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: Overall Service. Foodies. 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.
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.
The Constellation is a well managed and the service is excellent. The major problem is with the cabin beds. We had a suite and the mattress's were so old and lumpy, we hardly slept at all even with the steward trying his best to solve the problem. One of the 'covers' provided had pee stains. Then how about - put one other lumpy mattress on top of the already lump. Almost fell out of the bed. We were told "the ship" had NO new mattress and they could do nothing more.
When we complained - we received a $89.00 refund WOW! Returned the check with the message, "We will no longer cruise with Celebrity." Just returned from a cruise with Norwegian - the mattress are NEW, LONGER AND WIDER and double sheeted. They have our business.
PS: Finally, after 4 days - I just bought my own foam cover in Spain.
Fantastic experience. Fantastic food and personnel. They really make you feel like a house guest. Very relaxed atmosphere. The buffet is always open, so you don't have to run to make meal times. Free coffee, tea and lemonade 24 hrs a day. Possible to eat outside on the aft deck. Nobody minds if you take food from the buffet to another part of the ship or to your cabin.
Free tropical pool and sauna.
Very quiet cabins with TV, but no radio and no clock. Ours was a decoration disaster; brown/beige carpet, pink chair and orange curtain. The matrasses had the shape of hunderds of people.
Paint spills on the balcony.
The deck chairs in the pool area are old and faded and there are not enough of them.
Shore excursions were very expensive, so we didn't take any of them. Exept for the main dining room, none of the public area's were very appealing. Bus transfer to/from the airport in Barcelona is the same price as a taxi, so if you travel with two of more, a taxi is the better option. Even with the airport surcharge and the port surcharge ourdriver on the way back invented.
Although the food and the atmosphere were far better than other ships, we will not travel with this company again. The reason : their smoking policy. Smoking is stricktly forbidden in your cabin. So is drinking and making your own coffee. What's next?
My partner and I just returned from another wonderful Celebrity vacation, just a week ago. This particular cruise we chose to do a back-to-back cruise on board the GTS Celebrity Summit. The itinerary was as follows:
September 5-12: Bermuda, sailing out of Cape Liberty September 12-26: New England and Canada, sailing out of Cape Liberty
We have only been cruising for about 10-years now, so we do not quite have our Masters in the High Seas, but we have sailed many times with 95% of our cruises on Celebrity. The other two were on Princess (an awful experience as noted on another review - staying on the banks of the Amazon would have been better) and Carnival (which was fine for a first cruise to get my feet wet).
Our Concierge Class cabin was 9038. We have stayed in this cabin on all of the M-class Celebrity ships. The room is nice and provides a "bump-out" veranda, which is close to two times the size of an average veranda. The views forward and aft are amazing - as well as directly out to sea. We also like being directly belowthe Spa.
So, our flight into New York was uneventful thanks to American Airlines. We overnighted at the Marriott Residence (if you have the opportunity, the Courtyard next door is a star higher). Our adopted Jewish mother, Parrot Mom, e-mailed us Saturday evening to let us know the Summit was going to be late coming into Bayonne as the ship had battled a couple of days at sea thanks to an earlier hurricane. Rather than an early arrival, we opted to arrive around 2:30 or 3 PM, which was smart. Others who did not get the message were waiting to board for many hours. We breezed right through check-in, got our Sea Pass cards and joined the throng of cruisers waiting. The =X= ship had recently arrived, so passengers were still in the process of disembarking and the crew was cleaning her for our voyage.
We boarded around 5 PM and set sail just after 8 PM. The red, white and blue lights from the Bayonne Bridge were beautiful. We were serenaded all through sail-away (and our dinner on our veranda) by our neighbors who brought along their guitar. It was peaceful and beautiful listening to them both sing for a couple of hours.
After two days at sea we enjoyed docking at the Royal Naval Dockyard. We followed an avid Bermuda-Cruiser's advice and decided to work our way back in. That is, our first port day we took the ferry out to St. George's. (We purchased the two-day ferry / bus pass - great deal!!). The high-speed ferry was a nice ride. We enjoyed the sun, while we had it. St. George's seemed like a sleepy town. Lots of shops, but truthfully we never saw much of anything we wanted to bring back. Perfume shops seemed to be the big push from =X= and St. George's. We visited the "Unfinished Church" which was amazing to see, and also the Somer's Garden which was a great experience. We had a Dark and Stormy and a Rum Swizzle at the Swizzle Inn, along with a huge plate of excellent Nachos! This was after our tour of Crystal Caves (which was a joke to us). The tour guide "Ron" at Crystal Caves was over the top. Actually, he aided in ruining the experience. Just an awful, awful guide. Nonetheless, the drinks at the Swizzle Inn took that bad vide away!
The following day we took the ferry to Hamilton which was a bustling town. Hit the touristy shops on Front Street. The HAL Veendam was docked there as well, but there wasn't too much traffic. When we returned from Hamilton we decided to do a Jet Ski tour. In Bermuda one cannot take off on a Jet Ski rental, but must go in a group. This was fine. The Yamaha jet skis were all brand new and large! The "tour" was about 60-70 minutes. There were around 8 of us. Our leader took us all over, under the "Worlds Smallest Drawbridge", through St. Georges, and even out in the Atlantic! At one point he had to come back to me (I was the last in the formation) and told me I needed to "keep up with the group". After awhile I abated the fear of wiping out and had a blast. While we were skiing in the ocean, the skies opened up and it began to rain. If you haven't been on a Jet Ski while raining, it feels like little needles all over your body! All in all, it was very fun.
Our last day we stayed local in Dockyard and visited the craft market, stores, the fort or Dockyard and had an amazing lunch at the Frog and Onion. We tried hopping on the little white train that stops at the ship (complimentary) and takes you through Dockyard, but the train would always stop at the NCL ship first, so when it got to =X=, it was full of NCL passengers... and they weren't getting off! Once again, we walked to the town, which is a very nice walk around the marina and only takes about 10-15 minutes.
We walked up to the man-made beach at Dockyard, where they boast of Jet Skis (not the two we rented, which was right at the Marina and ferry ticket booth), a food court, canopied bed areas to lounge about, etc. We took one look, walked around for maybe 15-minutes and left. To us, it was a joke. They were trying to get us to come back for an evening party and kept saying, "And we have beautiful girls... lots of beautiful girls... " yeah, whatever, LOL. It looked like a younger party scene anyway. Just kind of trashy and blah.
Luckily for us we were in between hurricanes. As we were having lunch at the Frog and Onion, once again the clouds opened up but this time it was a non-stop downpour. The thunder claps were some of the loudest I have heard. Soon thereafter we were back on the ship and headed back to Cape Liberty, with another day at sea.
Bermuda was a great trip. I proposed to my partner on the journey back to the US, so it will be memorable for us. While we would consider going back to Bermuda, we prefer the Polynesian Islands and other Caribbean islands to Bermuda. It was a fairly clean island though and glad we were able to go!
When we arrived back in Bayonne, we were able to disembark quickly as we were sailing on the New England / Canada voyage as well. We visited Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty while we waited for our second boarding. Visiting Lady Liberty is an emotional experience, or it was for us. What we both found not only endearing but warm-hearted were the thousands of tourists we saw and how ethnically and culturally diverse everyone was... not the stereo-typical White person, but so many groups were there to honor and respect our country's freedom and one of the symbols of her freedom. I found myself being extremely proud to be an American... and we found ourselves very proud for walking up to the crown in Lady Liberty. It was a memorable experience, for our legs and calves as well as our well-being!
When we re-boarded the ship, there was a slight problem with our Sea Pass cards. They ushered us over to a couch and kept us content on champagne while we waited. Then it was time to sail away, again!
This was our second time on a 14-day N.E. / Canada cruise. The colors were just beginning to turn, but we saw many deep reds and oranges while in Canada.
We had 5 "Sea Days" along with the following ports:
Newport, Rhode Island: Our second favorite port on this cruise. Typical white-steepled churches, quaint shops and very nice locals. We took the morning and traipsed around the marina-town and later took an excursion to see the Mansions and do the Cliff Walk. We saw the Breakers (Vanderbilt's) mansion, which was a great tour! The Cliff walk was partial, but so glad we did it. The weather was nice, sunny with some clouds. Tour directors were great and the people we met were fun!
Boston, Mass.: We couldn't wait to arrive in Boston. Our adopted Jewish parents live here, Parrot Mom & Parrot Pop. They picked us up at the pier in the late morning. After some great hugs and a port-side reunion, we hopped in the car and Parrot Pop drove us to the Prudential Building where we boarded a WW2 amphibious vehicle for the Boston Duck Tour. It was an 80-minute tour and quite nice! The tour guide was hilarious and informative. After the tour we were treated to lunch at Skip Jacks, where we had by far, the absolute BEST lobster rolls (1/2 pound of meat!), clam chowder, Bloody Marys and Steamer clams. This was followed by the restaurants very own and famous Chocolate Bread Pudding. We made the trip back to our Summit, said some tearful farewells and re-boarded.
Portland, Maine: After arriving, we quickly boarded our coach and headed for downtown Portland, where we enjoyed a down-town educational tour. Then we were taken to Kennebunk and Kennebunkport where we enjoyed more history from our luxurious coach, a couple of hours of shopping and clam-eating (the best fried clams is at the Clam Shack!) and strolling through this very quaint town. I have to say though (and being a liberal doesn't spark this question), why does Bush fly his TEXAN flag at his estate in Maine? I was put off by that alone... oh well. I digress...
Bar Harbor, Maine: (Otherwise known as "Baaa Haaaba"). The last time we visited this quaint village, was during Hurricane Wilma in 2005. We didn't get to see much. This time however, we were able to enjoy our walk through town. Enjoyed a repeat lunch at Geddy's (Crab and Lobster sammies, but not as good as Skip Jacks!). We found a couple of pet stores where we enjoyed spending time and buying souvenirs for our "Bear" who we had to leave at home. The shop keepers and shops themselves are fun to visit. The people are nice, and [generally] quite happy to visit and welcome you... except for one shop, "Sun Catchers". We won't get into it here, but will be posting a negative review on the shop keeper. In short, one of the grumpiest, unhappy people we've ever met. We felt compelled to actually picket his store after his abrasive and rude treatment, but thought better of it. We decided to just snap a picture and post on the Internet. Much better coverage that way!
Halifax, Nova Scotia: Again, the last time we were here it was pouring down rain and we did not see much. We enjoyed this visit very much. We took the HOHO bus on their three different routes. We enjoyed getting off at various spots such as the Citadel, Public Gardens (a true Victorian garden) and downtown Halifax. We walked, and walked and walked. Had a wonderful lunch at a cozy jazz club / pub tucked far away from the tourists! There were a lot of bees though! Early in the morning we were enjoying some coffee and pastries at a coffee house, across from where the ship was docked and the bees just came out of nowhere! We found lots of bees in Prince Edward Island and Quebec too, though. Interesting.
Quebec City, Quebec: Our favorite port on this cruise. We overnighted here and enjoyed our two days in Quebec. We walked through Old Town the first day. We found a jeweler who was able to repair my partner's bracelet. The cobblestone streets make for a good workout, too! We found a French pastry shop and brought back to our cabin some yummy maple desserts! The second day we tried to get lost away from all the tourists. We took the funicular to upper or "new" town, walked through the Chateau Frontenac and then found a cozy little restaurant where we enjoyed first-hand, Canadian French Crepes for breakfast! What an amazing experience! We tried the ham and cheese crepes with Béchamel sauce... truly it was a wonderful treat. We found that most shop keepers and locals appreciate a "Bon Jour" or "Merci". This really goes a long way with the locals. Even if one doesn't speak French. They appreciate the tourist respecting their homeland and native language. Sadly, we found so many tourists and cruisers who really didn't care... or wouldn't make an effort (remember the term, "Ugly American"?) Of course then there are the tourists who sport their HUGE red, white and blue flag covered sweat shirts, ball caps, American slogans, etc. I don't get it... you're in someone else's country, and you're advertising your own. Hello? The weather was amazing the first day, and the second day we experienced cold and lots of rain! We made it in time to our ship where we were cozy and cocooned in the Aqua Spa. We floated around in the Thalassotherapy Pool and watched the rains come down, pretty hard as we sailed away from our favorite port.
Charlottetown, P.E.I.: I really tried to get into the "Anne of Green Gables" movie before we left home, so I would understand this fictional person and her hometown. I couldn't, but still enjoyed Charlottetown! The town is very walk-able. It appeared as though they have a large theater following, and were currently running, "Hairspray", starring George Wendt as Edna! It's a shame a matinee was not playing, as we would have enjoyed watching the show. Instead, we walked and walked, taking pictures of churches, gardens and the beautiful sea before us. We stopped for lunch at the Lobster Wharf for a (you guessed it) lobster lunch and then strolled through the terminal where we enjoyed the local artisan crafts. We boarded the ship and sadly bid our farewell to Canada and prepared for two glorious days at sea.
So I'm afraid we weren't able to share too many "exciting" events at our ports of call. This particular cruise was a wind-down for us. It wasn't as jam-packed as our European or exotic cruises, but still, just what we needed after a year of work and daily structure! Besides, we have been to most of these ports before, so it was refreshing to step off the vessel and walk around town, taking in whatever new sites we could.
A little about the GTS Celebrity Summit:
Our favorite ship so far is the Constellation. Although she is an older ship, her service speaks volumes. We were under the assumption that the Summit would be a close second, if not a steady tie. We were sadly mistaken. Please don't get us wrong, we immensely enjoyed our two cruises on board the Summit, but it surely isn't the Constellation. No, there were no "pod problems" as one particular avid Princess cruiser continually slams the Celebrity forums about, lol. Not one mechanical problem on either cruise actually (unlike the many on our one Princess cruise). That's a different review though...
Sure the Summit is older and she is beginning to show her wear and tear, but the staff does an amazing job ALL day and ALL night. Every time we stepped foot outside of our cabin we found the staff vacuuming, dusting, sterilizing, wiping down banisters and rails, painting, cleaning... you name it! Yes there is rust in some areas, but come on people... it's a SHIP! She spends between 48 and 52 weeks a year, at sea! To all the crabby and grumpy cruisers who find a chip of rust or worn carpets / wood distasteful, perhaps you're vacationing in the wrong venue. Honestly, by the time we got off the ship, we turned around and looked at her and both of us commented on how quickly they were able to re-paint everything! If not the whole hull, they re-painted a good portion of it. She is still a beautiful ship.
Although the service was great, it was not to be compared with the Constellation... perhaps even a little less than the Infinity. Still, the staff for the most part went out of their way to please every guest. We were more shocked with how many of the tourists spoke to the staff, in condescending tones! I don't know what it is about some vacationers, maybe they're as arrogant and rude at home... but I was always taught to treat others with courtesy, dignity and respect. I wasn't taught to bark orders at someone if I was patronizing their store, hotel or ship.
Food: We read some very mixed reviews on the MDR and other gastronomical venues. In short, we LOVED the MDR. We had a lovely table for 2 (table 537 first leg and table 555 second leg) on Deck 5, overlooking the MDR's 4th deck and a good part of the 5th deck. Our servers on both legs (and Sommelier) were very good and quickly memorized exactly what we liked or preferred. Sure there may have been an "off-night", but don't we all have off-moments? Their service was very good and the food was wonderful. If I could ask for one small change in the menu, it would be to use a little more spice. The food in the MDR was exceptional. The food was always hot, always! We never sent anything back. The portions are smaller as other cruisers have mentioned. This is a GOOD THING! Baked Alaska night was a blast; we enjoyed cheering for our team!
The poolside grill and Waterfall buffet were always good. We enjoyed the inclusion of Indian and Asian cuisine. Also, every night there was a carving station at the buffet where pork chops; steak, turkey and ham were in abundance. Of course the pasta bar, salad bar and pizza stations were good... as always. Sometimes it's nice to get away from the pomp and circumstance and find a quiet table for dinner. We did this a few times!
Normandie is the specialty restaurant. We had dinner here once. Since we had a $1200 cabin credit, we were actually looking forward to having 2 or 3 dinners here; however, once was enough. The quality of the food was amazing, as it always is... but the menu is lacking in options. The M-class specialty restaurants changed up their menus a couple of years ago (minor changes) and with a couple of exceptions, the same items are on there. By the time we ordered wine and an additional gratuity (and the $35 pp charge), we didn't feel it warranted a bill of $120, so opted out. Interestingly the same staff works in the Aqua Spa during the day as well. We found some of their behavior to be a little on the snobby side, which was weird. In Normandie, they were happy as clams, and bent over backwards but during the day at the Aqua Spa, they seemed put off.
Our cabin attendant was good. He was not exceptional, as we've had in the past. I think he had a few off days. His behavior was always respectful and courteous, and he would generally give us anything we needed. I didn't feel that "extra mile" that we feel from most of the staff. We did not give him an additional gratuity, but we did leave some San Francisco gifts from our homeland, for him and the assistant, along with some other goodies.
Charmaine is the Spa Manager and she is remarkable. She remembered us from a Baltic cruise a few years ago and treated us like royalty! We each enjoyed the Persian Gardens (almost daily) as well as hot stone / deep tissue massages. The Spa staff was always friendly and helpful.
We found the entertainment to have been the best we have ever experienced on a Celebrity voyage. Two different magicians (one was amazing, one shouldn't have come on board)... the aerialists were terrific and the Celebrity singers and dancers were superb. They didn't do any hokey numbers, in bad drag. Instead, they remained in professional dresses or evening wear and sang / danced their hearts off. What a refreshing experience for us! They had a special impersonator and she was just spectacular sang and impersonated: Barbara Streisand, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Arron Neville and many others. Definitely the highlight!
Oh yes, the chaise lounge hogs are still there. I think we sat next to the "epitomy" of them all. He strolled through the Aqua Spa area in the morning, and put some of his things on two chaises. He came back sometime after lunch (a few hours later) and put a NOTE on each chair, "We are still here, just across the T. pool on the other side." We were taken aback. He never did come back to sit on the chairs, but his wife did for about 15 minutes, this was well after lunch. Unbelievable.
Yes, the pushy people. One of our gripes (seems they were all cruiser-related, LOL) would be the passengers who, when the elevator door opens, they jump on, without letting other passengers get off first! Hello? Oy vey.
The buffet bandits. These are the people that have to get "every cent" worth... afterall, you hear them say, "I paid for it!" and by golly, their trays, and overflowing plates show it too. I wished Celebrity would show the movie, "Supersize Me". That ought to put a little damper in the greed, wouldn't you think? LOL!
So in short (although this was a little lengthy!) we enjoyed another fine Celebrity cruise, and will be looking forward to sailing with her in the near future. Currently we are booked for a Transatlantic Crossing on the RCL Jewel of the Seas for next September, but for the right itinerary, would definitely hop on board another =X= ship, no questions asked!
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to write us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. We both enjoy international travel and cruising immensely and not too long ago was a board moderator on a cruise board. It seems I am still meeting people!
Happy and safe travels to all.
This was our seventh cruise overall and our second time with Celebrity. We cruised previously with Princess, Royal Caribbean, NCL, Carnival, and Holland America. Our first experience with Celebrity was beyond expectations, so we embarked on the Solstice with even higher expectations.
Because we live in South Florida, getting to Fort Lauderdale was no big deal. We arrived at the Port Everglades around 2:00 p.m. and we were on board the Solstice within 20 minutes
Once on board, we were greeted with a glass of champagne and then went directly to our room. Our room was very clean and well maintained. Our room was a verandah cabin on the Vista deck. While in our room, we met our room steward, Bernardo. While many aspects of this cruise did not live up to our expectations, Bernardo was well above our expectations and continued to impress us throughout our vacation.
The ship itself was very well maintained. However, my wife and I noticed some of the bathrooms were dirty. There was oxidation on the wood, probably due to sea spray. While this is common, it is something we did not observe on our previous ships.
Service- Service was very slow in the MDR. On our first night, they served a desert with crème puffs filled with praline ice cream. My wife asked for just praline ice cream and she was told by our server that he did not know if that was possible and needed to consult the chef. As far as I am concerned, they had praline ice cream, so it did not seem like a drastic request. On previous cruises, we were escorted to our table and my wife’s chair was pulled out for her. This did not happen on the Solstice the first several nights. We spoke with the maître d’ and were moved to a smaller table with a new server, Luis. Luis was amazing. He did everything right and made up for some of the shortfalls we experienced and witnessed. One evening, we showed up twenty minutes late for dinner due to a family issue at home. When we entered the MDR, we noticed our table was gone. It was discovered later that the table was used by other passengers. After several minutes of confusion, we were escorted to a different table away from Luis. Other than water, our drinks were not refilled. The majority of the time our drinks sat empty. If was obvious the staff was spread very thin. The same night, we were given petit fours along with our main desserts. When our dessert arrived, I noticed the chocolate covered strawberry had been partially eaten. My wife brought this to the attention of the assistant server. His reaction was to inform her that there were no more chocolate-covered strawberries. He did not take away the dessert or try to replace it. When we brought it to the attention of the lead server (again, not Luis), he said that they often sample foods and make sure the samples they eat are taken away to avoid this type of problem. The next day, we spoke to the restaurant manager and maître d’ who offered to comp a night in one of the specialty restaurants. Although they addressed the issue, the stigma was still there. We received complementary chocolate covered strawberries and a bottle of champagne in our room. While standing in line at the Mast Grill , my wife was passed over four times for service.
Stateroom – The stateroom was beautiful and the bathroom was exquisite. However, the closet space is minimal, perhaps the smallest on any cruise we’ve experienced. When we unpacked, we noticed there were only ten hangers. For a 7 day cruise, this is not enough and we had to request more. Bernardo brought us extra hangers within minutes. The bed was not as comfortable as on previous cruises but it was nothing to snub our noses at. Although we did not hear many noises from the hall, we could hear the conversations and T.V.’s from the adjoining staterooms.
Murano – Great service and great food. The steak was not really any better than the MDR. Plus, we really preferred to sit with Luis as he was just as attentive as the server in Murano.
Silk Harvest – Awesome experience, great food and amazing service. I have shell fish allergies and the chef went out of way to make springs rolls leaving out the fish sauce. I did not ask anyone to make this accommodation; they just did it for their guest.
MDR – Appetizers and entrées were awesome and Luis was exceptional. Neither of us cared for most of the desserts, but I was able to have ice cream each evening to satisfy my sweet tooth. Service for breakfast and lunch was very slow and spotty. We overheard one waiter tell a guest that they were very understaffed.
Room Service – I am sure they are very busy, because they took a long time to deliver the food. Often, the order was incorrect. My wife ordered a bottle of champagne and was informed it would be in our stateroom in approximately twenty minutes. After three days, we gave up on ever receiving it. At least we were not charged for it.
Buffet – The food was delicious and there was a large selection. However, it was the same selection each day and after several days, the redundancy became unappetizing.
Pools - The pools were nice and the hot tubs were very relaxing. The pool decks were busy on sea days but we always managed to find a place to settle down. The solarium was beautiful and a nice reprieve from the main pool area.
Entertainment - The entertainment ranged from fantastic to amateurish. The dancers for the production shows were pretty good. The acrobats were outstanding and talented. The comedian, James Stephens III was really funny and the best entertainment on the ship. In addition to being funny, Mr. Stephens was a genuine and good person. He sets aside profits to assist struggling children with education. The juggler was awful and it was almost painful to sit through his show. We would have left early but this was the one show we decided to sit close to the stage. We felt sorry enough for him that we didn’t want to embarrass him by leaving. On our previous Celebrity there was always something to do. On this cruise, we found ourselves very bored. There was a lack of activities during the day and very few venues for entertainment. Celebrity could take advice from Princess where there is always something to do. This trip certainly lacked fun activities.
Fellow Passengers - While the vast majority of guests adhered to the rules and regulations, there were some that lacked any class. Our first day, we saw a girl walking around in her bra (not a bathing suit top). We saw guest swearing jean shorts to dinner and, on more than one occasion, guests were admitted to the MDR in swimwear and bikinis. We heard of one passenger being thrown off the ship in Puerto Rico due to a fist fight the night before. I understand Celebrity cannot control everything but certainly dress code is one thing they can enforce. If I wanted to dress as wish, I would go back on NCL, but Celebrity clearly outlines their dress code in their brochure.
San Juan – We spent the day touring historic San Juan. San Juan was a blast and our only complaint is we did not have more time here.
St. Thomas – I did the SCUBA excursion through the cruise line. The trip was chartered through Underwater Safaris out of St. Thomas. These guys were great and the trip was a blast. The water was calm with great visibility and good company. I would highly recommend this excursion if you are a SCUBA diver.
St Maarten - My wife and I went shopping for gifts then spent the remainder of the day laying on the beach. I rented a jet ski and for an hour and had a blast. It was a very relaxing day.
Announcements - The only announcements were the imperative ones. My wife and I like to sleep late and it was nice not being woken up to redundant announcements.
Unfortunately our Celebrity experience this time was not up to par with our previous cruise experiences. We will likely cruise on Celebrity again; however, it’s not on the top of our list for near future cruises. We relaxed, ate plenty of great food, and spent time with friends. Any day at sea is better than a day home.
Last January we cruised on the Solstice with Capt. Dimitrios Kafetzis and had a memorable cruise. We booked the Solstice again in order to experience the new Aqua Class cruising. Since we published a review on the Solstice in January, we will refer readers to that review on this web site for a deck-by-deck description of this gorgeous ship and focus this review on the delights of cruising in Aqua Class. We had a warm welcome aboard and the week proved to be equally enjoyable.
EMBARKATION On Sunday morning, with light traffic on I-95, it took us less than half an hour to travel from our home in Boca Raton to the ship in Ft. Lauderdale, where the embarkation process was so smooth that we were on board in 15 minutes. Alas, the staterooms were not yet ready, so we proceeded to the Ocean View Cafe` for lunch. At 1:00 pm, while we were eating, the announcement was made that our cabins were ready.
SHIP OVERVIEW Under the supervision of Hotel Director Sue Richardson, the ship is kept in excellent condition: Solstice is less than two years old and looks just asnew and sparkling as the day she left the Meyer Werft shipyard – just celestial as she was on our first cruise.
The Solstice (2008) is the first of a class, the ship's dimension are 122,000 gross tons; 1,033 ft. long; beam is 121 ft. and a draft of only 27 ft. Celebrity's next two ships in this class are the Equinox (2009) and the Eclipse (2010), in cookie cutter fashion, and the Silhouette (2011) is in the works. Guest capacity is 2,850 and her crew numbers 1,200.
There are 130 staterooms in the Aqua Class which are identical to the deluxe ocean view cabins with veranda (194 sq. ft. with an 54 sq. ft. veranda and 299 sq. ft. with 80 sq. ft. veranda for the wheelchair accessible cabins). Some of the features in the Aqua Class cabin are queen size beds, 32"LCD TV, wireless internet access and a table with two reclining chairs on the balcony. Special amenities in these rooms include the following: Complimentary dining in the Blu Restaurant (clean cuisine, spa style food); upgraded bathroom amenities; plush robes and slippers; oversized towels and contour pillows; sound and aromatics for relaxing: complimentary Italian Spring Water; Carafes of infused teas daily; daily canapes; available full breakfast in room service; daily breakfast in the Blu restaurant from 7 to 9 am and finally Concierge Services! Waiting in our stateroom were a bottle of French Brut Champagne, chilling in an ice bucket, and fresh flowers.
SERVICE & FOOD Service on board any vessel takes its cue from the Captain and Dimitrios is a friendly and outgoing Greek! All week we had marvelous service and were aware that he made passenger and crew safety a priority on the ship.
Aqua Class is aimed toward a healthy life style and dining in Blu was always interesting. For years we have been grumbling that ship portions were always too large --- Blu has achieved perfection in portion sizes. We always felt satisfied after dining, but not bloated. The décor of Blu is lovely: windows to the sea provide a terrific backdrop, overhead a gorgeous chandelier, in crystal and cobalt blue, evokes thoughts of Santorini and the Greek Isles. The chargers and plates were uniquely shaped and in whites glass and cobalt blue as were the water tumblers. The whole effect is understated beauty.
We asked the Maitre d' Dariusz Chowaniec if we could have the same waiters each evening -- Wilmer Castillo and Santos Ramirez because they were so wonderful. They were prompt and remembered all our likes (i.e., lemon wedges for Mary). We had an excellent sommelier, appropriately named Napa, and every evening assistant Maitre d' Marjan welcomed us. Dinner at Blu Restaurant was always a pleasant and relaxing event.
Appetizers: Seafood ceviche, empanadas, baked goat's cheese, soft shelled crabs, beef carpaccio, lump crab martini, etc.
Soups: Chilled sweet pea with crab and toasted almonds, tortilla soup, spicy roasted plantain and corn soup, etc.
Salads: Endive, Blu Caesar salad, Boston bibb and arugula, Shaved fennel and blood orange emulsion, etc.
Entrees: Broiled Atlantic salmon, roasted chicken breast, NY strip, braised lamb shank with couscous and glazed carrots, etc.
Desserts were tiny and light and included crème brulee, a variety of fresh sorbets like mangoes and ginger, etc. Many desserts were mysterious and surprising.
We also highly recommend the upscale Tuscan Grill restaurant, where we ate and were very happy with the gorgeous veal chop and the delightful ginger snap tulip cup filled with wild berries and mascarpone cream for dessert. Vincent noted that wherever he ordered meat entrees (fillet Mignon, New York strip, veal chop or prime rib) from the Grand Epernay to the Tuscan Grill and the Ocean View Cafe, they were the best at sea.
Perhaps our loveliest meal was with Captain Dimitrios on the first formal night in the Grand Epernay dining room. He is a wonderful story teller and he regaled the table with parenthood tales. The very democratic captain used the dining room menu as his table menu. Excellent! Yet, we did notice a difference between this cuisine under Executive Chef Mischa Graafman and that of Executive Chef Mikael Tochetto on our last Solstice cruise. Chef Tochetto used a superb mix of French and Italian cuisine, while Chef Graafman's cuisine has overtones of Holland America and Indonesian spices. As the Latin maxim says: "De gustibus non est disputandum (no disputing about taste)". We met many officers who were always courteous and friendly, especially the Food and Beverage Manager Michael Bramlett, who was everywhere and his work was evident.
CABIN Wheelchair accessible cabin #1538 is spacious and just like the one we described in the January Solstice review. The nicest thing about it is the automatic door opener and the huge bathroom. Mary had a fall in the bathroom and four stewards including John our steward and Roman and two others plus Medical Assistant Alistair all rushed to help and still the bathroom was not crowded. Alistair took us to the Hospital Facility on Deck 2 where Dr. Cosmopoulos(?) was wonderful and caring; he took x-rays and wrapped the knee. All gratis! The facility and the Doctor were terrific.
ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Paul Baya has an excellent voice. He did a rousing rendition of "Stand by Me" at the Elite Cocktail Party. We especially enjoyed the Sipra Band and the two girl singers: Janisa and Maricel, and the male vocalist Bryan Allan. The Tony Viviano Quartet in the Ensemble Lounge did a lovely job on our favorite "Green Sleeves". The Solstice singers and dancers produced peppy shows and the Solstice Band provided excellent entertainment.
There is plenty to do on board and even educational courses, one can play Bocce on the lawn on Deck 15. Get out there!
PORTS OF CALL
Day 1: Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale FL Depart: 4:30pm.
Day 2: At Sea.
Day 3: Georgetown, Grand Cayman Arrive: 9:00am Depart: 4:00pm
Day 4: Cozumel, Mexico Arrive: 9:00am Depart: 6:00pm
Day 5: Costa Maya, Mexico Arrive : 8:00am Depart: 6:00pm
Day 6: Roatan, Honduras Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 5:00pm
Day 7: At Sea.
Day 8: Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale Arrive 7:00am.
DEBARKATION The debarkation process went very smoothly. After our breakfast in the restaurant Blu, we returned to our cabin and waited for a crew member that the Associate Hotel Director Sheldon Thompson had arranged to help us. We are both disabled and need assistance, even though Mary has a motorized wheelchair and Vincent has a scooter, we also use a walker for short distances. This time Vincent's scooter broke down on one of the ramps exiting the ship and, fortunately, the attendant that was accompanying us helped to bring the scooter down. Thanks again to the crew for being always helpful and courteous. By 10 am we were back home in Boca Raton.
CONCLUSION Even though we have done many Caribbean cruises, this was our first done in August. We usually prefer to cruise the Caribbean during the fall and winter months, when the chances for tropical storms and tempestuous seas are low, but to our surprise the weather this time was great. Vincent enjoyed the view from our starboard balcony, especially the colorful sunsets and the sighting of Venus, as bright as ever, during the evening in the western skies. The only evidence of storms during this trip were the lightning seen from our balcony in the distant cloudy horizon, so distant that no thundering sound followed the flash of lightning. Captain Dimitrios Kafetzis must have kept us away from the storms. We had the pleasure of seeing again this friendly captain who remembered us from the previous cruise and invited us for dinner at the Captain's table. Thank you, Captain!
We are getting ready for another cruise on Emerald Princess, Aug. 15th, only a week away, then on Liberty of the Seas, Sept. 6th, on Norwegian Epic, Oct. 2nd and on Crown Princess, Nov. 6th. We have not booked one for December yet. Happy Cruising!
Why do we cruise? In my experience, we decide where to go and if we have a Cruise Company favorite we try to book with them. Often times we may jump around the industry to find and try a new Company's experience. After that, and aside from the ports, we base our on-board experience upon 3 major items. Our cabin and staff, the entertainment and amenities, and the food. Let's face it, the rule of thirds applies, but I think we weigh heavily on the food. My Wife and I are Foodies. We own and operate a very high-end gourmet food establishment for healthy gourmet and cater some of the most decadent parties involving 5 Star Food. We are predisposed to being hard on chefs, recipes, presentation, and quality. I will never bash a chef for an errant mistake. Kitchen staff are human and we all make mistakes, but there is never an excuse for anything beyond one bad meal. Before I do the ‘food' portion of my review, I'd like to start with the Ship, Cabin and Staff.
The Celebrity Summit is a nice old ship. I am nota fan of the Oasis or Liberty "city" experience. Having been on the Liberty last New Year's and hating the size and crowds, we opted for a nice romantic getaway to New England and Canada. For us, this time was to be mostly about relaxing and recharging. This aspect of our Cruise experience was a homerun! Our Cabin was a Royal Suite. Plush wood, 2 rooms, and a huge bathroom plus the veranda were delicious! While the furniture was old and the couches could have been updated; the bed being a bit too hard for my taste and pillows that never alleviated a sore neck, I was more than willing to overlook this. Our Butler Rikki, was an extraordinary individual who was always eager to please and seemed to anticipate all of our needs and desires, and this is why he got a great tip on our last day. The ship and noticeable from our veranda has quite a bit of rust. Looking up from our balcony and the underside of railings and rigging revealed a ship in need of a major re-paint and refurb.
The wood decking needed sanding and a lot of TLC. The veranda hot-tub was disgusting and uninviting so we declined to use this nice private amenity that could have provided a romantic bonus. The staff tend to clean only what they can see, and many have blinders on. There is a boatload of dust everywhere. In the Waterfall dining area there are several square Plexiglas displays that have paper decoupage' inside them. On the top was a layer of thick dust, and this is in an area where people are eating 4 feet away. I pointed this out the staff and they basically brushed it off almost as business as usual. Again to me, disgusting. So in a nutshell, many areas, the pool, bars, exterior and interior are in need of rehab.
The entertainment is not Broadway, but more like a professional summer-stock theater. Not bad! A couple of decent comedians rounded out the mix. The onboard bands we just ok. They were perfect for the older crowd, but not my cup of tea; and I really wasn't expecting more than what was delivered so I was ok with all of it. I just went with the flow. In all, the onboard experience was perfectly fine. If you wanted to relax, this was ideal. The AquaSpa was terrific as an experience and it attracted the older guests as expected. There are no kids allowed in this pool area so if any parents wanted to retreat for some down-time this was the place to go. The Casino the (Apple) iLounge, and club areas were all great and seemed to be well kept.
The food quality in Main Dining Room (MDR) was always poor and in most every case horrible. We dined with two other couples and we were in constant agreement along with other passengers that the food needed a complete overhaul. One of our tablemates is a vegetarian and her food offerings were disgusting. In fact until the third day of the cruise, none of us had any idea that there was indeed a Vegetarian Menu. A rib-eye streak served to us was ¼ inch thick, tough, and overdone. Food was overcooked, and cold. Dishes were inedible and poorly presented, but the promises for improvement never came. Omelets in the Waterfall were loaded with oil and grease. Poached eggs were hardboiled, and scrambled eggs were a mix of real and powdered. Desserts looked great but tasted disgusting. Simply, there is no fineness to any of the food. Nachos at the outdoor grill were stale, and the burgers and hotdogs simply tasteless. The burgers sat in their own grease before serving. I just don't know where to end this assault on my gastronomic senses. Everything I have learned about food from my mother and in my profession as a gourmet food lover and provider defied logic.
Our first night in the Normandy was mostly a good experience. I had Lobster that seemed to be seasoned with 5 Spice powder. Anise and Lobster do not go together, ever! The service and our 3 other visits to the Normandy were excellent, but at the additional $35/pp fee we found this a necessity to actually enjoy any dinner meal. By about the fourth night we totally gave up on the MDR. Overall and with exception to the Normandy, food quality was poor and this represents at least a third of the cruise experience.
The food service staff are mostly from India, and struggle with every ability to provide quality. Breakfast buffet meals were never really hot, and the struggle to move through the lines and retain a completely hot meal is a challenge. Celebrity touts their food and in no way did it come up to our expectations, and never did it exceed or excel. I have learned as a professional in the Gourmet Food Industry, NEVER over-promise and under-deliver. Now comes the question you really want answered, "Will I cruise on Celebrity again?" I'm really torn about this. Sure, there will be people who say the food was fantastic, and I respectfully say you are nuts, SORRY! I liked the service staff and most everything not associated with the food but unless there is a major change and a commitment to the menu, I can't say for sure that I'd return as a Celebrity guest. As of now and because of the serious problem with the food, I do not recommend Celebrity and in particular the Summit with this Executive Chef.
My Mom, Sisters Deb and Kel and I just got home from a 7 day cruise on the Solstice. This is our second cruise together.
We stayed in inside cabins. The cabins were spacious and very clean.
The food in the dining room was not very appetizing. The waiters were polite but too busy, with the many assigned tables, to get to know. The food in the Oceanview Cafe lacked variety. It offered the same type of food every day.
The activities were slim. The crew refuses to announce what is going on around the ship.
The entertainment was okay.
If you want a relaxing, do nothing, type of cruise, this cruise is for you.
Overall I would not book another cruise with Celebrity.
I booked this cruise July 2009 and the 10 months of anticipation were not in vain. Everything about this trip lived up to my expectations.
Embarkation was a breeze. Since we spent the night at the Hotel Traiano prior to sailing, we were at the ship by 11am, and ON it by 11:30am. We went straight to our room (1602) and it was ready. Regretfully, we checked all of our bags so unpacking would wait, but we had all our bags by 2pm. We began our exploration of the beautiful ship and marveled at all the luxurious touches throughout.
It seems no detail was left out. The ship never seemed crowded and I have no idea if it was sold out. There was no way to tell. I never stood in line, never waited for anything. All my needs were met with immediacy.
We dined in Blu nightly, but when the menu in the main dining room was more appealing, Blu accommodated me by bringing me my choice of entree from Silhouette. When we wanted to try the main dining room, we were given a table and made to feel completely welcome.
The entertainmentwas first class. I have never seen singers and dancers that were so versatile and worked as hard as these people did (but, they didn't show it). The glass blowing show was so interesting and well done. I would have liked to own a custom piece made right there, but they only sell 3 pieces per cruise.
All of the business of "getting on and getting off" the ship was handled smoothly. No going to a room and waiting, we walked off when we were ready each time. Even the tendering process was smooth.
10 days just wasn't enough and I look forward to being back on the Equinox as soon as I can.
CELEBRITY SOLTICE EQUALS CLASS, SERVICE, EXCELLENCE AND A WHOOPS OR TWO
April 25, 2010 to May 2, 2010
Aqua Class 1524-Handicapped AccessPROLOGUE
Mid February while looking for a vacation between our New England winter and our Celebrity cruise of the Equinox in October 2010 and to gather enough information and prices to take to a travel show here in Boston as informed traveler I searched the web looking for "something" to a warmer climate. Celebrity Soltice for 4/25 was having an incredible sale for their first Western Caribbean and in the Concierge level that we needed to be upgraded from Select to Elite for our upcoming October cruise. Rather than wait for the travel show (big mistake), I called Celebrity directly and not only was I able to upgrade to Aqua class for $29.00 more (yes, you read that right) I was able to book a mid-ship and handicapped cabin to boot. Parrot Pop when I told him said to "book it" and I did. If I had waited for the travel show, I would have the same price I found out later plus an OBC. Go figure!!
We were picked up bythe van from the Comfort Inn in Hollywood,, Florida where we found a motel full of cruisers, all various cruise lines and two other couples for the Soltice.ARRIVAL AT THE PORT
From the second we set foot at approx 11:30 a.m. at Terminal 18, a wheelchair was made available for Parrot Pop and the porter stayed with us throughout the signing in taking us upstairs where a steward took over. We were offered punch or water before we had our pictures taken and a given big welcome. The steward brought us to the Oceanview Cafe to await our cabin being readied and to have lunch with the welcoming champagne and mimosa in hand.
A thoughtful touch was the abbreviated Welcome "Celebrity Today" as you boarded the ship (a full issue was in the cabin).
Upon embarking the Soltice I was taken delighted by the magnificent modern use of the wood, glass and art throughout the ship, especially the glass. It would take guests more than a week to check out all the artwork. A catalog in our cabin showed the location of all of the artwork. We even found a famous photograph by Bert Stern of Marilyn Monroe hidden away in the casino. My favorite was an area by Nancy Friedman called Night Soltice that you walked through.LIFE BOAT DRILL
The "mandatory lifeboat drill" was a first for us on Celebrity. We proceeded to our Assembly Area in the Soltice Theatre without our jackets as instructed.
DINING AREAS –we experiencedAQUASPA CAFÉ
In the "adults only solarium" we discovered the AquaSpa Café for lunch and breakfast. It helped me several days to get over the guilty feeling of overeating in the Oceanview Café. I loved the idea of the containers of flavored waters, healthy desserts and for those with dietary problems gluten free bread, a cook willing to prepare fresh chicken breasts and fresh salmon. Overheard one of the guests with a special dietary request which the cook would solve. The only problem was there weren't enough tables in the area.BLU
As Aqua class we spent several evenings in the beautifully designed restaurant with a blue and white theme and roses in mind. Special attention is paid to presentation of the food with the most gorgeous glass dishes for appetizers and desserts. The food was a mixture of healthy options and regular food I thought.GRAND EPERNAY RESTAURANT
We decided to try the restaurant for breakfast one morning and I ordered Belgium waffles and they arrived with little containers of whipped cream, blueberry and cherry sauces were on the side of the plate, presentation, presentation.
For a few evening we went to the restaurant for supper and I must tell you that the choices on the menu have been cut down from previous Celebrity cruises and quite limited. One evening after looking at the menu and nothing was appealing we raced across the ship to Blu must to the consternation of the Maitre D wondering why.
There is no doubt in my mind that they are very short of staff and service whether it was breakfast or supper and service was very slow. Tables are set very close together. We found that the food although presented beautifully lacked taste. Yes, I said "taste"! Somebody in the kitchen doesn't seem to know how to make the food "sparkle" or maybe there are too many people to cook for. Presentation does not make up for "the "wow" factor that used to accompany arrival in any the MDR of Celebrity.
The Grand Epernay Restaurant is on one end of the ship and the specialty restaurants on the other end. The room is spectacular no doubt. We were assigned Table #100 and at each supper we dined there the table next to the window remained empty, we sat in the middle next to the serving station and weren't allowed to change our table.OCEANVIEW CAFE
Most cruise ships have done away with trays in hopes that it cuts down waste and the Soltice is no exception. There is a modern attractive set of dishes and if you use the largest plate (they are square), it can work as a tray, but don't tell them. At first view the various stations are overwhelming and one Maitre D offered to give me a tour. Except for hamburgers and hot dogs I can't imagine your not finding something for your every desire...a sandwich station, salad station, fruits, pizza, carving stations, stir fry, grilling station as well as all sorts of ethic food. Even two separate stations with ice cream, sorbets, desserts and at one soft serve ice cream, they were very popular. With all these stations it didn't take much to loose your direction back to your table.
The same area was popular for breakfast with the design your own omelets, waffles, yogurts, hot cereals, pancakes, french toast, carving stations, danish, croissants, breads, and eggs poached, boiled, scambled, cereal stations with a zillion toppings and dried fruit. For the European guests there was a station with many of their favorites. What we enjoyed were the waiters walking around with carts pitchers of coffee which we have not found on other cruise lines.
The café tables were always cleaned, although busy and dirty dishes taken away immediately. The staff was very friendly and helpful.MURANO
What a beautiful and romantic atmosphere and our very favorite meal on the ship. From the most fabulous bread basket, to the mushroom soup with dollop of cappuccino ice cream, to the rack of lamb and the little sorbets to cleanse your palette in-between courses. I can't stop raving about our experience. Special attention was even paid to the presentation of the veggies. I'd love to have a course in how they do it or at least be a fly on the wall as they do. It was an evening to remember and well worth the extra charge.TUSCAN GRILLE
Here was the most disappointing and overated meal in the specialty restaurants. Ordered my favorite Cioppiono and it tasted like a weak tomato flavored broth. The few chunks of seafood were presented around a bowl and the waiter arrived with a kettle of broth. It was extremely tasteless and a major disappointment not the rich broth we have had other times and should have been. After two tries at the Black Angus steak the Maitre D showed me with a tiny flashlight that the meat was indeed pink, but because of the lighting didn't show, it was soft as butter. My husband ordered a veal chop and I'm not sure if it's supposed to be fatty but returned it and ordered the steak.
DINING COMMENTS—When I talk about presentation one of the items that I noticed was that the butter in each dining room was presented. i.e- the butter pat in Blu was in the shape of a rose, in Murano in the shape of a triangle.. The décor in each dining room was lovely and glass played an important part of the décor of the rooms.
Something new has been added to your dining experience. The Chef, whether in the Grand Epernay or anywhere else introduced around to each table. Better he should be tasting the food and overseeing the chefs.
Special attention seems to be the order of the day in which every single dish, whether appetizer or dessert is to be presented and it shows. It almost appears that for each dining room especially designed dishes are utilized whether for a sorbet or relish. Sadly, I would rather have them pay attention to the "taste" factor and the lack of seasoning.
Where the main dishes lacked "taste", the bread basket has a wonderful assortment of breads, all I assumed baked in the same area. Sorry, if I keep repeating "taste" but we were underwhelmed by the food in the main areas, especially the MDR.OUTDOOR POOL AREA
Lots of padded chaises, areas in the shade and the usual early morning chair hogs. One a.m. a coveted covered double chair near a Jacuzzi was adorned for more than three hours with snorkeling equipment the entire time we were there. A "gentleman" came over and checked it out and then re-arranged the two regular lounge chairs across from that with a sneaker and towel on each and then had the audacity to go back to the pool bar to sit and smoke a cigar (he was not in bathing attire. As a matter of fact many of the hammock or covered chairs/slings remained unused for several hours. Since I'm an early a.m. sunning person I had no problem finding a lounge.
Away from the pool and Jacuzzis was an area of lounges for sitting "away" from the area and reading, napping or playing cards. Noticed children playing in an area where the waters coming up reminded me of "dancing waters".
Pool Butlers--give me a break! just call them "towel boys". They did nothing, zilch. Never saw them cleaning off the wet and used towels from the chaises at all, not even once during the entire morning.
One of the nicer touches I remember from I think the Galaxy is that at 2:00 p.m. one day around the pool waiters came around with little cups of sorbet.INDOOR POOL/SOLARIUM
A lovely spot to unstress, no childen under 16 allowed and each lounge in the a.m. had a rolled towel on it. Chaises were chaise to chaise without space inbetween. Again, covered lounges "toweled" from early a.m.
AQUA CLASS CABIN 1524--ACCESSIBLE How we managed to get one of these cabins was pure dumb luck and and I understand now why they are grabbed even by the non-handicapped. The cabin was huge as was the balcony. Pull strings by the bed and in the bathroom.. The bathroom is accessible by wheel chair and the shower area has a fold down seat with two shower heads. The bathroom and front door (after inserting your key into a lower opening) to the cabin c ould b e opened by hitting a large white button. Don't want to say the bathroom was large, but we could of had a party or put two beds in there. The balcony also accessible was large with two lounge chairs and a tall round wooden table with more than enough extra space.. Parrot Pop with his rollator thoroughly enjoyed the seat in the shower and says he could easily get used to cabins such as these. Unfortunately, they are booked it seems as soon as an itinerary is announced.
We do not travel lightly and I can understand why people complain of lack of drawer space. Because we were Aqua Class we found a white net bag for the spa with two sets of slippers and various creams, two umbrellas in the closet and the biggest surprise instead of cold water we had herbal tea, wish they had left non-sugar sweeteners.
The bathroom design definetely was a plus (thank you ladies), much storage area on either side of the mirror closed off by glass doors. Below a large drawer and several other smaller ones.. On the vanity all sorts of spa products from shampoos, conditioners, body wash, nail file and shower cap and they were replenished freely during the cruise. The towels were the softest and most plush we have ever encountered. The closet had enough space to hang clothes and for the handicapped a way to pull down the closet rod. Women will love the little folded up makeup mirror in the desk drawer.
Our Stateroom Attendant, Wilfred, was always available and kept our cabin straightened which was not an easy job. Interesting note. I wonder if the cabins are vacuumed every day.PORTS-
Grand Caymen-same old, same old
It was hot and brutally humid and since I did not want to shop or go to the beach we opted for the Trolley Ride that Celebrity offered for $19.00-It was an open trolley tour of Grand Caymens and the homes and well worth the $19.00 each.. There were five cruise ships in port that day so you can just imagine the chaos in the terminal or to a getting to a tour.
COZUMEL-just isn't the same old sleepy spot from years ago.
Spent a week here many years ago and only wanted to go to one shop and discovered Cinco Soles now had a small shop in the terminal. Shopped around for a while until it rained and went back to the ship.COSTA MAYA
As many of the guests did we stayed on the ship for the day.ROTAN
Now, this was a place we had never been and we decided to do a Victor Rotan tour of the island and at the end visit his home with monkeys and parrots.
To others Rotan is "nothing", but it is now with cruise ships starting to berth there on the verge of a huge tourist explosion. It is lush, clean and tourism is their only industry. Hidden away are a few resorts and the beaches we noticed were just gorgeous and gleaming. Along the roadside we stopped and bought two handbags made with wood from Honduras from some pleasant women. They had many wooden products with some lovely wooden salad bowls for sale.
In a brochure on line it was suggested that you wanted to bring school supplies it would be greatly appreciated. It's a long story, but Old Navy in Kittery, Maine, gave me several dozen childrens books about cats and dogs, which I distributed to many children and then gave a mother walking her children to school the rest to be taken to the school and shared.
At the end of many of the Victor Rotan tours you were offered a chance to visit him at his home and his collection of monkeys, parrots and deer for an additional $5.00. Now you just know for Parrot Mom this was going to be a highlight and it was. Not only that I am very aware of "roadside zoos" and am very critical the way the animals are kept (btw I made a $$ donation in Cozumel to protect the dolphins who are cruely used for entertainment for tourists).
This zoo is part of his home. There are little children playing on the porch. Guides take y ou through and introduce you to the monkeys and the birds and the facility is clean, the monkeys and parrots I saw were housed humanely and the guides seem to genuinely love these animals. I just wish they had other items for enrichment.
I fell in love with the monkeys and since I have almost no fear and a have a healthy respect I absolutely loved hanging out with them in their cages and talking to the parrots that I knew would be friendly. The poor young man acting as our guide didn't know exactly what to make of Parrot Mom who talked and handled the birds and monkeys and had brought from the ship grapes.
There is a little gift shop and they had some unique beaded items that I bought to give as gifts, very affordable.
The Victor Rotan tour covered the entire island and the only negative note and this I have discussed personally with him. I asked the driver to take us to a local restaurant for lunch. He took us to a restaurant called Half Moon Resort overlooking a gorgeous bay and here I was taken aback when the menu was presented to us in English at what I assume are "tourist prices", especially after our guide told us that shrimp and fish were plentiful, but the coconut shrimp and fried conch balls were delicious. Oh yes. another guide showed up with a couple on a Victor Rotan tour.SPA
Although I am not a "spa" person I booked two procedures one afternoon and was quite disappointed that they did not have the coloring for the second procedure which seemed odd. The spa appeared to be very active.ENTERTAINMENT
From Michaels Club where Lloyd Baskin played wonderful listenng music to the Will Foraker Trio, to Martin Andales a guitarist there was always a reason to want to sit and listen.
This was the week NOT to be on the Celebrity Soltice..E.D. John Grantham announced that there was a serious problem in the theatre and a crew was being flown in to Grand Caymens to remedy the problem. When that problem was solved there was another minor problem and no show that night either. This probably went on for at least three to four nights.
Entertainment by the Soltice singers was provided in the Atrium where most people were hanging over the balconies to hear and they are a talented group with beautiful voices.
One night finally the show went on and I vividly remember a ventriloquist, Ken Grove, and in order to fill the bill the E.D. added Adam..a mime, a very bad mime. The second night the ventriloquist came back with his back up show, awful, awful, people were walking out of the theatre.
At that point a phone call was made to the E.D. expressing our disappointment the quality of the shows and that we felt rather than put on a second rate performance the main theatre show should have been cancelled..in the end he agreed.
Once the theatre was up and running an impressionist from Las Vegas, Greg London, performed, same old, same old, until he sang in his own voice which was delightful.
The Soltice dance troupe did Pulse, some great dancing and we enjoyed the Cirque de Soleil- passing over head gracefully.. now that was a fun show.
All in all the entertainment, except for the little venues was a major disappointment and not live up to the Celebrity standards we have experienced on their other ships. If this is the type of entertainment offered on their seven day cruises compared to their trans-atlantic they must be trying to appeal to a different type cruiser and that is an insult to Celebrity cruisers.
Luckily for Parrot Pop I saw little that I wanted to buy. In the "logo" shop we did make the acquaintance of Kate and Michelle, two delightful young women who helped us out when buying a glass wind chime.
THE FAMOUS GRASS LAWN
When I first heard about grass lawns on the top deck of the Soltice Class ships I was dubious. WHY!! Well, I am here to say it is a very active area with lawn games of croquet, bocci, people lying and sunning on the grass and for some a place to chill. The "lawn" furniture is welcoming and very attractive.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE SHIP-Corning Hot Glass Workshop
As a glass afficianado from way, way back.. I was anxious to attend the Corning Glass Show and watch it I did. I missed only one performance. There was always standing room only to watch these talented artists, Eric Meek, who works for Corning and both of the independent and talented artists (whose names I have forgotten, sadly). After watching them for just about every performance I noticed their personalities and artistries/talent coming out in their individual work. Each took turns explaining the art of glass blowing and what the other blower was doing. In one week more people I'm sure were able to watch and understand the intricisies, artistries and dangers (one piece broke while we were there) of glass blowing. Pieces were not for sale and towards the end of the week an occasional piece was raffled off. Considering two to three pieces were made during a session it really would have been nicer that more than a few raffles be held and most of the pieces given away.
WHAT MADE THE CELEBRITY SOLTICE STAND OUT AMONG ALL OUR 24 PLUS CRUISES WE HAVE TAKEN, INCLUDING OUR 4 TRANSATLANTICS WITH CELEBRITY, PLUS THIS WESTERN CARIBBEAN CRUISE
In no other cruise did the word "service" or "excellence" stand out more than this cruise.. There was no such word in the vocabulary of this staff that includes "no" or "not possible" Never, never, never-.
Two days before disembarking we discovered our paper plane tickets which we purchased independently were missing, panic set in.. A call to the Concierge where we explained the situation, gave her certain information and within 24 hours a copy of our e-mail ticket and confirmation were at our cabin.
The night before departure as Parrot Pop was trying to pass a service cart with his rollator at approx. 11:00 p.m. at night a bolt sheared off. A call was made to our Room Steward and within a few minutes an engineer came up with a tool box and fixed the rollator.. Now that is what I call service above and beyond.
One evening I asked for whipped cream for my dessert and the waiter said (Blu Dining Room) he wasn't sure it was available but he would check downstairs.. Moments later he came up with a large bowl that was shared at the table, but it just wasn't dumped in, it was piped in the bowl-nice touch.
Celebrity continues with the a daily newspaper in several languages that the other lines have dropped quietly.
Very few advertising inserts for sales and instead seem to use private messages on your phone to remind you of the special events your invited to. Yes, there still is a chocolate on the pillow at night something other lines have stopped. Best of all few loud public announcements during the day.
Whatever faults we found on the ship with the food or entertainment it was more than made up by the attitude of the Soltice staff throughout the ship. My only regret is that this was a seven day cruise and in retrospect should have done a back to back. Next time. Oh yes, our Celebrity Equinox Holyland cruise in October..and I so look forward to it now.
Celebrity continues to stand for Excellence and Class-