Leaving Tampa, it becomes obvious why the ships sailing from that port are of the older, smaller variety. Initially the ship sailed backwards until it came to a wide enough spot in the channel for it to turn around – barely, and the Constellation is not large for a modern cruise ship. It’s a long way from the port to open water through narrow winding channels – and under a bridge that the Constellation barely cleared. Anything taller would not fit under that bridge, nor would a longer ship be able to make that tight turnaround.
On a ship that holds 2170 of passengers, Constellation set sail with around 700 – and about 900 crew. On this early January 2022 sailing the low number was not all due to covid, though with omicron waging war on the world some of the over 1200 passengers originally booked for this cruise likely did choose to cancel or were required to due to a positive covid test. As for the rest of them, with thousands of flights getting cancelled daily due to storms and lack of flight crews because they were all out sick with covid, quite a lot of people simply couldn’t get to the port. We got lucky in that our scheduled flight was nonstop and went out just an hour and a half late. With that same flight cancelled both the previous and next days, we were very lucky it flew on the day we needed it to.
Constellation had quite a few similarities to Infinity, the one Celebrity ship we have previously sailed on, as they are sister ships of the Millennium class. The layout was slightly different in some areas. For some reason the Constellation felt smaller than Infinity, although it is actually slightly bigger.
Like every other ship we’ve ever been on, Constellation had some odd art choices. It had some nice art too. The front stairway had fake plants as the centerpiece on the landing between decks, but not pretty flowers. Mainly weeds, with a lot of levels having dandelions in various stages of budding or blooming. The middle stairway had really odd sculptures, probably ceramic. Mostly they just looked like somebody glazed a big blob of clay, but one had human legs with shoes on the feet sticking out of the middle of a twisted mass. The back stairway had sculptures that each looked as if it were made either by or for a small child, other than the 2 lowest decks which just had jars of marbles. There were also quite a few much larger odd sculptures around the ship, but also some nice things like metal art old sailing ships and dolphins.
Considering we’re in a pandemic, the weirdest art of all was a statue that looked something like a gigantic covid virus with a few bites taken out of it.
Normally there are clocks about the ship, usually at every stairway landing set to ship’s time. On this ship, all the clocks were covered and just said isn’t it time, which was very odd. One can only speculate if some of them didn’t work, or if they just didn’t want to bother to have to change them when the ship sailed from one time zone to another.
One of the best things on this ship is the solarium, which has a pool similar to that which you pay extra for in thermal suites on some lines, but people can use free here. They do have a thermal suite called the Persian Garden, but with just a group ceramic bench, sauna, and steam rooms, it’s nowhere near worth the price they want to use it. Especially since on this cruise even after people paid for the Persian Garden they couldn’t even use it whenever they wanted to. Appointments were required for each use in order to keep the number of people in it at one time low due to covid. The spa had a variety of rooms and treatments available, for a price of course.
Dining for most passengers occurs mostly in the main dining room or buffet, but there are a few specialty restaurants where reservations can be booked for an additional cost. Some cabins come with access to smaller dining rooms only open to people booked in those particular cabins. Aqua class has Blu, a healthier eating restaurant. Luminae has an upscale menu for suite guests only. Aqua class also gets to use the thermal suite for free. Suite guests have exclusive access to Michaels Club, which caters to their needs as well as providing bar services.
Shops onboard are mainly luxury items like jewelry, clothing, expensive liquor, and perfume, but they did have a logo shop, some less expensive clothing, and a few sundries. They had some big ship models, but did not have any ship model Christmas tree ornaments, something I like to collect from all the ships I sail on if they have any.
Premium restaurants on the Constellation are the Italian themed Tuscan Grille, Sushi on Five, and La Petite Chef at Qsine. When we were on the Infinity, Qsine served quite a variety of very imaginative dishes. Though the venue is still called Qsine, the menu now is very limited and the creativity is in the serving, as each dish appears to be made on your plate by a tiny cartoon chef. Besides the dining rooms and buffet, limited menu free food is available at the poolside grill, coffee bar, and cafés in the spa and solarium. The coffee bar and cafés have some items free and some for a fee.
Other than pools, hot tubs, a movie screen, and lounging in deck chairs there’s not a lot of free do-it-yourself entertainment, but there is a daily schedule of activities as well as lectures and shows. They have dance classes, and in the evenings dancing at a bar. There’s also a library and various places around the ship where people can sit and read or watch the scenery go by. Mostly bits of furniture in hallways or on the outskirts of bars, but there’s a little nook near the atrium with a bunch of chairs next to windows that is just a semi-hidden sitting area not attached to anything else. There’s also deck chairs outside in a bunch of places other than the main pool deck. And perhaps in an attempt to keep people from spreading towels over all the deck chairs to reserve them for themselves, folded towels are set out on a lot of them, ready and waiting for anyone who comes by to use.
Do-it –yourself entertainment that is not free comes in the form of internet, a casino, and a lot of bars. Outside the Mast bar sat above the pool deck, with the pool bar on the pool deck, and the Sunset Bar at the back of the ship behind the buffet. Inside it has the ever-popular Martini and Crush bars centrally located by the grand staircase, the Rondezvous Lounge, which had live music and a dance floor, Cellar Masters wine bar, and bars in the Casino and Reflections Lounge for when those venues are open. It also had Cafe el Bacio coffee bar and gelateria.
With more of the boarding process than ever taken care of online before arriving at the dock, boarding itself goes pretty quickly. Around a month or two before sailing the schedule opens up for people to register and choose a boarding time, with of course the earliest times going to whomever gets that done first other than suite and high loyalty status people who are offered an earlier time than the rest. Lines are set up outside by time slot rather than people waiting inside the port building like they did pre-covid. When the line clears and there’s nobody else waiting at a given time slot then people from the next one will be let through even if it’s not quite their time yet. They did limit how many people they let into the building at a time, so once inside the lines were short and moved quickly, unlike the much longer ones outside. If you aren’t there too far ahead of your assigned time slot the wait isn’t bad, but if you have a late slot and arrive too early it could take quite awhile to make it to the door.
The much-hated muster drill has been replaced by a couple videos to watch in the app and going down on your own to your muster station to get your card scanned. It’s quick and easy. Just takes a few minutes. Hopefully they will continue with the new do-it-yourself muster program even after covid, but I guess that remains to be seen. Easy as it is, there’s always those few people who can’t be bothered to do it so they have to keep making announcements and even call them by name at departure time to get those cards scanned so the ship can set sail.
Our cabin was a bit on the small side for a balcony cabin having just room enough for a small sofa rather than a full sized one like some have, but then again I’ve been in balcony cabins on some ships that had no room for a sofa at all so definitely not the smallest one we’ve had. As far as the balcony goes, this one was the biggest at about 2.5 times the usual size. There was just one small row of cabins on each side of deck 6 with these oversized balconies so we were lucky to get one. It’s an older ship and the cabin just had 2 outlets, no USB ports. There were also 2 foreign outlets and they sell plug adaptors in one of the shops so a person could gain a couple extra that way. I brought one that had 3 plugs and a clock with 2 USB ports so for the space of one plug I gained 2 more plug-ins besides the one with the clock plus the 2 USB ports, which made enough for us.
The outside promenade deck does not go all the way around. The ship has a tiny topdeck track, which is really just a wide red line painted around the deck above the pool area. One side of that passes over as well as through a smoking area so it’s not really suitable for exercise with that as well as wind, weather, and exposure to the elements. There is a pretty nice gym, but with masks required in there it’s not so easy to exercise. I don’t particularly like treadmills to begin with, and with a mask on I could not run nearly as far or fast as normal. The ship’s internet was not good. After the first few days it was so slow most of the things I needed wouldn’t even open, including my business email. Internet at sea is always notoriously slow, and now that a lot of the ships are going with all-inclusive fares there are more people on it than ever, making it slower yet.
At the time the media liked to make a big deal about Covid on cruise ships, ignoring the main population of anywhere. On our ship for example out of over 700 passengers and over 900 crew about halfway through the week there were just 5 cases – none of them badly ill. Two crew and 3 passengers. The crew are tested regularly, and as is usual for crew cases they were asymptomatic. All 5 were put into isolation. That’s less than half a percent of the population onboard, so far better than most anywhere on land. By the end of the cruise it was closer to 1%, so still very few cases. On the ships you know everyone (except very small children, of which there were only 2 on this ship) has been vaccinated and tested, whereas on land they are not. The captain made announcements regularly with updates on medical issues. At the beginning of the cruise it was one of the crew airlifted for appendicitis, later the very few covid cases onboard. There was an area of the ship closed off to all other passengers reserved for isolating people who tested positive from everyone else so they were moved from their original cabins to that area.
The Constellation was built in 2002, the last of the Millennium Class. Ship’s registry is in Malta. It has 11 decks with a passenger capacity of 2170, and international crew of up to 999 officers and crew members. Gross tonnage is 90,940, length 965 feet, beam 105.6 feet. The average speed is 24 knots. The ship has 219 inside cabins and 822 outside cabins with balcony or window.