Celebrity Solstice Cruise Review by jfslcruise: Solstice to Alaska August 2, 2013
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Solstice to Alaska August 2, 2013
Solstice 8/2 Sailing to Alaska 7/31 & 8/1 Seattle 8/2-9 Cruise 8/10 Return home Family of four: me 47, wife 47, daughters 14 & 10. Third cruise for adults, second for children.
We began the adventure by waking our children to tell them we were going on vacation and to present them with a packing list. The girls found out about Seattle at the airport (we packed one extra suitcase and did not tell them about the cruise until we pulled up to the pier on Friday).
Arrived Seattle 7/31 and stayed at Hyatt Olive 8. It was near the convention center and within walking distance of the Pike Place Market, the Aquarium & the Great Wheel.
We hit all three attractions on Thursday and essentially had a wonderful time roaming the streets of Seattle.
After a late breakfast, we took a car over to the Pier 91. At this point he kids realized we were going on a cruise and soon realized it was on the Solstice (as More opposed to Rhapsody). Much squealing and excitement.
We had arrived around 11:45am and had a very easy registration and boarding process. We had booked two normal staterooms thus no preferential line, but encountered no wait through the boarding process. On board and done with lunch in no time.
I would guess we were in our staterooms (9233 & 9235) by 2:00 2:30pm.
The adjoining staterooms were perfect for us. It allowed a degree of privacy and security for the entire family. We also were able to the open up the divider on the balcony to gain some extra room.
Our cabin stewards kept the rooms clean and tidy. The girls enjoyed the towel creations each night.
9233 & 9235 were perfect locations. Right off the aft elevators and stairwell and smack in the middle of the hump. We were afforded clear views from the balcony and easy access to the rest of the ship. We never heard any noise from the hallways.
Our ten year-old had room service breakfast every morning. The orders were accurate and delivered in a timely manner.
This was where we took breakfast and lunch while on board. I found the fare to be good, but as noted on other posts it did become a little repetitive towards the end of the cruise. We had no issues with the temperatures of the various items and only had a couple of instances where we had trouble finding a seat.
We took all of our evening meals in the Grand Epernay dining room via Select Dining. This worked out great. We had an absolutely fabulous team every night.
Gerry and Avilla were the wait team and Madelyn was our wine steward. Gerry and Avilla soon learned to accommodate the needs of a finicky ten year-old (lots of plain pasta and chicken strips) while calling the entire table by name by the second night. They really made the event special for our daughters.
We had thoroughly enjoyable meals. I do not want put the food out as fine dining, but it more than met our expectations and I loved seeing our 14 yr-old try a number of the different menu items. We even got our 10 yr.-old to eat a steak on the last formal night.
We had booked with the 123 Go package and upgraded to the Premium package on Day 1. More on drinking later, but I want to commend our wine steward, Madelyn. She came by each night and did a nice pairing of wines to go with our courses. After our first evening, we never had to show our SeaPass card again. She kept our glasses full and noted when we did not care for a specific wine.
This threesome was really something special. Their service was on the level of fine dining and I cannot say how nice it was to sit with them each night.
As mentioned previously, we had the Premium Drink package for the length of the cruise. This worked out great. Bottled waters throughout the day. Coffee drinks in the morning and afternoon, wine with dinner and lots of alcohol in the evening. No problems getting served though a couple of waiters groused about the plan and the impact on tips.
Molecular Bar: Junior Moreno was on-board and in the bar every day. He was quite approachable and encouraged us to try some of the off-menu drinks. I am normally a scotch drinker and do not mess with mixed drinks, but I confess it was a nice change of pace to explore some of the concoctions in this venue.
Oceanview Bar this turned out to be my favorite bar. It was somewhat sheltered (as opposed to the Sunset Bar which was very windy and chilly) and had a beautiful view of the stern. Maris the bartender and Judith the waitress were always very attentive and pleasant to be around.
We sampled drinks from all of the bars. My wife is a Vodka girl and loved the Martini Bar. Michaels was tad disappointing for me. It is almost too secluded off of the Ensemble Bar and never really had much going on.
It certainly did seem quiet after midnight. Things picked up towards the end, but while there were some confirmed drunks on-board, it was a rather sedate cruise.
The casino bar seemed to consistently have a crowd late, but most of the other venues were pretty quiet.
Seemed to be hit of miss. We really enjoyed the Solstice Show. Sin City Comedy was fun and the Hypnotist was enjoyable. I did not care much for the other events and we pretty much skipped those.
They had a range of performers in the public spaces. Some good and some not so good. In general, they provided nice background music, but most were not good enough to case the audience to stop talking and listen to them playing.
I give him special mention. We attended three of his talks live, watched reruns on the TV and purchased the video on humpbacks to take home. All were extremely entertaining and informative. My wife did not attend/watch these talks, and it made for fun times at the dinner table. I marveled how my girls would quote all the esoteric facts they picked-up from his talks during our dinner conversations.
My wife won a $100 raffle and scheduled some sort of crazy hair treatment. Not sure she would book again, but not really unhappy with it either.
Our kids had a blast in the kids club. There were over 400 children on-board. This was truly our first experience with such a service and both of them loved it.
They had numerous events for this kids and they both came home with new friends. They participated in different groups and really seemed to enjoy the set-up.
We are pretty conservative people when it comes to the kids, but I confess by the end of the cruise we were letting them sign themselves in or out of the club and simply stipulating they meet us for lunch and dinner.
I also noted a good number of parents pleading with their children to give it a go and seeing the kids say no. Could only smile and remember that was us not too long ago.
Do not want to compare to other ships, but I would not worry overmuch about kids having enough to do while on-board.
We simply got off and took a series of walks around town. Went through Creek Street and followed the salmon upstream. Took a couple of trails into the woods and simply enjoyed a nice walking day
I woke-up at 5:30am and witnessed the whole thing. My wife is a late sleeper but I got her up at 7:30 am to see the amazing sites. They announced we were able to get deeper into the fjord than any previous Solstice cruise.
As the ship did the 360 turn in front of Sawyer Glacier we saw a 100 ft section of ice fall off directly in front of us. Heard the thunder moments later. Absolutely wonderful!
We docked and had no tender issues. Together with Tracy Arm, our Whale Watching/Mendenhall glacier tour was the highlight of the cruise.
Booked through Orca Enterprises. Not only did we have Captain Larry, but also Brent Nixon was also on-board to narrate.
What can one say, bald eagles, seals, sea lions and of course WHALES.
We had one surface just off the stern and show its tale to us. I mean 15-20 feet away. We also saw one exit the water (I am told it was not a full breach) but that sucker was up and came down in a huge splash.
Also saw a mommy and baby whale.
The crew and staff on the boat were great and having Brent along made it a truly memorable experience.
To top things off, we were dropped off at Mendenhall Glacier about 7:40pm. The guide said this could be a good time because most of the crowds had departed.
This was true. Maybe 10 of us walking around. Almost immediately we saw a bear come down out of the trees and jump into the river and start munching on a salmon. Right there in front of us (we were on a bridge above the river)
We were able to walk to a couple of different viewing areas of the glacier, falls and surrounding scenery. It is hard to get a real perspective on how big the glacier is. We saw the tour helicopters take off from the top and realized just how massive it is. They looked like gnats.
Skagway was a nice little stop. We had beautiful weather and took loads of pictures. We booked the Yukon Sightseeing Tour from Southeast Tours. This was a smallish shuttle bus (10 passengers) trip up to the Yukon and back. We had a great driver and had ample opportunity to stop and take pictures. The biggest regret was not to have more time to stop and walk around.
As noted on other posts, this was somewhat of a rump stop. We were off the ship by 6:30. We took a cab to Butchart Gardens. We had a very nice driver. The way it works is you hire this guy for $55 each way and he will wait for you for 1.5 hrs.
The Gardens were quite pretty and 1.5 hours is enough time to get through them if you do not linger. We were able to be in between the big bus tours and never really felt crowded until the end.
Getting off and finding luggage was a relative breeze.
We did not even have to show a passport. Just dropped off our declaration form and we were done.
Getting picked-up was a bit of a challenge. We had reserved a car with Century Car to pick us up and take us to our hotel. The traffic in and out of the pier was a bit of a challenge, but we were still at our hotel by 11:00 am
This was truly a fantastic vacation and experience. It certainly wets the appetite to try a different itinerary and even explore Alaska on foot/car.
I certainly do not think every vacation we take will be a cruise, but I would have no reservations cruising with Celebrity again. Less
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