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Solstice Cruise Review – Trip – 11/30/2008 through 12/7/2008
By Thomas Treimel
This cruise started when Celebrity Solstice opened four extra weeks of bookings before the original planned inaugural. My travel agent Deb called me and said Celebrity allocated her about twelve cabins for this selective week. I quickly suggested some of my friends to book it and they did. Deb hammered out the details for all of our group. I booked my daughter Jenna and I on the trip. I started looking into air travel at this time. One of the Continental airlines hubs is my home airport – Newark. They fly directly to Ft. Lauderdale the embarkation port for this trip. The airfares were a bit higher than I have paid in the past but we were still in a gas high price time but by cruise time the gas prices had tumbled from over $3 per gallon at the booking time to only $1.50 or so when we flew out of Newark. A nice thing to do is fly into the home port area a day before to get adjusted and see the town. This also reduces the stress levels as you are there and ready to go so you will see no delays in getting to the ship on time. I had originally booked an 8AM flight out of Newark to land at about 11AM in Ft. Lauderdale. Then a few weeks later re-checked the flight on the Continental sight to see where the seating capacity was. Hmmmmmmmm…. Flight was not there. I then went back to my reservation number and checked to see that the flight had been removed and we were now scheduled on the 6:35AM flight out of Newark on the same day. So I then went back in and re-set my seats and called my friends, Karen and Tim, who were traveling on the cruise and sir with us. They also had to reset the air portion of the trip. The same thing happened with our return flight home. Originally set for a noon departure out of Newark but the flight was cancelled in advance and we were shifted to the 10:40AM flight home. Same thing again – switch the seats. Since I am on vacation as soon as the work day ends before we actually go. I am very detail oriented to relax and enjoy the trip. I had packed a 4 oz. bottle of rum in one of the small NTSB approved carry containers. When we went through the check point and down to the plane I purchased a 20oz. bottle of Pepsi for the plane. Also we had a very quick breakfast there McDonald's – hey it was all that was there. The plane was on time to board. We taxied away but were de-iced and did not take off till 6:50AM. I had my first drink of Rum and Coke at 6:53AM. Vacation started. My friend Hank in North Carolina will be happy to read this line. Finished the drink about the time we crossed over North Carolina. We encountered no problems getting there as we landed right on time. Right off the plane in Ft. Lauderdale and off to find the luggage pick up. We picked up our luggage and put on our Celebrity bag tags. Then found a taxi to the pier. We stepped out of the taxi and stowed the ship luggage at the port by 10AM. While they had not started the check in process yet. Karen, Tim, Jenna and I checked our bags and went through the port security process. Then settled in for the time to check in. When the check in process started we got onto the line for the Elite and checked in to board the ship. The actual check-in process took about 10 minutes for the express pass and check the passport information against the cruise tickets along with the credit card registration for on-board ship payments. Off we went up the escalator to the ship and this adventure begins.
They had the ships photographers there to get your entry pictures. Upstairs you had your security picture taken to match it to your sea pass. This is used to log you on and off the ship and to record what you look like. The ships security knows who is on and off the ship at all times. This helps in ports as they want to make sure all are there. Then up the slanted gangway to the entry deck on level 5. As short left and a right and you are in the entry area where they are offering you a welcome and a glass of Champagne or orange juice. Always my favorite way to be greeted. When we entered we were informed the rooms were not quite ready. We walked to the room and dropped off our carry on luggage in the room and found out room steward Jose from India. He greeted us warmly and after explaining the room quickly let us store the luggage and we went exploring the ship.
Cabin: #6257, cat. 2C, Continental Deck. This is one of the regular sized cabins on the new class of ship. Slightly larger than the traditional 170 sq. ft. There is an additional balcony on this cabin level. Very nice fit for two deck chairs and a table. I have always found the Celebrity cabins to be a perfect fit. They are slightly larger than some of the other industry standard cabins at this level. We had enough room for storage in the room as they have raised the bed level about four inches and even the large sized suit cases can fit nicely right under the bed. They moved the live vests from the storage area above the closet to a nice wire basket under the bed. Easy to slide out to get at the live vests for the boat drill. They do have a third sleeper bed – trundle bed that comes out from under the couch. But they also have a bed that swings down out of the ceiling and is hidden from vies during the day. So fitting two – would be very roomy and three is not a problem. Even though there is less closet space as you may read on the boards. There is plenty of space in the drawers and storage areas in the room. The large double closet has a hanging bar all the way across and about thirty wooden hangers for using to hang the formal wear along with the day to day things as needed. The area under where the Flat screen TV is located has 5 nice and large drawers. To the side of this area is a storage area where you wifi keyboard is hidden. This can also double as a large storage area and did for us on this trip. Under that is the mini bar and your cabin steward will open it for your use if you request it. I think there is also a small pull out drawer in the front of the sit down make up area. There is also an additional light switch and two plug outlets here for your use. Just above the bed are two large cabinets that are used for pillow storage and whatever you would like to put up there. We stored my carry on there the whole trip. The TV has a nice swing arm behind it that you can pivot off the wall for watching in bed. They can go interactive, do movies on demand (which are all free), and music of different types. Here is my problem with the music and how it is set up. They have no menu selection to bring in a large type and shuffle it from song to song mixing up the order. Something I would have liked to do. Additionally there are some nook areas with bars across to hold in things that you want to store there. It held our bottles of wine and soda we had brought on in Ft. Lauderdale. Our steward kept the small ice holder filled and brought a clear plastic wine cooler / ice cooler when we requested it. To re-state on bringing alcohol on board with you as you board the ship - Celebrity will allow two bottles of wine and maybe a few champagne. They are not strict in this policy but if you are a good passenger and do not try to bring on an excessive amount they are understanding on this issue. Your cabin steward will bring you ice as requested. Now there has been much discussion on the bathrooms on the ship and how they have changed. Yes they are a bit smaller. The counter space is not what your are used to. The shower stall area is now covered by a plastic enclosure. Very nice in my opinion. The shower head has a few adjustable settings but is locked in place and will pivot to direct the water. There are two handles to turn here – one for water pressure and one for temperature. Both work perfectly to all out satisfaction. They have a step up bar inside for the ladies to shave their legs on if needed. But the drying line I loved to use is now gone. Replaced by two cloths hooks. They have small bottles of shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer along with the standard soap and never ending supply of clean fresh white towels.
We headed out to explore the ship now. From walking into the lobby area on deck 5 I was already in WOW mode. I have been on the Horizon, Zenith, the Century class all ships and the Millie class two ships. Generally speaking from my cruises on older ships in the late 70's and early 80's. Then jumping back into cruising on Celebrity in the early 90's. So I have a view from a lot of angles. With this class of ship Celebrity has stepped up beyond the normal ship out there. I have felt that Celebrity set the standard and then other followed it. This ship build and launch proves that they are still way ahead and setting the pace for cruising elegance and ship board comforts into the next ten years. I walk about the ship almost all the time now using the elevators much at all this trip. I think about 6 times in all – a bit above my average of two. Walking down the passage way and out to the stairwell area on deck 6 overlooking into the atrium and the tree there. What a nice touch. We walked forward on the port side into the Online@Celebrity area. Nice area with many computers set up. During the week I went and used the computers and the response time was very fast compared to the last time I tried a few years back. Nice soft earth / wood tones here. Very quiet area. Then back down to deck 4 to the main restaurant.
Dining Room: The Grand Epernay Dining Room was just like the Millie series ships in size. This was wonderfully laid out. Same soft lines but the stair case was different. The stairs were frosted glass as were the stairwell separators. It split into two sections at the middle one each flowing to the side. We did notice one of the steps was already cracked but they will replace that soon. At night the stairs were back lit with a light green coloring. As usual there is a lot of space between tables to move. The wait stations were enlarged to hold two groups of wait staff at a time. They also had frosted glass a bit higher up that other wait stations to cut the view into them. We were at table 226 right next to the wait staff entrance and exit. There was not much noise at all sitting here. We were also within viewing distance of the well thought out wine cellar in the dining area. There were about 1800 bottles stored there as we were told. You could catch a look at the Sommelier's working in their area and picking up bottles and moving about with various glasses for each wine's use. Bob was our wine expert as always when I travel with him. We were at second seating dinner which is what I like on the ship. To relax a lot and take my time getting to dinner. My daughter Jenna and our friends Bob and Eileen were seated at our table. A lot of nice people to share a weeks worth if dinners with. We also invited Kim from the ships special events staff to dinner the last night. I had brought a coconut back on the ship, as a bet you can't get this on the ship, and tried to get it carved into a Maple leaf for our Canadian guest. But the nut was too green and it did not work out. But they drew a maple leaf on it and it worked out just the same. I would say I was not disappointed with any of the food offerings presented at dinner that week. We did go to the brunch offered one day here. It was very good. Some different offerings than upstairs as it is brunch a lot of cross over. It would have been very special to have an omelet station but I do not think they are set up for that. For the dinners everything was fantastic from the presentation to the sauces and taste. The wine parings were excellent for each night's meal. We also went into the restaurant at lunch and breakfast two times to see what other offerings we were missing out on. As with dinner everything was great. Service right there with breads or rolls and a good selection on the menu's each time. We sat next to the windows three of the times we went into breakfast or lunch the other at the rail overlooking the main floor of the restaurant. Nice view each night from up there. Although there were a lot of people missing from our section of the dining room the first night they did appear throughout the cruise. They must have been in some of the specialty restaurants enjoying their tasty offerings.
I will say one thing for the complete Celebrity staff on the ship. They are wonderfully pleasant and gracious. They are always trying to please you with a special request or menu selection. I like Ice tea at dinner and it was there right after we sat down every night. I will repeat myself here and say that I have found being an Elite member does have a big plus side to it. The part of being able to invite ships officers to dinner and making new friends on the ship. This is the time to relax and enjoy your dining experience. Try something different as if it done not meet your taste buds in the right way you can re-order. And as always you are on vacation have fun with this.
After this we headed forward out of the restaurant on deck 3 past Guest Relations and the bottom of the central lobby which is the Grand Foyer. I had to stop into guest relations a few times. The first to pick up a band aid as I had cut my finger. The even helped my put on the antiseptic and then the band aid the first time. All with a wonderful smile. They also supplied me with a few extra band aid's in case I needed to change them. The other times I stopped by were to drop off a nice Ipod I had found on deck 15 at the basketball court. This was a nice slim line one that the owner forgot to pick up when they left the area. I turned it over to the Concierge who took my cabin number and thanked me. The other times I was just stopping by to pick up a bill for my ship charges that I had incurred to date. Each time met with a smile and friendly hello. And as I tried to make a joke about me being a complaining passenger and where I should go for that. They politely pointed me across the foyer to the Shore excursions desk and we had a good laugh at that. The last time I was there some passenger was screaming at our Hotel Manager about something. It was nice to see him calm the passenger down and get him to quietly talk through his concerns. Another reason why I like Celebrity. They will not brush you off and will try to address all passenger concerns as they can. Simon Weir handled it in an excellent fashion. It's a good thing I was on his good side. As with every interaction all the staff are being judged by everyone on the ship including me at all times. And as usual they come through with very high marks for their manners and how the conduct themselves while on company business. This area also had the Passport bar which was colored in a soft honey gold and the shore excursions desk area. I never had the chance to stop at the passport bar area or shore excursions but notice they were always people working or using the services during the normal hours for these places.
Moving up to deck 4 from the Grand Foyer area from the nice flowing stairwell. There were two decorated Christmas trees here at the base of the stairwell that magically appeared on December 1st. As you walked up the staircase to the port side is the most exciting place for a lot of people on the ship. The Martini Bar and Crush. The Martini bar was a frozen bar during the dinner hours which was two sided and had an extensive menu of Martini's and regular drinks. My friend Bob is the expert in this department and would stop by each night to see what new delights were coming out of the skillful staff's mixers. Part of the entertainment is the bartending staff. Tossing the cubes all about followed by the mixing and pouring out of three drinks at a time. They were the pros in this department and had great fun in doing so. This area was always busy before, during and after the dinner hours. It is a great place to meet up before dinner to review the days events with all the new cruise friends. Or use it as a jumping off spot for the evening. The areas surrounding the Martini bar and Crush were large seating areas with see through curtains to make small privacy areas for your group. Across from this area was Cellar Masters the wine bar on the ship. This was partitioned away with solid dark wooden walls and gates that remained open and inviting. They also had an extensive wine list available here. There was something novel about this area as hey had a pour your own glass area. This was all electronic so you could purchase a glass of wine at anytime of the day or night. Just put the sea pass into the slot – make your selection and use your wine glass of choice – it poured it out for you. The bottles were shown off behind a glass partition to show the vintage and keep the wine at it's best serving temperature. We walked into this area a few times and saw a few people relaxing reading or quietly conversing. During the afternoon a string quartet would play music here with the sound cascading upwards throughout the whole open area. The open area stretched from the grand Foyer to level 15 at the lawn club. So if you were in the stairwell connected to this or an elevator area you would hear the music. Moving forward from the Martini bar are the Shops on the Boulevard and the Casino. The pictures shown by many people can't do the actual sight of this justice. The boulevard area curves nicely around the casino. So you can walk around it if you like. The items in the shop area were very nice. Although they did not have in stock a ship Christmas ornament. In the most forward end of the shop area is the liquor sales area for taking home. They carried all the market named brands at great prices. Sometimes it is easier to just buy on the ship and leave it to them to deliver. Better than on shore purchase and store it. The Casino has a wide variety of slot machine and the standard game tables. All of the slots now operate on a coin less system. Put your dollars in and play away. When finished just cash out and a slip of paper is printed. Either cash it in to use it next time. They have added a Texas hold'em playing table and I stopped by to look at it but the rules escaped me and I moved on. They also had two Texas Hold'em tables for heads up play. I think the minimum to sit down and play was $50. Then it was straight up against all table opponents. The rake was 10% of each hand from what I was told. They did have a lot of tournaments for Hold'em and black jack during the cruise but I never got to them. There was always a lot of people in the hold'em table area and in the casino in general on the trip. If you are captains club you also get some $5 match play coupons to play with to double your even money bets at the tables. So you could pick up an extra $5 on your bets. But alas they only gave you a limited number. A nice incentive to try a game of chance. There was also a wide screen TV in here for sports viewing. As you moved even more forward you would run into The Entertainment Court. This was a large open area with tables and chairs. There was a large marble clock face in the floor here. They held the shop sales here for watches and jewelry. To the port side is the Quasar disco which did not get going till later at night. And going it did. JR and BK had a lot of friends in here dancing well into the wee hours. To the starboard side of the ship is a new type of addition to Celebrity – Celebrity Central. This is a small about 100 seat intimate theatre that was used for movies and the comedians on the boat. Well laid out and nice comfortable seats. The one night I was here the area was full up for the late night comedy show. As you move forward past the elevator banks there is the Solstice Theatre. Here the pictures do tell just about the whole story. But it is still a beauty to behold in person. There are a lot of new innovations for this floating theatre. They had the ability to soar over the audience areas while performing some parts of the show. I was in one night for the Broadway review and the show was well attended and singing, dancing, props and costumes matched everything perfectly. In talking to some of the actors and singers this theatre allowed them to stretch their medium to a higher level and I will agree.
If you exited the theatre on level 5 and walked to the aft end of the ship this is what you would you would run into. The port side held the Photography gallery. Many pictures were taken and printed for you to see here. I am sorry to say that the Galleria Boutiques on the starboard side did not catch my attention enough to go in and look about. I will say the areas were well dressed out for the window displays. This was where the perfumes and high end jewelry shops were. I do remember looking at some of the art work in the Gallery here amid ship and like it a lot. Across from the Art Gallery is the Galleria Tasting area. Sorry again as I went right by this area without looking into it. But… Moving further aft on the port side is the Bistro on Five. This had an upscale breakfast and lunch service for a $5 entry fee. Jenna went here one night and said the desert crapes were of the first order. Now across from this area on the starboard side is the Café Al Bacio & Gelateria. This was the specialty coffee and espresso area. They had some nice bakery presentations here for your consumption with your drink selections. Just past here walking still to the Aft is the large bank of elevators. As you enter the stairwell lobby area take a right and just before the exit to the outside to the left is the Celebrity Destinations area. This is where you would find the Captains club desk and the Future cruise sales area. You could use this area to sign up for the Elite tours and to make a reservation to talk to Natalie who is currently future Cruise sales hostess. I talked to Natalie a few times and used the future cruise deposit booking for no trip for the $100 deposit for the $100 on board credit. Not a bad idea at this point and knowing I will cruise again. The girls in this area were nice to talk to and I left them a plate of my home made cookies. So if you leave this area and make a right then down to the passageway past the stairs and make a right you would enter the ant hallway. Just look down on the floor and you will see that the tile looks like ants in a trail to the wall paintings. Very beautiful flowers painted here on the wall and ceiling. This leads down to the specialty restaurants. You would first enter the Ensemble lounge. To the immediate right is the Michael's club. We played a lot of the trivia games here. Battle of the sexes, which the men won and I got to be team Captain. Then the daily trivia challenge with our team of four which we won for the week. They also had some name that tune and other games here. As nice as any other Michael's club on any other ship. I do not think this area got a lot of traffic at night and there were a few blemishes in the area already. But nothing that could not be fixed right away. The Ensemble lounge is a large stop off bar area before going to the specialty restaurants. Murano is the best of the specialty restaurants here. Much like the one's on the Millie class ships. Just past the end of the lounge area to the left is Silk harvest. This is the Far East restaurant. Across from this is Blu. This is the Aqua class eatery with healthy choices on the menu. You could only get into this area if you are booked into an Aqua class suite or there was an opening. The aft end of the ship had the Tuscan Grille. Our friends and Jenna dined here one night and thought the presentations were excellent. The Tuscan Grille occupies the back of the ship. So you get to watch the wake and the back area of the ship as it is moving. The colors were deep burgundy and dark wood. I did not go into any of these areas as I wanted to save something for another cruise on the Solstice class ships. And I know I will be back. But in talking to anyone who did go into any of the specialty restaurants the food was exquisite and presentations spectacular. Well worth the cover charge for any of the venues.
So as the tour continues and we walk about we skip past Continental deck 6, Sunrise deck 7 and Vista deck 8 which are all decks with cabins in them. Did I mention that I walk just about everywhere I go on the ship. Lots of steps help burn off the calories from the extra stops on deck 14. But someone told me there were no calories at sea. I'll have to test that out one time. More on that later in the review. On the Panorama deck 9 across from the central elevators is the card room. Every time day or night, well not late night, there were people playing on the tables. It seemed like there were enough bridge players to get a good game going from the number of the people and how well occupied this area was at all times. As we move onward and upward to deck 10 the Sky deck. And near the rear elevator bank area is the Library. This is a nice two level area with books to borrow. There are built in shelves. Be sure to return the book before you leave. Nice comfy chairs to sit in. You could get the daily crossword and Suduko games here. They finally listened to me on this. The second tier of the Library is on the Penthouse deck number 11. This deck holds the Aqua class suites and all the larger suites. On the forward section of the ship on this deck is the Relaxation lounge for suite holders. I don't remember even stopping here at all. But there are supporting pictures on the internet that show this area. Up one level now to the Resort deck 12. Dam. I'm tired now and I walked those steps every day at least ten times, from our room on deck 6 to deck 12 or 14 or 15.
The Resort deck holds the pools, Spa and fitness areas. I can easily say this is the most impressive area on the ship as I walked upward. The pools are set up a little differently than before. They sit down a little giving you a place to cool your feet in ankle deep water to get an idea of the water temperature before you go in. Starting from the aft end of this area to forward. The Wet Zone is first. This area doubled as a dance area at night for the ship deck parties. The girls from the cruise staff danced up here on Caribbean night in flame red dresses. The wet zone is turned on in the afternoon and it sprays water up into the air at various heights and intervals. Nice to splash around in on a hot afternoon. Just behind the wet zone was the stage area for the band to play on when leaving port and for the deck parties. Great music to listen to when you want to get your cruise spirit going on sail away day. The next area forward is the Family pool. This is a shallow pool for our younger cruisers and those just wanting to get wet to their waste. The depth varies from about three feet to four feet. A fun time for me was watching a young mom blow up a small kiddies pool while dad watched. I then helped dad, borrowing two plastic buckets from the bar area, fill the small pool up with about 6 inches of water. The two young ladies with mom and dad, who looked like they were 3 and 4 years old, loved it. You would have thought this was the greatest water park in the world encased in a four foot blow up pool. They had a great time of it. Simple ingredients. Pool; add water and imagination and anything is possible. These girls were great fun to see about the ship which I did just about every day. The next area in the pools was the Sports pool. This was separated by a walk across bridge but the pools were completely separated. The sports pool was about 4 foot deep to six foot deep. Same type of skirt area with shallow water. You could sit just above or in the water on the skirt and you're your book without full immersion. Staying cool by the pool. There were four hot tubs near the pools here and the water temperature was just a nice very warm. Not hot enough to turn you pink quickly but the level that warmed you up and made you relax a lot. We used this area the first day as I brought my swim suite in my carry on and switched so we could do this. It did rain a bit while we were in port in Ft. Lauderdale and while we were in the hot tub. Could have been a problem. But I was wet already and I had on my hat so no problem. The pool bar is just in front of here. They had a great daily special I saw the first day. A large mug of beer, they sold large size mugs that looked over a pint in size of Amstel for about $4.50 or so with the tip. Celebrity has all the nice things to keep you cooled down on this deck. As just to the starboard side of the pool area as you move forward was the Sundries shop. The t shirt, flip flop and sun tan lotion area. Great location. One thing I will say before we walk through the sliding glass doors was there were plenty of chairs about the pool area and the nice couches for two they built into the decor of the ship. This was a new innovation for me to see. And the last thing you see before the sliding glass doors to the outside area of the ship here is a hanging netted hammock bed with pillows that you could fit a few into. Two was the perfect number for me here. You could get very comfortable here anytime and nap the afternoon worries away. Who needs to worry about those extra calories. That's coming up soon. Stay tuned. When you move through the sliding glass doors you are going forward into the Solarium area. This is a pool covered area with the wooden loungers and very thick and very soft mattresses next to the pool. The mattresses were covered in Celebrity blue and every morning had a fresh pool towel rolled up on them. This was the same for all lounges on the pool deck area. Every morning a fresh rolled towel. The area covering the pool had photo electric cells to capture the sun and provide some electricity for the ship. Not a lot from what I have read but some to start with. There were also the capture the sun areas off the bow suites at about deck level seven. In this Solarium pool area is a nice pool for swimming laps or staying cool. The forward area of the pool has a trellis of red flowers and green vines. They are artificial. It is nice to look up while swimming and see the flowers. Behind this is the fountain area where they flow water out at intervals with color being sent from below in red, blue, green spot lights. Nice to see at night. There are two hot tubs in this area also so if it rains out in the uncovered pool area then just move inside. Another new innovation for relaxation in the area are very large wicker basket chairs. They will fit two or more and have moveable pillows and a wicket backing with materiel covering it to offer some privacy. So you can get in there and stretch out with moving the pillows about. The basket / chair / lounger spins around so you can look out to sea and kick back. On the port side of the ship in the early AM is the Aqua Spa Café. This area offered healthy breakfast choices in the mornings when I walked by the area. As you pass forward from the Solarium area you will enter the Spa area. This area has the Aquaspa, Persian Gardens, Acupuncture, Massage, Hair Salon, Retail outlet and Fitness center. There were always people about this area in the early morning when I made my way here from the early workout on the ship. This is the pampering zone for all. There were different scents in the air each morning for relaxation therapy. I can only speak for the fitness center as this is all I used while on this trip. My daily time in here consisted of using the Nautilus equipment, stretching, doing some sit ups and walking about. The area is well laid out with a separate area for small aerobics and spinning classes. There are about 20 or so Nautilus machines in the forward section and fourteen walker / running machines in front of the starboard windows to look out to sea with. In the past I think they used to have the running machine looking forward and the weight machines behind them. I like the running machines in front as when I work out on the weight machines I am only on each for a few minutes and do not care about a view. I did try out one of the elliptical machines and they had a lot of pre-programmed work outs available to use to help you keep your fitness level. Every morning about 7:30AM the running and elliptical machines were all being used. There was a whole wall to pick a gym towel from and these were always well supplied. There is a small area in front of the fitness area outside. The Spa Veranda if you just want to walk outside for a breath of the fresh sea air. The one thing I did notice was there was a lot of spa staff about and someone always manning their welcome desk. This concludes this decks description.
I searched all about the ship for deck 13. Forward, aft, port, starboard, above the pool deck and below lido deck but could not find it. I'll have to bring this to Celebrity's attention that a deck was missing.
Well not to skip a beat and moving upward to deck 14 the Lido deck. If you walk from the Aqua spa area to the stairs in the forward section and go up…. There you are. Right outside the Sky observation lounge. If you come up the stairs you would enter this most expansive lounge area on the starboard side of the ship. It has a long entry path till you actually get there. Again screening is done by light white blinds you can see through. This is where they held the x and other major parties. They have an expansive bar area to sit at and to the Port side the raised stage area for the live band to perform at. The furniture here is some large loungers up near the windows along with nice comfortable chairs. There were also three semi circular alcove large enough to walk into and store about ten of your friends in. Nice small privacy areas to accommodate small and large groups. This area with over 200 people in on the x and again on the Elite member gatherings did not look crowded in the least. Plenty of room to move around and find a place to sit. They held Karaoke up here at night and if you were unlucky enough to be there I am sorry for my poor vocal ability attempting to sing "California Girls" by the Beach Boys. I did hear some other excellent singers who were passengers singing in the lounge area. There are always good singers and dancers among the people on the trip with you. There were dance request numbers played by the DJ every night here. This is just so large and expansive area and the glass windows seemed at least twenty feet high. They had a very good band playing here for the Elite party and the dance floor is huge. Here the wait and bar service was excellent. I gave away bottles of Champagne to our two cruise super stars, in my opinion. One who arranged the rum factory tour for about thirty people of the group. The second set up the meet and greet on line bulletin board for all the connections people to send in their pictures and other information to share in advance. Well walking back outside and going to the aft end of the ship you are at the top of the pool well looking down into the pool area. Again there are those comfy lounge chairs with the Celebrity Blue coverings on each one. And the jogging track. I will say one thing on the jogging track. It is nice but the person who laid it out never ran much. The corners near the aft end of the track are too sharp. I had to move the lounge chairs each AM to round off the sharp corners. This was so I would not to tear my knees up while trying to get my running workout in. The surface was new and gripped my shoes even when a bit wet. So no slip sliding off the ship for me. At the aft end of the track area were two large stair cases, one on each side of the ship, that led down into the pool area. At the forward section of the pool well on deck 14 are the Mast bar and the Mast Grill. So if you need a drink why go far when there is this bar. And when you need a quick bit this area will suffice. They had hot dogs, hamburgers and fries here about lunch time and in the afternoon. The large area above the pool had lounge chairs for the sun worshipers. If you needed to be ten feet closer to the sun to get that perfect tan this was you place to be. It is a little quieter here than on the pool deck level and not a lot of traffic about the area. Walking aft again around the large glass expanse that housed the elevators you go through two sliding glass doors. Then making a bee line to the back of the boat you arrive in the Oceanview Café area. If you entered through the port side you would see a regular bar for drinks area. On the starboard side was the scoop ice cream bar area. This is the food court area. And it is where the Solstice shines long into the day. There are no more trays in this area. Just plates and bowls of various sizes. The silverware is sitting on the tables now and there are people who will help you with your plates to a table. I would get a plate then a drink and it was nice not having to worry about the silverware at all till I sat down. As you enter on each end they had cooking stations for the morning breakfast. The ice cream bar area doubled as the waffle station in the AM for the light crispy waffles that Celebrity is known for. Nothing has changed here. The one grill area next to the waffle station made eggs to order and here is where you can get the omelet made to order. They had about 15 different things you could add in. We came up here almost every morning at least to look about. There are five central stations that I remember. One in the middle was set for the breads and muffins. I like the, what I call a Celebrity pop over, brioche. I had them every day on the cruise. Mostly with nothing or split in the middle with honey. The roll was already tasting like fresh butter. I can still taste it now. And see it. Nothing better. Two of the stations were set for fruit, cereal, milks, yogurt and other lit fare. Another has bacon, sausage (two types) and fresh scrambled eggs. In addition the one station had a toaster person. So some days it was get an English Muffin in addition to the other things. They also had a station for English breakfast selections. Everything look nice and fresh every AM. They had four drink stations for juices, tea and coffee. Then find a seat in the expansive seating area and look out to sea as the waves break far away from the ship. I made it a plan and carried it out to get coffee for my travel companions after I finished my morning workout. Carry it down to the cabin for them to enjoy as they woke up. I was told the coffee was very good as I do not drink it. One funny thing that happened in the early AM when I was picking up the coffee was an older gentleman took one of the over sized trays that the crew uses to transport clean coffee cups. He placed his coffee cup on it along with a small plate and walked away. As I watched along with the semi stunned crew. We just smiled and moved along. Lunch selections up here were just as good and tasty. The five stations were always brimming with great choices and many – many selections. There was a salad bar area and as someone put it the dressing were at the start not the end of the line. There was always a fresh fish selection prepared and ready to go. The one grill area doubled as the pasta and pizza bar area. This area never seemed to shut down at all after lunch. Every time I walked by there were at least three different types of pizza selections. What was nice about the pasta bar also was there were multiple pasta types to go along with the multiple sauces you could choose from. There were also add in fixings for your specialty pasta. Great range and great selections. In the late afternoon about 4PM was tea time and you could get some light sandwiches here. Then starting about 5PM the Sushi bar opened off I went there just about every night. They would usually have three or four selections along with the added extras that are in the area. They would open for just about full service at 6PM for alternative dining and when I walked through there was always traffic from that time on till about 10PM every night. The last place on the Lido deck was at the far aft end of the ship. Outside through the sliding glass doors to the Ocean View Bar area. This area was partially covered by the deck above and you could also get a table at the rail over looking the wake of the boat to sit and make memories while enjoying you breakfast or lunch. The interior area here had soft chairs. You could sink into and veg. out after enjoying some thing or event on the ship. In the later evening there was a singer here under the overhang. I think I only caught him one night singing a Jason Martz song. Very good. There is also a small bar tucked into this area under the stairs. Then we will walk upwards to the next level. When does this ship ever end????
Going up to Deck 15 at the aft end. You would walk right into the Lawn Club deck. Right here is the Sunset bar. Across the full back of the ship with very nice wicker chairs to plush yourself down into the watch the sun set from. The chairs extended around each side of the ship so there were more unique seating places for you and anyone with you. There are two separate lawn areas here. On the starboard side of the ship was the Golf putting area. They held the Ryder cup putting challenge here every morning at 9:30AM. I had to run up the stairs from Michaels club where the AM trivia was held. Andrea hosted this event on sea days. The grass is very nice but a bit irregular and not a putting green like quality. More like a fairway level grass. There was also a lot of traffic across the area and it was very soft. There were always at least twenty people in the putting events each day. The Port side of the ship was a true grass Bocce ball court set up. But this area was closed most of the week for repairs or to rest the lawn. Some people did use the area and a young couple had their toddler out her to crawl about so it was used a bit. Moving forward from these areas is the Patio on the Lawn. This was a huge expanse of lawn right on the top of the ship decks. They gave bocce lessons here most of the cruise and did a few tourneys. Mike from the cruise staff hosted some of these events. A lot of people showed up and the rules were modified to let everyone play. I think we had about fifty people one afternoon out there. The best time to be there was late afternoon before dinner with friends to use the lawn area and play your own bocce game with everyone. We did this a few times and Linda led the way with her group up here. A lot of people getting together having fun, drinks and some lawn bowling in the middle of the ocean. Some people who did not know would toss the heavy bocce balls high in the air and dent the lawn. Not good. They may have some trouble here in later cruises as the dents mount up. But I will give Celebrity an A plus for this venue. Well used and very much appreciated. There is a nice walk around area so as not to cut across the grass and thread it down. Connected to this area is the Hot Glass Show area. Every time we were up here playing there seemed to be something in the oven and being sculpted. There were three professionals doing the shaping, molding, creating and talking about it. The only problem being that there is a limited viewing area and the excess spilled on to the lawn area next to this and killed a lot of the grass. I would have to say that the seating was not adequate to the Hot Glass area. If they solve that and the walk around problem to stop the lawn trampling then they have a winner in both directions. Like I saw that the Hot glass shows were over flow attended every day in the afternoon. I don't remember if they did a morning show but those would have been well attended also. One feature here I did like a lot was the cameras they provided inside the ovens while working the glass. It does give a unique perspective and the people working the glass were always using them to monitor the creation in the works. The show seemed to be very long, about two hours each time. There was a small shop to show off some of the glass creations on the port side but nothing was for sale. They did offer to give away some of the pieces in a raffle each day as they were not allowed to sell them at sea. The starboard side of the ship had a small Lawn Club shop for souvenirs and Lawn Club wear. Jumping across the chasm to the forward side of the lawn club deck. Here was the younger cruisers hide out. This area was mostly dedicated to the teen and below age cruisers. We walked up here on the quiet day in St. Kitts. Around to the basketball court which while netted is not protected from the wind. I bet playing here would be a challenge to sink a shot from more the ten feet while the shop was in motion. Inside from the elevator area on the starboard side was the Fun Factory. An it was large – open and well constructed. I think there were two young ladies working here on the day we walked through and looked. They had a lot of new learning innovations, such as an interactive globe get information from. Also large screen TV's and covered blocks and painting areas and each cruiser would have their own storage nook. Walking back out to the port side was the video arcade. The games were nice and new but the prices a little steep as I thought. Forward of here was the Xclub for the teen cruisers to use whenever they would have liked. No one was about the area this day. This was a school in week cruise and I did not expect to see many teen's on the boat and did not.
Well walking outside and going forward you would see a stairwell up. This would have led you to the Solstice Deck. A large area for sun bathing and from the looks of it two hot tubs there. We did not venture up here as we had an event to attend. Well that sort of sums up the walk about the ship and what a ship.
I will say this is not your Grandmother's cruise ship. Celebrity has packed in a lot of extras like the hot glass, lawn club, a lot of specialty restaurants and bars and again so much more. We did get off the ship in Puerto Rico and my friends went to the Run Factory tour while Jenna and I walked up the hill to the fort and along the roadway along the ocean wall to fort del Morro. They had a small stand on the expansively large lawn area here. We stopped and bought two kites. One I gave to the ladies working the young cruisers and the other I flew off the ship in St. Kitts – a first for the ship. After I was done with it I presented it to Nick and Simon Weir to take out back and go to it. We got off the next day in St. Maatrin and went to Dove Bay. I had thought this beach was still under repair. It was all there ready to go and the waves were nice to get in and swim about. The water was deep, warm and refreshing. You could rent chairs and umbrellas for $5 each. I did find one of if not the best value on the island. 75 cent Caribe beer. This was just like Carona and with a slice of lime in it cut the heat just right. These were their 1PM to 4PM happy hour prices. I was very happy I found this deal. We sat under the large palm and shaded area and watched the waves crash here for about an hour. I think the taxi ride was $6 each way per person. The roads are a bit winding here but offered a look into where the people on the island lived. We did get off in St. Kitts to go on a hunting expedition for Vanilla as I use a lot of it in backing cookies. We walked down the road to a local supermarket and found it. Labeled $9.95 per bottle. But that was the local currency prices. It ended up we got four bottles for twenty US dollars and got ten dollars back in local currency which we gave to the table wait staff. I don't think I had been to St. Kitts every 5 years or so. There were some kiddies on the ship but you never seemed to see them. We did run into them as a group in the Ocean View restaurant one afternoon. They were all dressed up as pirates and looked like they could take over the ship. It was their ice cream time and they were enjoying it. We ran into our two young cruisers from the small pool again here and they were just adorable. Parents should have pictures taken here as they may have missed out. One of the things I did try this time was to get something for every crew member on the ship. And I succeeded with another ship first. At the awards ceremony I presented the cruise staff with a 5 lb bag on M&M's for all the crew to share. Enough for them to all have one. I also brought about 20 bags of Skittles and 10 packs of Starburst. These I gave away to just about anyone on the ship. From Simon Weir to our bus boy. And speaking of Simon - I saw him about the ship every day. Checking into things and picking up discarded towels on the pool deck late one afternoon. This is a tireless job and Celebrity has chosen the right person to debut their new entry. Always in work mode and fun mode when it cam to the passengers and their comforts. A few other things before I close. The plastic wear / glasses they used looked like real glass. It was not till the third day I realized the blue glasses the bar staff were using were indeed – plastic. I then borrowed them every day to carry about my Rum and Coke – well in this case Pepsi. Walking about the ship all the time and into the bathrooms in just about every area one thing. They were always clean and tidy. The places where they had their small rolled towels to dry your hands is something very nice. The food and service was as always at the high Celebrity standards and I do not think I was ever disappointed with an offering. From my embarkation day seafood salad to the last days sit down breakfast of French toast. Excellent from start to Finish. Great service to go along with it in whatever venue we were in. I will say the first night I did freeze my hand to the Martini bar. And was lucky enough to get free before the end of the night. The redness from the hot water they had to pour on my hand to set me free has just about faded.
Disembarkation: The Solstice docked very early in Ft. Lauderdale. We were catching an early flight home and did the express checkout. This is where you hold your luggage and carry it all off on your own. We walked off the ship about 8am. The ship security staff check you off the ship as you leave with your sea pass. Then it's down the escalator or elevator with the luggage and over to customs. I don't think we bought more than $60 on the islands or the ship that we brought home. Out to the Taxi's and at the airport by about 8:30AM. Checked in the luggage and were ready to go before 9AM. I was wondering if we could have caught the earlier flight home that boarded about 9:20AM. Our flight was at 10:40AM. We were called right on time and away we went. My last bit of good luck was on the way home when the stewardess needed change for $100 and offered a free drink for the person who supplied it. Well one free rum and coke, Hank will be proud again, later I was doing real fine. The vacation ended just as it had started having a good time.
Ship Impressions: This ship is new and beautiful. They have packed a lot into this new entry and people seemed to not be able to take everything in. Well that means a repeat trip or two is in order. The public areas never seemed to be crowded even the pool well area on sea days. I would like to see when they hit summer what the crowd looks like – but I think not much different.
Trip: This was just a seven day cruise but you would need at least ten to really get to everything the ship had to offer. Maybe the new entry Equinox will handle the longer trips. There were four sea days and three island days. This is the mix I like. We had been to all the stops before but found something new to do at each place.
I hope I cover just about everything on the trip. I would like to thank everyone who was on the trip with me. Jenna, Eileen and Bob, Karen and Tim, Deb and Bill, Kathy and all the other x and friends I made along the way. I did blind deposit two more trips for ship board credit. So there is a lot of thinking going on for the next trip to sea. At this point I have cruised 30 weeks at sea and 24 cruises in all. Most of them with Celebrity. They seem to fit my likes with food and service. Keep planning - Keep Cruising. Maybe I will see you out there.