Year Started: 1988
Ships in Fleet: 10
Summary: This premium cruise line features beautiful ships on itineraries world-wide. Excellent cuisine, great service, roomy staterooms. Modern Luxury at value prices.
Regions:Caribbean Western, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Eastern
Good for: Foodies. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Foodies. Seniors. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Foodies. Value for Money.
Regions:Caribbean, Panama Canal, Europe
Good for: Seniors. Families. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Hawaii, Inland Waterways
Good for: Seniors. Singles. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Mediterranean Eastern, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Eastern
Good for: Foodies. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Hawaii
Good for: Foodies. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Bermuda, Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern
Good for: Foodies. Seniors. Group.
Good for: Group. Singles. First-time Cruisers.
The Inside Passage is a fantastic voyage! However, when the cruise ship stops in Icy Straight Point, avoid any bear excursions (especially with TRECKK Outfitters)... Being experienced adventurers, we booked this excursion way ahead of time with the agreement (with TECKK) that 8 of us would be taken deep into the bush to see bears. We even told our parents they had to stay in town since they were in their late 60s/early 70s and we did not want them to slow us down. Anyhow, we get to the pickup spot and realize to our horror they have booked an 86 year old woman (with a walking cane no less) to go with us. In "shock," eager for adventure and short on time I regret we went on the excursion anyhow. That was a BIG MISTAKE. You see, in addition to booking the cane-wielding 86 year-old, TRECKK Outfitters somehow failed to disclose was that it was the beginning of hunting season! Hence, the chances of actually seeing bears was slim to none - thanks TRECKK! Another HUGE deal is that most of your time is spent riding slowly in a vanon a dirt road 13-15 miles each way. Sightseeing while packed in the van is no crowd pleaser either. In the middle of the last century the Tlingit Indians sold a very large portion of their forest to Asian loggers who decimated the forest. Therefore, all you get to see is what's left of a once beautiful forest: Tree stumps, saplings, long grass and the occasional eagle. The short of it is, the guide stated during our lengthy, slow drive through the stumpy forest that we really couldn't do all we paid to do since we had an elder with us who was quite limited physically. What the..? After peeking through some brush along the river a couple of times, he says, "Who wants to volunteer to stay in that van while we drive and hike to a more technical bear-rich area?" No one raised their hands, not even the elderly lady's daughter! Huh..? We finally convinced the daughter to stay with her elderly mother in the van and saw one bear along the river at a great distance obscured by thick brush (which was spotted by my 12 year-old daughter, not the guide). Don't let them lie to you like they did to us; TRECKK told us they actually have people out there tracking bears and, thus, know where to find them. In reality, bears regularly frequent several spots along the river and TRECKK goes to those same spots over and over and over. Bottom line is TRECKK made it sound very appealing when all they really want is to separate you from your wallet as quickly as possible. When we returned, an owner stuck his head in the van and asked if everyone had a good time. Of course, no one's going to give their honest opinion in front of a nice 86 year-old lady. Once inside the office, another owner got a bit nasty. She did not seem to understand the basis for our disappointment and our assertion that taking an elderly lady 13-15 miles into the Alaskan bush is a bit of a buzz kill, not to mention the potential safety and liability issues. She stated all she could refund despite our dissatisfaction was $20 per person. PALTRY when we paid over $120.00 plus tax per person ($960.00 plus tax in all)! I have blogged several cruise ship websites and filled out several surveys about my experience with TRECKK in Icy Straight Point. Avoid taking any bear excursion while visiting Icy Straight Point. If you do get off the boat, visit the little tourist gift shop, go whale watching, etc. but don't get sucked into any bear excursion with TRECKK. It's a complete waste of time and, more importantly, YOUR money!
My daughter and I booked our first cruise ever to the Panama Canal through Cruise Encounters in Langley .B.C. They did an excellent job of arranging every thing for us and as this was a completely new experience for us (I'm 77 years old) it turned out to be a fantastic experience that my daughter and I can not wait until we can go on a cruise again. We have become 'cruisers'.
Celebrity Infinity gave us fantastic treatment and service. Tours , etc. were well organized as well was boarding the ship at the beginning of our cruise and at the end of it. The food was excellent as was the entertainment. We were never at a lose as to what to do with ourselves. Our four dinner companions and us became the best of friends by the end of our cruise. You could not ask for more accommodating staff. Our wishes were their command 'so to speak'. We had a balcony room which was more then adequate for our belongings and very comfortable. Would highly recommend cruising with Celebrity Ships.
Cannot say enough about the Solstice. It is a ship built with understated elegance. The service and the food are excellent. Certainly a best deal.
We were in a balcony stateroom with just the right amount of closet space and drawer space for clothes & accessories. The beds were first rate. Loved the enclosed shower- no more water on the floor.
The entertainment was wonderful- especially the special dance reviews. Also, the bar staff were there only when you needed them- they did not intrude.
The only downsides were:
Not enough activities Older passengers Disembarkation ( too long a wait)
Our February 2011 cruise on Infinity to South America and cruise tour to Machu Picchu was amazing. We flew out through Dallas overnight to Buenos Aires on American. We were able to sleep a little, so we were functioning pretty well when we arrived. One benefit of flying to South America is that there is very little jet lag. We were only a couple of time zones east of home.
We followed Trip Advisor's instructions on getting through the Buenos Aires airport and they worked very well. We paid our $140 each, went through immigration and customs, and got a taxi from the Ezezia tax stand. We already had some Argentinean currency, so we used that to pay for our cab, although they would have taken dollars. The cab dropped us off at the Pamamericano Hotel which I booked through their website (http://www.panamericano.us/index_eng.html). We felt that it was a good value. The location is central to all of the main sights, right at the Obelisk on Avenida 9 de Julio. The people at the desk were very helpful. Since it was mid-morning when we arrived, we weren't able to get into ourroom. They checked our bags for us and we started exploring Buenos Aires.
We picked up our Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) bus tickets at the main office. I had ordered them on-line at a small discount (http://www.buenosairesbus.com/en/service.htm). Since the line for the bus was long, we walked to the Recoleta area so I could order a leather jacket from the URU Recoleta store (http://www.us-cueros.com.ar/english/home.html). It wasn't quite as much of a bargain as I hoped, but was still a good deal for custom made. We ate a nice lunch at the Cafe Victoria. We found the HOHO bus stop and took the bus back to the starting point. The bus gives an overview of the city with good recorded commentary. When we got back to the hotel, we were able to get into our room. Around 8 that evening we walked through the theatre district on Avenue Corientes for dinner. We felt very safe since so many people were out. We ate at Restaurante Chiquilin. I had my first Argentinean steak which was very good. English is pretty common in very touristy areas, but away from them it is more limited. We felt safe, but we were very careful. Buenos Aires is a beautiful city with very European architecture.
We scheduled a four hour walking tour with BA Walking Tours (http://www.ba-walking-tours.com/) on Saturday. I would book with them again. We had breakfast at Il Gran Cafe and then met our guide on Avenue Florida near Plaza San Martin. We walked through the downtown area to the government buildings at Plaza Mayo, then to San Telmo where we stopped for coffee at Plaza Dorrego Bar. We took cabs (not included) to La Boca where the tour ended. The tour was very good. The guide covered a lot of history and cultural information. We had lunch after the tour in La Boca at La Yunta. The food was good and they had a great show with young dancers doing Tango and traditional dances. The dancers seemed to be having a good time. We took the HOHO bus back to pick up my jacket and then walked through the Recoleta Cemetery. We found Evita's grave. That evening we attended an excellent tango show at El Querandi (http://www.querandi.com.ar/). It was very professional and showy. The theatre provided transportation, so that made it easy.
Sunday morning, we took another walk through Buenos Aires along the Diagonal Norte to the Plaza de Mayo and then to the Plaza del Congreso. We walked by the historical cafes, Confiteria Ideal and Cafe Tortoni, but they were both closed on Sunday. We had great medialunes and coffee at Cabildo de Buenos Aires Cafe for breakfast. Then we went back to the hotel and checked out. We took a cab to the terminal. The doorman had told us it would be 20 pesos, but the driver wouldn’t use his meter and charged us 30. It was still cheaper than the cruise line ($8 total instead of $40 each). No lines for check in so it was fast. We had to take a bus to the ship from the terminal. After we got to our room and relaxed a little, we headed back into town. We walked from the terminal back to Florida Street along Plaza San Martin. It was a long walk and through an area that might not be safe at night. We had lunch, walked around a little, and then returned to the ship for dinner.
I hesitate to say too much about Infinity since it is going into dry-dock for major renovations in the fall. A few things were looking a little worn, but it was still in very good shape. It is a beautiful ship. We really enjoy the layout of the Infinity. Plaza Deck 3 is the base of the Grand Foyer. The Guest Relations and Cruise Excursion Desk are both in this area along with the SS United States dining room and the movie theatre and conference rooms. The main entrances to the dining room and theatre are on Deck 4. The Rendezvous Lounge is right outside the dining room which makes a nice place for dancing and waiting before dinner. The Casino, Online, and Michael's Club are toward the theatre end of the ship. The upper entrances to the theatre and dining room are on the Deck 5 along with the shops and Martini and Champagne Bars. There are several decks of cabins and then the Resort Deck 10 with the pools, spa and fitness center, and the Oceanview Cafe. Deck 11 has the Constellation Lounge which has a great view of the ocean during the day and dancing at night. The sports deck 12 is the highest passenger level.
The entertainment on the ship is good, if fairly standard. The production shows are enthusiastic. They include a pair of flyers who are very good. The musical groups range from a ballroom dance band, to the more modern dance band, pianists, a guitarist, and the acapella group. Our first evening on the ship we were overnighting in Buenos Aires and a local group of dancers did a tango and traditional dance show which was fun. We also had two speakers, Rod Jory and Graham Sunderland who talked on various aspects of culture, history and nature. They were always fun to listen to, but not always terribly informative.
The food on Celebrity is consistently good. Not 5 star great, but well prepared and varied. We always enjoy dinner in the dining room. There is usually something on the menu that we like. We tried the SS United States this cruise and had a great experience. The food was definitely better than the dining room and the service was wonderful. Food in the buffet is fine; we usually head for the pizza or salads rather than the hot food line. The burgers from the grill are good.
Infinity spent the night in Buenos Aires so we had another day to sightsee. We took a ship's excursion to an estancia for a Gaucho Fiesta and lunch. The riding show was exciting, but we didn't understand everything that happened. We were disappointed that no one explained. We had the opportunity to take a short horseback ride, just 10 minutes en masse around a field. The food was good. They served empanadas and wine before lunch. Lunch was a variety of salads and meat. The first serving of beef was overcooked so it was a little tough, but they brought another serving out later that was great. There were also sausages and chicken. I really liked the chicken.
Tuesday we were in Montevideo, Uruguay. I arranged for a walking tour with Liz Cowley of Real English Tours (http://www.realenglishtours.com/). We met her in the morning outside the port area. She took us all through the old part of the city and gave us a good background on the history and culture. The older part of Montevideo is pretty run down. Some of the buildings are now being renovated. We had a great tour. Liz did warn us to be careful with bags, etc. After she left us, we stopped at Don Peperone for lunch of a chivito and beer which was good. Then we returned to the ship to meet our afternoon tour to the Juanico winery. We drove by small bus through the countryside to the winery. We stopped in the vineyard to taste the grapes. Then we had a wine tasting in the wine cellar. They also served a variety of meats, cheeses, and empanadas which was great.
Wednesday we spent at the beach resort, Punta del Este, Uruguay. We tendered into town and spent the day wandering around on our own. Pay attention to the signs on the pier after you get off the tender and turn right. We didn't and wasted about 45 minutes going the wrong way. It is on a peninsula and we walked through town and around the peninsula. We stopped for lunch at El Pobre Marino. We had very good shrimp and empanadas.
Thursday was a sea day and the rest and relaxation were great!
Friday we had a full day excursion to Peninsula Valdez from Puerto Madryn. Puerto Madryn is a big city right on the coast, but we didn't see much of it. Our excursion went into the World Heritage Site to see wildlife. It was a long bus ride, but worth it. We saw guanico, rheas, matas, sea lions, sea elephants, armadillos, and penguins. The penguins are really interesting. Their burrows are spread out over a huge area. They also lined up on the beach like they were staring out at the ocean. We had lunch at Estancia San Lorenzo, a very good lamb barbeque.
We had another sea day on Saturday. We went on a bridge tour through Captain's Club. They also had tours for Cruise Critic members. We went on deck in the evening and were able to see the Southern Cross.
Sunday was in effect another sea day, since we sailed around Cape Horn in the afternoon. We were lucky that it wasn't rough, although it was windy and cold. We sailed all the way around the island of Cape Horn. We could see the weather station and seamen's memorial.
Monday we docked in Ushuaia, our last port in Argentina. We did a Tierra Mayor hike in the morning. It was a good hike - not too long or too strenuous through gorgeous country. We walked across a valley through an area of beaver dams and ponds and then up the side of the valley to a waterfall. Beaver were introduced from North America. We spent the afternoon walking around the town and had a very good crab lunch at Moustacchio. That evening we sailed along the Beagle Channel past a beautiful area with a series of glaciers.
Tuesday we tendered into Punta Arenas, Chile. Our excursion was a bus ride to the historical site of Fort Famine and to the reconstructed Fort Bulnes. It was mostly just a long bus ride which unfortunately seemed disorganized, not one of our better excursions. When we returned to town we stopped at Estancia Rio de los Cierros and had a tour, snacks, and a dancing demonstration which were all very good. We had some time to walk around the town before we returned to the ship. It has a central plaza with a number of beautiful colonial buildings. There was a small tourist market in the plaza and another at the dock.
We were at sea on Wednesday going through the Strait of Magellan and out into the Pacific. We entered a storm when we got to the Pacific so it got really rough. The ship had a definite list. They said we had 100 mph winds and 20 foot waves. At dinner, our waiter was even a little green. They had to cancel the show scheduled in the Constellation lounge because it was so rough. The captain took the ship through some islands when he could to avoid the rough seas.
Another day at sea, cruising the Chilean Fjords. We wound in and out through the islands and inlets. It was beautiful. The sea was still fairly rough in the morning but had smoothed out by evening.
Friday we tendered into Puerto Montt. Our excursion included a short walk through an alerce forest (type of cypress tree, very old and tall), a stop at a German museum, and some time in Puerto Varas. The activities were all pleasant, nothing outstanding. Puerto Varas would be a good place to wander around, we bought some great chocolate. After we got back to Puerto Montt, we walked down to the fish market and tourist market. I always enjoy the local markets; this one was amazing with lots of shellfish and fish. We found a little restaurant, Iguana, and had empanadas. I liked the seafood filling best. I bought some necklaces from a local who spends his summers in Colorado! The area was on alert for the tsunami from the earthquake in Japan, but we didn't have any problems.
Saturday was our last day and a sea day. The big band show that had been cancelled earlier happened in the Constellation. I always like having the last day to wind down and get ready to leave. It was especially good this cruise since we were leaving for the cruise tour to Machu Picchu the next day.
The tour to Machu Picchu was a really good trip even though it was expensive. It was very intense and tiring. Most days we were up at 4 or 5 and going until 7 or 8 in the evening. The days were highly scheduled and we had very little time on our own. Two more days would have been wonderful, but would have made it even more expensive. I am sure I could have booked it myself for less, but it was easier to have everything handled by the cruise line. We saw a lot and they took very good care of us. The hotels were 4 and 5 star and most of the meals were very good. We had good breakfasts each morning in the hotels. You needed to be in fairly good shape since we had lots of steps and walking. A few people in our group had a hard time getting around and while the tour director tried to make accommodations for them, I think they had a hard time.
We left the ship Sunday at 8:30 and took a bus to the terminal. The baggage pick up felt a little disorganized since we had trouble finding the tag for our luggage tag color. We had trouble finding our group, too. Our tour director, Lucero, was very upbeat and well organized. We had a bus ride from Valparaiso to the Sheraton Santiago that took about 2 hours. We had one stop on the road for coffee and restrooms. We didn't have any touring on the way to Santiago. We arrived about 11:30. The hotel provided juice and cookies while we were checking in. All of the check-ins for the hotels were a little slow. The hotels had to have copies of our passports and would not let Lucero email them or provide them ahead of time. The rooms were not ready that early, so we had lunch and then went to our room. The Hop On Hop Off bus stops right outside the Sheraton, so we bought tickets from the office in the lobby (http://www.turistik.cl/en/productos/santiagoturistik/index.htm). The HOHO bus gives a good overview of the city. We rode the bus to the old center of the city, the Plaza des Armas. We walked around the plaza and saw the colonial government buildings and cathedral. It is a beautiful city. We also walked to the old Market. It would have been fun to have lunch there. Then we walked to the Plaza Constitucion and saw the Palacio Moneda where the President's offices are. We found the HOHO bus and took it back to the hotel. We were able to see quite a lot of the city in a short time. The bus spends a lot of time in a newer area that we could have skipped. We went to Plaza Azul for dinner as a group. Dinner was great: pisco sours, empanadas, tilapia or salmon, and dulce de leche crepes.
Monday we were up at 5 for our flight to Lima. We had to check in individually. Lucero kept track of everyone. The airports were all a little chaotic, so it was nice to have someone telling us where to go and what to do. She helped with the check in process by getting us to the front of the line when necessary and providing a list of all of us with our reservation numbers to the check in agents. We went through immigration and customs in Lima. Our first stop was the Larco museum for lunch and a tour. The risotto we had was okay. Meals everywhere were slow. The tour of the museum was well done. It has thousands of Pre-Columbian artifacts: pottery, jewelry, and figures including a collection of erotic art. Then we did a city tour by bus and on foot. Lima has a beautiful old town. We stayed at the Hotel Melia Lima which was very nice. The staff was helpful and the rooms were pleasant. The neighborhood near the embassies is very safe, but there are not many places around to eat or shop. The hotel restaurant was good, but on the more expensive side. The bar where we had dinner served small plates that were very good, especially the Peruvian sampler.
The hotel stored our excess luggage, so we were down to one bag and our carryons when we left on Tuesday. We were up at 5 again. The flight to Cusco took about an hour. We could really feel the over 11,000 ft altitude in Cusco. We had coca candy and the hotels had coca tea to help prevent altitude sickness. Shops at the airport sold oxygen bottles. We took buses into Cusco and toured Koricancha/Santo Domingo, a Catholic church built on the remains of an Incan temple. The Incan construction is amazing. In the temple, the blocks are so well made that they fit together without mortar and with no space between. The Inca walls stand up to earthquakes that destroy the Colonial buildings. Then we drove through the Sacred Valley to Pisac for the local market and tourist market. There were lots of things to see and buy. We had a snack on the bus and then shortly after we stopped for a very good buffet lunch at Muna Restaurant. The food was mainly Peruvian, even cuy (guinea pig). The location in the countryside was lovely. Then we went to Ollantaytambo and toured the archaeological site. All through the Sacred Valley you can see hillsides that the Inca terraced for agriculture. At Ollantaytambo, you can walk up through terraces to a ceremonial center at the top of a hill. It looks steep, but if you take it easy, it is not bad. Another tourist market was just outside the walls. We then drove back to Yucay to the Sonesta Hotel Posada del Inca. The hotel in an old monastery and beautiful, but we didn't get to see much of it since it was dark when we arrived and dark when we left the next morning. We ate dinner in the bar where a musician was playing local pipes, much different than the Peruvian musicians that seem to be in every city in the world. I bought some baby alpaca scarves in the gift shop.
Wednesday we went to Machu Picchu. We had another 5 am wake up. We took buses to Urubamba and caught the train to Aguas Caliente, just outside Machu Picchu. We took the Vista Dome train which was very comfortable and included a snack each way. The train ride is gorgeous, along the Urubamba River and through the mountains. The river was really high and wild. We saw the beginning of the Inca Trail. We took a bus from the train station to the entrance of Machu Picchu. The guides divided us up by physical ability for this tour which I wish they had done earlier. Darwin, our guide in the site, had been guiding there for 31 years and was very good. Our tour lasted about 3 hours. We walked all over the area. When we arrived everything was clouded over but throughout the day the clouds would break away and then reform. It made for a very eerie, but beautiful day. We had rain periodically. The valley is beautiful and would be worth seeing even without the ruins. The Inca construction is amazing. The one major disappointment with the whole tour happened here. According to our original itinerary we were supposed to have lunch at the Sanctuary Hotel at the site and then have more time on the site on our own. Instead we left the site and had lunch in town, so we were not able to wander the ruins on our own at all. Instead we had time in town, which was not worthwhile. The lunch at the Cafe Inkaterra was good, but we would rather have had no lunch and more time in Machu Picchu. The town is very touristy. We took the train back to Urubamba. The crew performed a native dance and an alpaca clothing fashion show. We were supposed to take the train all the way to Cusco, but they were having problems with the tracks, so we took the bus to Cusco from Urubamba. We stayed at the Novatel in Cusco, again a very nice hotel in a great location, but we didn't see much of it. We had dinner in the hotel and then walked to the plaza and around a little. The shops were just closing around 10:00. Cusco seems like a very interesting place, I wish we had had more time there.
Thursday was the last official day of the tour. We slept in until 6! We visited some very interesting ruins at Saqsaywaman just outside Cusco. Again we saw the huge blocks of stone fitted tightly together. Some alpacas were grazing in the area. We flew back to Lima and returned to the Hotel Melia Lima where we had a farewell lunch. Lucero helped us with our plans for the next day. Our flight didn't leave until evening, so we had the whole next day on our own. We spent the afternoon wandering around the area near the hotel. We saw some beautiful houses, with lots of security everywhere. We saw a couple of places we could have eaten, but we ended up having a very good dinner at the hotel. I had ravioli, with a Peruvian filling and sauce.
Friday's breakfast at the hotel was included with the tour. We were able to say goodbye to Michael and Judy with whom we had spent a lot of time on the tour and who had been at our table on the ship. We really enjoyed their company. We checked out and left our bags at the hotel. We took a taxi to Mira Flores which is a lovely area along the coast with lots of restaurants, hotels, and shopping. We stopped first at some tourist shops. As we were walking around we saw a sign to the pre-Inca site, Huaca Pucullana. We walked there and took a very good tour. Then we had a nice lunch at Cafe Haiti at an outdoor table. We walked the rest of the way to the Larco Mar area right on the cliff overlooking the ocean. We walked along the coast and then had a drink and shopped a little in the shopping center and had one last ice cream. The ice cream was wonderful everywhere on the trip, especially the dulce de leche. We got back to the hotel in the afternoon and had some wine before our shuttle to the airport. We had a great last day. It was nice to have some time on our own to do what we wanted.
Our flights and connections all went well. Our bags did miss the connection in Dallas, but the airline delivered them to us that evening. We had a wonderful trip, but it was really exhausting.
This was our 14th cruise, but the first on Celebrity. Previous cruise lines have included mostly Princess and the defunct Delta Queen & Orient Lines. It is convenient to compare Celebrity Millennium (1950 Passengers) against Princess since we had followed nearly the same itinerary on Grand Princess (2,600 Pax) the year before.
Also, we just wanted to relax on the ship and nearby shore points. Unlike all previous cruises, Itinerary and Shore Excursions were of very little interest. Climate on the Veranda really was top priority.
We went to the San Juan PR departure port a day early. The Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel has a superb location -- and a staff that can turn over a full house quickly & easily on cruise days (which is nearly every day in San Juan.) But their food service should be avoided due to poor materials. The Ti-juana Restaurant across the street provided an excellent Mexican Dinner and Four-Piece Mariachi Band.
Celebrity’s highly-regarded food and service came through superbly – except for the frustrating inadequacy and errors of their verbal communications:The ship itself is beautifully designed with many striking, beautiful, and/or functional features. For example superior use of sculpture, shape and color, no sense of crowding, and reliably-fast elevators. (Not the 2009, always-broken elevators on Grand Princess.) Food: Over 90% of both complex and ordinary dishes were unusually delicious. Buffet and Dining Room Staff were plentiful and immediately helpfully-attentive to Wife Christine who walked slowly with a cane. Purser / “Guest Relations” Staff were uncharacteristically friendly and helpful. The Director of Food & Beverage fixed diluted Manhattan Cocktails – immediately. Entertainers were brilliant: Amy Abler (Piano) played 50% more notes than I have ever heard in the “Pennsylvania & Beer Barrel Polkas” – lying with her back on the floor ! Kathleen and her Four Saints impressively covered Patsy Cline, Peggy Lee, and many other girl singers during Happy Hour. Happily the Maitre‘de gave us Dinner-Table Companions who were exceptional: Three veteran Commercial Pilots and their excellent wives who were all a lot of fun, very interesting, and quite accepting of us.
All of the above were at least 1½ Stars above Princess. The following Information Services were Two Stars below Princess:Pre-Cruise, Easy-to-Read, Shore-Tour Information was difficult to get. Mail requests were not honored, and internet downloads were bewildering in format and length. Upon boarding you are given a MICROSCOPIC Deck Plan. An ordinary, hand-held, Magnifying Glasses is not enough. Guest Relations managed to print out an 11 X 14 inch Deck Plan which showed Buffet Deck 10 pathways which were actually walled off. “Conservatory” sign pointing the wrong way on Deck 11. The daily paper described one island as: “20 miles wide and 6 miles long” (a Third-Grader’s view of a map). Loudspeaker announcements gave wrong times for events. The Cabin TV set could not be tuned to a specific channel – you have to step through all 25. Nor does it display an adequate “Menu for Interactive-Ordering of Room-Service Food”. The Concierge Class promise of a Daily Room-Service Menu was denied by the Cabin Attendant (who was just returning from a “Honeymoon in Tunisia”). In the middle of the Cruise, a tired Bath Mat appeared: Woven Lettering “Celebrity Cruises X Concierge Class”, faded four shades, a hole worn in it, and three bites out of the edge. The Final Insult was the usual detailed Statement of On-Board Charges, slipped under the cabin door on the final night: Three pages, covering some 80 items, in miniature, 6-point type, printed with a minimum of ink.
SUMMARY: Overall, we very much enjoyed our trip and thought it was worthwhile. Celebrity is a great value. We just wish they had an old-fashioned, AT&T-Type Service Observer on their Public Information Channels.
Chris & Dave Lee, McLean, Virginia
Embarkation: A breeze. Arrived at the terminal at 10.45, went through express check-in, on board sipping champagne at 11.20. Headed for the buffet and enjoyed a great lunch by the window. We were docked at right angles to the Oasis of the Seas-what a behemoth! The cabins were ready at 1 p.m. and the luggage arrived by 3.15. Checked out our dining room location (a table for 8 on the main floor, centre), did the muster drill and got unpacked.
Our cabin: An outside on deck 2 mid ship just down the hall from the cabin we had in 2008, but looking much better after the refurbish-rather subdued décor but quite classy. New flat screen T.V. Very comfortable bed. The only wear and tear I noticed was a little rust on the bottom of the window. We met our room attendant who was very helpful and efficient-we asked to have the beds put together the next morning as one king because of the room configuration but it was done when we came back after dinner.
Main Dining Room: We had early seating and great table mates-4 more Canadians and a couplefrom Ohio. Thoroughly enjoyed them all. Our waiter was very good and the assistant was outstanding. He was ill one night and we all noticed the difference in the flow of the meal without him. Our maitre'd was a woman from Brazil who was at our table, and everyone's, every single night-somewhat unusual in my experience. Maybe a little over-zealous. DH complained to her about the bitter coffee one night and she immediately tore into the assistant waiter which was not warranted (in my opinion). The overall food was excellent-well prepared, well presented and served. My husband did make one bad choice-pork belly. Not sure why this is even on the menu-90% fat, and on one occasion my soup must have been made with salt water.
The Buffet: On previous cruises we've very seldom used the buffet-too busy and too repetitive. This time, however, we had lunch there 4 or 5 times. It never seemed to be overly crowded; we always found a window seat. And there was a huge selection to choose from-the usual hot entrees, made to order salads, Asian food, British food, pizza, made to order pasta, and custom made paninis. And yes! They still have trays and waiters to carry the tray if needed.
The Aqua Spa Café: This was our other choice for lunch. Not a huge selection but very unusual, very healthy cuisine-you had to ask for butter! You could order grilled chicken, salmon or pork chop. There was a choice of 3 or 4 salads, plus marinated fruits and a couple of low cal desserts. The café is located inside the solarium which can be a little steamy but once again we were always able to find a table by an open window.
Specialty Restaurants: This was our 13th cruise and the first time we ever ate in a surcharge restaurant-and very glad we did! We chose Ocean Liners and the meal and service were beyond expectation. I had steak and lobster, my husband opted for just lobster. After an appetizers of scallops and a goat cheese soufflé, I could (should) have had dessert and called it a night. I managed half the fillet and half the lobster but my husband was happy to help out. He also managed crepes for dessert which were prepared table side. A very memorable evening. This restaurant was very well attended but not so the Tuscan Grill which is a new addition. Not sure why but never saw anyone there. We had full intentions of trying the Bistro on Five but ran out of time and appetite. There were also two "Brunches at Sea" which were served in the Dining Room and were really over the top-there was literally everything-even caviar. But no crab or lobster.
The Entertainment: Celebrity has been our cruise line of choice for quite a few years but we've always thought the entertainment was lacking. Not so on this cruise. The resident singers and dancers were exceptional and they introduced a new show called Neverland. It was very ambitious for a cruise production with lots of special effects and fantastic costumes. We also got a very entertaining pianist, a very talented female singer from Vancouver and a magician (actually slight of hand artist). And our favorite Perry Grant did a great show in the theatre one night but I still think he is better suited to Michaels Club, which was SRO every night he performed there. There was also one of the best acapella (?) groups I've ever heard and a female string quartet who performed in different venues.
Public Areas: The new ice martini bar is a nice touch with juggling bartenders. There are also new wine dispensing machines on Deck 5 adjacent to the new Bistro on 5. The rendezvous lounge looks great with all new furniture ( maybe recovered). But the biggest improvement is Reflections, formerly the Bar at the Edge of the Earth-what a difference! This now has to be one of the most beautiful lounges afloat-we were there every day for sail away and sometimes during the day just to relax and enjoy the expansive view. The pool area was probably the most crowded public area, especially on sea days. The Thallasotherapy pool was never very crowded which was a pleasant surprise and the spa was well maintained. There was also no pressure to buy spa products. I really enjoyed the Persian Gardens! The casino was always bright and busy and thankfully smoke free. The internet café was well staffed-one IT spent over 20 minutes trying to figure out why my cell phone wouldn't work-not part of his job description I'm sure.
On Board Activities: The usual trivia, scrap booking, pool games, dance classes etc. during the day. Many more choices at night. One of the main reasons why everyone (that I spoke to) enjoyed this cruise was the Cruise Director Sue Denning. In a word, she was amazing. Not sure if she ever slept. On port days, she was there when we disembarked, was at karaoke, in the disco, did a trivia, a scarf demo, and she sang in the farewell show. I've never seen such a visible CD. She is a former music hall entertainer and actress from Britain and a genuine people person.
The Crew and Officers: They were all very friendly and accessible, always smiling and acknowledging you, from the cleaners all the way up to the Captain, who was very personable. He did a question and answer session along with the Chief Engineer, the CD and one other officer where he displayed his great sense of humor. He had started at the bottom as a painter and worked his way to the top so he related well to all those working behind the scenes. He also did a walk through the dining room one evening, chatting to as many as he could, including a young boy at the next table, even posing for a picture.
The Itinerary: There were 8 ports of call, none new for us but we revisited some of our favorites. We did one cruise shore excursion to the beach in Barbados, other than that we did our own thing. We did 2 "stay-on-the-ship-port-days" along with 5 days at sea which was perfect for us. I noticed that the photographers were far less pushy when you disembarked-one "no thank you" was enough. Along with the cold cloths and drinks on your return, they now set up a small seating area with wicker furniture on a rug under a gazebo!
Disembarkation: We are Elite members of the Captains Club so we took advantage of the departure lounge in the cinema where a continental breakfast was set up. Once again, not at all crowded although there were 400 Elites on this cruise. We were off the ship at 8.30, got the cruise shuttle to the airport and were checked in at 9.30. And we were worried that we might not make our 12.30 flight?
I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this cruise. Very restricted smoking areas, no in-room announcements, no reams of paper from the Art Gallery or Spa. And a dress code that was adhered to by 95% of the passengers. I think our days of trying other cruise lines are over-we'll stick with Celebrity.
We had a really good time on the Celebrity Infinity! This was our first Celebrity cruise. (HA, RCL, and Cunard before) It was a 14 day cruise from LA to Miami. The ports of call were: Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, Huatulco, Puntarenas Costa Rica, the Panama Canal, and Cartegena Columbia. We also had 7 sea days interspersed throughout.
I'll start with the ship itself. It is older, and has a few minor things that show that wear. We personally didn't mind it at all, and it's such a grand ship! We had a CC aft veranda room (8172). Very nice. The veranda is twice the size of the ones on the side of the ship! We laid on our chaise loungers leaving every port, listening to the music up on the 10th deck, watching the sunset.... it was fabulous. Also a must for the Panama Canal!
The staff were really friendly, and seemed genuinely to love their jobs. Our room steward was most efficient, and the waiter, assistant, and somelier in the dining room were wonderful as well. The waiters in the lounges were almost too efficient, in that if you gotup to use the restroom or dance, your drink may be gone when you returned. We had to yell about that once or twice!
We had breakfast in the main dining room three times. The eggs were overcooked, and the menu limited, so we stuck to the buffet or room service the rest of the cruise. Lunch was also not that great, so again, we went to the buffet. (very good sandwich bar) Dinner however was wonderful. There are two menus every night - one that is a constant, and one that is only for that evening. I loved most of the food that I ordered. (the steaks were always a bit overdone) Desserts were excellent. The sommelier was a little slow the first few nights, but then she picked up and was quite good. The buffet was crowded for breakfast. We would go late, or if we needed to eat early, we ordered room service. Room service was very prompt! The buffet food was good average. Nothing special certainly, but had a decent variety, and got the job done. Pizza bar, pasta bar, and sandwich bar were our favorites. Never ate at the other areas, so won't comment on those.
The entertainment was varied and talented. Several different singers, a magician, two comedians, an aerialist couple, a dueling violin couple, and the ship's troupe. Something different every night.
On board activities were average. (trivia, name that tune, bingo, etc) The staff didn't exactly seem very excited to be there. (except Christine the Bingo Queen - she was great)
Plenty of hot tubs, and the pool never seemed crowded. The Thalassotherapy pool is to die for. I need one at home! Used it every day. Every lounge had entertainment throughout the evening that was very good, and danceable.
We only took shore excursions in two ports - Acapulco, MX and Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Both were well run, with great guides. We would do them again. The other ports were easy to navigate around, so we did our own tours with local taxis. The Panama Canal day was the hightlight of the cruise. I highly recommend this! It was so interesting, on many levels.
All in all, we had a very good time, enjoyed the ship, and would most certainly go with the Infinity again. We are hoping to enjoy another Celebrity ship in the near future.
We had a 7 night cruise, and didn't find the "wow factor" of this line.
I read reviews before we took our cruise, and saw there was much negative about the wear of the ship. I tried to be open to it...but found it to be so correct. This is an older ship I know, but it is seriously in need of some major renovation! Wow! Interior fabrics are like "what? really?" Rust/corrosion is painted over and so noticeable, railings are really scuffed/worn. There was so much wear, I don't want to nag too much. But sad to say that I have to agree with a lot of the reviews of this ship.
Upon room check in, I asked the room attendant about getting flowers in my room, and she never did anything about it. She must've acted like she wrote it down and understood...but did nothing. Overall she did her job,(not requests) but it was definitely minimal. We've had much better attendants.
The shows were great! Really! :) This was the only thing that stood out to us on the ship. The food was okay, and mostly seemed cooled off whenserved. The buffet was alright. Sad to say that the hamburgers and spaghetti were my favorites for taste and hotness. The adult pool was fantastic, and the St. Lucia band they had on the boat was fantastic!!
We really tried to have an open mind on this boat, but found ourselves saying to each other " i just don't get it." As to how this cruiseline gets the excellent rating, I am unsure of that, unless it's the brand new ships. We may give a new ship a try at some point, but I think our next cruise will be with the princess.
After cruising 350 days nearly half of them on Celebrity, I embraces the notion that this cruise line has gracefully been lifted above others. In 2004-2005 we had the fortune to travel most of Europe onboard Celebrity's beloved Millennium and Constellation over three months which had clearly etched incredibly memorable experiences until this day. Hence, we were poised to book two back to back segments onboard the new Solstice.
Clearly, Celebrity has raised the bar while keeping most of what the company has been famous for. From the moment you enter the ship, you are greeted with a grand foyer which can put most five star hotels into the twilight. All materials are first rate, polished in class, while being modernly hip unlike stuffy luxury liners. From the public areas, lounges and staterooms which now offer an interactive 32 inch flatscreen television the Solstice manages to impress all senses something better felt than said. I can list all the attributes this ship has which can be better viewed on Celebrity's website than my words. The true value of this vessel lies in the overall execution of details ranging from style, design flow. Asthe ship docked in port (as in all Celebrity ships) tents are raised covering leather sofas for guests who are served punch, cold water and ice towels upon entering the ship. The entire ship is designed to bond guests with the sea not insulate them.
Dining is first rate in any venue from the finest designed Lido buffet at sea, the classy grand dining room to the many alternative venues ranging from Italian to Asian. You cannot go astray by any of these dining venues which are better than most at sea with tasteful dishes and polished service.
The aqua spa could have used the thalassotherapy pool (salt water warm jet pool) found in smaller Celebrity ships. Nevertheless, an half acre of real grass in the lawn club was a treat to all senses namely to my 3 1/2 year old daughter who loved to stroll barefoot. All shows are better than anything else I had seen on other ships except the ones on Celebrity's beloved Millennium.
As they say, value lies in the details, details which can often be overlooked. It is the sum of all these small elements coupled with balanced execution which adds up to a truly rewarding experience. This is exactly the realm nearly perfected by Celebrity not easily matched by other cruise lines regardless of price.
CELEBRITY CONSTELLATION -Sophisticated, Subtle, Warm and Welcoming Cabin 1243
Holyland Cruise-October 18th to October 31st 2010
PROLOGUE.. We had booked this cruise instead of our usual Trans-Atlantic because of the opportunity to visit Israel, the cruise was booked in July 2009 for departure from Rome on October 18, 2010. This was a port intensive cruise and with mobility problems we realized we would need private group tours and with much luck we managed to do it. Our wisest move was to hire a guide in Israel through Guided Tours immediately.
Last year on another cruise we visited and toured Rome and I was overwhelmed with it's history and beauty and unabashedly sobbed at the Trevi Fountain (yes, I threw coins in even though I knew I was coming back). Nothing had ever prepared me for the Rome experience.
Our adventure began with Parrot Pop having food poisoning the day before our departure and on the way into the airport realizing that for the first time in more than thirty years of traveling we had forgotten our passports and the livery driver could not/was not allowed to turn back. A friend came to our rescueand went to our home in the middle of rush hour traffic delivered our passports to us at the airport.
We arrived in Rome in rainy weather on the 16th with the streets filled with tourists/pilgrims under a sea of umbrellas following guides. The next day, Sunday the 17th, was an exciting and wonderful day as first Saint for Australia, Sister Mary MacKillop and 8000 Australians were going to be there. Sunday was absolutely gloriously warm and bright. Whether at the Spanish Stairs, the Trevi Fountain or Piazza Navarone (rumored to be where they raced chariots) tourists and families alike enjoying the day. We had never been to Piazza Navarone and it was filled with cafes and white umbrella tables, artists, majestic fountains, statues, gelato shops, pigeons, and lines of tourists following paddles and flags. Pigeons atop of the statues and the beautiful water fountains and a gentleman playing a guitar. Rome at it’s best on a such a beautiful and glorious sunny October day.
EMBARKING THE EQUINOX
Embarkation was easy, Parrot Pop was put in a wheel chair and taken to a special line, our pictures taken and we were taken to our cabin. After having been on the Soltice in a handicapped cabin I was taken aback by the size of the cabin. The location of the cabin was ideal, mid-ship, steps from the elevator and the library and because of it’s quirky location a deck which jutted out at an angle.
It took a newcomer to let us know the decorative wood blocks over the bed were storage cabinets and between that and the two double rods in the closet there was sufficient space even for an over-packer. The bathroom with the new shaped showers was quite efficient and the glass covered storage space and drawers made the bathroom area workable. Oh yes. we also used our shoe bags for storage on the bathroom door.
The only complaint with the cabin was the rounded shape of the bed at the bottom which made moving around the bed difficult, the shape of the bed may be “attractive” but not ideal.
Our room steward Arnell was determined that our cabin be ship shape and our clothes if we left them sloppily were always folded neatly.
SILHOUETTE DINING ROOM
Compared to the Soltice I felt the dining room was extremely well managed and very attractive. The food choices as on all ships isn’t as extensive as it has been previously. There were always classics like steak, salmon, chicken, etc on the left side of the menu. On the right were several new items plus the daily recommendation, the “Chef JCV Dining Room Recommendation” of the day. Whereas I had a problem with lack of seasoning on the Soltice the food on the Equinox was maybe not a WOW factor but was quite tasty and presentation was always front and center.
An experienced and elderly frequent cruiser at our table requested a salt-free diet and every evening staff would discuss the menu for the next night. Many guests ordered two shrimp cocktail as an appetizer which the staff was delighted to oblige. On the last evening a tablemate sent back her soup. The waiters brought her a fresh bowl, they couldn’t understand that Europeans aren’t used to eating three meals a day and all she wanted was her “steak and chips”.
At the last minute we chose Select Dining, which I felt, had advantages, as it was located on the side of the second floor dining room, but we missed the camaraderie of the same table every night.
What can I say about this wonderful specialty restaurant? Murano and it’s staff is an experience in culinary dining and service and I’m only sorry we were able to go once. Some of their specialties are served in the main dining room, but they aren’t quite the same. It seems as if the Murano has their own kitchen and chef and from the famous goat cheese soufflé to the rack of Colorado lamb each dish had that WOW factor. There seems to be a group of staff for each table that concentrates on you and your meal. According to a staff member the dining room is sold out each night, except when they are in an overnight port and deservedly so.
The buffet café was the same design as the Soltice. Whether lunch or breakfast it was the same selections every day. One problem was on the days at sea the café was mobbed. Once you put a hat or bag down at a spot (the café was kept immaculately clean by the staff with them constantly cleaning off tables and removing dirty dishes) that if you turned in the wrong direction you couldn’t find your mate or your table. Had a woman asked if we saw their husband, when I kiddingly told her he went off with a younger woman she wished her luck lol I myself searched on the wrong side several times. Wonder if a number on each table would help? No trays were available sadly and you were left to juggle plates.
Decided that I wanted a fresh hamburger and onion rings. Once we found a table in the shade I wish we gone earlier in the trip to have lunch and people watch
AQUA SPA CAFÉ/Indoor Solarium
This was my secret hideaway. Having to stay out of the sun I would go early down to the Café and have a quiet and healthy breakfast and lunch. There are only eight tables and they fill up quickly. One morning at sea I went down a bit later and the chaises were all taken, many being held with books or personal possessions. Eventually, the pool butlers emptied the items after guests complained. One a.m at 7:30 saw a man put down a few items and leave with two books (this was a day at sea when the area was quite busy) and did not return until almost 10:00 a.m
BISTRO ON FIVE
A quiet lunch seemed in order one day and we visited the Bistro and I ordered a pannini which was so big it would have fed four people. Parrot Pop had delicious homemade soup and a salad. When he asked for anchovies the waiter said they didn’t have any but would get them and he did. He insisted we had to have crepes for dessert. All of this for $5.00, definitely a must try
Okay. so they don’t have rock climbing walls, an ice skating rink, but they do have the Cruise Director Dru Pavlov, a charming and gracious young gentleman who made everybody feel at home. All around the ship were little areas where there was either guitar music, a string quartet, dance lessons and one night in Israel they had a belly dancer entertaining with many guests joining in.
One of the things I don’t understand is why the ship had only English entertainers, not that they were bad, they were actually very good. Our very favorite was Paul Baker actor/singer from the West End. Brooks Aehron a celebrated English concert pianist entertained for several nights.
The Equinox production shows in general were pretty well done with the now “mandatory” cirque type performers and the theatre was packed solid each evening.
You never had to go far for entertainment on the ship, nor places to sit and have a conversation or drink.
Seat saving raised it’s ugly head one evening when a row of seats was being held and no amount of cajoling by the Celebrity Hostess would cause this man to give up his seats to all the guests asking.
Using a mobility item we discovered the secret elevator to the bottom level of the theatre. So, if you have a walker or use a wheel chair, you’re no longer a second-class citizen in the theatres. There was no need for us to be at the highest level anymore with possibly a poor sight line.
Sad to say I was very disappointed in singer/player in Michael’s Club, Katie Guglielmo. She played with only a few written notes she claimed and everything she played sounded alike.PORTS OF CALL
This for us was a disaster and a warning to others. We had joined a group that we met on a board back at the end of June and directions for meeting were miscommunicated the day before. By the time we met up with the group there was no room for us. So, Parrot Mom flew back to the ship to sit in the hot tub and have a few “moments”. If only she had realized that there was a boat outside the gates to take her to Capri…. oh well, next time.
We had a wonderful tour going to Taormina (a tourist town) and glimpsed a wedding party going into the huge church, found some potent Cream of Limincello and soaked in the wonderful atmosphere. We were taken the charming little village of Castelmola where we had lunch overlooking Mt. Etna and then back to Messina where our guide showed us the famous clock tower that rivals the one in Munich for the moving figures. It goes off at noon, but we hadn’t arrived there until after 4:00 p.m.
Took a bus into the Old City and wandered around. For many of us it was a pilgrimage to visit an old Jewish Synagogue that had originally over 150,000 Jewish residents who were sent off to the Concentration Camps and much less than 100 returned. An emotional moment was when I observed a family from California, a family of a mother, father and two daughters, the father pointed out his family name on a plaque in the Synagogue his family left before the “cleansing”.
Found Corfu much less expensive than Rome even with gelatos and souvenirs and friendly people. Charming area and would love to go back one day
Through Ramses tour we had arranged with a group to tour the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx. We personally opted to tour just the first day and I’m so glad we did. The Giza Pyramids and the area were a sight to be hold
It was wonderful seeing the Giza Pyramids, police on camels, horse and cart drivers racing through the area giving rides and the persistent vendors. The area where the three Pyramids can be seen together with the desert in the background and tourists riding the camels on the dunes is one of those moments that will be in my book of memories forever.
The Sphinx was a bit disappointing in that is appears beaten up and much smaller than I expected in the evenings there is a light show and many cruisers/tourists stay overnight. The Government didn’t seem to have done much to protect these wonderful treasures in past years.
We were taken to a local restaurant for a typical Egyptian meal and then the at least a three hour ride back to the ship. To talk of traffic you must experience the streets/roads in Egypt. Overturned trucks, broken down cars, people getting out of cars and walking and the ever-present debris along the highway.
When we arrived back at the port at 9:30 p.m. Celebrity had their usual welcoming back wet cloth. What surprised us was that there was a phalanx of Equinox Officers outside offering us cold drinks and welcoming us back and asking about our day. No sooner were we through security on the ship another officer announced that the buffet was open for us. What a great welcoming back.
The next day instead of exploring Alexandria or more touring we went outside the gates where a bazaar is set up and bought lots of tourist souvenirs, negotiating/haggling is expected. I’m having buyers regret now, the recipients loved the little purses and the coin decorated shawls and wish I had bought more
In all the years we have traveled through the ruins in Peru, villages in the Amazon, jungles in Venezuela nothing and I mean nothing had prepared me for the filth, smog and trash strewn over the streets, roads and buildings looking like they have been bombed out and we are talking about a major world city
Israel was why we wanted to take this cruise. Many cruisers had family they were going to visit and leaving the ship the area was filled with private buses and vans. At the last minute we opted to stay overnight at the Dan Hotel. Great choice as our room overlooked the Old City.
Months earlier I had contacted Guided Tours and told them that I had three things especially that we wanted to see and with limited mobility there was no way we could squeeze in much more on the first day anyhow…. The Wailing Wall, Yad Vashem which is a memorial to Holocaust victims and the Chagall Windows at the Hadassah Hospital. Guided Tours were incredible to deal with and although we had two parties cancel for illness we worked through all our problems with the help of Alon.
Driving from the port to Jerusalem I was continually contrasting the smog and dirty air in Alexandria with the clean crisp clean air, the immaculate roads, the orange groves, the grapes growing, and the plantings along the road. It was like day and night.
THE CHAGALL WINDOWS-
Our first stop was the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus. Walking through the two buildings I was surprised by the shopping malls on the lower level of this world famous hospital there were bakeries, cafes, clothing stores, jewelry, etc in both buildings.
Marc Chagall designed the twelve stained glass windows representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel… I do not pretend to understand all the meaning and for any fan of stained glass a magnificent sight, because of their powerful rich colors and beauty Now, I can go back and read again what I was witness to.
No visit to Israel is complete without going and paying respects to the six million Jews that died and were killed during the Holocaust. It was an emotional journey for those of us who have lost relatives and families? Sadly, we did not have the opportunity to linger and watch the movies. Yad Vashem is somber and depressing to think of what might have been. There were groups of Israeli Women Cadets being led through, three young teens sobbing and consoling each other. A pin drop could be heard throughout the entire experience.
As we left we walked through a path of trees and I noticed names and countries. Our guide told us this was the Garden of the Righteous. Gentiles (non-Jews) of Europe who hid Jewish families. On one side was a special tree for Oscar Schindler. I had heard about the Garden, but the impact of these trees dedicated to those who helped the Jews was overwhelming. The Garden of the Righteous seemed to protect you from the hot Israel sun as you left Yad Vashem as they protected the Jews during that horrific time in Europe.
THE WAILING WALL
We ended our first day visiting the holiest of sites for the Jewish people. The Wall is alive!! It is a wonderful spot where families come with their children to pray, boys tussling in the area, daughters pushing wheel chairs with parents. I sat down and read my prayers for my family and friends and inserted a little slip of paper as is the tradition in one of the cracks.
There were so many tour buses and vans that the walk uphill at the end of the day was exhausting for Parrot Pop especially.
With those three stops on the first day we headed back to our hotel. Fortunately or unfortunately, the driver went to a hotel on the other side of Jerusalem and when he discovered the error we were taken on a tour of downtown Jerusalem to the other side to the Dan Hotel over looking the Old City The room at the Dan Hotel overlooked the Old City and that is what we saw lit up the first night and the next morning.
There was an incident that I must write about. We stopped at Little Israel a diorama of the country on our way back to Haifa. After walking through with our guide we sat down next to a group of what we judged to be young Palestinian boys. Parrot Pop struck up a conversation with one boy translating to the others talking about baseball, where we were from etc., an innocent conversation. A few moments later the girls in the group (they had been under a tree and we were under the café canopy) came over and wanted to see what was going on, the young boys were obviously having a fun time with this American tourist. The leader/teacher came over and with an attitude said “they don’t understand” and started to shoo them away, but not before Parrot Pop shook hands with the boys. Yes, they did understand…how sad.
EXPECTATIONS OF OUR TOURS
At our age we couldn’t do it all and we opted many times to just sit in the van while our fellow passengers went further to see more, visit a museum, etc. We have found that some of our experiences during the tours were of connecting with perhaps with a shop owner, petting a dog and just talking to people as we went along.
We required a wheelchair to disembark and the meeting area had been set up with several wheelchairs and stewards all set to take you down with no waiting for a chair to be returned as on other lines.
Here is where I knew that the Equinox was special. As we were disembarking the ship it was pouring rain and each group leaving the ship to meet up with their van or bus was accompanied by a steward with an umbrella and stayed with until they found their vehicle
Celebrity Cruise lines continues to be our line of choice and it’s for some of the little things. I judged that this cruise with many of the cruisers doing back to back to the US and the majority were repeat Celebrity cruisers.
Daily there are the newspapers available for Americans, Canadians, French, Spanish and German. The revolving rack was a popular spot in the early afternoon and for Parrot Pop to find the baseball scores.
For those who are finding their favorite cruise lie is no longer putting a chocolate on the pillow, Celebrity still is and it doesn’t send me over the edge if I don’t have one… a towel animal.
Mainly, the service and caring of the staff of Celebrity and particularly the Equinox whether you are asking questions, passing in the halls or need assistance they are there.
Parrot Pop and I both knew that this would most likely be the last port intensive cruise that we would take and sadly we both agree now. We started off many years ago going to the ruins in Peru when they were opened to the public, cruising down the Amazon last year and through cruising many spots that we had never dreamed about in our 55 years of marriage including on this last cruise Israel, the Pyramids, Rome, etc.. all things in our “bucket list” and more.
Lastly, a ship reflects the Master and in this case it is Captain Bouzakis and although we have never had the pleasure of meeting the Equinox and it’s staff appear to be the happiest crew we have ever met in our many, many years of cruising.
Thank you Celebrity and to the Captain of the Equinox and his crew for making this such a very special experience.