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Constellation trip report

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To give something back after taking huge advantage of the massive amounts of information available here on CC, here's a trip report from a recent Western Caribbean 5 night in a Royal Suite on the Constellation. I hope it contributes to the utility of this fabulous resource in some way. So, as first time cruisers on X (we have sailed with two other lines, always in suites/penthouses), we wondered what we might find. Instead of wondering, browsing Cruise Critic gave terrific insight into what we might expect (the Tips and Tricks thread is a real gem).

 

Armed with this info, we headed to Miami early on embarkation day. We reached the Miami port at around 11, and walked down the row of lines, looking for a short one. Second from the end, we found a sign for suite guests; this line was empty. A great start! We quickly checked in, and one of us received a single rose; a nice touch, but seemed odd at the time. The moment we approached the ship, the rose revealed its purpose; it is an indicator for the VIP concierge to flag pax for escort into Michael's on deck 4. Quick photos were taken, and into Michael's we went, finding dark paneling, a very clubby atmosphere, and freely flowing champagne (Celebrity's house brand, eminently enjoyable). "Treats and sweets" were also on offer; cold apps and desserts to take the edge off our hunger (the last hunger we'd feel for a week) while we waited. Rooms came ready around 1 if memory serves (earlier than the 1:15 promised), and we walked upstairs to deck 6 to our suite, 61xx at the rear of the ship. This seemed an odd place for suites/penthouses; in our experience they are always at the top of the ship. In retrospect, it works quite well. Nothing is ever more than four decks away, and we could take the stairs easily (though the aft elevators never seemed busy).

 

On entering our suite we found a bottle of the aforementioned bubbly on ice with two flutes, a liter of Dewar's scotch and a liter of (brand not recalled) vodka, along with eight cans of mixers. Very nice. Perusing the documents we found in the suite, we came upon the Elite coupon sheets we'd read about on CC. Free laundry, pressing, Persian Garden access on a port day, casino money, etc. Knowing that this is offered on a variable basis, it was a pleasant surprise. The suite itself is reasonably large, though not as big as the royal suite on the Majesty on RCL (though to be fair, the royal on the Majesty is analagous to the penthouse on the Connie, and it is MUCH smaller than the Connie's top suites). A dining area leads into the living room, or one can turn into the 'hallway' connecting the walk-in closet, bath, and bedroom. The balcony is quite spacious, and the Kohler 6-jet hot tub thereon appeared freshly cleaned (we learned later that both the hot tub and the jacuzzi in the bathroom are bleached and tested at every turnover). Lounge chairs already had the blue cushions that some in the past have had to request; perhaps X listens carefully to what goes on here. Privacy was ... medium. One shouldn't do anything on the balcony that one would mind having observed by strangers on deck 7. :rolleyes:

 

Unpacking, we found that storage in the suite was cavernous; nearly every vertical surface opened into a storage area of some kind - the mini fridge (and I have to call it a fridge, not a cooler, as liquids got very cold inside), the coat closet behind the couch, shelves by the computer, shelves by the TV, cubbies under the TV, shelves behind the bathroom door, side tables by the bed, dresser drawers and shelves in the bedroom, and a drawer by the vanity. Oh, and that walk-in closet. We may have used a tenth of the storage on offer. I have to say that the space in the suite is not used wisely; the corners are cut in the dining area, making that space smaller than it should be. The walk-in closet is the size of a phone box (for those too young, let's say the standing area is less than a meter on each side), and the wall separating the living and bedrooms is wide and unwieldy. We'd have gladly sacrificed one or both of the bigscreen TV's for more space, but this is personal preference. The decor was to our liking, condition of everything was excellent, and everything was spotless. Dual zone AC, set to 25 when we arrived, quickly cooled the rooms to our preferred 20 during the day and 17 at night. (Yes, we like it cold) No complaints.

 

We soon met our butler Jonathan, and our stateroom attendant Efrem. Efrem brought clarity to the division of their duties, saying "I take care of the room, he takes care of service". Perfect. And both were exceedingly capable at their tasks. The room was always made up, beds turned down, the porthole shade drawn at night, the ice bucket kept full (a tall task, as we use a lot of ice). Jonathan was the consummate professional, handling all requests with amazing speed, perfect accuracy, and quiet calm. What requests, you ask? First we asked him to swap out the scotch and vodka for gin, and the mixers for tonic. No problem. A plate of limes and extra ice? One minute. Shrimp cocktail instead of canapes? Every day. (thanks CC!) Dinner and spa reservations? Handled quickly and accurately. One wonders if his room isn't on deck six, as he never seemed more than a moment away. When we found that the jacuzzi wasn't working (even after filling to the sensor level), Jonathan appeared truly mortified. We explained that there was no rush for a fix, but he reappeared in minutes with an electrician, who found that the breaker in the hall had tripped. Problem solved. (Turns out Lloyd's was onboard running various tests related to insurance. One test - a full black out of main electrical, to test the generators - tripped the breaker). The jacuzzi, by the way, has 26 different buttons. After repeated use, we are fluent in only half of them. :D

 

Dinner the first night was in the Tuscan Grille, with a 20% discount from the $35 pp upcharge. One must note that this upcharge is far too high; the food in the TG is substantially the same as in the MDR (identical in the case of the beef filet), and the ambiance of the space is odd. The TG sits on deck 11 (if memeory serves), and its tall glass walls (while providing a lovely view of the sunset on this day) front the jogging track and deck area, where runners go by and children frolic incessantly. An odd choice of location. Also strange is that the elevators open into the lobby of the TG, causing the maitre d's station to be immersed in foot traffic disgorged from the elevators. Overall, the restaurant seemed shoe-horned into a small space. We would not return.

 

Up early on our first sea day, we found the gym packed at 7:00 (as it was every day - who'd have thought?). All ellipticals and treadmills were taken, and several people were using the circuit machines and free weights. Morning stretch was well attended, as was the 7:30 core class (or was it yoga? Mornings are not a strength chez Operator). Only one machine (a treadmill) was out of order, though no sign ever appeared to mark it so. The fitness staff was upbeat and energtic (aren't they always?), and we were able to access cardio machines after short waits.

 

11:00 brought Wine Appreciation 101 (it's always five o'clock somewhere, no?) in the MDR - another private event attended by twenty Elite/Suite folks, though we had the sense nearly all other attendees were Elite - they seemed to know one another at a glance. Two sommeliers walked us through four wines, providing very knowledgeable insight on varietals, winemaking, tasting, and pairing. Very nice.

 

Lunch was the Captain's Reception for Elite/VIP in Ocean Liners. The captain and his staff greeted everyone as they arrived, and champagne and cocktails again flowed like water. The room was full - or nearly so - and no approached the buffet for 30 minutes. Perhaps we were all full from breakfast. After half an hour, cruise director Damian introduced Captain Frantzis, who toasted his returning guests and was quite charismatic. He also recognized (with flowers) the passenger with the most days at sea on X - a woman with 90 cruise points (without any idea what this meant - though knowing it was impressive from the oohs and aahs she received - we asked her when seeing her in the gym the next day. She estimates she has over 800 nights at sea on X, and the Connie is her favorite ship. #jealous). The ice broken, everyone nibbled at the buffet, finding it better than the upstairs buffet but not exceptional. Sushi, roast beef sammies, hot and cold finger food, the usual. Glasses were never empty, as the staff continually refreshed drinks without prompting. An enjoyable hour or so.

 

Elsewhere, food was generally unremarkable. This is not a complaint. We find cruise food fairly consistent, both across lines and across ships, and have never found a truly exceptional meal at sea. Food was also - prepare to be shocked - everywhere and bountiful. There were stunning amounts of food available seemingly everywhere and all the time. Buffets, pool grill, tea cart, Bistro on 5, Cafe al Bacio, MDR & specialties, etc. 24 hour room service - though we never used it - guarantees no one can ever go hungry. We had the remaining dinners in the MDR (select dining, variable times), and while we were never disappointed, we were never impressed. Wait, that's wrong. We were VERY impressed with the service. Every waiter, every sommelier, was attentive, thorough, and well trained. We saw an elbow perhaps only twice during the trip; even fine restaurants often struggle to have service and clearance from the proper sides. In fact, this is as good a place as any for an aside: everyone on board brought this same high-quality, clearly-well-trained, enthusiastic, caring, generous service to bear at all times. I don't know how they manage it. This was a very remarkable aspect of our experience, and one that clearly elevated X about RCL and HAL in our minds. The staff was always bright-eyed, smiling, and genuine - and international and uniformly fit (the chef being the wise exception - never trust a skinny chef), probably because they are constantly in motion, moving here and there to attend to every need of every guest. Amazing. To be fair, the onion soup was also excellent. :rolleyes:

 

Entertainment was above average. We enjoyed Uncommon Ground, the onboard a capella group, several different times (they floated and opened for other shows). Chad Chesmark's comedy magic show was excellent though shorter than we'd have liked. We missed the stand-up comedian, but heard he was a smash hit. And the stage shows were good (intro on the first night) and maybe not so good (we were divided over I, Broadway, a mishmash of 30 second slices of every Broadway/movie song from the 80's and 90's. YMMV - some enjoyed it.) The talent level was high, but the venue is tough - acoustics in that hall are awful - and sounds levels were muddy and variable.

 

Ports: Roatan was instantly forgettable (perhaps part of the problem), another in a seemingly endless string of tiny islands that seem to house only cruise vendors and very aggressive local hawkers. We had our own plans, saw them through, and returned to the ship after a couple of hours (we enjoy being on the ship during port days, as the quiet is a nice change). Cozumel was a step up, but still a step below Puerto Rico or Saint Thomas. We found a local spot for lunch, and greatly enjoyed the local cuisine.

 

Our last day at sea was a mixed bag for weather, but the staff kept everyone entertained with a variety of activities; the ice carving demo was incredible.

 

Disembarkation was a breeze; we waited in Michael's for a time, then realized that our tag number (44) was outside the 1-30 range that was to be called. Strange. :confused: Still, we reluctantly left the ship, breezed through customs, and were in a bus to FLL in less than an hour after leaving Michael's.

 

A few key points: The staff on the Connie is amazing. Graeme, the Captain's Club director, is a treasure. Charming, humorous, graceful, and attentive, he always had the perfect anecdote or comment at the ready. He was clearly very committed to his job and his employer, and should have his salary doubled (disclaimer - we don't know what X is paying him, but he's really that good). Cruise Director Damian was a close second, everpresent but not overbearing, somehow always immaculately attired and looking fresh as could be, he did his job with enthusiasm and charm. The captain and his officers were remarkably accessible, friendly, and evidenced the same commitment to excellent service we found with all other staff members. Very nice. The ship - only ten days from dry dock when we left - is in fine shape. If you find things about which to complain - wood worn here, paint chipped there - then for you, I feel only pity. Relax and enjoy next time. This is an ocean-going vessel with 12-13 years on her; of course certain things don't appear as new. So what? And that dry dock? Allegedly it will add 200 pax on deck 3 and include some changes to the restaurants. Hearsay, but we'll know soon enough. Tips were also worth a mention. While we had prepaid our US $15/pp/pd (mandatory with select dining), we distributed perhaps US $200-$300 in additional tips here and there as service warranted. Almost everyone seemed surprised - and some genuinely stunned - to be handed a tip. We infer that tips are a rarity, but do as we prefer when encountering excellent service. As should you.

 

In summary, this was the best (though one of the shortest) cruises we've taken. We would confidently recommend the Connie to anyone, and will likely sail her again. Perhaps a crossing is in the cards, as we love those sea days. Still planning to compare to Oceania, but that will have to wait a while.

 

Questions are welcome, and thanks again to everyone who contributes to CC.

Edited by Operator

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Thanks for the great review! We just booked this cruise for next year and I am thrilled to hear that the "Connie" is just as wonderful as we remember her (crew included)!!!

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What a lovely, lovely review! We will be on her again in January. After reading all about your trip, I wish it was next week!

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Terrific review! :)

 

Thanks for taking the time to post!

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I really appreciated your review because we're heading off on the Constellation for the first time this winter. We won't be living the high life in a suite, but you gave such a good portrait of what we'll be enjoying overall. Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a thoughtful review.

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Great review, thanks. Regarding the placement of TG, it wasn't part of the original ship design and was added during the "Solsticization". I bet that's why it seems awkward; on the Millennium it was Qsine in that space and maybe used to be part of the kids club?

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Great review, thanks. Regarding the placement of TG, it wasn't part of the original ship design and was added during the "Solsticization". I bet that's why it seems awkward; on the Millennium it was Qsine in that space and maybe used to be part of the kids club?

 

The TG was added in the area that used to be a flower shop on the ship...that's probably why the space appears to be a bit awkward in regards to the restaurants they have placed there on the ships during the solsticization.

 

We sailed on the Summit pre-solsticizing, and Millennium after...and even with the extra cabins on deck 3 and 11...the passenger space ratio still seemed quite "uncrowded"...so I think those who love the Connie will still love her once those cabins are added in the next few weeks.

 

Thanks OP for the review. Glad you had a great trip...and I am confident you will soon become a Celebrity devotee !! :)

 

Woody

Edited by rwr235

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Thanks for the review. The staff you mention are all fantastic. Constellation is our favourite Celebrity ship.

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Thank you for a well written review of the Constellation and the wonderful service on Celebrity.

Hoep to some day to experience the suite life.:)

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Absolutely loved your review and your attitude. Two thumbs up!

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Thanks for the informative review. We are on Constellation (our favorite!) on May 20. Do you know if Damian and Graeme will still be onboard in Europe? In the past, we've often seen changes right before or after the Transatlantic.

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A few key points: The staff on the Connie is amazing. Graeme, the Captain's Club director, is a treasure. Charming, humorous, graceful, and attentive, he always had the perfect anecdote or comment at the ready. He was clearly very committed to his job and his employer, and should have his salary doubled (disclaimer - we don't know what X is paying him, but he's really that good).

 

Thanks for a great review!

Connie is my favorite ship as well.

And Graeme.... He IS THE BEST and my favorite of all Captain's club hosts!

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First, thanks to all for the positive feedback. :)

 

Second, we should have more clearly addressed the level of crowding on the ship and the possible impact of adding 200 pax. We'd say that this ship was about as UNcrowded as any on which we've sailed. Sunny sea days made pool chairs somewhat scarce, but even then there were always some available on the upper terrace above the pool or aft. The MDR was full for dinner, but we never waited at all for a table when walking in for select dining between 6 and 7. And we can't remember ever waiting in line at a buffet, with the exception of a brief wait at the omelet station. This prompts a tip we omitted from the review, and it is handy:

 

There are four omelet pans on the port side buffet, but only one on the starboard. We have no idea why, but there it is. Port side, you'll never wait for an omelet (except to watch it cook :p).

 

So, adding 200 pax doesn't really scare us. The crew/pax ratio is already incredibly favorable, and 200 more shouldn't really make a big impact.

 

Finally, we don't know if Damian and Graeme will be on after the dry dock. We suspect they will - we seem to recall they've both only been on the Constellation a short time - but we really couldn't say. They are both worth following around to other ships; we can't praise them enough.

 

Keep the questions coming - we're happy to answer any we can.

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First, thanks to all for the positive feedback. :)

 

Finally, we don't know if Damian and Graeme will be on after the dry dock. We suspect they will - we seem to recall they've both only been on the Constellation a short time - but we really couldn't say. They are both worth following around to other ships; we can't praise them enough.

 

Keep the questions coming - we're happy to answer any we can.

 

According to my daughter the current CD will leave prior to the dry dock. She did tell me who the new guy will be but his name wasn't familar.

 

Hopefully I can pass on more info' during the dry dock as my daughter is currently working on board and looking forward to three weeks R&R with no ship movement whatsoever, regardless of the sea conditionsicon12.gif

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First, thanks to all for the positive feedback. :)

 

Second, we should have more clearly addressed the level of crowding on the ship and the possible impact of adding 200 pax. We'd say that this ship was about as UNcrowded as any on which we've sailed. Sunny sea days made pool chairs somewhat scarce, but even then there were always some available on the upper terrace above the pool or aft. The MDR was full for dinner, but we never waited at all for a table when walking in for select dining between 6 and 7. And we can't remember ever waiting in line at a buffet, with the exception of a brief wait at the omelet station. This prompts a tip we omitted from the review, and it is handy:

 

There are four omelet pans on the port side buffet, but only one on the starboard. We have no idea why, but there it is. Port side, you'll never wait for an omelet (except to watch it cook :p).

 

So, adding 200 pax doesn't really scare us. The crew/pax ratio is already incredibly favorable, and 200 more shouldn't really make a big impact.

 

Finally, we don't know if Damian and Graeme will be on after the dry dock. We suspect they will - we seem to recall they've both only been on the Constellation a short time - but we really couldn't say. They are both worth following around to other ships; we can't praise them enough.

 

Keep the questions coming - we're happy to answer any we can.

 

Damian and Graeme both came on the second half of our B2B on Feb 9th.

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Elsewhere, food was generally unremarkable. This is not a complaint. We find cruise food fairly consistent, both across lines and across ships, and have never found a truly exceptional meal at sea.

 

Thanks for your lengthy review.

I was on the same sailing. I agree with the above.

Even in the specialty restaurants, the food has never been to the standard of a land based top tier venue. The galley in every restaurant is using frozen and thawed meats, poultry and fish. Given that, it's no wonder that their food can't rise to the level of that which is served in a truly great restaurant.

 

As far a food goes, scale back your expectations and you will be content.

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What a fantastic review! Question: is there a door that can close off the bedroom from the living room for privacy? It all appears open in photos...

 

Thanks!

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What a fantastic review! Question: is there a door that can close off the bedroom from the living room for privacy? It all appears open in photos...

 

Thanks!

 

 

It does. Make sure it is all the way open or closed as it will swing back in forth with the ship's rocking.

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