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 Celebrity Constellation- 11 nite Caribbean

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mpg1226
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PostSubject: Celebrity Constellation- 11 nite Caribbean   Thu Dec 11, 2008 6:39 pm

Nov 10-21, 2008
Travel Agent Review

Embarkation:
Getting on the ship was pretty uneventful. There were lots of ships in port including the brand new Solstice. We arrived at port before noon and had no long lines or issues getting on. I did hear grumbling from some other guests about the horrendous lines around 1pm and later.

Cabin:
The cabins were not supposed to be ready until 1 pm but ours was so we went right up and dropped off our carry on luggage. Category 2C -cabin 6057, a little bit forward. Decent sized with a nice balcony but every time I unpack, I realize how small these cabins are. I might have to upgrade to a suite at some point. There is ample drawer and closet space but the night stand drawers were hard to open. There is a stocked mini bar in the room which can be locked and there was a $19 bottle of wine sitting on the desk for sale, which we put away. The Constellation is a few years old now and is in good shape but there are little things in the cabin that would make it better. Larger, flat screen TV would be nice. Shower with a door not curtain. They had nice in room bathroom amenities but no shower gel. The wall hair dryer is from the old days and is in the bathroom.

There was an issue with the cleanliness of the bathroom upon arrival. It was taken care of relatively quickly. There was an imprint burn of an iron on the bed spread. The carpet near the balcony door was dirty (could have used a steaming). In all, the cabin was kept clean. I heard that the ship is going into dry dock in April of 2009 and, hopefully, the soft goods, etc will be upgraded. Ice was replaced 2x daily. Extra towels were always put in the cabin, per my request. No complaints with the cabin steward or his assistant after the first issue.

Food:
Food is always a big deal on ships and we have always loved Celebrity’s food. We haven’t sailed Celebrity in a few years and I noticed a good number of differences.
Portion sizes seemed to be a bit smaller. There were only 3 specialty desserts listed daily instead of 6. You had to ask for fresh pepper- it wasn’t brought around automatically. Escargot was no longer on the “always available” menu (per Olman, our waiter, shrimp cocktail was also removed but was brought back due to an uproar from the guests). Fresh berries required a 24 hour notice.

Now for the food- in general, quality has remained the same. There were multiple entrees that I would have chosen each night at dinner, as well as appetizers, soups and salads. On our 11 night cruise, the menu did not repeat itself which again was nice.

In lieu of a midnight buffet, there was a brunch set up from 10am – 1pm on a sea day. There were a couple of nice ice sculptures, some beautifully decorated trays, and all the breakfast and lunch offerings you could want, including a pancake station. I asked for chocolate chip pancakes. There were no chocolate chips to be found. The pancake maker looked at the main chef, who picked up his cell phone and within 5 minutes 2 huge bowls of chocolate chips appeared. Now that is what Celebrity is all about.

Lunch at the buffet was a good selection of hot stations, carvings, salads, freshly made pasta – prepared in front of you with the ingredients and sauce of your choice, pizza, sandwiches and paninis. The Asian station was not particularly to my liking but there were so many other options, it wasn’t an issue. Burgers, franks and tacos were available poolside daily as well as a light menu at the AquaSpa Café during limited hours.

Fellow Cruisers:

There were many more non Americans on this cruise- over 400 Canadians, over 250 British plus a good amount from Germany, other European countries, as well as a large number of Spanish speaking guests. Seemed to be about a mix of 60% Americans and 40% non Americans. Our table makes were a nice mix. Steve and Kathy are from England. Elena and Nils and Maryann and Ken were traveling together from New England and a young Mexican honeymoon couple was placed at our table as well. It was unfortunate since they were sitting with people their parents‘ ages and they spoke little English. This would have been a great honeymoon cruise since it left on Monday and lots of days at sea to relax, but I would say the average age was between 50 and 70 (probably skewing up closer to 70 than to 50).

There were a few kids on board- mostly younger with parents and grandparents. There were a couple of honeymooners. The guests were primarily white with a few black guests, a few Indian and Asian guests and a number of Latino guests.

On Board Activities:
Although there were full agendas of activities, many were not well attended. The poolside games got cancelled because of no participants. There were trivia games, name that tune, bingo (of course), computer classes, cooking demos and more. Since this was a long cruise, and the age of the guests was on the older side, I wasn’t expecting a loud and exciting atmosphere. It was quiet and relaxing and just what we needed. Art Auctions were a big thing, as was acupuncture. The spa seemed pretty busy, as was the fitness center.

Dress Code:

The fashion police were not out in force. Even on formal night, the attire ranged from Tuxedos and dinner jackets to tuxedo shirts, bow ties and no jackets, to sport jackets and the entire gamut. Celebrity is trying to maintain a dress code but it seems that neat goes more than dressy. It seemed that the Americans were the ones who were more casual than the non-Americans. The smart casual nights have really toned down. It is now- long pants for men- without rips or holes- so basically, jeans are ok for dinner. We did see men wearing sneakers for dinner as well.

Evening Entertainment:

One complaint here was that a number of the shows were before the late dining. We specifically take the late dining so that we can relax before going to dinner. The best entertainment was the comedian and magician/comic. The production shows were good although we only saw 2 of the 3. They had a few solo acts including members of the singers and dancers, orchestra and a very good pianist-who was quite the showman.

The casino was smoky in the evening so I rarely ventured in. It was crowded during sea days and every evening. They did have $3 blackjack tables as well as $.25 slot machines and those were always busy.

Perry Grant is a singer/comedian/all around entertainer who draws a huge crowd nightly in Michaels Club. There is usually standing room only. Apparently he has been on the Constellation for years and still draws them in. One evening he appeared with the orchestra in the Rendezvous Lounge and there was still standing room only. He could fill the theatre with out difficulty.

The lounges were busy each evening with different acts.

Ocean Liners- Specialty Restaurant:

Price tag is $30 per person or $27 per person for a more limited menu but paired with wine for every course – at an additional $31 pp. We chose the standard menu. The food and service was sensational. It was a 2.5 hours dinner and worth every penny. I had sea bass and my husband had a scallops and lobster main course. We started with lobster bisque, lobster and vegetable salad and ended with a fruit and cheese plate and dessert. Definitely a must do.

Ports of Call:
GRAND CAYMAN: Always beautiful and even though a hurricane passed through last week, you would never know it. Since we had already been there, we decided to visit some hotels. We saw the Ritz Carlton (my favorite), the Westin, Sunshine Suites, Grand Cayman Beach Resort and stopped into the Marriott. We walked miles along 7 mile beach and there is good reason that it is listed as one of the best beaches in the world.
CARTEGENA, COLUMBIA: This was a new port of call for us. We decided to take an excursion through the cruise line and chose the Deluxe City Tour with Fortress. The tour took us to both old and new Cartegena, into the Inquisition Palace, San Pedro Museum and a long visit (and climb) up to the top of the fortress, with panoramic views of the city. The tour included 2 shopping stops, both of which I could have done without but my main issue were the massive amounts of street vendors and beggars. I would recommend a tour if you are visiting Cartegena instead of wandering around on your own.
CRISTOBAL PIER/COLON, PANAMA: Directly outside the ship is a newly built cruise terminal with shops, restaurants and more that lead to a huge parking garage for the tour busses. We took the Panama Canal Tour which went through 3 of the 4 locks. Unfortunately, we had the bad luck to get a very bad tour guide. She was new to Panama (recently moved from India), spoke with a very heavy accent and was very difficult to understand and was very unknowledgeable about history and culture of Panama. She also repeated herself several times and said some outright offensive remarks to many on the tour. The boat was too small for the group, with bathroom facilities down a very steep set of stairs. Many times the toilets clogged causing quite a problem with the 70+ passengers. The only bright part of the tour was the other tour guide, Roberto, was very knowledgeable and repeated what he had told the people on his bus. We got to go through 3 locks. It rained during a good portion of the trip which did dampen things a bit but our main purpose was to go through the locks. We, and many other guests, filed complaints about the tour guide and the boat and were given a 25% refund on the tour which I did think was fair.
PUERTO LIMON, COSTA RICA- Our favorite port of call. We took the Costa Rica Favorites tour and loved it. We started with a tour of the canals and our guides had eagle eyes spotting monkeys, sloths, iguanas and birds of all kinds. Our group was too large to fit on one canal boat so we took the small boat and were glad we did since we really were able to see quite a bit more than those on the larger boat. From the cruise, we took another 1+ hour bus ride through the banana and pineapple plantations to the aerial tram. It started pouring during the ride over and the Aerial Tram company made a fortune selling ponchos to us for $10 each. If you are going to take this tour, bring a poncho with you. The lunch provided was good and the tram was about a 1 hour tour over the tree tops. We saw some birds but not much else in terms of wildlife. The foliage was gorgeous. Took an optional ½ hour walk to see some more and the guide was thrilled to point out tarantula, ant and bat nests. Interesting and again, beautiful foliage.
COZUMEL- Been there done it, so I made arrangements to see 4 different hotels. I rarely sell Cozumel since the airlift from the east coast is not great. We saw the Presidente, the Occidental Grand, the Iberostar and the Cozumel Palace. This port came after a day of very high winds and rough seas. Unfortunately for many of the guests who booked water based excursions, they were cancelled due to the rough seas. Cozumel has some of the most beautiful beaches and great snorkeling and diving but the seas were just too rough to go in the water.

Noro virus- About ½ way through the cruise, we were under high alert for the gastro intestinal virus. Some passengers had fallen ill. The ship went into extra cleaning protection mode. Passengers who were ill were quarantined to their cabin for 48 hours. They were brought water and Gatorade every couple of hours. Their cabin mates also were required to stay in the cabins. The rest of the guests were required to Purell their hands at each dining venue. We were no longer allowed to get our own drinks, handle any condiments or anything at the buffet lines. Some guests became quite nasty about the inconveniences but I’m sure they would be the first to complain if they got sick.

Disembarkation- relatively uneventful. We left our carry on luggage in the cabin and headed to the dining room for breakfast. We needed to vacate the cabin by 8:30am and were told to report to the theatre. Our tag # was called by 9:20am and were actually off the ship and getting on to a shuttle before 10am. We were back at the Fort Lauderdale airport by 10:30 am.

Overall impression: In general, we really enjoyed the cruise and the itinerary. We were very happy with the food and service. I would have no qualms recommending the ship to my clients as long as they realized that this is not a party ship. The longer cruises typically have older passengers so this is not going to be a ship that young party goers would necessarily enjoy. I have seen a couple of cost saving measures that Celebrity has put in place but that is understandable in this economy. I did miss the cold cloths upon returning to the ship after a shore excursion. We had it in Grand Cayman but didn’t see it in the other ports. The Constellation is always ranked among the top 10 large ships by Conde Nast and I can see why.

I look forward to my next Celebrity cruise.

_________________
Mindy Gilbert, MCC
Vacation, Cruise and Honeymoon Specialist

My Vacation Lady
mindy@myvacationlady.com
732-418-0819
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PostSubject: Re: Celebrity Constellation- 11 nite Caribbean   Thu Dec 18, 2008 4:48 pm

Thanks Mindy for the well balanced review. We sailed on the Constellation it's first year, and sound like it might be in need of a little updating. I'm glad to hear that Ocean Liners is still worth the extra upcharge. Thanks for taking the time to post it.
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PostSubject: Re: Celebrity Constellation- 11 nite Caribbean   Sun Jan 11, 2009 3:52 pm

yes thanks for the good, long review. and well balanced and fair.

It is interesting how quickly things change - and how different the ships of the same line operate.

I was on the Constellation in May 08 (Baltic) and didn't see one bit of fabric worn, etc. Now the Mercury I sailed on last month was another matter entirely. She really needs an overhaul to merit the Celebrity name.

Glad you enjoyed the Ocean Liners as much as we did. Worth every penny. We paid 25 each in May 08 and would do it again. Food marvelous, service superb and the ambience so nice with a harpist and the old silver wall panels of the Ile de France liner.

We also had pepper in the dining room without having to ask. That is just standard for a good restaurant so I am surprised to hear you had to ask. Could it have been just your wait station? A mystery.

We had the cold clothes after every excursion last month on Mercury and cold drinks in about half the ports. Again, odd how it differs from port to port and ship to ship but that seems to be true for every cruise line.
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