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. Seniors.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Seniors. Foodies. 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.
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-
I am taking this opportunity to comment, critique, evaluate my latest Cruise on Celebrity Summit, Sail Date 4/17/2010, Reservation 4697174.
We have taken 5 cruises in the last 5 years with the majority of them on Holland America Lines, the benchmark for all our cruises. We choose Celebrity Cruises because we believe them to be FIRST Class although we had options for other cruise lines with similar itinerary, we were disappointed.
The facilities aboard the Summit were a little lacking in that railings were sanded but not varnished, public bathroom floors were like ice skating rinks, lounge chair covers on the Promenade deck were stained, but most disappointing were our stateroom beds. They were too soft and lumpy resulting in back pains for my wife and me every night after our second night. I did bring this up to the Guest Relations desk to no avail.
The BEST NEWS is that the shipboard personnel were extremely friendly and helpful. In particular the Cosmopolitan dining room servers (Marius and Pauline) were outstanding and our sommelier Fernando provided us exceptional service and choices of wine. The concierge also provided exceptional service in addressing my needs.
Our worst experiencewas at the SS Normandie Restaurant. We had made reservations for the night of Friday April 23 and expected exceptional service and food. We were disappointed on both counts. The service was lacking starting with waiting to be greeted and shown our table to our server’s lack of attention throughout the meal. The food was poorly prepared. I had the filet and lobster, the steak was tough and the lobster was burnt. Although I left the food on my plate, no one until the servers were going to remove our plates, asked if there was anything wrong with the meal or offered to replace the food. I certainly believe this was a waste of money and a devastating experience.
Our second worst experience was at the conclusion of the cruise. After paying extra for transfers from the Pier to EWR airport, marching in the rain to our supposedly buses we found there was no room on the buses, and we had to wait for a returning bus to take us to the airport. After several updates of 15 minutes the bus will be here, 45 minutes later we took a taxi. This was poor planning and execution.
All in all the condition of the ship, the really terrible experience in the Normandy Restaurant and the disembarkation experience has left a BAD TASTE in our mouths for future Celebrity Cruises.
I am sending a copy of this review / evaluation to our travel consultant at AAA so she can advise others of our experience.
EXTEMELY DISAPPOINTED. We had cabin 6233 and the creaking in the walls was so loud we couldn't sleep at night. Crew was sent up 3 times to repair and they finally told us it has been an ongoing problem in that room for over a year. Asked to move to another room, told it was booked, on the fifth day at 11:30 pm, yes, PM we were offered a different room. Offered a $200 certificate with restrictions towards a future cruise. Turned it down as I will NEVER CRUISE CELEBRITY or Royal Caribbean again.
The food was not good, requested an 8 top, seated at a 2 top and they never moved us, ate at the $30 a night restaurant, entrees were not good however, the appetzers were, bartender broke a glass which flew in my eye. I never complained as my eye was fine later that day. Husband is in extreme pain from a back massage from the spa, has to have an MRI tomorrow to see what is going on. This was a first for him as he gets at least 2 massages on each cruise. Overall extemelydisappointing!
- WHAT'S HOT - Solstice Public Areas Solstice Staterooms Exceptional service (Uger, Caetano, Paulo, Rosa, Gusti, Igor, Mariana) Solstice art collection Hot Glass Show The Martini Bar Murano Tuscan Grille Galleria Tastings aka The Molecular Bar Ports - San Juan, St Maarten, Tortola, Labadee
- WHAT'S NOT SO HOT- Entertainment: Seriously lacking Activities: Snooze-A-Palooza
What's HOT on Solstice:
Public Areas - This is a beautiful ship. The Lawn Club is a great place to relax and provides the perfect spot to enjoy a cool drink or a game of Bocce ball. The Barefoot Sail Away party in Tortola is a must! Sky is a beautiful bar that looks like many trendy bars one would find in SoBe.
Staterooms - Caetano and Paulo were outstanding attendants. The room was well appointed and we enjoyed the in-room entertainment system.
Service - service on the Solstice is very good. Ugar, our MDR waiter was fantastic! He appeared to be very rushed at times but he was attentive and never missed a beat the entire week.
Solstice art collection - The art on this ship is absolutely incredible. Seek out the original Matisse and Picasso. The art on display alonewould be worth taking this cruise for.
Hot Glass Show - This was pretty amazing and no two shows were alike. I recommend you see this at night, the colors are more vibrant.
The Martini Bar - Our favorite watering hole on the Solstice. Rosa, Gusti, and Igor are the heart and soul of the coolest bar (literally) on the ship. Thanks again guys, you're the best in the business!
Murano and Tuscan Grille - The food on Solstice will not disappoint. It is one of the main reasons we selected this ship. The specialty restaurants are well worth the upcharge and should not to be missed if you cruise on the Solstice.
Galleria Tastings - the Molecular Bar has the most healthy and unusual drink menu you will find, ANYWHERE! We discovered this bar late in the cruise and quite honestly wished we would have spent more time here. The drinks are deliciously unreal. Have Mariana whip up a Dragon Fly or South Of The Rio. The most unforgettable drinks you'll ever have!
Ports - San Juan is fun, riding the trolleys in old San Juan is highly recommended. St Maarten has great beaches and good duty free shopping. Although Tortola is only a 1/2 day, the ride out of the BVI is spectacular up on the Lawn Club. If Tortola were a full day you would miss all of the views and scenery departing BVI. Labadee is beautiful and the beaches are very nice.
Entertainment - We found the Solstice entertainment to be inconsistent. The wife and I are in our mid 40's and we enjoy dancing and live music, especially (preferably) TOP 50 current hits. The Solstice simply doesn't deliver at all in this area. Overall most performances, live music, and dancing (even in Quasar) will appeal to the older crowd. Music impressionist Greg London, think Vegas and Danny Gans, was very funny. Cirque de Sole inspired 'Solstice: The Show' was also very good but that is where it ended for us. If you're in the 65+ demographic you will enjoy the lounge acts of Dan Hodge, Epithani: Party Band, and the Brian Elwood trio. If you like Joan Rivers and find her brand of humor funny, you'll love comedian Brad Zimmerman. Cruise Director John Grantham does a fine job at hosting the 70's, 60's, and 50's trivia and parties. Considering the average age of PAX on this cruise, they might want to consider hosting a 40's trivia night and party with sounds from the big band era. My parents and Grandparents would've enjoyed most Solstice entertainment.
Activities - the Lawn Club is very cool. I learned how to play Bocce and enjoyed it. Other than that, much like the entertainment, onboard activities were designed for the older PAX. If you're in the 65+ demographic you'll enjoy Solstice days at sea. Napkin folding, bingo, Magic with Stuart, scrap booking, perfume sampling, and endless trivia should provide hours of excitement.
** A word of caution to BINGO fans on the Solstice, beware of the $5000 BINGO JACKPOT game, this is very misleading! Save your money and spend it elsewhere. You'll hear the hype and announcement for the big jackpot. They won't tell you the rules to winning until after you've bought your BINGO card (and started the actual game), you have to have ALL of the numbers for the entire card, AND (here's the kicker)…they're only going to draw 46 numbers for the big prize. Needless to say, 46 numbers were called, nobody won. They kept playing and the winning card won about $200. Whatta rip off, they should disclose games rules upfront. They didn't and there was a feeling by many that we had been flim-flammed because this wasn't disclosed until after cards were purchased. **
What's NOT HOT on the Solstice:
- Entertainment - If you're in the 30 - 60 yr demographic, you may struggle with much of what the Solstice offers. As mentioned earlier, impressionist Greg London and the Solstice circus show are very good...but that's it.
Talent How do you describe someone as 'unfunny' especially when they're a comedian? I will try my best here without being too hard on the guy. Comedian Brad Zimmerman is not funny. How's that? He opens for Joan Rivers. Joan Rivers is almost 80 years old.
Music Unless you transport to the Solstice from another dimension in time, say 1981, you won't find any current music played live on this ship. The only rock band you'll find on the Solstice is ‘Epithani: Party Band'. The Epithani: Party Band is in dire need of an epiphany. Bluntly stated, they play the same tired songs (covers from the 60's & 70's) that you can find any band playing in any bar, anywhere, on any given night. If you like your music current, you probably will not like this band. We saw Epithini: Party Band play one set and then we left. Live entertainment on this ship is seriously anemic for the young to middle age demographic. There wasn't any entertainment onboard that I or the DW would ever seek out on land or sea. If you're scheduled to sail on this boat and own an i-Pod, bring it!
Celebrity, please get a good cover band that plays the TOP 50 current songs. Put them poolside for a few nights and in Sky Lounge a few nights. RCCL has these bands, you can too…only better!
- Activities - If Celebrity Life is about REMs and sleep patterns, they've hit a grand slam. Like the entertainment, Solstice is seriously lacking in this area as well. What happened to the Tequila tasting that was advertised in Celebrity Life on your website? It was there before the cruise, now its gone!?! You have a 55 Million dollar art collection, you should have guided tours no less than 2-3X per day. Scheduled activities, especially sea days were actually Snooze-A-Palooza Daze at Sea.
Dancing They did a nice job with Latin dancing by the pool on one night. A huge crowd participated and this activity was a hit! With such a positive turn out, why would they do this only one night on a one week cruise!?!
Poolside Was the decision to have Metro Park: A Cappella perform Doo Wop sounds by the pool suppose to create party atmosphere or put everyone to sleep? Is this Celebrity Life? At least ½ the folks around the pool and solarium were napping. The pool deck's general vibe was flatlining, they need to have more activities by the pool during the day and night.
Celebrity, you can take this cruise from Good to Great. Offer more Latin dance lessons, you should know that nobody does the Cha Cha and Waltz anymore. Host more events poolside. Have adult oriented events and games like RCCL so that your guests will have a good time. You're in the Caribbean for a week fer cripes sake, get a Caribbean band out there and make a party and have some fun.
We enjoyed most aspects of this cruise. We would've preferred current music and better activities. I did briefly express these concerns with Cruise Director John Grantham and he did say Celebrity was slowly targeting a ‘younger' crowd. I'm glad we went but I don't think we would do the Solstice again. Maybe this cruise is better in the summer. We're considering a cruise to Bermuda on Summit next year but I'm not sure after last week. I'll read the Summit cruise reviews this summer before making a final decision.
There are many travel options on the market and Celebrity will need to score better on entertainment and activities. If not, I guess we can try Celebrity again in about 25 years when we're old enough. If this is Celebrity Life, it was really designed for my grandparents. Not that there is anything wrong with that, maybe Celebrity is NOT ‘designed for me' after all.
Celebrity Equinox is one of the new Solstice class ships launched recently.
We cruised to the Western Caribbean on an eleven night voyage. The ship is ultra modern glitzy. Glass elevators, glass wine tower in the Silhouette dining venue, space age decor in the Quasar lounge, a frozen ice covered bar top in the Martini bar. We found the overall effect rather cold. Pardon the pun.
Food varied from very good to mediocre, service the same. The Oceanview Cafe had an exceptional arrangement. There were various islands of food offerings ie: salads, stir fry, hot dishes, pizza, make your own sandwich, deserts and ice cream. No trays and no following a line. A most pleasant and efficient venue.
The speciality restaurants, Murano, Tuscan Grill etc. were exceptional. Both food and service. Of course there is a surcharge for these areas, $35 and $30 per person.
At too many ports on this itinerary the ship docked at areas primarily for cargo vessels. There was nothing on shore for those not on a tour. Roatan the exception.
Would you believe a real grass lawn area on the ship? Yep it exists for those who enjoy lawnbowling.
Shows that featured the whole ships cast were superlative, the solo entertainers so-so.
The ship offers, for your convenience (?) a daily gratuity added to your on board account of $10 to $15 per person. This may be deleted by contacting the Guest Relations desk.
Sky Suite category offered a larger cabin and veranda, butler service and, depending on the length of the cruise complimentary reservations at the specialty venues.
If glitz is your cup of tea then Equinox is a ship for you. Those who prefer a cozier venue should look elsewhere.
Last spring we booked a transatlantic cruise on the Solstice, but due to health problems we did not make it. The Solstice is now 14 months old, her naming ceremony was Nov. 14, 2008; her Godmother is Prof. Sharon L. Smith a renown marine and atmospheric scientist from the University of Miami: very a propos! The Solstice's name conjures up thoughts of our sun star and heavenly worlds beyond Earth. Her Godmother grounds those ideas and brings to our life on Earth more meaning.
The softness of the many delicate draperies on board evokes feelings of clouds. The highly polished aluminum columns in the Grand Epernay Dining Rooms and the Champagne bubble like lights on the ceiling, combined with the beauty of the décor presents an ethereal aura. Even the night club on Deck 4 is named Quasar and calls up space images. Suffice it to say, the Solstice is unique --- and so is her Captain Dimitrios Kafetzis. He is a fine Master with a welcoming sense of humor: ”He is Greek!” with all the connotations and beautiful manners of a Greek ship's host.
EMBARKATION On a Sunday morning I-95 traffic islight and from Boca Raton to Ft. Lauderdale takes only 25 minutes. We had curbside assistance with our baggage, wheelchair, and scooter. A crew member helped us through check-in and we were in our stateroom in twenty minutes. Excellent! Guests were greeted with Mimosa drinks, very refreshing.
SHIP OVERVIEW The Solstice weighs 122,000 gross tons; she is 1,033 feet long and has a beam of 121 feet. Her draft is 27 feet and she has a cruising speed of 24 knots. She carries 2,850 guests and has 16 passenger decks. What follows is a deck by deck description of her layout.
Deck 1 is for crew only.
Deck 2 holds the Medical Facility (which we did not visit)!
Deck 3 aft has the Grand Epernay Restaurant, a glorious combination of spaciousness and modern design with crystal and chrome fitting in beautifully, with the three deck tall white draperies. There is an old saying that drinking Champagne in Epernay (the heart of French Champagne country) is like listening to Mozart in Salzburg...” (Eperzine Web magazine). So also are diners in this stunning dining room treated to bubbles in the ceiling lighting. On Deck 3 are the Guest Relations Desk, the Shore Excursions Desk and the Passport Bar.
Deck 4 has Celebrity Central entertainment locale, Cellars Masters (wine, whiskey, or bourbon tastings, etc.). Then, there is the Fortunes Casino (the Slots are loose, and the give out is published daily.) Next is the Quasar Nightclub with its polished metal dance floor, suspended capsule chairs and twinkling lights, there is lots of atmosphere. Midship are the shops on board and forward the Solstice Theatre with excellent acoustics, but there are a few poles obstructing the view of the stage, so choose seats carefully. The red velvet stage curtain is flanked by two 3 deck tall draperies composed of tucked white and off white fabrics making a collage of billows. Very unique.
Deck 5 has the “Bistro on Five” which specializes in crepes, both sweet and savory. This is a great place for brunch or late night dessert ($5) the “Cafe` al Bacio” serves exquisite coffee and desserts. There is also a Gelato ice cream shop, and the Captain's Club for repeat cruisers. Since Celebrity is part of RCI and we are Diamond Plus members in the Crown & Anchor Society, we have been given elite status with great perks. There are the boutique shops and Michael's Club where cocktail parties and high teas are held. Aft on Deck 5 are the specialty restaurants: Murano (excellent French cuisine) Silk Harvest (Asian) and the Tuscan Grille (Italian), cover charges apply.
Deck 6 through 11 are all staterooms in addition to the Online@Celebrity (the internet room) on Deck 6, the Library on Deck 10 (open stacks and reading areas, no need to sign in or out --- the honor policy is in operation) and the Relaxation Lounge on Deck 11.
Deck 12 has the Health & Fitness center, the Aqua Spa, the Beauty Salon, the Solarium, Swimming Pools and Whirlpools. Vincent uses the sauna and the whirlpool daily and he had wonderful advice and help from Natasha.
Deck 14 has the jogging track, the Mast Bar & Grill (hot dogs, hamburgers and fries), the Ocean Bar & Cafe` and the Sky Observation Lounge. There are sky lectures with an on board astronomer at night.
Deck 15 has basket ball courts, a hot blown glass show (Corning) and the Lawn Club with extensive grass lawn where Bocce Tournaments between passengers and crew are played.
Deck 16 is the Sun Deck.
Throughout the ship is a huge eclectic art collection, some of it commissioned for the Solstice and others works are from both famous cubists like Picasso and Matisse or from photographers like Martin Liebscher where repeated photographs of himself in different poses make up a crowd. Very Interesting. The “Full Moon Briars” by Susan Derges is certainly in keeping with the Solstice theme. Different staircases have been given themes like “Stair of Light” and “Stair of Water.”
CABIN Stateroom #6141 is a wheelchair accessible cabin with a large automatic door. When entering on the left there is a full length mirror and a double armoire in maple wood; a vanity/desk with lighted mirror, seven drawers, a private safe, and refrigerator. There is a marble counter top and one chair.
When entering, on the right is a huge tiled bathroom with a tilt mirror flanked by two large medicine cabinets with glass doors. There are safety rails all around and a huge shower with a fold away seat. There is a king size bed with very nice linens of gold white and maroon. The two reading lamps are close enough to turn on and off from the bed. The final pieces of furniture are a love seat and a small coffee table.
The balcony is large and deep: it contains two recliners and a teak table and chair. The carpet is in Burberry colors: gold, beige and maroon and the draperies are beige with bands of rose patterns. The stateroom attendant, Mahmodi is excellent. The cabin is large and comfortable.
SERVICE & FOOD Hotel Director Damien O'Connor displays the perfect temperament to control the Solstice. He is kind, affable and likes to hear just how the passengers are getting along. He doesn't just ask questions for conversation's sake, rather he is truly interested in the passengers' satisfaction. He has a well trained crew, who make the passengers comfortable and provide for their every need. We always say that the mood on board filters down from above--- with such friendly leaders as Captain Dimitrios, H.D. Damien and Restaurant Manager FabioScaglione, it's only natural that the crew are also friendly and sincere.
Food & Beverage Manager Robert Flack has the daunting task of overseeing 600 crew members who produce and serve more than 12,000 meals daily, yet everything goes off beautifully. Exec. Chef Mickael Tochetto combines the best of culinary traditions: born of Italian parents, raised in France! The food on board is excellent, based on menus by world renown Chef Jacques Van Staden and implemented perfectly by Chef Mickael. The menu is one of the most diverse at sea and most ample. No one could possibly go away unsatisfied.
We enjoyed every meal on board, especially the one at Captain Dimitrios' table on formal night. The Escargot was perfect, Vincent's Caesar salad and filet Mignon were just the way he liked them. The Captain was jovial and complimentary; at the end of the meal he gave each lady at the table a beautiful long stem American Beauty rose. Our waiter at table #110 in Epernay was Jose` Altamirano, both he and his assistant Yvonne Williams were very pleasant and served at a nice pace. Celebrity is probably the only line still providing a finely trained Sommelier: Ferhat Ebret was cordial and Vincent was appreciative of his service and knowledge. Bravo.
Some samples from the appetizer menu are as follows: Tropical Fruit Medley with Lychee nuts; San Francisco Crab Louis; Goat cheese tart served with red roasted peppers and Balsamic syrup. Soups included Wild Mushroom Cappuccino with Porcini mushroom dust, and chilled Gazpacho. Salads were fresh and varied: Belgium Endive and arugala with red delicious apple and candied pecans. Some of their homemade dressings included Roquefort, Citrus, Pinot Noir Vinaigrette, Champagne and lite raspberry.
Entrees include pastas like Spaghetti Carbonara, fish such as Herb crusted Merluzzo (white fish) and fowl like Grandmother's Coq Au Vin and Veal Cordon Bleu. Chef Mickael's Ossobuco (excellent) Mary felt it was a triumph! The aged Prime Rib of Beef was mouth watering. Vegetarians had a large assortment of dishes including grilled Kebabs. For dessert there was always a selection of imported cheeses, fruits and traditional desserts like Crème Brulee`, NY cheesecake, Profiteroles, apple pie, fresh sorbets and homemade ice creams.
There are several Speciality Restaurants. We highly recommend Murano, and its contemporary French Cuisine: try the sweet breads and the fois gras and the wonderful Cheese Cart. We are happy to report the food on board is excellent.
ENTERTAINMENT The Solstice has three very nice shows: Adam Trent a young magician, singer Karen Grainger, and Celebrity Show time presented Solstice: the Show, which was very nice with aerial acrobatics. A very interesting offering was Astronomer Vic Stryker, who lead nightly sky watching. This ship has many things for cruisers including Casino games, Bingo, Fitness, Bocce, etc.
PORTS OF CALL Sunday: Ft. Lauderdale, FL Depart: 4:30pm Monday: At Sea Tuesday: San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive: 2:00pm Depart: 8:00pm Wednesday: Philipsburg, St. Maarten Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 7:00pm Thursday: Tortola, B.V.I. Arrive:7:00am Depart: 1:00pm Friday: Labadee, Haiti Arrive: 10:00am Depart: 6:30pm Saturday: At Sea Sunday: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Arrive: 7:00am
CONCLUSION This was another great cruise! We have not had a bad cruise in a long time, since we have learned what to expect from the various cruise lines and direct our attention to the things they do best. We are addicted to cruising, because we know how to get the best out of every cruise in regard to food, service, itinerary, ship's environment, repeater's benefits and personal attention. Some readers of our reviews have accused us of being too soft with our criticism. We disagree with them since we always include in the reviews any points which are not perfect and may need improvement. It is hard to write a negative review when we have enjoyed the overall aspect of a cruise, which up to now we have always done. We'll be cruising in search of the perfect cruise or an unpleasant one; neither of which we have yet experienced.
Our next cruise is in February on the Liberty of the Seas together with our son Marcello, his wife Paige and their eight year old son Marcellino. We have also booked a relocation cruise on the Star Princess, on March 16th, from Rio De Janeiro to Ft. Lauderdale. Happy Cruising!
The following review of our cruise is an opinion only. It may be inaccurate in parts as to fact and is only presented here as a report of our experience and perceptions of our cruise. It in no way suggests that the reader should cruise or not cruise on the Celebrity Equinox. The reader is urged to do their own investigation before deciding on choosing the Celebrity Equinox.
Their experiences may differ completely from ours.
Personal Background We are mid 60's couple retired in Florida and formerly from New York. We have cruised on 35+ cruises on Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and others.
Embarkation We arrived by car at 10:00 A.M. on Monday at Port Everglades at the new Oasis of the Seas Terminal (Oasis was not in port). A few passengers were still leaving from the previous Equinox cruise, but the terminal was spacious and easily accommodated the new arriving passengers. We breezed through the check in process and were on the ship in 30 minutes. A sign told us that staterooms were not ready until 1:30 p.m. We made our way to the Oceanview cafe and then toured the ship.We were not prevented from going up to our deck 11 aqua class stateroom to see if the room was ready, so we would periodically walk by the room. By 12:45 p.m. we found the cabin was ready and we took possession.
Stateroom (Aqua Class): Our cabin with balcony on deck 11 Penthouse deck had plenty of room, including the bathroom which was spacious. Our stateroom class was "Aqua" at the front 1/3rd of the ship. The remaining 2/3rds of the Penthouse deck had their balconies beneath the overhang of the Pool deck above - no sun there and no suntan.
Aqua class staterooms come with perks, some of which are: "Lighting, sound, and aromatic elements to bring the soothing power of the sea into your stateroom oasis" - we are still trying to find the guy who wrote that. The lighting had a dimmer switch, the aromatic element was a small bottle of perfume with a wick, and we don't know what the sound element was. "Hansgrohe showerhead" - a multi spray shower that had nozzles from your knees to your head and was enjoyable. "Unlimited access to the Aqua Spa relaxation room" - the room at the front of the ship on deck 11 directly above the Bridge was available to everyone on the ship. It was seldom used by anyone. "Frette bathrobes" - extremely fluffy and heavy bathrobes more suited for an Antarctic cruise. They were soft and comfortable but too heavy for the warm Caribbean weather. "Slippers" - small and ill fitting, we did not use them. "Bottled water" - this was a nice perk and we had all the bottled water we wanted along with a bucket of ice.
There were other perks that were either ok or we did not use, or did not find them to be remarkable here. You can find them on Celebrity's website.
"Specialty Restaurant, Blu pre assigned seating for Aqua class" - not true. Blu was a big disappointment for us. We had requested Main seating and our documents specified main seating. Blu is open seating. We patronized Blu on the first night and found the décor somewhat subdued and the menu different from the Main Dining Room (MDR). Blu had more seafood and more exotic food which is not our cup of tea. We asked to be assigned to the MDR main seating and they found us a table for 2 which was very nice. Continuing on with the review of the stateroom, we found it to be comfortable, of adequate size, and enjoyable. We did notice that the staterooms at the bottom of the ship seemed to have the same size room as ours and we realized that we could have paid less for much the same room lower down. Our television was flat screen, large, and interactive. We were able to view our account, see our photographs that were taken on formal nights (most photographs were a hefty $20 each including the welcome aboard photo), order room service, and select from many free movies. The interactive part of the television took a little getting used to and at times the controls were lethargic. We want to mention here the stateroom attendant who was a wonderful person: friendly and very professional. The hours they put in on a ship are overwhelming. We saw our attendant in the passageway at 8:00 a.m. and at night at 10:30 p.m. The amount of cabins our attendant had to care for prevented just about any interaction between us. The extremely long hours and hard work of the attendant was evident to us.
Elite Member Benefits (*After 10 earned tier credits) One category upgrade prior to sailing (when available) - since we booked Aqua class and were assigned to Blu; we think this knocked us out of the box for an upgrade. We did not get one.
A premium onboard discount booklet filled with special offers -- A disappointment. On other cruise lines including RCL, coupons were valuable and entitled us to real discounts. None of the coupons on the Celebrity Equinox Elite Class were valuable unless we purchased something else first and then the coupon would give us something off on the additional purchase. We did not use any of these coupons. We felt cheated by this marketing ploy by Celebrity.
Priority embarkation, waitlist, etc., etc. - a lot of baloney. No one knew of our status or cared. "Internet" - this was a nice perk. 3 hours of wifi internet in our cabin for the 2 of us. The internet speed was excellent and we were able to email photos taken during the day on our evening internet sessions. For those without a laptop, the interactive TV had a keyboard for internet, or we could use the internet café onboard.
The ship The ship is new and clean, but disappointingly plain. We felt that Celebrity had decorated the ship on the cheap. All the "art" in the passageways and landing were framed photographs of art or photographs of odd shapes and colors. Extremely low end and unappealing. The atrium was glass, aluminum, and stainless steel with some curtains hanging for effect. Very plain and more contemporary than the elegance we were promised.
The pool deck Bumper to bumper lounge chairs and shoulder to shoulder passengers. In port there were less people at the pool but on sea days it was jammed. Crowded or not, the closeness of the lounge chairs left absolutely no room. We did not use the pool or chairs on the entire cruise because of this.
Dining There are several specialty restaurants but we did not use any of them - Murano's charge was a hefty $30 pp. Our experience with Blu was already mentioned and Blu is only accessible to Aqua class passengers. The MDR has a main level and one balcony. We were on the balcony level. We basically were presented with a menu with a predetermined selection of food -- mixing and matching was difficult or not possible. The dining room staff are extremely overworked and they have absolutely no time to interact with passengers. On our second night in the MDR or waitress had to be replaced because she became ill from the workload. We were told she was changed to an area with fewer tables. As always the staff was efficient, friendly, and always smiling no matter how hard and long they work.
Oceanview Café - a real gem, every type of food you could want, neat, clean, spacious, and a pleasure to go to. Finding a table was somewhat difficult but slightly easier then on other ships. Lack of trays made several trips necessary but this was not bothersome.
Daytime activities Little to none. Nothing at all on the pool deck. Days at sea were long and we spent much of it in our cabin and on our balcony availing ourselves to room service.
Evening Entertainment The main production shows were excellent. The most physically fit dancers and singers of any ship we have been on. The evening entertainment on other nights was extremely disappointing. A Russian classical pianist, a violinist, a guitarist/comedian, a male singer who forgot the words, and a female classical singer who mixed street humor with highbrow singing. With the exception of the guitarist/comedian, the others could put you to sleep and indeed we saw many who were. Between little to no activities during the day and poor one person shows at night, it made for a boring cruise.
Ports of Call With the exception of the St. Maarten Golden Eagle Catamaran tour, we did not book any other tours with the ship. The prices are extremely high and no longer a value for services received. We have seen some of our old tours double in price. In most ports we were able to get a taxi/van for $20 pp and were taken on a nice 2 hour tour with excellent commentary. Our 4 hour catamaran tour was $82 pp for a total of $164 for 4 hours. To add insult to injury, we had 2 RCL ships passengers on the tour with us. The RCL passengers paid less for their tickets than we paid on Celebrity, even though both are part of the same RCL company and on the same tour. We brought this to the attention of the shore excursion desk onboard and were given a blank stare. We suspect that Celebrity is charging its passengers more food, drinks, etc., than RCL is their passengers, even though it is the same company.
De-embarkation Smooth and uneventful.
Overall We have many cruises under our belts on most of the big lines and we are used to not everything going our way. We make allowances for that. However, we would probably not book with Celebrity again, definitely would not book on the Celebrity Equinox again, and would not recommend the line to others. Activities, entertainment, ship appearance - all below par. We paid a hefty price for our aqua class stateroom we were expecting more for our money. What we got was a lot of hype and being sold overpriced goods at every turn - we felt as if we were trapped in an auto dealership full of salesmen, and there was no exit. Our advice for anyone wanting to try Celebrity is to book an inner cabin on this ship, pay much less than we did, get a comparable room to our aqua class stateroom from what we understand, and purchase little to nothing. That would be a much better value for your money. We are going to give Princess another look and we are cancelling our future inaugural cruise on the future 2010 Celebrity Eclipse.
We wish we could be more positive about this ship. The crew was all fantastic. We feel the shortcomings and disappointments we experienced were the result of Royal Caribbean's management policy on how to market the ship as upscale and elegant, while doing it on the cheap, yet charging upscale and elegant prices. We have a letter of inquiry to Royal Caribbean management asking why we were charged more for the same tour as the Royal Caribbean passengers we were with. Perhaps Royal Caribbean has overextended themselves on ordering 2 new mega ships - Oasis and Allure -- and is experiencing a cash flow problem.
My friend and I were Concierge Class guests on the Celebrity Constellation sailing out of New York on October 30th. It was my friend's first ever cruise and my first Celebrity cruise. It was a wonderful experience, very civilized. Even though some soft goods updates are overdue, the ship is very welcoming, easy to navigate and staffed by friendly professionals. We enjoyed the onboard entertainment, especially Michael's Pub.
The port of Labadee has come a long way since my first visit on a Royal Caribbean ship many years back. Many activities are available and we enjoyed parasailing.
The one day in port, one day at sea worked well for us and many others as well.
We overnighted at the Olympic Fairmont in Seattle, Washington. This 5-star hotel is old school in the fashion of hospitality and superior customer service. Not only were the suite accommodations superior, but also the service in general was amazing. From the moment we walked up the stairs into the lobby – to the turndown service – to check out, every Fairmont employee we encountered was extremely polite and focused on the comfort and pleasure of our one night stay.
The next morning we visited the original Starbucks and Pikes Market. We watched them "throw the fish" and saw the beautiful arrangements (hundreds and hundreds) of fresh flowers. We stayed in the Financial District of Seattle, so it was walk-able and very much like our San Francisco (hills and all!). After lunch at the Fairmont, our driver escorted us to the GTS Infinity for boarding around 1 PM.
Check in was efficient, smooth and relaxing. It was fun to watch fellow passengers with bouquets of flowers from Pikes. All of the passengers checking in along with us were happy and sailing right through. The process took about 10 minutes, which includes our waiting in linetime. It's interesting to observe the shore personnel. Some of them are contract employees, and some are =X= employees. Some seem unhappy while other personnel work as if they had the best job in the world.
We walked up the gangway to the ship and briefly waited while passengers slipped their Sea Pass card through the first entrance – and had their picture taken. Of course there had to be one cranky passenger waiting behind us. The line was only 20 deep at the ship's entrance and rather than follow the line, they decided to walk to the front of the line – wherein they were quickly and politely asked to, "Please step to the back of the line"…to which the passenger loudly huffed, "Well, get some signs up here to make it clear!!!" Yikes- not the energy any of us wanted to hear, but hey! We're stoked to be stepping onboard our home for the next 16-nights! Maybe they had a 16-hour International flight, who knows?
I'll tell ya, there's nothing like walking on board a Celebrity ship…again. The biggest smiles from the staff and an offering of champagne, sparkling water or orange juice. Every staff member smiles and welcomes the passengers aboard, asking if they are "returning home" or if this is their first sailing. Having sailed Princess and Carnival, our welcome aboard on Celebrity far surpasses them all! This really is a nice touch after waiting in line.Cabin 9038
We bypassed the "Welcome Aboard Buffet" and headed to our cabin on deck 9. Our room was mostly finished with the exception of the fresh flowers in the bathroom and main room. Our attendant was on our heels and promised he would be there shortly, along with our Concierge Class amenities. Jose was our attendant and he and his assistant were extremely mindful throughout the cruise; not once did we have any complaints or concerns. Actually, now that I think back, there was one tiny one – but will save that for later. We're human after all. :)
We have had this cabin number before (on other M-class ships). We enjoy it because the veranda is larger (almost double in size) and bumps out so that the bow and stern can be viewed. It also comfortably accommodates two chairs, table and two loungers. This trip we did not ask for the chaise lounges though.
Being Concierge Class we were given the extra things: thicker towels, champagne, fresh fruit every day, binoculars, pillow selection, leather card holders, fresh flowers in main room and bathroom, evening canapés, Hans Grohe shower head, nice thick (large!) robes, one cloth =X= tote bag which was great for pool / beach toting, one deluxe travel bag (excellent for carry-on for our return flight), and more.
This room was in light oak, tan, brown, orange and some pink and blue. Faux granite counter tops, but still in excellent condition. The love seat, chair, bed and all within the cabin were in great condition considering the age of the Infinity and the amount of passengers she sees. (Side note- we booked a suite on a Princess Amazon cruise in April and two drawers were broken, molding and wallpaper was peeling / breaking off, cigarette burn marks in the bathroom, worst hotel bed we've slept on, no special amenities, perks or higher level of room service - and for the suite price, it was a shame). Our evening canapés on the Infinity were fun. Some like them some don't. Sometimes we went to the Afternoon Tea and brought back wonderful petite fours and mini (delicious) sandwiches for a variety during cocktail hour while we got ready for dinner.
Water pressure was always excellent, hot water all the time, and the drainage was great too – never a problem with water backing up or any foul smells. Best part of the shower, I fit! At 6'7" this is a good thing, LOL! The shampoo and toiletries and packaging were new; not the same Elemis product we enjoyed before, not horrible, but I didn't enjoy it as much.
Back to our first day…finding our table number on the credenza, we walked to the Trellis Dining room to spot our table. Rather than a table for 2, it was a table for 6. We found the Maitre'D and expressed our concern, as our cruise was booked several months' prior, with a table for 2. He told us that he was sorry for the error, but unfortunately, there were others ahead of us and we would just have to wait it out. His attitude was arrogant and dismissive. I mentioned that we were Captain's Club Elite members and thought we had priority-dining request and he disagreed with me and said there wasn't anything else to do but wait and "hope for the best".
We then went to the Aqua Spa to make our reservations for treatments and to purchase the Persian Garden pass (rather than $20 a day it was $140 for the cruise, a $180 savings). Still somewhat perplexed about the dining arrangements and Maitre'D issue, we came back to our cabin and I called the customer service department at Celebrity, as we booked directly through them. A very kind agent shared with me that we needed to seek out the Captain's Club Officer on the ship, which we did on Deck 3, next to Guest Relations. The Officer apologized profusely and did agree with us. She didn't promise the moon, but did promise to communicate with us until the problem was resolved. (Side note- every staff member in Guest Relations was courteous, communicative and always smiling, which is more than what I can say about our last cruise).
She called us back later in the evening and said to go ahead and attend the first night's dinner and the Food / Beverage Manager would be waiting for us. That evening we couldn't locate the Manager, but only the Assistant and were soon being escorted to the table for 6, not our arranged table for 2 – so I stopped him. He apologized and took us back to the lobby and asked that we go into the lounge for complimentary drinks while he figured this out. Thirty minutes later he arrived and walked us to a table for 2, but stated it was temporary until they permanently located an "acceptable" table for 2.
The next evening we arrived at the Trellis Restaurant and the F/B Manager (Eduardo) deeply apologized and said, "I am so sorry. We have failed and to make it up, I am escorting you two to the SS United States (their specialty restaurant) for a complimentary dinner and drinks." Dinner there was gastronomical and such a nice gesture. When we returned to our cabin that night we had a dozen red roses, a dozen chocolate-covered strawberries, a bottle of wine and two cards – one from Guest Services and one from the Captain's Club Officer, all apologizing and thanking us for our business and patronage!
Trellis Dining Room, Specialty Restaurant and Food Venues
The next day, I received a phone call from Rose in Guest Services telling us that they would like to give us another complimentary dinner at the SS United States, whenever we would like. We were on cloud 9. Needless to say, the next night at the dining room proved to be stellar. We were escorted to our table for 2 and our waiter, Vinod and his assistant, Lan were amazing. Vinod is from India; he was the best waiter we have ever had. Lan was from China. This was her first cruise and she was just totally amazing, so very sweet and kind to us. Ruby was our Assistant Maitre'd and she made it a point to pamper us every single day…somehow they found out what our favorites were and went out of their way to spoil us, even preparing dishes and desserts, which were not on the menu! Dining was incredible.
The menu has changed, indeed. A month ago the menu in the specialty restaurants and the main dining rooms went through an overhaul. Change is good. Some of the old favorites are still there: Caesar Salad, Prawn Cocktail, Boneless Beef short ribs over Polenta, Herb roasted chicken, the cold soups, Escargot, Oyster Rockefeller, etc. Our Sommelier (Luis, who was incredibly professional and focused on us) introduced us to a wine package – 3 bottles for $80, which was a great deal considering the vintage we chose. We were never harassed about the Riedel stemware and blending classes.
The service in the dining room was always efficient, friendly and professional. The food was hot and fresh. The pasta has even improved since last year!! We never felt rushed, but were always "doted on". Vinod, Lan and Ruby went out of their way to express their joy in serving us. When Vinod took our order he would always answer with, "Pleasure, Sir". If we did not see anything on the menu for dessert which appealed to us, he would insist on bringing something else, whether Bananas Foster or Cherries Jubilee. One night Ruby made a special dessert for us of Crepes with Grand Mariner sauce.
As mentioned, the menu has changed. I found the food to always be hot; never luke-warm (which was a slight problem on our last X cruise, last year). The service, again, was impeccable. All of the dining staff, for us, had the right balance of polite conversation and servitude. Even waiters and assistant waiters not in our section would smile and say, "Hello" to my partner and me.
The SS United States menu (as all of the specialty restaurants on M-Class) changed. No more Steak Diane (Boo!) but the surf and turf was simply amazing, as the goat cheese soufflé, Lobster Thermadore, Rabbit Tart, Pear and Roquefort en'croute …you name it, everything we sampled: from the Pommeroy Brut Champagne to the Chocolate Soufflé and the table-side productions were just amazing in every way. The SS United States is probably the brightest of the specialty restaurants in the M-Class ships. We loved it. The service and ambiance was still very classy. We like being spoiled, and while some think the timed presentations are dorky and find negative criticism, we enjoy it. I work in hospitality and hire only the best in class. These employees had their act together. The only food item I didn't care for at all was the Foi Gras. The Diver-Scallops Wellington was to die-for…and that was just a starter course! White gloved and tablecloth service was excellent. We have been to some of the best restaurants in San Francisco and abroad and appreciate excellent service and cuisine. I believe on a scale of 1-10 (1 low, 10 high) the food quality (for a hotel) was a 7, the presentation an 8 and the service an 8. Most ship employees (except for the Emporium venue, Spa staff and entertainers) hold two jobs, day and night. The employees at the SS United States also worked in the Aqua Spa Café (next to the Thallossotherapy Pool / Spa) during the breakfast / lunch hours. Every time I went there to get coffee, drinks or lounge an employee would comment on our dinner and how nice it was to see us, and ask, "When are you two coming back?" Sure it may appear contrived, but customer service is what it's all about!! That spoke volumes to us. And what many don't realize is that a cruise ship is basically a hotel on water! Working in the industry, I have to share with you that it is so difficult to please every person – and let's face it, when we're spending our hard-earned dollars…some tend to be unforgiving and severely critical of the most minor things, to even a one-time experience (whether "mechanical" or the quality of soap in the cabin's Loo). Good heavens- but picturing a floating hotel, it truly is remarkable what most cruise lines endure and go through, and I mean the employees. They work their butts off, all of them. These employees work week after week with a different cruise / guests and all of our quirks and personalities each and every day and they have to maintain a pleasant face. Talk about the "knights"!
Celebrity kicked up a notch their Sushi bar, so now they offer stir-fry as well. My other half had the stir-fry once and raved about it. It smelled delicious too. Three or four shaved meats to choose from along with a wide array of fresh vegetables, sauces and rice noodles.
When we were on the Princess cruise, I recall reading postings where passengers just fawned over their pizza. Having tried it twice, I did not care for it. Celebrity on the other hand never fails. The pizza bar was in full swing every day; I think my favorite was the BBQ Chicken pizza. The pizza maker was extremely friendly and good at his job. There were always fresh veggies and cheeses to add as well. Right next door was the pasta bar; I don't recall any changes there other than they did not serve "low carb" pasta this last voyage, but did have a whole-wheat product. The sauces we tried were good – and there is a baked pasta dish to choose from as well (such as Lasagna, Penne & Ham Bake, etc.).
There was an Asian Bar as well, which had Asian breakfast and lunch every day, from Dim Sum, to rice noodles and fresh vegetables to curried lamb, Teriyaki Salmon or beef, pork buns, stir-fried rice, etc. I thought this bar could use some improvement. Being a San Francisco native, I may be a little more critical of Asian cuisine, but it was still good and we enjoyed it for the most part.
The breakfast and lunch buffet were great. Unlike other cruise lines, there was no meatloaf that I could see, LOL! I say that with a smile, as everyone has their "comfort food" and meatloaf may be it for some passengers. I don't look for it on a cruise, or even my own comfort food (Mac and Cheese)…even my East Coast Mom, who loves comfort food, will "turn the other cheek", LOL and kvetch about this type of food on Celebrity. The buffet however, included a theme most every day. Breakfast was breakfast, no changes at all there: breakfast meats (including Bangers), waffles, made-to-order omelets, sautéed veggies, cereals and fresh fruit, pastries, Eggs Benedict, etc. There were two brunches, both at-sea days. The brunch was a waste of time in my opinion, really nothing out of the ordinary to make it stand out – other than the beautiful ice carvings. The food seemed to be the same as breakfast, with the addition of more meat, ham and seafood. That's it – oh and the Mimosas and Bloody Mary's (smile).
Public Areas (Including Spa / Pool)
The Infinity is a seasoned ship. She is in operation 24/7. Although we did not set out to "find" rust, chipped paint, faded fabric, etc. it was there. I know some do scrutinize and to each their own. If either of us noticed a small tear in fabric or a stain…or anything that resembled "usage" we were humbled to remember that 1900 passengers are on this grand ship 24/7 and what would OUR home look like if we had 1900 guests tromping through. Sure, most are respectful of other's ownership, but unfortunately there are some who may not show the same regard or respect, and treat things without care or appreciation and it is a full time job to combat disrespect, not to mention just the simple wear and tear. For example, we take our shoes off if we put our feet up on a chair or sofa. We have nice furniture and hope it to stay that way – but we noticed some passengers with their dirty shoes up on the sofas, chairs, tables…etc., in some pubic areas. I guess the mentality of some is, "I paid for this vacation, I'm going to do and expect what I want." Honestly, we were pleased with the condition of the ship's public areas. The crew was always cleaning. The stairway rails were always polished and disinfected. There were vacuum marks continually. Windows and mirrors never showed smudges or stains. Hand sanitizers are everywhere! Not only are they stationary, but staff walks about with a bottle squirting it into your hands before entering a public area with food. (Not so on Princess, as a matter of fact one stationary dispenser remained broken our entire 2-week voyage.) Since Celebrity adopted the no-smoking policy, the general areas smelled so much fresher to us than our last Celebrity cruise in September 2008. Now before anyone bites my head off, I AM a reformed smoker, but have been smoke-free for almost 7-years. While I want smokers to have rights, I want to have my non-smoker (and smeller) rights respected as well. : ) saying that, all cabin verandas are smoke-free and the only places we witnessed smoking were on the Lido deck (pool and grill) and starboard, deck 5. I did not research the appropriate places, but this is what I witnessed. Head's up…the Fortunes Casino is entirely smoke-free. We did spend more money there, this cruise. There were a couple of "lucky" slots that paid us, too!
The pool, Aqua Spa and locker room /sauna areas were always stocked with fresh rolled towels. Pool Butlers seemed to be more prevalent, even in the spa area – which was nice. We generally don't hang out at the pools, but rather in the spa and never really saw a lot of butler service there. Not only were there Pool Butlers everywhere, but also security was in full force. Not once did I witness the Thallossotherapy / Spa area without a security guard, and I was pleased. As most seasoned cruisers know, the moment the sea swells, so do all the pools, LOL! While friendly, the guards were observant and always watching. Not only did I witness one running to a passenger who fell down while climbing into the Thallossotherapy pool (and he RAN!) but I witnessed the security removing a chaise-hog's belongings. Now, before anyone gets cranky with me, I'm all for reserving a spot / chair for your other half, or putting a book down while you run up to grab something to drink, but as usual there were chaise hogs on this trip. One particular morning I got up early to grab coffee in the Aqua Spa to bring back to the room and noticed four chaise lounges being reserved with towels, books, etc. This was in Columbia and it was around 6:00 AM. At around 7:30 we walked through on our way to breakfast and to our zip lining tour…the chaise lounges were still unoccupied. We left after breakfast for our excursion and returned around 12:30…had lunch and walked back through the Thallossotherapy area as our cabin was directly below. Chaise lounges still un-touched, nobody there. Came back up to the area and couldn't find a lounge, only a chair. The four-some came back from their tour (they still had on their little stickers) and sat down at around 2. I was livid and shared with them how I thought it was rude they reserved these chairs for over 6-hours with nobody present, and the next time would ask a Pool Butler to remove their things. They could care less.
Later on our cruise (after several complaints from other passengers), security started removing passenger belongings if they were gone for over 30-minutes. I thought that was fair. I wish that the Security would pay closer attention to the unoccupied chaises (at least those which were unoccupied for a few hours!!).
The excursions were very good and the naturist / narrator while traveling through the Panama was excellent. Celebrity had a few different documentaries on TV regarding the Panama and those were good as well. We were happy to stay on board and watch the passage through the locks in the Panama Canal. The shores of the Canal reminded us a little of our Amazon trip, it was beautiful and relaxing. We enjoyed most of the morning and early afternoon from our veranda but made our way to the bow of the ship for some pictures.
I learned on this cruise that I should have brought more cash. Usually, I use my credit card or debit / Visa card and just let my bank figure the daily exchange rate (never a headache). I do carry small bills for tipping, etc (good rule of thumb for me is to bring $75 in singles and $25-50 in fives). On this trip, I only found two stores, which allowed the use of a credit card, and both were in Cartagena, Columbia. We zip-lined and really wanted the video, and a cold beer, but they did not take plastic. For an X-sponsored tour, we found this frustrating, as many European itineraries don't seem to have this obstacle. Like my mom asked, "Why didn't you use the ATM on board?" Hmmm, the simple things in life seem to fly right over my head sometimes!
I'm a big guy and enjoy riding in a larger vehicle (think coach) but on this cruise, the largest vehicle we rode in on an excursion was the mini-type bus. Comfortable, but on the smaller side. The Celebrity-sponsored tours always provided a safe driver and good narrator. We enjoyed riding in the bust to our destinations, as the guides were knowledgeable, friendly and always pleasant.
Following is a list of our ports and one or two descriptives for each:
Seattle: The great Pacific Northwest! Pikes Place was amazing to witness. Fresh flower bouquets were amazing. Visit the original Starbucks! City is similar to SF with hills, museums, waterways and great restaurants.
San Diego: Loved the Hop on / off Trolley. Took us to Hotel Del, Old Town, Gas Lamp Quarter and about the city (Zoo and public arts center). Nice city to leisurely stroll around.
Cabo San Lucas: Slowly leaving the quiet resort town behind with a lot of new construction. Not too many street merchants peddling. Gorgeous snorkeling /wave running waters. Los Arcos is a must!
Acapulco: The Fort across the street is a good (and free) tour! Gold Zone offers OK shopping and the cliff divers are a definite must-see. Shot Over jet boat ride is great for thrill-seekers. Hot climate!!
Huatulco: Lazy, sleepy village town with an ordinance to halt the town's growth. Lovely town with quaint shops, turquoise waters and untouched beaches and coves. Will be back!
Panama: We did not get off the ship, but there were a few all-day excursions to choose from. I recommend staying on the ship for your first passage through.
Costa Rica: I can see why many Americans retire here. The dichotomy of the jungle and city are awakening to the senses and soul! Very hot and humid here. Zip line for the adrenaline-seekers! Fun!!
Cartagena, Columbia: Definitely try the "Deluxe" tour. It's close to 6 hours but worth it. Visit the dungeons, forts and drive through the city. Shopping was offered, here but bring cash! Interesting city. Pulling up to the port reminded us of Miami Beach or Honolulu. Beautiful city and country. Listen to your tour director and do NOT make eye contact with street vendors, they will not, I repeat, will NOT leave you alone. Never have seen it worse than here.9-Days at Sea: "Aaaaahhhhh!" Need I say more? : )
I mentioned earlier that Celebrity offers the best, "Welcome Back!" Depending upon the cruise, they provide hot or wet-iced towels, punch, ice water or lemonade (hot chocolate and coffee on Canada and Alaska cruises) and on this cruise, a huge canopy over an area rug, two large sofas, two large chaise / chairs and a table. We sat once, and witnessed several passengers who needed special accommodations using these. Several staff are there to welcome passengers back with warm smiles and a, "How was your day?" This is a big bonus for us as we were on a Princess cruise to the Amazon just a few months prior and we never were offered a drink, cool towel or chair to sit in – not only that, but every single time we embarked the ship on Celebrity there were a considerate number of staff and they ALL said, "Welcome Back!" or, "How was your day?" etc. Not once did we experience this on our last Princess cruise. The same applied to my Carnival cruise several years back. The little things do add up!
Guest Services and Future Sales
We had a couple of issues that required the use of the Purser, or Guest Services and Sales.
1.On our Celebrity cruise last year I purchased a nice X-brand basketball – style tank top and some gym shorts. While in the sauna my tank disappeared once and swim trunks twice, LOL! I found my swim trunks once but not the second time and the tank never appeared.
2.Our owner's credit was never posted to our account.
3.The earlier debacle with the seating arrangement.
4.We wanted to use the new 'Celebrity Passage' offer (book any cruise, open-ended for $100 each).
5.We had a question about the free Internet package for Captain's Club members and wanted to know about a particular charge.
Each time we spoke with the Sales or Operations / Admin staff, they were mostly pleasant. Once a gentleman with a dismissive & arrogant attitude assisted me, but he quickly backed off and another assisted and did a great job explaining. Every other staff member (Guest Relations Officer, Rose especially!) was great and always greeted us with a small and genuine customer service attitude. Jose in future sales was informative and courteous.
Overall, my better half and I would rate this cruise a "7-8" on a scale of 1 (low) and 10 (high). We are seasoned =X= guests and have enjoyed every cruise we have taken on her vessels, and are looking forward to sailing on the Equinox next year.
We have never experienced a mechanical problem on Celebrity. Actually we're quite lucky, as we have only experience mechanical problems on one cruise, which was our last Princess cruise – twice we were held over because of mechanical problems with the ship's propulsion units
What stands out to us on Celebrity, vs. other cruise lines is their stellar customer service. On =X=, we have never experienced rude customer service which was not immediately rectified. We have always been treated with courtesy, dignity and respect. I can say that =X= just set the bar very high with us. We haven't found a line yet who compares with excellent guest service and exceeding our expectations.
Wishing you and yours many wonderful sailings on Celebrity or your favorite cruise line!