CELEBRITY SOLSTICE Eastern Caribbean Cruise Jan. 3 - 10, 2010 by Mary & Vincent Finelli
Last spring we booked a transatlantic cruise on the Solstice, but due to health problems we did not make it. The Solstice is now 14 months old, her naming ceremony was Nov. 14, 2008; her Godmother is Prof. Sharon L. Smith a renown marine and atmospheric scientist from the University of Miami: very a propos! The Solstice's name conjures up thoughts of our sun star and heavenly worlds beyond Earth. Her Godmother grounds those ideas and brings to our life on Earth more meaning.
The softness of the many delicate draperies on board evokes feelings of clouds. The highly polished aluminum columns in the Grand Epernay Dining Rooms and the Champagne bubble like lights on the ceiling, combined with the beauty of the décor presents an ethereal aura. Even the night club on Deck 4 is named Quasar and calls up space images. Suffice it to say, the Solstice is unique --- and so is her Captain Dimitrios Kafetzis. He is a fine Master with a welcoming sense of humor: ”He is Greek!” with all the connotations and beautiful manners of a Greek ship's host.
EMBARKATION On a Sunday morning I-95 traffic is light and from Boca Raton to Ft. Lauderdale takes only 25 minutes. We had curbside assistance with our baggage, wheelchair, and scooter. A crew member helped us through check-in and we were in our stateroom in twenty minutes. Excellent! Guests were greeted with Mimosa drinks, very refreshing.
SHIP OVERVIEW The Solstice weighs 122,000 gross tons; she is 1,033 feet long and has a beam of 121 feet. Her draft is 27 feet and she has a cruising speed of 24 knots. She carries 2,850 guests and has 16 passenger decks. What follows is a deck by deck description of her layout.
Deck 1 is for crew only.
Deck 2 holds the Medical Facility (which we did not visit)!
Deck 3 aft has the Grand Epernay Restaurant, a glorious combination of spaciousness and modern design with crystal and chrome fitting in beautifully, with the three deck tall white draperies. There is an old saying that drinking Champagne in Epernay (the heart of French Champagne country) is like listening to Mozart in Salzburg...” (Eperzine Web magazine). So also are diners in this stunning dining room treated to bubbles in the ceiling lighting. On Deck 3 are the Guest Relations Desk, the Shore Excursions Desk and the Passport Bar.
Deck 4 has Celebrity Central entertainment locale, Cellars Masters (wine, whiskey, or bourbon tastings, etc.). Then, there is the Fortunes Casino (the Slots are loose, and the give out is published daily.) Next is the Quasar Nightclub with its polished metal dance floor, suspended capsule chairs and twinkling lights, there is lots of atmosphere. Midship are the shops on board and forward the Solstice Theatre with excellent acoustics, but there are a few poles obstructing the view of the stage, so choose seats carefully. The red velvet stage curtain is flanked by two 3 deck tall draperies composed of tucked white and off white fabrics making a collage of billows. Very unique.
Deck 5 has the “Bistro on Five” which specializes in crepes, both sweet and savory. This is a great place for brunch or late night dessert ($5) the “Cafe` al Bacio” serves exquisite coffee and desserts. There is also a Gelato ice cream shop, and the Captain's Club for repeat cruisers. Since Celebrity is part of RCI and we are Diamond Plus members in the Crown & Anchor Society, we have been given elite status with great perks. There are the boutique shops and Michael's Club where cocktail parties and high teas are held. Aft on Deck 5 are the specialty restaurants: Murano (excellent French cuisine) Silk Harvest (Asian) and the Tuscan Grille (Italian), cover charges apply.
Deck 6 through 11 are all staterooms in addition to the Online@Celebrity (the internet room) on Deck 6, the Library on Deck 10 (open stacks and reading areas, no need to sign in or out --- the honor policy is in operation) and the Relaxation Lounge on Deck 11.
Deck 12 has the Health & Fitness center, the Aqua Spa, the Beauty Salon, the Solarium, Swimming Pools and Whirlpools. Vincent uses the sauna and the whirlpool daily and he had wonderful advice and help from Natasha.
Deck 14 has the jogging track, the Mast Bar & Grill (hot dogs, hamburgers and fries), the Ocean Bar & Cafe` and the Sky Observation Lounge. There are sky lectures with an on board astronomer at night.
Deck 15 has basket ball courts, a hot blown glass show (Corning) and the Lawn Club with extensive grass lawn where Bocce Tournaments between passengers and crew are played.
Deck 16 is the Sun Deck.
Throughout the ship is a huge eclectic art collection, some of it commissioned for the Solstice and others works are from both famous cubists like Picasso and Matisse or from photographers like Martin Liebscher where repeated photographs of himself in different poses make up a crowd. Very Interesting. The “Full Moon Briars” by Susan Derges is certainly in keeping with the Solstice theme. Different staircases have been given themes like “Stair of Light” and “Stair of Water.”
CABIN Stateroom #6141 is a wheelchair accessible cabin with a large automatic door. When entering on the left there is a full length mirror and a double armoire in maple wood; a vanity/desk with lighted mirror, seven drawers, a private safe, and refrigerator. There is a marble counter top and one chair. When entering, on the right is a huge tiled bathroom with a tilt mirror flanked by two large medicine cabinets with glass doors. There are safety rails all around and a huge shower with a fold away seat. There is a king size bed with very nice linens of gold white and maroon. The two reading lamps are close enough to turn on and off from the bed. The final pieces of furniture are a love seat and a small coffee table.
The balcony is large and deep: it contains two recliners and a teak table and chair. The carpet is in Burberry colors: gold, beige and maroon and the draperies are beige with bands of rose patterns. The stateroom attendant, Mahmodi is excellent. The cabin is large and comfortable.
SERVICE & FOOD Hotel Director Damien O'Connor displays the perfect temperament to control the Solstice. He is kind, affable and likes to hear just how the passengers are getting along. He doesn't just ask questions for conversation's sake, rather he is truly interested in the passengers' satisfaction. He has a well trained crew, who make the passengers comfortable and provide for their every need. We always say that the mood on board filters down from above--- with such friendly leaders as Captain Dimitrios, H.D. Damien and Restaurant Manager FabioScaglione, it's only natural that the crew are also friendly and sincere.
Food & Beverage Manager Robert Flack has the daunting task of overseeing 600 crew members who produce and serve more than 12,000 meals daily, yet everything goes off beautifully. Exec. Chef Mickael Tochetto combines the best of culinary traditions: born of Italian parents, raised in France! The food on board is excellent, based on menus by world renown Chef Jacques Van Staden and implemented perfectly by Chef Mickael. The menu is one of the most diverse at sea and most ample. No one could possibly go away unsatisfied.
We enjoyed every meal on board, especially the one at Captain Dimitrios' table on formal night. The Escargot was perfect, Vincent's Caesar salad and filet Mignon were just the way he liked them. The Captain was jovial and complimentary; at the end of the meal he gave each lady at the table a beautiful long stem American Beauty rose. Our waiter at table #110 in Epernay was Jose` Altamirano, both he and his assistant Yvonne Williams were very pleasant and served at a nice pace. Celebrity is probably the only line still providing a finely trained Sommelier: Ferhat Ebret was cordial and Vincent was appreciative of his service and knowledge. Bravo.
Some samples from the appetizer menu are as follows: Tropical Fruit Medley with Lychee nuts; San Francisco Crab Louis; Goat cheese tart served with red roasted peppers and Balsamic syrup. Soups included Wild Mushroom Cappuccino with Porcini mushroom dust, and chilled Gazpacho. Salads were fresh and varied: Belgium Endive and arugala with red delicious apple and candied pecans. Some of their homemade dressings included Roquefort, Citrus, Pinot Noir Vinaigrette, Champagne and lite raspberry.
Entrees include pastas like Spaghetti Carbonara, fish such as Herb crusted Merluzzo (white fish) and fowl like Grandmother's Coq Au Vin and Veal Cordon Bleu. Chef Mickael's Ossobuco (excellent) Mary felt it was a triumph! The aged Prime Rib of Beef was mouth watering. Vegetarians had a large assortment of dishes including grilled Kebabs. For dessert there was always a selection of imported cheeses, fruits and traditional desserts like Crème Brulee`, NY cheesecake, Profiteroles, apple pie, fresh sorbets and homemade ice creams.
There are several Speciality Restaurants. We highly recommend Murano, and its contemporary French Cuisine: try the sweet breads and the fois gras and the wonderful Cheese Cart. We are happy to report the food on board is excellent.
ENTERTAINMENT The Solstice has three very nice shows: Adam Trent a young magician, singer Karen Grainger, and Celebrity Show time presented Solstice: the Show, which was very nice with aerial acrobatics. A very interesting offering was Astronomer Vic Stryker, who lead nightly sky watching. This ship has many things for cruisers including Casino games, Bingo, Fitness, Bocce, etc.
PORTS OF CALL Sunday: Ft. Lauderdale, FL Depart: 4:30pm
Monday: At Sea
Tuesday: San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive: 2:00pm Depart: 8:00pm
Wednesday: Philipsburg, St. Maarten Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 7:00pm
Thursday: Tortola, B.V.I. Arrive:7:00am Depart: 1:00pm
Friday: Labadee, Haiti Arrive: 10:00am Depart: 6:30pm
Saturday: At Sea
Sunday: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Arrive: 7:00am
CONCLUSION This was another great cruise! We have not had a bad cruise in a long time, since we have learned what to expect from the various cruise lines and direct our attention to the things they do best. We are addicted to cruising, because we know how to get the best out of every cruise in regard to food, service, itinerary, ship's environment, repeater's benefits and personal attention. Some readers of our reviews have accused us of being too soft with our criticism. We disagree with them since we always include in the reviews any points which are not perfect and may need improvement. It is hard to write a negative review when we have enjoyed the overall aspect of a cruise, which up to now we have always done. We'll be cruising in search of the perfect cruise or an unpleasant one; neither of which we have yet experienced.
Our next cruise is in February on the Liberty of the Seas together with our son Marcello, his wife Paige and their eight year old son Marcellino. We have also booked a relocation cruise on the Star Princess, on March 16th, from Rio De Janeiro to Ft. Lauderdale. Happy Cruising!