A Cruise Review: The Connie Anew

Dec 28th, 2014, 05:11 PM
  #1  
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A Cruise Review: The Connie Anew

You never forget your first cruise. Like your first kiss, the memory sweetly lingers.

It’s those warm fuzzies that drew us back to Celebrity’s Constellation in December—eight years after she introduced us to a whole new way to travel.

But those were the days of midnight buffets and chocolates on our pillow. They’re long gone and the Constellation is a different place, run by the same—but yet a very different—cruise line.

The Ship: Wearing the Years Well
The Constellation has held up very nicely since its 2002 inauguration. Its upgrade and “Solsticization” in 2013 brought new beds to the cabins, refreshed carpeting throughout, new restaurants, bars and more. It’s a handsome ship, with a commanding marble staircase dominating the Grand Foyer on Deck 3.

One of the ship’s highlights is at the very back of Deck 10, what I call the “Teak Deck” for its upgraded picnic furniture (officially, it’s the “Sunset Bar”). The little patio, like most of the ship (including rooms and balconies), is now smoke-free, enabling all of us to enjoy the view of the stern’s wake without wheezing.

The ship is compact and easy to get around; we had the layout down in a day. Its relative smallness at 91,000 tons gave it an intimate feel, which, after many trips on larger vessels, was a nice change of pace.

The Entertainment: Mixing It Up
There’s been a big change in the daytime activities. Where once there were guest speakers, there are now “Life Enhancement” lectures on health and fitness. “Enhance Your Life Through Exercise” and “Happy Feet for Healthy Life” were some of the offerings.

There are also more pool and game show activities, as the cruise line works to appeal to younger cruisers. An officer vs. guest pool volleyball game made its debut on this trip, joining the usual “Newlywed Game” takeoff, “Battle of the Sexes” and “Liar’s Club,” which—a first for us—featured the ship’s captain on the panel.

Evening entertainment was good quality, albeit standard fare—Broadway-style shows, a comedian, violinist, magician and singer. Off-stage entertainment ran the gamut, from folk music to classical to rock and salsa.

The Food: A Turn Toward Ordinary
Alas, from this foodie’s perspective, quality was sacrificed for quantity. When we first took the Connie, the three-star Michelin winner Michel Roux was running the show and each meal in the main dining room was a gastronomical high. Today, the food is plain at best. Entrees ranged from good (there was a nice crispy breaded pork chop and decent tenderloin) to poor (one steak had a very strange consistency). Desserts are merely ordinary. Instead of the rich and decadent “Opera” pastry I enjoyed on Princess, for example, the Constellation serves up chocolate layer cake.

The ship’s buffet, the Oceanview Café, runs until 9:30 p.m. at dinner, but compared to buffets on competing lines, seems an afterthought. There are some nice features, such as made-to-order grilling (choice of steak, salmon, chicken and pork), stir-fry and pasta, good pizza and an ice cream bar with syrup and candy toppings. But the desserts seldom varied from puddings or cupcakes.

On the other hand, the breakfast and lunch buffets offered a huge variety. (Although sorely missing was the array of fabulous rolls we once looked forward to.)

The Extras: A Few Still Remain
Some of what earned Celebrity the reputation of a premier cruise line is still there—the welcome champagne at embarkation, iced towels greeting you after a hot day at port, but we find it a changed cruise line, and the Constellation, a changed ship.

Those sailing on the Constellation for the first time will enjoy a smaller ship experience, quality entertainment and a crew eager to please. In short, a good cruise, but not a spectacular one.

--Musing About Cruising, http://musingaboutcruising.blogspot.com
rjgdjg is offline  
Dec 29th, 2014, 04:55 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
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Thanks for the report. We cruised the Connie in 2011 to the Holy Land and yes it was very nice though for us our 2012 cruise on the Equinox far exceeded the Connie. The food was better too which says a lot as the Equinox has far more passengers to prepare for. My wife as is usual special orders Indian food for the MDR and this is where the chef on the Connie really dropped the ball. We always get Indian food and is normally very good but on the Connie and despite talking to the Maitre'de several times the Indian food was the worst we have ever had. However on the Equinox it was the best as they really did a great job.

We did have a nice meal at the Tuscan grille and found that overall the food in the MDR was ok. I liked the ship but unfortunately this was at a time when she was plagued by noro-virus which affected me as well. However it was short lived.

Have you ever been on a Solstice class ship?
jacketwatch is offline  
Dec 29th, 2014, 04:12 PM
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Great report, especially comparing the "original" to the renewed ship, and the decline in the food quality.

We were on the Solstice less than a month ago and we too find the food "bland" and not quite up to our expectation, and we have already lowered our expectation somewhat based on our last cruise with Celebrity a few years back. On that particular review, we commented on the decline of the food quality, and it has gone further down hill this time around.
Eschew is offline  
Jan 1st, 2015, 04:19 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2003
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Sorry and surprised to hear about the food on the Solstice. What we had on the Equinox was very good. Maybe the executive chef is the reason. Our 2012 cruise on the Equinox was scarcely 2 yrs. ago and actually the food, especially at the buffet was the best we've had, even better than what we had on the then Tahitian Princess but that ship holds only 700 passengers vs. about 4k + on the Equinox.

BTW the Tahitian became the Ocean Princess which has been sold to Oceanea. It's new name will be the Sirena once they have refitted her.
jacketwatch is offline  
Jan 4th, 2015, 12:47 PM
  #5  
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Thanks to jacketwatch and Eschew for your comments!

jacketwatch, it sounds like you had the same impressions we did.

To answer your question, we took the Equinox in 2011, so I didn't know whether what we experienced this December on Connie was cruise line-wide or just this ship. On the Equinox in 2011, we noticed changes from our first Celebrity trip in 2006, but nothing as dramatic as this past one.

It's sad, because what made them once so special is now gone and personally, I think you can get a better experience on other lines. One thing that was great, though, was the itinerary. They took us to St. Barts (tender), which no one goes to. So they get brownie points for that! - Musing About Cruising
rjgdjg is offline  
Jan 6th, 2015, 10:50 PM
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Join Date: Sep 2007
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With cruise fare not increasing and cost going up, first place to cut is the food. When is the last time you saw a mid-night buffet? Not that I will go to one. Celebrity used to do some one off things such as carve whole smoked salmon or a special BBQ lunch. They are missing. The menu selection is less, and the type of food offered is also of "lower grade" or simpler items such as pork chops (instead of Veal chops).

The experience I have on this last trip more have to do with selection and taste. Selection is probably through out the cruise line where as the taste, I hope, is a local ship based issue.

The soups and sauces were extremely salty and the rest of the food lacks "taste". The selection of the buffet didn't change all that much and you see the identical items daily, especially for breakfast. The fresh fruit selection was limited to water melon (not in season and not seedless), pineapple (mostly raw and not ripe yet), cantaloupe and Honey dew. There were limited quantity of whole apples and oranges and surprisingly, did not see any bananas until the last day and there wasn't much of it. There was no Kiwi and we were on a New Zealand cruise!

Celebrity used to have the best food on the mass market ships. I now rate them marginally below Princess.

It is either that we have grow accustomed to "cruising" or the cruise lines are not offering anything that stands out any more. To be honest, if you take away the lay out, decor, fellow passenger etc of the ships away from the equation and look at strictly the tangibles such as entertainment, food and services, is there really that much differences between the "comparable" cruise lines?
Eschew is offline  

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