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CELEBRITY CONSTELLATION - Canada/New England - October 3-16, 2009
For those of you that may be Celebrity Cruise Line lovers like we are, you may be a little disappointed with this review. Having sailed on 9 different cruise lines and making comparisons of our likes and dislikes, knowing passengers are all different in what they want and expect, we thought Celebrity would maintain its high marks from us. However, we encountered several things that were not typical Celebrity.
AIRPORT & EMBARKATION
When we arrived in Neward, N.J. we expected to be met by Celebrity's airport personnel as has always happened with EVERY cruise line. We didn't meet up with the representative for 10-15 minutes and her assistant could barely speak English. Did I mention we were in New Jersey? After a 1 hour wait in the airport for transportation, we finally boarded the bus for the "new" cruise terminal at Port Liberty, Cape Bayonne. We had been their before and it was just as a big disappointment as it was the first time. What a waste of money by Royal Caribbean to make that old warehouse into a cruise terminal. We spent another 50 minutes in line checking-in. What ever happened to lines for the Captains club members? I grade all of this a C+.
THE SHIP IN GENERAL & STATEROOMS
Once onboard, we began our tradition of walking the ship. This was a piece of cake for us as he had sailed on her sister ship, the Infinity. After 15 minutes, we were reacquainted with the ship layout and ready to watch the activity on the dock (after a quick lunch, og course). The CONSTELLATION is a very clean ship, inside and out, considering her age. By the way, she is going into drydock in April, 2010 for refurbishing and upgrading. There is some worn carpet, some pieced-in carpet, worn fabric on chairs in the lounges, and general wear and tear issues. The staterooms (keep in mind we book inside categories so we can't respond to balcony issues) are spacious for a cruise ship (lol) and the bathroom was very clean with little discoloration in the tile grout or missing caulking around the shower. Probably more storage space than we've had on some ships. She is also showing her wear on the jogging track above pool deck. The surface is coming off or completely gone and needs to be redone. I will grade the ship with a B-. Considering her age, that's not bad at all.
RESTAURANTS & FOOD
Let's start with the Seaside Cafe(the buffet on deck 10). As buffets go, the Seaside Cafe is not bad. The layout is adequate, the food was hot and/or cold, depending on which one it should be, and the service behind the buffet and in the seating area just average. I had a bit of a problem finding regular coffee in the mornings, because the brewer was either broken or brewing another pot. Plenty of containers of De-caf however. If it were me, on this particular cruise I would have had fewer pots of De-caf and more regular. Oh well, not bad.
Now let's move to the main dining room, the San Marco Restaurant on decks 4 and 5. As with most cruise line dining rooms, it is cramped and very congested. Not a complaint, just an observation. Naturally the staff is top-notch. I did encounter some bad food in this dining room. I never complain about food, but I received (twice) a bad cut of beef that I could not cut with the steak knife. My waiter immediately took care of getting me something else, but on the way out of the dining room I mentioned it to the asst. Maitre d'. I hope he does something about that. We were also told on our "farewell dinner" night that we could only have 1 lobster tail. I have NEVER encountered that before either. Another passenger at our table complained to the asst. Maitre d' and before we knew it, everyone at our table had 2 lobster tails. One big plus for Celebrity's restaurant is that they have 3-4 items of appetizers, soups, entrees, and deserts that are offered EVERY NIGHT. So if something on the nightly menudoesn't appeal to you, you always have more to choose from. And they're not just basic chicken breast or baked potato either. Shrimp cocktail - every night; escargots - every night; steak - every night; creme brulee (?) - every night; apple pie a-la-mode - every night. As you can see, a good move on their part. (Yes, I did have escargots every night).
Ocean Liners, the specialty restaurant, is the best specialty restaurant we have ever eaten in. We have dined in many over the years on different cruise lines, and, on Celebrity's Infinity, and this one was by far the best. Our first day at sea, the specialty restaurant presented a 45 minute demonstration of the dished and foods that they serve. It was a great way to preview what they had to offer and what the ingredients were. The service was superb and a great way for us to celebrate our 40th anniversary. A note of interest - the Constellation's Ocean Liners Restaurant is going to be the training facility for the chef's from the fleets specialty restaurants beginning later this fall. A tribute to this restaurant. Please, when you sail on the Constellation, book at least one night in Ocean Liners. The grade for restaurants and food is A-.
The shows in the evening on this particular cruise included a lot of music. We prefer comedians, magicians, etc. with less singing and piano playing, so we only attended a few shows. Even the comedy act we went to was not that good, but we did hear from other passengers that the musical entertainment was pretty good. I really can't grade the entertainment, so let's give them the benefit of an A.
LOUNGES & BARS
Great service in the lounges. We have been on ships where you have to keep waving your arms in the air to get service. Not here. Quick service and a friendly staff made it fun. Ask for Randy in the Rendez Vous lounge. Most of the bands in the lounges were good. If they're still onboard in November, don't miss Sipra (a pretty good band from the Phillipines). A great place to hang-out if you're onboard during the day is the Cova Cafe on deck 5 Atrium. Coffees, liqueur coffees, teas, cocktails, wine, pastries, tapas, cookies, etc, etc all served beginning at 10:00 AM (at least on our cruise). My grade here is a solid A+.
As you may know, Celebrity is redesigning it Captains Club for previous passengers. When we arrived onboard and entered our stateroom, we were greeted with a flyer telling us of the time and place for the Captains Club party and a sheet with discount coupons and specials for club members. We never received an invitation to the event. No one else did either. I went to the Captains Club Manager and asked about it. It is an environmental issue accoring to him. They are saving on paper. So much for making your previous guests feel special. I'll give the NEW Captains Club just a B since I didn't get an invitation.
Most of these areas are typical and nothing special, except maybe the staff in the Spa. They are great. The Spa offered an hour-long Couples Massage Demonstration which we did. It was fantastic for the price of $59.95. We shopped a little in the Emporium, bypassed the gym, and dropped money in the casino. We did get off the ship with our shirts however. Grade here is the standard A.
It was an orderly process. Most cruise lines have this down to a science and Celebrity is no excepption UNTIL you try to find the airport bus at that cruise terminal in Port Liberty. I'm sure it's better in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, San Diego and everywhere else, but it was terrible in Bayonne. We will never sail out of that facility ever again. Too many problems and too much shuttling for us. We have other choices. And, yes, you guessed correctly. The grade here is a C-.
OVERALL COMENTS & ANALYSIS
You may encounter a few disappointments on this ship, but overall she is a great ship with a good staff. We still rank Celebrity as our top cruise line, but we are seeing many things that could bring Celebrity to just another run-of-the-mill cruise line, herding people on and off their ships. We hope that doesn't happen, and that they are able to keep their "magic" with us and other passengers. And now for my overall grade of the Celebrity CONSTELLATION, its facilities and its staff..........A-.
Bon Voyage to everyone who sails on the Constellation