Year Started: 1988
Ships in Fleet: 10
Summary: This premium cruise line features beautiful ships on itineraries world-wide. Excellent cuisine, great service, roomy staterooms. Modern Luxury at value prices.
Regions:Caribbean Western, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Eastern
Good for: Overall Service. Foodies. Seniors.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Seniors. Foodies. Overall Service.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Foodies. Value for Money.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Hawaii, Inland Waterways
Good for: Seniors. Singles. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Mediterranean Eastern, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Eastern
Good for: Foodies. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Hawaii
Good for: Foodies. Seniors. Group.
Regions:Caribbean, Panama Canal, Europe
Good for: Seniors. Families. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Bermuda, Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern
Good for: Foodies. Seniors. Group.
Good for: Group. Singles. First-time Cruisers.
We overnighted at the Olympic Fairmont in Seattle, Washington. This 5-star hotel is old school in the fashion of hospitality and superior customer service. Not only were the suite accommodations superior, but also the service in general was amazing. From the moment we walked up the stairs into the lobby – to the turndown service – to check out, every Fairmont employee we encountered was extremely polite and focused on the comfort and pleasure of our one night stay.
The next morning we visited the original Starbucks and Pikes Market. We watched them "throw the fish" and saw the beautiful arrangements (hundreds and hundreds) of fresh flowers. We stayed in the Financial District of Seattle, so it was walk-able and very much like our San Francisco (hills and all!). After lunch at the Fairmont, our driver escorted us to the GTS Infinity for boarding around 1 PM.
Check in was efficient, smooth and relaxing. It was fun to watch fellow passengers with bouquets of flowers from Pikes. All of the passengers checking in along with us were happy and sailing right through. The process took about 10 minutes, which includes our waiting in linetime. It's interesting to observe the shore personnel. Some of them are contract employees, and some are =X= employees. Some seem unhappy while other personnel work as if they had the best job in the world.
We walked up the gangway to the ship and briefly waited while passengers slipped their Sea Pass card through the first entrance – and had their picture taken. Of course there had to be one cranky passenger waiting behind us. The line was only 20 deep at the ship's entrance and rather than follow the line, they decided to walk to the front of the line – wherein they were quickly and politely asked to, "Please step to the back of the line"…to which the passenger loudly huffed, "Well, get some signs up here to make it clear!!!" Yikes- not the energy any of us wanted to hear, but hey! We're stoked to be stepping onboard our home for the next 16-nights! Maybe they had a 16-hour International flight, who knows?
I'll tell ya, there's nothing like walking on board a Celebrity ship…again. The biggest smiles from the staff and an offering of champagne, sparkling water or orange juice. Every staff member smiles and welcomes the passengers aboard, asking if they are "returning home" or if this is their first sailing. Having sailed Princess and Carnival, our welcome aboard on Celebrity far surpasses them all! This really is a nice touch after waiting in line.Cabin 9038
We bypassed the "Welcome Aboard Buffet" and headed to our cabin on deck 9. Our room was mostly finished with the exception of the fresh flowers in the bathroom and main room. Our attendant was on our heels and promised he would be there shortly, along with our Concierge Class amenities. Jose was our attendant and he and his assistant were extremely mindful throughout the cruise; not once did we have any complaints or concerns. Actually, now that I think back, there was one tiny one – but will save that for later. We're human after all. :)
We have had this cabin number before (on other M-class ships). We enjoy it because the veranda is larger (almost double in size) and bumps out so that the bow and stern can be viewed. It also comfortably accommodates two chairs, table and two loungers. This trip we did not ask for the chaise lounges though.
Being Concierge Class we were given the extra things: thicker towels, champagne, fresh fruit every day, binoculars, pillow selection, leather card holders, fresh flowers in main room and bathroom, evening canapés, Hans Grohe shower head, nice thick (large!) robes, one cloth =X= tote bag which was great for pool / beach toting, one deluxe travel bag (excellent for carry-on for our return flight), and more.
This room was in light oak, tan, brown, orange and some pink and blue. Faux granite counter tops, but still in excellent condition. The love seat, chair, bed and all within the cabin were in great condition considering the age of the Infinity and the amount of passengers she sees. (Side note- we booked a suite on a Princess Amazon cruise in April and two drawers were broken, molding and wallpaper was peeling / breaking off, cigarette burn marks in the bathroom, worst hotel bed we've slept on, no special amenities, perks or higher level of room service - and for the suite price, it was a shame). Our evening canapés on the Infinity were fun. Some like them some don't. Sometimes we went to the Afternoon Tea and brought back wonderful petite fours and mini (delicious) sandwiches for a variety during cocktail hour while we got ready for dinner.
Water pressure was always excellent, hot water all the time, and the drainage was great too – never a problem with water backing up or any foul smells. Best part of the shower, I fit! At 6'7" this is a good thing, LOL! The shampoo and toiletries and packaging were new; not the same Elemis product we enjoyed before, not horrible, but I didn't enjoy it as much.
Back to our first day…finding our table number on the credenza, we walked to the Trellis Dining room to spot our table. Rather than a table for 2, it was a table for 6. We found the Maitre'D and expressed our concern, as our cruise was booked several months' prior, with a table for 2. He told us that he was sorry for the error, but unfortunately, there were others ahead of us and we would just have to wait it out. His attitude was arrogant and dismissive. I mentioned that we were Captain's Club Elite members and thought we had priority-dining request and he disagreed with me and said there wasn't anything else to do but wait and "hope for the best".
We then went to the Aqua Spa to make our reservations for treatments and to purchase the Persian Garden pass (rather than $20 a day it was $140 for the cruise, a $180 savings). Still somewhat perplexed about the dining arrangements and Maitre'D issue, we came back to our cabin and I called the customer service department at Celebrity, as we booked directly through them. A very kind agent shared with me that we needed to seek out the Captain's Club Officer on the ship, which we did on Deck 3, next to Guest Relations. The Officer apologized profusely and did agree with us. She didn't promise the moon, but did promise to communicate with us until the problem was resolved. (Side note- every staff member in Guest Relations was courteous, communicative and always smiling, which is more than what I can say about our last cruise).
She called us back later in the evening and said to go ahead and attend the first night's dinner and the Food / Beverage Manager would be waiting for us. That evening we couldn't locate the Manager, but only the Assistant and were soon being escorted to the table for 6, not our arranged table for 2 – so I stopped him. He apologized and took us back to the lobby and asked that we go into the lounge for complimentary drinks while he figured this out. Thirty minutes later he arrived and walked us to a table for 2, but stated it was temporary until they permanently located an "acceptable" table for 2.
The next evening we arrived at the Trellis Restaurant and the F/B Manager (Eduardo) deeply apologized and said, "I am so sorry. We have failed and to make it up, I am escorting you two to the SS United States (their specialty restaurant) for a complimentary dinner and drinks." Dinner there was gastronomical and such a nice gesture. When we returned to our cabin that night we had a dozen red roses, a dozen chocolate-covered strawberries, a bottle of wine and two cards – one from Guest Services and one from the Captain's Club Officer, all apologizing and thanking us for our business and patronage!
Trellis Dining Room, Specialty Restaurant and Food Venues
The next day, I received a phone call from Rose in Guest Services telling us that they would like to give us another complimentary dinner at the SS United States, whenever we would like. We were on cloud 9. Needless to say, the next night at the dining room proved to be stellar. We were escorted to our table for 2 and our waiter, Vinod and his assistant, Lan were amazing. Vinod is from India; he was the best waiter we have ever had. Lan was from China. This was her first cruise and she was just totally amazing, so very sweet and kind to us. Ruby was our Assistant Maitre'd and she made it a point to pamper us every single day…somehow they found out what our favorites were and went out of their way to spoil us, even preparing dishes and desserts, which were not on the menu! Dining was incredible.
The menu has changed, indeed. A month ago the menu in the specialty restaurants and the main dining rooms went through an overhaul. Change is good. Some of the old favorites are still there: Caesar Salad, Prawn Cocktail, Boneless Beef short ribs over Polenta, Herb roasted chicken, the cold soups, Escargot, Oyster Rockefeller, etc. Our Sommelier (Luis, who was incredibly professional and focused on us) introduced us to a wine package – 3 bottles for $80, which was a great deal considering the vintage we chose. We were never harassed about the Riedel stemware and blending classes.
The service in the dining room was always efficient, friendly and professional. The food was hot and fresh. The pasta has even improved since last year!! We never felt rushed, but were always "doted on". Vinod, Lan and Ruby went out of their way to express their joy in serving us. When Vinod took our order he would always answer with, "Pleasure, Sir". If we did not see anything on the menu for dessert which appealed to us, he would insist on bringing something else, whether Bananas Foster or Cherries Jubilee. One night Ruby made a special dessert for us of Crepes with Grand Mariner sauce.
As mentioned, the menu has changed. I found the food to always be hot; never luke-warm (which was a slight problem on our last X cruise, last year). The service, again, was impeccable. All of the dining staff, for us, had the right balance of polite conversation and servitude. Even waiters and assistant waiters not in our section would smile and say, "Hello" to my partner and me.
The SS United States menu (as all of the specialty restaurants on M-Class) changed. No more Steak Diane (Boo!) but the surf and turf was simply amazing, as the goat cheese soufflé, Lobster Thermadore, Rabbit Tart, Pear and Roquefort en'croute …you name it, everything we sampled: from the Pommeroy Brut Champagne to the Chocolate Soufflé and the table-side productions were just amazing in every way. The SS United States is probably the brightest of the specialty restaurants in the M-Class ships. We loved it. The service and ambiance was still very classy. We like being spoiled, and while some think the timed presentations are dorky and find negative criticism, we enjoy it. I work in hospitality and hire only the best in class. These employees had their act together. The only food item I didn't care for at all was the Foi Gras. The Diver-Scallops Wellington was to die-for…and that was just a starter course! White gloved and tablecloth service was excellent. We have been to some of the best restaurants in San Francisco and abroad and appreciate excellent service and cuisine. I believe on a scale of 1-10 (1 low, 10 high) the food quality (for a hotel) was a 7, the presentation an 8 and the service an 8. Most ship employees (except for the Emporium venue, Spa staff and entertainers) hold two jobs, day and night. The employees at the SS United States also worked in the Aqua Spa Café (next to the Thallossotherapy Pool / Spa) during the breakfast / lunch hours. Every time I went there to get coffee, drinks or lounge an employee would comment on our dinner and how nice it was to see us, and ask, "When are you two coming back?" Sure it may appear contrived, but customer service is what it's all about!! That spoke volumes to us. And what many don't realize is that a cruise ship is basically a hotel on water! Working in the industry, I have to share with you that it is so difficult to please every person – and let's face it, when we're spending our hard-earned dollars…some tend to be unforgiving and severely critical of the most minor things, to even a one-time experience (whether "mechanical" or the quality of soap in the cabin's Loo). Good heavens- but picturing a floating hotel, it truly is remarkable what most cruise lines endure and go through, and I mean the employees. They work their butts off, all of them. These employees work week after week with a different cruise / guests and all of our quirks and personalities each and every day and they have to maintain a pleasant face. Talk about the "knights"!
Celebrity kicked up a notch their Sushi bar, so now they offer stir-fry as well. My other half had the stir-fry once and raved about it. It smelled delicious too. Three or four shaved meats to choose from along with a wide array of fresh vegetables, sauces and rice noodles.
When we were on the Princess cruise, I recall reading postings where passengers just fawned over their pizza. Having tried it twice, I did not care for it. Celebrity on the other hand never fails. The pizza bar was in full swing every day; I think my favorite was the BBQ Chicken pizza. The pizza maker was extremely friendly and good at his job. There were always fresh veggies and cheeses to add as well. Right next door was the pasta bar; I don't recall any changes there other than they did not serve "low carb" pasta this last voyage, but did have a whole-wheat product. The sauces we tried were good – and there is a baked pasta dish to choose from as well (such as Lasagna, Penne & Ham Bake, etc.).
There was an Asian Bar as well, which had Asian breakfast and lunch every day, from Dim Sum, to rice noodles and fresh vegetables to curried lamb, Teriyaki Salmon or beef, pork buns, stir-fried rice, etc. I thought this bar could use some improvement. Being a San Francisco native, I may be a little more critical of Asian cuisine, but it was still good and we enjoyed it for the most part.
The breakfast and lunch buffet were great. Unlike other cruise lines, there was no meatloaf that I could see, LOL! I say that with a smile, as everyone has their "comfort food" and meatloaf may be it for some passengers. I don't look for it on a cruise, or even my own comfort food (Mac and Cheese)…even my East Coast Mom, who loves comfort food, will "turn the other cheek", LOL and kvetch about this type of food on Celebrity. The buffet however, included a theme most every day. Breakfast was breakfast, no changes at all there: breakfast meats (including Bangers), waffles, made-to-order omelets, sautéed veggies, cereals and fresh fruit, pastries, Eggs Benedict, etc. There were two brunches, both at-sea days. The brunch was a waste of time in my opinion, really nothing out of the ordinary to make it stand out – other than the beautiful ice carvings. The food seemed to be the same as breakfast, with the addition of more meat, ham and seafood. That's it – oh and the Mimosas and Bloody Mary's (smile).
Public Areas (Including Spa / Pool)
The Infinity is a seasoned ship. She is in operation 24/7. Although we did not set out to "find" rust, chipped paint, faded fabric, etc. it was there. I know some do scrutinize and to each their own. If either of us noticed a small tear in fabric or a stain…or anything that resembled "usage" we were humbled to remember that 1900 passengers are on this grand ship 24/7 and what would OUR home look like if we had 1900 guests tromping through. Sure, most are respectful of other's ownership, but unfortunately there are some who may not show the same regard or respect, and treat things without care or appreciation and it is a full time job to combat disrespect, not to mention just the simple wear and tear. For example, we take our shoes off if we put our feet up on a chair or sofa. We have nice furniture and hope it to stay that way – but we noticed some passengers with their dirty shoes up on the sofas, chairs, tables…etc., in some pubic areas. I guess the mentality of some is, "I paid for this vacation, I'm going to do and expect what I want." Honestly, we were pleased with the condition of the ship's public areas. The crew was always cleaning. The stairway rails were always polished and disinfected. There were vacuum marks continually. Windows and mirrors never showed smudges or stains. Hand sanitizers are everywhere! Not only are they stationary, but staff walks about with a bottle squirting it into your hands before entering a public area with food. (Not so on Princess, as a matter of fact one stationary dispenser remained broken our entire 2-week voyage.) Since Celebrity adopted the no-smoking policy, the general areas smelled so much fresher to us than our last Celebrity cruise in September 2008. Now before anyone bites my head off, I AM a reformed smoker, but have been smoke-free for almost 7-years. While I want smokers to have rights, I want to have my non-smoker (and smeller) rights respected as well. : ) saying that, all cabin verandas are smoke-free and the only places we witnessed smoking were on the Lido deck (pool and grill) and starboard, deck 5. I did not research the appropriate places, but this is what I witnessed. Head's up…the Fortunes Casino is entirely smoke-free. We did spend more money there, this cruise. There were a couple of "lucky" slots that paid us, too!
The pool, Aqua Spa and locker room /sauna areas were always stocked with fresh rolled towels. Pool Butlers seemed to be more prevalent, even in the spa area – which was nice. We generally don't hang out at the pools, but rather in the spa and never really saw a lot of butler service there. Not only were there Pool Butlers everywhere, but also security was in full force. Not once did I witness the Thallossotherapy / Spa area without a security guard, and I was pleased. As most seasoned cruisers know, the moment the sea swells, so do all the pools, LOL! While friendly, the guards were observant and always watching. Not only did I witness one running to a passenger who fell down while climbing into the Thallossotherapy pool (and he RAN!) but I witnessed the security removing a chaise-hog's belongings. Now, before anyone gets cranky with me, I'm all for reserving a spot / chair for your other half, or putting a book down while you run up to grab something to drink, but as usual there were chaise hogs on this trip. One particular morning I got up early to grab coffee in the Aqua Spa to bring back to the room and noticed four chaise lounges being reserved with towels, books, etc. This was in Columbia and it was around 6:00 AM. At around 7:30 we walked through on our way to breakfast and to our zip lining tour…the chaise lounges were still unoccupied. We left after breakfast for our excursion and returned around 12:30…had lunch and walked back through the Thallossotherapy area as our cabin was directly below. Chaise lounges still un-touched, nobody there. Came back up to the area and couldn't find a lounge, only a chair. The four-some came back from their tour (they still had on their little stickers) and sat down at around 2. I was livid and shared with them how I thought it was rude they reserved these chairs for over 6-hours with nobody present, and the next time would ask a Pool Butler to remove their things. They could care less.
Later on our cruise (after several complaints from other passengers), security started removing passenger belongings if they were gone for over 30-minutes. I thought that was fair. I wish that the Security would pay closer attention to the unoccupied chaises (at least those which were unoccupied for a few hours!!).
The excursions were very good and the naturist / narrator while traveling through the Panama was excellent. Celebrity had a few different documentaries on TV regarding the Panama and those were good as well. We were happy to stay on board and watch the passage through the locks in the Panama Canal. The shores of the Canal reminded us a little of our Amazon trip, it was beautiful and relaxing. We enjoyed most of the morning and early afternoon from our veranda but made our way to the bow of the ship for some pictures.
I learned on this cruise that I should have brought more cash. Usually, I use my credit card or debit / Visa card and just let my bank figure the daily exchange rate (never a headache). I do carry small bills for tipping, etc (good rule of thumb for me is to bring $75 in singles and $25-50 in fives). On this trip, I only found two stores, which allowed the use of a credit card, and both were in Cartagena, Columbia. We zip-lined and really wanted the video, and a cold beer, but they did not take plastic. For an X-sponsored tour, we found this frustrating, as many European itineraries don't seem to have this obstacle. Like my mom asked, "Why didn't you use the ATM on board?" Hmmm, the simple things in life seem to fly right over my head sometimes!
I'm a big guy and enjoy riding in a larger vehicle (think coach) but on this cruise, the largest vehicle we rode in on an excursion was the mini-type bus. Comfortable, but on the smaller side. The Celebrity-sponsored tours always provided a safe driver and good narrator. We enjoyed riding in the bust to our destinations, as the guides were knowledgeable, friendly and always pleasant.
Following is a list of our ports and one or two descriptives for each:
Seattle: The great Pacific Northwest! Pikes Place was amazing to witness. Fresh flower bouquets were amazing. Visit the original Starbucks! City is similar to SF with hills, museums, waterways and great restaurants.
San Diego: Loved the Hop on / off Trolley. Took us to Hotel Del, Old Town, Gas Lamp Quarter and about the city (Zoo and public arts center). Nice city to leisurely stroll around.
Cabo San Lucas: Slowly leaving the quiet resort town behind with a lot of new construction. Not too many street merchants peddling. Gorgeous snorkeling /wave running waters. Los Arcos is a must!
Acapulco: The Fort across the street is a good (and free) tour! Gold Zone offers OK shopping and the cliff divers are a definite must-see. Shot Over jet boat ride is great for thrill-seekers. Hot climate!!
Huatulco: Lazy, sleepy village town with an ordinance to halt the town's growth. Lovely town with quaint shops, turquoise waters and untouched beaches and coves. Will be back!
Panama: We did not get off the ship, but there were a few all-day excursions to choose from. I recommend staying on the ship for your first passage through.
Costa Rica: I can see why many Americans retire here. The dichotomy of the jungle and city are awakening to the senses and soul! Very hot and humid here. Zip line for the adrenaline-seekers! Fun!!
Cartagena, Columbia: Definitely try the "Deluxe" tour. It's close to 6 hours but worth it. Visit the dungeons, forts and drive through the city. Shopping was offered, here but bring cash! Interesting city. Pulling up to the port reminded us of Miami Beach or Honolulu. Beautiful city and country. Listen to your tour director and do NOT make eye contact with street vendors, they will not, I repeat, will NOT leave you alone. Never have seen it worse than here.9-Days at Sea: "Aaaaahhhhh!" Need I say more? : )
I mentioned earlier that Celebrity offers the best, "Welcome Back!" Depending upon the cruise, they provide hot or wet-iced towels, punch, ice water or lemonade (hot chocolate and coffee on Canada and Alaska cruises) and on this cruise, a huge canopy over an area rug, two large sofas, two large chaise / chairs and a table. We sat once, and witnessed several passengers who needed special accommodations using these. Several staff are there to welcome passengers back with warm smiles and a, "How was your day?" This is a big bonus for us as we were on a Princess cruise to the Amazon just a few months prior and we never were offered a drink, cool towel or chair to sit in – not only that, but every single time we embarked the ship on Celebrity there were a considerate number of staff and they ALL said, "Welcome Back!" or, "How was your day?" etc. Not once did we experience this on our last Princess cruise. The same applied to my Carnival cruise several years back. The little things do add up!
Guest Services and Future Sales
We had a couple of issues that required the use of the Purser, or Guest Services and Sales.
1.On our Celebrity cruise last year I purchased a nice X-brand basketball – style tank top and some gym shorts. While in the sauna my tank disappeared once and swim trunks twice, LOL! I found my swim trunks once but not the second time and the tank never appeared.
2.Our owner's credit was never posted to our account.
3.The earlier debacle with the seating arrangement.
4.We wanted to use the new 'Celebrity Passage' offer (book any cruise, open-ended for $100 each).
5.We had a question about the free Internet package for Captain's Club members and wanted to know about a particular charge.
Each time we spoke with the Sales or Operations / Admin staff, they were mostly pleasant. Once a gentleman with a dismissive & arrogant attitude assisted me, but he quickly backed off and another assisted and did a great job explaining. Every other staff member (Guest Relations Officer, Rose especially!) was great and always greeted us with a small and genuine customer service attitude. Jose in future sales was informative and courteous.
Overall, my better half and I would rate this cruise a "7-8" on a scale of 1 (low) and 10 (high). We are seasoned =X= guests and have enjoyed every cruise we have taken on her vessels, and are looking forward to sailing on the Equinox next year.
We have never experienced a mechanical problem on Celebrity. Actually we're quite lucky, as we have only experience mechanical problems on one cruise, which was our last Princess cruise – twice we were held over because of mechanical problems with the ship's propulsion units
What stands out to us on Celebrity, vs. other cruise lines is their stellar customer service. On =X=, we have never experienced rude customer service which was not immediately rectified. We have always been treated with courtesy, dignity and respect. I can say that =X= just set the bar very high with us. We haven't found a line yet who compares with excellent guest service and exceeding our expectations.
Wishing you and yours many wonderful sailings on Celebrity or your favorite cruise line!
How is a guest supposed to sleep with six men pounding heavy tools outside the stateroom all night long, night after night? In terms of value for the money (over $5,000) this cruise was a terrible experience. (I previously cruised on Royal Caribbean and had a wonderful experience.) My research into Celebrity Cruises indicated that Royal Caribbean purchased this line to give customers a "more luxurious" experience. This effort appears to be a miserable failure. The Celebrity ship was not as nicely appointed as the RC ship. The food was not as good, and the selections were not as extensive. There were maintenance and cleanliness issues within the cabin.
The biggest disappointment,however, was that for two consecutive nights a maintenance crew worked directly over our stateroom, and several others, scraping up and relaying carpet. This prevented guests from being able to sleep for two consecutive nights from 10:00 PM until 7:00 AM. It is difficult to imagine something that could have a more adverse impact on the experience of guests. But, for good measure, the Infinity features a crew of members who were rude, inattentive, lacked basic knowledge of the ships services, made poordecisions about where to offer services, failed to enforce rules for the safety and comfort of all guests, and were disrespectful to guests.
At the highest levels it was clear that the guest relations staff was absolutely indifferent to any and all of these issues. Royal Caribbean should be ashamed of the Celebrity Cruise line. Without a major restructuring in quality management, it is inevitable that this line will weaken Royal Caribbean's standing in the industry. As disappointing as our cruise experience was, the parent company should be equally disappointed in the failings of the Celebrity Infinity.
We arrived at the City Terminal and the sight of the Equinox was very impressive, this was my first time on a Celebrity ship, and how exciting to be trying a brand new ship, pre-maiden and a Solstice class ship at that!
This ship is the 2nd Solstice ship to be rolled out, the 3rd will be very interesting as 'Eclipse' will be based in Southampton next year after her launch, and should be very similar to this ship and will, no doubt, be major competition for P&O. Celebrity have been recently voted best UK Cruise line by the Telegraph, The Guardian, Observer Travel Awards 2008.
This ship is 122,000 tonnes and has a occupancy of 2,850, on this mini-cruise she was sailing at 80% occupancy with around 2,300 onboard, so while looking around the ship I was looking at how the public rooms coped with that many onboard, and I must say, it felt roomy and comfortable, and strangely didn't feel like a 'big' ship, infact after being onboard Ventura and Independence, this ship felt smaller, but in a nice way.
We were greeted on boarding to a glass of champagne,and went direct to our cabins and unpacked. We were in a 'Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom with veranda' on the starboard side, and on entering I was very impressed with the décor, especially the full size cream leather sofa and large 32 inch flat screen tv, showing a limited range of channels, but this included a BBC Tv Prime channel and sky news, plus a tour excursions channel.
The bathroom was lovely with a corner shower, and the light wood furnishings, and raised wash bowl and single tap and looked very modern. I liked the additions of cotton wool and buds and a tissue box, but on the minus side the bath towels were too small, a bath sheet would have been nice, and I was under whelmed with the 1 ply toilet tissue (why? You only use twice as much and its just annoying!) A design minus also was the shelf for your toiletries was very narrow, and you ended up putting things on the toilet seat when getting ready to go out. Also where was the soap dish? A small thing, but it meant the wet soap was left on this narrow shelf and kept sliding around and making everything wet and messy.
The furnishings were lovely, and balcony furniture very modern with a large round wooden slat table. Don't forget to take a US plug adaptor for you electrical items though as of course this is a US ship.
I went on a tour of the cabins after lunch and was surprised to learn there are very few inside cabins, infact 90% of the cabins have a ocean view and nearly all of these have a private balcony on this ship.
The inside cabin I did view was a wheelchair accessible one and was very roomy and these cabins also have a massive 32inch flat screen tv on the wall opposite the bed!
I have described the balcony cabins, and after that I saw 'Aqua class cabin' which is the same size as the balcony (194 sq ft with a 54 sq ft balcony) for those who love 'spa life' there are 130 of these cabins located near the Aqua spa which give priority seating in Blu specialty restaurant, a spa concierge to arrange treatments, and priority to the Aqua spa of course!
Smoking on Equinox is not allowed in staterooms, corridors or on balconies.
The suites were all lovely, with butler service, the chance to have breakfast, lunch or dinner in your cabin., and of course a bath, some with separate walk in shower or Jacuzzi. And some with a 52inch tv with a 40inch tv in the bedroom!
At the top of this ship, is the 'Sky Observation Lounge' Celebrity's own Crows Nest, with amazing décor again including sweeping cream settees with purple cushions, and a large stage and dance floor. Also look out for the Lawn Club, where half a acre of real lawn adorns the deck so you can play croquet and lawn bowls. Nearby is a Hot Glass show where you can see glass blowing demonstrations which were very interesting, I was given a single rose made of glass which I will treasure.
The self service buffet restaurant called The Oceanview Café, was spacious and served everything from pasta, pizzas, tacos, hot food and salads. There was a ice cream bar with plentiful flavours and toppings, and the sweets were delicious to look at and eat. I couldn't find a decent breakfast UK tea, but there were all the other types of speciality teas in a large selection box so perhaps there was a decent one suitable for a 'builders brew' but I couldn't find it. Also I'm afraid it seems to be streaky bacon and not our UK favourite back bacon on here, but I was told the chef was seen carving a massive boiled gammon joint at breakfast so you could try that if you were hungry! The Oceanview deck was lovely and had again, wonderful modern furniture and even settees.
Keeping on the theme of food and dining areas, I must say the Silhouette Dining room was jaw-dropping WOW , I could not think how a dining room could be any better in a modern contemporary design, I have taken a lot of photos in the link at the bottom of this review to show you. We ate here on the first evening, and the food was lovely too. I had a appetizer of 'Crispy Sautéed Pork potstickers with Oyster sauce and water chestnuts, followed by a creamy Cannellini bean soup, and then grilled tournedos of beef and veal with gratin potatoes and a bordelaise sauce, The steaks were plump and melted in the mouth, I followed this with a poached pear on a ginger sponge with Vanilla mousse, and hot ! Coffee (unlike P&O's )
On the 2nd night, formal, we were lucky to be invited by a Celebrity UK representative to join him at the French Specialty restaurant - Murano, along with four other guests, The service was attentive, and included my cooked whole dover sole being filleted in front of me at the table, and my husbands crepes with a wonderful strawberry sauce being flambéed at the table to much aplomb by the head waiter.
I have taken photos of Blu, Silk Harvest(Asian cuisine) and the Tuscan Grille (Italian Steakhouse) and some food samples which can be found in the photo album.
During my cruise we were invited to sampler tastings, in the afternoon, and of course it would have been rude not to go!
The pools were lovely, with 4 Jacuzzis surrounding the outside deck one, and double bed sun-loungers. I am pleased to say there are 'Pool Butlers' on Solstice ships, who have been instructed to remove towels from empty sunbeds immediately they are left and personal possessions after a 30minute wait. I spoke to the lady in charge of poolside house-keeping and she said this was very successful, although there were occasionally arguments, but the pool butlers were big lads and stood there ground.
Photo above of pool butler in action at pool side.
There is a inside pool in the 'adults only' Solarium adjacent to the Aqua Spa.
The shops were amazing, as so were the shop window displays (see photos) really unusual. I bought a Equinox teddy for my collection $14.99, and 2 different mugs for $14.99 a pair on a special offer (usually $7.99 each). I bought one photo which was quite expensive, taken at dinner $19.95 8x10. There was also a duty free shop selling Cigarettes, alcohol etc, something not seen on P&O,
Cigarettes $60 for two cartons.
My cruise was different from a normal cruise, we sailed to Guernsey and around the Channel Islands (211 miles in all) but I can imagine the experience would be very special indeed and would agree it is one * more than P&O , little things, like at dinner, on P&O - one small roll is offered , on Celebrity Solstice class, you have your own bread selection basket with all sorts of breads and breadsticks, plus flavoured butters including lobster butter.
The ship is very modern and contemporary and appealed to us, like Arcadia, she is not a classic old fashioned ship, she doesn't pretend to be one. The shows in the theatre were of similar quality and we found them enjoyable. There was a lot of live entertainment around the ship, a jazz quartet played in the Grand Foyer before dinner, then we saw a young female pretty foursome called Inspiration strings playing , also an acoustic guitarist playing poolside while you were sunbathing, and a great dance band playing pop classics.
I hope to book a cruise on Eclipse one day soon, and I am sure these Solstice ships will have P&O quaking in their boots. But competition is healthy and perhaps all the UK based cruise lines will be upping their product and us, the passengers can only benefit from that!
120 Photos here:
A word of advice not only regarding this ship, but perhaps others as well.
Avoid an inside stateroom located by a pantry! You will hear very loud noises throughout the day and night with only an intermission between 11:00pm and 5:00am.
We booked cabin number 9187 on the Constellation and it was a nightmare. After repeated complaints to Guest Relations, they finally moved us to a cabin with a balcony at no extra charge.
These rooms really shouldn't be sold to paying passengers in the first place. Had we not been moved, it would have ruined our trip.
Celebrity is also aware of the noise in that room and they continue to sell it.
On a lighter note, the ship overall is beautiful. The food is about above average, but certainly nothing special except for the Ocean Liner Restaurant.
I am writing to share a problem my husband and I experienced on our 6/15/09 sailing aboard the Celebrity Summit from Venice to Barcelona. We invested $11,998 on the cruise fare alone, opting to upgrade to one of the finest cabins on the ship for a very special occasion: our honeymoon. We never expected what was to follow.
6/15 - We immediately noticed a sewage odor coming from our balcony and felt ill before we even set sail (i.e., nausea, headache, dizziness). We blamed the dock and avoided the balcony.
6/16 - We wanted to enjoy sailing from Venice on our balcony, but the smell was unbearable. We hoped the air quality would improve as we sailed to Croatia.
6/17 - We went to the medical facility and were told there was at least an hour wait. We opted to visit a pharmacy in Croatia so as not to miss out on the port and compromise our trip any further. However, once we were off the ship, the air was fresh, and we started to feel better.
6/17 - Sailing from Croatia at over 20 knots, the foul odor onboard intensified, despite thestrong breeze. At our expense, we e-mailed our agent at Prestige Travel for guidance, and called Guest Services. Guest Services did not respond, and the Hotel Manager was not available. We then stood at the Guest Services desk until the Hotel Manager, the Chief Engineer, the Chief Housekeeper and their assistants came to our cabin to assess the problem. They only acknowledged a "food odor," though it clearly smelled like a dirty toilet. The Chief Engineer suggested they "flush" the black water sewage system. In the interim, we were offered no reparations. Our room could not even be changed as the cruise was reportedly sold out.
6/18 - The sewage odor persisted, less so on our balcony, and more so in our cabin as well as the entire Deck 6 hallway. The cruise staff did not follow up with us, so we called the Hotel Manager again. It was maddening to have to spend any more of our honeymoon dealing with this. The Hotel Manager stated that while compensation would be in order, the nature and extent of that compensation would depend on how quickly the problem was resolved.
6/21 - The Hotel Manager offered us in writing 25% of the value of the cruise base price (i.e.., to compensate for 3 of the 12 days) to be issued as either a cruise credit towards a Celebrity Cruise with restrictions, or the same dollar value to be put towards our charges on our current cruise, with any balance being returned to the credit card provided upon embarkation. This would have been acceptable, except that the foul odor was worse than ever. We asked to reassess the situation towards the end of the cruise since the problem was clearly unresolved. However, as we disembarked, the problem remained unresolved.
A Celebrity Cruises representative in Miami who would only identify himself as "Victor" contacted me days later to extend the same offer. I felt the offer was unfair, so "Victor" agreed to contact me after the July 4th holiday to reach a mutually agreeable decision.
7/10 - "Victor" had not called back, so we called him. We were informed that he was not available and no other associate or supervisor could assist us. We left messages all week for his return call with associates who would only identify themselves as "Audrey" and "Pamela."
7/15 - "Victor" finally returned our call, and we informed him that we felt our cruise fare should be refunded, not just because we were deprived of the cabin experience we paid for, but because we spent our honeymoon inhaling sewage fumes and wasting time trying to solve a problem we did not create with cruise staff and representatives who have resisted every effort to right this wrong. "Victor" stated that refunds are never issued, so I immediately faxed him the original offer that was made in writing by the Hotel Manager. "Victor" stated he would call me back after discussing the matter with his superiors.
7/20 – "Victor" called to state that Celebrity Cruises could only offer 25% of the cruise fare as a cruise credit to be used by us alone over the next calendar year, excluding holidays. He further stated that the original offer from the hotel manager in writing only applied while were on the ship, despite the fact that this was never mentioned, in writing or otherwise, by any member of the cruise staff at any time.
We have shared this information with our travel agency and the following cruise ship executives, without any response to date: Mr. Daniel Hanrahan - President & CEO Mr. Richard Fain - Chairman & CEO Mr. Brian Rice - Executive Vice President & CFO I truly hope that by sharing this information with you, we can help ensure safe and fair travel practices in the future.
Last spring we booked a transatlantic cruise on the Solstice, but due to health problems we did not make it. The Solstice is now 14 months old, her naming ceremony was Nov. 14, 2008; her Godmother is Prof. Sharon L. Smith a renown marine and atmospheric scientist from the University of Miami: very a propos! The Solstice's name conjures up thoughts of our sun star and heavenly worlds beyond Earth. Her Godmother grounds those ideas and brings to our life on Earth more meaning.
The softness of the many delicate draperies on board evokes feelings of clouds. The highly polished aluminum columns in the Grand Epernay Dining Rooms and the Champagne bubble like lights on the ceiling, combined with the beauty of the décor presents an ethereal aura. Even the night club on Deck 4 is named Quasar and calls up space images. Suffice it to say, the Solstice is unique --- and so is her Captain Dimitrios Kafetzis. He is a fine Master with a welcoming sense of humor: ”He is Greek!” with all the connotations and beautiful manners of a Greek ship's host.
EMBARKATION On a Sunday morning I-95 traffic islight and from Boca Raton to Ft. Lauderdale takes only 25 minutes. We had curbside assistance with our baggage, wheelchair, and scooter. A crew member helped us through check-in and we were in our stateroom in twenty minutes. Excellent! Guests were greeted with Mimosa drinks, very refreshing.
SHIP OVERVIEW The Solstice weighs 122,000 gross tons; she is 1,033 feet long and has a beam of 121 feet. Her draft is 27 feet and she has a cruising speed of 24 knots. She carries 2,850 guests and has 16 passenger decks. What follows is a deck by deck description of her layout.
Deck 1 is for crew only.
Deck 2 holds the Medical Facility (which we did not visit)!
Deck 3 aft has the Grand Epernay Restaurant, a glorious combination of spaciousness and modern design with crystal and chrome fitting in beautifully, with the three deck tall white draperies. There is an old saying that drinking Champagne in Epernay (the heart of French Champagne country) is like listening to Mozart in Salzburg...” (Eperzine Web magazine). So also are diners in this stunning dining room treated to bubbles in the ceiling lighting. On Deck 3 are the Guest Relations Desk, the Shore Excursions Desk and the Passport Bar.
Deck 4 has Celebrity Central entertainment locale, Cellars Masters (wine, whiskey, or bourbon tastings, etc.). Then, there is the Fortunes Casino (the Slots are loose, and the give out is published daily.) Next is the Quasar Nightclub with its polished metal dance floor, suspended capsule chairs and twinkling lights, there is lots of atmosphere. Midship are the shops on board and forward the Solstice Theatre with excellent acoustics, but there are a few poles obstructing the view of the stage, so choose seats carefully. The red velvet stage curtain is flanked by two 3 deck tall draperies composed of tucked white and off white fabrics making a collage of billows. Very unique.
Deck 5 has the “Bistro on Five” which specializes in crepes, both sweet and savory. This is a great place for brunch or late night dessert ($5) the “Cafe` al Bacio” serves exquisite coffee and desserts. There is also a Gelato ice cream shop, and the Captain's Club for repeat cruisers. Since Celebrity is part of RCI and we are Diamond Plus members in the Crown & Anchor Society, we have been given elite status with great perks. There are the boutique shops and Michael's Club where cocktail parties and high teas are held. Aft on Deck 5 are the specialty restaurants: Murano (excellent French cuisine) Silk Harvest (Asian) and the Tuscan Grille (Italian), cover charges apply.
Deck 6 through 11 are all staterooms in addition to the Online@Celebrity (the internet room) on Deck 6, the Library on Deck 10 (open stacks and reading areas, no need to sign in or out --- the honor policy is in operation) and the Relaxation Lounge on Deck 11.
Deck 12 has the Health & Fitness center, the Aqua Spa, the Beauty Salon, the Solarium, Swimming Pools and Whirlpools. Vincent uses the sauna and the whirlpool daily and he had wonderful advice and help from Natasha.
Deck 14 has the jogging track, the Mast Bar & Grill (hot dogs, hamburgers and fries), the Ocean Bar & Cafe` and the Sky Observation Lounge. There are sky lectures with an on board astronomer at night.
Deck 15 has basket ball courts, a hot blown glass show (Corning) and the Lawn Club with extensive grass lawn where Bocce Tournaments between passengers and crew are played.
Deck 16 is the Sun Deck.
Throughout the ship is a huge eclectic art collection, some of it commissioned for the Solstice and others works are from both famous cubists like Picasso and Matisse or from photographers like Martin Liebscher where repeated photographs of himself in different poses make up a crowd. Very Interesting. The “Full Moon Briars” by Susan Derges is certainly in keeping with the Solstice theme. Different staircases have been given themes like “Stair of Light” and “Stair of Water.”
CABIN Stateroom #6141 is a wheelchair accessible cabin with a large automatic door. When entering on the left there is a full length mirror and a double armoire in maple wood; a vanity/desk with lighted mirror, seven drawers, a private safe, and refrigerator. There is a marble counter top and one chair.
When entering, on the right is a huge tiled bathroom with a tilt mirror flanked by two large medicine cabinets with glass doors. There are safety rails all around and a huge shower with a fold away seat. There is a king size bed with very nice linens of gold white and maroon. The two reading lamps are close enough to turn on and off from the bed. The final pieces of furniture are a love seat and a small coffee table.
The balcony is large and deep: it contains two recliners and a teak table and chair. The carpet is in Burberry colors: gold, beige and maroon and the draperies are beige with bands of rose patterns. The stateroom attendant, Mahmodi is excellent. The cabin is large and comfortable.
SERVICE & FOOD Hotel Director Damien O'Connor displays the perfect temperament to control the Solstice. He is kind, affable and likes to hear just how the passengers are getting along. He doesn't just ask questions for conversation's sake, rather he is truly interested in the passengers' satisfaction. He has a well trained crew, who make the passengers comfortable and provide for their every need. We always say that the mood on board filters down from above--- with such friendly leaders as Captain Dimitrios, H.D. Damien and Restaurant Manager FabioScaglione, it's only natural that the crew are also friendly and sincere.
Food & Beverage Manager Robert Flack has the daunting task of overseeing 600 crew members who produce and serve more than 12,000 meals daily, yet everything goes off beautifully. Exec. Chef Mickael Tochetto combines the best of culinary traditions: born of Italian parents, raised in France! The food on board is excellent, based on menus by world renown Chef Jacques Van Staden and implemented perfectly by Chef Mickael. The menu is one of the most diverse at sea and most ample. No one could possibly go away unsatisfied.
We enjoyed every meal on board, especially the one at Captain Dimitrios' table on formal night. The Escargot was perfect, Vincent's Caesar salad and filet Mignon were just the way he liked them. The Captain was jovial and complimentary; at the end of the meal he gave each lady at the table a beautiful long stem American Beauty rose. Our waiter at table #110 in Epernay was Jose` Altamirano, both he and his assistant Yvonne Williams were very pleasant and served at a nice pace. Celebrity is probably the only line still providing a finely trained Sommelier: Ferhat Ebret was cordial and Vincent was appreciative of his service and knowledge. Bravo.
Some samples from the appetizer menu are as follows: Tropical Fruit Medley with Lychee nuts; San Francisco Crab Louis; Goat cheese tart served with red roasted peppers and Balsamic syrup. Soups included Wild Mushroom Cappuccino with Porcini mushroom dust, and chilled Gazpacho. Salads were fresh and varied: Belgium Endive and arugala with red delicious apple and candied pecans. Some of their homemade dressings included Roquefort, Citrus, Pinot Noir Vinaigrette, Champagne and lite raspberry.
Entrees include pastas like Spaghetti Carbonara, fish such as Herb crusted Merluzzo (white fish) and fowl like Grandmother's Coq Au Vin and Veal Cordon Bleu. Chef Mickael's Ossobuco (excellent) Mary felt it was a triumph! The aged Prime Rib of Beef was mouth watering. Vegetarians had a large assortment of dishes including grilled Kebabs. For dessert there was always a selection of imported cheeses, fruits and traditional desserts like Crème Brulee`, NY cheesecake, Profiteroles, apple pie, fresh sorbets and homemade ice creams.
There are several Speciality Restaurants. We highly recommend Murano, and its contemporary French Cuisine: try the sweet breads and the fois gras and the wonderful Cheese Cart. We are happy to report the food on board is excellent.
ENTERTAINMENT The Solstice has three very nice shows: Adam Trent a young magician, singer Karen Grainger, and Celebrity Show time presented Solstice: the Show, which was very nice with aerial acrobatics. A very interesting offering was Astronomer Vic Stryker, who lead nightly sky watching. This ship has many things for cruisers including Casino games, Bingo, Fitness, Bocce, etc.
PORTS OF CALL
Sunday: Ft. Lauderdale, FL Depart: 4:30pm
Monday: At Sea
Tuesday: San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive: 2:00pm Depart: 8:00pm
Wednesday: Philipsburg, St. Maarten Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 7:00pm
Thursday: Tortola, B.V.I. Arrive:7:00am Depart: 1:00pm
Friday: Labadee, Haiti Arrive: 10:00am Depart: 6:30pm
Saturday: At Sea
Sunday: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Arrive: 7:00am
CONCLUSION This was another great cruise! We have not had a bad cruise in a long time, since we have learned what to expect from the various cruise lines and direct our attention to the things they do best. We are addicted to cruising, because we know how to get the best out of every cruise in regard to food, service, itinerary, ship's environment, repeater's benefits and personal attention. Some readers of our reviews have accused us of being too soft with our criticism. We disagree with them since we always include in the reviews any points which are not perfect and may need improvement. It is hard to write a negative review when we have enjoyed the overall aspect of a cruise, which up to now we have always done. We'll be cruising in search of the perfect cruise or an unpleasant one; neither of which we have yet experienced.
Our next cruise is in February on the Liberty of the Seas together with our son Marcello, his wife Paige and their eight year old son Marcellino. We have also booked a relocation cruise on the Star Princess, on March 16th, from Rio De Janeiro to Ft. Lauderdale. Happy Cruising!
We are firm fans of Celebrity but this was our first cruise aboard their newest ship Celebrity Solstice. We had chosen their ten day Eastern Mediterranean cruise which left from Civitevecchia and journeyed to Messina, Athens, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Mykonos, Santaroni and Naples.
Embarkation We had made our own way to the ship by meandering through Italy and had taken advice on these pages on how best to get to Civitevecchia from Rome. Views had been divided between getting a taxi for 120 euros or getting the local train from Rome Termini at a cost of 5 euros and then a taxi to the ship. We opted for the latter and certainly on the way to the ship it was a cakewalk (less so coming back) and we left on the 12:40 pm train and were actually in our cabin enjoying the complimentary fizz by 2:15 pm. However three things to note -- the train departs from platform 29, which is a 500 metre walk down another platform with cases, so if you have mobility problems bear this in mind. Secondly, the local train has no facilities for luggage storage -- ok whenthe train is not full, as when we were going out, but not so when packed -- and thirdly there are apparently only 12 taxis in the whole of Civatevecchia so it is a sellers market and they charge 15-20 euros for the three mile trip. You can dispense with the taxi and walk the three quarters of a mile to the dock gates and then get the free dock shuttle bus to the ship, but on the way there we happily paid the taxi demands, especially as it was very hot!! Once at the ship the boarding procedures were super efficient and we were immediately on board and our luggage was with us within about half an hour.
Cabin Our balcony cabin was at the aft of the ship, as we like to see the wake and also both sides of the ship when cruising. We had opted for the highest accommodation deck which was deck 12, as their balconies were more shaded and there was less risk of any soot from the funnels -- one disadvantage of a cabin at the back of any ship. On Celebrity Constellation such balconies are much bigger than the standard but not so on Solstice -- but both the balcony and the cabin was everything we had hoped for and one massive improvement from the Constellation was the bathroom. It was much bigger, with double sinks and a large walk in shower with sliding doors. In the cabins all the furnishings were new and of a high level and we had chosen concierge class as this gives little touches like Frette linen and towels, champagne, fruit and flowers which make one instantly at home and expectant of a good holiday. Our steward was instantly on hand to introduce himself and although we hardly saw him or needed him during the cruise he did a superb job in keeping everything in tip top shape.
The Ship We were soon walking around the ship and I have to say that we were bowled over by it's quality and grandeur. It was soon quite clear that a lot of money and a lot of know how had been expended in the ship's design and facilities. Its elegance is quite different to that of the QM2, which is 'grand county house elegance', as the Solstice is far more 'modern chic boutique style elegance'. It is however quite stunning and the quality of such things as the chairs and fittings in many of the bars and public rooms is a real indication of this. Equally on some of the sun decks there are huge sun beds, whilst there are cabanas near the open pool, sun tents in the indoor pool and comfortable couches on the aft deck and the piece de resistance is the Lawn Club on deck 15. This is a huge piece of real lawn around which there are a limited number of tables and chairs, a bar and a feeling of great calm and peace. We were to use this a great deal to play boule or just to relax with a book and amazingly it never seemed to get crowded, unlike the outdoor pool and to a lesser extent the indoor pool areas. Unfortunately the thalossophery pool facility has disappeared -- apparently a victim of Health and Safety legislation -- the nanny state obviously exists on both sides of the Atlantic! Another design feature, similar in many ships is that of a large central atrium served by 8 glass lifts and including a real tree and from the lift atrium (not from the tree) one could view many of the bars and facilities such as the coffee shop, library and card room. Spreading out from the central atrium on decks four and five were the shops on the boulevard, the casino and the numerous restaurants and bars. All in all a stunningly designed and executed ship which oozed modern quality and freshness ..... we were instant converts.
Interestingly we talked with many of the staff, some of whom we knew from the Constellation and they were equally positive about the ship and its facilities and one really sensed that they had a genuine pride about it ..... a thing I had only sensed before at Grill Level on QM2.
Restaurants The main restaurant is the Grand Epernay and again the design is stunning with the ceiling lighting arranged to look like champagne bubbles and the organisation of the upper tier into discretely sized units a clever feature.
This is the standard restaurant and I have to say that both the quality and variety of the food were outstanding and it almost beggers believe how such a level can be achieved for so many people. There is a very American flavour to the menu, which is no bad thing unless one is hoping for meat and two veg, which this restaurant will not deliver. However the seafood was excellent, as were the various hot and cold soups and the variety of salads. My only minor criticism was that the menu was a little weak on fish dishes but that was a minor blip. The service was also superb being both friendly and efficient, and the sommelier was knowledgable and equally efficient. Like most ships the free coffee served at the end of the meal was mass produced but this could be rectified by going to the Cafe al Bacio which served outstanding coffee for a couple of dollars and proved the ideal way to finish ones meal. However ones eating choices only started with the Epernay for if one wanted, one could eat in about six or seven other eating venues provided one was prepared to pay the supplement which varied from 5 dollars to 30 dollars per head. Three of these restaurants were almost immediately booked up by the largely American clientele, which was not a reflection on the standard of the Epernay but more of the American mind set when on holiday, which is very different from that of their GB counterpart. These restaurants were the Murano (elegant French at 30$); Tuscan Grill (Italian American high quality steak house at 30$); Silk Harvest (sophisticated Asian and fusion at 20$) and Bistro on Five (crepes, salads and light food at 5$).
We only ate at these restaurants twice -- firstly one night at the Bistro as we just wanted something very light and it was excellent, although it was the one pay restaurant that one did not need to book in advance and was not much used. Secondly we went to the Murano and found it to be an outstanding 5 star restaurant with impecable service -- some of the signature dishes included a superb snail tortellini, crab tien, a wonderful dover sole veronique and for dessert (and one of the best I have ever tasted) a superb crepe suzette ballon rouge, which the head waiter cooked at one's table. The whole meal was an absolute steal for 30$ per head, as in London one would easily pay £100 per head, but this is where the American and US attitudes may diverge and where the Celebrity cruise philosophy comes into play (see later).
Breakfasts and Lunch For breakfast one has the choice of cabin service or of going to the buffet ot restaurant. The free cabin service has been extended and is now very extensive and includes a whole variety of hot options, although inevitably they are not piping hot by the time they reach your cabin. We tried this a couple of times and then opted for the buffet where the choice is vast and caters for the health conscious to the cholesterol crammer in equal measure. Lunch was a choice between the buffet, the grill or on some days a set meal -- we usually opted for the buffet which was well organised and had a vast array of salads, as well as a wide choice of hot dishes, but was something that was not overly noteworthy, although to be fair I can't get excited about most buffets ..... you are eating rather than dining! One other thing to note is that there is also an extensive free 24 hour room service menu, which we did have the need to try but was another excellent service that was offered in the standard cruise price. Finally we met some people who had gone Aqua class where they have their own restaurant called Blu and they were singing the praises of this .... so one takes one's choice.
The Bars There are a whole range of bar options and I have to say that many of them were outstanding, depending on ones choice of tipple. My three favourites were -- the Martini Bar which is a fun area with a counter made of ice and a number of 'performing' barmen with outstanding juggling tricks whilst making your drink. A great place for a pre dinner drink but immensely popular with the American clientele so a little crowded and hectic. On the other hand Celler Masters was a most elegant setting for a glass of wine served by very able bar staff, who I later learned had had to pass strict tests on wine knowledge set by the overall Cellermaster, Laszlo who we had first met as a senior sommelier on the QM2 and is a definite class act. Another wonderful setting for a quiet drink is the sumptuously decorated Michaels Club which is in marked contrast to the one on Constellation, where the resident entertainer Perry Grant holds court. Here the mood is soft with a tinkling piano, only a few people and a brilliant Ukranian barman called Max who makes wonderful martinis and cocktails. How about this for professionalism -- we met Max last May on Constellation and when we walked into his bar he immediately remembered our names, the brand of gin I liked and the brand of champagne my wife preferred and he greeted us like long lost friends .... I was amazed at his memory but he wan't and saw it as all part of his job.
The Entertainment We do not bother much with the organised entertainment and in fact only took in one show and no other organised activity apart from one wine tasting. However if I had wanted an emphasis on this aspect I think that I would have been disappointed as the shows were mainly the Celebrity troupe supplemented by an English violinst, an American comedian and an American impressionist. The one show we did go to we enjoyed very much which was Bobby Arvon, the guy who sang Happy Days and who was a real old style crooner and consumate entertainer.
The Itinerary The itinerary was the standard Eastern Med one which we have done many times before but always enjoy visiting the majority of ports and particularly Athens, Rhodes and Mykonos. We went on organised trips at Messina for Taormina and at Athens for the ancient sights and the Plaka and these were fine and one simply recognises one is paying for the convenience of ship to ship transport and for a guide. Other than that we did our own thing at Rhodes, Mykonos and Naples but stayed on the ship at both Kusadasi and Santorini to enjoy the full benefits of the Solstice without many people about ..... quite wonderful and so relaxing. It is a quite beautiful part of the world and in particular the Greek people are so wonderfully friendly and superb ambassadors for their country. We usually try and have lunch in a non touristy restaurant (found by asking a few of the locals where they eat) in order to get a better feel of the local culture and this way one meets some delightful people who just want to please you with their food and their culture. Incidentally the food is twice as good and half as dear.
The Celebrity Formula Here I am going to be a little contentious and no doubt will be misconstrued by those who are over sensitive to what they perceive as snobbery. Celebrity is an excellent cruise line but it is not for everybody -- this is said not on the lines of class distinction but on the lines of what people want from a cruise line. Celebrity offers a high quality package at a very reasonable price for what is included but on top of this it offers a variety of extras that one has to pay to enjoy. This formula is fine with the Americans who are literally queing up to spend the extra, provided it is of a high quality and enhances the enjoyment of their holiday. However I have noted on these pages that many Brits want an all-in package and do not expect to pay a lot more for extras ..... if this is your requirement then Celebrity is probably not for you.
The reality with tips at 12$ pp per day, pay restaurants (if you choose them), drinks with service charge, treatments, trips, etc. that one has to budget probably about an extra 500$ a person for a two week cruise. I personally have no problem with this formula, as it is in fact a cheaper one than say Grill class in Cunard where one pays far more up front but less for added extras -- in fact the basic price of say Princess Grill to Concierge is probably double. However if you are the type of cruiser that wants a lot of organised entertainment, wants fairly standard British meals, wants a launderette, wants to make tea in your cabin, doesn't like at least two or three formal nights, doesn't like a heavy emphasis on US requirements and objects to paying standard tips and 15% on all waiter servce functions then Celebrity is NOT for you whereas perhaps P&0 or Thomson are. Again I emphasise this is not a snobby comment (although I will be amazed if I don't get some abuse from the chip on the shoulder brigade) just a matching of needs to the type of offering that is given.
Incidentally, I was very pleased to see the way that standards are upheld on the Solstice, as on the first day security guards visited an adjacent cabin, where a passenger had been smoking on his balcony and made it very clear to him that if it happened again he would be off the ship at the next port. No I wasn't the snitch, I assume they had sensors.
Disembarkation In marked contrast to embarkation it was a bit of a nightmare for travellers making their own arrangements. One had the choice of using a Celerity transfer bus to Rome at £60 per person and off loading you at a non helpful set down point or of pre booking a taxi at say £110 or of taking the free shuttle to the port gates and then walking the 3/4 mile to the station, as there are no local taxis available as they are only interested in taking you to Rome. We chose the latter option and almost inevitably were met by huge crowds at the station and an uncomfortable journey into Rome on a train where there was no provision for luggage. Although the cheap option I am not sure the return local train journey was the best and in retrospect would use this for the outward journey and order a taxi for the return.
Summary A great cruise on a stunning ship which was rather like a floating, high quality Pleasure Palace that is organised on US lines and which is based on the Celebrity formula of providing a high quality basic package with add on extras at the choice of the individual passenger. Will I be using Celebrity again? ........ You bet ya ..... you see, I am already influenced by the US style which in a nutshell wants high quality facilities and service but doesn't mind paying for it .... and as they say, there's the rub.
TRANSFER TO SHIP/EMBARKATION ISSUES: For cruises out of Rome, Italy, one may easily take the train to the port city of Civitavecchia. It costs 4.5 Euros per person and takes a little over an hour from the Termini train station in Rome. Once there, you'll need to either (i) walk 10 minutes to the gate of the port and take the free shuttle bus the rest of the way to the ship, or (ii) take a taxi, which costs 7 Euros per person, directly to the ship. You will not be allowed to walk all the way to the ship, as there's no pedestrian traffic allowed within the gates of the port. You wouldn't want to walk there anyway, as it's a long way from the port gate to the ship.
I've been on over 30 cruises, and I can say that this is hands down the most beautiful ship I've been on. The design is modern, with no expense having been spared in the furnishings. Very high end designer furniture and fabrics are used throughout the public areas, and the effect is that of a luxury spa. It'selegant and very serene. Moreover, the enormous grass lawn on Deck 15 is stunning.
There is extra storage above the headboard in the cabins, and the glass-enclosed shower is very roomy by cruise ship standards. The cream-colored leather (yes, leather) sofa in our balcony cabin is at least as large as the one in our home, and the chairs on the balcony are high-quality; not the standard molded plastic found on RCCL's ships.
The service was excellent - our cabin steward seemed to magically appear every time we came down the hallway and unlocked the door for us. All other ship staff were extremely helpful and friendly.
We HIGHLY recommend this ship!
"Here Comes the Sun was the theme song for the inaugural festivities introducing Celebrity Equinox to the cruising world in Southampton, UK, July 29, 2009.
Celebrity Equinox is the second in the Solstice class of cruise ships from Celebrity, and while it is practically impossible to tell Equinox apart from Solstice there is nothing wrong that. After all, why toy with perfection?
Is "perfection" too strong a word? Not according to the accolades given to Celebrity Solstice by the press and the cruising public when she was introduced less than a year ago. Now with the addition of Celebrity Equinox there are two of these identical sister ships, two masterpieces of design and décor.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to the naming ceremony for Celebrity Equinox on July 29 in Southampton, U.K. The ceremony was followed by a two-night cruise for the media and cruise industry. While a two-night familiarization cruise is hardly enough time to gain a full perspective of the entire Equinox experience, it was enough for me to get a good look at the ship – mostly trying to divine which of the best assets of Solstice weremaintained and which were unique to Equinox.
What did I find? When Celebrity Cruises set out to design the Solstice class it was their first new class in ten years. They knew they needed something different yet enduring, and contemporary yet classic at the same time. The ship needed to appeal not only to today's cruiser, but also for years, possibly decades to come.
In the end very little about Equinox is different from Solstice, which only means that very little needed to be changed. For the most part this ship is a near perfect duplicate of the truly classic Solstice design.
The Equinox Differences
As with most Celebrity cruise ship classes, once they create a new design they then recreate the original design two or more times with little or no changes at all to the basic superstructure. The ships of any given class largely pin their identity on just a few unique décor variations usually in a few nightspots or restaurants. This is mostly true for the Equinox too. Equinox has only a few very subtle differences.
The first Equinox difference is on the pool deck called "Solstice Deck." It holds 100 or more lounge chairs than the same deck on Celebrity Solstice. This addition of deck chairs will be added to all subsequent Solstice-class ships, and chances are that it will be retrofitted to the Celebrity Solstice sometime in the future.
Why more deck chairs? The first sister ship has the world's first large patch of real grass growing on a deck, known as "The Lawn." Because "The Lawn" takes up a lot of outdoor deck space there was less room for deck chairs. It has actually been the subject of some complaints on Solstice, and to Celebrity's credit they chose to make the change on Equinox. It was not previously announced however, and may continue to be a point of knowledge for cruise ship trivia buffs.
Speaking of the lawn – how controversial can a patch of grass be? Since it is a rather large lawn growing high atop a steel cruise ship it is quite unique. But is it an attraction? Maybe not in the sense that it does anything any other patch of grass can't do, but they play bocce ball, croquet and are hold real picnics with baskets and blankets and all the trimmings except ants. You can have your fried chicken and iced tea while sitting on real grass watching the Isle of Wight pass by your starboard side. I think that is pretty cool.
Generally, the pool deck on Equinox is more like a spa than a typical cruise ship pool area. As with Solstice there are two main pools, one deeper than the other. There is no loud music, pool games or waiters pushing buckets of beer. The pool bar is so understated it can almost be missed. The Solarium area is a fully glass-enclosed pool with a distinctly modern decor. There is ivy growing up the steel bars at the deep end, another minor difference from what is seen on Solstice.
The Equinox Art Collection
In our quest to discover assets unique to Equinox, much was made of the extensive art collection onboard. When Celebrity Cruises was originally formed by the Chandris family of Greece over twenty years ago– John Chandris placed high importance on having ships filled with unique pieces of art – allowing his wife Christina to assemble the collection for each ship until Celebrity Cruises was acquired by Royal Caribbean International in 1997.
The Equinox collection features many interesting paintings, photos, sculptures, and other objets d'art from the former Celebrity Galaxy, which has now been transferred to TUI cruises (also in the Royal Caribbean family). Celebrity removed the art from Galaxy prior to the ship leaving the fleet and had the collection in storage.
Personally, I thought the entire art collection on Equinox was perfectly understated and "just right" in terms of selection and placement. Each piece seemed to enhance the ambience of the surrounding space without overwhelming it, serene and elegant at every turn.
I heard several people remark on how peaceful and comfortable every room felt aboard the ship. One guest, who had never been on a cruise ship at all before, complimented the design team on the sense of well-being Equinox invokes.
"Nothing abuses my senses," he said, and I have to agree, noting that the same has also been said about Solstice. These are classy and tasteful ships, which some prospective cruisers may find just a little sedate; although I have to say I didn't hear anyone actually expressing this thought.
Celebrity Solstice-class – What You Need to Know
Celebrity has always embraced a European feel in their cruises and this is perhaps kicked up a notch on the Equinox and the Solstice class in general. Expect to see more than a few men wearing sports coats on smart casual nights. Expect to see more, men in tuxes and ladies in gowns, on formal nights. Wandering around Equinox in the evening wearing shorts and flip-flops will definitely be frowned upon.
I was able to try a new class of staterooms for Celebrity first available on the Solstice class, an AquaClass balcony cabin. These 192 square foot cabins are meant to offer a more sensual experience with special herb-infused teas and aromatherapy misters available in every room. There is an iPod player and a special shower with the standard showerhead several adjustable jets. There is plenty of storage space and a larger than usual safe, stored in a drawer by the refrigerator.
Celebrity has extolled the accomplishments of "Celebrity's Leading Ladies" –five ladies with various cruise and travel backgrounds who advised the company on stateroom design for the Solstice class. Celebrity backed their research into various hotel and cruise ship designs to define the perfect cruise ship cabin. For the most part I see the attraction of their influence.
I can't say I love everything they decided, however. Half of the cabins have the bed right next to the closet rendering it inaccessible when anyone is trying to sleep. The other cabins have the layout reversed, with the bed by the balcony door and the sofa by the closet. This works better.
The Equinox Debut
Since Equinox is a brand new ship the line had their "A Team" onboard, many of the staff and crew coming from Solstice. This is standard procedure for new ships providing a crew already familiar with the ship's onboard procedures and facilities.
The staff was uniformly excellent, as I expected before I arrived. In my experience, it is a Celebrity hallmark for the staff to be more reserved in their interactions with the passengers, yet efficient in their duties. They are friendly but not to the point of inserting their own personalities into the guest's cruise experience. This will appeal to some people, while others may prefer more outgoing crewmembers. It is a matter of personal taste.
The food during our short cruise was also consistent with Celebrity standards. The first night we sampled the main dining room. My lamb chops were so succulent and tender I found myself chewing the bones to get the last morsels of goodness. But the sampler plates of dessert met with mixed reviews.
The Oceanview Café buffet area is a cut above previous Celebrity classes. While the nighttime pizza was excellent as expected an ersatz Eggs Benedict for breakfast had corned beef hash instead of ham, a vexing substitution.
Our second night featured dinner in the restaurant Blu - normally reserved for Aquaclass guests but open to any guest for a $5 surcharge. I went with the waiter's suggestion of pan-fried salmon which was good but not equal to the food or service of the previous night. The ambient noise at our table was a bit distracting. Still, overall the food we sampled on Equinox is sublime, and with reports of excellent repast in the specialty restaurants coming from Solstice there is no doubt Equinox will live up to the promise.
Production Shows – Another Equinox Difference
The entertainment on Equinox is another area where one will find a completely different experience than what is offered on Solstice. The show called "Equinox – The Show" had the entire audience spellbound. It featured strapping yet surprisingly nimble acrobatics within a surreal atmosphere. I've never seen anything like it on a cruise ship - definitely different and marvelous. The accompanying orchestra, as well as the other musical groups onboard, were all excellent performers.
In the end I have to say I was quite impressed by the Celebrity Equinox. If I were a ship designer I feel it is what I would aspire to build. The ship is easy to navigate, with a flow and dimension to the public rooms that promotes a sense of intimacy despite what is actually a very large ship. Reading about the length, beam, and tonnage of Equinox, it is hard to correlate the actual experience of being onboard.
Equinox actually feels more like a small ship experience. The design team was not only accomplished their mission, they exceeded it. What was that old Celebrity slogan… "exceeding expectations"? They don't use that slogan anymore, but they are still fulfilling it.
Equinox will sail a series of Mediterranean cruises this summer and fall, and then move to Fort Lauderdale for alternating eastern and western Caribbean runs. I hope to be aboard one of them with my family.
Both my wife and I are in our 50s and have cruised the Eastern Carribean many times. We found Solstice to be extraordinarily pleasant for a number of reasons.
Embarkation was relatively easy, and we were processed and on the ship within 45 minutes of arrival to the port. Our stateroom was located on deck 8 with a balcony. We found the room spotless and quite comfortable. The same can be said for the bathroom.
The couple we travelled with had a stateroom right next to us.
Please be careful with balcony rooms. The wind generated when you open your stateroom door while your balcony door is open can be dangerous. The other couple discovered this when her bathroom door, not properly shut, flew open with such force as to break her nose! Outside of that, the cruise was fantastic.
The dining room food, in my experience, was absolutely delicious. Steaks were cooked properly, side dishes were excellent, and the service was friendly and efficient.
While the pool area experiences the same problems as other cruise lines with chair saving, it really wasn't much of a hassle. There were plenty of chairs available evenif they were not poolside. If you were hungry at poolside, there was the outside grill that served fabulous sausage, hot dogs, guacomole and chips, chicken, kbobs, etc. Or, you could simply walk into the Oceanview Cafe and feast on an enormous array of food, including sushi, pizza (which was pretty darn good), ice cream, Asian food, beef, and on and on.
The ship is quiet and I never got the sense that I was constantly being sold something. We never chose to eat in one of the alternative restaurants because the food in the Main dining room was superb.
The shows were very good and the comedian was quite funny. The casino was probably my biggest disappointment because you simply could not win. The blackjack tables use 8 decks and I swear, no matter how hard you tried, you couldn't beat those dealers. It seemed they showed tens and aces on nearly every hand and I played a lot of hands! My advice to any seasoned BJ player is to forget it.
Overall my cruise experience was very nice. The average age on the ship seemed a little bit over my age range (which isn't young either!) The ship, by the way, is gorgeous, clean and well maintained. Our room attendant (room 8110) was awesome. I highly recommend trying this cruise line.