Celebrity Solstice Cruise Review by frawnsay: First Time Cruisers - Alaska on Celebrity Solstice 5/30/14
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First Time Cruisers - Alaska on Celebrity Solstice 5/30/14
My husband and I are in our early 30s with two small children (who stayed with Grandma while we headed to Alaska). This was our first cruise and first trip to Alaska (though my husband had been to Victoria before). I wanted to try a cruise; my husband wanted to visit Alaska. So, there you go. After researching online (and yes, here on CC), we decided to go with Celebrity, and our desired date and itinerary gave us the Solstice. We booked in September in 2013.
We stayed at Inn at the Market in Seattle prior to our sail away. Fabulous hotel! We stayed in a recently renovated room (city view) on the 7th floor. The front desk staff and the concierge were always friendly and quick to advise and help. We also enjoyed a dinner at the Pink Door, a local Italian and seafood restaurant just steps from the hotel. Another enjoyable point in Seattle.
We participated in both More day and evening activities. During the day, we went to trivia, talks by on-board naturalist Brent Nixon (knowledgeable and humorous), Miss Amanda (history of the Titanic--new perspective with historical details), Celebrity Chef Cook-off (I was one of the guest chefs!), Jackpot Bingo (hubs was only one away, a "stander" from winning!), and the Hot Glass Show. I must plug the Hot Glass Show. The show that we attended included an interesting twist, where a child from the kid care designed a "monster whale" that was created for him to take home--how cool is that?! Also, they created a special piece for auction to give money to breast cancer research. Fascinating process and good deeds!
We also attended evening programming including Sin City Comedy (not for the weak--be prepared for some language, ribbing, and lots of laughing--hilarious, with a side of burlesque), Jason Bishop (magician/illusionist who was amazing--especially with quick hand movements), and the best of the best Solstice the show (cirque-like feats). This last show was magnificent! I had to continually remind myself to close my mouth, because my jaw had dropped and remained there. We sat in the third row--wow! What an experience; if you're up for some excitement, sit close and enjoy!
We also enjoyed the spa. We utilized the relaxation room, the Persian Gardens, the sauna, the steam room, and the exercise area. Many, many amenities that were free to us (or included in our AQ fees). As this was our first cruise, we were so busy trying new things, and since it was rather port/excursion intensive, we didn't book any treatments, though I hope to do so in the future.
Okay, CC participants, you had me worried. Granted, I have never cruised before, so I have nothing to which to compare my experience. I was beyond satisfied. Every staff and crew member we came in contact with, whether passing each other on the deck or in the hallway, at the bar, in a restaurant, at the door with room service--we were always greeted, smiled at or nodded at, asked if we were enjoying our day/night/meal/trip. There was no where that I went on the ship where I felt unattended. There's a reason it's called "the hospitality industry" and it was apparent that the staff and crew of the Solstice are quite aware of their industry.
Port & shore excursions
(see below for our excursions--all booked through the cruise line as we are newbies and didn't know any better)
Travel to embarkation Port
We flew on Alaskan Airlines to Seattle. I can see why they are ranked #1 on customer satisfaction. We used AlreadyThere car service from the airport to our hotel downtown. Cab from downtown to Pier 91.
(see below for cabin and deck info--Aqua Class 1672, aft, deck 11)
I'll save the best for last. ;)
We enjoyed lunch at Aqua Spa Cafe the most. It was light and delicious. My husband didn't care for the crowds in the buffet. We did enjoy some meals in the Ocean View Cafe buffet, but at odd times when traffic was low (2pm, 9pm). We also had our first meal, our embarkation lunch, at the Mast Grill. Basic burger and fries set up. Enjoyed the view of the harbor more than the burger, but it was okay.
We enjoyed dinner one night in Murano. Excellent service, delicious food, and served at a leisurely pace. The curtains were drawn the entire time (8:30pm-10:30pm), but I believe this was because the view may have been of life boats. This was the first night of our cruise, and I feared that we were spoiled. How could the rest of our dining live up to this?
BLU. Oh, how we love thee. If Celebrity took away all the perks of Aqua Class (please, do NOT do this, Celebrity!), but left only Blu, we would book it still. We plan to sail with Celebrity again, and Aqua Class will now be a must for us as we love, love, love Blu. Smaller venue, chatting with your neighboring tables, and the view. One night at dinner, a woman near the windows spotted a whale. The restaurant emptied towards the windows to view the sealife. With each tail flip, we all ooh-ed and ahh-ed; the servers twirled their towels/napkins--it was such a fun sight. And then we spotted dolphins! And then orcas! It was twenty minutes of viewing, cheering, and communing with fellow travelers. One server announced, "Only in Blu, ladies and gentlemen!" We all cheered! The food, oh the food! Lamb, lobster, trout, rabbit, salmon, pheasant, duck...and of course baked Alaska! And for breakfast...Muelsi! Prepared table-side, and I'm glad that they did as my husband has requested it for breakfast at home now.
We chose to self-disembark as to enjoy the maximum amount of time in Seattle prior to heading to the airport around 12noon. We had carry-on only luggage, so it was quite easy for us. We had also purchased an Ulu knife and had to pick it up, but that was effortless and well organized. On our US customs card, we had checked that we had food (including meat), but encountered no problems. From ship through customs took us 15 minutes. We hopped into the taxi line, where we waited for another 15 minutes until we were on our way to the Space Needle.
We loved our cruise. We loved Alaska. We loved our aft cabin. We loved Blu. We plan on cruising again and traveling to Alaska again. We also plan on booking with Celebrity again. Less
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Cabin review: Celebrity Solstice 1672
We booked an aft balcony cabin in Aqua Class on deck 11. Cabin: the cabin itself was just like the photography online and/or in the brochure. One enters near the bathroom, bed next to the closet, sitting area near the balcony. The balcony hosted loungers with ottomans and a table. We didn't bring any additional storage (packing cubes, shoe organizers, etc.) and didn't need them as the cabin provides ample storage cubbies both in the cabin and the bathroom. The bathroom was nice with spa-like shower and jets, great water pressure, and nice towels. Used the provided toiletries with no complaints. There is only one plug-in in the bathroom, and it does not allow for plugs with "male" parts of different sizes; I just used the vanity area near the balcony. Aqua Class: provided robes, large/softer bath towels, slippers, draw-string back back, tote bag with removable pouch, toiletries, infused water/tea, fresh fruit, daily canapes, pillow menu (used both the body pillow and the isotonic pillow)--water/tea, fruit, and canapes were updated/replaced/served dailyAft: beautiful, panoramic scenes with whales viewed more than one in the wake from the ship; with little to no wind, we left the door open every night to hear the lulling of the water. My husband wants to only book aft from this point forward--he loved it!Deck 11: great location--two floors under Ocean View Bar and Sunset Bar and didn't hear anything from the public venue. On the same deck as the relaxation room, a perk for AQ, with the entrance starboard forward (so you don't have to go in the main entrance of the Aqua Spa on deck 12). Also, just one flight of stairs from everything happening on deck 12 (buffet, pool, Solarium, Aqua Spa Cafe, spa & amenities), so can skip the elevators. High enough above the main foyer to avoid performances, but only if you wish.
Port and Shore Excursions
There was salmon (duh), chicken, clam chowder, cheese potatoes, rice, couscous salad, Caesar salad with salmon (Alaskan Caesar salad), regular green salad, corn bread, baked beans, blue berry bread, hot cider, hot chocolate, water, lemonade and roast your own marshmallow--yum! There was also soda, beer, and wine for purchase (I grabbed a Diet Coke for $2.10). Also, there was a very short trail that led to a pretty waterfall. Nice, relaxing afternoon treat.
Our favorite part of the trip! We saw kayaks and helicopters providing unique views of the glacier, but we tackled the trails for our first visit. I hope to return and try one of those previously mentioned alternatives. We were told we didn't have enough time to view the falls via the trail, so we trekked some shorter 1/3 mile trails and visited the information center, which was basic yet educational.
Van picked our group up at the Pier and a 15-minute drive through town and to our stop in the Tongass National Forest. Our guide was Rob, who is an author and participant in a documentary both in relation to Alaska. This was perfect for my eagle scout husband. And for any city gals like myself, I found the few varieties of trees and how to identify them interesting. And learned what a "muskeg" is...really cool. Highly educational and great insight into the circle of life in Alaska.
Inn at the Market--located seconds from Pike Place Market and a five-minute walk to Target (in case your forgot anything for your cruise). We stayed on a newly renovated 7th floor city view room. It was spacious, luxurious, and located close to so many great shops. Don't forget about the 5th floor rooftop terrace that overlooks Pike Place Market and the bay.
The Pink Door--local restaurant known for Italian and seafood with live entertainment with both indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the bay; located steps from our hotel
Seattle Space Needle--$18pp, which includes a photo commemorating the visit.
White Pass Scenic Railway
-rear car (nice because you could hear you narrator/guides description and THEN see it; also time to prepare for photographs)
-sat on right side (way up, not best views of sights, but pretty streams/falls and may step onto platform between the cars (but not on the bridge and no passing between cars)
-obvious hints at tipping the last 30 minutes (we were planning to tip already, but they said everything but "tip your narrator" directly.
-you don't get off the train, so no need for passport as you never step foot into Canada
-we were train #1 of 3, so for turning around to go down the mountain, we had an extra 7mi trip to the next turnaround loop at a lake on the map (bonus mileage and sights!)
-never saw goats or any other wildlife, but the elevation climb was extraordinary; the difference in vegetation and landscape between the climb and the peak was noted and both views allowed for appreciation of beauty
-highly recommend on ascension standing on the platform prior to entering the first of two tunnels; you're on a bridge that horseshoes around a crevasse--if heights don't bother you, it is a magnificent and exhilarating stance (and the tunnel is short--about 5-10 seconds--so just wait on the platform until you exit the tunnel to return to the train car
We had 2.5 hours, so we walked very slowly through the gardens. We had time to peruse the gift shop and even grab a snack before returning to the bus. Others only had 45 minutes to an hour as they had also booked the Butterfly Gardens. I felt that we had a nice visit/tour, but others may have been rushed. Also, our coach driver gave us a tour of downtown Victoria at night on our way back to the pier.