One of the Millennium-class vessels that has received "Solsticization" upgrades such as Qsine and Bistro on Five
Best For People Who Want
Well designed cabins with quality ammenities; suites with butlers; private balconies; sophisticated touches such as a piano lounge, a martini/champagne bar, a full-service florist; extensive spa facilities and acupuncture at sea.
Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
A vibrant, high-energy environment; lots of singles and children; open, single-seating or anytime dining; a small-ship cruise experience.
You will notice the relaxing and elegant atmosphere onboard Constellation the moment you cross the gangway. As your cruise progresses, gentle reminders that you're aboard one of the most sophisticated ships in the "premium" range of cruise lines will appear.
The tone is set early in the cruise. Representatives from each of the ship's activity options set up poolside tables to answer questions of arriving guests on embarkation day. Whether it's spa appointments, questions about Internet rates or casino gaming, it's a nice touch to begin the cruise. There is enough variety in onboard activities, enrichment lectures, and quality entertainment to keep almost any type of cruiser happy -- all led by a friendly and energetic Cruise Director and his staff.
Over the past decade we've noticed a change in the attitude of staff on Celebrity ships. They've moved from delivering a professional but reserved service, to a still professional but friendlier service. Positive change in our view, and clearly exhibited on our Constellation cruise with friendly, yet excellent, service throughout.
The only drawback we encountered in service came when "Elite" members of Celebrity's repeat passenger program, Concierge Club, and suite passengers are offered priority embarkation and disembarkation, along with other perks. The number of those who qualify seems to have grown so large that it is hard to deliver the perks. Check-in lines were shorter for regular passengers.
In 2010, Constellation received a 15-day drydock upgrade to her interiors in a project to modernize all four ships in this class (the Millennium-class). This modernization projecrt has been dubbed the "Solsticization Project" after the newest class of Celebrity ships, the Solstice-class. Solsticization involves adding some of the more popular features of the Solstice-class ships to this previous generation of Celebrity ships. The features that have beem added include the Tuscan Grille Steakhouse ($25 service charge) "Bistro on Five," a delicious casual eatery featuring a variety of delicious sandwiches, salads, crepes and desserts for both lunch and dinner. ($5 service charge) "Crush" Martini Bar - a bar with histrionic bartenders serving martinis in flat bottomed glasses made to conduct the cold from the ice-covered bar top. Café Al Bacio and the Gellateria - European coffee drinks and a fine selection of exquisite gelato flavors (a la carte pricing) Cellarmasters Wine Bar - a bar to tase various vintages including rare ones you can purchase by the milliliter through a custom dispensing system called "Enomatics." Upgraded suites and staterooms with new carpet, flat screen TVs, new color schemes New décor in public areas
The busiest public rooms onboard Constellation are the Champagne and Martini Bars on Deck 5 and the Rendezvous Lounge on Deck 4. These large lounges, located just forward of the two level dining room, span port to starboard.
Though the dance floor is located in the Rendezvous Lounge, a circular hole in the middle of the Champagne/Martini bar above opens to the Rendezvous Lounge below. This allows both lounges to share the live music emanating from the Rendezvous. One can opt for the Champagne/Martini Bar lounge, and it's more upscale art deco design, or the more casual Rendezvous Lounge below.
I particularly liked the handle straps on the seatbacks in both these lounges, making it easier for passengers and staff to move them around as needed.
Originally the ship's Cigar Bar, Michael's Club, forward of the casino on deck four, is now used as the singalong Piano Bar. It offers a very sophisticated, intimate, yet clubby atmosphere, with high backed leather chairs, and cocktail tables used to create small groupings.
Cafe Al Bacio has replaced the Cova Café, once a staple on the ships. This cafe features specialty coffees, tasty liqueurs and freshly baked pastries. The adjacent Gelateria offers a variety of Italian ices and gelatos prepared with an artistic touch.
Fortunes Casino, deck four mid-ship, is roomy and features the normal variety of table games; including craps and a recently added Texas Hold'em poker table. Numerous slot machines include one-cent slots. TV screens behind the small service bar show sports events -- though the staff seems to favor showing mostly soccer games.
Deck eleven is where the Bar at the Edge of the Earth is located. This is an enormous lounge used for a variety of events onboard, including as a disco in the evening. When Constellation was first introduced this was the Observatory Lounge with magnificent 270 degree views through a multitude of windows.
Several years ago the room was redecorated as part of an experimental entertainment experience featuring "Cirque Experience" created for Celebrity by Cirque de Soleil. While passengers expected performances similar to the Cirque shows in Las Vegas, the shows fell short of expectations and were eventually discontinued. Unfortunately, the rather bizarre and avant-garde interior set decorations for the Cirque Experience remain. The long-term plan by Celebrity is to restore this lounge to a more traditional design, but that is not likely to occur until the ship's next scheduled dry-dock several years from now.
But this miscue is more than rectified by the views from the exterior glass elevators. These lead to the 15-store shopping emporium featuring such notable designers as Donna Karan, H. Stern, Escada Sport and Tommy Hilfiger. You can choose from Swarovski crystal to Fendi purses. The elegant alternative dining room, Ocean Liners, will steal your breath away.
"Words" is the name of the library on Sky Deck. It is open around the clock and books are borrowed on the honor system rather than having a staff member with limited hours checking the books in and out.
The three-deck Celebrity Theater seats 901 for Broadway-style floorshows, and around 890 enjoy unobstructed sight lines. What appear to be live torches on the periphery of the audience are in fact blue and orange lights projecting on a strip of thin cloth blown by a fan from below. They give the venue a flickering glow.
The cyber café, off the Centrum on deck four, has 18 computers in comfortable surroundings offering Internet access with rates from 75 cents per minute to package rates of 250 minutes for $100. Wi-fi service is available in public areas at the same rates if you bring your laptop, though Internet service in the staterooms is not available, except in the top suites.
At one time it was hard to find a passenger who had come from a Celebrity cruise not raving about the food with menues now designed by new (since 2007) Celebrity Cruises executive chef Jacques Van Staden. Some Celebrity loyalists had concern that ending the famous relationship with chef Michel Roux in 2007 would result in weakening of the food selection and quality. Not in our opinion. Constellation still offers superior and certainly more adventurous dining room cuisine than competing premium and contemporary cruise lines.
The one weak link, in our experience, were the offerings of beef, except for the superb cuts served in the alternate ($30 pp surcharge) Ocean Liner's Restaurant, or the new Tuscan Grille Restaurant featuring Italian cuisine but not limited to pasta ($25 service charge).
"Bistro on Five," a delicious casual eatery featuring a variety of delicious sandwiches, salads, crepes and desserts for both lunch and dinner. ($5 service charge)
The Ocean Liners alternative restaurant is an homage to the grand era when ocean liners ruled the seas. It aspires to be among the finest restaurants at sea. The three-hour dinner involves a $30 per person surcharge, plus an additional charge for five paired wines if you wish to partake.
A visit to Ocean Liners is as much about the dining experience as it is about the food. This restaurant is practically theater with a flourish of white tied waiters cooking tableside flambé entrees with butterfly service. The food quality was naturally better than the dining room due to the a la minute delivery of searing hot food to the table. There are signature dishes and an impressive list of international wines ranging in price from $18 to $450 a bottle.
Tuscan Grille Restaurant, featuring Italian cuisine but not limited to pasta ($25 service charge) offers a true trattoria mena starting with prima piatti; antipasti, calamari fritto, bufala mozzarella,etc. Secomd course is soup or salad, the pasta course comes third with spaghetti(?), linguini, Kobe meatballs or veal parmesan. The main course offers seafood (sea bass, salmon), vegetarian (eggplant parmesan) or meat; lambchops, veal, ribeye, NY strip or filet mignon.
Desserts in any service-charge restaurant on Celebrity are heavenly.
The very elegant two-level San Marco Dining Room is located completely astern with two-deck-high glass windows welcoming warm, natural light and offering remarkable views of the sea. Its tables are spaced widely enough to permit conversation at sub-shouting levels. If you happen to be assigned a table on the lower level, at least once arrive from Deck 5 and make your entrance down the elegant grand staircase, which defines the grandeur of this room.
The setting for casual dining from 6:30 a.m. to half past midnight is deck ten's Seaside Cafe & Grill offering breakfast and lunch buffet, pizza, afternoon tea and an ice cream and frozen yogurt counter. An odd and very amusing decorative touch is an extra-strength four-foot circle of glass in the floor with a view to the open sea below. There's a good chance you won't even notice it unless you happen to sit nearby and look down, and then the effect is quite surprising.
The Seaside Café attempts to alleviate waiting and congestion by breaking the two buffet lines into separate areas with offerings changing daily. There is a separate sandwich counter aft, as well as pizza, Asian food and pasta stations.
Because it is a cafeteria style buffet line, even with the attempted separation, we found people in the buffet lines running into the pasta line from the other way. During breakfast hours the sandwich station serves made to order pancakes and waffles with a selection of toppings. Many people seem to never discover this area, so service is fast, and the pancakes are hot and fluffy, and the waffles excellent.
This rear section of the café, called the Grill, is also the place for casual dinner, served a la carte. Reservations are required and dinner is served between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. There's also a sushi service here in the evenings. Outdoors at poolside, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken breasts and fries are available during the day. On some nights Constellation lays out themed midnight buffets. 24-hour room service is also available
For healthy fare, the Aqua Spa Café by the thelassotherapy pool serves breakfast, lunch and extremely light dinners; all cold items, nothing cooked. Menu offerings include high-nutrition, low-fat cereals, yogurt, bagels and the like for breakfast. Later in the day, cold plates like apple/walnut salad, citrus marinated salmon, tortilla wraps and cold soups are on tap.
All passengers can also order room service meals from the lunch and dinner menus during the hours those meals are being served. Continental Breakfast room service only is offered except for those with Concierge-class or suite-level cabins. For an out-of-cabin continental breakfast experience, don't miss the absolutely decadent pastries at the Cova Cafe Milano.
The service on our sailing was exceptional. A decade ago one would find Celebrity Cruises' staff very professional yet stoic in service. These days, they are encouraged to make the service friendly as well as professional. Beyond exceptional is the tuxedo-clad service in the Ocean Liners specialty restaurant.
Celebrity suggests a per-person per-day gratuity of $3.50 for the waiter, butler (Suites only) and stateroom attendant; $4.00 for Concierge Class stateroom attendant; $2.00 for the Assistant Waiter; and $.75 for the Assistant Maitre d' and the Assistant Chief Housekeeper.
All guests are given a form to sign if they wish to have these gratuities charged to their shipboard account. Children under 12 who are the third or fourth person in the stateroom pay only half these amounts. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Gratuities for room service, spa, casino and other staff are at your discretion.
Celebrity production shows include terrific special effects, and the quality of performances by the Celebrity Singers and Dancers displays excellent talent. Various headline performances throughout the cruise include typical cruise ship fare: comedians, ventriloquists, pianists, etc. depending on when you cruise.
During-the-day activities include dance lessons, trivia contests, Pictionary, brain-teasers, charades, napkin-folding and arts and crafts classes, as well as enrichment lectures on various topics, which change on different sailings.
Constellation offers a movie theater for near current-run feature films. With any luck you will catch something you really wanted to see when it was first released, but our selection did not seem to be as adult oriented as the passenger mix.
Nightclubs include Michael's Club, an elegant setting for crooning and tickling the ivory. The Rendezvous lounge features live music. The Martini and Champagne Bar serves what the name implies. The Bar at the Edge of the Earth on Deck 11 has various theme parties throughout the cruise, like Mardi Gras night, where participants are given bead necklaces and Mardi Gras style masks. The room décor is bizarre, but the cruise staff does an excellent job of energizing the crowds and making the parties fun.
Constellation has some of the best designed and most comfortable staterooms afloat, with such amenities as television with closed-circuit movies, CNN and pay-per-view first run movies; direct dial phones, bathrobes, a stocked mini-refrigerator; and bathrooms with a shower and built-in shampoo and soap dispensers, vanity and hair dryer. Celebrity offers CNN and ESPN international feeds rather than U.S programming.
From the least expensive insides to outside balcony cabins, the staterooms are beautifully decorated in soft hues with comfortable beds and seating options. They serve as an oasis of calm away from other parts of the ship. Standard inside and outside staterooms are 172-sq. ft., with good storage space. The lovely balcony cabins measure 184 sq. ft. There are 26 wheelchair-accessible staterooms, including several suites.
Concierge-level and suite guests get handheld hair dryers, but there's nowhere to plug them in; you must use them at the desk/vanity area rather than the bathroom.
"Concierge Class" staterooms are 191 square feet with a 41-square-foot veranda. They include welcome-aboard champagne, fresh flowers and fruit, afternoon canapés, a leather key holder, personalized stationery, oversized tote bag, and upgraded mattresses and bedding.
Priority services promised include priority luggage delivery, dining time and seating preferences, shoe shine service, VIP invitations to exclusive shipboard events, priority shore excursion bookings, early embarkation and disembarkation, and a one-touch button on the phone to reach a Concierge Class desk representative directly.
A changed we noticed since our last Celebrity cruise was that invitations to VIP events were discontinued, and replaced by a calendar of VIP events waiting in your cabin when you board. Then, as the cruise progressed, the events were listed in the ship's daily newsletter, as they were to occur, with a note telling those guests eligible to check their calendar for where and when the event is held.
This new system took away from the more personal feeling of receiving an invitation, and in my view also told non-eligible guests that there was a special event occurring, but they weren't important enough to attend.
Butlers attend the residents of suites, of which there are several types. The Sky Suite (254 to 362 sq. ft) has walk-in closets, whirlpool tubs and the large balcony.
Not quite big enough? Then consider Celebrity Suites (498 sq. ft.), Royal Suites (562 sq. ft.), or even the two enormous (1,690 sq. ft.) Penthouse Suites, with 180-degree views from the balconies.
For great value in pricing and excellent accommodation try the Category FV cabins located on the stern corners of each passenger deck. They are 245 sq. ft, with a sliding door which separates the sleeping area from the sitting area (with two sofas that are hide-a-beds), and a 275 sq. ft balcony. These are not considered suites and do not come with the accompanying amenities, which translates into great value because they are priced lower than suites, sky suites, or concierge class cabins.
Do note that many Concierge Class and the Deluxe Oceanview cabins on the Sky Deck are rather overshadowed by the overhanging deck above.
buffs will be pleased with the glass-enclosed fitness center offering 14 treadmills, 12 exercise bikes, six stair-steppers, two rowers and free weights. Aerobics classes are scheduled throughout the day. Personal training, a body composition test, an Alpha massage capsule, and destress and detox packages are offered at various fees.
At 25,000 square feet, the adults-only AquaSpa is one of the most spacious afloat. The jewel of the fitness area is the highly atmospheric, relaxing Thalassotherapy pool, a sort of saltwater Jacuzzi, in which you'll feel as though you've retreated into a different world altogether (a small fee for use all day). The Persian Garden aromatherapy oasis is a nice place to meditate for an additional charge.
Treatments administered by Steiner's of London are by no means inexpensive but usually booked solid anyway. Get 20 percent off if you book on sailing day, and watch for specials on treatments while the ship is in port.
At $29, the "Frangipani" treatment, a scalp, neck and shoulder massage, is by far the best value on offer. There are also exotic "Sensory Heaven" treatments, such as the float massage, haiku ritual facial and an "aroma stone massage."
There are two formal nights on a seven-night cruise, three on longer ones. On two informal nights gentlemen need only jackets and no ties. On formal nights most men turn up in dark suits rather than tuxedos, while ladies choose dressy pantsuits or dresses. By day, don't even consider wearing anything other than shorts, sneakers, polo shirt and a baseball cap.