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Old December 6th, 2008, 07:14 AM
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Paul Motter Paul Motter is offline
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Do you know what I found out about most cruisers? Most of them have very little knowledge or interest in the kind of ship detail minutiae that I do. First of all, when I said I was going to give a talk about the ship itself, with detail about how they went through three different testing stages with different size scale models in ocean simulators, to find the maximum efficiency for the engines & pods, well I thought I would have people on the edge of their seats.

Guess what? Hardly anyone showed up. We had twice as many people for the Christmas ornament exchange. It makes me think I have to rethink my articles and what I write about! People assumed I would ask questions like how many restaurants there are and how much they cost. OK, those would be good questions, too. But I liked my questions. Basically, I wondered how much people were reading the press releases and articles put out by the cruise lines.

This begs the question – how much do people really want to know about cruise ships? One of our guests was enthralled with what I had to say, but the rest were pretty much uninformed, although they had gone to a lot of trouble to book this brand new ship.

In my mind, there are many reasons why this ship is important to the guests and the greater cruise community as a whole.

First: it is the first completely new from the hull up design by Celebrity is six years.
Second: it represents the paradigm that will define Celebrity for the next 10 years or so.
Third: it is the first of the next generation of cruise ships, the first true all 21st-century ships. It focuses on fuel efficiency, alternative dining, beautiful public rooms, spacious balcony cabins, wonderful new bathroom amenities that will be hard not to duplicate in future ships.

An interesting aspect is the AquaClass cabins. I have never stayed in one of these cabins, which are now common on new Princess, NCL, Holland America and even Carnival ships. Basically, these are cabins with quick access to the Spa area, and also come with aromatherapy options, soothing music, iPod players and in many cases some kind of special dining arrangement with health-conscious food.

In the case of Solstice, I found it disappointing that only AquaClass guests were given access to the Persian Garden – a place of solace in the Spa area with mist showers infused with Eucalyptus or other spices, hot ceramic beds, hot and dry saunas, etc. On most ships you can buy a pass to these facilities by the day, but not on Solstice – only AquaClass guests could use them – or people who had paid for a massage were allowed in for one hour immediately before or after the treatment.

Most odd about the AquaClass cabins is their unique restaurant, Blu, is not situated close to the cabins as we expected it would be. It is down by Tuscan Grille, Murano and the other alternative dining spots. Guests we talked to said it was a good restaurant, as they all are on Solstice, but they noted it was not very crowded and they said it seemed obvious anyone could eat there if they wanted to – and no charge or a minimum charge of $5 per person.

Meanwhile – Solstice does NOT have a thelassotherapy pool, which has become a staple on other Celebrity ships. This is a large heated pool with underwater jets to sooth aching muscles, usually in the Solarium and available free of charge. The Solarium on Solstice is beautiful, but it was air-conditioned cold, which somewhat defeated the purpose of the green house effect, and the “adults-only” rule was not being enforced.
Some things are better than ever, however. The desserts, especially chocolate, are twice as tantalizing as they ever were under Michel Roux, and Celebrity is especially generous with them. Each time we ate in a special restaurant, Tuscan Grill or Murano, we were given each dessert on the menu! This was 10 different desserts last night, 8 of them in sample sizes but two full portions. It was chocolate lover’s heaven, to say the least.

The grilled meats on Solstice are wonderful – steaks and lamb chops especially. Do not order them too well done, they are perfect at medium (on the pink side) or medium rare.

The buffet is a wonder as well, with fresh omelets, salad bar, pasta cooked to order (pick you ingredients and you noodle shapes and they heat them altogether and allow you to pick the sauce you want; red, oil & garlic, Alfredo, etc.

The carvery gives you fresh baguettes or other roles from which you can create custom sandwiches. Tuna, turkey, cheeses, ham – just like the best delis. The Crapery downstairs is on my list of places to try tomorrow. For $5 you get a fresh breakfast or lunch crepe which I heard is to-die-for. The free ice cream is very good, but the gelato for $3 for two scoops is heavenly.

That’s all for now, one more day at sea. This is a wonderful cruise with late nights in unusual ports of call. The ship is active with shows, demonstrations, a lecturer, outside activities, great dining, a wonderful interactive television system, spacious and comfy staterooms, wireless internet access shipwide, including in your cabin (where I sit now as my wife is snoring, er, sleeping soundly...).
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