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Old September 30th, 2011, 03:14 PM
Jason Leppert
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Default Virtual Cruise - Celebrity Solstice - September/October 2011

I just got onboard Celebrity Solstice yesterday in the port of Barcelona, Spain, and she is in exquisite shape. The whitewashed hull is absent of any blemishes, and the mirrored mid-ship “X,” exclusive only to this first ship of the Solstice class, glistens brightly in the sun but only on occasion.

But prior to boarding, my parents and I traveled to Paris for a first-time visit to Disneyland Paris which we, as avid Disney fans, absolutely loved. Of course, we were also sure to visit the traditional sites of Versailles and the Eiffel Tower.

Having only previously seen the tower out of a plane window years prior, I was absolutely stunned by how massive it actually is. For whatever reason, I had pictured it smaller. It was fantastic to marvel at this engineering triumph realizing when it was built and how it has so gracefully stood the test of time.

Our hotel, the Londres-Eiffel, was a fantastic three-star boutique hotel all of 3 blocks away from the beloved Paris landmark. The small hotel only has 30 rooms, but they were extremely comfortable and accommodating with my only nitpick being the tiny showers in some of the rooms that make the size of cruise ship showers look like that of palatial walk-in closets.

It goes without saying that the food of Paris is truly as good as all the reputations indicate. The flavors that the French creatively evoke from their dishes never fail to amaze me.

After our time in Paris, we jetted off to Barcelona where we met up with my aunt, cousin, and grandmother who are also joining us on our cruise. In Spain we all had a day of touring prior to boarding the ship.

We enjoyed an excursion to Montserrat via bus and cog train. You quickly come to realize how high up you are as breathing becomes more difficult with the thinner air while also combined with the smog of the city below. The site is a fantastic architectural nugget cradled by the baguette-shaped mountains that surround it.

We also walked around Gaudi’s Cathedral which is still unfinished and abuzz with construction activity. The architectural styling is certainly take-it-or-leave-it with much of the original structure looking extremely dirty juxtaposed against the new white stonework. I would assess the aesthetic as something of a Baroque predecessor to the work of Frank Gehry, famous for the Walt Disney concert hall in Los Angeles among many other free-flowing structures standing around the world.

Since onboard, our experience has been consistent with the quality that I have come to expect from the Solstice-class of Celebrity ships. I had previously sailed onboard the Equinox two years ago on a Holy Land cruise when I fell in love with these ships. In Turkey we had docked along side the Solstice which gave us an interesting perspective of these sisters.

As is still the case, the only immediate differences between the exteriors of these ships have everything to do with branding. The original concept art for this class of ships had showcased a giant “X” to be somehow applied to the entire mid-ship superstructure of the ship in lieu of the traditional smoke stack ornamentation found on the Century and Millennium class ships. In practice, this new approach is only in part effective, and clearly Celebrity came to the same conclusion as changes were made on the Equinox and her most recent fleet mates.

On the Solstice, the “X” was applied to the glass veranda railings in the form of mirrored tinting film which looks fantastic when viewed from the right angle, but at too many other times of day, the “X” is all but invisible, thus eliminating any visible exterior branding.

To remedy this, Celebrity has since added a supplementary “X” to her forward stack. The only trouble there is that these dual stacks were designed to be much smaller from those on previous Celebrity ships. So now the infamous white “X” appears as the rather small afterthought that it indeed is. They did at least go a bit further with the Equinox by applying a box-letter “X” to her stack that it far more substantial and bolder than the mere weld and paint bandage found here onboard the Solstice. I would like to see Celebrity upgrade the branding on this ship one day to stay consistent with the newer vessels.

Our first day of the cruise today was a tendered visit of the port Villefranche on the Cote d’Azur. I had sailed here four years ago on back to back cruises with my parents when we explored Cannes and the Village of St. Paul. Today, we decided to round out the experience by visiting Monaco and the Grand Casino at Monte Carlo.

As is often the case with experiencing places first only known to us in movies, these locales were at first surreal to see first hand. Here we saw and drove on the Grand Prix route seen in recent movies like Iron Man 2. If you are in the market for a super yacht, Monaco is certainly the place to window shop as the harbor is bursting with a veritable navy of private vessels, and the principality just hosted an extensive yacht show in the last week or so.

I’m not much of a gambler, but when at the Grand Casino, you have to play something just to say you have. Luckily, I can report I came out 15 Euros richer from the curiously Alaska-themed video slot machine after inserting a 5 Euro bill. Huzzah! I almost ordered a vodka martini, shaken not stirred, but I inevitably resisted following in the footsteps of 007.

And now here I sit this evening at the Lawn Club enjoying a Franziskaner and sharing my experience with all of you fine folks. Cheers!

Last edited by Jason Leppert; October 7th, 2011 at 08:39 AM.
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