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. Families. Foodies.
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.
Embarkation: A breeze. Arrived at the terminal at 10.45, went through express check-in, on board sipping champagne at 11.20. Headed for the buffet and enjoyed a great lunch by the window. We were docked at right angles to the Oasis of the Seas-what a behemoth! The cabins were ready at 1 p.m. and the luggage arrived by 3.15. Checked out our dining room location (a table for 8 on the main floor, centre), did the muster drill and got unpacked.
Our cabin: An outside on deck 2 mid ship just down the hall from the cabin we had in 2008, but looking much better after the refurbish-rather subdued décor but quite classy. New flat screen T.V. Very comfortable bed. The only wear and tear I noticed was a little rust on the bottom of the window. We met our room attendant who was very helpful and efficient-we asked to have the beds put together the next morning as one king because of the room configuration but it was done when we came back after dinner.
Main Dining Room: We had early seating and great table mates-4 more Canadians and a couplefrom Ohio. Thoroughly enjoyed them all. Our waiter was very good and the assistant was outstanding. He was ill one night and we all noticed the difference in the flow of the meal without him. Our maitre'd was a woman from Brazil who was at our table, and everyone's, every single night-somewhat unusual in my experience. Maybe a little over-zealous. DH complained to her about the bitter coffee one night and she immediately tore into the assistant waiter which was not warranted (in my opinion). The overall food was excellent-well prepared, well presented and served. My husband did make one bad choice-pork belly. Not sure why this is even on the menu-90% fat, and on one occasion my soup must have been made with salt water.
The Buffet: On previous cruises we've very seldom used the buffet-too busy and too repetitive. This time, however, we had lunch there 4 or 5 times. It never seemed to be overly crowded; we always found a window seat. And there was a huge selection to choose from-the usual hot entrees, made to order salads, Asian food, British food, pizza, made to order pasta, and custom made paninis. And yes! They still have trays and waiters to carry the tray if needed.
The Aqua Spa Café: This was our other choice for lunch. Not a huge selection but very unusual, very healthy cuisine-you had to ask for butter! You could order grilled chicken, salmon or pork chop. There was a choice of 3 or 4 salads, plus marinated fruits and a couple of low cal desserts. The café is located inside the solarium which can be a little steamy but once again we were always able to find a table by an open window.
Specialty Restaurants: This was our 13th cruise and the first time we ever ate in a surcharge restaurant-and very glad we did! We chose Ocean Liners and the meal and service were beyond expectation. I had steak and lobster, my husband opted for just lobster. After an appetizers of scallops and a goat cheese soufflé, I could (should) have had dessert and called it a night. I managed half the fillet and half the lobster but my husband was happy to help out. He also managed crepes for dessert which were prepared table side. A very memorable evening. This restaurant was very well attended but not so the Tuscan Grill which is a new addition. Not sure why but never saw anyone there. We had full intentions of trying the Bistro on Five but ran out of time and appetite. There were also two "Brunches at Sea" which were served in the Dining Room and were really over the top-there was literally everything-even caviar. But no crab or lobster.
The Entertainment: Celebrity has been our cruise line of choice for quite a few years but we've always thought the entertainment was lacking. Not so on this cruise. The resident singers and dancers were exceptional and they introduced a new show called Neverland. It was very ambitious for a cruise production with lots of special effects and fantastic costumes. We also got a very entertaining pianist, a very talented female singer from Vancouver and a magician (actually slight of hand artist). And our favorite Perry Grant did a great show in the theatre one night but I still think he is better suited to Michaels Club, which was SRO every night he performed there. There was also one of the best acapella (?) groups I've ever heard and a female string quartet who performed in different venues.
Public Areas: The new ice martini bar is a nice touch with juggling bartenders. There are also new wine dispensing machines on Deck 5 adjacent to the new Bistro on 5. The rendezvous lounge looks great with all new furniture ( maybe recovered). But the biggest improvement is Reflections, formerly the Bar at the Edge of the Earth-what a difference! This now has to be one of the most beautiful lounges afloat-we were there every day for sail away and sometimes during the day just to relax and enjoy the expansive view. The pool area was probably the most crowded public area, especially on sea days. The Thallasotherapy pool was never very crowded which was a pleasant surprise and the spa was well maintained. There was also no pressure to buy spa products. I really enjoyed the Persian Gardens! The casino was always bright and busy and thankfully smoke free. The internet café was well staffed-one IT spent over 20 minutes trying to figure out why my cell phone wouldn't work-not part of his job description I'm sure.
On Board Activities: The usual trivia, scrap booking, pool games, dance classes etc. during the day. Many more choices at night. One of the main reasons why everyone (that I spoke to) enjoyed this cruise was the Cruise Director Sue Denning. In a word, she was amazing. Not sure if she ever slept. On port days, she was there when we disembarked, was at karaoke, in the disco, did a trivia, a scarf demo, and she sang in the farewell show. I've never seen such a visible CD. She is a former music hall entertainer and actress from Britain and a genuine people person.
The Crew and Officers: They were all very friendly and accessible, always smiling and acknowledging you, from the cleaners all the way up to the Captain, who was very personable. He did a question and answer session along with the Chief Engineer, the CD and one other officer where he displayed his great sense of humor. He had started at the bottom as a painter and worked his way to the top so he related well to all those working behind the scenes. He also did a walk through the dining room one evening, chatting to as many as he could, including a young boy at the next table, even posing for a picture.
The Itinerary: There were 8 ports of call, none new for us but we revisited some of our favorites. We did one cruise shore excursion to the beach in Barbados, other than that we did our own thing. We did 2 "stay-on-the-ship-port-days" along with 5 days at sea which was perfect for us. I noticed that the photographers were far less pushy when you disembarked-one "no thank you" was enough. Along with the cold cloths and drinks on your return, they now set up a small seating area with wicker furniture on a rug under a gazebo!
Disembarkation: We are Elite members of the Captains Club so we took advantage of the departure lounge in the cinema where a continental breakfast was set up. Once again, not at all crowded although there were 400 Elites on this cruise. We were off the ship at 8.30, got the cruise shuttle to the airport and were checked in at 9.30. And we were worried that we might not make our 12.30 flight?
I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this cruise. Very restricted smoking areas, no in-room announcements, no reams of paper from the Art Gallery or Spa. And a dress code that was adhered to by 95% of the passengers. I think our days of trying other cruise lines are over-we'll stick with Celebrity.
We had a really good time on the Celebrity Infinity! This was our first Celebrity cruise. (HA, RCL, and Cunard before) It was a 14 day cruise from LA to Miami. The ports of call were: Cabo San Lucas, Acapulco, Huatulco, Puntarenas Costa Rica, the Panama Canal, and Cartegena Columbia. We also had 7 sea days interspersed throughout.
I'll start with the ship itself. It is older, and has a few minor things that show that wear. We personally didn't mind it at all, and it's such a grand ship! We had a CC aft veranda room (8172). Very nice. The veranda is twice the size of the ones on the side of the ship! We laid on our chaise loungers leaving every port, listening to the music up on the 10th deck, watching the sunset.... it was fabulous. Also a must for the Panama Canal!
The staff were really friendly, and seemed genuinely to love their jobs. Our room steward was most efficient, and the waiter, assistant, and somelier in the dining room were wonderful as well. The waiters in the lounges were almost too efficient, in that if you gotup to use the restroom or dance, your drink may be gone when you returned. We had to yell about that once or twice!
We had breakfast in the main dining room three times. The eggs were overcooked, and the menu limited, so we stuck to the buffet or room service the rest of the cruise. Lunch was also not that great, so again, we went to the buffet. (very good sandwich bar) Dinner however was wonderful. There are two menus every night - one that is a constant, and one that is only for that evening. I loved most of the food that I ordered. (the steaks were always a bit overdone) Desserts were excellent. The sommelier was a little slow the first few nights, but then she picked up and was quite good. The buffet was crowded for breakfast. We would go late, or if we needed to eat early, we ordered room service. Room service was very prompt! The buffet food was good average. Nothing special certainly, but had a decent variety, and got the job done. Pizza bar, pasta bar, and sandwich bar were our favorites. Never ate at the other areas, so won't comment on those.
The entertainment was varied and talented. Several different singers, a magician, two comedians, an aerialist couple, a dueling violin couple, and the ship's troupe. Something different every night.
On board activities were average. (trivia, name that tune, bingo, etc) The staff didn't exactly seem very excited to be there. (except Christine the Bingo Queen - she was great)
Plenty of hot tubs, and the pool never seemed crowded. The Thalassotherapy pool is to die for. I need one at home! Used it every day. Every lounge had entertainment throughout the evening that was very good, and danceable.
We only took shore excursions in two ports - Acapulco, MX and Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Both were well run, with great guides. We would do them again. The other ports were easy to navigate around, so we did our own tours with local taxis. The Panama Canal day was the hightlight of the cruise. I highly recommend this! It was so interesting, on many levels.
All in all, we had a very good time, enjoyed the ship, and would most certainly go with the Infinity again. We are hoping to enjoy another Celebrity ship in the near future.
We had a 7 night cruise, and didn't find the "wow factor" of this line.
I read reviews before we took our cruise, and saw there was much negative about the wear of the ship. I tried to be open to it...but found it to be so correct. This is an older ship I know, but it is seriously in need of some major renovation! Wow! Interior fabrics are like "what? really?" Rust/corrosion is painted over and so noticeable, railings are really scuffed/worn. There was so much wear, I don't want to nag too much. But sad to say that I have to agree with a lot of the reviews of this ship.
Upon room check in, I asked the room attendant about getting flowers in my room, and she never did anything about it. She must've acted like she wrote it down and understood...but did nothing. Overall she did her job,(not requests) but it was definitely minimal. We've had much better attendants.
The shows were great! Really! :) This was the only thing that stood out to us on the ship. The food was okay, and mostly seemed cooled off whenserved. The buffet was alright. Sad to say that the hamburgers and spaghetti were my favorites for taste and hotness. The adult pool was fantastic, and the St. Lucia band they had on the boat was fantastic!!
We really tried to have an open mind on this boat, but found ourselves saying to each other " i just don't get it." As to how this cruiseline gets the excellent rating, I am unsure of that, unless it's the brand new ships. We may give a new ship a try at some point, but I think our next cruise will be with the princess.
After cruising 350 days nearly half of them on Celebrity, I embraces the notion that this cruise line has gracefully been lifted above others. In 2004-2005 we had the fortune to travel most of Europe onboard Celebrity's beloved Millennium and Constellation over three months which had clearly etched incredibly memorable experiences until this day. Hence, we were poised to book two back to back segments onboard the new Solstice.
Clearly, Celebrity has raised the bar while keeping most of what the company has been famous for. From the moment you enter the ship, you are greeted with a grand foyer which can put most five star hotels into the twilight. All materials are first rate, polished in class, while being modernly hip unlike stuffy luxury liners. From the public areas, lounges and staterooms which now offer an interactive 32 inch flatscreen television the Solstice manages to impress all senses something better felt than said. I can list all the attributes this ship has which can be better viewed on Celebrity's website than my words. The true value of this vessel lies in the overall execution of details ranging from style, design flow. Asthe ship docked in port (as in all Celebrity ships) tents are raised covering leather sofas for guests who are served punch, cold water and ice towels upon entering the ship. The entire ship is designed to bond guests with the sea not insulate them.
Dining is first rate in any venue from the finest designed Lido buffet at sea, the classy grand dining room to the many alternative venues ranging from Italian to Asian. You cannot go astray by any of these dining venues which are better than most at sea with tasteful dishes and polished service.
The aqua spa could have used the thalassotherapy pool (salt water warm jet pool) found in smaller Celebrity ships. Nevertheless, an half acre of real grass in the lawn club was a treat to all senses namely to my 3 1/2 year old daughter who loved to stroll barefoot. All shows are better than anything else I had seen on other ships except the ones on Celebrity's beloved Millennium.
As they say, value lies in the details, details which can often be overlooked. It is the sum of all these small elements coupled with balanced execution which adds up to a truly rewarding experience. This is exactly the realm nearly perfected by Celebrity not easily matched by other cruise lines regardless of price.
CELEBRITY CONSTELLATION -Sophisticated, Subtle, Warm and Welcoming Cabin 1243
Holyland Cruise-October 18th to October 31st 2010
PROLOGUE.. We had booked this cruise instead of our usual Trans-Atlantic because of the opportunity to visit Israel, the cruise was booked in July 2009 for departure from Rome on October 18, 2010. This was a port intensive cruise and with mobility problems we realized we would need private group tours and with much luck we managed to do it. Our wisest move was to hire a guide in Israel through Guided Tours immediately.
Last year on another cruise we visited and toured Rome and I was overwhelmed with it's history and beauty and unabashedly sobbed at the Trevi Fountain (yes, I threw coins in even though I knew I was coming back). Nothing had ever prepared me for the Rome experience.
Our adventure began with Parrot Pop having food poisoning the day before our departure and on the way into the airport realizing that for the first time in more than thirty years of traveling we had forgotten our passports and the livery driver could not/was not allowed to turn back. A friend came to our rescueand went to our home in the middle of rush hour traffic delivered our passports to us at the airport.
We arrived in Rome in rainy weather on the 16th with the streets filled with tourists/pilgrims under a sea of umbrellas following guides. The next day, Sunday the 17th, was an exciting and wonderful day as first Saint for Australia, Sister Mary MacKillop and 8000 Australians were going to be there. Sunday was absolutely gloriously warm and bright. Whether at the Spanish Stairs, the Trevi Fountain or Piazza Navarone (rumored to be where they raced chariots) tourists and families alike enjoying the day. We had never been to Piazza Navarone and it was filled with cafes and white umbrella tables, artists, majestic fountains, statues, gelato shops, pigeons, and lines of tourists following paddles and flags. Pigeons atop of the statues and the beautiful water fountains and a gentleman playing a guitar. Rome at it’s best on a such a beautiful and glorious sunny October day.
EMBARKING THE EQUINOX
Embarkation was easy, Parrot Pop was put in a wheel chair and taken to a special line, our pictures taken and we were taken to our cabin. After having been on the Soltice in a handicapped cabin I was taken aback by the size of the cabin. The location of the cabin was ideal, mid-ship, steps from the elevator and the library and because of it’s quirky location a deck which jutted out at an angle.
It took a newcomer to let us know the decorative wood blocks over the bed were storage cabinets and between that and the two double rods in the closet there was sufficient space even for an over-packer. The bathroom with the new shaped showers was quite efficient and the glass covered storage space and drawers made the bathroom area workable. Oh yes. we also used our shoe bags for storage on the bathroom door.
The only complaint with the cabin was the rounded shape of the bed at the bottom which made moving around the bed difficult, the shape of the bed may be “attractive” but not ideal.
Our room steward Arnell was determined that our cabin be ship shape and our clothes if we left them sloppily were always folded neatly.
SILHOUETTE DINING ROOM
Compared to the Soltice I felt the dining room was extremely well managed and very attractive. The food choices as on all ships isn’t as extensive as it has been previously. There were always classics like steak, salmon, chicken, etc on the left side of the menu. On the right were several new items plus the daily recommendation, the “Chef JCV Dining Room Recommendation” of the day. Whereas I had a problem with lack of seasoning on the Soltice the food on the Equinox was maybe not a WOW factor but was quite tasty and presentation was always front and center.
An experienced and elderly frequent cruiser at our table requested a salt-free diet and every evening staff would discuss the menu for the next night. Many guests ordered two shrimp cocktail as an appetizer which the staff was delighted to oblige. On the last evening a tablemate sent back her soup. The waiters brought her a fresh bowl, they couldn’t understand that Europeans aren’t used to eating three meals a day and all she wanted was her “steak and chips”.
At the last minute we chose Select Dining, which I felt, had advantages, as it was located on the side of the second floor dining room, but we missed the camaraderie of the same table every night.
What can I say about this wonderful specialty restaurant? Murano and it’s staff is an experience in culinary dining and service and I’m only sorry we were able to go once. Some of their specialties are served in the main dining room, but they aren’t quite the same. It seems as if the Murano has their own kitchen and chef and from the famous goat cheese soufflé to the rack of Colorado lamb each dish had that WOW factor. There seems to be a group of staff for each table that concentrates on you and your meal. According to a staff member the dining room is sold out each night, except when they are in an overnight port and deservedly so.
The buffet café was the same design as the Soltice. Whether lunch or breakfast it was the same selections every day. One problem was on the days at sea the café was mobbed. Once you put a hat or bag down at a spot (the café was kept immaculately clean by the staff with them constantly cleaning off tables and removing dirty dishes) that if you turned in the wrong direction you couldn’t find your mate or your table. Had a woman asked if we saw their husband, when I kiddingly told her he went off with a younger woman she wished her luck lol I myself searched on the wrong side several times. Wonder if a number on each table would help? No trays were available sadly and you were left to juggle plates.
Decided that I wanted a fresh hamburger and onion rings. Once we found a table in the shade I wish we gone earlier in the trip to have lunch and people watch
AQUA SPA CAFÉ/Indoor Solarium
This was my secret hideaway. Having to stay out of the sun I would go early down to the Café and have a quiet and healthy breakfast and lunch. There are only eight tables and they fill up quickly. One morning at sea I went down a bit later and the chaises were all taken, many being held with books or personal possessions. Eventually, the pool butlers emptied the items after guests complained. One a.m at 7:30 saw a man put down a few items and leave with two books (this was a day at sea when the area was quite busy) and did not return until almost 10:00 a.m
BISTRO ON FIVE
A quiet lunch seemed in order one day and we visited the Bistro and I ordered a pannini which was so big it would have fed four people. Parrot Pop had delicious homemade soup and a salad. When he asked for anchovies the waiter said they didn’t have any but would get them and he did. He insisted we had to have crepes for dessert. All of this for $5.00, definitely a must try
Okay. so they don’t have rock climbing walls, an ice skating rink, but they do have the Cruise Director Dru Pavlov, a charming and gracious young gentleman who made everybody feel at home. All around the ship were little areas where there was either guitar music, a string quartet, dance lessons and one night in Israel they had a belly dancer entertaining with many guests joining in.
One of the things I don’t understand is why the ship had only English entertainers, not that they were bad, they were actually very good. Our very favorite was Paul Baker actor/singer from the West End. Brooks Aehron a celebrated English concert pianist entertained for several nights.
The Equinox production shows in general were pretty well done with the now “mandatory” cirque type performers and the theatre was packed solid each evening.
You never had to go far for entertainment on the ship, nor places to sit and have a conversation or drink.
Seat saving raised it’s ugly head one evening when a row of seats was being held and no amount of cajoling by the Celebrity Hostess would cause this man to give up his seats to all the guests asking.
Using a mobility item we discovered the secret elevator to the bottom level of the theatre. So, if you have a walker or use a wheel chair, you’re no longer a second-class citizen in the theatres. There was no need for us to be at the highest level anymore with possibly a poor sight line.
Sad to say I was very disappointed in singer/player in Michael’s Club, Katie Guglielmo. She played with only a few written notes she claimed and everything she played sounded alike.PORTS OF CALL
This for us was a disaster and a warning to others. We had joined a group that we met on a board back at the end of June and directions for meeting were miscommunicated the day before. By the time we met up with the group there was no room for us. So, Parrot Mom flew back to the ship to sit in the hot tub and have a few “moments”. If only she had realized that there was a boat outside the gates to take her to Capri…. oh well, next time.
We had a wonderful tour going to Taormina (a tourist town) and glimpsed a wedding party going into the huge church, found some potent Cream of Limincello and soaked in the wonderful atmosphere. We were taken the charming little village of Castelmola where we had lunch overlooking Mt. Etna and then back to Messina where our guide showed us the famous clock tower that rivals the one in Munich for the moving figures. It goes off at noon, but we hadn’t arrived there until after 4:00 p.m.
Took a bus into the Old City and wandered around. For many of us it was a pilgrimage to visit an old Jewish Synagogue that had originally over 150,000 Jewish residents who were sent off to the Concentration Camps and much less than 100 returned. An emotional moment was when I observed a family from California, a family of a mother, father and two daughters, the father pointed out his family name on a plaque in the Synagogue his family left before the “cleansing”.
Found Corfu much less expensive than Rome even with gelatos and souvenirs and friendly people. Charming area and would love to go back one day
Through Ramses tour we had arranged with a group to tour the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx. We personally opted to tour just the first day and I’m so glad we did. The Giza Pyramids and the area were a sight to be hold
It was wonderful seeing the Giza Pyramids, police on camels, horse and cart drivers racing through the area giving rides and the persistent vendors. The area where the three Pyramids can be seen together with the desert in the background and tourists riding the camels on the dunes is one of those moments that will be in my book of memories forever.
The Sphinx was a bit disappointing in that is appears beaten up and much smaller than I expected in the evenings there is a light show and many cruisers/tourists stay overnight. The Government didn’t seem to have done much to protect these wonderful treasures in past years.
We were taken to a local restaurant for a typical Egyptian meal and then the at least a three hour ride back to the ship. To talk of traffic you must experience the streets/roads in Egypt. Overturned trucks, broken down cars, people getting out of cars and walking and the ever-present debris along the highway.
When we arrived back at the port at 9:30 p.m. Celebrity had their usual welcoming back wet cloth. What surprised us was that there was a phalanx of Equinox Officers outside offering us cold drinks and welcoming us back and asking about our day. No sooner were we through security on the ship another officer announced that the buffet was open for us. What a great welcoming back.
The next day instead of exploring Alexandria or more touring we went outside the gates where a bazaar is set up and bought lots of tourist souvenirs, negotiating/haggling is expected. I’m having buyers regret now, the recipients loved the little purses and the coin decorated shawls and wish I had bought more
In all the years we have traveled through the ruins in Peru, villages in the Amazon, jungles in Venezuela nothing and I mean nothing had prepared me for the filth, smog and trash strewn over the streets, roads and buildings looking like they have been bombed out and we are talking about a major world city
Israel was why we wanted to take this cruise. Many cruisers had family they were going to visit and leaving the ship the area was filled with private buses and vans. At the last minute we opted to stay overnight at the Dan Hotel. Great choice as our room overlooked the Old City.
Months earlier I had contacted Guided Tours and told them that I had three things especially that we wanted to see and with limited mobility there was no way we could squeeze in much more on the first day anyhow…. The Wailing Wall, Yad Vashem which is a memorial to Holocaust victims and the Chagall Windows at the Hadassah Hospital. Guided Tours were incredible to deal with and although we had two parties cancel for illness we worked through all our problems with the help of Alon.
Driving from the port to Jerusalem I was continually contrasting the smog and dirty air in Alexandria with the clean crisp clean air, the immaculate roads, the orange groves, the grapes growing, and the plantings along the road. It was like day and night.
THE CHAGALL WINDOWS-
Our first stop was the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus. Walking through the two buildings I was surprised by the shopping malls on the lower level of this world famous hospital there were bakeries, cafes, clothing stores, jewelry, etc in both buildings.
Marc Chagall designed the twelve stained glass windows representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel… I do not pretend to understand all the meaning and for any fan of stained glass a magnificent sight, because of their powerful rich colors and beauty Now, I can go back and read again what I was witness to.
No visit to Israel is complete without going and paying respects to the six million Jews that died and were killed during the Holocaust. It was an emotional journey for those of us who have lost relatives and families? Sadly, we did not have the opportunity to linger and watch the movies. Yad Vashem is somber and depressing to think of what might have been. There were groups of Israeli Women Cadets being led through, three young teens sobbing and consoling each other. A pin drop could be heard throughout the entire experience.
As we left we walked through a path of trees and I noticed names and countries. Our guide told us this was the Garden of the Righteous. Gentiles (non-Jews) of Europe who hid Jewish families. On one side was a special tree for Oscar Schindler. I had heard about the Garden, but the impact of these trees dedicated to those who helped the Jews was overwhelming. The Garden of the Righteous seemed to protect you from the hot Israel sun as you left Yad Vashem as they protected the Jews during that horrific time in Europe.
THE WAILING WALL
We ended our first day visiting the holiest of sites for the Jewish people. The Wall is alive!! It is a wonderful spot where families come with their children to pray, boys tussling in the area, daughters pushing wheel chairs with parents. I sat down and read my prayers for my family and friends and inserted a little slip of paper as is the tradition in one of the cracks.
There were so many tour buses and vans that the walk uphill at the end of the day was exhausting for Parrot Pop especially.
With those three stops on the first day we headed back to our hotel. Fortunately or unfortunately, the driver went to a hotel on the other side of Jerusalem and when he discovered the error we were taken on a tour of downtown Jerusalem to the other side to the Dan Hotel over looking the Old City The room at the Dan Hotel overlooked the Old City and that is what we saw lit up the first night and the next morning.
There was an incident that I must write about. We stopped at Little Israel a diorama of the country on our way back to Haifa. After walking through with our guide we sat down next to a group of what we judged to be young Palestinian boys. Parrot Pop struck up a conversation with one boy translating to the others talking about baseball, where we were from etc., an innocent conversation. A few moments later the girls in the group (they had been under a tree and we were under the café canopy) came over and wanted to see what was going on, the young boys were obviously having a fun time with this American tourist. The leader/teacher came over and with an attitude said “they don’t understand” and started to shoo them away, but not before Parrot Pop shook hands with the boys. Yes, they did understand…how sad.
EXPECTATIONS OF OUR TOURS
At our age we couldn’t do it all and we opted many times to just sit in the van while our fellow passengers went further to see more, visit a museum, etc. We have found that some of our experiences during the tours were of connecting with perhaps with a shop owner, petting a dog and just talking to people as we went along.
We required a wheelchair to disembark and the meeting area had been set up with several wheelchairs and stewards all set to take you down with no waiting for a chair to be returned as on other lines.
Here is where I knew that the Equinox was special. As we were disembarking the ship it was pouring rain and each group leaving the ship to meet up with their van or bus was accompanied by a steward with an umbrella and stayed with until they found their vehicle
Celebrity Cruise lines continues to be our line of choice and it’s for some of the little things. I judged that this cruise with many of the cruisers doing back to back to the US and the majority were repeat Celebrity cruisers.
Daily there are the newspapers available for Americans, Canadians, French, Spanish and German. The revolving rack was a popular spot in the early afternoon and for Parrot Pop to find the baseball scores.
For those who are finding their favorite cruise lie is no longer putting a chocolate on the pillow, Celebrity still is and it doesn’t send me over the edge if I don’t have one… a towel animal.
Mainly, the service and caring of the staff of Celebrity and particularly the Equinox whether you are asking questions, passing in the halls or need assistance they are there.
Parrot Pop and I both knew that this would most likely be the last port intensive cruise that we would take and sadly we both agree now. We started off many years ago going to the ruins in Peru when they were opened to the public, cruising down the Amazon last year and through cruising many spots that we had never dreamed about in our 55 years of marriage including on this last cruise Israel, the Pyramids, Rome, etc.. all things in our “bucket list” and more.
Lastly, a ship reflects the Master and in this case it is Captain Bouzakis and although we have never had the pleasure of meeting the Equinox and it’s staff appear to be the happiest crew we have ever met in our many, many years of cruising.
Thank you Celebrity and to the Captain of the Equinox and his crew for making this such a very special experience.
The Constellation is a well managed and the service is excellent. The major problem is with the cabin beds. We had a suite and the mattress's were so old and lumpy, we hardly slept at all even with the steward trying his best to solve the problem. One of the 'covers' provided had pee stains. Then how about - put one other lumpy mattress on top of the already lump. Almost fell out of the bed. We were told "the ship" had NO new mattress and they could do nothing more.
When we complained - we received a $89.00 refund WOW! Returned the check with the message, "We will no longer cruise with Celebrity." Just returned from a cruise with Norwegian - the mattress are NEW, LONGER AND WIDER and double sheeted. They have our business.
PS: Finally, after 4 days - I just bought my own foam cover in Spain.
Fantastic experience. Fantastic food and personnel. They really make you feel like a house guest. Very relaxed atmosphere. The buffet is always open, so you don't have to run to make meal times. Free coffee, tea and lemonade 24 hrs a day. Possible to eat outside on the aft deck. Nobody minds if you take food from the buffet to another part of the ship or to your cabin.
Free tropical pool and sauna.
Very quiet cabins with TV, but no radio and no clock. Ours was a decoration disaster; brown/beige carpet, pink chair and orange curtain. The matrasses had the shape of hunderds of people.
Paint spills on the balcony.
The deck chairs in the pool area are old and faded and there are not enough of them.
Shore excursions were very expensive, so we didn't take any of them. Exept for the main dining room, none of the public area's were very appealing. Bus transfer to/from the airport in Barcelona is the same price as a taxi, so if you travel with two of more, a taxi is the better option. Even with the airport surcharge and the port surcharge ourdriver on the way back invented.
Although the food and the atmosphere were far better than other ships, we will not travel with this company again. The reason : their smoking policy. Smoking is stricktly forbidden in your cabin. So is drinking and making your own coffee. What's next?
My partner and I just returned from another wonderful Celebrity vacation, just a week ago. This particular cruise we chose to do a back-to-back cruise on board the GTS Celebrity Summit. The itinerary was as follows:
September 5-12: Bermuda, sailing out of Cape Liberty September 12-26: New England and Canada, sailing out of Cape Liberty
We have only been cruising for about 10-years now, so we do not quite have our Masters in the High Seas, but we have sailed many times with 95% of our cruises on Celebrity. The other two were on Princess (an awful experience as noted on another review - staying on the banks of the Amazon would have been better) and Carnival (which was fine for a first cruise to get my feet wet).
Our Concierge Class cabin was 9038. We have stayed in this cabin on all of the M-class Celebrity ships. The room is nice and provides a "bump-out" veranda, which is close to two times the size of an average veranda. The views forward and aft are amazing - as well as directly out to sea. We also like being directly belowthe Spa.
So, our flight into New York was uneventful thanks to American Airlines. We overnighted at the Marriott Residence (if you have the opportunity, the Courtyard next door is a star higher). Our adopted Jewish mother, Parrot Mom, e-mailed us Saturday evening to let us know the Summit was going to be late coming into Bayonne as the ship had battled a couple of days at sea thanks to an earlier hurricane. Rather than an early arrival, we opted to arrive around 2:30 or 3 PM, which was smart. Others who did not get the message were waiting to board for many hours. We breezed right through check-in, got our Sea Pass cards and joined the throng of cruisers waiting. The =X= ship had recently arrived, so passengers were still in the process of disembarking and the crew was cleaning her for our voyage.
We boarded around 5 PM and set sail just after 8 PM. The red, white and blue lights from the Bayonne Bridge were beautiful. We were serenaded all through sail-away (and our dinner on our veranda) by our neighbors who brought along their guitar. It was peaceful and beautiful listening to them both sing for a couple of hours.
After two days at sea we enjoyed docking at the Royal Naval Dockyard. We followed an avid Bermuda-Cruiser's advice and decided to work our way back in. That is, our first port day we took the ferry out to St. George's. (We purchased the two-day ferry / bus pass - great deal!!). The high-speed ferry was a nice ride. We enjoyed the sun, while we had it. St. George's seemed like a sleepy town. Lots of shops, but truthfully we never saw much of anything we wanted to bring back. Perfume shops seemed to be the big push from =X= and St. George's. We visited the "Unfinished Church" which was amazing to see, and also the Somer's Garden which was a great experience. We had a Dark and Stormy and a Rum Swizzle at the Swizzle Inn, along with a huge plate of excellent Nachos! This was after our tour of Crystal Caves (which was a joke to us). The tour guide "Ron" at Crystal Caves was over the top. Actually, he aided in ruining the experience. Just an awful, awful guide. Nonetheless, the drinks at the Swizzle Inn took that bad vide away!
The following day we took the ferry to Hamilton which was a bustling town. Hit the touristy shops on Front Street. The HAL Veendam was docked there as well, but there wasn't too much traffic. When we returned from Hamilton we decided to do a Jet Ski tour. In Bermuda one cannot take off on a Jet Ski rental, but must go in a group. This was fine. The Yamaha jet skis were all brand new and large! The "tour" was about 60-70 minutes. There were around 8 of us. Our leader took us all over, under the "Worlds Smallest Drawbridge", through St. Georges, and even out in the Atlantic! At one point he had to come back to me (I was the last in the formation) and told me I needed to "keep up with the group". After awhile I abated the fear of wiping out and had a blast. While we were skiing in the ocean, the skies opened up and it began to rain. If you haven't been on a Jet Ski while raining, it feels like little needles all over your body! All in all, it was very fun.
Our last day we stayed local in Dockyard and visited the craft market, stores, the fort or Dockyard and had an amazing lunch at the Frog and Onion. We tried hopping on the little white train that stops at the ship (complimentary) and takes you through Dockyard, but the train would always stop at the NCL ship first, so when it got to =X=, it was full of NCL passengers... and they weren't getting off! Once again, we walked to the town, which is a very nice walk around the marina and only takes about 10-15 minutes.
We walked up to the man-made beach at Dockyard, where they boast of Jet Skis (not the two we rented, which was right at the Marina and ferry ticket booth), a food court, canopied bed areas to lounge about, etc. We took one look, walked around for maybe 15-minutes and left. To us, it was a joke. They were trying to get us to come back for an evening party and kept saying, "And we have beautiful girls... lots of beautiful girls... " yeah, whatever, LOL. It looked like a younger party scene anyway. Just kind of trashy and blah.
Luckily for us we were in between hurricanes. As we were having lunch at the Frog and Onion, once again the clouds opened up but this time it was a non-stop downpour. The thunder claps were some of the loudest I have heard. Soon thereafter we were back on the ship and headed back to Cape Liberty, with another day at sea.
Bermuda was a great trip. I proposed to my partner on the journey back to the US, so it will be memorable for us. While we would consider going back to Bermuda, we prefer the Polynesian Islands and other Caribbean islands to Bermuda. It was a fairly clean island though and glad we were able to go!
When we arrived back in Bayonne, we were able to disembark quickly as we were sailing on the New England / Canada voyage as well. We visited Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty while we waited for our second boarding. Visiting Lady Liberty is an emotional experience, or it was for us. What we both found not only endearing but warm-hearted were the thousands of tourists we saw and how ethnically and culturally diverse everyone was... not the stereo-typical White person, but so many groups were there to honor and respect our country's freedom and one of the symbols of her freedom. I found myself being extremely proud to be an American... and we found ourselves very proud for walking up to the crown in Lady Liberty. It was a memorable experience, for our legs and calves as well as our well-being!
When we re-boarded the ship, there was a slight problem with our Sea Pass cards. They ushered us over to a couch and kept us content on champagne while we waited. Then it was time to sail away, again!
This was our second time on a 14-day N.E. / Canada cruise. The colors were just beginning to turn, but we saw many deep reds and oranges while in Canada.
We had 5 "Sea Days" along with the following ports:
Newport, Rhode Island: Our second favorite port on this cruise. Typical white-steepled churches, quaint shops and very nice locals. We took the morning and traipsed around the marina-town and later took an excursion to see the Mansions and do the Cliff Walk. We saw the Breakers (Vanderbilt's) mansion, which was a great tour! The Cliff walk was partial, but so glad we did it. The weather was nice, sunny with some clouds. Tour directors were great and the people we met were fun!
Boston, Mass.: We couldn't wait to arrive in Boston. Our adopted Jewish parents live here, Parrot Mom & Parrot Pop. They picked us up at the pier in the late morning. After some great hugs and a port-side reunion, we hopped in the car and Parrot Pop drove us to the Prudential Building where we boarded a WW2 amphibious vehicle for the Boston Duck Tour. It was an 80-minute tour and quite nice! The tour guide was hilarious and informative. After the tour we were treated to lunch at Skip Jacks, where we had by far, the absolute BEST lobster rolls (1/2 pound of meat!), clam chowder, Bloody Marys and Steamer clams. This was followed by the restaurants very own and famous Chocolate Bread Pudding. We made the trip back to our Summit, said some tearful farewells and re-boarded.
Portland, Maine: After arriving, we quickly boarded our coach and headed for downtown Portland, where we enjoyed a down-town educational tour. Then we were taken to Kennebunk and Kennebunkport where we enjoyed more history from our luxurious coach, a couple of hours of shopping and clam-eating (the best fried clams is at the Clam Shack!) and strolling through this very quaint town. I have to say though (and being a liberal doesn't spark this question), why does Bush fly his TEXAN flag at his estate in Maine? I was put off by that alone... oh well. I digress...
Bar Harbor, Maine: (Otherwise known as "Baaa Haaaba"). The last time we visited this quaint village, was during Hurricane Wilma in 2005. We didn't get to see much. This time however, we were able to enjoy our walk through town. Enjoyed a repeat lunch at Geddy's (Crab and Lobster sammies, but not as good as Skip Jacks!). We found a couple of pet stores where we enjoyed spending time and buying souvenirs for our "Bear" who we had to leave at home. The shop keepers and shops themselves are fun to visit. The people are nice, and [generally] quite happy to visit and welcome you... except for one shop, "Sun Catchers". We won't get into it here, but will be posting a negative review on the shop keeper. In short, one of the grumpiest, unhappy people we've ever met. We felt compelled to actually picket his store after his abrasive and rude treatment, but thought better of it. We decided to just snap a picture and post on the Internet. Much better coverage that way!
Halifax, Nova Scotia: Again, the last time we were here it was pouring down rain and we did not see much. We enjoyed this visit very much. We took the HOHO bus on their three different routes. We enjoyed getting off at various spots such as the Citadel, Public Gardens (a true Victorian garden) and downtown Halifax. We walked, and walked and walked. Had a wonderful lunch at a cozy jazz club / pub tucked far away from the tourists! There were a lot of bees though! Early in the morning we were enjoying some coffee and pastries at a coffee house, across from where the ship was docked and the bees just came out of nowhere! We found lots of bees in Prince Edward Island and Quebec too, though. Interesting.
Quebec City, Quebec: Our favorite port on this cruise. We overnighted here and enjoyed our two days in Quebec. We walked through Old Town the first day. We found a jeweler who was able to repair my partner's bracelet. The cobblestone streets make for a good workout, too! We found a French pastry shop and brought back to our cabin some yummy maple desserts! The second day we tried to get lost away from all the tourists. We took the funicular to upper or "new" town, walked through the Chateau Frontenac and then found a cozy little restaurant where we enjoyed first-hand, Canadian French Crepes for breakfast! What an amazing experience! We tried the ham and cheese crepes with Béchamel sauce... truly it was a wonderful treat. We found that most shop keepers and locals appreciate a "Bon Jour" or "Merci". This really goes a long way with the locals. Even if one doesn't speak French. They appreciate the tourist respecting their homeland and native language. Sadly, we found so many tourists and cruisers who really didn't care... or wouldn't make an effort (remember the term, "Ugly American"?) Of course then there are the tourists who sport their HUGE red, white and blue flag covered sweat shirts, ball caps, American slogans, etc. I don't get it... you're in someone else's country, and you're advertising your own. Hello? The weather was amazing the first day, and the second day we experienced cold and lots of rain! We made it in time to our ship where we were cozy and cocooned in the Aqua Spa. We floated around in the Thalassotherapy Pool and watched the rains come down, pretty hard as we sailed away from our favorite port.
Charlottetown, P.E.I.: I really tried to get into the "Anne of Green Gables" movie before we left home, so I would understand this fictional person and her hometown. I couldn't, but still enjoyed Charlottetown! The town is very walk-able. It appeared as though they have a large theater following, and were currently running, "Hairspray", starring George Wendt as Edna! It's a shame a matinee was not playing, as we would have enjoyed watching the show. Instead, we walked and walked, taking pictures of churches, gardens and the beautiful sea before us. We stopped for lunch at the Lobster Wharf for a (you guessed it) lobster lunch and then strolled through the terminal where we enjoyed the local artisan crafts. We boarded the ship and sadly bid our farewell to Canada and prepared for two glorious days at sea.
So I'm afraid we weren't able to share too many "exciting" events at our ports of call. This particular cruise was a wind-down for us. It wasn't as jam-packed as our European or exotic cruises, but still, just what we needed after a year of work and daily structure! Besides, we have been to most of these ports before, so it was refreshing to step off the vessel and walk around town, taking in whatever new sites we could.
A little about the GTS Celebrity Summit:
Our favorite ship so far is the Constellation. Although she is an older ship, her service speaks volumes. We were under the assumption that the Summit would be a close second, if not a steady tie. We were sadly mistaken. Please don't get us wrong, we immensely enjoyed our two cruises on board the Summit, but it surely isn't the Constellation. No, there were no "pod problems" as one particular avid Princess cruiser continually slams the Celebrity forums about, lol. Not one mechanical problem on either cruise actually (unlike the many on our one Princess cruise). That's a different review though...
Sure the Summit is older and she is beginning to show her wear and tear, but the staff does an amazing job ALL day and ALL night. Every time we stepped foot outside of our cabin we found the staff vacuuming, dusting, sterilizing, wiping down banisters and rails, painting, cleaning... you name it! Yes there is rust in some areas, but come on people... it's a SHIP! She spends between 48 and 52 weeks a year, at sea! To all the crabby and grumpy cruisers who find a chip of rust or worn carpets / wood distasteful, perhaps you're vacationing in the wrong venue. Honestly, by the time we got off the ship, we turned around and looked at her and both of us commented on how quickly they were able to re-paint everything! If not the whole hull, they re-painted a good portion of it. She is still a beautiful ship.
Although the service was great, it was not to be compared with the Constellation... perhaps even a little less than the Infinity. Still, the staff for the most part went out of their way to please every guest. We were more shocked with how many of the tourists spoke to the staff, in condescending tones! I don't know what it is about some vacationers, maybe they're as arrogant and rude at home... but I was always taught to treat others with courtesy, dignity and respect. I wasn't taught to bark orders at someone if I was patronizing their store, hotel or ship.
Food: We read some very mixed reviews on the MDR and other gastronomical venues. In short, we LOVED the MDR. We had a lovely table for 2 (table 537 first leg and table 555 second leg) on Deck 5, overlooking the MDR's 4th deck and a good part of the 5th deck. Our servers on both legs (and Sommelier) were very good and quickly memorized exactly what we liked or preferred. Sure there may have been an "off-night", but don't we all have off-moments? Their service was very good and the food was wonderful. If I could ask for one small change in the menu, it would be to use a little more spice. The food in the MDR was exceptional. The food was always hot, always! We never sent anything back. The portions are smaller as other cruisers have mentioned. This is a GOOD THING! Baked Alaska night was a blast; we enjoyed cheering for our team!
The poolside grill and Waterfall buffet were always good. We enjoyed the inclusion of Indian and Asian cuisine. Also, every night there was a carving station at the buffet where pork chops; steak, turkey and ham were in abundance. Of course the pasta bar, salad bar and pizza stations were good... as always. Sometimes it's nice to get away from the pomp and circumstance and find a quiet table for dinner. We did this a few times!
Normandie is the specialty restaurant. We had dinner here once. Since we had a $1200 cabin credit, we were actually looking forward to having 2 or 3 dinners here; however, once was enough. The quality of the food was amazing, as it always is... but the menu is lacking in options. The M-class specialty restaurants changed up their menus a couple of years ago (minor changes) and with a couple of exceptions, the same items are on there. By the time we ordered wine and an additional gratuity (and the $35 pp charge), we didn't feel it warranted a bill of $120, so opted out. Interestingly the same staff works in the Aqua Spa during the day as well. We found some of their behavior to be a little on the snobby side, which was weird. In Normandie, they were happy as clams, and bent over backwards but during the day at the Aqua Spa, they seemed put off.
Our cabin attendant was good. He was not exceptional, as we've had in the past. I think he had a few off days. His behavior was always respectful and courteous, and he would generally give us anything we needed. I didn't feel that "extra mile" that we feel from most of the staff. We did not give him an additional gratuity, but we did leave some San Francisco gifts from our homeland, for him and the assistant, along with some other goodies.
Charmaine is the Spa Manager and she is remarkable. She remembered us from a Baltic cruise a few years ago and treated us like royalty! We each enjoyed the Persian Gardens (almost daily) as well as hot stone / deep tissue massages. The Spa staff was always friendly and helpful.
We found the entertainment to have been the best we have ever experienced on a Celebrity voyage. Two different magicians (one was amazing, one shouldn't have come on board)... the aerialists were terrific and the Celebrity singers and dancers were superb. They didn't do any hokey numbers, in bad drag. Instead, they remained in professional dresses or evening wear and sang / danced their hearts off. What a refreshing experience for us! They had a special impersonator and she was just spectacular sang and impersonated: Barbara Streisand, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, Arron Neville and many others. Definitely the highlight!
Oh yes, the chaise lounge hogs are still there. I think we sat next to the "epitomy" of them all. He strolled through the Aqua Spa area in the morning, and put some of his things on two chaises. He came back sometime after lunch (a few hours later) and put a NOTE on each chair, "We are still here, just across the T. pool on the other side." We were taken aback. He never did come back to sit on the chairs, but his wife did for about 15 minutes, this was well after lunch. Unbelievable.
Yes, the pushy people. One of our gripes (seems they were all cruiser-related, LOL) would be the passengers who, when the elevator door opens, they jump on, without letting other passengers get off first! Hello? Oy vey.
The buffet bandits. These are the people that have to get "every cent" worth... afterall, you hear them say, "I paid for it!" and by golly, their trays, and overflowing plates show it too. I wished Celebrity would show the movie, "Supersize Me". That ought to put a little damper in the greed, wouldn't you think? LOL!
So in short (although this was a little lengthy!) we enjoyed another fine Celebrity cruise, and will be looking forward to sailing with her in the near future. Currently we are booked for a Transatlantic Crossing on the RCL Jewel of the Seas for next September, but for the right itinerary, would definitely hop on board another =X= ship, no questions asked!
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to write us at: email@example.com. We both enjoy international travel and cruising immensely and not too long ago was a board moderator on a cruise board. It seems I am still meeting people!
Happy and safe travels to all.
This was our seventh cruise overall and our second time with Celebrity. We cruised previously with Princess, Royal Caribbean, NCL, Carnival, and Holland America. Our first experience with Celebrity was beyond expectations, so we embarked on the Solstice with even higher expectations.
Because we live in South Florida, getting to Fort Lauderdale was no big deal. We arrived at the Port Everglades around 2:00 p.m. and we were on board the Solstice within 20 minutes
Once on board, we were greeted with a glass of champagne and then went directly to our room. Our room was very clean and well maintained. Our room was a verandah cabin on the Vista deck. While in our room, we met our room steward, Bernardo. While many aspects of this cruise did not live up to our expectations, Bernardo was well above our expectations and continued to impress us throughout our vacation.
The ship itself was very well maintained. However, my wife and I noticed some of the bathrooms were dirty. There was oxidation on the wood, probably due to sea spray. While this is common, it is something we did not observe on our previous ships.
Service- Service was very slow in the MDR. On our first night, they served a desert with crème puffs filled with praline ice cream. My wife asked for just praline ice cream and she was told by our server that he did not know if that was possible and needed to consult the chef. As far as I am concerned, they had praline ice cream, so it did not seem like a drastic request. On previous cruises, we were escorted to our table and my wife’s chair was pulled out for her. This did not happen on the Solstice the first several nights. We spoke with the maître d’ and were moved to a smaller table with a new server, Luis. Luis was amazing. He did everything right and made up for some of the shortfalls we experienced and witnessed. One evening, we showed up twenty minutes late for dinner due to a family issue at home. When we entered the MDR, we noticed our table was gone. It was discovered later that the table was used by other passengers. After several minutes of confusion, we were escorted to a different table away from Luis. Other than water, our drinks were not refilled. The majority of the time our drinks sat empty. If was obvious the staff was spread very thin. The same night, we were given petit fours along with our main desserts. When our dessert arrived, I noticed the chocolate covered strawberry had been partially eaten. My wife brought this to the attention of the assistant server. His reaction was to inform her that there were no more chocolate-covered strawberries. He did not take away the dessert or try to replace it. When we brought it to the attention of the lead server (again, not Luis), he said that they often sample foods and make sure the samples they eat are taken away to avoid this type of problem. The next day, we spoke to the restaurant manager and maître d’ who offered to comp a night in one of the specialty restaurants. Although they addressed the issue, the stigma was still there. We received complementary chocolate covered strawberries and a bottle of champagne in our room. While standing in line at the Mast Grill , my wife was passed over four times for service.
Stateroom – The stateroom was beautiful and the bathroom was exquisite. However, the closet space is minimal, perhaps the smallest on any cruise we’ve experienced. When we unpacked, we noticed there were only ten hangers. For a 7 day cruise, this is not enough and we had to request more. Bernardo brought us extra hangers within minutes. The bed was not as comfortable as on previous cruises but it was nothing to snub our noses at. Although we did not hear many noises from the hall, we could hear the conversations and T.V.’s from the adjoining staterooms.
Murano – Great service and great food. The steak was not really any better than the MDR. Plus, we really preferred to sit with Luis as he was just as attentive as the server in Murano.
Silk Harvest – Awesome experience, great food and amazing service. I have shell fish allergies and the chef went out of way to make springs rolls leaving out the fish sauce. I did not ask anyone to make this accommodation; they just did it for their guest.
MDR – Appetizers and entrées were awesome and Luis was exceptional. Neither of us cared for most of the desserts, but I was able to have ice cream each evening to satisfy my sweet tooth. Service for breakfast and lunch was very slow and spotty. We overheard one waiter tell a guest that they were very understaffed.
Room Service – I am sure they are very busy, because they took a long time to deliver the food. Often, the order was incorrect. My wife ordered a bottle of champagne and was informed it would be in our stateroom in approximately twenty minutes. After three days, we gave up on ever receiving it. At least we were not charged for it.
Buffet – The food was delicious and there was a large selection. However, it was the same selection each day and after several days, the redundancy became unappetizing.
Pools - The pools were nice and the hot tubs were very relaxing. The pool decks were busy on sea days but we always managed to find a place to settle down. The solarium was beautiful and a nice reprieve from the main pool area.
Entertainment - The entertainment ranged from fantastic to amateurish. The dancers for the production shows were pretty good. The acrobats were outstanding and talented. The comedian, James Stephens III was really funny and the best entertainment on the ship. In addition to being funny, Mr. Stephens was a genuine and good person. He sets aside profits to assist struggling children with education. The juggler was awful and it was almost painful to sit through his show. We would have left early but this was the one show we decided to sit close to the stage. We felt sorry enough for him that we didn’t want to embarrass him by leaving. On our previous Celebrity there was always something to do. On this cruise, we found ourselves very bored. There was a lack of activities during the day and very few venues for entertainment. Celebrity could take advice from Princess where there is always something to do. This trip certainly lacked fun activities.
Fellow Passengers - While the vast majority of guests adhered to the rules and regulations, there were some that lacked any class. Our first day, we saw a girl walking around in her bra (not a bathing suit top). We saw guest swearing jean shorts to dinner and, on more than one occasion, guests were admitted to the MDR in swimwear and bikinis. We heard of one passenger being thrown off the ship in Puerto Rico due to a fist fight the night before. I understand Celebrity cannot control everything but certainly dress code is one thing they can enforce. If I wanted to dress as wish, I would go back on NCL, but Celebrity clearly outlines their dress code in their brochure.
San Juan – We spent the day touring historic San Juan. San Juan was a blast and our only complaint is we did not have more time here.
St. Thomas – I did the SCUBA excursion through the cruise line. The trip was chartered through Underwater Safaris out of St. Thomas. These guys were great and the trip was a blast. The water was calm with great visibility and good company. I would highly recommend this excursion if you are a SCUBA diver.
St Maarten - My wife and I went shopping for gifts then spent the remainder of the day laying on the beach. I rented a jet ski and for an hour and had a blast. It was a very relaxing day.
Announcements - The only announcements were the imperative ones. My wife and I like to sleep late and it was nice not being woken up to redundant announcements.
Unfortunately our Celebrity experience this time was not up to par with our previous cruise experiences. We will likely cruise on Celebrity again; however, it’s not on the top of our list for near future cruises. We relaxed, ate plenty of great food, and spent time with friends. Any day at sea is better than a day home.
Last January we cruised on the Solstice with Capt. Dimitrios Kafetzis and had a memorable cruise. We booked the Solstice again in order to experience the new Aqua Class cruising. Since we published a review on the Solstice in January, we will refer readers to that review on this web site for a deck-by-deck description of this gorgeous ship and focus this review on the delights of cruising in Aqua Class. We had a warm welcome aboard and the week proved to be equally enjoyable.
EMBARKATION On Sunday morning, with light traffic on I-95, it took us less than half an hour to travel from our home in Boca Raton to the ship in Ft. Lauderdale, where the embarkation process was so smooth that we were on board in 15 minutes. Alas, the staterooms were not yet ready, so we proceeded to the Ocean View Cafe` for lunch. At 1:00 pm, while we were eating, the announcement was made that our cabins were ready.
SHIP OVERVIEW Under the supervision of Hotel Director Sue Richardson, the ship is kept in excellent condition: Solstice is less than two years old and looks just asnew and sparkling as the day she left the Meyer Werft shipyard – just celestial as she was on our first cruise.
The Solstice (2008) is the first of a class, the ship's dimension are 122,000 gross tons; 1,033 ft. long; beam is 121 ft. and a draft of only 27 ft. Celebrity's next two ships in this class are the Equinox (2009) and the Eclipse (2010), in cookie cutter fashion, and the Silhouette (2011) is in the works. Guest capacity is 2,850 and her crew numbers 1,200.
There are 130 staterooms in the Aqua Class which are identical to the deluxe ocean view cabins with veranda (194 sq. ft. with an 54 sq. ft. veranda and 299 sq. ft. with 80 sq. ft. veranda for the wheelchair accessible cabins). Some of the features in the Aqua Class cabin are queen size beds, 32"LCD TV, wireless internet access and a table with two reclining chairs on the balcony. Special amenities in these rooms include the following: Complimentary dining in the Blu Restaurant (clean cuisine, spa style food); upgraded bathroom amenities; plush robes and slippers; oversized towels and contour pillows; sound and aromatics for relaxing: complimentary Italian Spring Water; Carafes of infused teas daily; daily canapes; available full breakfast in room service; daily breakfast in the Blu restaurant from 7 to 9 am and finally Concierge Services! Waiting in our stateroom were a bottle of French Brut Champagne, chilling in an ice bucket, and fresh flowers.
SERVICE & FOOD Service on board any vessel takes its cue from the Captain and Dimitrios is a friendly and outgoing Greek! All week we had marvelous service and were aware that he made passenger and crew safety a priority on the ship.
Aqua Class is aimed toward a healthy life style and dining in Blu was always interesting. For years we have been grumbling that ship portions were always too large --- Blu has achieved perfection in portion sizes. We always felt satisfied after dining, but not bloated. The décor of Blu is lovely: windows to the sea provide a terrific backdrop, overhead a gorgeous chandelier, in crystal and cobalt blue, evokes thoughts of Santorini and the Greek Isles. The chargers and plates were uniquely shaped and in whites glass and cobalt blue as were the water tumblers. The whole effect is understated beauty.
We asked the Maitre d' Dariusz Chowaniec if we could have the same waiters each evening -- Wilmer Castillo and Santos Ramirez because they were so wonderful. They were prompt and remembered all our likes (i.e., lemon wedges for Mary). We had an excellent sommelier, appropriately named Napa, and every evening assistant Maitre d' Marjan welcomed us. Dinner at Blu Restaurant was always a pleasant and relaxing event.
Appetizers: Seafood ceviche, empanadas, baked goat's cheese, soft shelled crabs, beef carpaccio, lump crab martini, etc.
Soups: Chilled sweet pea with crab and toasted almonds, tortilla soup, spicy roasted plantain and corn soup, etc.
Salads: Endive, Blu Caesar salad, Boston bibb and arugula, Shaved fennel and blood orange emulsion, etc.
Entrees: Broiled Atlantic salmon, roasted chicken breast, NY strip, braised lamb shank with couscous and glazed carrots, etc.
Desserts were tiny and light and included crème brulee, a variety of fresh sorbets like mangoes and ginger, etc. Many desserts were mysterious and surprising.
We also highly recommend the upscale Tuscan Grill restaurant, where we ate and were very happy with the gorgeous veal chop and the delightful ginger snap tulip cup filled with wild berries and mascarpone cream for dessert. Vincent noted that wherever he ordered meat entrees (fillet Mignon, New York strip, veal chop or prime rib) from the Grand Epernay to the Tuscan Grill and the Ocean View Cafe, they were the best at sea.
Perhaps our loveliest meal was with Captain Dimitrios on the first formal night in the Grand Epernay dining room. He is a wonderful story teller and he regaled the table with parenthood tales. The very democratic captain used the dining room menu as his table menu. Excellent! Yet, we did notice a difference between this cuisine under Executive Chef Mischa Graafman and that of Executive Chef Mikael Tochetto on our last Solstice cruise. Chef Tochetto used a superb mix of French and Italian cuisine, while Chef Graafman's cuisine has overtones of Holland America and Indonesian spices. As the Latin maxim says: "De gustibus non est disputandum (no disputing about taste)". We met many officers who were always courteous and friendly, especially the Food and Beverage Manager Michael Bramlett, who was everywhere and his work was evident.
CABIN Wheelchair accessible cabin #1538 is spacious and just like the one we described in the January Solstice review. The nicest thing about it is the automatic door opener and the huge bathroom. Mary had a fall in the bathroom and four stewards including John our steward and Roman and two others plus Medical Assistant Alistair all rushed to help and still the bathroom was not crowded. Alistair took us to the Hospital Facility on Deck 2 where Dr. Cosmopoulos(?) was wonderful and caring; he took x-rays and wrapped the knee. All gratis! The facility and the Doctor were terrific.
ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Paul Baya has an excellent voice. He did a rousing rendition of "Stand by Me" at the Elite Cocktail Party. We especially enjoyed the Sipra Band and the two girl singers: Janisa and Maricel, and the male vocalist Bryan Allan. The Tony Viviano Quartet in the Ensemble Lounge did a lovely job on our favorite "Green Sleeves". The Solstice singers and dancers produced peppy shows and the Solstice Band provided excellent entertainment.
There is plenty to do on board and even educational courses, one can play Bocce on the lawn on Deck 15. Get out there!
PORTS OF CALL
Day 1: Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale FL Depart: 4:30pm.
Day 2: At Sea.
Day 3: Georgetown, Grand Cayman Arrive: 9:00am Depart: 4:00pm
Day 4: Cozumel, Mexico Arrive: 9:00am Depart: 6:00pm
Day 5: Costa Maya, Mexico Arrive : 8:00am Depart: 6:00pm
Day 6: Roatan, Honduras Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 5:00pm
Day 7: At Sea.
Day 8: Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale Arrive 7:00am.
DEBARKATION The debarkation process went very smoothly. After our breakfast in the restaurant Blu, we returned to our cabin and waited for a crew member that the Associate Hotel Director Sheldon Thompson had arranged to help us. We are both disabled and need assistance, even though Mary has a motorized wheelchair and Vincent has a scooter, we also use a walker for short distances. This time Vincent's scooter broke down on one of the ramps exiting the ship and, fortunately, the attendant that was accompanying us helped to bring the scooter down. Thanks again to the crew for being always helpful and courteous. By 10 am we were back home in Boca Raton.
CONCLUSION Even though we have done many Caribbean cruises, this was our first done in August. We usually prefer to cruise the Caribbean during the fall and winter months, when the chances for tropical storms and tempestuous seas are low, but to our surprise the weather this time was great. Vincent enjoyed the view from our starboard balcony, especially the colorful sunsets and the sighting of Venus, as bright as ever, during the evening in the western skies. The only evidence of storms during this trip were the lightning seen from our balcony in the distant cloudy horizon, so distant that no thundering sound followed the flash of lightning. Captain Dimitrios Kafetzis must have kept us away from the storms. We had the pleasure of seeing again this friendly captain who remembered us from the previous cruise and invited us for dinner at the Captain's table. Thank you, Captain!
We are getting ready for another cruise on Emerald Princess, Aug. 15th, only a week away, then on Liberty of the Seas, Sept. 6th, on Norwegian Epic, Oct. 2nd and on Crown Princess, Nov. 6th. We have not booked one for December yet. Happy Cruising!