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-   -   Celebrity Solstice Group- Virtual Cruise (http://www.cruisemates.com/forum/celebrity/358740-celebrity-solstice-group-virtual-cruise.html)

Paul Motter November 28th, 2008 08:14 PM

Celebrity Solstice Group- Virtual Cruise
 
Hello CruiseMates...

Starting Saturday night, November 29, 99 Cruisemates are meeting in Ft Lauderdale to board (the following morning) the beautiful Celebrity Solstice on her third ever 7-day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean.

My wife, Lou Ann, and I are leading this motley crew. I will be uploading text and pictures here, as we get a feel for what this beautiful ship is like on a regular, 7-day itinerary.

You have already read the preview articles

http://www.cruisemates.com/articles/...ice-111808.cfm

and seen the photo galleries.

http://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/view.php?id=4910
http://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/view.php?id=4911
Now its time for the real thing. I hope you all enjoy cruising with us.

Paul Motter
editor and Solstice group cruise leader

Paul Motter November 29th, 2008 06:25 PM

hi....

We are at the Renaissance hotel on 17thst. We are meeting at 8:00 tonight in the 17th St Lounge. This is NOT mandatory but all are welcome.

Tomorrow this hotel has a port shuttle every 20 mins. for $6 per person.

Paul Motter November 29th, 2008 10:03 PM

we had a great first meeting. Everyone is So nice! All expert cruisers looking forwardbtryimg out a new ship. Tomorrow we board and meet on the Sum Deck for sailaway.

Don't forget, everyone gets $100 shipboard credit plus we have coupon books for discounts is spa, photography, wine, florals, etc.

We have very savvy cruisers in this group.

HappyJan November 29th, 2008 11:01 PM

We just returned from the "Heart 'n' Sol" meeting and met some very nice fellow cruisers. We look forward to spending the next week with them and exploring the new Celebrity Solstice.

Paul and Lou Ann are fabulous hosts -- watch out, Kuki :wink:

HappyJan and pheelgood
Janice & Phil

katlady November 30th, 2008 02:21 AM

I will be enjoying this cruise by blog. :( Have a great time. Do it for the rest of us stuck on land. :D

Paul Motter November 30th, 2008 09:06 AM

it's morning and we see our ship we see our ship across the street in the harbor. We have agreat view fr the Renaissance hotel. Lots of ships on this weekend including queen Mary 2

Will start loading pics as soon as we get on board.

HappyJan November 30th, 2008 09:55 AM

Dear KatLady:

You can count on us!! We plan to make the most of this week.

Dear Paul:

We can see the Solstice from our hotel room, too!

We are at the Hyatt Place (room 422) and saw our first glimpse of the ship at 6:11am this morning! She appears to be between the Emerald Princess and Carnival Freedom. I took a photo.

HappyJan & Pheelgood

Kuki November 30th, 2008 01:38 PM

I have no doubt that you guys and gals will have a fabulous time on this sparkling new ship.

And I have no doubt that Paul and Lu Ann will be wonderful hosts for the group (well Lu Ann for sure :wink: )

Wish I was there with all of you! Bon Voyage!

spencercoop November 30th, 2008 01:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by HappyJan
Dear KatLady:

You can count on us!! We plan to make the most of this week.

Dear Paul:

We can see the Solstice from our hotel room, too!

We are at the Hyatt Place (room 422) and saw our first glimpse of the ship at 6:11am this morning! She appears to be between the Emerald Princess and Carnival Freedom. I took a photo.

HappyJan & Pheelgood

Thank You! It will be great following along this virtual cruise. When you get a chance will you post that photo. Thank You!

Paul Motter November 30th, 2008 04:39 PM

Well…

We are all now onboard Celebrity Solstice and just finished the lifeboat drill. We are about to go our sail away party at the sky bar on the lawn deck. This is at the Sunset bar fully aft.

There is a little bit of sprinkling outdoors so I hope we won’t be rained out. The Sky Observation lounge is where the entire ships sail away party has been moved, so I guess that is going to interfere with the various unorganized Cruise Critic groups onboard. Oh well…

The ship is as beautiful as the first time I saw her. I guess now that I am on the 7-day cruise I can stat to get nit-picky, though, so here is the first one…

Why is it that they would have good old American hot-dogs for lunch, but only mustard to go on them? No sauerkraut, chopped onions or even pickle relish???? I mean…

Seriously, the buffet is wonderful, wonderful here… they have steaks cooked to perfection, roast beef carvers, stir fry, Mexican food buffet, salad bars of all kinds dessert to die for including ice cream sundaes.. But, still. A hot dog is not s hot dog without onions, & relish. I am sure you know what I mean.

Embarkation was a breeze – on in 15 minutes even though we arrived at 12:30 peak time. Our cabin was ready by 1:00. It has a beautiful bathroom, a bottle of champagne, flowers, fresh fruit.

We spent the whole afternoon putting up doorsigns for our group. We have badges waiting for everyone.

Everyone in our group gets a $100 onboard credit (most of them have forgotten about this), plus a coupon book for free wine, etc. A pretty good deal. I have to run now… its almost sailaway time.

Paul Motter November 30th, 2008 04:44 PM

Here is the view from our hotel room...

http://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/g...4910/78617.jpg

spencercoop November 30th, 2008 05:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Paul Motter
Here is the view from our hotel room...

http://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/g...4910/78617.jpg

So you were very close to the dock.

thecruisequeen December 1st, 2008 06:51 AM

I too will be following these posts and enjoying the pictures of the beautiful Solstice. :D

Have a great cruise all!! 8)

CruiseNOID December 1st, 2008 10:12 AM

Wish I was cruising with you all!!!

Guess I will have to settle for the virtual method of cruising.

Keep us posted on all the fun times!!1

Paul Motter December 1st, 2008 10:59 AM

Cruisemates Solstice

We all had dinner last night and I have to say I thought the food was very good, in the Grand Epernay regular dining room. I heard people raving about the fish. I had the quail and it was delectable.

Today we have our Get-together for socializing with karaoake thrown in just for a bit of additional personal showboating or embarrassment, depending on your point of view.

Right after that, we have our CruiseMates complimentary cocktail party at 5:00 in time for dinner at 6:00. This ship is different because they hold the captains Welcome Aboard party after dinner for both sittings. The grand Epernay dining room is fantabulous, all white with clear blue glass sheets framing on of the most beautiful chandeliers I have ever seen. Of course you can see it in my pictures from the ship linked to in posts above.

The tables are well spaced and I had no trouble at all hearing all of my tablemates, at a table for ten that is a considerable accomplishment. The service was a bit slow, it seemed we only had one waiter doing everything for us – no busboy. The time between courses was considerable, of course that is common on a new ship and it takes time for any new system to smooth out the rough edges.

The ship is beautiful, but I have reported on that already, if you read my article from the inaugural preview cruise. It is nice to have time to settle into the cabin. This time around we have a cabin where the seating is next to the front door and bathroom, rather than by the balcony. This a HUGE difference, and if you ever sail this ship I recommend you book one with that setup. I am not sure if they alternate or what. We are in a Concierge cabin.

In truth, the cabins throughout this ship are about as identical as any ship I have ever seen, all well designed. Each non-suite balcony cabin is 194 sq. ft. and the inside and Oceanview cabins are almost identical except without the verandahs. The beds are very soft and plushy with more pillows than you need and an extra mattress pad several inches think for more comfort.

Now the down side – another bad sommelier (similar to another group cruise I did last year). A guest at our table and I ordered drinks that had to come from the bar at dinner last night. We had not seen a sommelier (bar waiter) for the whole time so I finally asked our waiter to summon one. That took almost 15 minutes. When he finally showed up we gave our orders and he disappeared – for so long I had to ask our waiter where he was. The waiter sent over another waiter, but I had to say we were already waiting. He asked me to describe ours and he apparently went and got him. Finally, at least a ½-hour later we got our drinks.

I personally think this is just unacceptable at dinner seating. If you are already eating and want your wine or diet coke, to help you relax or wake up as the case may be, then you want it RIGHT AWAY, not a ½-hour (no exaggeration) later.

To top it off, he was a “good-time Charlie” personality, if you know what I mean. Everything was a joke, I mean EVERYTHING. There was no apology for being late, just some lame comment about him being an important man. To top it off, when he delivered my tab he watched me sign it. These tabs come with a built-in gratuity, plus a line that says “added tip”.

I normally don’t ADD a tip to the already included service charge unless someone does something extra special for me. So “Charlie” was watching me sign my tab and when I drew a “null” sign through the added tip he said “I beg you pardon?” over my shoulder. Feeling incredulous but keeping my cool, I said, “excuse me?” while looking over my shoulder at him like I didn’t hear. He said it again, “I beg your pardon?” gesturing towards the tab I was signing with his chin.

I said to him, “I don’t understand, did I do something wrong?”


Good time Charlie acted like it was all a joke from an important man who I am supposed to feel honored to be in the presence of… he shrugged and said, “no problem!” jovially.

Call me jaded but I have worked on cruise ships and sailed on dozens more. I was put off that his service was so bad, but I didn’t say anything about it. I suppose his kind of “its all good” joking attitude works with a lot of passengers, but not with me.

I didn’t say anything when the woman next to me added a $1 to her $6 tab plus 18% service charge, that’s her business. You can add something to it every time if you want, but I don’t, and especially when I get truly bad service.

This is Celebrity, and they have sommeliers, unlike the Mainstream likes where they make the waiters do it. So, I expect better. Our waiter was running circles around this guy. My philosophy is that dining room staff should serve unobtrusively and efficiently on a premium cruise line. If you want to clown around with me you should be working on a “Fun Ship.” And for the record, that is one aspect of “fun ships” I could live without, but at least there I expect it so I can accept it. This was just out of place.

On a final note – WHAT A GREAT BUNCH OF CRUISERS IN OUR GROUP! Everyone we have met is extremely friendly and they are all such experienced cruisers. They know as much about ships as the cruise journalists I often get the pleasure of traveling with. These folks could all do my job, which just reminds me how lucky I am to have it.

Thank you CruiseMates cruisers! Golly, I can’t imagine a better group of people to travel with. You are all funny, friendly and interesting. This is great, more later….

Paul Motter December 1st, 2008 01:56 PM

Kuki is RIGHT, absolutely. I am known for being "the shy one" with a major fear of public speaking but I am working on getting over it. I have a pretty good talk prepared about Solstice, based on what little i know aboutr her!

matey December 1st, 2008 03:51 PM

Hope you are having a wonderful time!

On wine and liquer, is the added gratuity now 18%?

I thought the cabins were supposed to be bigger on the Solstice.

Do you feel the crowds? I have never been on such a big ship. Please tell us

the plusses and the minuses!

Sorry about your ridiculous service. I would write about that in the comment

sheet.

rollerdonna December 1st, 2008 11:24 PM

Paul, looking forward to reading more about the Solstice!

donna

kryos December 2nd, 2008 06:00 AM

Thank you for your live report from Solstice. I was wondering what that ship was like and reading your reports is giving me a good idea.

I generally stay away from large ships, but maybe Solstice might be an exception in my future.

I agree with you 100% by the way ... about the added tip. Even if the service is good, I think it's downright sneaky for a cruise line to add an extra line onto the receipt for "added gratuity." It's misleading because people might wrongfully assume that there is no gratuity automatically added and go ahead and give more than they would have intended. Thankfully, HAL doesn't do that.

When I sailed the QE2, it took me three times to realize that I was adding a couple of dollars gratuity onto my drink tab when a 15% gratuity had already been added. I'm sorry, but 20% gratuity, at least to me, is a bit "over the top."

Blue skies and continue to enjoy your cruise!

--rita

Sanibel*Gal December 2nd, 2008 10:11 AM

Thanks for the live report!!! So exciting to see this live thread and a BIG "HELLO" to Jan & Phil!! :D We sailed with them on a previous cruise and they are a great couple. Hope you all have a wonderful time, wish we were there too.

Andrea & Bob

Paul Motter December 2nd, 2008 11:59 AM

Sorry - the service charge is 15% (as I look at a ticket and do the math).

No, you don't feel the crowds on this ship at all. I have not met anyone onboard who doesn't love her - except one malcontent. Hard to say why she was so grumpy. Not her style ofr ship.

Size is all about passenger to space ratio, and this has plenty of space - like QM2. Everything is scaled up - more tables, more room, more staff.

Anyway -- Day three

We are “steaming” towards San Juan this morning. We do not arrive until 2:00 pm so this morning they held a large brunch meal in the Grand Epernay dining room with eggs benedict, etc. I have to assume it was delicious but since we moved our clocks an hour forward and were up late we missed it.

While we are in sailing into San Juan there will be a deck party out by the pool, and there will be another one tonight at sailaway starting at 9:30 pm. This is a somewhat unusual itinerary, which I like. I rarely get cruises that go to San Juan and it is so nice to have an alternative to St Thomas, which I have been to oh so many times. (More than I can count). It is also VERY nice to be in two different ports past sundown. We leave San Juan at 10:00 pm and tomorrow we leave St Martin at 11:00! I have been to St Martin dozens of times, but never later than 6:00. I am not even sure what it is like after sundown there.

San Juan has the dramatic 16th Century Fort San Felipe del Morro and La Forteleza, the governor’s mansion. We moved our clocks forward last night so we lost an hour of sleep.

Yesterday we had our karaoake party. Lou Ann got the crowd rolling with her rendition of “Secret Agent Man,” which she did with a pair of old James-Bond style sunglasses and hat. I was surprised at how many people actually had the nerve to get up and sing. We went for over an hour.

Then we started our complimentary cocktail party, which was our real first opportunity to meet everyone in the group. By now I am sure you have figured out some people book our groups simply because they are great values. Not everyone participates in every activity we organize and we are perfectly fine with that. But the cocktail party means free pre-dinner drinks and who wouldn’t want to go along with that?

The point of CruiseMates is to allow cruisers to meet online first, and if they want to meet onboard they can do that, too. Obviously, we have a big “meet on board” area here in CruiseMates so people who are on the same sailing can communicate before hand. If you like each other and choose to meet up on board – great. But there are never any obligations to take it farther.

Last night was a formal night so most people came to our cocktail party in formal dress. Most of us have first seating although some have second. This ship holds its captains welcome aboard party AFTER dinner. OK, no one asked me but it seems like a way to get people to drink far less. It worked out better for us because our party was pre-dinner so it didn’t conflict, but under normal circumstances I would prefer a pre-dinner captain’s party.

But you know what? I never go to them anyway, so big whoop!

My biggest surprise was a new CruiseMates who flew all the way from Australia to meet up with us. She not only looks like Olivia Newton John, she sounds and even sings like her. What a beautiful singing voice. Gabriel is her name and what a lot she added to the karaoake party.

But even more importantly, we have the regular CruiseMates cruisers who have shown up for every little thing we do including HappyJan & Phil, Elaine & Steve, Steve & Kathy, Robert & Myra and others. There were all even at the Hotel pre-cruise. All nice people, all very savvy cruisers.

Dinner service was far better last night. Our sommelier was on the ball and did not fool around with us too much – far more professional. Our tablemate who was in the suite was a petite grand dame almost 90 years old. Although she only weighed about 90 pounds, when it came time to order dessert she said “bring them all!” No kidding. When the waiter did bring five different desserts she counted them out and said “something is missing,” so he counted them out again and said, “they are all there!” - No, she said, the ice cream was missing the pistachio nuts.

We are just now sailing into San Juan – what a beautiful December day in the tropics. Below 80 degrees, not too humid and not a single cloud in the sky. This trip has been a little rough so far, weather-wise, with rolling waves and intermittent rain. The lawn does not like that much.

Solstice rides well, but not as solid as the Royal Caribbean Freedom-class to me. She has a very unique design described in my inaugural article about her. (See “Celebrity Solstice Debuts” on our front page). You can feel her pitching and rolling, but in very limited motion. It seems to start and stop every few seconds, not a constant motion but rather limited, though. I doubt if many people will ever get seasick on her.

That’s all for now – just starting day three! See you again tomorrow, or maybe tonight.

Karaoke night:

http://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/g...4910/78650.jpg

Kuki December 2nd, 2008 02:15 PM

Paul... thanks for the great report. The Karaoke sounds like fun, though I'd NEVER get up and sing.. but bet Lu Ann was a hit!

We do have GREAT folks at CruiseMates.... and it really always is fun when they meet on our group cruises!! Glad to hear you are enjoying them, and the role of hosting them.

Just don't go trying to steal my job now LOL LOL

bgsimp December 2nd, 2008 07:06 PM

Sounds like you're having a great time. While on the maiden voyage, our sommelier was Vicente. He was fabulous from day one.
Our favorite place was the Ensemble Lounge. Brian is great & we just loved Elizma.
I would think in the near future, Ken Ismail, the guest relations manager, will be a hotel manager. He was such a great guy.
Looking forward to reading how they are doing this week getting more organized.

Paul Motter December 3rd, 2008 01:53 AM

Cruise Lover...

Just as an FYI: when I go on ships as a reporter, which I often do, then I get out and meet as many officers on the ship as I can. But when I travel as a regular passenger I really prefer NOT to make my identity known. I prefer to see how the regular passenger gets treated.

I love being "incognito" and going to guest relations or just a dining room to see how the service will be for our average reader when she/he comes aboard.

Last night was Puerto Rico. This is a much more beautiful city than I remebered it, especially if you make the walk to Morro Castle. It was fun being in until late at night as well, although Lou was a little under the weather so we didn't take advantage - OBVIOUSLY many of our fellow diners did as the dining room was near empty. We had GREAT service to say the least.

Tomorrow is St Martin. We don't have any group activities scheduled until Friday, first of two days at sea. However, stay tuned for more ship information.

There are a LOT of shipboard activities on this ship from wine tastings to a lecturer on the Russian Space program. There are computer classes, bocce 101, acupuncture demos, physical activities, trivia, guess that tune, etc. This is not a boring ship by any means!!

Paul Motter December 4th, 2008 08:47 AM

St Martin….

Boy oh Boy – we had FOUR ships in at the same time, all of them mega-ships. I remember when you came to St Martin and all the ships had to tender, so there would be one in the bay and two outside. Now they have a dock long enough for four mega-ships!

In port with us are Emerald Princess (3800-passengers), Carnival Liberty (3200+ passengers) and Independence of the Seas (5000+). All four ships are sharing the same dock, two ships on each side. Next to us they are building another dock, presumably to handle the new Oasis of the Seas-size ships (5400 berths, 6300+ total possible passengers).
In other words, there are approximately 15,000 of us walking the narrow shopping street of this island today. That is nearly 30% of the entire population of the entire island added to the populkation just for one day. When the new pier is done, there could be as many as 25,000 passengers alighting on this tiny island on any given day.

This is a stark difference from the days when I worked on cruise ships just about 15 years ago. I spent four months on the Norway, at the time one of the biggest cruise ships in the world at 80,000-tons, and we used to anchor outside the bay here at Phillipsburg because we were too big to turn around. Our tender trip to the city center used to take almost 20 minutes. Today we have ships twice that big docking within walking distance of downtown.

So, what is my point? That just in the last three to five years the cruise industry has grown by over 30% capacity. The average-sized ship visiting these Caribbean islands is 120,000-tons and 3500 passengers. Within three years it will likely be closer to 160,000 tons and 5000 passengers. This industry has skyrocketed, but has it gotten too big?
While you are on any cruise ship, the answer is no, you do not feeel as if the ship is too big. In fact, since it is your home for a week you tend to feel it is just about the right size since it takes you about that long to get used to your surroundings and see just about everything you feel there is to see.

Even in downtown Phillipsburg I did not feel overly crowded. I had the immediate attention of a shopkeeper the second I walked in any store, asking me what fine watch, earrings or camera I was interested in pretending I was interested in today. BUt where I absolutely DID feel overly crowded was on the dock itself. With eight gangways (two for each ship, crew and passengers) feeding a steady stream of humanity onshore.

What I find funny is that if you are listening to Wall Street, you are hearing this industry is in trouble due to the slowing economy whilst all the extra ship capacity is coming online. All I can say is, if there is any crisis in the economy, it is not apparent here in the Caribbean where older cruisers buying designer watches and younger ones picking up game cartridges for thir Wii and XBox consoles are heating up the plastic that makes world go 'round.

Royal Caribbean just laid the keel for Allure of the Seas today, the sister ship to Oasis of the Seas. Four more sister ships to Solstice are coming online in the next four years. That is almost 25,000 berths between the two sister companies coming online before 2012.
Meanwhile, the islands are getting ready - building new docks, and in the case of Jamaica, an entirely new destination port city from the ground up for the Oasis-class vessels.

This is a booming business, one where my guess is Las Vegas would be jealous. Only time will tell, but if the excitement of the passengers I am speaking to this week is any indication, cruising will continue growing the same as it always has in the past, and what was considered to be outrageously outsized just a few years ago will be the "norm" tomorrow.
The ship was surprisingly active last night. Once again, the dining room was uncrowded and service was fast, but I was very surprised to see the Casino, shops and nightclubs open even though we remained in port until 11:30.

There are a lot of things that happen on this ship that we did not see on our two-night press junket. On those nights all the menus were pre-set, so we didn’t truly get a chance to try the variety of food available.

Another surprise was the Martini bar where I caught some of our CruiseMates enjoying. This bar has some very flamboyant bartenders whom are always juggling their beakers and catching ice cubes behind their backs.

The bar features Grey Goose Vodka. One item available is a sampling of every flavor of martini they make. Four $17.50 you get SIX 2-oz martinis of various colors. By the time our test subject was done she was telling us here life story – uninvited.

Another similar concept they have is in the wine-tasting room. They have 12 bottles set up in a vending-machine kind of apparatus. You can buy these wines by the ounce with a pre-paid card you buy at the bar of “Tastings.”

The wines vary from $60 to $200 bottles, and an ounce costs from $2.00 to $8.00. They also give you bread and cheese to refresh the pallet between tastes, and of course plenty of fresh glasses.

At 11:30 we watched something I had never seen on a Celebrity ship – an adult-oriented “blue” comedy show. There is a small room that has not gotten a lot of attention by the press called “Celebrity Live.” The reason is because it is so hidden away. It is just a small amphitheater, but some of the entertainment onboard happens in there. They have movies during the day, and at night it feels like the “Improv” comedy club.

The movie, showing three times yesterday, was “No Time for Old Men.” Which isn’t exactly a movie for fans of Walter Mathau and Jack Lemmon.

Comedian Louis Johnson performed his best jokes, and they were good. Late night partying went on in the Quasar Club. This is an active ship, with people of all ages, and especially people who FEEL young at heart. This is NOT a “roll up the sidewalks” at 10:00 ship.

Tomorrow we do CruiseMates Trivia – all questions will be about the Solstice – I will give questions and answers later. Then we do Tea, a Christmas ornament exchange, bocce ball challenge and…..

BTW: everyone I meet on this ship is a VERY experienced cruiser, and everyone loves the ship. Most of them are Celebrity fans who have been on all their ships.

Martini Tastings:

http://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/g...4910/78648.jpg

bgsimp December 4th, 2008 09:17 AM

One thing they had that we really enjoyed was World Wine Tasting. It was on Friday at 2:30 in the Sky Lounge. The cost was $20.00. There were 12 wines, 6 red & 6 white. You would go to different stations & taste the wines. Lots of good canapes & cheeses were also put out. We didn't leave til 4:00 & probably drank 4 - 5 glasses of wine while in there. We kept going back to the Reisling. LOL

Paul Motter December 4th, 2008 09:40 AM

Thank you BG, Cruise Lover.... I heard about that wine tasting and it is a GREAT idea.

Paul Motter December 5th, 2008 09:00 AM

Last night we had dinner in the Tuscan Grille. It is fully aft on deck five, which is reminiscent of the traditional dining rooms on all other Celebrity ships which are always fully aft with two deck tall full ocean-view windows. This specialty restaurant, $25 per person, features extravagant Italian meat dishes like veal, grilled lamb chops, steaks; or a variety if fish dishes including Chilean Sea Bass and of course pasta from linguine to penne. There was no gnocchi, which surprised me a little.

I recommend that you go to this meal hungry, do not have even a small snack in the afternoon. Not only were the portions extravagantly sized, the staff was also extremely generous if you wanted to try something to help you make up your mind.

The meal starts with an appetizer course, with selections like crab cake, chopped salad, antipasti or buffalo mozzarella with basil and tomato.

The next course included soups, breaded and fried calamari, etc.

My wife opted for the crab cake, which actually came in its own iron pot. It was not cake at all, it was a crab stew immersed in thick and stringy melted mozzarella cheese, with spices and bread crumbs. It was heavenly.

I had the cioppino, which started with a dry pot with large chunks of lobster, a large clam, calamari rings and pieces of sea bass. It was then covered with a delicious seafood broth which was created by boiling lobster shells and inner bits in a tomato base. It was deeply rich in flavor enough to remain unforgettable.

My wife’s Sea Bass came with the skin loosely attached. It had been baked to a crispy confection with peppery spices and olive oil. It was the perfect adjunct to the creamy sea bass underneath. Delicious.

I had the “mixed grill” with a lamb chop, veal, chicken and Italian sausage. All of the food was served almost too hot to eat (always a rare treat on a cruise ship). The grilled food was all ideally completed, with slightly charred outsides to give just the right mount of crunch to the tender insides. The lamb chops were to die for, and when I told th Maitre D’ how much I enjoyed them he brought me two more.

By this time we were just already entirely satiated, but we3 still had to face dessert. When we saw an item called “chocolate fondue” we smirked at the memory we had of another cruise ship where they had a dessert item called “white chocolate fondue with raspberries” that turned out to be more like a vanilla mousse with a couple of berries at the bottom of the dish.

For those of you who didn’t live through the 60s, fondue is a popular Swiss food preparation where you are presented with a hot pot of either cheese or hot oil (for entrees) or meleted chocolate for dessert, and you get a variety of bite-size treats that you dip into the sauce and eat.

After we were assured this was REAL chocolate fondue we naturally could not resist no matter how full we were. Surely enough, a pot of hot, fudgey chocolate arrived along with marshmallows, banana pieces, brownie chunks and pieces of fruit like pineapple. We dipped with pleasure and it was sinfully good.

My wife ordered Gelato, because she was so full, but they brought her three scoops. On top of that, simply because we had asked, they brought each dessert on the menu and put them in front of is, so we just had to have a bite of each one. The mousse desserts with tiny chocolate drops are particularly tasty. I am not sure what these crunchy little chocolate drops are (perhaps a piece of nut or cookie inside), but they put them on many desserts and they are just the right touch.

Afterwards we were too full to do much more than go to bed. The casino is very active on this ship and features three-card poker, craps, 21, roulette, Texas Hold’em, and several slot machines.
Today we have more CruiseMates group activities scheduled. I am giving the crowd a trivia test on the Solstice. As I have mentioned before, the people cruising on this ship all seem to be VERY experienced cruisers. I know believe cruising has reached critical mass where certain cruise lines like Celebrity, Princess and Holland America can live largely off of repeat passengers. These people will never stop cruising, and now that there are so many bargains out there they are cruising even more than before.

Paul Motter December 5th, 2008 09:02 AM

Here are the trivia questions: (I will give answers later - after our crowd gets to do the test). Feel free to post them here if you know ALL of them.

Solstice Trivia

1. How many propeller blades does Solstice have (not counting thrusters)

2. Where did the name for the Restaurant AquaSpa Guests dine in come from?

3. How many passenger berths are there on Solstice? 2840

4. How many facets in the Solstice Diamond?

5. Where was Solstice Built?

6. How many ships are to be built of the Solstice class?
7. What is the name of number two and where will it homeport?

8. What is the name of number three and where will it homeport?

9. In what country is Solstice flagged?

10. When does Solstice start also going to the Western Caribbean?

11. How much bigger are the cabins on Solstice compared to other Celebrity Ships?

12. What is the name of the bar next to the Martini bar?

13. Who is the new head of Cuisine for Celebrity?

14. Captains on Solstice are allowed to perform what special service for passengers?

15. What does the word “Epernay?” come from?

16. How many retail shops are on board Solstice?

17. What is the minimum age allowed in the Solarium?

18. How many years from first design to finishing building Solstice elapsed?

19. The Corning Museum of Glass is also known for what famous brand of Crystal?

20. Oasis – how many berths does Oasis have?

21. How many gross tons is Oasis?

22. What main entertainment venue is on Oasis that is NOT on Freedom class?

23. What is up above the Royal Promenade on Oasis?

24. What new fun-sports activity will Oasis have that is a first at sea?

25. True or False: Oasis has a stand-up comedy club?

26. True or False: Oasis has an ice-skating rink?

Paul Motter December 5th, 2008 09:04 AM

Tuscan Grille Chocolate Fondue:

http://www.cruisemates.com/gallery/g...4910/78649.jpg


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