Fodor’s Expert Review
Best For People Who Want
Well designed cabins with quality amenities; 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.Read More
At one time it was hard to find a passenger who had come from a Celebrity cruise not raving about the food with menus 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)
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.
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 canapes, 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.
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.
One of the Millennium-class vessels that has received “Solsticization” upgrades such as Qsine and Bistro on Five.
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 project 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 been 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. Cafe Al Bacio and the Gelateria – 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 decor 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 Cafe, 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 cafe, 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.
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 flambe 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. Second 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 Cafe 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 cafe, 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 Cafe by the thalassotherapy 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 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 decor is bizarre, but the cruise staff does an excellent job of energizing the crowds and making the parties fun.
Fitness 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.”
The fourth and final Millennium-class ship, Celebrity Constellation was launched in 2002. In a move the line termed “Solsticizing,” Constellation has received some of the most popular features of Celebrity’s Solstice-class ships, including the addition of spa accommodations, an iLounge Internet and learning center, and more specialty restaurants. From Fort Lauderdale, Celebrity Constellation sails a series of five-night Western Caribbean cruises in the winter season and repositions to Europe for summers of lengthier voyages throughout the Mediterranean and Greek Isles, with departures from Istanbul or Baltic sailings from Amsterdam.
Millennium-class ships are among the largest and most feature-filled in the Celebrity fleet. The ships include show lounges reminiscent of splendid opera houses, and an alternative restaurant with a classic ocean liner theme. The spas are immense and house a complimentary hydrotherapy pool and café. These ships have a lot to offer families, with some of the most expansive children’s facilities in the Celebrity fleet. Upgrades have introduced more accommodation categories and dining venues similar to those found on Solstice-class ships.
Rich fabrics in jewel tones mix elegantly with the abundant use of marble and wood accents throughout public areas. The atmosphere is not unlike a luxurious European hotel filled with grand spaces that flow nicely from one to the other.
Since it was founded in 1989, Celebrity Cruises has grown from a single refurbished ocean liner into a fleet of premium, sophisticated cruise ships that have a reputation for professional service, fine food, and some of the best design in the industry. Signature amenities have grown with the fleet, including gourmet specialty restaurants that carry an additional fee, large staterooms with generous storage, fully equipped spas, and butler service for guests in the top accommodations categories. Valuable art collections grace the stylish modern luxury ship interiors.
Although spacious accommodations in every category are a Celebrity standard, Concierge-class, an upscale element on all ships, makes certain premium ocean-view and balcony staterooms almost the equivalent of suites in terms of service. A Concierge-class stateroom includes numerous extras, such as chilled champagne, fresh fruit, and flowers upon arrival; exclusive room-service menus; evening canapés; luxury bedding, pillows, and linens; upgraded balcony furnishings; priority boarding and luggage service; and other VIP perks. At the touch of a single telephone button, a Concierge-class desk representative is at hand to offer assistance. Suites are still the ultimate, though, and include the services of a butler to assist with unpacking, booking spa services and dining reservations, shining shoes, and even replacing a popped button.
- 11 passenger decks
- 3 specialty restaurants, dining room, buffet, ice cream parlor, pizzeria
- Internet (Constellation), Wi-Fi, safe, refrigerator, DVD (some)
- 3 pools (1 indoor), children’s pool
- fitness classes, gym, hot tubs, sauna, spa, steam room
- 7 bars, casino, dance club, library, showroom, video game room
- children’s programs
- dry cleaning, laundry service
- no-smoking cabins
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
What to expect on board
Staterooms & Cabins
As on most Celebrity ships, cabins are thoughtfully designed, with ample closet and drawer/shelf storage, as well as bathroom shelves. Some ocean-view cabins and suites have balconies. Penthouse suites also have guest bathrooms. Most staterooms and suites have convertible sofa beds, and many can accommodate third and fourth occupants. Connecting staterooms are also widely available. Family staterooms have huge balconies, and some have two sofa beds. Aqua-class accommodations with direct spa access are a relatively new addition.
A small refrigerator, personal safe, hair dryer, and a seating area with sofa, chair, and table are typical standard amenities. Extras include bathroom toiletries (shampoo, soaps, and lotion) and bathrobes. Suite luxuries vary, but most include a whirlpool tub, a DVD player, an Internet-connected computer, and a walk-in closet, while all have butler service, personalized stationery, and a logo tote bag. Penthouse and Royal suites have outdoor whirlpool tubs on the balconies.
Twenty-six staterooms are designed for wheelchair accessibility.
Food & Drink
The formal two-deck restaurant serves open seating breakfast and lunch, while dinner is served in two assigned seatings or open seating. The casual Lido buffet offers breakfast and lunch; for dinner, it has made-to-order entrées, a carving station, and an array of side dishes. A poolside grill offers fast food, while a spa café serves lighter fare. Each ship has upscale alternative restaurants that serve Italian cuisine and modern American dishes (reservation and cover charge). Each also has a café that offers sushi and other light items (cover charge), and an extra-charge specialty coffee, tea, and gelato bar. All ships feature a second specialty restaurant reserved for passengers in suites and Aqua-class accommodations. Pizza delivery and 24-hour room service augment dining choices.
Production companies and guest entertainers perform in the show lounges. Bars and lounges are designed as unique destinations onboard with drink menus with both classic and also “signature” and trendier cocktails. Some drinks are a reflection of the regions you are visiting. Live bands or DJs provide music for listening and dancing.
Spa & Fitness
The Canyon Ranch SpaClub is one of the most nicely equipped at sea with spa services operated by high-end Canyon Ranch. In addition to treatments that include a variety of massages, body wraps, and facials, each ship also has an acupuncture treatment area and offers Medi-Spa Cosmetic services. A relaxation room and thermal suite with a dry sauna, aromatherapy steam room, and a Turkish bath are available to Aqua-class passengers and those who have booked a treatment or purchased a pass. Changing rooms for men and women have complimentary saunas, and a large hydrotherapy pool is available to all adults at no charge.