We landed in Istanbul, Turkey in the early afternoon, and found a transfer service to take us to the ship which was about 45 to 60 minutes away by car. The arrival scene was somewhat chaotic as there was a mass of people re-entering the ship and new cruisers checking in. Celebrity did not have the arrival very well organized, ie, security procedures, check-in, and so forth. Finally, we figured it out and checked in. The good news is that our ocean view cabin was upgraded to a balcony cabin … a pleasant surprise.
Affectionately known as "Connie" by its fans, the 2,000+-passenger (900+ crew) Celebrity Constellation debuted in 2002 as the fourth and final ship in Celebrity Cruises' Millennium Class. Over the years, the ship has developed a host of admirers and repeat cruisers who are drawn to its value, comfort, above-average food and drink offerings, friendly crew, spotless facilities and intriguing itineraries.
In 2013, the ship went into dry dock for a major makeover. The 66 staterooms added include popular AquaClass cabins and their companion Blu restaurant featuring healthy "clean cuisine." Other new features include the addition of private verandahs for the eight Celebrity Suites, an upgraded basketball court, an iLounge with Apple workstations and a retail store, and new meeting and conference spaces. Also upgraded was the Wi-Fi throughout the ship with a new easier-to-manage log-on system (but was problematic during some days on the cruise, according to some passengers).
About half of the passengers on the cruise were North American and the balance consisted of Europeans and Asians … mostly the in 40 to 70 year age range with a sprinkling of younger couples and four babies.
Of course, we did not pack for a cruise itinerary so we were short or lacking clothes needed on cruise ship's dining rooms, ie, smart casual for the main dining room and suits for the three formal nights. Oh well, we were good at 'improvising.' Folks who don't like formal nights head to the buffet dining room where almost any form of dress is allowed except swimwear, flip-flops, spa robes and bare feet.
As this was our third cruise, we were able to make some judgments on the ship and its amenities. The best features of the ship which we liked were: the stateroom/balcony, friendly and good service from the crew at all levels, the sauna with a giant porthole overlooking the ocean, an excellent fitness center, above average shows nightly, nice pool/Jacuzzi areas and the martini bar mixed good drinks. We did not partake of the casino, on-board shopping, art auction, and spa activities. Overall, the ship seemed to kept clean and well-maintained. Music venues were held at the various lounges around the ship.
The dining rooms were a mixed bag, perhaps being too critical as Debbie and I are both foodies and not your average dining passenger. We were most disappointed with San Marcos main dining room. About 2/3 of our dishes were lacking good chef-manship, ie, soups tasted like canned soup, bland main dishes, milk shakes instead of ice cream, etc. The head waiter for our table proudly proclaimed that the freezer was defective and even if we sent it back we would still receive melted ice cream. Some of the recommended courses like the sea bass, was broiled to a tasteless and bland recipe that was left uneaten. The presentation and plating was always very good, but, alas, lacking in "tastiness."
We tried the Tuscan Grill, one of the pay-extra premium dining rooms, offered an Italian menu. We had mixed results. My filet mignon dish was excellent but Debbie's lamb dish was tough and overly-marbled.
The Ocean Café buffet lines on deck 10 met or exceeded our expectations and often food preparation was better than the fancier San Marcos dining room. I especially liked the nightly sushi bar. The only slight negative is that about half the time it was difficult to find seating at open tables. We asked others to share tables and at ate on bar stools when necessary. The coffee quality was OK but not as good as what we brew at home.
The enrichment talks and activities were somewhat below par compared to other cruises we participated in. Debbie did participate in the Top Chef cooking competition where she was one of the four tasting judges. The filet of mignon was very "tasty" and the wine was great, she said, but the host would not let her take it back to the room. I played in a ping-pong tournament and was invited on stage by a belly dancer during one of the shows.