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Old December 1st, 2008, 10:59 AM
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Paul Motter Paul Motter is offline
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Cruisemates Solstice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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