Week of March 5- 12, 2011
7 Day Itinerary: Day at Sea; Grand Cayman; Cozumel; Costa Maya; Roatan, Honduras; Day at Sea.
Embarkation: Things went smoothly getting on the ship: we arrived at the Port of Miami around 10:30 a.m. and were on board by 11:30 a.m. There were 4 other ships in port: Celebrity Century; Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas; Carnival Liberty; NCL Epic.
The Ship: The ship is simply gorgeous. The dEcor is clean and very modern and sleek overall. The color scheme is calm and soothing: aqua, green, blue, beige, sand, and a splash of orange here and there. There are dark woods and blonde woods, lots of glass and crystal, marble, granite, tile and wood. Casual areas such as the main pool and solarium have a variety of seating options such as large "papasan" chairs with convertible shades; double-bed chaise lounges with canvas shades; bright orange cube chairs; and hammocks with netting for privacy. The design of each deck is extremely well thought out because practically all public rooms have windows and the placement of the rooms makes sense. For example, the spa is located near the gym and sports deck but not underneath it (like on other cruise ships) so that the spa is quiet and tranquil - free of noise from the basketball court, etc.
Getting around the ship is easy because there are two banks of elevators (4 at the fore and 8 at the mid ship) and stairs. The artwork in common areas is refreshing, unusual and sometimes thought-provoking. Some of the artwork is from the Celebrity Galaxy. This ship has a strong no-smoking policy that limits smoking to a handful of outdoor spaces, which makes the casino and lounges more comfortable for those with allergies or asthma. The Aqua Spa and Gym are large and easy to find. The staff-to-passenger ratio is great because we never found any lack of service, not in terms of cabin stewards, dining, lounges, etc. Attention to detail is clearly a hallmark of this ship: even the public bathrooms are, plentiful, conveniently located, beautiful and super, super clean and well-stocked. Cloth hand towels are a nice touch there too, as are the glass "etched" farmhouse apron style sinks...plenty of mirrors and make-up counters. The ride was smooth most of the time and even when we hit a patch of rough water, it was not too difficult to walk or stand. The maintenance crew was always busy cleaning and painting or varnishing but not in an obtrusive manner. Everywhere you looked, it sparkled.
Aqua Class: We selected the Aqua Class stateroom for this cruise. We love to spend time in the solarium and spa as well as the gym. The Aqua Class (AC) staterooms are all located on Deck 11. Our room (1545) was located just beneath the Aqua Spa Cafe on the port side. It was a gorgeous room. Upon entering, there were fresh flowers and a bottle of champagne on ice waiting for us. The cabin was very well laid out: sofa, desk, bar and TV first upon entering and a king sized bed was located closer to the sliding glass doors leading to the balcony. The bathroom was near the front door and was big enough for two adults to move around at the same time. The shower stall was larger than average and has the "rainshower" shower head with the water jets option. There is a porcelain vessel sink (i.e., bowl on top of cabinet) and large counter with a floor-to-ceiling glass cabinet to hold all your toiletries and more. There are also two drawers and plenty of towel racks and shelf space. This bathroom (like the one we had on RCCL's Oasis) has a nightlight option which makes finding the bathroom in the middle of the night safe and easy.
The couch in the living room area was a pretty colored beige leather, and measured about 6 feet long. There was a cocktail table that held a large bowl of fruit with plenty of room to spare. The writing desk had a drawer containing a hair dryer, an electric make up mirror, and keyboard for the flat screen TV. A safe for valuables and a small refrigerator were built-in below the TV (which was on a swing-out arm that pivoted so it could be seen from the bed, too). A bank of drawers was built into the TV cabinet. We had our choice of pillows (feather, hypo-allergenic and memory foam), and we each had a thick fluffy bath robe, spa slippers; and a spa bag. Our bath towels were soft, large and luxurious "body sheets". Additionally we received a selection of soaps, creams and body wash as well as cotton swabs and cotton balls. The clothes closet had two sliding doors, making access from either side very easy. There was plenty of space to move around between the sofa and closet. The King sized bed (you can get two twins instead) was very comfy ("pillow-top" comfort) and has plenty of storage beneath it for suitcases. Above the bed were two large cabinets that could store all your folded clothes. Our balcony was the first one in the "bump out" area and we had a large teak wood table and two reclining chairs with two hassocks so that you could create a chaise lounge. Aqua Class had it benefits, too. We got evening canapEs, fresh flowers, and daily fresh fruit basket plus bottled water and fresh-brewed tea. The ice bucket was lovely modern deign (stainless steel) but it was not insulated so the ice melted too quickly even though we placed it in the fridge. The best features of Aqua Class (in our opinion) are: unlimited use of the Persian Garden and Relaxation Room in the Aqua Spa and our own private dining room called "Blu."
Blu: When you select Aqua Class, you get your own private dining room that is available only to Aqua Class guests. The name of it is Blu. It is gorgeous: soft water colors like aqua and green with beige, gold and white accents. It has "sparkly" crystal lights and floor to ceiling glass windows that stretch across one entire wall. Service was outstanding and the food was not only delicious but each dish was a work of art. The cuisine was a California fusion style and the ingredients were fresh and used in very creative ways. Blue is open daily for breakfast and dinner. You can even have tableside Muesli made for you at breakfast, and the pancakes were delicious! We liked Blu a lot. Since we were traveling as a couple, we were seated at a table for two each day but the tables were "close enough yet far enough" away from each other so that if you wanted to talk to your neighbors, you could but you could also politely decline to do so without feeling awkward. If you get there early, you get a table by the window.
The Spa: We are "spa people." We love to relax and be pampered with spa treatments and we enjoy a nice gym. Eclipse excelled in these two areas. The Spa is on Deck 11 and Deck 12 in the fore of the ship. Our room was located only steps from the Relaxation Room, which we had access to all day. There are glass windows along one wall and there are two types of chairs each with hassocks. There are teas and fruited waters available and it is quiet and a great place to read or snooze. The Persian Garden is located on Deck 12 and has nine heated tile chaise lounges facing a wall of glass windows looking out at the sea. Adjacent to the Persian Garden is a steam room and a dry sauna (both unisex). For most passengers, you can only access the Relaxation Room and Persian Garden if you have a spa treatment; but if you are Aqua Class, you have access any time it is open. The treatment rooms are all inside and they are quiet and cool. The massage tables are heated and comfy. Both the men's and the women's locker area is large, and clean. There are showers and a dry sauna with windows overlooking the sea. There is also a large restroom. The Spa has other special treatment rooms such as acupuncture and a lecture area for seminars. There is also a couples massage room that looked really nice (large windows overlooking the sea). The staff was very professional and all technicians were very good. We enjoyed a pedicure in the full-service salon, which was very large and had lots of windows. Overall, the spa was cool, relaxing and bright.
The Gym: The gym was huge and had a variety of workout equipment that was clean and in good repair. There were windows around the entire gym overlooking the ocean. As on other cruises, there were special classes such as spinning, yoga, etc. To our surprise, it was very popular. The first time we went to use it was at 7:15 a.m., and it was packed! We had to wait to use equipment.
The Public Areas: One of our favorite gathering spots was mid ship near the martini ice bar. There are plenty of comfortable chairs around that area where you can sit and listen to music (live band and dance floor one floor below) and people-watch. The martini bar was always busy because the bartenders were very entertaining.
Across from the martini bar was a place called Cellar Masters---perhaps one of the most underused places on the ship, much to my dismay because I love wine. This room was large: about 750 square feet, but hardly anyone was ever in it. I think the reason it was not more popular is because it was essentially self-serve. You purchase a card and use it to access the bottle you want to taste. The price varies by amount of the pour: a sip; a small taste; or a full serving. There were some small nibbles available (such as olives), but that was it. If I were able to, I would advise Celebrity to re-do the Cellar Masters area to include servers that serve guests tapas (small plates of hot and cold hors d'oeuvres) and other appetizers such as sushi, cheese, crostini and so forth. It would also be great if passengers could purchase bottles of wine to take to dinner.
Unlike most ships, the casino was not in the middle of the ship, but rather off to the side, so you do not have to walk through it to get someplace else. All the stores were located mid ship on Deck 4 and Deck 5. Clothing, glass and ceramic shop, perfume and jewelry on one floor and liquor, souvenirs, sundries, etc., on the other floor.
The Lawn Club is the area on Deck15 that has real grass. It is a nice concept but also underused. You can play bocce ball, croquet, and picnic (although we could never figure out how to accomplish that since no one seemed to know). I can think of a number of other ways the Lawn Club could be used beyond what currently exists. For example, I would set up crisp white tables and chairs and have various social activities such as wine and cheese, luncheons, cookouts, etc.
The Hot Glass Show is located on Deck 15 near the Lawn Club. This was one of our favorite places. Sponsored by the Corning (NY) Museum of Glass, there were 3 professional glass artists who explained how glass is made by hand. They then demonstrated the process and created many beautiful pieces: vases, bowls, plates, pitchers, etc. It was fascinating to watch them make an item from scratch. At the end of the show, they held a raffle to give the pieces from previous shows to audience members for free. At the end of the cruise, they held an auction to raise money for scholarships for art students learning the art of glass blowing. There was also a museum store on board that contained some of the most beautiful and exotic glass pieces we've ever seen.
There was a children's program on board with fun zones and arcades and projects to keep them busy, although there were few children on board.
The solarium was one of our other favorite hang-out places. It is adults-only and has a pool and two hot tubs, plus a water feature that put on a "show" for everyone day and night. The chaise lounges were teak and had thick bright orange cushions, large papasan chairs and cube chairs and sofas were also located in the solarium. Large thick towels were plentiful and the solarium (as with the ship in general) was always kept sparkling clean. The Aqua Spa cafe is located in the solarium and serves healthy eats: fresh salads, herb-infused fruits, smoothies, yogurt, salad bar, broiled fish, whole wheat pasta, etc. Everything in the Aqua Spa cafe was delicious.
Qusar is the name of the disco and it is futuristic in design. We did not frequent it. The Eclipse Theatre was the only part of the ship that was not exquisitely decorated. It was quite plain and the color combination was odd: red, brown, black, blue and purple.
Then again, who wants to look at dEcor when there is a fantastic show going on?
Entertainment: The Celebrity Singers and Dancers were the best we've seen in a long time. Not only could they sing and dance any style, they were also acrobats! They put on a fantastic cirque du soleil style show that left us awestruck! We've seen shows like this before but the performers are usually specially trained and not part of the entertainment staff. The show was outstanding. We heard that the comedian and magician were also good but we were too tired to go to all the shows and the purpose of this cruise was to relax and do a whole lot of nothing, which we did!
Excursions: Since we have done the western Caribbean so many times before, we barely got off the ship in port. We did take one tour in Honduras because we'd never been there. We went to GumbaLimba Park and it was fun to see the monkeys and birds. The gardens reminded us of home (Florida).
Dining: The main dining room has 2 levels and is called "Moonlight Sonata." We did not eat there because we had our own restaurant, Blu, which is reserved especially for Aqua Class passengers. The main dining rooms were beautifully decorated in cool colors and very contemporary in design. There was a wall of wine that the wait staff had to "climb" to access certain bottles.
Murano: This restaurant is a continental formal restaurant that is very beautiful and elegant. One afternoon, they served High Tea at Murano and it was very nice. We were able to select from a variety of teas and they would bring us several different teas upon request. We sampled delicious pastries, sandwiches and scones and the service was excellent. There was an extra charge for High Tea. We had eaten in Murano aboard the Celebrity Century a few years ago and were "wowed" by it. I am sure it was just as spectacular on this ship, but we did not go to it.
Tuscan Grille: This was the Italian specialty restaurant. It stretched across the stern (back) of the ship and was huge. The entry was neat: you walked through a hall flanked on either side by large wine barrels stacked upon each other. The menu looked fantastic but we did not go there. Others who did go said nothing but good things about it and it was always busy.
Qsine: This restaurant was very unique. Located across from Blu and next to Tuscan Grill, it is described by Celebrity as "Art Meets Food." That is a good description. When you enter the restaurant, the dEcor is very playful. There are large wooden high back "King" chairs that look like they are fit for royalty. Hanging from the ceiling are table lamps hung upside down. There are also sofas. Our table was next to the window (one entire wall had floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the sea) and my husband sat in the King chair and I sat on the sofa. We were greeted by our server who handed each of us an i-Pad. It was very adventurous and entertaining. I do not want to spoil the surprise. I will tell you this much: bring your appetite and your sense of adventure. You have to be open to trying a lot of different food presented in a very creative and unusual manner. You even have the opportunity to "make" your own food. It was fun, creative, delicious and I would go back again for sure.
Bistro on 5: This is a casual dining spot that is elegant and located midship on deck five. For a small charge ($5) you can get lunch or dinner. We went there the first day because by the time we finished touring the ship and making our spa appointments, the 24-hour Oceanview Cafe was packed. We really enjoyed the Bistro, which offered delicious salads, panninis and crepes. I very much recommend it.
Oceanview Cafe: This is the main "cafeteria style" dining area open 24 hours per day. The food stations were well situated so that you could browse the selections and get the food quickly and easily without waiting on long lines. There were so many choices that if you could not find something to like in this restaurant, then you are too picky! We hardly ever had a problem finding a place to sit and it was kept clean and well stocked.
There are other casual dining options on board such as the Mast Grill (burgers and snacks), and Cafe al Bacio (premium coffees, gelato and pastries).
There are other bars and entertainment areas such as: Crush (caviar and vodka bar), Michael's Club (classic "clubby" bar) and the gorgeous Sky Observation Lounge which has faux fireplaces and gorgeous vistas across the fore (front) of the ship.
Captain's Club: This is for frequent cruisers on Celebrity. Every evening, if you are Elite status, you were served cocktails, wine and beer in the Sky Observation Lounge at 5 pm. They also passed around hors d'oeuvres from the specialty restaurants. I must credit Celebrity for the generous and elegant (and delicious) way they treated the Elite Captain's Club members. The drink options were plentiful and the food was outstanding. We enjoyed meeting other passengers and exchanging travel stories during this event. There were other activities for Captain's Club members, too.
Summary: This review is much too long already but I could go on and on. We really enjoyed our cruise and we love the Celebrity Solstice Class ship. It was absolutely one of the best cruises we have ever had and we cannot wait to take another one! We hope your experience was or is as delightful as ours.