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Old October 4th, 2011, 04:18 PM
Jason Leppert
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With today’s day at sea, let me update you on yesterday’s excursions. Docked at Salerno, Italy, my parents and I took a day on our own in Sorrento via the ship’s shore excursions. It was one of their “on your own” tours which amounts to transportation with a tour guide accompanying you only while going and coming. We had been to Pompeii and Sorrento already, but we were so taken with the quaint atmosphere as well as the artisan woodworking upon our first visit, that we decided to return to Sorrento on the Amalfi coast.

Sorrento can best be described as a seaside town that is equal parts urban and natural. The typical hustle and bustle of Italian roadways is ever present, but it is offset by wonderful tree shade, tasty sidewalk cafes and pizzerias, and narrow pedestrian alleys.

As far as art and retail is concerned, Sorrento is best know for its intricate inlaid woodworking as applied to anything from music boxes to full-sized furniture. This generational skill is a sight to behold and, in my opinion, is only rivaled by luthiers of fine guitars.

We went to lunch at a traditional Italian pizzeria and enjoyed a glass of local red wine with our margherita pizzas. The afternoon was spent by strolling the streets and alleys of the little town, taking in all of the fantastic textures and sounds of Italian life before being driven back to our wonderful cruise ship.

While I continue to share my photos from Sorrento below, I wanted to take a moment to update you on the Celebrity Solstice a bit. A few nights back we were invited to the captain’s table and had an enjoyable evening hosted by the ship’s environmental officer who was also only 27 years of age. The dinner during that evening, including a delectable beef ragout and cherries jubilee, along with our meals in general onboard have been extremely good.

Tonight we enjoyed the Tuscan Grill specialty restaurant that presented an equally tasty selection, albeit with far too much time between our starter courses and our main meal. Otherwise, the service has equaled the great quality of the food.

We tend to be more frequent patrons of the Oceanview Cafe than the main dining room during tour-heavy cruises thanks to the casual quickness that is easiest to swallow here after a busy day ashore. The food here has met the quality of the dining rooms and has served us well during our voyage. And you can never miss out on the fantastic ice cream bar. Celebrity’s cinnamon ice cream is my top choice.

The entertainment onboard, always Celebrity’s weakest link in my opinion, has seen improvements. While the audio mix was less than optimal for Ghost Light, the production itself was surprisingly fresh with more of a narrative than you usually find at such productions. The premise here was that this old theater was closing down and was going to bring out the ghost light but only after the singers and dancers had a chance to revisit their favorite tunes. The staging was meant to resemble the backside of the theater’s sets populated by the orchestra and creatively lit with colorful LED bulbs. Song selections included many of the usual classics up through modern pieces like “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. The cast and orchestra here are very talented.

Variety performances are also to be found including so-called “action comedy” from a gentleman who played to the sparsest of crowds I have ever seen in a main show lounge. At first, it was painful to hear only crickets as he struggled with opening lines that fell flat, but he slowly but surely won over the dozens of onlookers with silly banter combined with seriously talented juggling and unicycle stunts that had me crying with laughter.

The Captain’s Club member cocktail party was this afternoon and was actually considerably more enjoyable than such parties have been in the past. It is very apparent that Celebrity is taking these events far more seriously. You can only listen to so many lounge performances of the Girl from Ipanema before it becomes a solid cliche. So I was pleased to hear the Solstice orchestra jamming to jazz standards instead, and this talented band knows jazz well. The typical free drinks were passed out as were bites to eat, but this time, the food consisted of a substantial buffet spread of snacks as gourmet as sushi as well as fruit and marshmallow skewers. And to top it all off, we were pleasantly surprised by two of the Celebrity singers as well as the onboard acapella group singing a great Beatles medley with the backing of the great orchestra. Major kudos to Celebrity for raising the bar.
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