.
I filed "Virtual Cruise Reports" for CruiseMates, which detailed our experiences in the ports of call. You can use the search feature on CruiseMates Home Page, if you wish, to read those reports. Here, I will concentrate on the ship experience, as well as tidbits of gossip I picked up along the way from some Celebrity Cruise Line Execs who were along on this sailing.
We've previously sailed the Millennium and the Summit, and clearly very much like this class of ship. Even though they are all sister's, each has some areas which have a different feel than her sisters.
The exteriors of these ships do not take your breath away, as some ships do, but once you're onboard all exude a refined, somewhat elegant, atmosphere. Like her sisters, Constellation carries a modern somewhat eclectic mix of art and sculptures onboard.
Afterwalking the gangway, guests enter the ship on Deck 3 in the Lobby area. Here you'll find the Guest Relations Desk, the Bank, Shore Excursions desk, the office of the Future Cruise Coordinator, and out of the way, nearer to the bank of elevators, the alternate (extra charge) restaurant, Ocean Liners. Down the hallways from the Lobby forward are passenger cabins. Aft from the Lobby, you'll find a small movie theatre, as well as a number of conference rooms.
An illuminated marble onyx staircase, decorated using linen like styled draperies as columns leads up to Deck 4. The Casino, Michael's Club, the Photo Galleries, and the entrance to the Celebrity Theatre, are located forward of the lobby on Deck 4. Heading aft is the Rendezvous Lounge, and then the lower level of the San Marcos Dining Room. The Internet Cafe is also midship , just off of the stairway.
Deck 5 is centered by the Cova Cafe, designed to give the ambience of a European sidewalk cafe, they serve various fancy coffees and pastries, and a decent hot chocolate. Located forward of the Cova Cafe are the "shops of the emporium", offering rather typical cruise ship shopping, as well as a sitting area where the art auctions are sold.
Aft of the Cova Cafe enroute to the upper level of the San Marcos Dining Room, are the Champagne & Martini Bars. Really, one large bar, as is the Rendezvous Lounge on Deck 4, but one side features champagne, the other Martinis. Though you can get either plus all the regular drinks no matter which side of the room you sit in. The color scheme in the Champagne/Martini bars is much more subdued and relaxing than in the Rendezvous Lounge, so this was my favorite spot for pre dinner drinks.
Decks 6 through 9 are passenger cabins decks, except mid-ship where a two story library and music listening rooms are located. Both offer relaxing, comfortable furnishings in a quiet atmosphere.
Deck 10, Resort Deck is where the action is on sea days. The central pool is divided in two sections, with some space for loungers between them. Immediately next to the stage area is the grill area, where you can find hamburgers (regular beef, or you can special order turkey or chicken burgers). Pizza is also served from here at various times of day.
Forward from the pools is the Seaside Cafe, the ships buffet areas. The Seaside features 4 main buffet lines, then heading aft from there, about half way toward the stern there is a station used for freshly prepared omelets for breakfast, and daily choices of freshly cooked pastas for lunch. At the immediate end of the room is another buffet which features a theme food buffet, with the theme changing daily.
Just aft of this buffet, outside on the stern fantail, is my favorite place on the ship. This area is furnished with large wooden tables, and cushioned wooden chairs well suited to el fresco dining. I loved sitting out here in the mornings with a fresh cup of coffee, as I struggled to gain consciousness, while watching the ship‘s wake, or looking out at that day‘s port of call.
Celebrity would do well to put some of this same type of furnishings surrounding the central swimming pool area, now furnished by very cheap, plastic looking tables, and chairs that are as uncomfortable as they look.
Forward on Resort Deck you find the popular Thallasotherapy Pool, and Spa. The Spa Cafe, which offers light cuisine, and is really just a walk up window. Moving forward from this area is the spa and gym, both of which I walked through only to say I had been there.
Above the Spa, on Deck 11, is where the ship's disco, Reflections is located. There are great views out the windows of this horse shoe shaped room, with the windows offering about a 300 degree view. While we were onboard, it was used for a number of early evening cocktail parties for groups onboard. On this particular itinerary it was quiet at night, but I could visualize the joint jumping on a Caribbean sailing.
Deck 11 also has the jogging/walking track of which I made as little use as possible.
Deck 12, I just wandered once for a tertiary look, there is a basketball court (which I understand will soon be converted to paddle tennis).
Certainly I have missed describing some of the public rooms and their locations, but I just wanted to give an overview glimpse of the layout of the ship.
The Cabin We were in a Category 1A on Deck 8, just a bit forward of mid-ship. While no one would dare call these cabins spacious, they are well furnished, and well laid out. We had over packed for 14 day cruise, and had no problem finding a place to store everything, and in fact had empty drawer space left over.
The bathroom is smallish, with the toilet, some under-counter storage, and a couple of open shelves next to the sink for toiletries. The shower is a bit larger than standard cruise ship showers, and have telephonic showerheads, and excellent pressure. Temperatures remained pretty constant, so we didn't find ourselves jumping in and out of the shower.
The cabin had a small sitting area, with a small sofa located next to the balcony door. I prefer this set up to those that have the bed next to the door. Not as much climbing involved getting to the balcony. The balconies are pretty tiny, and have two chairs and a miniature table for furnishings. The dividers separating the balconies are glass, but not clear, so offer some privacy, but you can see silhouettes of your neighbors in the evening if the balcony lights are on in the evening. If you're interested in romantic interludes on the balcony, keep the lights off, and duct tape over your mouths.
We did get to tour a Penthouse suite, which was incredible, if you have an extra $10,000- $20,000 per person, laying around to splurge. Separate bed room, living room and dining room areas are spacious and impressive. With Plasma TV's in both the bedroom and living room areas, a dining table seating 8, and a desk with computer and internet hook up.
The bathroom features a whirlpool tub located in a bay window looking out that enormous balcony, and wake of the ship.
The balcony has an abundance of cushioned loungers, wooden tables, full bar set up, and Jacuzzi for whiling away the hours in complete luxury.
We also toured a handicapped accessible inside cabin. These are laid out with wider doorways, lower light switches and counters, and specially equipped showers which one might expect in a handicapped cabin. It is also equipped for the seeing or hearing impaired, with such features as Braille numbers on the cabin doors, and a bed which vibrates for wake up calls for the deaf.
Food In 13 nights onboard I found the food in the San Marcos Dining Room to be of excellent quality, with a very talented eye directed to presentation. There was never one item I sent back to the kitchen that I didn't care for, or that wasn't cooked to the level of doneness I requested. Since I'm a "meat and potatoes guy", during the galley tour, I was very interested to learn that the steaks are cooked a la minute, not flash frozen partially cooked. All orders are brought to a central section in the galley by the wait staff, and are then processed and sent to the appropriate chef stations. This way, the chefs know immediately how many rare, medium etc. steaks they need total for that dining time, and get to work cooking them. Quite amazing considering they are serving up to 1100 people at a sitting.
An interesting tidbit here- Waiters are allowed to carry a maximum of 16 plates (orders) on a tray at one time. Trust me, this takes a real talent. I tried picking up a tray, and had difficulty getting it to shoulder height. The Galley is located on Deck 3, and there are escalators used by the wait staff to get the food to, and the dishes from, the dining rooms on Decks 4 &5.
The Seaside Cafe is the ship's buffet area. As mentioned earlier, there are 4 regular buffet lines, the grill area by the pool, the omelets and pasta stations, and the buffet at the rear used for them lunches, as well as ice cream/yogurt stations on each side.
Breakfast buffets were pretty standard fare, though we did notice plates of lox available daily as well. The Omelets station prepares omelets to order, or you can choose to go for freshly cooked eggs done any way you like.
Lunch buffets seemed to have a great deal of variety. The only shortcoming I noticed was the lack of much variety in leafy salads.
In my opinion the best lunch buffet is served at the immediate aft of the Cafe, where each lunch is served in theme which changes daily.
For dinners, the Seaside Cafe offers a casual dining alternative at no extra charge, but reservations are necessary. Tables are set with linens and cutlery. You get your own appetizers or salads from the buffet, and then waiters take your orders for entrees. We never did try the casual alternate dining venue because we enjoyed the dining room experience much too much.
The Grill area, by the pool offers hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and condiments, and acts as the pizzeria, during designated pizza hours. The hamburgers were surprisingly good. They didn't taste as though they'd been sitting in the steam trays all day, as one might expect. It's likely they know their peek times of demand here, and probably have a pretty good idea of numbers of burgers they have to prepare. Turkey and Chicken burgers are also available here, but they request about 10 minutes to make these special to order.
One of the major complaints I've heard about Celebrity in the past is the limited hours of the alternate casual dining, grills and pizzerias. From what we learned from our Celebrity Cruise Line hosts onboard… look for this to change, and expand, very soon.
Ocean Liners Restaurant (present surcharge is $25/per person) is simply a fantastic experience. It's an unusual experience for the average diner, with exemplary "butterfly service" and a mouth watering menu. We ate here twice. Once I tried the Veal, the next time Steak Diane, and I'd happily chose both again.
We never did sample the "lean & light cuisine" offered at the Spa Cafe, because I'm neither lean nor light so thought they may decline to serve me.
Service To be sure, we experienced 5 star service on this cruise! The media group we were traveling with had 4 tables in the center of the San Marcos Dining Room, and we alternated which tables we were sitting at each evening, to enable everyone to socialize more easily. All the tables were serviced by two teams of servers. Not to be naïve, because of the nature of the group, I would guess we were served by their top two teams, and the service was indeed outstanding by both teams!
Quite different from my experience with Celebrity servers of only a few years ago though, the service was not only exact and professional, but had an extra touch of friendliness. There was a seemingly genuine interest in making us feel like guests, rather than simply passengers.
This same attitude was demonstrated throughout the ship, with the staff of each department we encountered, from officers, to cabin stewards, to bar waiters, to cleaning personnel. We also "felt" this on our May cruise onboard the Summit, so it seems to be a direction Celebrity in general is trying to direct its staff towards.
As they should be, dinners were a highlight event of the day. During the entire 13 nights onboard I don't believe we ever left the dining room before 11 P.M. because we were enjoying ourselves so much.
Entertainment Because are evenings in the dining room ran so late, and this was a port intensive European itinerary, we saw none of the shows in the Celebrity Theatre so I apologize, but I can not comment at all.
The Rendezvous Lounge on the Constellation was jammed each evening after main seating and prior to late seating. Actually the first time I have seen this lounge so heavily used on a Millennium Class ship. The duo performing here presented an enormous variety of music, that seemed to offer something for everyone. A Cher impersonation show one night left standing room only in this sizable room.Both the Revelations Disco and Michael's Cigar Club were very underutilized on this sailing.
There were a number of pre dinner (7 P.M) shows held in the Theatre for those with late seating. This ever expanding trend seems to negate many of the advantages of booking late seating dinner. If you're rushing to make a 7 P.M. show, it seems you might just as well rush to a 6:00 P.M. dinner, and then have the time to enjoy a leisurely evening on the ship.
The entertainment onboard may already be showing signs of the upcoming changes in direction Celebrity has announced. There were a number of enrichment lectures, classical artists appearing in the theatre, harp music by the Cova Cafe, which aren't typical cruise fare in my past Celebrity experiences.
There were some thing about the ship's interior design choices which struck me as odd. My own particular mini gripe was the purple colored carpeting in many public areas and corridors. It struck me as an odd color, that in many areas, didn't seem to match the various colors in wood trim and wall treatments, and furnishings.
The Rendezvous Lounge and the Champagne/ Martini Bars are of very similar size and layout (except for the whole in the floor above to look down at the dance floor of the Rendezvous lounge). The furnishings in the Champagne and Martini Bars are upholstered in soothing, relaxing pastels, while the bright , striped upholstery used in the Rendezvous Lounge were quite startling to the eye.
I'm not sure if this is new, or simply something I never noticed on previous sailings of Millennium Class ships, were the strap handles on the backs of the chairs in the lounges. These were handy and certainly made it easier to move the chairs around when trying to enlarge the space if we were meeting a larger group for drinks.
The "New Celebrity"
We attended a number of presentations by representatives from Celebrity. Perhaps the most interesting was by Deitmar Wertanzel, the recent new hire as Senior Vice President of Fleet Operations, who came to Celebrity from Crystal Cruise Lines.
It certainly grabbed my attention when he told us Celebrity Cruise Line's goal is to reinvent itself. REINVENT…Pretty strong wording when describing what is "seemingly" a fairly successful cruise line, with a relatively loyal base of repeat passengers.
He described his vision to take Celebrity, who's competition in the "Premium Cruise Line" category is basically Princess and Holland America, a step above, closer to the Crystal cruise experience, while maintaining "premium line pricing".
We heard a lot of slogans they used to describe the " New Celebrity"… "A Taste of Luxury"… "the Savvy Traveler"… etc.
However it seems the initial thrust of change seems to be in the areas of improved service, based on a program they called SSS; Safety, Service, Style. Areas they feel can be addressed via training, not necessarily dollars. To achieve this goal they'll eventually be assigning Training Managers to every ship in the fleet.
The experiment will begin on the Celebrity Millennium 9/23/02 sailing, and they'll be watching the effects closely, combing through the Customer Comment Cards to gauge passenger reaction. Amongst the things passengers should notice immediately on the Millennium are:
- All ships will have Celebrity's Theme song played at sail away. The theme song- Over the Rainbow. And complimentary champagne will be served on boarding or during sail away (yet to be determined) - Michael's Clubs will no longer be Cigar Clubs. They've chosen to take the sophisticated atmosphere of these lounges and use them as piano bars, where guests will be able to relax and have drinks in a more upscale, intimate atmosphere, as compared to the Rendezvous Bar, or the Martini and Champagne Bars. - there will be dedicated Pool Attendants, and at least part of their job will be to actually assist guests with their needs. On hot sunny days in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and other warm weather itineraries they will be supplying guests with frosty cool towels to refresh themselves. - plans are afoot for greatly expanded spa services, including offering pool side messages, much less restrictive hours for the Thalassotherapy pools onboard, and other events poolside such as wine tasting and fashion shows. - greatly extended hours for the alternative food areas such as the buffet, pizzeria and burger grill areas. - on a 7 day cruise, on possibly 3 of the days, midnight buffets will be replaced with themed poolside lunch buffets. There's still likely to be two midnight buffets; the Grand Buffet and one other. - the current, cost additional, alternative restaurants such as the Olympic will be offering a brunch menu on sea days, and will be used for High Tea on some afternoons. Initially there will likely be a charge for brunch, but not for High Tea. - one item that was somewhat surprising to me is the addition of a topless area of the deck for sunbathers. - late night comedy shows will be added for the adult crowd - rather than having the Captain occasionally host guests during dinner, they will begin having other ship's officers hosting guests as well, and on a more regular basis. - they will be creating an extensive onboard lecture series, as well as extended programs to increase dance lessons, smaller more intimate shore excursion packages available, cooking classes with the head chef onboard, etc.- basically trying to expand what's known as their "enrichment programs". - they are looking at ways to enhance the services in another category of cabins, below the sky suites. While at this point they can't change the physical structure of those cabins, they are looking at a number of new amenities for them.
It will be interesting to see if Celebrity can attain their goal, basically creating something akin to a new step on the ladder of cruising. Not quite up to the services of the luxury cruise lines, but… Premium Plus.. If you will.
You have to give them an A for attempting it, and I'd be happy to get on any of their ships to be one of the guinea pigs.
I am a refugee from Renaissance Cruises. While I enjoyed the Constellation on the August 31 sailing from Dover to Barcelona, and depending on itinerary and price I may cruise Celebrity in the future, I don't think that Celebrity is my new cruising home. I found that Celebrity has some strong plusses (the Cova Café, the Seaside buffet restaurant for breakfast and lunch, and the free shuttle busses), but there were also some minuses (décor in the public rooms, noise in the San Marco restaurant.) Part of my problem, of course, is that I miss the non-smoking, child free atmosphere of Renaissance, which ironically was changing those policies when it went bankrupt.
S h i p. The Constellation is only a few months old and beautifully maintained, but the public rooms were too glitzy for my taste. The only room that I thought tried for understated elegance was the Ocean Liners Restaurant, and even there some of the pictures of ocean liners looked as though they had been clipped from travel posters. The art work generally in the ship was non-representational and I thought poor examples of the form. The San Marco Restaurantwas over the top with color, lights, and adornment, especially brass. I also thought the restaurant was noisy, which is probably to be expected since it seats 1,170. A review of this cruise by Kuki noted "Constellation's San Marco Dining Room was the least appealing [of Celebrity's dining rooms] to my uneducated and often questionable taste in interior design. This is somewhat odd since the physical layout of each is almost identical, but the San Marco doesn't seem to have the same warmth as the sister ships' dining rooms." I think Kuki was responding to what I saw.
I was seated on the fifth deck balcony of the restaurant. Knowing that other posters on these boards had complained about vibrations on Millenium class ships I was alert to them. The only times I could feel anything at all-and it was insignificant--was when we pushed away from a dock. (I was at the early seating.) Others on the ship told me that vibrations were noticeable in front of the large windows aft on the fourth deck.
The cabins were more to my taste: light colored paneling, mirrors, straightforward furnishings. The effect was cheery and bright. Closet and drawer space was satisfactory, and the bedside lights were strong enough for reading which is important to me. My cabin was on the Continental Deck. I was never bothered by vibrations or noise, but there was a racket when we dropped anchor in Villefranche. The rubber anchor chain has yet to be invented.
I spoke with a couple of ships officers about the past problems with the propulsion pods. From what I was told, the failures of the pods were due to assembly shortcomings and not design or engineering adequacy. The pods have been put together correctly now and should continue to operate as designed (although an engineering officer admitted his department was keeping a close eye on them.)
S e r v i c e. I found the staff to be up to the par of Holland America, Windstar, or Renaissance. That is a high par to be at and they all seem about equal to me. We had one special needs child aboard, and I cannot imagine how the dining room staff could have been more attentive in bringing him special foods and giving him extra attention. Their concern for his comfort and well-being was unfeigned.
F o o d and W i n e. The Seaside buffet is the best of its kind that I have ever been to at sea. I put together some excellent light lunches of soup and salad at the buffet, and I particularly recommend the gazpacho. These lunches helped me end the cruise without gaining weight. At breakfast there was an ample assortment of fruit (the melons were perfectly ripe), yogurts with accompaniments, cereal, and a range of diet-busting croissants, brioche, eggs and breakfast meats. I will admit to having eggs Benedict twice in the San Marco dining room, and the second time they were better than the first. I found the restaurant was better with straightforward main dishes than more elaborate ones, and my meals improved as I learned what I considered the San Marco's strengths. Rack of lamb and even the Chateaubriand were excellent, but dishes such as duck with more elaborate preparation or sauces were not as good. I thought this was true too in the Ocean Liners restaurant, where the lamb would have been better without its pastry wrapping. I am glad I tried Ocean Liners, but I did not go back.
I owe a debt to other posters for information on wine. Thank you. The information was correct. I brought aboard bottles at Vigo, Lisbon, and Palma, and never had the slightest problem. My practice was to read the dinner menu posted outside the San Marco and give the appropriate bottle to the Room Steward along with the table number and sitting. The bottle appeared at the dinner table, chilled if required, and I was charged $12 which was cheap considering the overpriced wine list on the Constellation. I invited the excellent sommelier to try the wine with us. He was a fount of information and liked trying new wines. I learned a great deal, especially about albarinos, and I like to think the sommelier may have picked up one or two pointers too.
C o v a C a f é. This venue was my favorite by a wide margin. After dinner the Scherzando Quartet treated the Cova to old standards; or Amanda Whiting, a talented charmer, would play the harp. It is a wonderful cafe with some of the best espresso I have had.
E n t e r t a i n m e n t. The cruise director, Ray Carr, has come in for some knocks on this board for not being seen around the ship, but my experience was that he runs a good program. Amanda Whiting, the Scherzando, Karen & Carl in the Rendez-Vous, and the other groups had the support they needed. The entertainment programs ran smoothly, including a midnight buffet on deck, and I enjoyed his TV programs. I want the cruise director to be working for me, not to be seen by me.
Lindsay Hamilton's two shows were high points the cruise, and she is the best singer I have heard on any cruise. I don't usually like "Broadway-style" or "Las Vegas-style" shows (do Broadway or Las Vegas have "Cruise-style" shows?), but if you like them you will like what the Constellation offers. An Irish comedian on the last night, whose name I did not catch, was a side-splitter. The enrichment lectures I thought were nowhere near as good as Holland America does, but I have it on good authority that the florist aboard gives talks that should not be missed by anyone with an interest in flowers. I also had a nice tour of the galley which I inquired about because of this board. (Bridge tours were not being given for security reasons.) The gymnasium and library were both well run and well equipped. I took a free class on the Excel spread sheet, and learned enough to consider charging off part of the cruise as a legitimate business expense. (Just kidding, IRS, but it was a well taught introduction to Excel.)
E m b a r k a t i o n and D e b a r k a t i o n. Embarkation was smooth. Thanks to this board I had completed the passenger questionnaire at the Celebrity web site and it was available to the shore staff. I arrived at a little after noon, there was no line, and within minutes I was having lunch at the Seaside buffet. Debarkation was more difficult. My luggage was misplaced twice, once on the pier and for a longer time at the airport, but that was the evil genius of luggage at work and Celebrity's shore personnel were most helpful in locating the bags, particularly Xavier at the airport.
M i s c e l l a n e o u s. The Constellation generously ran free shuttles from the ship to downtown Zebrugge, Le Harve, Lisbon, Palma, and Livorno. The other ports did not need shuttles. I estimate the busses save passengers about 8 to 10 dollars each way and are a counter-argument to the accusation of nickel and diming. The photographers were usually unobtrusive, which I appreciate, but at Vigo they blocked the bottom of the sole gangway to photograph everyone debarking. This slowed the process and I was just in time to see my train pull out of the Vigo Station for Santiago. Photographers did not block the gangway after Vigo. Thanks to advice I received on this board I brought an old bathing suit for the Thalassotherapy Pool. The bathing suit faded even more but the pool was well worth it. We had one pain-in-the-neck child on the cruise, but that was only to be expected since there were more than 40 aboard. Generally they behaved properly and the youth staff seemed to have enough programs for the youngsters, including a tour behind the scenes at the Celebrity Theatre. On the previous cruise the kids had broken the passengers' ping pong table by sitting on it, but I can see my own children doing that when they were young. I did not take any of the ship's excursions, but if there is any interest in my tours ashore I will be glad to answer questions.
We sailed on the British Isles/Scandanavian cruise on 6/22/02. Celebrity has much to be proud of with this ship -- it is beautiful inside and out. We went to several ports (mostly in Norway) where our arrival was huge news. Hundreds of people came out to greet us with smiles and local bands, etc. Very fun. The food and dining service was superb. We were in a Sky Suite with 3 people and the size was fine (not roomy though). Having a butler was fun, but not necessary. The point of this review, though, is to provide some advice that I wish I'd had before cruising. While we have no real regrets, I'm not sure that we will cruise on Celebrity again. Here's why: 1) My husband was in the middle of business deal and we absolutely needed internet access -- after several phone calls to confirm availability, we decided to upgrade to a suite "because they all have computers and printers and there's no connectivity problems" (advice from the Captain's Club). Bottom line -- there was no computer in our suite and we had to waste several hours trying toget a laptop (never did get a printer and the internet worked only about half the time). One time charge of $100 or $.50 a minute. According to the staff onboard, the Connect-at-Sea package has never worked right and so they don't even offer it now. Staff on land should have known this. Just the first of many things promised that were not delivered or were delivered only at significant cost -- both time and money. 2) Stateroom. We were given a diagram of the suite and it included a bathtub -- important consideration for me because of a bad back. Bottom line was that our cabin was "handicapped accessible" so it contained only a shower -- plus the layout of the room was different than pictured -- space in the living area was compromised for a larger, more accessible shower. We spent an extra $1800 to upgrade to the suite and we did so for the computer, the layout, and the bathtub. Disappointed on all counts. 3)Entertainment. For the most part, very mediocre. Also not much by way of activities. We have had a greater range of activities on much smaller ships. 4) Shore excursions. This was the first time that the ship took this itinerary and it showed. The shore excursions were inconsistent at best. Overall, we definitely were not satisfied with the quality of the trips we took. Very expensive for what was delivered. 5) Laundry and Work-out Facilities/Spa. My husband and son work out every day -- this is one of the reasons we chose the Constellation. While the facilities at the gym were great, it was very crowded on sea days and the time limits for machines (20 minutes and sign-ups required) were not the best. Our biggest complaint though is that so many services were extra (see next comment). Half of their classes -- including spinning and Pilates were $10 a session. That can really add up on a two week cruise. Because of the work-outs, we had to do two sets of laundry (what would fit in one to 2 loads each time) and the charge was OVER $225 dollars. We had no choice on this -- no self serve facilities are available and we could not stand the odor! Plus we were not in port long enough to want to waste our day with this, but the cost was exhorbitant. 6) Nickle and diming. We felt assaulted by all of the extra charges and various ways to maximize their return on investment. The wine and drinks were way overpriced ($9.50 for a glass of wine), as were the spa services ($109 for a 50 minute massage). 15% gratuities were added on to everything, even an empty plastic mug that my husband bought to carry coffee around. Bingo was more a racket than I've ever seen. 50 - 100 people would play (at 10-20 dollars a person) and the prizes for the winners were under $100 each. You can say that many of the charges we incurred were of our own choosing, and we agree, but we have NEVER incurred the kind of expenses that we did on this trip and our buying habits are consistent. The expenses came close to the cost of the cruise, making it by far the most expensive trip we've ever taken. The charge for soft drinks is $4.75 per day per child. That's alot, particularly since they can't be used in the dining rooms. 7)Tipping. Our "bill" for tips was over $650. That's on top of the 15% gratuity for each drink and spa service. It genuinely bothers me when people complain about tipping, because that is the last place I would cut back, BUT I fear that some of the staff may have suffered because people felt so nickled and dimed during the cruise -- and took it out on the wrong people. We did not, but I overheard some real complaints. We were not happy cruisers. Hope this helps. Sharon
A Baltic cruise is destination orientated, after all if you have flown from Nth America or Far East you are unlikely to be there just for a ride on a ship to anywhere. Port calls are intensive & a certain amount of fitness is required to get the best from the cruise. Having said that, Constellation is a destination in itself, brand new & on its 4th cruise. We were very pleased with the cruise/ship/crew/food/entertainment etc & would cruise on this ship again anytime. I will try to tell you our impressions of the cruise & ports, hopefully this will be of use to someone. As we are from UK we had no problems getting to Dover, drove 170 miles in 3 hours & were checked in & onboard by 12 noon.
The Ship..91000 tons & full of facilities so never feels crowded. This cruise had 2040 passengers i/c 85 kids, 50 of whom were teenagers. Never hardly saw them, seems to be good facilities for both sets. Décor contains a lot of orange col but you get used to it. The aft round glass enclosures on deck 11 are called theconservatory, port side is the glass lifts(elevators) & starboard side is a floral boutique, flower arr classes held here. I should mention that except for a few real flowers on dining room tables all floral decorations throughout the ship are artificial. I have no problem with that as they seemed quite tastefully done, maybe after 6 months in service they will not look so good. There is also access to the Fairway golf simulator, a very good feature, long drive or pitching comps are held most days, 3 balls each. The computer shows the ball moving on the screen & records distance + end position. This facility can also be hired for private sessions. The two forward round glass enclosures appear to be only for balancing the ships profile, starboard one only has access to reflections & port one contains nothing more than a table football game (? Possible future use as ejection pod for any unruly teenagers!). The thalassotherapy pool is the big secret on M class ships, bubbles & jets in warm salt water & over 18's only. Nice hard wood loungers & covered from the elements. We spent a lot of time in there. In two corners of this area are ladies & gents changing rooms/sauna large & well fitted out, it is interesting to be in the sauna watching the world go by through a 6ft dia porthole! Gents is equipped with disposable razors & small tubes of shaving cream, I am told the ladies contains a range of lotions etc. Reflections nightclub is a huge observation lounge & mostly kept quiet in daytime but they do hold bingo ( not that popular on this cruise) & dance lessons there. Words the library is over 2 decks 8&9, entrance only on 8, this impressed me as it had a copy of "liners to the sun" by John Maxtone-Graham, enjoyed reading that, The reference section had a copy of "South with Endurance" the photographs of Frank Hurley & essential reading for anyone interested in the Antarctic. Notes the music library had well equipped listening stations with armchairs, headphones & a flat screen menu. Everything is a bit larger than we are used to, including the grand foyer & casino (not used by us) but the passenger lounges are well designed with lots of smaller scale seating areas. Medical facilities are good & unfortunately I had to sample them but charges are at standard USA rates (they say) & come as a shock to us from UK. A simple draining of an infected toe with a few antibiotics + a follow up visit came to $395 including "for your convenience" a 15% gratuity, I & health professionals I have spoken to think this is unethical by Celebrity & they should reconsider this aspect. Our sky suite 6131 (& opposite32) are approx 10% larger than other sky suites @ around 280 sq ft + a larger triangular balcony that gives good views forward. Bathroom is approx 2mts x 1.5mts with a standard 1.5mts bath but no jaccusi jets like Galaxy. Shower is over bath & at 6ft 1" my hair brushed the ceiling. Nicely furnished & bed was very comfortable, the best we have ever slept on, slept like logs! Balcony has 2 reclining hardwood chairs & a small table. Edwin our butler must be one of Celebrity's best as he opens up all new ships, you will be very privileged if he his your butler, nothing is to much trouble. We had a pot of coffee 1st thing & then breakfast 45 mins later. We also dined in suite at night on the 3 open sitting nights in dining room. Our room steward Agnelo always had a smile & kept the room immaculate.
Food & Dining..All very good as far as we are concerned. Ivan from Croatia our Dining room waiter provided a 1st class service, we had a table at foot of staircase on lower level, this would not have been our choice but no great problem. I have seen complaints about the buffet quality, to me there was always something good to try & there are 4 lines so no big waits. Farther aft is the pasta station that serves the days pasta with a dressing to order. Farther aft still is the speciality of the day usually themed on the country visited. This is also the alternative casual evening eating spot. There is also a light & healthy spa café in the Thalasso pool area & this was excellent, on this cruise it was well used. The usual burger/fries/hot dog station was in corner of pool deck but was probably the least used eating facility on this cruise! On this ship you can eat a lot of good healthy food without having to work hard in gym to keep your weight down. Except last morning we always eat breakfast in the suite & the 3 evening meals provided in suite by Edwin were superb. Just one main course was a little disappointing .. the duck a la orange, but I will always remember the filet mignon, rack of lamb in herb crust & the cold watermelon gazpachio soup. We did not try the Ocean Liners restaurant, had a look in a few times & it did not look very busy on this cruise.
Celebrity "life enrichment" lectures were provided by a USA financial planning consultant & did not see these, but Dr Alan Batson FRGS provided talks on history & what to see at ports of call, very very good. The 1st one scheduled for cinema caught out Celebrity as they were standing in the aisles, after that he was scheduled for the big theatre & that was more than half full, you are lucky if he is on your Baltic cruise. Did not rate the port & shopping guy, heavy southern European accent.
Entertainment ... Ray Carr was cruise director, very efficient & always seemed to say the right things, not as "over the top" as some cruise directors we have seen. We thought that overall entertainment was very good. I have seen adverse comments about Celebrity's production shows, that is probably because they are trying to get away from your typical "hoofing & hollering" prod no show. 1st show was "Batir" rather slow moving but quite arty & balletic in form. 2nd billed as a world premiere was "American canteen in Paris" based on 40's tunes. 3rd was not really a prod no show, just the 5 principal singers with a story line based on session singers in an off broadway production called "A Hot Minute", some complained it was too loud, it was different but still a good show. 4th another "world premiere" entitled "spotlight on Broadway" again a slow start but last quarter was fast moving more like the traditional show, however a lot of the shows featured we had never heard of (they have not been to UK) & those we had, they did not use the very popular numbers, therefore this was our least favorite show. The 16 strong team we thought very talented. The individual headline shows were all good. Scott Record a comedy singing impressionist we thought to be best American entertainer we have seen. USA tenor J C Fisher very good, the Spanish comedy juggler very good, did not see the pickpocket entertainer but others said he was good. Lindsay Hamilton a UK songstress very good. Irish comedian very good. But those of you travelling on constellation this summer are in for a real treat with Brooks Aehron a flamboyant concert pianist who does two shows and a 1st for Celebrity, an afternoon classical concert. The theatre was spectacular & would be a credit to any medium size town. Special effects include sections of stage up or down individually or in unison, a rotating section & 2 screens either side of stage thus everyone could see the pianists hands not just the few who got the right seats early like some ships. In reflections nightclub Karen & Carl duo are VG. In rendez-vous lounge (also heard in martini/champagne bar via hole in floor over rendez-vous dance floor) Coco band VG. Cantabile quartet in dining room & Cova café VG. Brad also played the piano VG in cova café. The Tropical vibes duo on pool deck were good but felt sorry for them when they had to play in their thick jackets to nobody round the pool!
Ports of call I will tell you what we did, some of it may help you. The Celebrity port explorer guides are best we have seen. Oslo, made a mistake when we got off ship & told shuttle bus went "downtown" could see city hall & decided to walk-mistake long way round over pedestrian bridge, shuttle drops you not far from city hall! Number 12 tram 22 Nkr ( only 11 if over 67) to Vigeland sculpture park well worth seeing. Number 15 tram back to Royal Palace just other side city hall walked down to shuttle bus. Ferry to Kon Tiki etc also leaves from just in front of city hall. Stockholm be on deck 3 hours before arrival, superb scenic route in through the Islands. Shuttle bus to end of Gamla Stan, open top tourist bus just across road $7 (takes US) on/off all day. Do not miss Vasa museum could spend hours in there. Finished tour on bus at city hall but as guided tour not immanent walked up to get a 1 hour canal boat ride. Had a walk round Royal Palace on cnr of Gamla Stan then shuttle bus to ship. Helsinki No 3T tram from where shuttle bus drops you does a figure of 8 route & goes near most sites, 1.8 euro for 1 hour on/off. We got off at Olympic stadium, walked down sat in stands for a moment & went to top of tower in elevator for 2 euro (visa taken) superb views over whole city. Road infront of entrance leads straight to Sibelius monument around 800 mts walked back to tram & completed circuit for another 1.5 euro. St Petersberg everything you have ever read about this city is true ! splendour & opulence of the Palaces & Museums + the run down look of ordinary buildings. Trams are rusty with pot holes between lines & you do not see many smiling faces. If you are going this year, two things you should know---2003 is 300th anniversary of St Petes founding & President Putin originates from there. Consequently a lot of money is being spent this year on refurbishment, scaffolding with netting everywhere. This is only stop we took ships tours, be warned you have to go through immigration every time off ship with Passport, ships ID, letter from ship & tour ticket, they look at every passport & give you a little red card (penalty for loss $50). My wife must look suspicious as they looked at every page in her passport. Hermatage & Peterhof are must see's, we also did palaces & owners, summer "palace" really a summer cottage covered in scaffolding & not worth seeing, Yussapov palace very good (Rasputin connections). We only did 3 half day tours & that was enough for us, others did 2 full day tours & the evening ballet! Docked here starboard side too so port side has best view. In spite of all the problems associated with St Petes ( we waited 20 mins for a goods train across the road) it is an unmissable stop. Tallinn much more westernised, shuttle bus to old town, then a walk round, very good well preserved & THE place to buy all your souveniers, enjoyed this stop. Warnemunde was a big surprise, a quite pretty seaside town with a good beach & 85F the day we were there. Found our way by train to Holbeinstrasse then 1 or 4 tram to neurmarket in central Rostock (combined all day zone 3 ticket 3.45 euro must validate in a machine before boarding train) saw the famous astrological clock, had a walk round town, fewer people in old East Germany speak English than in West Germany very hot so back to ship & a walk down beach after lunch. Open seating for dinner again as a train load had gone to Berlin. Great send off by people of Warnemunde at 9.30pm. Copenhagen as they say wonderfull, shuttle bus to national theatre had a long walk round, tired, decided not to go to Tivoli those who did said it was nice but fireworks did not last long (could see the few rockets from the ship. Left 11.0 am next morning. Those on july 6th cruise get 1.5 days here & might consider the 2 day water bus pass for 40 Dkr. For those interested in design the Georg Jensen museum is behind the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain shop in the main shopping street.
Disembarkation A breeze compared to USA, ship docked at 5am & 1st white tags were called at 6.55am going pretty fast when Dover had an equipement problem causing a 20 min delay. Celebrity then rushed everyone down to foyer to get us out of lounges, we were off ship by 9.30 into our car & on road by 10.0am. This was a great cruise, almost a flat calm sea the whole time, some rain in St Petes & Tallinn otherwise generally good weather for time of year. We would sail this ship & this itinary again there is so much to see you only scratch the surface with one Baltic cruise
We flew from Heathrow to Barcelona with our group from Cruisein in Andover Hants. All went well and there were no flight delays.
Although there was quite a crowd at embarkation we were aboard quite quickly due to the large number of staff dealing with documentation. This was our first cruise with Celebrity so we wondered how they would compare with Holland America Line.
The ship was only one week old and was beautiful. The decor was very modern and to some of us the colours seemed to clash somewhat. The modern art paintings were really rather strange, for instance a photograph of a half empty fast food container!!
We had a stateroom on deck 8 with a veranda which was very nice although as I said the colour scheme was unusual. Red and orange curtains and bedspread and a very bright light green settee. panelling was all light oak.
Service was very good almost without exception. The crew were a tremendous mix of nationalities. Our cabin stewardess Annaliza was from the Philippines. She was excellent. Our waiter Juan was I think Spanish, our assistant waiter Nicoulas was from South Africa. Many of theWaiters were from East Europe. They all appeared to work together very well.
Food was good in general sometimes excellent. We ate breakfast in the Seaside buffet on deck 10 every morning but one when we had room service. We were not too impressed with the cooked selection. Certainly the scrambled egg was usually cold and rather slimy but the cold selection was good.
Again we ate lunch in the same restaurant each day but one. lunches varied rather, somedays very good other days not quite so good.
Dinners in the San Marco Restaurant were very good to excellent with very good service from all concerned. We were on first sitting on a table for eight and we got on very well with each other.
The first production show by the resident entertainers was pretty awful most of us thought although the voices were good.
The pianist, Brooks Aarhon was extremely good and gave tremendous performances.
The comedian whose name we forget was good but his jokes were sometimes rather old.
The second production show was a complete contrast to the first. It was fast, spectacular and very well staged, really excellent.
The last show was an operatic tenor who could also sing popular songs well. He was very good with a nice personality.
We missed the other act which was billed as 'the only legal pickpocket." We were sorry we missed this as we understood he was excellent. His name was Bob Arno and he later gave a very good lecture on personal security.
The first port was Ville Franche, an attractive little port where we anchored and went ashore by tender.
Next was Ajaccio in Corsica. The birthplace of Napoleon Bonapart. Quite an attractive little port but the excursions did not seem too interesting.
Civitta Vecchia followed, this is the port for Rome but it not very attractive in itself being a mainly commercial port.
Naples followed. This is an interesting place in itself and with good excursion to places such as Pompeii, Capri and Sorrento.
Next day we were supposed to arrive in Valletta, Malta but as we approached a gale sprang up blowing hard across the harbour entrance and the visit was cancelled. We steamed on all day into the gale but the ship stayed very steady. The Captain was able to secure a berth at the alternative port of Palma Majorca. This is an attractive place and pleasant for a walk ashore.
On arrival back in Barcelona early in the morning the disembarkation was carried out very efficiently indeed and we were off the ship by 0930 and our luggage was waiting for our collection in the shed.
All in all we enjoyed our cruise with Celebrity who we found very efficient bearing in mind the ship carried nearly 2000 passengers.
In some ways however we feel we still have a slight preference for Holland America although it is only slight.