February 25, 2006
Itinerary: San Juan, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Barbados, St. Kitts, St. Thomas
Cruise History: 2003 - 3 Day Carnival Cruise (Fantasy) out of Port Canaveral 2004 - 4 Day Carnival Cruise (Celebration) out of Jacksonville, Florida 2005 - 4 Day Carnival Cruise (Celebration) out of Jacksonville, Florida
Choosing Cruise: Work schedule finally allowed taking a week long cruise instead of the 3-4 days cruises. Wanted to take a cruise with another cruise line besides Carnival. Did extensive research on-line looking trying to determine which cruise to take.
Research showed 3 cruise lines going out of San Juan on week long cruises; Princess, RCL and Celebrity. T he reviews I read were not as good for Princess as RCL & Celebrity so decision came down to RCL & Celebrity. The cruise prices for RCL seems to be a lot higher than Celebrity. From all I read on Celebrity and the Constellation, it was highly rated, so I made my decision to go with Celebrity.
Purchasing Tickets. I was prepared to purchase through one of the cruise on-line retailers when discovered if you have a Discover Credit Card and make arrangement through their recommended travel agency, you receive a 5% rebate on the ticket price (before taxes). I gave them a call and was quite satisfied with the finial ticket prices. Was cheaper than what my research showed from the on-line sites and in addition will get the 5% rebate.
In researching cruises also determine it was more cost effective and flight schedules were better to fly out of Orlando Airport instead of Jacksonville Florida or Savannah Georgia. Finally decided that could combine a visit to Disney World for one day, then fly out of Orlando airport to San Juan. Only 4 hour drive from residence in GA to Orlando.
Orlando Airport Parking in one of the satellite parking lots cost $7.00 a day. When checked on parking prior to trip, airport web pages show parking at $5.00 a day. Got to airport about 6 a.m. for a 8:15 flight. There were still big lines for people checking in baggage and going through security, but for the most part things went pretty smoothly.
San Juan Airport: Arrive at airport around 11:00 a.m. Claimed baggage and headed for ground transportation. When arriving at ground transportation, they have someone who will ask you where your going, how many people are traveling with you, and how many bags. They will then Fill out a sheet with the total cost which you will give to driver. For 3 people and 6 bags, we were charged $23.50. Trip to cruise port lasted around 30 minutes.
Embarkation: Went very smoothly especially if you have done the pre-check on-line and printed out your pass. We were checked in and on-board within 30 minutes.
Staff. All the staff was great. Everyone greets you when you pass them in the halls, leave the dining areas. Our serving staff could not have been better. Our table # was 450. Waiter‚?Ts name was Michael (From India) and his assistant was Chavez. The Asst Maitre‚?~d was fabulous and really made the dining experiences a delight. His name is Lorenzo and if you are on the Constellation I would highly recommend asking to be seated in his area. He had a wonderful personality and always came by for a chat during the evening meals. He told us he had been with Celebrity for 10 years and had started out as a busboy.PORTS:
Dominican Republic. Took the Eco Water Tour. Road in some high speed boat to a mangrove swamp and boarded a dug out canoe and cruised around the mangroves. Was quite peaceful
Grenada. Took the Spice tour which lasted around 8 hours, including lunch. Spent a lot of time in bus climbing the narrow winding roads. More than once I though our bus would not make it up the steep inclines but they did without problems. Went to a Run Distillery which was real interesting. They have a waterwheel they use to cruse the sugar cane to make the rum. They even let you try a sip of 150 proof rum. A sip is about all you can handle. Said the proof is so high, it cannot be exported off of Granada. Barbados. Took a tour of bird sanctuary that had been set up to preserve one of the last mangrove sanctuaries in Barbados. Was really enjoyable.
St Kitts. We were scheduled to take the small gauge railroad tour of St. Kitts. Our tour was scheduled to leave at 1:15 pm. around 1:00 pm we were notified that they were experiencing some mechanical problem with the trains and we would be delayed around 15-30 minutes. An hour later they started to board the buses. We sat on the hot buses for it seems another 30 minutes when they came an told us we were ready to go, but in order to make sure we got back in time for the ships departure, they would take us half way around the island on the train, then we would get back on the buses for the other half. When we were told this, half of the folks on the bus including us decided to skip the tour and get refunds which Celebrity credited to our bill.
St. Thomas. We took the Blackbeard Castle tour. Once we made it up to the castle, we were informed that Black Beard really didn‚?Tt have any association with the structure. It had been rename this long ago to take advantage of tourism. Did have a nice walk down from the castle and view some of the other structures that had been built by the Europeans when they first came to the island. The end of the tour ended in the main shopping district and we were told we were on our own to get back to the ship. Taxies are everywhere though and cost $4.00 per trip. Since we were able to view the cruise ship from the shopping areas thought it would be a nice walk back. It was nice walking along the water front but a lot longer that it looks. Wish had taken the taxi, but made it back ok otherwise.
On-Ship Entertainment. The singers and dancers on the Celebrity were the best we have ever seen. Really did enjoy the Cirque du Soleil show. The female lead singer for the show was one of the best singers I have heard in a long time. Just a wonderful voice.
End of cruise. Our last night in the dining room our tablemates had brought one of their friends with them. While we were introducing ourselves, come to find out their friend was the female lead singer from the Cirque du Soleil show! We started to talk and I mentioned how much I enjoyed her singing and wish she had a CD out. To my surprise she said she did have one out and they were being sold in the Cirque du Soleil store on the ship. This was a CD she had personally made and all the songs were sung in Spanish. (She‚?Ts from Canada) Here name is: Francine Poitras. After diner, I went and purchased her CD. Later on that evening, we saw her in one of the lounges and mentioned we had purchased her CD. She asked if we would like for her to sign they CD which she did and even wrote a very nice note to us. That really was a nice way to end a fabulous cruise.
Embarkation. We were off the ship by 9:30 am and picked up bags and through Customs in 45 minutes. Taxies are readily available and made it to the airport without any problems.
Final Thoughts. Just a great cruise. Celebrity and the Constellation are first class. Lorenzo our Asst Maitre'd was fantasic. Noticed next cruising season, the Constellation with be embarking from Fort Lauderdale, Florida so may have to take advantage of this. Really want to take the Baltic cruise out of London on the Constellation though.