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. Overall Service.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Foodies. Value for Money.
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:Caribbean, Panama Canal, Europe
Good for: Seniors. Families. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Bermuda, Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern
Good for: Foodies. Seniors. Group.
Good for: Group. Singles. First-time Cruisers.
This cruise started when Celebrity Solstice opened four extra weeks of bookings before the original planned inaugural. My travel agent Deb called me and said Celebrity allocated her about twelve cabins for this selective week. I quickly suggested some of my friends to book it and they did. Deb hammered out the details for all of our group. I booked my daughter Jenna and I on the trip. I started looking into air travel at this time. One of the Continental airlines hubs is my home airport -- Newark. They fly directly to Ft. Lauderdale, the embarkation port for this trip. The airfares were a bit higher than I have paid in the past but we were still in a gas high price time, but by cruise time the gas prices had tumbled from over $3 per gallon at the booking time to only $1.50 or so when we flew out of Newark. A nice thing to do is fly into the home port area a day before to get adjusted and see the town. This also reduces the stress levels as you are there and ready to go soyou will see no delays in getting to the ship on time.
I had originally booked an 8AM flight out of Newark to land at about 11AM in Ft. Lauderdale. Then a few weeks later re-checked the flight on the Continental site to see where the seating capacity was. Hmmmmmmmm. Flight was not there. I then went back to my reservation number and checked to see that the flight had been removed and we were now scheduled on the 6:35AM flight out of Newark on the same day. So I then went back in and re-set my seats and called my friends, Karen and Tim, who were traveling on the cruise with us. They also had to reset the air portion of the trip. The same thing happened with our return flight home. Originally set for a noon departure out of Newark but the flight was cancelled in advance and we were shifted to the 10:40AM flight home. Same thing again -- switch the seats --since I am on vacation as soon as the work day ends before we actually go. I am very detail oriented to relax and enjoy the trip. I had packed a 4 oz. bottle of rum in one of the small NTSB approved carry containers. When we went through the check point and down to the plane I purchased a 20oz. bottle of Pepsi for the plane. Also we had a very quick breakfast there McDonald's -- hey it was all that was there.
The plane was on time to board. We taxied away but were de-iced and did not take off till 6:50AM. I had my first drink of Rum and Coke at 6:53AM. Vacation started. My friend Hank in North Carolina will be happy to read this line. Finished the drink about the time we crossed over North Carolina. We encountered no problems getting there as we landed right on time. Right off the plane in Ft. Lauderdale and off to find the luggage pick up. We picked up our luggage and put on our Celebrity bag tags. Then found a taxi to the pier. We stepped out of the taxi and stowed the ship luggage at the port by 10AM. While they had not started the check in process yet, Karen, Tim, Jenna and I checked our bags and went through the port security process. Then settled in for the time to check in. When the check in process started we got onto the line for the Elite and checked in to board the ship. The actual check-in process took about 10 minutes for the express pass and check the passport information against the cruise tickets along with the credit card registration for on-board ship payments. Off we went up the escalator to the ship and this adventure begins.
They had the ship's photographers there to get your entry pictures. Upstairs you had your security picture taken to match it to your sea pass. This is used to log you on and off the ship and to record what you look like. The ship's security knows who is on and off the ship at all times. This helps in ports as they want to make sure all are there. Then up the slanted gangway to the entry deck on level 5. A short left and a right and you are in the entry area where they are offering you a welcome and a glass of Champagne or orange juice. Always my favorite way to be greeted. When we entered we were informed the rooms were not quite ready. We walked to the room and dropped off our carry on luggage in the room and found our room steward Jose from India. He greeted us warmly and after explaining the room quickly let us store the luggage and we went exploring the ship.
Cabin #6257, cat. 2C, Continental Deck. This is one of the regular sized cabins on the new class of ship. Slightly larger than the traditional 170 sq. ft. There is an additional balcony on this cabin level. Very nice fit for two deck chairs and a table. I have always found the Celebrity cabins to be a perfect fit. They are slightly larger than some of the other industry standard cabins at this level. We had enough room for storage in the room as they have raised the bed level about four inches and even the large sized suit cases can fit nicely right under the bed. They moved the life vests from the storage area above the closet to a nice wire basket under the bed. Easy to slide out to get at the life vests for the boat drill. They do have a third sleeper bed -- a trundle bed that comes out from under the couch. But they also have a bed that swings down out of the ceiling and is hidden from view during the day. So fitting too -- would be very roomy and three is not a problem, even though there is less closet space as you may read on the boards. There is plenty of space in the drawers and storage areas in the room. The large double closet has a hanging bar all the way across and about thirty wooden hangers for using to hang the formal wear along with the day to day things as needed. The area under where the Flat screen TV is located has 5 nice and large drawers. To the side of this area is a storage area where your wifi keyboard is hidden. This can also double as a large storage area and did for us on this trip. Under that is the mini bar and your cabin steward will open it for your use if you request it. I think there is also a small pull out drawer in the front of the sit down make up area. There is also an additional light switch and two plug outlets here for your use. Just above the bed are two large cabinets that are used for pillow storage and whatever you would like to put up there. We stored my carry on there the whole trip. The TV has a nice swing arm behind it that you can pivot off the wall for watching in bed. They can go interactive, do movies on demand (which are all free), and music of different types. Here is my problem with the music and how it is set up. They have no menu selection to bring in a large type and shuffle it from song to song mixing up the order. Something I would have liked to do. Additionally there are some nook areas with bars across to hold in things that you want to store there. It held our bottles of wine and soda we had brought on in Ft. Lauderdale. Our steward kept the small ice holder filled and brought a clear plastic wine cooler/ice cooler when we requested it. To re-state on bringing alcohol on board with you as you board the ship -- Celebrity will allow two bottles of wine and maybe a few champagne. They are not strict in this policy but if you are a good passenger and do not try to bring on an excessive amount they are understanding on this issue. Your cabin steward will bring you ice as requested. Now there has been much discussion on the bathrooms on the ship and how they have changed. Yes they are a bit smaller. The counter space is not what you are used to. The shower stall area is now covered by a plastic enclosure. Very nice in my opinion. The shower head has a few adjustable settings but is locked in place and will pivot to direct the water. There are two handles to turn here -- one for water pressure and one for temperature. Both work perfectly to all our satisfaction. They have a step up bar inside for the ladies to shave their legs on if needed. But the drying line I loved to use is now gone. Replaced by two cloths hooks. They have small bottles of shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer along with the standard soap and never ending supply of clean fresh white towels.
Ship We headed out to explore the ship now. From walking into the lobby area on deck 5 I was already in WOW mode. I have been on the Horizon, Zenith, the Century class all ships and the Millie class two ships. Generally speaking from my cruises on older ships in the late 70's and early 80's. Then jumping back into cruising on Celebrity in the early 90's. So I have a view from a lot of angles. With this class of ship Celebrity has stepped up beyond the normal ship out there. I have felt that Celebrity set the standard and then others followed it. This ship build and launch proves that they are still way ahead and setting the pace for cruising elegance and ship board comforts into the next ten years. I walk about the ship almost all the time not using the elevators much at all this trip. I think about 6 times in all -- a bit above my average of two. Walking down the passage way and out to the stairwell area on deck 6 overlooking into the atrium and the tree there. What a nice touch. We walked forward on the port side into the Online@Celebrity area. Nice area with many computers set up. During the week I went and used the computers and the response time was very fast compared to the last time I tried a few years back. Nice soft earth/wood tones here. Very quiet area. Then back down to deck 4 to the main restaurant.
Dining Room The Grand Epernay Dining Room was just like the Millie series ships in size. This was wonderfully laid out. Same soft lines but the stair case was different. The stairs were frosted glass as were the stairwell separators. It split into two sections at the middle one each flowing to the side. We did notice one of the steps was already cracked but they will replace that soon. At night the stairs were back lit with a light green coloring. As usual there is a lot of space between tables to move. The wait stations were enlarged to hold two groups of wait staff at a time. They also had frosted glass a bit higher up than other wait stations to cut the view into them. We were at table 226 right next to the wait staff entrance and exit. There was not much noise at all sitting here. We were also within viewing distance of the well thought out wine cellar in the dining area. There were about 1800 bottles stored there as we were told. You could catch a look at the Sommeliers working in their area and picking up bottles and moving about with various glasses for each wine's use. Bob was our wine expert as always when I travel with him. We were at second seating dinner which is what I like on the ship, to relax a lot and take my time getting to dinner. My daughter Jenna and our friends Bob and Eileen were seated at our table. A lot of nice people to share a week's worth of dinners with. We also invited Kim from the ship's special events staff to dinner the last night. I had brought a coconut back on the ship, as a bet you can't get this on the ship, and tried to get it carved into a Maple leaf for our Canadian guest. But the nut was too green and it did not work out. But they drew a maple leaf on it and it worked out just the same. I would say I was not disappointed with any of the food offerings presented at dinner that week. We did go to the brunch offered one day here. It was very good. Some different offerings than upstairs as it is brunch -- a lot of cross over. It would have been very special to have an omelet station but I do not think they are set up for that. For the dinners everything was fantastic from the presentation to the sauces and taste. The wine parings were excellent for each night's meal. We also went into the restaurant at lunch and breakfast two times to see what other offerings we were missing out on. As with dinner everything was great. Service right there with breads or rolls and a good selection on the menus each time. We sat next to the windows three of the times we went into breakfast or lunch, and the other at the rail overlooking the main floor of the restaurant. Nice view each night from up there. Although there were a lot of people missing from our section of the dining room the first night they did appear throughout the cruise. They must have been in some of the specialty restaurants enjoying their tasty offerings.
I will say one thing for the complete Celebrity staff on the ship. They are wonderfully pleasant and gracious. They are always trying to please you with a special request or menu selection. I like Ice tea at dinner and it was there right after we sat down every night. I will repeat myself here and say that I have found being an Elite member does have a big plus side to it. The part of being able to invite ship's officers to dinner and making new friends on the ship. This is the time to relax and enjoy your dining experience. Try something different and if it does not meet your taste buds in the right way you can re-order. And as always you are on vacation, so have fun with this.
After this we headed forward out of the restaurant on deck 3 past Guest Relations and the bottom of the central lobby which is the Grand Foyer. I had to stop into guest relations a few times. The first to pick up a band aid as I had cut my finger. They even helped me put on the antiseptic and then the band aid the first time. All with a wonderful smile. They also supplied me with a few extra band aids in case I needed to change them. The other times I stopped by were to drop off a nice Ipod I had found on deck 15 at the basketball court. This was a nice slim line one that the owner forgot to pick up when they left the area. I turned it over to the Concierge who took my cabin number and thanked me. The other times I was just stopping by to pick up a bill for my ship charges that I had incurred to date. Each time met with a smile and friendly hello. And as I tried to make a joke about me being a complaining passenger and where I should go for that. They politely pointed me across the foyer to the Shore excursions desk and we had a good laugh at that. The last time I was there some passenger was screaming at our Hotel Manager about something. It was nice to see him calm the passenger down and get him to quietly talk through his concerns. Another reason why I like Celebrity. They will not brush you off and will try to address all passenger concerns as they can. Simon Weir handled it in an excellent fashion. It's a good thing I was on his good side. As with every interaction all the staff are being judged by everyone on the ship including me at all times. And as usual they come through with very high marks for their manners and how the conduct themselves while on company business. This area also had the Passport bar which was colored in a soft honey gold and the shore excursions desk area. I never had the chance to stop at the passport bar area or shore excursions but notice there were always people working or using the services during the normal hours for these places.
Moving up to deck 4 from the Grand Foyer area from the nice flowing stairwell. There were two decorated Christmas trees here at the base of the stairwell that magically appeared on December 1st. As you walked up the staircase to the port side is the most exciting place for a lot of people on the ship. The Martini Bar and Crush. The Martini bar was a frozen bar during the dinner hours which was two sided and had an extensive menu of Martinis and regular drinks. My friend Bob is the expert in this department and would stop by each night to see what new delights were coming out of the skillful staff's mixers. Part of the entertainment is the bartending staff. Tossing the cubes all about followed by the mixing and pouring out of three drinks at a time. They were the pros in this department and had great fun in doing so. This area was always busy before, during and after the dinner hours. It is a great place to meet up before dinner to review the day's events with all the new cruise friends. Or use it as a jumping off spot for the evening. The areas surrounding the Martini bar and Crush were large seating areas with see through curtains to make small privacy areas for your group. Across from this area was Cellar Masters the wine bar on the ship. This was partitioned away with solid dark wooden walls and gates that remained open and inviting. They also had an extensive wine list available here. There was something novel about this area as they had a pour your own glass area. This was all electronic so you could purchase a glass of wine at anytime of the day or night. Just put the sea pass into the slot -- make your selection and use your wine glass of choice -- it poured it out for you. The bottles were shown off behind a glass partition to show the vintage and keep the wine at it's best serving temperature. We walked into this area a few times and saw a few people relaxing reading or quietly conversing. During the afternoon a string quartet would play music here with the sound cascading upwards throughout the whole open area. The open area stretched from the grand Foyer to level 15 at the lawn club. So if you were in the stairwell connected to this or an elevator area you would hear the music. Moving forward from the Martini bar are the Shops on the Boulevard and the Casino. The pictures shown by many people can't do the actual sight of this justice. The boulevard area curves nicely around the casino. So you can walk around it if you like. The items in the shop area were very nice, although they did not have in stock a ship Christmas ornament. In the most forward end of the shop area is the liquor sales area for taking home. They carried all the market named brands at great prices. Sometimes it is easier to just buy on the ship and leave it to them to deliver. Better than on shore purchase and store it. The Casino has a wide variety of slot machines and the standard game tables. All of the slots now operate on a coinless system. Put your dollars in and play away. When finished just cash out and a slip of paper is printed. Either cash it in or use it next time. They have added a Texas hold'em playing table and I stopped by to look at it but the rules escaped me and I moved on. They also had two Texas Hold'em tables for heads up play. I think the minimum to sit down and play was $50. Then it was straight up against all table opponents. The rake was 10% of each hand from what I was told. They did have a lot of tournaments for Hold'em and black jack during the cruise but I never got to them. There was always a lot of people at the hold'em table area and in the casino in general on the trip. If you are captain's club you also get some $5 match play coupons to play with to double your even money bets at the tables. So you could pick up an extra $5 on your bets. But alas they only gave you a limited number. A nice incentive to try a game of chance. There was also a wide screen TV in here for sports viewing. As you moved even more forward you would run into The Entertainment Court. This was a large open area with tables and chairs. There was a large marble clock face in the floor here. They held the shop sales here for watches and jewelry. To the port side is the Quasar disco which did not get going till later at night. And going it did. JR and BK had a lot of friends in here dancing well into the wee hours. To the starboard side of the ship is a new type of addition to Celebrity -- Celebrity Central. This is a small about 100 seat intimate theatre that was used for movies and the comedians on the boat. Well laid out and nice comfortable seats. The one night I was here the area was filled up for the late night comedy show. As you move forward past the elevator banks there is the Solstice Theatre. Here the pictures do tell just about the whole story. But it is still a beauty to behold in person. There are a lot of new innovations for this floating theatre. They had the ability to soar over the audience areas while performing some parts of the show. I was in one night for the Broadway review and the show was well attended and singing, dancing, props and costumes matched everything perfectly. In talking to some of the actors and singers this theatre allowed them to stretch their medium to a higher level and I will agree.
If you exited the theatre on level 5 and walked to the aft end of the ship this is what you would run into. The port side held the Photography gallery. Many pictures were taken and printed for you to see here. I am sorry to say that the Galleria Boutiques on the starboard side did not catch my attention enough to go in and look about. I will say the areas were well dressed out for the window displays. This was where the perfumes and high end jewelry shops were. I do remember looking at some of the art work in the Gallery here amid ship and like it a lot. Across from the Art Gallery is the Galleria Tasting area. Sorry again as I went right by this area without looking into it. But moving further aft on the port side is the Bistro on Five. This had an upscale breakfast and lunch service for a $5 entry fee. Jenna went here one night and said the desert crapes were of the first order. Now across from this area on the starboard side is the Café Al Bacio & Gelateria. This was the specialty coffee and espresso area. They had some nice bakery presentations here for your consumption with your drink selections. Just past here walking still to the Aft is the large bank of elevators. As you enter the stairwell lobby area take a right and just before the exit to the outside, to the left, is the Celebrity Destinations area. This is where you would find the Captain's club desk and the Future cruise sales area. You could use this area to sign up for the Elite tours and to make a reservation to talk to Natalie who is currently future Cruise sales hostess. I talked to Natalie a few times and used the future cruise deposit booking for no trip for the $100 deposit and for the $100 on board credit. Not a bad idea at this point and knowing I will cruise again. The girls in this area were nice to talk to and I left them a plate of my home made cookies. So if you leave this area and make a right then down to the passageway past the stairs and make a right you would enter the ant hallway. Just look down on the floor and you will see that the tile looks like ants in a trail to the wall paintings. Very beautiful flowers painted here on the wall and ceiling. This leads down to the specialty restaurants. You would first enter the Ensemble lounge. To the immediate right is the Michael's club. We played a lot of the trivia games here and Battle of the sexes, which the men won and I got to be team Captain. Then the daily trivia challenge with our team of four which we won for the week. They also had some name that tune and other games here. As nice as any other Michael's club on any other ship. I do not think this area got a lot of traffic at night and there were a few blemishes in the area already. But nothing that could not be fixed right away. The Ensemble lounge is a large stop off bar area before going to the specialty restaurants. Murano is the best of the specialty restaurants here. Much like the ones on the Millie class ships. Just past the end of the lounge area to the left is Silk harvest. This is the Far East restaurant. Across from this is Blu. This is the Aqua class eatery with healthy choices on the menu. You could only get into this area if you are booked into an Aqua class suite or there was an opening. The aft end of the ship had the Tuscan Grille. Our friends and Jenna dined here one night and thought the presentations were excellent. The Tuscan Grille occupies the back of the ship. So you get to watch the wake and the back area of the ship as it is moving. The colors were deep burgundy and dark wood. I did not go into any of these areas as I wanted to save something for another cruise on the Solstice class ships. And I know I will be back. But in talking to anyone who did go into any of the specialty restaurants the food was exquisite and presentations spectacular. Well worth the cover charge for any of the venues.
So as the tour continues and we walk about we skip past Continental deck 6, Sunrise deck 7 and Vista deck 8 which are all decks with cabins in them. Did I mention that I walk just about everywhere I go on the ship? Lots of steps help burn off the calories from the extra stops on deck 14. But someone told me there were no calories at sea. I'll have to test that out one time. More on that later in the review. On the Panorama deck 9 across from the central elevators is the card room. Every time day or night, well not late night, there were people playing on the tables. It seemed like there were enough bridge players to get a good game going from the number of the people and how well occupied this area was at all times. As we move onward and upward to deck 10 the Sky deck. And near the rear elevator bank area is the Library. This is a nice two level area with books to borrow. There are built in shelves. Be sure to return the book before you leave. Nice comfy chairs to sit in. You could get the daily crossword and Suduko games here. They finally listened to me on this. The second tier of the Library is on the Penthouse deck number 11. This deck holds the Aqua class suites and all the larger suites. On the forward section of the ship on this deck is the Relaxation lounge for suite holders. I don't remember even stopping here at all. But there are supporting pictures on the internet that show this area. Up one level now to the Resort deck 12. Dam. I'm tired now and I walked those steps every day at least ten times, from our room on deck 6 to deck 12 or 14 or 15.
The Resort deck holds the pools, Spa and fitness areas. I can easily say this is the most impressive area on the ship as I walked upward. The pools are set up a little differently than before. They sit down a little giving you a place to cool your feet in ankle deep water to get an idea of the water temperature before you go in. Starting from the aft end of this area to forward. The Wet Zone is first. This area doubled as a dance area at night for the ship deck parties. The girls from the cruise staff danced up here on Caribbean night in flame red dresses. The wet zone is turned on in the afternoon and it sprays water up into the air at various heights and intervals. Nice to splash around in on a hot afternoon. Just behind the wet zone was the stage area for the band to play on when leaving port and for the deck parties. Great music to listen to when you want to get your cruise spirit going on sail away day. The next area forward is the Family pool. This is a shallow pool for our younger cruisers and those just wanting to get wet to their waist. The depth varies from about three feet to four feet. A fun time for me was watching a young mom blow up a small kiddies pool while dad watched. I then helped dad, borrowing two plastic buckets from the bar area, fill the small pool up with about 6 inches of water. The two young ladies with mom and dad, who looked like they were 3 and 4 years old, loved it. You would have thought this was the greatest water park in the world encased in a four foot blow up pool. They had a great time of it. Simple ingredients. Pool; add water and imagination and anything is possible. These girls were great fun to see about the ship which I did just about every day. The next area in the pools was the Sports pool. This was separated by a walk across bridge but the pools were completely separated. The sports pool was about 4 foot deep to six foot deep. Same type of skirt area with shallow water. You could sit just above or in the water on the skirt and your book without full immersion. Staying cool by the pool. There were four hot tubs near the pools here and the water temperature was just a nice very warm. Not hot enough to turn you pink quickly but the level that warmed you up and made you relax a lot. We used this area the first day as I brought my swim suit in my carry on and switched so we could do this. It did rain a bit while we were in port in Ft. Lauderdale and while we were in the hot tub. Could have been a problem. But I was wet already and I had on my hat so no problem. The pool bar is just in front of here. They had a great daily special I saw the first day. A large mug of beer, they sold large size mugs that looked over a pint in size of Amstel for about $4.50 or so with the tip. Celebrity has all the nice things to keep you cooled down on this deck. As just to the starboard side of the pool area as you move forward was the Sundries shop. The teeshirt, flip flop and sun tan lotion area. Great location. One thing I will say before we walk through the sliding glass doors was there were plenty of chairs about the pool area and the nice couches for two they built into the decor of the ship. This was a new innovation for me to see. And the last thing you see before the sliding glass doors to the outside area of the ship here is a hanging netted hammock bed with pillows that you could fit a few into. Two was the perfect number for me here. You could get very comfortable here anytime and nap the afternoon worries away. Who needs to worry about those extra calories. That's coming up soon. Stay tuned. When you move through the sliding glass doors you are going forward into the Solarium area. This is a pool covered area with the wooden loungers and very thick and very soft mattresses next to the pool. The mattresses were covered in Celebrity blue and every morning had a fresh pool towel rolled up on them. This was the same for all lounges on the pool deck area. Every morning a fresh rolled towel. The area covering the pool had photo electric cells to capture the sun and provide some electricity for the ship. Not a lot from what I have read but some to start with. There were also the capture the sun areas off the bow suites at about deck level seven. In this Solarium pool area is a nice pool for swimming laps or staying cool. The forward area of the pool has a trellis of red flowers and green vines. They are artificial. It is nice to look up while swimming and see the flowers. Behind this is the fountain area where they flow water out at intervals with color being sent from below in red, blue, green spot lights. Nice to see at night. There are two hot tubs in this area also so if it rains out in the uncovered pool area then just move inside. Another new innovation for relaxation in the area are very large wicker basket chairs. They will fit two or more and have moveable pillows and a wicket backing with materiel covering it to offer some privacy. So you can get in there and stretch out with moving the pillows about. The basket/chair/lounger spins around so you can look out to sea and kick back. On the port side of the ship in the early AM is the Aqua Spa Café. This area offered healthy breakfast choices in the mornings when I walked by the area. As you pass forward from the Solarium area you will enter the Spa area. This area has the Aquaspa, Persian Gardens, Acupuncture, Massage, Hair Salon, Retail outlet and Fitness center. There were always people about this area in the early morning when I made my way here from the early workout on the ship. This is the pampering zone for all. There were different scents in the air each morning for relaxation therapy. I can only speak for the fitness center as this is all I used while on this trip. My daily time in here consisted of using the Nautilus equipment, stretching, doing some sit ups and walking about. The area is well laid out with a separate area for small aerobics and spinning classes. There are about 20 or so Nautilus machines in the forward section and fourteen walker/running machines in front of the starboard windows to look out to sea with. In the past I think they used to have the running machine looking forward and the weight machines behind them. I like the running machines in front as when I work out on the weight machines I am only on each for a few minutes and do not care about a view. I did try out one of the elliptical machines and they had a lot of pre-programmed work outs available to use to help you keep your fitness level. Every morning about 7:30AM the running and elliptical machines were all being used. There was a whole wall to pick a gym towel from and these were always well supplied. There is a small area in front of the fitness area outside. The Spa Veranda if you just want to walk outside for a breath of the fresh sea air. The one thing I did notice was there was a lot of spa staff about and someone always manning their welcome desk. This concludes this deck's description.
I searched all about the ship for deck 13. Forward, aft, port, starboard, above the pool deck and below lido deck but could not find it. I'll have to bring this to Celebrity's attention that a deck was missing.
Well not to skip a beat and moving upward to deck 14 the Lido deck. If you walk from the Aqua spa area to the stairs in the forward section and go up. There you are. Right outside the Sky observation lounge. If you come up the stairs you would enter this most expansive lounge area on the starboard side of the ship. It has a long entry path till you actually get there. Again screening is done by light white blinds you can see through. This is where they held the Cruise Critic and other major parties. They have an expansive bar area to sit at and to the Port side the raised stage area for the live band to perform at. The furniture here is some large loungers up near the windows along with nice comfortable chairs. There were also three semi circular alcove large enough to walk into and store about ten of your friends in. Nice small privacy areas to accommodate small and large groups. This area with over 200 people in on the cruise critic and again on the Elite member gatherings did not look crowded in the least. Plenty of room to move around and find a place to sit. They held Karaoke up here at night and if you were unlucky enough to be there I am sorry for my poor vocal ability attempting to sing "California Girls" by the Beach Boys. I did hear some other excellent singers who were passengers singing in the lounge area. There are always good singers and dancers among the people on the trip with you. There were dance request numbers played by the DJ every night here. This is just so large and expansive area and the glass windows seemed at least twenty feet high. They had a very good band playing here for the Elite party and the dance floor is huge. Here the wait and bar service was excellent. I gave away bottles of Champagne to our two cruise super stars, in my opinion. One who arranged the rum factory tour for about thirty people of the group. The second set up the meet and greet on line bulletin board for all the connections people to send in their pictures and other information to share in advance. Well walking back outside and going to the aft end of the ship you are at the top of the pool well looking down into the pool area. Again there are those comfy lounge chairs with the Celebrity Blue coverings on each one. And the jogging track. I will say one thing on the jogging track. It is nice but the person who laid it out never ran much. The corners near the aft end of the track are too sharp. I had to move the lounge chairs each AM to round off the sharp corners. This was so I would not to tear my knees up while trying to get my running workout in. The surface was new and gripped my shoes even when a bit wet. So no slip sliding off the ship for me. At the aft end of the track area were two large stair cases, one on each side of the ship, that led down into the pool area. At the forward section of the pool well on deck 14 are the Mast bar and the Mast Grill. So if you need a drink why go far when there is this bar. And when you need a quick bit this area will suffice. They had hot dogs, hamburgers and fries here about lunch time and in the afternoon. The large area above the pool had lounge chairs for the sun worshipers. If you needed to be ten feet closer to the sun to get that perfect tan this was you place to be. It is a little quieter here than on the pool deck level and not a lot of traffic about the area. Walking aft again around the large glass expanse that housed the elevators you go through two sliding glass doors. Then making a bee line to the back of the boat you arrive in the Oceanview Café area. If you entered through the port side you would see a regular bar for drinks area. On the starboard side was the scoop ice cream bar area. This is the food court area. And it is where the Solstice shines long into the day. There are no more trays in this area. Just plates and bowls of various sizes. The silverware is sitting on the tables now and there are people who will help you with your plates to a table. I would get a plate then a drink and it was nice not having to worry about the silverware at all till I sat down. As you enter on each end they had cooking stations for the morning breakfast. The ice cream bar area doubled as the waffle station in the AM for the light crispy waffles that Celebrity is known for. Nothing has changed here. The one grill area next to the waffle station made eggs to order and here is where you can get the omelet made to order. They had about 15 different things you could add in. We came up here almost every morning at least to look about. There are five central stations that I remember. One in the middle was set for the breads and muffins. I like the, what I call a Celebrity pop over, brioche. I had them every day on the cruise. Mostly with nothing or split in the middle with honey. The roll was already tasting like fresh butter. I can still taste it now. And see it. Nothing better. Two of the stations were set for fruit, cereal, milks, yogurt and other lit fare. Another has bacon, sausage (two types) and fresh scrambled eggs. In addition the one station had a toaster person. So some days it was get an English Muffin in addition to the other things. They also had a station for English breakfast selections. Everything look nice and fresh every AM. They had four drink stations for juices, tea and coffee. Then find a seat in the expansive seating area and look out to sea as the waves break far away from the ship. I made it a plan and carried it out to get coffee for my travel companions after I finished my morning workout. Carry it down to the cabin for them to enjoy as they woke up. I was told the coffee was very good as I do not drink it. One funny thing that happened in the early AM when I was picking up the coffee was an older gentleman took one of the over sized trays that the crew uses to transport clean coffee cups. He placed his coffee cup on it along with a small plate and walked away. As I watched along with the semi stunned crew. We just smiled and moved along. Lunch selections up here were just as good and tasty. The five stations were always brimming with great choices and many – many selections. There was a salad bar area and as someone put it the dressing were at the start not the end of the line. There was always a fresh fish selection prepared and ready to go. The one grill area doubled as the pasta and pizza bar area. This area never seemed to shut down at all after lunch. Every time I walked by there were at least three different types of pizza selections. What was nice about the pasta bar also was there were multiple pasta types to go along with the multiple sauces you could choose from. There were also add in fixings for your specialty pasta. Great range and great selections. In the late afternoon about 4PM was tea time and you could get some light sandwiches here. Then starting about 5PM the Sushi bar opened off I went there just about every night. They would usually have three or four selections along with the added extras that are in the area. They would open for just about full service at 6PM for alternative dining and when I walked through there was always traffic from that time on till about 10PM every night. The last place on the Lido deck was at the far aft end of the ship. Outside through the sliding glass doors to the Ocean View Bar area. This area was partially covered by the deck above and you could also get a table at the rail over looking the wake of the boat to sit and make memories while enjoying you breakfast or lunch. The interior area here had soft chairs. You could sink into and veg. out after enjoying some thing or event on the ship. In the later evening there was a singer here under the overhang. I think I only caught him one night singing a Jason Martz song. Very good. There is also a small bar tucked into this area under the stairs. Then we will walk upwards to the next level. When does this ship ever end????
Going up to Deck 15 at the aft end. You would walk right into the Lawn Club deck. Right here is the Sunset bar. Across the full back of the ship with very nice wicker chairs to plush yourself down into the watch the sun set from. The chairs extended around each side of the ship so there were more unique seating places for you and anyone with you. There are two separate lawn areas here. On the starboard side of the ship was the Golf putting area. They held the Ryder cup putting challenge here every morning at 9:30AM. I had to run up the stairs from Michaels club where the AM trivia was held. Andrea hosted this event on sea days. The grass is very nice but a bit irregular and not a putting green like quality. More like a fairway level grass. There was also a lot of traffic across the area and it was very soft. There were always at least twenty people in the putting events each day. The Port side of the ship was a true grass Bocce ball court set up. But this area was closed most of the week for repairs or to rest the lawn. Some people did use the area and a young couple had their toddler out her to crawl about so it was used a bit. Moving forward from these areas is the Patio on the Lawn. This was a huge expanse of lawn right on the top of the ship decks. They gave bocce lessons here most of the cruise and did a few tourneys. Mike from the cruise staff hosted some of these events. A lot of people showed up and the rules were modified to let everyone play. I think we had about fifty people one afternoon out there. The best time to be there was late afternoon before dinner with friends to use the lawn area and play your own bocce game with everyone. We did this a few times and Linda led the way with her group up here. A lot of people getting together having fun, drinks and some lawn bowling in the middle of the ocean. Some people who did not know would toss the heavy bocce balls high in the air and dent the lawn. Not good. They may have some trouble here in later cruises as the dents mount up. But I will give Celebrity an A plus for this venue. Well used and very much appreciated. There is a nice walk around area so as not to cut across the grass and thread it down. Connected to this area is the Hot Glass Show area. Every time we were up here playing there seemed to be something in the oven and being sculpted. There were three professionals doing the shaping, molding, creating and talking about it. The only problem being that there is a limited viewing area and the excess spilled on to the lawn area next to this and killed a lot of the grass. I would have to say that the seating was not adequate to the Hot Glass area. If they solve that and the walk around problem to stop the lawn trampling then they have a winner in both directions. Like I saw that the Hot glass shows were over flow attended every day in the afternoon. I don't remember if they did a morning show but those would have been well attended also. One feature here I did like a lot was the cameras they provided inside the ovens while working the glass. It does give a unique perspective and the people working the glass were always using them to monitor the creation in the works. The show seemed to be very long, about two hours each time. There was a small shop to show off some of the glass creations on the port side but nothing was for sale. They did offer to give away some of the pieces in a raffle each day as they were not allowed to sell them at sea. The starboard side of the ship had a small Lawn Club shop for souvenirs and Lawn Club wear. Jumping across the chasm to the forward side of the lawn club deck. Here was the younger cruisers hide out. This area was mostly dedicated to the teen and below age cruisers. We walked up here on the quiet day in St. Kitts. Around to the basketball court which while netted is not protected from the wind. I bet playing here would be a challenge to sink a shot from more the ten feet while the shop was in motion. Inside from the elevator area on the starboard side was the Fun Factory. An it was large – open and well constructed. I think there were two young ladies working here on the day we walked through and looked. They had a lot of new learning innovations, such as an interactive globe get information from. Also large screen TV's and covered blocks and painting areas and each cruiser would have their own storage nook. Walking back out to the port side was the video arcade. The games were nice and new but the prices a little steep as I thought. Forward of here was the Xclub for the teen cruisers to use whenever they would have liked. No one was about the area this day. This was a school in week cruise and I did not expect to see many teens on the boat and did not.
Well walking outside and going forward you would see a stairwell up. This would have led you to the Solstice Deck. A large area for sun bathing and from the looks of it two hot tubs there. We did not venture up here as we had an event to attend. Well that sort of sums up the walk about the ship and what a ship.
I will say this is not your Grandmother's cruise ship. Celebrity has packed in a lot of extras like the hot glass, lawn club, a lot of specialty restaurants and bars and again so much more. We did get off the ship in Puerto Rico and my friends went to the Run Factory tour while Jenna and I walked up the hill to the fort and along the roadway along the ocean wall to fort del Morro. They had a small stand on the expansively large lawn area here. We stopped and bought two kites. One I gave to the ladies working the young cruisers and the other I flew off the ship in St. Kitts – a first for the ship. After I was done with it I presented it to Nick and Simon Weir to take out back and go to it. We got off the next day in St. Maatrin and went to Dove Bay. I had thought this beach was still under repair. It was all there ready to go and the waves were nice to get in and swim about. The water was deep, warm and refreshing. You could rent chairs and umbrellas for $5 each. I did find one of if not the best value on the island. 75 cent Caribe beer. This was just like Carona and with a slice of lime in it cut the heat just right. These were their 1PM to 4PM happy hour prices. I was very happy I found this deal. We sat under the large palm and shaded area and watched the waves crash here for about an hour. I think the taxi ride was $6 each way per person. The roads are a bit winding here but offered a look into where the people on the island lived. We did get off in St. Kitts to go on a hunting expedition for Vanilla as I use a lot of it in backing cookies. We walked down the road to a local supermarket and found it. Labeled $9.95 per bottle. But that was the local currency prices. It ended up we got four bottles for twenty US dollars and got ten dollars back in local currency which we gave to the table wait staff. I don't think I had been to St. Kitts every 5 years or so. There were some kiddies on the ship but you never seemed to see them. We did run into them as a group in the Ocean View restaurant one afternoon. They were all dressed up as pirates and looked like they could take over the ship. It was their ice cream time and they were enjoying it. We ran into our two young cruisers from the small pool again here and they were just adorable. Parents should have pictures taken here as they may have missed out. One of the things I did try this time was to get something for every crew member on the ship. And I succeeded with another ship first. At the awards ceremony I presented the cruise staff with a 5 lb bag on M&M's for all the crew to share. Enough for them to all have one. J I also brought about 20 bags of Skittles and 10 packs of Starburst. These I gave away to just about anyone on the ship. From Simon Weir to our bus boy. And speaking of Simon -- I saw him about the ship every day. Checking into things and picking up discarded towels on the pool deck late one afternoon. This is a tireless job and Celebrity has chosen the right person to debut their new entry. Always in work mode and fun mode when it cam to the passengers and their comforts. A few other things before I close. The plastic wear / glasses they used looked like real glass. It was not till the third day I realized the blue glasses the bar staff were using were indeed – plastic. I then borrowed them every day to carry about my Rum and Coke – well in this case Pepsi. Walking about the ship all the time and into the bathrooms in just about every area one thing. They were always clean and tidy. The places where they had their small rolled towels to dry your hands is something very nice. The food and service was as always at the high Celebrity standards and I do not think I was ever disappointed with an offering. From my embarkation day seafood salad to the last days sit down breakfast of French toast. Excellent from start to Finish. Great service to go along with it in whatever venue we were in. I will say the first night I did freeze my hand to the Martini bar. And was lucky enough to get free before the end of the night. The redness from the hot water they had to pour on my hand to set me free has just about faded.
Disembarkation The Solstice docked very early in Ft. Lauderdale. We were catching an early flight home and did the express checkout. This is where you hold your luggage and carry it all off on your own. We walked off the ship about 8am. The ship security staff checks you off the ship as you leave with your sea pass. Then it's down the escalator or elevator with the luggage and over to customs. I don't think we bought more than $60 on the islands or the ship that we brought home. Out to the Taxi's and at the airport by about 8:30AM. Checked in the luggage and were ready to go before 9AM. I was wondering if we could have caught the earlier flight home that boarded about 9:20AM. Our flight was at 10:40AM. We were called right on time and away we went. My last bit of good luck was on the way home when the stewardess needed change for $100 and offered a free drink for the person who supplied it. Well one free rum and coke, Hank will be proud again, later I was doing real fine. The vacation ended just as it had started -- having a good time.
Ship Impressions This ship is new and beautiful. They have packed a lot into this new entry and people seemed to not be able to take everything in. Well that means a repeat trip or two is in order. The public areas never seemed to be crowded, even the pool well area on sea days. I would like to see when they hit summer what the crowd looks like -- but I think not much different.
Trip This was just a seven day cruise but you would need at least ten to really get to everything the ship had to offer. Maybe the new entry Equinox will handle the longer trips. There were four sea days and three island days. This is the mix I like. We had been to all the stops before but found something new to do at each place.
I hope I covered just about everything on the trip. I would like to thank everyone who was on the trip with me. Jenna, Eileen and Bob, Karen and Tim, Deb and Bill, Kathy and all the other cruise critics and friends I made along the way. I did blind deposit two more trips for ship board credit. So there is a lot of thinking going on for the next trip to sea. At this point I have cruised 30 weeks at sea and 24 cruises in all, most of them with Celebrity. They seem to fit my likes with food and service. Keep planning -- Keep Cruising. Maybe I will see you out there.
Check-in was smooth and easy in Auckland. We checked in a couple of hours early, checked out our stateroom and went back ashore for an hour or so.
Our stateroom was clean, except for some mildew in the shower. Shortage of hangers and no corded hair dryer -- just a wall-mount in the bathroom that my wife can't use, but our stateroom attendant, Santanos, looked after both quickly.
We had Concierge Class service -- fresh fruit and (small) canapes in our room every day. On time and fresh. I have seen reviews that some people did not get these every day, but we did, without exception. Our cabin was always kept clean and neat by the service staff.
We found all staff on the ship to be courteous and pleasant. There didn't seem to be a change in their attitude after the tips were handed out (which I had seen reported in another review). Food got a bit tiresome by the end, but there is lots to choose from. Don't forget the poolside grill and the AquaSpa grill for a bit of a change.
The ship is clean, but not as finished asthe Jewel of the Seas we travelled on a couple of years ago. Some things, like draperies and towels, are starting to show their age. The gym equipment is all in excellent shape -- all working and all leather unworn.
The TV picture on every regular TV on the ship was off-colour due to the fact that we were in the southern hemisphere and the TVs were set up for northern hemisphere. LCD TVs in the lounges and gym worked fine.
Our dining room service was nothing short of spectacular. Our waiter, Dimitar, is just about to be promoted to assistant maitre d' so he knew his stuff and advised us of what entrees to avoid and what was really good. He made arrangements for creme brulé for one of our tablemates every night, even though it was only on the menu for one of the nights, and when one of the people at our table couldn't find something they liked on the menu, he got something from the Olympic restaurant for them.
Drinks on board were expensive but we brought a bottle of rum in our checked bags and some wine in our backpack (when we went back ashore in AKL and again in Napier) and no one questioned us, even though the documentation says that they will make you walk the plank if you do bring liquor aboard. No need to go to great efforts to hide it, at least for us. The soda card is pricey at $70. Grab a 2 litre bottle at the occasional port if you don't want to pay $5 per day for soda.
One hidden value for beer is the aft bar on deck 10 where a pint (maybe not quite a pint) of Heineken draft is only $4.75. I recall that just a 12 oz/350 ml bottle elsewhere on the ship was about the same price.
I did take one of the bottles of wine I brought on board to the dining room and paid the $25 corkage. I probably wouldn't do this with a cheap bottle of wine but I had a very nice and fairly expensive wine so it was a lot cheaper than what I would have paid for the same wine on board.
Entertainment was very good. The ship's singers and dancers put on great shows and the string quartet on board was excellent and seemed to play from from late afternoon through dinner and afterwards in various places on the ship.
Shore excursions on this trip were VERY expensive if booked through the ship. Generally 2 to 3 times what you could pay by organizing it yourself. Many ports require a shuttle to get from the port to the main city/town. Celebrity offered a (pay) shuttle bus service but, in most cases, you could use public transit, walk or get a cheaper/faster ride in a cab (if you had 4 to travel with).
We missed Milford Sound due to very high winds, but saw Dusky and Doubtful. Incredible scenery. Make sure you go on deck for these -- it's just not the same from the Cosmos or your balcony.
The itinerary we signed up for showed an 8 AM arrival in Melbourne with a 6PM departure the next day. On our final itinerary papers arrival had changed to 8 PM, which we did not see until part way through the voyage when someone mentioned the loss of a day in Melbourne. We were not happy with this change and have submitted a complaint to Celebrity. This cruise already had 4 sea days in it and the 5th was not welcome, especially since the weather was still a bit cool, just short of the summer down there, and sitting by the pool involved blankets.
Arrival in Sydney is spectacular. Docking is at 7, but you get to the harbour mouth at about 5, so get up for it. I thought 5:30 would be early enough, but it's not quite. Still had the opportunity to enjoy the last mile or so of the entry. The approach to the bridge and opera house are everything you imagine they might be.
The ship parks right between the bridge and opera house at the international terminal so everything is really close by.
In Sydney, make sure you do the bridge climb. It's not cheap, but everyone asks you if you did it on your return. Also, if you're a walker, take the bus from the quay to Bondi Beach and walk to Coogee Beach, then bus back. About a 2 hour walk.
Debarkation was smooth (no extensive customs procedures, and no favouritism for particular nationalities as in FLL or MIA). We had a flight out at noon, so took a train (station at the end of the quay -- a 3 minute walk) that runs every 15 minutes to the airport (15 minute ride) for about AU$20 per person. If you have more than 2 people a cab is about the same price per person.
Oh, we awoke on the last day to no electricity (no light, no water, no flush), a fact which seemed to be lost on staff walking around when I went up to the dining room to investigate. They greeted me like nothing was wrong! The stateroom staff had to download all baggage by hand after about 1am, so I felt good that I had my stuff out by 11. Obviously hot breakfast was out of the question, but the kitchen staff had ample food out in the morning, given the circumstances. Eventually, power was restored, just in time to have a shower and debark.
We had paid a fuel surcharge (US$140 per person), which, at the time of our booking, seemed reasonable, given the price of oil. By the time we sailed, however, the price of oil had fallen to less than 1/3 of its peak and my enquiries about a rebate were not considered. I think a rebate or credit should have been in order.
This is a great trip if you like to walk -- each of the cities visited had great walking self-tours and hop-on/hop-off buses. It is not like a Caribbean cruise, but that was actually quite refreshing. Souvenirs are available if you want them, you are not inundated with hawkers at every stop.
Overall, I'd give the Cruise Line a 6, the ship a 7, food a 7 and the staff a 9.
As a fan of the M-class ships, this was a disappointment to us.
Main Dining Room Dinner: The cut of the meats seemed to be lower quality than on previous X cruises. Presentation fine, but never arrived hot.
Breakfast: This was always very good in the main dining room. (We did not try lunch there.)
Cabins The bathroom is fine, but the stateroom closets are smaller and more importantly for me the drawers are too few. The top drawer gets very, very warm, so be careful what you keep in there. The overhead bed storage would be a problem if you were petite. The handicapped accessible stateroom (friends had) did not have the overhead storage. Personally I do not like to keep things in one large pile. The TV was nice. You can adjust it so viewing in bed is fine. Bedding nice and comfortable. Our bump out cabin 7278 had part of the X logo below the railing, but it did not bother us.
There is a large safe. Can easily fit important items in it.
The Murano specialty dining was not up to the same level as the Oceanliners; it is quitenoisy if you have the wine room booked (as we did). The Ensemble Lounge is on the other side of the entry door. Not one in our party of six raved about the food or service. Other passengers we met gave mixed reviews of all three specialty restaurants; most of the high marks went to the Tuscan. The Ensemble Lounge reminded me more of a hotel lobby than an actual lounge.
The Solarium air temp was always chilly. There were youngsters in the pool a lot. The outdoor pool and hot tubs had young children in them. (This of course can/will change from cruise to cruise.) Lots of chairs available, plenty of fresh/clean pool towels.
We never saw the cruise director walking around the ship, and the activities were so-so. (Of course that changes with new contracts on all ships.)
Celebrity notified smokers when they checked in at the pier about the newest changes to smoking restrictions; lots of unhappy smokers.
The Oceanview Cafe (buffet) was nice, bright and plenty of tables/chairs. Independent stations to get your food, no lines to wait in. Decent food/selection. The pasta station could be better, but in a pinch would do. Always lines for the ice cream.
The mid-ship elevators usually had at least 2 out of service. It seemed more for keeping the glass clean than a mechanical issue.
Grass was 'resting' a lot. For us it was just a large waste of space. The Glass Blowing demo was usually too crowded to get a good view, and/or the winds were kicking up too much to stay out there.
Photographers, especially at port stops, were too pushy. I am not one who likes pictures taken, and they did not seem to understand "No Thanks."
We did not spend any time in the casino, but walking by it never seemed really crowded.
Bistro on Five: Pax we spoke to who ate at Bistro were very happy with it. Reminder: There is a small surcharge. Originally it was to have been no charge.
Men and women have separate salon areas on the Solstice. On our cruise the choice of nail color was very limited. Hopefully they have since added to their inventory. I was not happy with the color choice or the manicure.
Observation Lounge: This is nice, large, and has great views. There is a decent size dance floor. Service will probably get better given a little more time. Location prohibits just stopping in for a drink.
Quasar: We walked in and looked around, then left. Just not our cup of tea. Some activites held there included the WII gaming.
Theatre: Comfy seats, so-so shows.
The ship is new, nice and different, very bright and done in white/cream/beige and chrome. (Not a 'warm' feeling to it.) Every space is dedicated to something; no nooks or comfy seats tucked in here and there to chill out, do some people watching, or read a book.
Crew Some familiar faces; wonderful to see crew members from other cruises. Some of the crew just seemed to be tired. (Understandable, given this was the first regular cruise for Solstice.) Our stateroom attendants (Jose and Agos) and dining staff (Ben and Bradley) were wonderful and very accommodating.
We booked this cruise in June 2007 only because it was a maiden voyage. We are not planning another Solstice cruise.
Embarkation/Disembarkation Both Embarkation and disembarkation went smoothly. We were off the ship an hour earlier than our 'scheduled' time. No problems with luggage.
I have had a terrible experience with Celebrity. I had planned a family reunion with 27 people on Celebrity's Alaskan cruise. When I was told that infants under 6 months of age are not permitted, I reached out to Celebrity's Special Needs Department. I spoke with several supervisors, none of who could explain their policy and respond to my question as to why the threshold is 6 versus 5 months (our baby would have been 5 months old by the time of the cruise).
It was utterly impossible to engage in a meaningful conversation as each of them reiterated, "It's the policy and we don't make exceptions," as the response no matter the question asked. At one point, a Celebrity representative explained that the policy made sense because "babies don't make the decision about whether to cruise, so we (i.e., Celebrity) have to look out for the interests of the baby." When I requested to speak with the person who created the policy, to gain a better understanding, the response was, "He will not speak to you -- he's a Vice President."
I recognize that companies must have policies, but they should makesense and customer-interfacing representatives ought to be able to explain them. I have less of an issue with the policy itself -- my issue is with the lack of competence and professionalism on Celebrity's part. For example, one of the more senior supervisors, Travis, promised to research the issue and call me on August 5. When I called to follow up on August 12, I was told I would receive a return phone call in a few minutes. I did not receive a call from Travis until August 21, over 2-1/2 weeks later. He claimed to have needed extra time to look into the matter. I respect a person's need for more time, but as a matter of good business protocol, he should have called me no later than August 5, as promised, and he should have updated me on the status of my request.
If you are considering Celebrity, but have special requests or needs, I would caution you against cruising with them based on my experience.
We just returned from a 14 day cruise to Northern Europe on the Constellation.
As usual, Celebrity ships are beautiful and the service is always good -- especially in the dining room and cabin. However, we were very dissapointed with the food in the dining room. We had sailed on the Infinity to Alaska a few years ago and were looking forward to the same excellent cuisine. Unfortunately, the food did not meet our expectations. It was bland, unimaginative and tasteless. There were very few offerings for desserts and those were also tasteless.
To be fair, however, the food selection in the buffet -- especially for breakfast -- was very good.
London -- Harwich We thought we were lucky to discover "cruise trains" run by National Express, one per major sailing date this summer. We stayed at the Hyatt Andaz one block from the Liverpool Street Station, terminus for the "cruise trains" to Harwich. The Andaz is a very high tech, mod version of the old Great Eastern Hotel.
However, you can NOT count on the trains to run. Folks on the previous sailing had no trains TO the ship per the online reviews. We found out at the end of the cruise when they decided to work on the tracks (some Brits told us that was a ruse -- they just didn't want to pay the weekend labor). So now instead of a train to hold all of us and 2 weeks' cruise worth of luggage -- they sent a bus. Few could board that one. The next had no luggage hold -- so we stood out there another 2 hours til busses could hold us and our luggage.
Solution is to buy the ship's transfer. We balked at the price but regret that now. Not worth doing it on yourown when you don't know the port and you have to rely on small town transport.
Embarkation The train pulls up right next to the ship docks. Easy walk of one long block or so. No steps or stairs required for those so challenged. Some folks had paid no attention to the luggage tags given out in advance by Celebrity so that caused a hang-up as the porters had no clue who was coming or going, etc. Read your instructions, folks.
We arrived around 1:00 and had no trouble checking in. Heading up the gangplank was maybe a ten minute delay for security checks. Printing up the paperwork in advance off the Celebrity website made it smooth. We were greeted in the very attractive atrium by staff bearing platters of champagne. Period. No water or sparkling cider or juice. Everyone doesn't drink alcohol. It would have been nice to offer everyone a beverage after traipsing all the way to the coast and having paid lots of money for this cruise. Minor complaint.
Stateroom 6087 Easy to find. Mid-ship. Balcony was nice and felt more private than some on other lines. Well designed. Tasteful, clean, modern look - nothing garish or too mod. Bathroom is THE best of my ten cruises. Perfect sized shower for a non-suite category. Love that the shower curtain is affixed to the wall at one end so water can't easily flood the floor. Soaps provided. Hairdryer provided. Shaver outlets provided. Combination shampoo/conditioner in shower dispenser. Bathrobes provided. Umbrellas provided (and never used - hooray). One gifted canvas shoulder bag for going ashore. Ice bucket filled twice per day. Less movies on the tv than in years past unless you now want to pay. We never lost CNN coverage on this itinerary. Also some CBS comedy shows, sports and lots of ship info channels. View the enrichment lectures on upcoming ports from the comfort of your stateroom.
Cabin Attendant Fabian The best of my ten cruises. Service is what makes Celebrity so special, in my opinion. I also love the look of the ships, the cleanliness and the food - but the service overall is just so nice. Esp. after last sailing on a Holland America ship with an intentionally antagonistic F&B manager. And a cabin attendant we never knew the name of. Celebrity is number one in my book for service so thanks again Fabian.
One of the special things he did for us was to re-arrange the beds. They were not separated as we had requested. Nor had they been at the $500 a nite Andaz in London. No biggie so long as corrected before bed. What we changed after the first nite was keep Patty's bed adjacent to the bathroom and move the head of my bed up against the verandah window. This was the fix for my snoring that I am told penetrates right thru the ear plugs. Put the couch between the two beds so it all fits. Then the couch looks straight out the verandah rather than a side view so some folks would prefer that anyway. Each nite I pushed the heavy glass coffee table against the sliding glass door so I wouldn't hit it en route to the bathroom. The only thing I couldn't do in that configuration was use the bedside lamp. No biggie. And now I could peer out the window at the moon, bridges, islands, etc. Loved it.
Dining One of the reasons I love to cruise. Somehow I managed not to gain my usual pound per day on this one. Perhaps all the walking in Russia helped. We had the early seating for dinner. Very nice room as far as visuals. Not conducive to chat though. Noise level too high with so many folks coming and going and tableware clanking. Service was very pleasant but an occasional mistake in getting the right dish to the right patron. You could always choose from a standard selection menu if nothing appealed to you that night. New York steak, Caesar salad, etc. Nice backup plan.
Had some lovely entrees -- fish and steaks are certainly good enough for me. Midwestern tastes and not a gourmet. Willing to try the chilled fruit soups and some other rarities and enjoyed them. Everyone at our table agreed the soups are the best course on Celebrity - hot or cold - try em all. People seemed to concur that the seafood was high caliber. Loved the fish but can't testify to any shellfish myself. Pork chop one night was so juicy and tender. One woman at our table charmed the waiter into bringing an extra entrée for the table to share when we had trouble making a decision. Several nights people ordered a second serving of the entrée - and the plates were never left empty. We were quite pleased. Baked Alaska for the final formal dinner (of three). Nice coconut and exotic fruit desserts the other nights were superb.
Four of us went to the OceanLiners restaurant for dinner in memory of my mom's birthday. The room is dedicated to grand liners of the past, with panels from the Ile de France on one wall and display cases of historic ship memorabilia in the mosaic tiled foyer. Perfect way to sail out of St. Petersburg, dining to harp music, light in the air (sunset at nearly 11 p.m.) and the table surrounded by four or five handsome fellows so they could serve each course in unison to their eager patrons. Patty said it was the best steak she has had in her life. My fish dish was delicious. They added a free appetizer. Free petits fours. You felt very satisfied for this elegant change of pace one special evening. The $30 sounds steep but was worth every penny. I loved my chocolate soufflé. May I order one by mail??
Here is the menu for you to start salivating over: Starters: Classic Lobster Bisque, Tomato, Red Pepper & Mozzarella Soup, Caesar Salad, Salad of Diced Vegetables and Lobster, Smoked Salmon with Tuna Carpaccio, Twice Baked Goat Cheese Souffle, Frog Legs Provencale, Escalope of Foie Gras Normandy, Chilled Asparagus - sauce Gribiche. Entrees: Whole Dover sole Meuniere (YUM-O), Grilled Filet of Sea Bass, Scallops & Lobster, Magret of duck with sliced pears, Rack of Lamb in Puff Pastry, Large Shrimps Flambee, Saltimbocca alla Romana, Risotto al Funghi, Tenderloin Steak Diane. Cheese: A selection of Fine French Cheeses, apples, grapes and walnut bread. Desserts: Zabaglione with marsala, Coconut Crème Brulee, Chocolate Souffle, Chocolate and Orange Segment Mousse Cake, Light Lemon and Lime Mascarpone cheesecake, Ice creams and sorbets, bite-size surprises, coffee and petits fours.
From the sublime to the not, my reality check for Celebrity F&B folks. Room service quality has gone way down. Not only has the portion size decreased a third, the quality has too. The pepperoni pizza was decent, the tuna sandwich passable, the chefs salad not. The cookies are good. Beverage selection meager. I know - with all that good food in other venues, why whine about this? In certain ports, odd timing and all - you really need something delivered on occasion. One GOOD thing about room service in 08 versus my last Celebrity cruise in 04, you can now get the deluxe dinner from the main dining room menu. Just let your cabin attendant know before dinner service has begun. That was nice. Room service otherwise needs improvement.
Buffets were better than in past. More variety. Salads seemed more inventive here than in the main dining room. Lots of fresh fruits and cheeses. LOVE the POG - passion fruit, orange and guava juice, as well as lemonade in the self serve dispensers next to the iced tea, coffee, and water. Omelet station was very popular and for good reason. Also high quality for the waffles and French toast served at the rear of the other dining lines. Had some delicious BBQ and beef dishes worthy of the main dining room. Very nice quality overall. A healthy spa cuisine option at their end of the deck. The pool area right outside the main buffet has burgers, hot dogs and tacos. Also potato salad, other salad fixings too up until 6 pm daily. Or was it 5?
One downside re: buffet service -- some of the guys did not have the English skills to tell me what I was ordering. This happened more than once. They smiled and tried - but I really couldn't grasp what was being served and no identifying labels out front in the dessert section in particular. Ah well -ate it anyway! Separate ice cream areas were very popular. Several exotic fruit and non-sugar options to choose from as well as the usual favorites. Cups or cones, your choice.
My overall take on the food this cruise, I am very pleased. When about 50 pct. of what I taste is delicious, and another 25 pct. very good - I can easily forgive the remainder being average or even on rare occasion just not worth having. The one area I would skip in future was the do it yourself pasta bar. Once they add the veggies- you have an inch of water in the bottom. But again, I focus on the 50 pct delicious mark and ache to return when I am so fortunate. On the other cruise lines, I am afraid they hit delicious maybe 10 pct of the time. Not Celebrity. YUM.
Public Areas Lumping a lot of things together here for brevity so I can cover the Shore Excursions at more length on this port-intensive cruise. The theater is top notch - great lighting and sight lines. Well attended. Some of the solo acts were world class - the man who played Phantom in Australia, the gal who did Evita in the West End, classical musicians from top circuits in the world. Entertainment gets a high mark. The regular show cast has very talented singers and dancers - well choreographed, lavishly costumed, and most shows a real winner. The Broadway show rates 8 or 9 out of ten. The finale from around the world had dancers doing Irish and Can Can and Russian and Jazz - well done. Singers do Verdi arias as well as heartfelt national tunes. The aerialists were of the Cirque de Soleil genre and a big hit. The Latin theme show was not quite up to the same level. How many Ricky Martin numbers can one endure. There is only one Ricky and he wasn't on board, sorry to say.
Spa was wildly popular. Nice facilities. Hard to book so don't delay once you get onboard. One fun feature was a silent auction near the end of the cruise. You can bid for any spa treatments, including the teeth whitening at a bargain price. Women looked great coming out with their hair and nails done.
Lounges were very tasteful, pleasant music, nice art throughout the ship -- some of it a bit too modern for me but most of it quite interesting and well positioned. Shops had some fun events - Russian fashion show and "spot the fake amber" and so on. They brought out lots of Russian dolls,hats,chocolates,jewelry, etc. so you had plenty of shopping opportunities right on board.
Disappointed in the highly touted arboretum. They're silks, not live flowers.
I went to one of the ship's free classes. Most now come with a charge. Dino was very good with explaining how to store your photos online at home with various programming tips. Class was full so book early.
Casino had a lot of jackpots coming and going. I had the feeling I would hit my mom's favorite numbers on keno on her birthday. And sure enough, I put in $60 and all five came in for nearly $800. Tasty treats on trays in the casino late nites - but that does NOT make up for the lack of a midnight buffet. None - all gone. Kaput. The previous sailing had the final one under new policy. I know we are all eating less, and being more green and so on - but not ONE on a 2 wk. premium cruise? When they announced the ice carving display near the pool it felt like a slap that they still show off these skills but with NO buffet?? Sigh -- an unexpected change.
Shore Excursions/Ports Amsterdam: Been numerous times before so I didn't get off. I was lazy that day. Also we were given the impression the ship was far from the Central Station and central area I was familiar with. Our view was of modern apartments and minimal dock facilities. Once we went up to the buffet (an hour before sailing away) I could see we actually were close to some interesting ship museums, etc. and not so far away for one to walk it. Sigh. This was an ongoing source of frustration. Various staff members would guess how far we docked from port cities and some were so far off base, I'd prefer they had said they just didn't know. I like to get off and do some exploring on my own even though I also bought tours in every port. You might as well buy the ship's shuttle passes with the exceptions of Copenhagen, Tallinn and Stockholm. An easy 20 minute walk can get you somewhere in those ports, esp. Copenhagen where you are just 10 min. from the Little Mermaid along the water.
Warnemunde: We bought the ship's excursion to Berlin. Train was within easy walking distance from the ship. Chaos in the main theater where ALL the Berlin tours were to gather simultaneously. Why they didn't deploy some in the other empty areas of the ship I don't know. Casino was closed, the lounges were closed at 8 a.m. so split things up rather than having 1500 people walk down one aisle of the theater to get boarding passes. Other ports were less of a madhouse but it was a bad start to the day. The train was satisfactory - rather crowded. Not as much leg room as I recall on trains in Europe. Coffees, water and fruits were dispensed as part of the $300 tour. We chose the tour that included luncheon at a brewery, a riverboat tour, a bus tour by Checkpoint Charlie, and walking near Charlottenburg Palace, the main shopping street with KaDeWe, the Brandenburg Gates and the Reichstag. Walking rapidly we could barely see all of this interesting city in the time given. 3 hrs each way by train - a nice big German lunch served family style - platters of sausages, two kinds of potatoes, and apple strudel - very nice. A snack bag on the train ride home and the ship buffet served late for us. A good but tiring day and a nice intro to Berlin.
Stockholm: One of the great things about this port was getting there. The ship comes off the Baltic Sea into the archipelago of thousands of islands at around 3 a.m. For our sailing, the full moon was shining across the water so I had to sit up and gaze. Docked around sunrise. A rather difficult 20 min. walk to the main part of old town but I had some shopping to do in one of the countries of my ancestors. What made the walk tricky was winding thru an industrial port that isn't clearly marked while they build a new cruise port there. Also building a large ABBA museum there for future cruise patrons to enjoy.
Across the water you can see their small version of Tivoli Gardens, the Vasa historic Ship Museum, etc. Expect some sticker shock given the poor exchange rate of the US dollar. Scandinavia is costly. Think Switzerland. COSTLY. But you can still pick up trinkets and candies, etc for a few bucks. We took the Waterways tour in the afternoon. Leaves right from the ship's dock. Walking past the bow we got doused with water. The crew didn't realize anyone was walking there as all the other tours and paths into town left mid-ship. We complained and in typical Celebrity good customer service, they gave us free dry cleaning for those outfits. Several people with mobility problems had chosen this tour since they didn't have to board a bus. It was still a challenge as there was a short but rather steep gangplank. The crew helped and everyone made it -- but just barely. Out on the water for a couple hours got nippy (we didn't have any rain in 14 days -- or the snows that hit St P in mid-May, but it is NOT a warm weather cruise). Saw the old hotels and palace downtown, the newer housing area where they built an "Olympic Village" but never got the bid from the IOC, and some really lovely large buildings along the waterway. Not an earth shattering port but very nice to look at and worth exploring. Again -- the sailing out was great to watch -- dining on the verandah with a sweater on was perfect. Never knew about the Swedish archipelago but a very pleasant surprise to have seen.
Helsinki: Loved Finland. Just the whole north woods, clean air look and feel of the place. Very attractive and outgoing people. Nothing in the way of a skyline -- it's not that type of city. Nice sized port -- too far to walk into town on your own. The buildings are low rise and modern as the oldest building dates back just to 1740 or so. They only used wood to build at that point and it just didn't survive for long. We chose one of the "specialty" tours that day. We went out of the city to HVittrask, the home of the leading architects of early 1900's. The one that Americans will know best is Saarinen, whose son also became famous in the US after they emigrated. They designed the classic Pan Am building at JFK, the Dulles airport outside D.C., and the St. Louis Arch. They had a large studio and several homes in a compound out on a lake with birch and pine trees north of the big city maybe 20 miles. The home has some great design features of course, built on 7 levels within a 3 story home. Very nice for those with any interest in seeing some of the countryside as well as the design aspects. We then came back into town, the guide pointing out the old train station and other buildings done by the same trio of architects, the new Concert hall, the old Cathedral built by a friendly Czar (Peter the Great?). You then had the option of staying in town to shop. I wanted my buffet so back to the ship we went. And thus we found something you too might enjoy. Across the parking lot from our dock were two little souvenir shops with nice books, art and some clothing for sale. They took any currency -- dollars, euros, pounds, and that would turn out to be rare in other ports. And they had a little P C set up and I thought maybe they let you surf online for a few Euros -- but it was FREE. So rather than pay what the ship charges, do a quick check of mail, etc. online there. I had seen one opportunity like that in Stockholm at the 7-11 grocery, but not free, about 3 Euros for a half hour.
St. Petersburg: At last. This was what it all builds up to, two days in this historic capital of arts and politics of the old Russia. We learned early on how serious they were about the "visa" situation. There was a souvenir shop across the parking lot from the dock. Thinking it was similar to Helsinki, and we could just stroll across, we tried but were thwarted by the frowning guards: "Russian visa?" No. "You can't go." Okay -- we tried. I took an afternoon tour while Patty rested up for our big night in town. I went on a tour of the Russian Museum and the Church on Spilled Blood. There were very few tours left once we boarded in Harwich, so I advise you go right away if you have any special tours picked out. Most will sell out in every port. We later learned there was a board on the counter stating which were sold out, which took waiting lists, and which (rarely) had been cancelled (lack of sufficient interest). The interactive TV in your stateroom allows you to book right on the screen. The info would sometimes make it look as if it were sold out but if you went to the desk you could sometimes still get booked.
The day we docked was the biggest festival of the year in St P., commemorating the city's birthday anniv. Why did someone NOT know this in advance? Our tour bus could not cross the parade route. We could not walk across the parade route. Had someone thought of this in advance, the tour could have been moved to morning, before the parade route became an issue. Needless to say it was chaos, We had to walk an extra mile, then go through a packed sidewalk crowd of parade viewers for blocks, walk under the street via a Metro tunnel, back up, and then towards the Museum. The museum was worth it but we lost about 1.5 hours of tour time and were panicked about getting back in time for the grand evening tours. Loved the museum, displaying all these grand Russian artists we had never heard of. Really a pleasant surprise, other than the parade fiasco of course. Then we strolled across a park right to the Church on Spilled Blood, a work of art itself. This was built on the actual site of the Czar's shooting in the 1880's. He was standing next to the canal and so they had to build out into the canal to make room for this stunning church to be built, housing a shrine to him on the actual spot where his blood spilled. The church is made of millions of mosaic tiles all the way up to the onion domes, depicting Biblical scenes. Some of the walls are made of stunning semi-precious minerals jasper and rhodolite -- like a poor man's emerald and ruby. Really wonderful to see the inside of this place. And shopping nearby afterwards.
That night was the piece de resistance. We did the tour that you MUST try and do. So many people later said they wished they had gone. It was a Night of Splendour at the Hermitage, with the climax being a private ballet performance in what was Catherine's private theater. Two busses of people from our ship were the entire crowd that night. So approx. 75 lucky people were given a private tour thru all four main buildings of the Hermitage Museum, seeing all the highlights without spending hours crushed between other tour groups. Mind you, we were the second sailing of the season, so there were 4 large ships in town. By the height of the season, that grows to 7 ships. Any chance you have to see any palace without the throngs, DO IT. We only wish we had an extra nite so we could have done the other grand evening event at the Summer Palace as it was a madhouse the next day. After seeing the Michelangelos and Raphaels and rooms full of impressionist masters, we were treated to the ballet -- seven vignettes from the great ballets. Most were danced as a pas de deux, some solos, and also the flanking 8 swans for Swan Lake in addition to the prima ballerina.
Fantastic orchestra, awesome dancers, and in that special setting -- what a night to remember. We walked out to see the sun still in the sky at 10 p.m. and many crowds for the Festival night. We did the nine hour tour the next day entitled Pushkin and Peterhof. This allowed us to see both Summer palaces -- the first in the Czars Village 20 miles south of St. P. This is the blue palace -- nearly destroyed by Nazi bombs. The majority of arts and ceiling panels were evacuated far into the countryside and thus preserved. The amazing Amber Room panels are still missing. What you see now is a replication. Stunning. Great palace to see -- but the crowds, and the walking are starting to get to us. Then our guide wants us to see one more garden, one more statue. Very nice and enthusiastic girl but the audio system didn't always work and we were weary long before Peterhof, the next Palace out on the Gulf of Finland. If you read the tour description, you expect to walk around 2.5 or 3 miles -- forget about it. We had to walk double that by the time we got thru all the upper gardens, lower gardens, inner gardens and the truly comical and impressive fountains Peter built to amuse himself. This is the yellow palace with the Cascades flowing behind. You must put on these little booties to tour inside. And some folks slipped. The floors are slick and we were tired so it was a real challenge. We did get some good prices on souvenirs from hucksters outside. The old dark "fur" hats and souvenir scarves and postcards, all about half what the ship charged. (The ship did have very nice shops and not terribly overpriced really.)
So there was much to see -- and whether you did a Celebrity tour or the private tours, we all want to come back and see more of St Petersburg and Russia. The included lunch was bland -- they put out some caviar and vodka to dress it up -- but the rest was not close to what we had become accustomed to on the Constellation.
Tallinn: Okay it was interesting. Mind you we have just seen St Petersburg. Why we thought this little palace tour here (we chose the Upper Town tour) would be of any interest, I don't know. The old town was quite something -- the best preserved fortress walled town I have ever seen. More than a dozen of the huge towers still standing guard over the old town. Medieval church full of coats of arms was interesting. The palace -- not so much. This was the spare Motel Six palace I think -- only for passing thru Estonia or harboring a mistress or whatever. A few nice paintings, a nice chandelier, some truly nice gardens yes -- but after Peterhof, sorry. Pick another tour. Shopping in Estonia was a challenge. They just stared at my VISA card -- not seeming to know what one would do with it. This was in the premier modern shopping mall mind you, not some goat stall. The only place I could actually make a transaction was at the post office so I could mail some cards with their postmark. The ship charges TWO DOLLARS per foreign stamp -- any country, and in some countries that really is the going rate -- but in others like Estonia you save if you get your own. The ship will mail them when they pass thru that country again if you miss the deadline -- so they could still have the postmark of your choice -- just two wks. after you disembarked. Russia and Estonia -- best prices. Some places took all currencies, some only took their local monies. Hard to know in advance so be prepared for anything. Except VISA in Estonia -- they don't know what it means.
Copenhagen: Loved the place. The most expensive place but still great just to walk around -- great old buildings, great new buildings, friendly people. Amazing Tivoli Gardens. (amazing that a medium diet Coke was 7 dollars US, ouch) Definitely buy the ships' transfer as it includes the admission and the bus back. I walked the 75 min. back cuz I had not purchased it. And it's a long hike. The Gardens were full of stage performances, a variety of restaurants and rides and shops and great lighting and flower designs. Don't miss it. We did another specialty tour here, to the village of Dragor. Historic farming village out 15 miles or so along the sea. No cars allowed in their narrow streets so you could see thick thatched roofs, huge flowers blooming, wondrous old style homes, and also the ship that was used to smuggle Jews across the sea, one or two at a time lying in the back of this inauspicious little fishing boat. Loved strolling here for an hour or so. The tour included coffee and a pastry -- they don't call them Danish in Denmark, but instead "Vienna bread" and good it was. Then back through the very modern airport area of high speed trains and apartments and finally back through the old town of palaces and museums. Unfortunately our table mate was among 3 women who were pickpocketed here on the palace tours. Throngs of people pressing against you and all the victims had zippers unzipped on backpacks or bags. One man was also prey in either St P or Tallinn -- his cargo pants zipper was undone and the wallet taken. The guides were constantly warning us to watch our surroundings in St P and we were fine. But the guide in Denmark said that professional criminals bus in to target the crowds in summer and then again at Christmas markets. Otherwise it is the 2nd safest country in the world, after Iceland. Non-violent snatch and grabs but not a happy day for some.
Disembarkation Couldn't be smoother. People were off the ship early actually. Didn't do us any good given the lack of train service but nothing Celerity could have done other than beg us to buy their transfers. Actually we were still pondering that as Patty wasn't walking that smoothly after the Russian hikes -- but the ship cuts off those sales a couple of nites before the cruise ends -- so be forewarned.
What more to say. Loved the ship. Loved the cruise line. Loved the ports. Was it perfect? No, of course not. But I wish all cruises were this nice -- and that I could go more often. Keep up the good work Celebrity, but bring back a midnight buffet every couple of weeks okay?
We returned yesterday from a splendid cruise to St. Petersberg, etc.
The food, the ship, the entertainment, the excursions and the staff were totally excellent for 13 days.
After the tips were organised (we gave the maximum on our account, plus extras), the whole atmosphere changes.
On the last evening, while at dinner, our mini-bar was locked, fruit was removed, there was no room service breakfast on the last day, and we were woken at 4 am with noisy docking procedures. We were off the ship by 7.50am.
This left a very bad taste after a very good experience. It was sort of we`ve got your money -- now get lost!
Is it like this on all cruises?
Our itinerary, Venice to Barcelona, was called "Mediterranean Classics". Much has been written elsewhere about each port, so I will comment on my shipboard experience for those considering traveling aboard the Summit.
EMBARKATION I reached the pier by water taxi in Venice. My luggage, three quite heavy cases, was taken quickly at the dock and I passed through the embarkation process quickly, in less than 15 minutes. There were many people embarking, but the system in place was efficient and Celebrity wisely stationed the right amount of agents to welcome and register guests. Also, the port terminal was climate controlled & my first contact was an articulate, sharply dressed, efficient young woman in a blue suit. The immediate impression was one of confidence and sophistication.
CABIN I stayed in an outside cabin at the front of the ship that was well engineered, comfortable and ergonomic. The cabinets have a pear-wood affect and there is ample storage, including drawer and hanging space in a three portion wardrobe. (N.B.: The door and cabinet hardware seem to be precision engineered; that means that latches and handles operate as intended and do not click, rattle or jam, evenon rough sea days). The safe was easy and intuitive to operate. A corner unit adjacent to the wardrobe housed a standard (tube, not flat screen) television, mini-bar and high cabinet with extra pillows, one of which was composed of a special hypo-allergenic polymer that offered excellent lift and support for poor sleepers like me.
Bedding The queen-sized bed was made up of two twin units placed together, but fixed into position so that the division between them was mostly imperceptible. The bed was triple sheeted in high thread count contrasting (tan/white) linens that were not pure cotton, but of a combination of fibers that felt smooth to the touch and "breathed" with the skin, important on a passage to ports with very hot summer weather (Athens and Rome), even though the climate control cooled and dehumidified the cabin well.
Cabin Details Three large full height mirrors lined a wall of the cabin, divided with handsome wood affect frames. A sitting area adjacent to the window included a small settee (a twin pullout in a dense, quality twill fabric), sturdy frosted glass coffee table and a polished limestone writing desk with an upholstered chair that could be turned to face the coffee table to create a conversation area. The desk had storage areas beneath it for books and travel guides that helped keep the surfaces in the cabin clear. Also, the desk area had independently controlled lighting and dual power outlets -- thoughtful inclusions. There was a very deep windowsill that held champagne and ice buckets and drink platter easily; again, allowing more surface space in the cabin to give an overall feeling of spaciousness.
Bath The bath was compact but well engineered, with a very powerful, easily operated white tile shower and ample storage under the white and cream sink and vanity. Recent repairs to caulking and tile were done to a professional standard, nearly imperceptible to all but the closest observers like me. Towels were of high quality, absorbent cotton terry with bands of knitted cotton, alternating tan and white colors each day. A fresh yellow rose was placed alongside the sink in a vase that stayed stable and upright even on a rough day at sea.
In summary, the cabin resembled a small, well appointed European business class hotel. The furnishings were tasteful and well designed, in excellent condition and very clean. Cabin service was intuitive (my attendant quickly noticed that I prefer extra pillows) and polite (knocking softly when delivering canapes and calling by telephone when I inadvertently left the do not disturb sign on my door one evening).
SERVICES The Maitre d'hotel, Youssef, was gracious, smiled easily and helped many passengers find the right dinner seating. Our server was amiable and talkative, but also very efficient and obviously experienced. The sommelier was slightly inflexible and mildly abrasive, drawing comments from my table mates. The assistant waiters were extremely attentive and ambitious, filling water glasses, bread baskets and smiling graciously. The hospitality management model shows an obvious emphasis on promotion from within. Most members of Cosmopolitan dining staff want to build fidelity in passengers and it shows.
Laundry/Dry Cleaning Quite reasonably priced for shipboard facilities and also reliable. The pressing seemed to be hand finished and the dry cleaning turn-around time was quick, a day or less for standard service.
Technology Internet access was reliable overall, limited to the midship area. I dealt personally with two members of the computer room staff -- Rose and Rafael -- each of whom impressed me greatly with their acumen and resourcefulness.
Excursion Staff Hard working and well organized. They used colored stickers and escorts with numbered paddle signs to help passengers find the gangways, shuttles and tenders. Groups met in the ship's theater or lounge and were given ample time to assemble before departing. Chilled water was offered for sale on a bar cart, and frequently offered again for free when the tour re-assembled. Cold towels at the returning gangway were a thoughtful inclusion in the summer heat. The tour staff dealt well with difficult passengers and wisely put the experience of the group above that of late or missing participants upon departure, a difficult but necessary aspect of managing tours.
Activity Staff Adroit, personable, kind and patient with passengers of different ages and dispositions, including small children and particularly several elderly passengers and those traveling alone. The team was sincere and easily approachable. They obviously wanted to set passengers at ease and keep them involved in their programs, which varied from the hugely popular bingo games to smaller puzzle and trivia groups, and enrichment lectures. This is a team that smiled easily and showed enthusiasm for their work. The team also seemed larger than it actually is, because the members adopted different roles throughout the day.
Leadership/Communication The cruise director on our passage was omnipresent, introducing entertainers, hosting and promoting shipboard events, chatting amiably with crew and staff throughout the day and continually smiling at passengers in each stateroom through televised shipboard news segments that ran on a loop on a special TV channel. During our sailing, he was frequently joined on camera by the port/shopping guide, a Canadian with an encyclopedic knowledge of port customs, geographically specific goods and merchandise and potentially hidden costs and complications for inexperienced tourists. She was very clear, specific and polished in her televised presentations and quite earnest and warm with individual passengers at her desk, and at the gangway and in port. She seemed available to every passenger at all times, hungrily and indefatigably seeking out their questions and concerns, and with seemingly limitless patience. Impressive.
FOOD/BEVERAGE Highlights included Poached Salmon with saffron Mayonnaise in Aqua Spa, a very good chocolate souffle in the Normandy Restaurant. Also, good, strong afternoon teas (informal self-service) included sandwiches that were very fresh. Savory breakfast pastries (quiches, ham/cheese croissants) served warm in an area called "Cova Cafe" by a lovely woman, Delores, and quite good specialty coffee. The Maitre 'd hotel in the Normandy and Aqua Spa recognized individual passengers warmly. He was one of a handful of staff who made the Celebrity Summit feel like a smaller, more intimate cruise experience.
We booked this cruise as my daughter's high school graduation present. The flight from home to JFK in New York was delayed four hours and we would miss our non-stop connection to Venice, so I called the airline to rebook us and they found a flight on Air France with a plane change in Paris. The connection was tight but we made it dashing through the airport, and arrived in Venice, without our luggage. In fact, there were 50 cabins on the ship whose luggage did not arrive before sailing. It was not located and forwarded until 4 days later. I contacted the 24 hour assist line at Travel Guard and they tracked it down and arranged to have it forwarded to Santorini. The ship provided free overnight laundry and provided me a tux and my wife and daughter dress shoes for the formal night.
While my wife and I had packed 2 days clothes in our carryon, my daughter hadn't bothered and had almost nothing extra with her, so we spent the second day in Venice buying some clothes for my daughter, underwear and socks, and a dress shirt andtie for me. It did get us out of St Mark's Square and into the side streets and shops of Venice. The first informal night was that night. There were 3 informal nights and 3 formal nights on this itinerary.
We had booked a category 2C balcony cabin, 6047. The cabin had a single sofa bed and the queen. If the sofa bed was open there was no space for the coffee table, and the room steward put it on the balcony. Closet space was adequate for the three of us and there were robes. There is an interactive TV and besides free movies, CNN International was available.
We had been assigned to a table for six for dining, but after seeing the maître 'd the first afternoon, we were assigned to our own table, at a table for 4. As this was the longest cruise we had been on I was curious if there would be much repetition on the dinner menu. My wife prefers to eat fish, and there was a different fish offering every night, including lobster. Prime rib was offered 3 times, but there was a variety of beef, pork, lamb, chicken and even duck, as well as a pasta choice every night. They did offer on various nights crepe suzettes, cherries jubilee, and baked Alaska. Service was superb from our wait staff, wine steward, and bar waitress. The had a brunch one day in the dining room from 10 to 1pm with a wide variety of offerings from omelets to carving stations. They also had one night they called a "white night" where everyone was encouraged to wear white and they served an international buffet in the pool area with the lounges removed and tables and chairs provided, instead of dining room meals. There was musical entertainment and several international food stations, including Greek, Italian, and French.
There is a grill in the very back of the lido-like buffet area which some people overlook. In the mornings it has French toast and waffles, and made to order sandwiches at lunch. The pizza station offers 3 or 4 varieties of pizza by the slice and will even make a pizza to order. My wife was pleased that they often also offered grilled veggies.
There were 3 omelet stations in the morning that can make any eggs to order, and they offered smoked salmon or gravlox every day, something I have missed on some other cruise lines.
In the solarium pool area, near the spa, they also offer health conscious light lunch food for several hours at mid day. The warm thalassotherapy pool in the adults only solarium was my favorite spot on sea days.
Entertainment consisted of 2 review-style shows which also included two aerialists. The other nights were a variety of comedians, musicians, and singers. There were a variety of music and dancing venues, ranging from oldies, to rock and pop in the disco, to classical. The Martini Bar is a popular spot, and offers martini flights of 6 samplers, and a champagne flight. The Cova Café offers Italian wine flights. They had three wine tastings during the cruise in the dining room in the afternoons. The first was a festival style, the first we've encountered aboard ship. They had wine stations from Italy, France, Spain, Australia, and the New World and light appetizers and you could go from table to table for almost 2 hours. The second features Reidel glassware and premium wines, and the third was a food and wine pairing session with various food items to compare with three wines.
Although we were berthed in Venice, the ship provided shuttle tenders to/from the town for $20 per person per day. In Dubrovnik they provided shuttle buses for $10 per person. We tendered in Santorini, and Villefrance, but they used commercial tenders and service was quick. All other ports we were berthed at piers.
When the ship leaves Venice it sails right through Venice, past St Mark's and the other islands. The view from the ship is excellent.
I hadn't been to Dubrovnik in over 30 years and it is still a marvel. We toured the Franciscan Monastery, walked the town, had lunch, and found bathing suits for my wife and daughter who were still without luggage. They don't use Euro, but rather Kuna, and it is not usable elsewhere. Credit cards are widely accepted, however.
This was my first visit to Santorini and the scenery of this volcanic island is spectacular. The white painted masonery town on the top overlooks the steep cliffs with the ship anchored below. There is a funicular for 4 Euros or a donkey ride for 5 Euros up the side of the cliff. We shopped on cobblestone pedestrian only streets and visited several churches before having an outstanding lunch of tzatziki, grilled cheese, village salad, and local wine. The weather was very hot. We rode the donkeys down the hill at my daughter's urging. It might have been less intimidating riding them up!
In Athens we had hired in advance a half day tour with George the Taxi Driver, whom I had used before. We drove from Piraeus to the Acropolis where we purchased a ticket for 12 Euros, and only 4 for my 18 year old daughter, which also admitted us to the Agora and Museum later. From the Acropolis we went to the Temple of Zeus and the Olympic stadium where the modern Olympics were resumed in the early 1900's, and then to the funicular ride up Mt Lykovetos (6 Euros). We also stopped at Syntagma Square to watch the changing of the guard in costumes at the tomb of their unknown soldiers. We then spent the afternoon walking through the Plaka and the Monistraki flea market area and a late afternoon Greek lunch before taking the Metro back to Piraeus for .80 Euro each. The ship was docked too far to walk, so we took a taxi from the Metro station to the pier for 6 Euro.
In Naples we docked in an industrial port area, while the MSC and Costa ships were able to berth at the terminal. We walked to the train station and purchased train tickets for a round trip ride to Pompeii. The tickets were 4.8 Euros each and the train took 45 minutes. The entrance to Pompeii is a block from the train station and admission is 11 Euros per person. Another very hot day but we enjoyed the walk all around this amazing city destroyed by lava from Mt Vesuvius and not rediscovered until the 1800's.
After the train back to town we took a taxi from the station to the Castle of the Egg on the waterfront and walked along the waterfront, finding a sidewalk café for pizza and wine in the birthplace of pizza! After lunch we walked to the San Carlo Opera House, and by the castle area and took a taxi back to the ship. I had been to Naples many times while in the Navy, but this was my first trip to Pompeii.
The next day was an early arrival in Civitavecchia for the visit to Rome. We had hired a car and driver from Bob's Limos and Tours, owned by an American, for 9 hours and a guided tour of the Vatican by a professional guide. We spent 4 hours touring churches, the Roman Forum, the Coliseum, the Circus Maximus, and more. At 2pm we met our guide and had a detailed explanation of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica. We took time for a late afternoon lunch in a nearby trattoria and then the ride back to the ship.
Livorno was also an early arrival for our visit to Florence and Pisa. We had another car and driver from Bob's Limos and Tours for 9 hours. We drove to Michaelango Plaza overlooking Florence and by the old walls and past Pitti Palace, then into the city. We had time to walk the pedestrian area by the churches, the Accademia, the Uffizi Gallery, and across the Ponti Vecchio. We then drove into the Tuscan countryside to a villa and estate winery where we had an Italian luncheon of antipasto, pasta, chicken and salad and three wines. After lunch we drove to Pisa for a brief photo opportunity with the leaning tower, the baptistery and the church, and then back to the ship. We actually had about a 10-1/2 hour tour, with the only delay due to heavy traffic heading into Florence in the morning.
In Villefrance we anchored and took a short tender ride from the waterfront. The beach is within easy walking distance. Instead we chose to walk to the train station and buy roundtrip train tickets to Cannes for 12.8 Euros per person. The trains are modern and air-conditioned. In Cannes we walked from the station to the waterfront and marina. The building where they hold the Cannes Film Festival has a red carpet on the stairs and everyone poses on it. After a walk along the waterfront by the classic hotels, we headed back to the train station and took the short ride back to Nice. Again we walked to the waterfront and stopped in a few stores and had lunch in a café on a plaza. We caught the train back for the very short trip to Villefrance and back to the ship.
For debarkation they provide everyone with a meeting place and time to be called to disembark. Since we had a post-cruise hotel booked by the cruise line, we were the last to leave. The transfer took us to the Grand Hotel Havana, about 4 blocks northeast of the Plaza de Cataluna. While the rooms weren't available till 3pm, they stored the luggage. We walked back to the Plaza and purchased tickets for the hop on/hop off double-decker tourist buses. There are three routes, and we rode them all, transferring from line to line. The tickets were 17 Euros each and it took about 4-1/2 hours to ride them all, taking photos along the way, but not getting off to sightsee. It was a great way to see the whole city, and in several previous visits to Barcelona I had not really gotten beyond the Ramblas and the Gothic quarter. After finishing the bus tour we strolled the Ramblas and had lunch at a sidewalk café there. Then we went back to the hotel for a swim in the rooftop pool and then to dinner at a restaurant that has been in business a very long time and has hundreds of photos of VIP's hung on the walls, Las Caracoles. We taxied back to the hotel as we were to be in the lobby for the airport transfer at 7:10am. As the hotel breakfast opened at 7 we asked for a bagged lunch. They had it ready in the morning but the transfer bus didn't show up on time and we had time eat in the dining room where a hot buffet breakfast was included. The ride to the airport is short. The flight back to Newark from Barcelona was uneventful, but once back in the US we were again at the mercy of the not on time domestic airlines and arrived home about 3 hours late.
In summary, we had a great time on the Celebrity Summit. The ship is in great condition and the service is excellent. Every crew member we met was very accommodating. The were trying some innovative things like a toga night in the disco, the White Night dining, a brunch, and the "wine festival" wine tasting. The florist was able to provide corsages for my wife and daughter. The Assistant Maitre 'd was at our table every night and ordered some special dishes for my daughter. Currency was exchanged on request at the Guest Relations desk, at the rate of about $1.61 USD to the Euro. The food was very good, but the presentation could have been with more flair. The itinerary was excellent with two ports I had not visited despite having lived in Greece for 3 years and visiting a number of ports while on Navy ships. Venice and Santorini were my first visits there. Well done, Celebrity, for a fine graduation trip for my daughter.
Returning to Celebrity Cruises after a number of years absence (sailed on Zenith six cruises) was somewhat of a disappointment. Since Celebrity Cruises was acquired by RCL, Celebrity has lost some of its gleam, no longer the fine Greek cruise line of the past. That being said, onto the position cruise on the Celebrity Millennium during April 2008.
The Millennium now eight years old is in need of a complete refurbishment from top to bottom, everything is worn and dated from the staterooms to the public areas and mostly the outside areas need maintenance.
Since either Carnival, RCL or NCL own the bulk of the cruise lines these days, the past grandeur of cruising with its service, excellent food, above average entertainment and traditional aspects, Celebrity Cruise Lines has joined the ranks of generic -- and I mean generic everything -- I truly missed the wonderful cruising experiences I had on numerous cruises on Celebrity's Zenith pre-RCL and miss Celebrity's touches a lot.
Embarkation at Ft. Lauderdale was quick and easy, since after 40 plus cruises I ignored the request by Celebrity to board after 1pm and arrived at the pier about 11am.
Buffet lunchon the Lido deck the day of departure was nothing special and remained so for the entire 15 day cruise.
Late sitting in the main dining room has its advantages and my waiter and wine staff were very attentive and dining was unhurried. The food is another review (good to fair) and I will avoid boring you in this review about what needs to be fixed. One bright spot is the Olympic Restaurant ($30 per person), where the service and food was a throwback to the "good old days" of cruising (thank you Royal Viking Line and Crystal Cruises) which was standard for them.
Entertainment is abundant each evening throughout the ship and most is good to very good. One exception is the production show "Classic" in the main show facility. The production was too highbrow for the audience and most left the performance before its end.
My stateroom (7003) was the surprise of the cruise because I selected the cabin overlooking the bow of ship for the Panama Canal transit since the Millennium has no forward outside observation areas. Anyhow, the cabin was the size of a mini suite on most ships (approx 230 sq feet) and had a huge four foot diameter window facing the bow.
Since this was a "position cruise" the ports of call were not important, the star was the Panama Canal and after eight transits the canal never ceases to excite me. What a wonderful day it is doing the transit.
I would have liked to have had a couple or three more ports of call added to the itinerary to break up the four 2 and 3 days each sea legs. The ports of call were nothing to speak about particularily in Mexico. Acapulco is tired, PV is better and poor Cabo, it is a tourist nightmare.
Debarkation in San Francisco was as good as can be expected given that in SF the pier is run by the local unions at their pace. I had to ask to leave the ship 45 minutes after my assigned time in order to get my luggage, taxi to the airport and make my return flight to Southern California.
All in all, Celebrity still outshines Carnival, NCL and Princess and is on a par with Holland America and RCL. Would I cruise again with Celebrity? The answer is YES and as a matter of fact I am taking the new ship Celebrity Solstice on her first scheduled Transatlantic/Mediterrean cruise in April 2009. Also have a group taking the Celebrity Mercury roundtrip from the west coast to Hawaii in November 2008 (looking forward to seeing the Mercury again, it has been 8 years since I sailed on her).