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24 Celebrity Cruise to Nowhere Cruise Reviews

Billed as a “3 day Sampler” cruise, this was my first adventure on a ship with over 2000 passengers and my first time on Celebrity. What I liked: – My S1 Sky Suite on the aft corner of deck 10 was lovely. Lots of room for 2 people. ... Read More
Billed as a “3 day Sampler” cruise, this was my first adventure on a ship with over 2000 passengers and my first time on Celebrity. What I liked: – My S1 Sky Suite on the aft corner of deck 10 was lovely. Lots of room for 2 people. Nice and quiet. – The library on deck 10. It faces out onto the atrium and is a nice quiet getaway to read. – The Sky Observation Lounge, forward on deck 14. We saw many dolphins swimming along with the ship during a visit to this lounge. This was one of the few places on the ship that wasn’t crowded. – 3 entertaining shows. The Aussie Boys (3 male singers), the Solstice Show (an excellent acrobatic type show) and the very talented Jane Cho (an electric violinist). – The deck 14 & 15 walking track. – As a suite guest, we were able to eat breakfast and dinner (subject to space available) in Blu. This was a nice restaurant with good service. I was concerned that it might be booked out but the Maitre’d organised a table for us immediately. This was the only place where we didn’t have to wait. – The Oceanview Café (buffet) on deck 14 is the biggest buffet I’ve ever seen and it had so many things to choose from. I loved the gelato ice cream there. It made sense to have gelato in the café for free rather than paying over US$5 in the Café al Bacio. What I didn’t like: – Too many people. The ship was literally packed to the rafters. There were long queues for everything – drinks at the bar, coffee at Café al Bacio, getting into & out of the elevators, both outdoor and indoor pools. Celebrity didn’t have enough staff to serve in the bars or pool area…one or two staff to serve 3 and 4 deep people queueing for drinks. It wasn’t pleasant. – The only time I saw our butler was when I called him to report that the balcony was continually flooding with water and the panel between the cabin balconies was broken. He came promptly to view these problems and they were fixed but I never saw him again. – No offer of a pillow menu – is there even such a thing? – Not enough activities. Not everyone wants to lie in the sun all day, or go to seminars about marsupials, chocolate diamonds or watches. Trivia at 0930 in the morning was far too early. – Food is very subjective but generally I liked the meals. I did have 2 courses that were awful (a prawn (shrimp) cocktail and a soup). Did the Chef even taste this food before it was sent out? – Tables for 2 in the dining room were extremely close together making it very awkward when sitting down. Unfortunately we met some very rude people who were incapable of even a smile let alone a pleasant acknowledgement. – Disembarkation was a free-for-all. No coordinated deck by deck or timed disembarking. It took ages to eventually squeeze into an elevator to get to deck 5 to disembark. Another unpleasant experience. Summary: Whilst I enjoyed my 3 sunny sea days, the crowd situation was awful. Celebrity needs to ensure they have enough staff to serve people when the ship is at full+ capacity. If this was a ‘sample’ of cruising with Celebrity, I don’t think I would want to experience it again.   Read Less
Sail Date January 2014
This pre inaugral cruise on Reflection was a competition prize offered by Celebrity and won through Cruise Critic. We were extremely excited to be one of the first to be sailing on this brand new ship and accepted that the format would be ... Read More
This pre inaugral cruise on Reflection was a competition prize offered by Celebrity and won through Cruise Critic. We were extremely excited to be one of the first to be sailing on this brand new ship and accepted that the format would be short and maybe all the features would not be up and running - how wrong we were with regard to the latter. This two day cruise was primarily an advertising event for the world's press and travel agents. Although there were ships tours and lots of filming for both sectors this was not intrusive and did not spoil our enjoyment... in fact because of this there were many sections of the ship, eg suites, all categories of stateroom and parts of the spa and gym which the mere mortal would not normallly see were thrown open to us. Travel and embarkation: Celebrity flew us from Heathrow to Amsterdam where we joined people from all corners of the world and all boarded coaches bound for Eemshaven, a tiny industrial port about 3.5 hours from Amsterdam where we would first set eyes on this beautiful ship and step aboard. Amsterdam airport was chaotic and the Celebrity staff were not easy to find but eventually we joined the rugby scrum and pushed our way onto one of the many coaches provided. Celebrity had provided everyone with a bag full of sandwiches and other goodies to get us through the journey, well done celebrity such a good touch. We stopped about 50 minutes away from the port to have a comfort break, free tea and coffee and to stretch our legs. This is the first time we realised not everything was going quite to plan, the coaches were being held at this point for longer than scheduled as the embarkation process at Eeemshaven was proving more difficult then anticipated. We continued about about half an hour late and once we got to the port were held outside for a further 20 minutes or so. Once we got into the check in marquee it took about 45 minutes to get through and actually onto the ship. We were weary when we got on board but did we think it was worth it? You bet! If we had paid for the cruise we may have felt a bit grumpy, but this was free and I am sure Celebrity learnt a few lessons when it comes to trying to get a couple of thousand multi-national people through a small tent at the same time and using just one onboard X-ray machine. We stepped aboard to the accustomed glass of bubbly at about 5 pm and after dropping off our bags dashed to the muster drill which had just started. This was run very professionally by the crew, however we were very unhappy that this was held even though all passengers were not on the ship. It was announced that all passengers were present but when we returned to our cabin we watched at least 4 more coaches drop off their passengers so we were aware that at least 200 people who sailed with us did not take part in the drill. In our view this is unforgiveable and indicated that schedule was more important to Celebrity than passenger safety. Reflection herself ... she is stunningly beautiful, but we are Solstice Class fans! The finish is luxurious, the staff at all levels are hard working and charming, the food and drink exceptional. We were allocated an Aqua Class stateroom which was exactly as you would expect on all S Class ships, so no surprises there. Changes... There is one extra deck of staterooms. The theatre is larger and on 3 levels, still sumptuous with plenty of leg room and great line of sight. The Sky Lounge has been reduced by about half in size to make room for suites... hope the sound proofing is good because the Sky Lounge is now being used as a disco venue and Quasar no longer exists. The Quasar area has now been changed into conference rooms. Team Earth is now a quiet area called the Hideaway where you can get coffee etc. The Porch, an eatery with yummy pastries and panninis can be found at the edge of the lawn along with several cabanas which can be hired for $99 per port day and $125 per sea day for 4 people, for this you get your own area with picnic and drinks... you only get to look out on others sitting on the lawn not the ocean and others can spread their rugs right in front of you ... not sure it does it for me. Michaels Bar is a lot bigger, no longer a snug gentlemans club type venue, shame, more a themed pub. Old favourites Comfortingly Tuscan, Qsine, Murano, Bistro on 5, Cafe Al Bacio, the Mast Grill, Ocean View and all the expected Bars are all still there and the main dining room on Reflection is called Opus and is beautiful. One change which is welcome is the chairs in the MDR, they are the same design as on other S Class ships but they weigh so much less, yeah, you can go to dinner without the risk of getting a hernia. The Fitness Centre is bigger and offers lots more than before, a private gym area where you can hire your own personal trainer, spinning type cycle exercise classes and other specialised fitness training sessions which I cannot quite remember, by this point in the tour my head was spinning. The spa and the treatments on offer have been expanded. The solarium was its usual haven of serenity with pool, saunas and lovely healthy food. On this cruise we were so lucky to find that everything was non-chargeable. We tried a little bit of everything, cocktails, wines, coffees. The shows were not only professional but exceptional. We saw Peter Martin(?) who is a Juggler, we weren't sure if this would be our thing. A shame he was so undersold! Yes he could Juggle ... amazing! He is also a very funny comedian, how we laughed. Nick Weir is the Entertainment Director, he usually starts off the new ships, we have seen him before when Eclipse was launched. As before he is slick, professional and very fond of his own voice. The general ship acts were to a really high standard. Disembarkation This went really smoothly in Amsterdam where we were boarded onto coaches for the 30 minute drive back to the airport. We absolutely loved this short cruise on Reflection. We can only extend our thanks to Celebrity and Cruise Critic for giving us this amazing opportunity to be one of the first to sail on her. Did we like Reflection? We loved her! Would we book a cruise on her? In a heart beat! Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
Wow is really the one word which sums up this ship. From the moment you walk onto the Silhoutte and are met with a glass of fizz from a white gloved waiter you know you are going to be truly pampered.We were lucky enough to be staying in ... Read More
Wow is really the one word which sums up this ship. From the moment you walk onto the Silhoutte and are met with a glass of fizz from a white gloved waiter you know you are going to be truly pampered.We were lucky enough to be staying in a balcony cabin on deck 6. The cabin itself was beautifully decorated in soft tones with striking artwork and accents of red. The cabin consisted of a large sofa, wardrobe with plenty of hanging space and lots of hangers, dressing table with powerful hairdryer under it in a draw, large flat screen TV, mini bar, safe, coffee table, over bed storage, lots of lighting and a full length mirror.The bathroom has a large corner glass enclosed shower cubical with a great hot powerful shower and lots of storage.After checking in we went around the ship to look at all the amazing facilities this floating resort has to offer and below is an overview of the different areas on the Ship.The AtriumThis truly is the heart of the ship with an amazing soring 11 deck high Atrium the full size living tree suspended 33 decks above the lobby. There are a bank of glass elevators zooming up and down the atrium. The area is like the rest of the ship truly awe inspiring, understated elegance.Crush and the Martini BarThis was the place to head after dinner to watch the world go by. The area was again beautifully decorated in what I would call an Ice Palace theme with whites, blues and silvers being the main colours used. The Martini bar itself is ice topped and located next to the walk way. Behind the bar are some alcoves which had comfy sofas and lounge chairs and the Crush section was a high tabled are with an ice ridge down the centre for you to put in a bottle of your favourite tipple. This area was my favourite bar on the ship.Cellar MastersThis is something I have never seen before. The wine bar reminded me of a country house Library with comfortable sofas, subtle lighting and attentive staff. The wine selection here is amazing and I'm sure if your a wine drinker many a happy hour would be spent in this lounge.Michaels LoungeThis area reminded me of a gentleman's club with high back chairs around fireplaces decorated in dark woods. This was a lovely bar for an after dinner drink.Fortunes CasinoThis was a nice size casino big enough to have all the facilities you would expect from a modern cruise ship casino. The area was unobtrusive on the rest of the ship.QuasarThis was a great spot to end your night. The night club was one of the hottest at sea with a spectacular DJ box. The feel was very modern and so was the decor with lots of private areas, amazing lighting and a large dance floor that spilled out into the small Atrium next to it.Sky LoungeWith its floor to ceiling windows on three sides this place was light and airy during the day and packed and happening on a night. This was the 2nd nightclub venue on the ship with everything from live music to Karaoke. The seats were all set up in small groups perfect for going with friends or for making them. The decor in here was ultra modern with white furnishings.The Lawn ClubThis area was a real surprise to me. When I read the brochure I thought it would just be a waste of space gimmick but I was pleasantly surprised this was my favourite outdoor space on the ship. Curling up with a good book in this area would be spectacular in one of the over-sized chairs or on a picnic blanket. This area also housed the Lawn Club Club (an area to get involved and you can even grill your own meal) and the Porch an area for light breakfast and during the day they had a great selection of paninis etc. Just behind the lawn club is the sunset bar which is also outdoors but with great aft views.Adult only Indoor poolThis area was a great retreat whilst there were very few kids on our sailing I bet when the ship is busy with kids this would be a welcome retreat. The area was large and airy with a large pool and two whirpools/ hot tubs. The main focus of this area is a large waterfall effect water feature on the main wall. The Aqua Spa cafe was also in this area and seemed very popular.Main Pool AreaThis was very large with comfortable padded loungers and very attentive staff we were offered Ice cold towels and sorbet several times around the pool to freshen up and bar service was attentive but un-obtrusive. My only criticism of the entire ship is that the sun loungers were to close together for me but it certainly wouldn't put me off sailing on her again.Speciality DinningCelebrity really has outdone itself on the speciality (extra charge) dinning. Unfortunately apart from attending a tasting at the different venues we didn't get the opportunity to try the full experience but from the tasting I know I would definitely dine at these on my next cruise. The speciality dinning consisted of -Qsine - modern venue where you use I-pads to order and create you foodTuscan Grill - Italian steak house with great aft views very cosyBistro on 5 - Light bites and crepes in a lovely venueCafe al Bacio - Home made ice cream and cakes yumMurano - High class European dinning experience menu looked amazingBlu - This is healthy bites for Aqua class passengers only. I loved the feel of this restaurant and wished I was in an Aqua Class cabin.BuffetThe ocean view cafe is the main buffet on this ship we ate lunch here every day and were really surprised with the quality and variety of food on offer. There was a huge array of stations, Pasta, Pizza, Grilled Chicken and Meats, Salads, Stir-frys, Indian foods, Breads, Cheeses, Desserts, home made ice cream plus so much more to mention.The buffet was also open late at night for those midnight munchiesMain Dinning RoomWe had dinner here every night the food and service was very good and the decor was modern but welcoming and that amazing wine tower was truly a talking point on our table.In SummaryThere are so many facilities on this ship that I can not mention everything I have seen but as I am sure you can tell I was incredible impressed. I have cruised ten times this being my first Celebrity experience and I can honestly say that this has been my best cruise ship experience.This ship is truly spectacular and really lived up to all the hype I had heard and read about the ship and its planned facilities. It was so good we are looking to book our next Celebrity Cruise already.This ship is very large but has been built and furnished in such a style that it never feels crowded and there are lots of little corners and bars to escape into. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
I was lucky enough to be invited on the 2 day cruise which launched the ship. I have sailed on Eclipse and Equinox so am familiar with this class of ship. Some new areas were great, others not so! The Porch looked wonderful, ... Read More
I was lucky enough to be invited on the 2 day cruise which launched the ship. I have sailed on Eclipse and Equinox so am familiar with this class of ship. Some new areas were great, others not so! The Porch looked wonderful, like a little bit of New England, it is in the place where the Lawn Club shop used to be so has fabulous views, I think it will be very popular; as will the Lawn Club Grille - unfortunately we did not get a chance to eat there. I wasn't too keen on the Cabanas, there is little privacy as they face on to the lawn, I think they should be the other way round so you can watch the sea. There are new hammocks and super-sized chairs on the lawn as well and I think the 2 new eateries and the new seating areas will draw a lot more people up there now and the comments that the 'grass is a waste of space' should now stop. The Sunset bar is as fabulous as ever. There appeared to be more seating. The dining room is red and cream so appears much 'warmer' than the earlier designs. The Hideaway area looked a great place to curl up with a good book - again the chairs in the 'treehouses' face the wrong way they should look out over the lifts so you can people watch IMO! In the bedrooms they have done away with the ghastly leatherette sofa and it is now red material - still uncomfortable and still no more drawer space. They have also removed the magazine rack on the corner of the unit for some reason. No kettles in the rooms unlike Eclipse. Still no hanging facility in the bathroom for your wet swimmies. They have got rid of the silly taps too - it doesn't stick out over the sink any more in the bathroom so you don't bash your teeth or your chin now. Michaels Club looked very different - 3 big fridges of beers. It didn't seem right to call it MC any more - think they should have changed the name! It seemed cold and soulless. Bring back the piano player and cosy atmosphere please. They have removed the curved banquette seating in TG too - it appears much larger now. They have also taken away the water feature by the pool to provide more seating areas. They have also taken away the bar at the back of the buffet area, so again more seating. Several staff from Eclipse were on board that we recognised including Bernard the singing greeter in the Ocean View; and the fabulous Roul. It seems they take their best staff and put them on the new ships. I could do without Nick Wier though. I didn't go to the shows. Food and service was excellent during this short cruise. We noticed all smokers kept to the designated areas; but I do wish they would stop smoking in the Sky lounge too though. There were a lot of Italians on board ergo there was a lot of smoking! We ate in Tuscan Grille - possibly the best piece of fillet I have had in my life, and we also ate in Blu (remember this was not a normal cruise) - after reading all the comments on Blu I was very interested to see what it was like. I had a delicious risotto. I would certainly be tempted to book AQ on a future cruise All in all I think that X have raised the bar with this new ship. She is beautiful and most of the new changes are a definite improvement. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
We were recommended by a friend to go on the Celebrity Eclipse. He told us that others were like "Premier Inns" and that Celebrity was of a much higher standard. We were amazed at the size of the ship and also our cabin. It had a ... Read More
We were recommended by a friend to go on the Celebrity Eclipse. He told us that others were like "Premier Inns" and that Celebrity was of a much higher standard. We were amazed at the size of the ship and also our cabin. It had a wonderfully comfortable bed, large flat screen television, settee and a good sized bathroom. We chose a balcony cabin so that we could sit out late at night enjoying the view.Having purchased the "premium alcohol pack" which is quite expensive we decided to experiment with all the cocktails we could manage! - which was great fun without getting silly. I'd recommend this pack because the drinks on board can be quite expensive.You couldn't tell the ship was moving in spite of white horses on the sea and a bit of a blowing gale, the food was like none other I've had - from Filet Mignon to snails etc. Waiterscouldn't do enough but probably should have left us alone more. I don't want to be told "Here is your delicious steak sir, cooked to perfection", I'll decide that (although it was!). Having been blown away by the ship (and that's after only seeing a bit of it) and before we left Southampton we'd already decided on another cruise, to the Med in September on the Celebrity Silhouette.I think we've been spoilt because, now having got the cruise bug, were thinking of another one to France in July with another company and, having read revues, will stick with Celebrity. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
We have just returned from a 7 night cruise on the Celebrity Xpedition to the Galapagos Islands and LOVED IT! We booked the 10 day tour through Thomas Cook in the UK and this included flights, transfers, accommodation in Quito for three ... Read More
We have just returned from a 7 night cruise on the Celebrity Xpedition to the Galapagos Islands and LOVED IT! We booked the 10 day tour through Thomas Cook in the UK and this included flights, transfers, accommodation in Quito for three nights (2 pre and 1 post cruise) and 7 nights on the Xpedition in a suite. It was expensive, but worth every penny as the cruise was so personal, friendly and adventurous. There were 93 on our cruise mainly made up of American and Canadian guests with a few from Europe and a couple from Australia. The average age was around 55 and there were no children on our trip - personally, I don't think this holiday would be suitable for children due to the average age of the passengers, the itinerary and excursions (which are all animal based) and the entertainment in the evening. Others may disagree with this comment, I do not have children, but I'm certain that there would not be enough to keep them amused during the week. I am not going to detail the itinerary as so many other reviews do this and I'm certain that an hour by hour description does not make interesting reading. Just to say that this is an active holiday - there are at least two trips every day and there is a choice between a long walk and a short walk for each location. They say that you don't miss out on the short walk, but there are some sights you would not see if you opted for the short walk every time (the blow hole is one example where the long walk is necessary) The number of animals you see each walk is tremendous - they are not exaggerating when they say that the animals are not afraid of you and you can approach quite close without scaring any away. Bird life is abundant, although it was difficult to identify every bird you saw as many are similar in colour and size, but the naturalists who accompany you are full of details and information. We sailed between 13th February to 20th February and were very lucky with the weather as it did not rain at all during our excursions. Be prepared though, it is hot and humid and the long walks can be tiring as you are on your feet for over two hours without shade or seat. The food on the ship was good. There was a breakfast buffet, with eggs and waffles cooked to order; either a buffet for lunch, which was quite often themed, or burgers, hot dogs, chicken or fish served at the Beagle Grill on deck 4; dinner consisted of a good choice, 4 course menu which included steak, lobster, and local fish. Quality of the food was very good and there was plenty of choice to satisfy any faddy eater. Drinks of course are included in the price and there was plenty on offer - good choice of wines, spirits and bottled beers, which were welcomed when you return to the ship after the excursions in the afternoon. There is plenty of opportunity to snorkel and all equipment is provided. For experienced snorkelers/divers there is only the one option for a more advanced excursion, although I did not take this option (I'm one of those non-snorkelers) I understand that this was very good with lots of sightings of turtles, seals and sharks. Our suite was very comfortable - a lot smaller than suites on the big cruise ships, but we expected this. Towels are changed three times a day and our balcony was a pleasant retreat in the evening after sunset as it was very pleasant temperature at night before retiring. There is some entertainment arranged in the evening after dinner - talent show, crossing the equator party, star gazing, cheese & wine, karaoke etc - but to be honest, I think most of us were so tired after the days activities, that most people retired after dinner. But the party people had plenty to keep them up later into the night. Our fellow travellers were all of similar minds - there to enjoy the nature, take photographs and have a good time. Many have cruised a number of times and discussions regarding cruise lines, destinations and problems is high on the agenda. There were only 2 couples from England on the cruise, which did surprise us. I hope that this review may put other residents of the UK at rest if they think that Celebrity Xpedition is more for Americans than us Brits. Yes, there were a lot of American and Canadians on the cruise, they were great company and on such a small ship, you get to know lots of people who will become friends after a week. There is enough space for you to enjoy your own company but it is so much nicer to be with a group that are on holiday to enjoy themselves. I was concerned that a big sh There is a lot of choice of small ships doing this cruise around the Galapagos Islands, but the Xpedition is a great choice as you get that big cruise service as well as plenty of options for excursions. I'm sure that the small ships that cater for only 16/20 people cannot give you more than one option per stop. I suffer from seasickness and have been quite ill on other cruises. The ship can be affected by the waves and currents and at times it was quite rocky, especially at night when moored. I took a couple of tablets on two occasions when I thought I might be affected, but I was not ill at all. I was also concerned about the zodiacs which are used to transfer you from ship to land on every occasion. I never felt ill at all on these as they were fast and not at all "rocky". To end - the Xpedition is a great choice for cruising the Galapagos with great service, wonderful crew and enough adventure to satisfy any one's desires. Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
Given that this was the maiden voyage for fare paying passengers, it started badly when the check in at Southampton ground to a halt, due to "system failure" for quite some time resulting in a significant queue of un-checked ... Read More
Given that this was the maiden voyage for fare paying passengers, it started badly when the check in at Southampton ground to a halt, due to "system failure" for quite some time resulting in a significant queue of un-checked passengers - made worse by the complete lack of information being broadcast to those waiting. Finally through check-in and onboard, complete with a glass of complimentary "fizz", first impressions were positive. This is a substantial ship, airy with lots of open space and multiple choices for both casual or more refined dining, as well as a seemingly inexhaustible list of places to enjoy a drink or two - I lost count after 10. The cabin was comfortable and well appointed; plenty of storage/hanging space and an extremely comfortable bed, with the ablutions department well up to scratch. Tea, but surprisingly for an American Line, no coffee making facilities - not everybody wants to wake up to a single choice of beverage. The cabin steward couldn't provide coffee sachets - "we don't have any, Sir", but a trip to the Ocean View Cafe provided a source of Instant Coffee sachets - not what I would have expected to either find out for myself, or self provide! We were disappointed by the send off from the pier at Southampton, as there wasn't one! We've had more dramatic departures on a cross channel ferry! Though to be fare the standard of ship handling during this 3 day jaunt was at a very high level indeed - arrival at Le Havre went unnoticed, so gently did the "Master" tie up, as was the situation when arriving at Southampton. It was very apparent that this was a "shake-down" voyage, as most of the crew and systems weren't working as seamlessly as one would expect. Starting with the life boat drill, our "station" was in the Moonlight Sonata dining room, where we were seated, not being required to carry or wear our lifejackets!!, by the crew, only to be moved after a delay, as we were all facing the wrong way to see the video screen, and I'm talking about some 100+ passengers here! Many of the features on the impressive in-suite interactive TV system weren't operational "This feature is not operational" seemed to be the most consistent response from the device; and indeed when trying to order room service at lunchtime on the Tuesday, we were informed that this was not available! A phone system glitch apparently, but not helped by attempts to contact Guest Relations, by phone, who then connected me to the same message, not once but twice!! Even in the dining and bar areas most senior Celebrity staff were clearly visible, with mobile phones held to their ears, resolving some problem or other, so all was not running as smoothly as they wanted either. Also for no clear reason the main dining area, the Moonlight Sonata, wasn't open for lunch on 2 of the days, leaving you only with the choice of self service, or pay a supplement to be "properly" waited on - not what we look for on a cruise of this supposed standard. If I wanted to eat in what is effectively a motorway service station (albeit a pretty impressive one) I would have opted for one of the down market lines. Having said that the meals were of a very high standard, and offering a wide choice, and when served, served well. All in all a cruise that could have been so much better, reminding me of one of my reports from my school days "Has the potential, but hasn't applied himself enough!" Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
For the first time ever, I have felt compelled to write a review within the first hour of returning from a cruise (albeit short). This was a mini cruise but with maximum impact. What an extraordinarily beautiful and classy ship this is. Oh ... Read More
For the first time ever, I have felt compelled to write a review within the first hour of returning from a cruise (albeit short). This was a mini cruise but with maximum impact. What an extraordinarily beautiful and classy ship this is. Oh yes, from the outside it does look like a 'block of flats' but once inside it is full of intimate spaces, soaring light filled atrium and a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Rarely have I been astonished by 'modern' design as I am a traditional Gal at heart and my home is Edwardian comfort. However,  everywhere you look is a feast of inspired detail where no expense has been spared in the materials used, from the various marbles to the ice blue textured curtain fabric in the 'ice topped' Martini bar. We spent a good few hours exploring the ship.  The marathon was made long because we had to try out/sit in/lay on every chair/seating unit/couch! You probably think I am mad, but if you want to see the best and most interesting collection of 'designer' seating then forget shops and book a cruise on Equinox. Talking of shops, to be honest I am not a great lover of cruise ship shops.  But these give you the feel of being in the Burlington Arcade in London with their 'shop windows' and their elegant spaces. I understand that Equinox is sister to the Solstice but the decor is warmer in tone and colour. I liked the 'Entertainment Court' idea. The nightclub Quasar and the Equinox Theatre, as well as a smaller cabaret space, is there on Decks 4 & 5. The theatre has a large stage with a semi circular apron and three tiers. Sight lines are excellent and the seating appears to curve around the stage. It seats around 1200 and there is lots of leg room. No need to stand up to let people through! Wide walkways and at the back of each tier there are long curving marble bars with bar stools. I have only once come across this type of 'arrangement' in a theatre and that was on Ocean Village 1 ! It works very well.  The show was also surprisingly similar to Ocean Village's Planet show on their top deck rigging over the pools, with the same 'out of this world' music. It was also very like the show on P&O's Ventura.  Here they use backing track for the singers to sing to and the singers barely moved, in fact when they did it was on little platforms which slide across the stage by remote control. It took a while to realise that the singers were singing as it sounded pre recorded. However that is more a salute to their talent than anything else.  The costumes were stunning but the choreography was lacking.  Even the best dancers look ridiculous with bad choreography. The acrobats though were extraordinary.  Some even 'flew' above the audience as they performed with their 'silks' and rings.  For me, the balancing act and the contortionist were highlights.In a similar way to the entertainment court there is a 'court' of restaurants. We ate in the Italian- themed Tuscan Grille. This is one of 5 speciality 'extra charge' restaurants and the Tournedo Rossini melted in the mouth. The standard of food was sublime and the setting, across the back of the ship with a deep expanse of glass, was lovely. Each restaurant was beautifully designed but my favorite has to be (remember I'm traditional) Murano, with its private dining area off the main restaurant. Opulent. The main restaurant, Silhouette, is dazzling with its white and stainless steel. It is two tiers high and I understand the food was excellent. I did wonder why there was no Alcohol Gel anywhere on the ship for ones hands but I asked and was told, not only that I was the first to ask! but that it is normal to have the dispensers throughout the ship but the dispensers had not arrived yet. They will be in situ before the inaugural cruise. Finally, the main 24hr Buffet eatery called Oceanview Cafe was very well laid out with lots of space between each 'island' style serving station. There was plenty of room in the seating areas (one outside) with a variety of table sizes. I was very impressed. It is similar to the layout in Grand Princess but the seating area is more spacious. Again, P&O should see how it should be done and sort out Ventura!Music varied from classical to Jazz and we were treated to a superb performance by 'All Angels' on the pool deck as we sailed away from Southampton in blazing sunshine. There was a Big Band performance in the ten story high sunlit atrium and in the Sky Observation lounge, there was a dance band in the evening. This enormous lounge, during the day, has wonderful 180 degree views over the front of the ship.  It is also the only indoor space where smoking is allowed (port side).  For the smokers among you (or for those who wish to avoid) smoking is only allowed in 5 areas, 1 inside and 4 outside. No smoking is allowed in the cabins or on balconies. Now to the cabins.  We had a balcony cabin on deck 9. My husband was impressed that the TV was wall hung, flat screen and fully interactive with the keyboard for the Internet combined with the TV controls. Oh, he also was very pleased with the number of power sockets (American) and that the 'Ethernet Port' was in a very convenient place!  The doors to the cabin are recessed. Why? The cabin doors (and indeed the loo doors in the public toilets) all open outwards into the corridor.  Although this makes for more space in the cabin, it would cause problems to those with wheelchairs, walking aids and pushchairs as one would have to block the corridor to get into the cabin and there will be no keeping of wheelchairs etc. outside your cabin door anymore!  That makes the lack of width in the cabin critical. I could barely get past the curved end of the bed. The decor is soft with a cream leather sofa. The dressing table is the smallest I have ever come across, approx 2' wide, with a well lit mirror. The wardrobe is small with sliding doors barely 18" from the edge of the bed but the hangers 'hook' onto the rail - hooray. There is a very high sill AND change of floor level into the shower room. It is very small but with a reasonable corner entry shower area, with GLASS doors. The sink is an oval basin on top of the work surface.  A clever way of using the narrow space it sits on, however, not child friendly. Nor is there any indent in the work surface to put your wet, slippery soap. Although there are little drawers and a tall slim, glass fronted cabinet, one is struggling for space to lay out make up etc.  In the main cabin there is a decided lack of drawer space and the bedside 'tables' were mentioned by many as looking out of place (dark wood) and useless as they were basically three small shelves without sides to them, so things just fell off. The top shelf did have a 'lip' though. The balcony furniture was the same as Ventura but with a much better round teak topped table. P&O take note ! My conclusion was that the cabin was adequate.  The larger suites though are out of this world. Oh, I nearly forgot. No more fiddling with light switches guessing which did what on your way in or out of the cabin - there is one named 'Master' - brilliant! There is so much more that I could wax lyrical on but it is some of the little touches one appreciates the most. The lifts are summoned by pressing the buttons on a 'pod' standing before the lifts. The lift has arrived when the glass ceiling above and in front of the lift, turns from blue to pink (no little arrows here). There is a stand with a perspex 'ship' perched on it in the lift vestibule. This shows where you are in the Equinox and also has a flat 'plan' or map of the deck showing clearly where everything is including walkways and the public toilets. The 'Relaxation Lounge' is next to the two level Library which is a stunning space open to the atrium with its 'hanging tree' (yes it is real). The Aquaspa is gorgeous and has its own cafe and the Sports Court resembles a squash court in that it is sunken with solid walls.  You can really play a game in there ! Nice touch - the Aquaspa shop and the sports shop are next to the spa and the Lawn Club. Ah! The Lawn. I really though this was an idea too far and laughed cynically when I heard about it but - it really does work. It is a HUGE area of the most perfect grass and is a joy to sit on and to relax beside as croquet or bowls are played. Very English. I leave it to you to discover all the rest that this ship has to offer.  Now, just for the record, I have never cruised with Celebrity before and the views expressed are not influenced by anyone or anything, they are genuine. We cruise 2 or 3 times a year, paid for by us and no one else. We were on this event by invitation from our travel company. We have been on various Sun Cruises ships, Island Star, Oriana, Oceana, Arcadia, Aurora, Ventura (09), Ocean Village, Seabourn Legend (09), Voyages of Discovery, Sea Princess, Grand Princess, Star Princess and NCL Jade. Would we cruise with Celebrity ? Yes. Would we cruise on a Solstice Class ship at 122,000 tons with 2850 max passengers? Yes. Never thought we would say that after Seabourn Legend, but Yes. Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
My partner and I were invited onboard Equinox for a one night cruise to nowhere so our time onboard was limited but had a lasting impression!Although I'm not a seasoned cruiser I have been onboard numerous other ships for similar ... Read More
My partner and I were invited onboard Equinox for a one night cruise to nowhere so our time onboard was limited but had a lasting impression!Although I'm not a seasoned cruiser I have been onboard numerous other ships for similar events and this is the first time I've walked away with such a strong opinion on a ship of this scale.This ship has such elegancy and class throughout that I was quite stunned.We had an Ocean View Stateroom, which was neat and compact with plenty of storage. The colour scheme and design was very calming and it really felt like somewhere you could relax for weeks at sea.The bathrooms also have ample storage, which has always been rare in my experience.We only had time for a few drinks in Cellars and then we ate in the Silk Harvest, which is their Asian Fusion restaurant. The food and service was superb and would fit in well in any trendy European City.The whole Promenade Deck is extremely classy, with a fabulous Martini bar.Even though I had a very limited view this really felt like a ship Celebrity can be proud of and a huge pat on the back for the designers! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Don't be fooled, Southampton is an hour and a half from London but well served by the transfers provided. As we stepped on boards four giant words in twinkling colored jewels greeted us in the huge atrium - Here comes the sun. ... Read More
Don't be fooled, Southampton is an hour and a half from London but well served by the transfers provided. As we stepped on boards four giant words in twinkling colored jewels greeted us in the huge atrium - Here comes the sun. Yes this is the song of the Equinox and we were so lucky to be on board for the Inaugural Naming Cruise. Having not sailed on a Solstice class ship we were immediately lost, no problem! The floor guide who was to meet us outside the elevator on Deck 7 did not materialized but we thought lets go and find our cabin - oh but wait, what an amazing globe and table by the elevators *makes mental note to consider how it could become part of my carry offs* We found our room very easily and after a push me pull you effort that was to typify the next two days we did eventually open the door. Its no problem, we just needed reprogramming. We are used to suites but as we were allocated rooms and guessed we would be low in the pecking order we had a 2a. Now this is where Celebrity may have shot themselves in the foot - the room was far bigger than we imagined, we loved the comfy sofa by the window and we thought the layout of the bathroom was far better than some of the suites. Loved the design in the room and found good storage, so maybe we need to think, why have a suite. Anyway small amount of unpacking done we ventured to find the Buffet - great at last a buffet that does not resemble the school dinner lunch queue. Beautiful crockery and a lovely selection of food. We were on board for the naming celebration so we were in evening gear by 1600 listening to the band of RAF Halton on the lawn. Yes the lawn which I thought would be naff, no its great and there are big sofas up there and a lovely bar at the back of the ship, somewhere I would certainly use again for pre dinner drinks. The naming ceremony was pure theatre and the godmother was inspirational. Pre dinner, the Martini Bar was mobbed (probably because it was free) but we found Mark who had looked after us on Century was running the Ensemble Bar beside the special restaurants and we decided this is where we will drink! Silhouettes is a stylish restaurant and the food and service we enjoyed each night was excellent, well cooked and beautifully presented. On this trip it was open seating so we could not build up a longer term relationship with staff but each server was friendly and attentive. After the show (the theatre clearly is technically far superior to any of the other Celebrity ships and I think some great show designs will result) we went wandering around the ship to find so much beautiful art. Loved also the layout with the disco, small theatre and large theatre all together. Loved also you could move around the ship without having to walk through the casino. Made for much better traffic flow. Having been rocked gently to sleep, next morning the sun shone over the English Channel and we made way to breakfast (no room service on this trip) and again a great range of buffet items and more lovely crockery. After a morning curled up on one of the sofas by the lawn with a book we ventured to Bistro on 5 for lunch. Other half is so reluctant, he does not like crepes he announces. Cowboy crepe later he declares that maybe he has never had crepes before or if he had they were bad ones and this was fabulous. I have to agree, that plus a bowl of gelato and I was well set up for the most lovely afternoon back at the lawn. The other half clearly thought he had challenged his waistline too much so he went to the gym which he commended as being very well set up with good kit and a separate area for classes and spin bikes. In two days we did not have enough time to try everything, all the speciality restaurants offered mini tastings and inspired us for visits in the future, the cellar masters with the little dollar shot tasting card looked good and the library was in a lovely open place and had a very good range of books to borrow There were no on board quiz or entertainment activities other than the 2 shows but it was clear there was a lot of potential for great experiences, the Accapela group and poolbands only did short stints but they were good. So it was a two day trip to nowhere, the sun did come out, but even if we could not sing Here Comes the Sun every day, this is a great ship to cruise on Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
Celebrity Solstice Review It could be argued that the new Celebrity Solstice is the prettiest ship at sea. I doubt that you would find many who would not agree. But there are a whole lot of steps along the way that make Solstice ... Read More
Celebrity Solstice Review It could be argued that the new Celebrity Solstice is the prettiest ship at sea. I doubt that you would find many who would not agree. But there are a whole lot of steps along the way that make Solstice unique. Celebrity has done a great job focusing on the total cruise experience and beyond. It seems that new builds these days all have a flashy signature feature that sets them apart from others. Solstice is no exception. The big one here is the Lawn Club. Located high up on deck 15, Celebrity has grown an expanse of short golf green-like grass about the size of a football field. Ok maybe more like a large backyard but it sure seems like a huge space in person. It's something you just don't expect to see on a ship and nothing can quite prepare you for the experience. Home to picnics, various "yard" games, and even private parties, the Lawn Club comes complete with its own shop, cafe and bar. If this were a Carnival ship they would call this the "Fun Deck" because it also houses the Fun Factory Kids club, a basketball court, Video Arcade and another unique experience, the Hot Glass show, where professional gaffers craft works of art right before your eyes. But this is nothing you will find on a Carnival ship or any other brand for that matter. These unique experiences have been really well done in a unique signature way that will prove to set Solstice apart from even her sister ships that will follow. It all comes down to ground level where what they do directly impacts the guest experience. As with so many other successful ideas it is the details that make the difference. Bartenders that can open a bottle of beer tossed in the air, Pool Butlers actually paying attention to guests and anticipating their needs, as well as very well educated crew members who know their jobs well, make the difference. Someone was paying attention here when they designed how this was going to go. Often overlooked while an organization struggles to cover the bases, Celebrity not only covers but blows the bases away, creating an experience like no other. It is as though someone said, "Ok, design a ship, but make it the very best one you can possibly make it. Spare no expense. Leave nothing out. Dream up new features. And make it all very user-friendly". Take for example, the live tree growing in the middle of the ship. Yes I said live tree. Make that "huge live tree". It's not enough to have it; the crew all knows details about how it was planted, lives and will grow six decks high eventually. The crew does not hesitate to approach the casual viewer to let them know all about it too. I think this is one of the most unique parts of the onboard experience. The crew here really goes out of its way to enrich the experience. It is as though not only the needs but the unexpected desires of guests have been not only anticipated but are constantly brought to their attention. The staterooms are a great example of this. A quick glance would leave one with the impression that these are nicely appointed but nothing unique. Further examination though reveals many innovative features. In the bathroom, for example, a low level illuminating light is on constantly to lead the way in the dark. A huge flat-screen television boasting a nice selection of movies, internet access, ordering for room service and more swivels away from the wall enabling it to be positioned just right for viewing anywhere in the cabin. 15% larger than most Celebrity staterooms on other ships, these offer a very nice space you may not want to leave. But leave you will as you explore areas of the ship that flow seamlessly from one to the other. Arguably the largest selection of shopping at sea, the "Shops on the Boulevard" flow into the largely non-smoking casino which is an extension of an assortment of lounges, and an area known as the "Entertainment Court". Aptly named, the Entertainment Court features a central space where live music emanates into the surrounding areas very nicely, tying them all together. While other cruise lines seem to be cutting back on live entertainment, Celebrity has taken a few steps back in time and brought back a wide variety of talent. Case in point; on deck entertainment. I was on deck enjoying a leisurely afternoon one day, steps away from food and bar service, an indoor pool should the weather turn bad, and the an assortment of lounge chairs, hammocks, and private areas. As the stage was out of sight, it took me a while to realize that the enjoyable and thoughtful music I was hearing was not prerecorded but a live five piece band. Later, when their set was over, a different band came to play, followed by a solo guitar player and then others. This theme was repeated many times over throughout the voyage. A string quartet filled the atrium area, a jazz trio played in one of the lounges, and a full band played in the showroom, even a piano player in unexpected areas at unconventional times made for a rich experience. Dining options also added to this deep, enriching theme. In addition to the stunning single main room, Grand Epernay, dining options are plentiful. The Aquaspa cafe offering refreshing spa cuisine as well as the always open Bistro on Five with Crepes and Sandwiches in a casual setting. The Mast Grill I enjoyed while on deck was only steps away from the signature Oceanview Cafe, a scatter-style buffet with an assortment of stations well-suited to most any taste. Specialty dining with a nominal cover charge was not limited to just one or two offerings. Murano, a sophisticated dining experience featuring European style service and wines from around the world is a headliner. Silk Harvest, featuring the exotic tastes of Asia in a casual, family-style setting is very popular. The Tuscan Grille offers a sophisticated steakhouse with and Italian accent and robust wine list. Finally "Blu" has private dining for AquaClass guests only featuring clean, modern cuisine from the old and new world. The Aqua class area of the ship offers some of the most well appointed staterooms on board too. But more than just extra features like a superb shower and upgraded amenities, the whole AquaSpa area of the ship is unique unto itself. This area anchors a "Wellness" theme featuring a full service spa enhanced by the solarium and a quiet renewing space called the Persian Garden as well as medi-spa, salon and fitness center. The whole Wellness concept extends to other areas of the ship as well. All staterooms and verandahs, for example, are non-smoking. A bold move on the part of Celebrity, this idea came directly from guest requests and comments. There are adequate but largely removed areas for smokers but the Celebrity is really trying hard to make a statement as part of the whole experience. Smoking is restricted to a small area of the casino, slots only. The whole feel of it all reminded me of when restaurants had smoking and non smoking sections before turning all non-smoking. I suspect that Celebrity will be the first line to pull off the entirely non-smoking concept, once tried but failed by Carnival's Paradise several years ago. To me, the extent that Celebrity is willing to go with the smoking issue is a great example of the direction they are going with this ship and the experience it elicits. A great diversion from real life is the hallmark of a cruise. Celebrity, through the unique features of this ship, also gives you something to take home with you. Whereas the end of the cruise often meant the end of the experience, Solstice leaves the door open, allowing one to take home the feel of it all. If you are one of the lucky ones who has fully embraced all that a cruise has to offer you may have felt renewed and maybe even a bit changed by the end of the voyage. The Solstice experience allows you to not only be changed, but to do something with that change once you return to real life. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Solstice Naming Cruise Nov 14th to Nov 16 2008 We feel honored that Celebrity invited us to attend this very special event. We left early on Friday morning on a 3 hour drive to Port Everglades to board the Solstice at 11 am. The ... Read More
Solstice Naming Cruise Nov 14th to Nov 16 2008 We feel honored that Celebrity invited us to attend this very special event. We left early on Friday morning on a 3 hour drive to Port Everglades to board the Solstice at 11 am. The ship is everything I could have imagined and more. It is something to behold and must to seen in person to get the full effect. When we stepped on the Solstice we fell in love with it. We were given a deluxe ocean view veranda on the 9th Floor (9176) and it was stunning. Nothing like a new room with new furniture, sheets, towels etc. The room was very tastefully decorated and my wife thought the storage was more then adequate if you used all the provided areas including the overhead space above the beds. The showers on the Solstice have NO curtain but two lucite doors that each slide open in a semi circle. The shower space is 30% increased compared to the C or M class ships. It was a pleasure taking a shower in this cabin. The faucets and fixtures were very upscale and worked well. Each room has a nice refrigerator which has adequate storage. The food court was the best we have ever seen at sea. I cannot call it a buffet because that would not be doing it justice. Its a huge opened room with many dedicated areas of different cuisine, ie, Mexican, Sushi, Steaks and Potatoes, desserts, Pizza and Burgers, ice cream and the best low fat frozen yogurt (no charge), cheeses and crackers and much more. The Sea Bass on the first night was excellent but nothing bested our filet mignon at Tuscan Grill which is an Italian Steakhouse. All the Captains Club Members were invited to one of the Specialty Restaurants on Saturday night. The ship naming was very touching and I have attached some videos of the ceremony at the end of this review. The crew on the ship was excellent as expected and it was great to be in the company of Richard Fein (Chairman of RCL) Dan Hanarhan (CEO Celebrity) and Adam Goldstein (CEO Royal Caribbean). There was a question and answer session with these gentlemen on Saturday morning that was very interesting. I learned a great deal from this session. Simon and Nick Weir were the perfect hosts as Hotel Director and Cruise Director. It is great seeing friends like Simon and Nick. As I told Dan H, 80% of the reason we cruise with X is because of the outstanding people in his employ. When you have taken a few cruises and get to know the ship staff you feel like part of the Celebrity family. There was a show on both nights and they were excellent. Ghost of Broadway was the best show I have ever seen on a ship. The dancers and singers were incredible. Cannot wait to see the show again on a future cruise. This event was spectacular and I am very grateful to Celebrity for including us in it. I hope to do a lot more cruising on the Solstice in the near future. Link to Video and Pictures: http://good-times.webshots.com/album/568709023aLXIrE Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
I want to start out by saying this was my first Celebrity cruise. I normally just cruise RCCL(44 credits with them)..and I will say I was VERY impressed. Friday got there around 11.......checked in and had my pic taken right at the ... Read More
I want to start out by saying this was my first Celebrity cruise. I normally just cruise RCCL(44 credits with them)..and I will say I was VERY impressed. Friday got there around 11.......checked in and had my pic taken right at the counter (for my seapass)..that was different....... Got on the ship and was greeted by a line of employees, all wearing white gloves!! They help you with your carryons/luggage and walk you to your cabin..............oh yea, they also offer champagne/mimosas as you board........... Went to my cabin........it was a balcony cabin(category 1Bcabin # 9109)..........very pretty decor, but not set up very functionally........closet space was VERY limited.......and the beds were very close together. Maybe 6 inches.......wouldn't be a problem if the bed was together as one, but traveling with a friend, its kinda close.....plus its right next to the closet and only one person at a time can access it........ The flat screen TV on the wall was nice........its over the desk area so if you want to watch it while in bed, you can pull it over and slant it towards you.......... The bathroom was very nice..........lots of storage but not much counter space......but it was fine for me..........had some toiletries(lotion,shampoo,conditioner,qtips,cotton balls, shower cap).....waffle robes...... Balcony had two chairs and round table on it.......deck was wooden...... Did see other cabin categories( Celebrity suite # 1237).......Concierge Class(#1231).....AquaClass(#1602).....SkySuite(#2120)...Sunset Veranda(#7317)......Deluxe Oceanview(#7286).......and inside accessible(# 8164) Went exploring and hit the Oceanview cafe first for some lunch....AMAZING is all I can say........more choices than I have ever seen.....pastas,salads,sandwiches,pizzas,Mexican food, a Churasso(Brazilian) station and sooooooooo much more..............and the desserts.......WOW!!! Not your average cookies and pudding..... After eating, I went walking around more to check it all out (not sure I even have seen it all now)..... AquaSpa is very nice...heated lounge chairs, spa treatment rooms, specialty restaurant(Blu),etc......the AquaSpa cabins are located right there, so you don't have far to go........the one AquaSpa cabin I saw was exactly like my balcony cabin that was on deck 9..... The Lawn Club is really unique......I saw people playing croquet,golf,bocce ball (which glow at night).........Not sure how well, the grass will hold up after a few sailings though. You can already see where it is worn........... The Corning Glass shop and demo is right there as well........saw a demo on Saturday night and it was impressive. They had raffles and gave away some pieces, but they wont be selling any of what they make. They will display some/get rid of the rest...... In the 2 days onboard, I did manage to visit a few bars.........My favorite was the Sunset Bar..(aft near the Lawn Club)........very nice location to watch the sun go down (this is where we had our sailaway)..........another favorite was the Martini Ice Bar........the counters are actually frosted over with ice. The bartenders so their Tom Cruise impression (juggling bottles) and are quite entertaining. They have a martini tasting, where you get a flight of 6 flavors. Good way to see what you like best... Enjoyed the teas,coffees,pastries from Cafe al Bacio,,,,,,,,,,and had some crepes at Bistro on Five........didn't have any gelato at Gelateria,but they had several choices that all looked good......... You wont go hungry on this ship..........as I mentioned the Oceanview Cafe has many, many choices. Then there is the mast Grill (deck 14 midship) which had burgers, hot dogs, nacho fixings and more).........The beautiful Grand Epernay Restaurant (decks 3 and 4).....then there are the specialty restaurants...........Murano(contemporary French),Silk Harvest(Asian), and Tuscan Grille (Italian Steakhouse)......I got to eat at Tuscan Grille and 2 days later, I am still full..........it was wonderful.........I had calamari,a argula Goat cheese salad, mixed grill(lamp chop, veal, chicken, Italian sausage all on rigatoni)........for dessert, I had chocolate fondue with strawberries, bananas, pineapple,marshmallows,brownie).........SINFUL!! Some very nice shops and the typical souvenir shops........casino looked OK, even though I didn't spend too much time (or money) there........ Quasar (disco on deck 5) was hopping every night.......Sky(deck 14) had wonderful views overlooking the seas............... Did not go to any shows.......not much time to see it all in 2 days......... The highlight of the weekend was the naming/christening ceremony. It took place Friday night at 4:30pm.It was held in the Solstice Theatre(decks 4 and 5).....started with a fanfare of bagpipe players then the orchestra then played A. Beautiful Day (by U2)..... A French Horn fanfare then played and in walked the Godmother procession (including the godmother and the VIPs) The Godmother is Professor Sharon Smith.She is the first scientist to be a godmother. She holds many degrees and is a biologist oceanographer. She has survived cancer twice. She is truly the perfect pick for this position. After blessings by a rabbi and the seaman's pastor, they played the Greek and American National anthems. Richard Fain spoke then it was time for the actual christening. The Godmother cut a red ribbon which went thru out the ship and ended up at the top deck where a bottle of champagne was attached to it. The bottle then swung across, hitting the ship and thereby christening it. There is so much to see and do and like I mentioned, did not have time to do it all.........hope to book it (or one of the others in the class that are upcoming) someday......... Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
I will start off by providing you with my ship experiences so that you can better understand my reasoning for rating this ship. I have sailed on Princess (golden class) 2 times, RCCL voyager class 12 times, RCCL Freedom Class 3 times and ... Read More
I will start off by providing you with my ship experiences so that you can better understand my reasoning for rating this ship. I have sailed on Princess (golden class) 2 times, RCCL voyager class 12 times, RCCL Freedom Class 3 times and Celebrity Millennium Class 3 times. My wife and I are between the ages of 45 to 52 and are very fit and enjoy good food and good night life (dancing late hours)and a good fitness center. With that said, let me state that of all our cruises, this ship surpassed all aspects of previous cruise experiences, that is the ship look, food and service was at the top 5+ rating. The styling of this ship is very retro/south beach hip. Lots of light colors and wonderful lounges and open areas.At 12:00 noon we enter onto the 5th deck and immediately notice a Bistro serving 24/7 wonderful healthy crepe's filled with well prepared veggies/chicken/Meats with excellent sauces. (all freshly made to order). Additionally the deserts at the Bistro were excellent. On the same deck directly across from the Bistro is a cappuccino bar with fresh coffee and more deserts. Next to the cafe, was a gelato bar with fresh gelato and ice cream. We tried 1 chicken and pesto crepe , a flank steak and caramelized onion with blue cheese crepe and had some expresso, and gelato. All were magnificent. We then proceeded to visit the buffet (just to see the food display and layout). Well CCL did an excellent job of strategically placing stations which avoids lines from forming and the display and food quality were above those of the RCCL and Princess class and in line with the infinity and Millennium ships. However, the buffet stations were the best placed/ positioned of any buffet area on any ship we sailed. We then proceeded to the fitness center which was smaller than the Voyager and Freedom class ships but bigger than the princess and infinity and Millennium class ships (nice machinery, cable,free weights and cardio options to satisfy those who choose to stay fit ... Then we proceeded to the Celebrity lounge on the upper deck which was absolutely perfect in color and style with furnishings again to be on the hip/retro south beach side. Then we proceeded to the shops which had the nicest looking store fronts of any ship I have sailed and the shops were in area's where the ceiling heights were over 25 feet (great look). The bars and martini bars were excellent and the dining room was well appointed. But now let me get to the best part of the ship (restaurant row) that is there are 4 specialty restaurants in a dedicated part of the ship with a grand entrance to each restaurant which is also where Michael is also located. There is also a dedicated fabulous bar in this area to service those who would like a drink before going to dinner. The 4 restaurants are Muranos, Tuscan, BLU and a Tia restaurant) I tried BLU and Murano's. We will start with BLU, the BLU restaurant is for AQUA SPA quests with a menu that changes nightly, the food and service here was much better than Princess speciality restaurants and RCCL Portofino's and Chops and in line with the Infinity USS united states and Olympia on the Millennium, however the seating and look and feel of the restaurant was again awesome. Then we ate at Murano's one night and my wife and I had the best meal we ever had in our entire life (land or sea and we ate in some fabulous restaurants in NYC and Las Vegas)The Service was amazing and even if you can imagine it being better than that of the USS unites States and the Olympia. The food preparation and flavors were beyond ones imagination. Also, the food in the main dining room for lunch and dinner far surpassed those of RCCL and Princess. (variety/service and taste) Also, the pool area's were well appointed with cabana'a and very comfortable seating. A real special treat/surprise to us was the upper deck/ the lawn (real grass) for boci, golf and other fun activities. Also there was a glass blowing facility on the lawn where several times a day you had an opportunity to see how wonderful works of glass art are made. Another item that impressed us was the disco (I mean at 12:00 there were actually folks up and dancing where on many of our past CCL sailing it seemed that by 10:00 or so every evening most folks went to bed, where as on this ship most folks were out having even more fun. That were I get the reference to this is the game changer that is, you have the Celebrity service and food with a retro feel and the ability to draw a younger hipper crowd who demand great food and great service without sacrificing the feel an the look of what todays baby boomers are looking for. Also, before I forget, let me tell you a little about the rooms. We had a balcony (typical size room, however the bathroom was bigger, including a bigger shower area with a closing door rather than a curtain. Also the desk and cabinet area had granite counters, with a real nice leather couch. In closing please feel free to email me to ask further questions and to provide you with pictures of my experience on board this great ship. I have over 300 pictures of every facet of this ship including the food plates for each and every meal we have. You will not be disappointed on this cruise ship. (ya the port of call are your typical) however, once your on this ship, you may not want to get off at the ports. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We are great fans of cruising on Celebrity ships (Elite captains club members) and we took the opportunity to try out the new Solstice for a 2-night cruise. Embarkation at Ft lauderdale was SLOW; the staff seemed untrained and unclear ... Read More
We are great fans of cruising on Celebrity ships (Elite captains club members) and we took the opportunity to try out the new Solstice for a 2-night cruise. Embarkation at Ft lauderdale was SLOW; the staff seemed untrained and unclear as to how to enter our data into their computer even though we had completed the "Express" process prior to Embarkation. Lunch in the cafeteria was an adventure in finding where everything could be found. The quality and variety of food was very good and the decor was interesting. We spent the afternoon exploring the ship and our summary is that we were most impressed with the design and execution of this large ship. It does not seem so big because of the clever design. The cabin was pleasant with a small well-designed bathroom. We found the closet space to be limited. The 1/2 acre of grass was different but already showing signs of wear. We watched the glass blowing demonstration at the "Corning museum of glass' and found it excellent. The master glass blower "Annette" is a true professional. Dinner in the main restaurant was a big disappointment. Both nights I was given food other than that which i had ordered; it was also half-cold. On the second night I asked to speak to the Maitre'd to complain; after repeating my request 3 times, and waiting over 20 minutes he showed up and gave different explanations for his delay and for my food being unsatisfactory. The wait staff were unfriendly and resented my complaint. Other diners around us told us that they had the same experiences. This is the worst experience we have ever had in a Celebrity restaurant. This was the first Celebrity cruise on which we were not asked to complete a "comments" card before departure. The message seemed to be that the cruise line did not want our comments, so I went to Guest Relations and asked to make a comment. I was given a post-card sized form to complete and on submitting it I saw that it was added to a large pile of other cards. The evening show named "Solstice" was truly a new experience. We would recommend that everybody who travels on Solstice should see this show. Disembarkation was quick and easy. Overall a great ship that was spoilt for us by poor service at Embarkation and in the restaurant. What a pity Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Our cruise to no where was a charter cruise to see Celebrity's new ship so that we will advertise it by word of mouth. My husband & I who have sailed quite often and have been on several Celebrity ships were excited to see this ... Read More
Our cruise to no where was a charter cruise to see Celebrity's new ship so that we will advertise it by word of mouth. My husband & I who have sailed quite often and have been on several Celebrity ships were excited to see this beautiful new ship with all its amenities and experience the best service they had to offer. Unfortunately they have a long way to go to offer the "best" in services. Let me start with the Ship design. The Pool Area: I absolutely loved the new design out by the pool with the extra shaded area on the deck above the pool. The new seating areas with the wicker love seats and chairs are a very nice touch. There are large lounging beds spaced between all the regular lounge chairs and a hammock enclosed with sheer curtains that adds a romantic touch. Jacuzzis were nice, but did not work and the water was ice cold. I lied out by the pool for over 2 hours and not one waiter came and asked if I would like to order a drink! The weather took a drop in temperature, so we moved into the Solarium for warmth. Well the air temperature was very cool from the air conditioning; I could not even take off my cover-up and had to cover myself with a towel. I decided to go into the Jacuzzi in this area to warm up, only to find out that the heaters were not working either, and neither were the Jacuzzis outside by the pool. We located 3 workmen in the area, who were trying to fix the waterfall that wasn't working. They said they knew the Jacuzzis weren't working and could not figure out what was wrong. Then I over heard some women talking that were coming out of the Spa that the Sauna wasn't warm, it wasn't working. So I left the Solarium area. But I must say that the different types of sitting areas were very nice especially the large egg shaped lounging beds for two. The Lawn Club Area; what a different touch to a ship. There is a grassed area for playing Bocce or Croquet, but due to cold weather and wind, no one was playing outdoors. In this area is a demonstration of Glass Blowing put on by the Corning Company. It was extremely interesting to watch. Several shows where put on during the day. At the last show on the last night, they give away all the pieces that they had made, which were quite beautiful. Unfortunately that show was at 11:00pm and with the wind and cold temperature, we did not attend. The Buffet area is beautiful, very open, lots of room with plenty of tables. Unlike other Celebrity ships that we experienced, this ship does not offer the serving trays to carry your plates and does not offer the personal service of someone who carries your tray and finds you a table to sit at. Large square plates, that were very heavy, had to be carried around several food stations. I expected a better variety of food offered, and I expected the hot foods to be hot which it never was. I wonder if the board of Health knows about this? Only the stir fry food because it was cooked to order and the pasta because it was warmed up just before giving it to you were hot. In fact, the plate got so hot carrying it, I had to run over to a counter to put it down or else I would have dropped it. I did burn myself carrying a cup of hot water for tea. When holding the mug by the handle, my ring finger was positioned against the cup. I did not want to drop the cup on the floor, so by the time I quickly ran to my table, my finger was quite red from the heat. By the time you walked around, had to find a table, and get your drink, you never stood a chance to eat food that was warm. There weren't any signs over the food telling you what it was. You did not know if you were getting a seafood item or a meat item. This limited me in tasting the foods. I couldn't find out where the silverware was & was told it was on the tables. When I looked around, some of the tables did have silverware wrapped in linen napkins on the table, yet there were plenty of tables that were cleared off that had no set ups. If you didn't get a seat that had the set-up it was awhile to get someone to get you some. Again, never did anyone come to our table to ask if we wanted to order a drink. Now this ship has bars in the Buffet area, so I guess they want you to go over and order your own drink. Again, less service for the increase in price that this ship will be offering. Main Dining Room, well I just don't know where to start here. We were traveling with another couple. We asked to be assigned to the same seating (Early) and be assigned to the same table. We were assigned different dining times and the table numbers were different. When my husband went to the Maitre d'; this gentleman was quite rude, and told him that we would have to go to open seating on the lower floor of the dining room. So we went there for the first seating at 6:00 pm. The doors opened and it was a free for all. People pushing to run in and grab tables where ever they could, where was the service of being seated by someone? After finding a table, it was a while before anyone come and brought over a serving bowl with assorted bread (where was the personalized service of the server who walked around with a basket and asked what you would like?). We had to flag someone down to get water. Someone did come over to take our drink order, and that arrived in a timely matter. But after that, the timing was off. So much help were running around like chickens with no heads, yet no one was being served. They brought 3 meals and the 4th meal came out minutes later after everyone else had to start eating. The food was cool, borderline cold. I had ordered tenderloin of beef and veal. I asked for the beef to be medium, it was quite red (very rare) and the veal was not cooked all the way through. My husband ordered the Orange Roughy and he said it was delicious but cold. The waiter never came over to see if everything was OK. Then they started to clear the tables before everyone was finished & I still did not eat because the meat was raw! The food that our traveling companions ate was also cold. The coffee & dessert were great! It took so long to be served that the next seating that started at 8:30pm could not come into the dining room because people were just getting served their desserts. Then they turned on all the overhead lighting to tells up that we needed to speed up the eating, but what could they do to speed up the serving? We ordered a Specialty coffee from the waiter to get from the bar. He said they did not know how to make it & wanted to know what was in it. So we told him, and off he went to the bar. Now we are being served coffee, tea and dessert. We ask the waiter where is the Keokee Coffee? He tells us that he is getting it. Well, time past and we are now getting up from the table to leave & the waiter brings the Keokee Coffee; it is ice cold, we did not accept it since it was cold and we were now leaving. The Stateroom, was a lovely room, a little more space than usual that it made it very comfortable. There was a sofa and small table in front of it, but the sofa was wedge so close to the closet door, it made it very difficult to open the door and hang clothing. The bathroom was wonderful. It had plenty of storage and added space to actually move around in it. The shower had sliding curved doors that enclosed you and prevented the water from going everywhere. We asked our cabin steward if were could get a pitcher of ice water. She told us that she did not have water; that we had to buy it at a bar. I told her that I did not want to purchase bottled water & a pitcher of water would be fine. She told us that she could not do that, but she would give us ice and we could get water from the sink in the bathroom. Again, where is this "service" we received on other Celebrity ships?? The 2nd night we never got any ice & when we called no one answered the phone in room service, so we called Guest Relations and expressed our displeasure with the service, they sent someone up with enough ice, I could have built an igloo. Was there some underlying message that they were trying to tell us?? I realized that we also never got any little chocolates on our pillows as in other cruises. The gift shops had the usual items for sale. But since we were on a cruise to nowhere, there was a 3% sales tax that was added. Who gets that tax, is it actually paid to a state, if so, what state? The Casino - it was great not having people smoke in the Casino! I don't like the electronic slot machines that don't pay back in coins. You print a receipt and then take it to the cashier. Also, how come I only got back $58 for my $60 winnings? The cashier told me that was what I got! Who got the other $2.00? It will be a few years before I would give this ship another chance. I was told all personnel were experienced and came from another ship, well, something is wrong with the service if it isn't inexperience! Also, I wish they would get new entertainment. The want you to be a steady customer; yet the entertainment is rotated among their ships and we see the same thing over and over again. What we saw this weekend, we saw last year on our Greek cruise with Celebrity. Kathy J-Lake Worth, FL Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
I am not as experienced a cruiser as some on here, but I do have 5 cruises under my belt (so far). My experience has been confined to NCL, Royal Caribbean and now Celebrity. We booked the inaugural 2 night 'cruise to nowhere' ... Read More
I am not as experienced a cruiser as some on here, but I do have 5 cruises under my belt (so far). My experience has been confined to NCL, Royal Caribbean and now Celebrity. We booked the inaugural 2 night 'cruise to nowhere' on Celebrity Solstice out of Ft. Lauderdale. My travel partner lives in the area, so we had no hotel. As a little background, this 2-night cruise, while it was the maiden voyage, was a charter. The Solstice is, of course, brand new and the first of the Solstice-class ships from Celebrity. Knowing Celebrity's reputation for excellence, we were looking forward to this cruise very much. To summarize the more detailed review below, the ship is absolutely gorgeous. The service, unfortunately, did not live up to our expectations. First, the good/great: The ship is beautiful. I don't have all that much to add to the cruise-critic review or the previous member's reviews, but as far as the ship itself goes, everything that they said is true and more. My travel partner works as an interior designer and she could not stop talking about the creativity, quality and beauty of the interior spaces. Myself, with the exception of a couple of spaces that did not appeal to me, I found the interior of the ship to be visually stunning. In particular, the main dining room was light and airy. Missing was the often gaudy and over-busy decoration that is found in ship's dining rooms. Solstice's was a relaxing and engaging place to be. Other highlights for me were the Sky Lounge, Michael's Club and the Tuscan Restaurant. The decorative beam work on the ceiling of the Sky Lounge tied in beautifully with the structural form of the window frames, Michael's Club, although apparently not unique to this ship, is an elegantly comfortable space. The Tuscan Restaurant, with its 'tunnel' entrance is visually stunning. The only spaces I didn't like were the Quasar club, which seemed kitschy and not very inviting or functional, and the Care Baccio, which was just a matter of particular taste; the yellow/green theme was not appealing to me (however, the coffee and gelato were superb). These are, admittedly, just a matter of personal taste, and not really a criticism of the ship's design. You can't please everyone all of the time. The only other small criticism I have of the ship's design concerns the large Celebrity "X" on the outside of the ship. This "X" is rendered on the side of the ship by dark tinting of the glass on stateroom verandas. The "X" is very striking in the exterior view of the ship, but if you happen to be one of the unfortunate ones occupying one of the staterooms with the tinted veranda glass, your view of the ocean is impaired (the tinting is transparent, but very dark, so it's difficult to see through the glass when sitting on the veranda). This is a small thing, but just seemed to me to be one of the few places where design has compromised function. Apart from that, the staterooms were very nice. There was plenty of storage, the large flat-screen TV was a nice touch, and the bed was very comfortable. The room seemed a little bit larger than average, as was the bathroom. Entertainment of the ship was limited, but this was likely a result of the short nature of the cruise. There was a variety show that we did not attend, and a comedian that we did not get to see because there was no room left in the performance room. My main disappointments with this cruise were with the service, the food and activities. With regard to the service, we found the stateroom service to be just a little below the standards of attentiveness that we have experienced on other cruises. While the service was adequate, missing were the little touches that make a cruise special (mints on turndown, towel animals, etc.) The mini bar was empty when we arrived. It was filled the day after we arrived, but we were not allowed access to it. Our attendant told us the reason for this was that the mini-bar order/inventory forms had not yet been printed, but it seemed to us that the real reason was that they were stocking the mini-bar for the 7 night cruise that immediately followed ours, and they didn't want to have to restock it again before that cruise. We were invited by our attendant to go to the bar and get our own drinks. Room service was an unmitigated disaster. The first night, I waited on hold for 20 minutes. Eventually I hung up. We did manage to get through to them later for a late-night snack, but the order we received was not correct (the cheeseburger had no cheese, and instead of the bottle of cabernet sauvignon we ordered, we received chardonnay instead. We probably wouldn't have minded a swap of one red wine for another, but to swap a red for a white is not generally done. When we called back to return the wine, room service told us that we needed to get our stateroom attendant to correct their error. They wouldn't do it. The next day, we ordered a late-afternoon snack. It was promised in 30 minutes. When it had not arrived after 90 minutes, I called room service to inquire; again, they would not pick up the phone. After another 15 minutes on hold, I gave up. It required a call to the guest services to get through to room service. As I was speaking to them, the food arrived. We sent it back as we no longer wanted it, but did notice that the order was, again, not correct. The food was delivered by our stateroom attendant who told us that she had received the pick-up call from the kitchen only 10 minutes before. Clearly they have some bugs to work out with room service. The main dining room experience was also a disappointment, both the food and the service. The service was extremely slow. We ate there on both nights. The first one we were seated for over half an hour before the appetizer was delivered. The courses for me and my partner were delivered at widely different times, forcing one of us to let their food grow cold while waiting for the other to be served. The second night, we sat for an hour before the appetizer arrived. The main course was similarly delayed. The problem appeared to be not with the wait staff, who delivered the food from their stations as soon as it arrived. The problem seemed to be with the kitchen that was extremely slow delivering the plates to the waiters. The food itself was also a disappointment. The appetizers were good but not in any way exceptional. The soups were excellent, but the main courses were of low quality and poorly prepared. As an example, on the first night, we both ordered the same thing: tornados of beef and pork. I ordered my beef medium rare, my partner medium. Both of our dishes arrived the same: very well-done; dry and tough as shoe leather. They were also of only luke-warm temperature, apparently having sat in the kitchen for a while before arriving at the waiter's station. The aspect of the dining room experience that I disliked the most was one of policy not quality. The seating system that was used on this cruise was a hybrid between the traditional assigned seating and sister line Royal Caribbean's 'free-style' program. Unfortunately, Celebrity seems to have taken the disadvantages of each program and combined them. When we booked the cruise, we were asked what kind of table we would like to reserve (small table), but when we arrived at dinner the first night at the upper level entrance to the dining room, we were sent away because the upper level was only for those with a reserved table. When we explained that we thought we did have a reserved table, the host would not check and simply sent us downstairs where there was open seating. Besides one of the times on the cruise that we were made to feel like second-class citizens (more on that later), there were no small tables available downstairs. The advantages of assigned table / assigned time dining are that you have to opportunity to get to know your table-mates and you have the same waiters each night. The waiters get to know your particular likes and dislikes, and I have found that to be one of the pleasures of cruising. The disadvantage is the lack of flexibility: you have to eat at your assigned time. The advantage of free-style type cruising is that you have choices as to what and where you want to eat. Under Celebrity's system, you have no flexibility - you eat in the dining room at your assigned time, but you also eat with different people and have different waiters every night. It is true that Solstice does have specialty restaurants, but these were completely booked before we ever got on the ship, and we were given no opportunity to pre-book (this may not be Celebrity's fault, but rather the agency, as they were unable to deliver our cruise documents to us until the day before the cruise). Another issue that we found distasteful was that we were made on more than one occasion to feel like second-class passengers on the ship. The first time was, as I mentioned, being dismissed by the host who would not check on wither we had a reserved table as we believed, instead sending us downstairs to open dining room seating. The second time was in the restaurant Blu. This restaurant is, apparently, reserved for only Aqua class passengers. We walked into Blu late at night, just to see it. At the time we walked in, it was near closing, and in fact was empty of diners (so, you know, there was no risk of the hoity-toity being offended by our plebian presence). We just wanted to have a look because it is a visually stunning restaurant. We were informed by the host that this restaurant was not for us. In principle, I guess I don't have a problem with a line offering premium services to higher paying customers, but I also don't think this should be done in such a way as to alienate your other customers. The restaurant is physically freely accessible and inviting. I would suggest that they could adopt a model more like they do with the private Persian Lounge. Put it out of sight, were the mainstream cruisers are not subjected to being told that they are second-class and not welcome. It made me wary of walking into other places on the ship for fear of being similarly rebuffed. As a final comment there are two reasons that I will not be anxious to take another Celebrity cruise. The first is that it did not live up to my expectations as a premium product. I think that the food and service was actually better on all of the four previous cruises I've taken. Because of this, I felt that there was no reason to bear the premium cost of a Celebrity cruise. Now, in defense of the line, I heard it said that ours was not a 'real' Celebrity cruise, being a special charter. But I paid as much for it as I would have a 'real' cruise, the ship and the crew were from Celebrity and therefore representing the line, and they certainly were not shy about trying to sell future cruises on board. Secondly, the atmosphere on the ship was lacking in (for lack of a better term) fun. The musicians stopped playing early, most of the venues were deserted by 11:00-ish. We were the only ones in the Sky Lounge (the last bar open) after 11:30. There was little in the way of dancing or any other activity going on in the evenings. Perhaps it was was the demographic of the passengers, or the fact that the ship was only about ¾ booked. Perhaps it was the lack of any of the organized evening activities one often finds on cruises (e.g. karaoke, piano bar, games). A cruise-director was not seen or heard from at any time on this cruise. Honestly, I don't think I can blame this on Celebrity, they can't force the passengers to have fun, but it is nonetheless a factor in my feelings about taking a future cruise with them So in summary, we found the Solstice to be an absolutely gorgeous ship, but lacking in the quality of food and service, and perhaps also lacking a little soul. I hope that these negatives might just reflect start-up pains and will be overcome. I'll keep an eye on future reviews to see if I should consider giving them another chance in the future, but for now, I'm sticking with their sister line RCCL where my experiences have been much more positive. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
We booked 2 balcony rooms...one for us and one for our teen aged grandsons who had never cruised before. The ship was truly beautiful...sophisticated elegance is how I would describe it's design and interior. Our staterooms were ... Read More
We booked 2 balcony rooms...one for us and one for our teen aged grandsons who had never cruised before. The ship was truly beautiful...sophisticated elegance is how I would describe it's design and interior. Our staterooms were supposed to be adjoining but were not so we had to change room keys at guest relations as they would book one adult with one child in each room per their rules. The room was large enough for my wheelchair and oxygen concentrator. The bathroom was roomy with a curved glass shower door so you could even bend over to wash your feet without getting water all over the floor. Our room stewardess finally brought a small container for ice at 4 PM and the next night she didn't give us any at all. Room service was very slow...the boys ordered cookies and milk and they brought warm milk so they put it in the refrigerator. The buffet lunch was very good the first day on arrival but the next day's breakfast was cold, coffee tasted really bad and the orange juice was watered down. We had to take silverware off another table and get our own drinks as none of the attendants bothered to help us. Dinner in the main dining room was very slow and the food was not hot. We had reservations and they knew I was disabled but I had to walk all the way to the back of the room to our table. I was expecting to have some bottled water and cans of soda in our room but we had to drink water from the bathroom sink. The worst part of our cruise was that there was NO SMOKING on the balcony or anywhere but a few outdoor areas...The port side of the deck 5 had some chairs and ashtrays with a view of the life boats and the port side of the Mast Bar had standing room only most of the time. We were not told about the smoking when we booked the cruise. To top it off, I forgot to pack cigarettes for my husband! We thought we could buy them on board at the liquor store but because it was a 2 day cruise no cigarettes or alcohol were sold. One of the other passengers heard of my husband's plight and gave him 2 packs. The entertainment was very good both nights especially the Solstice aerial circus the second night. The comedian didn't come on til 11:45 so we missed him both nights. We enjoyed the jazz trio in the Ensemble Lounge both nights. We have traveled Celebrity twice before but the service, food and attitude of the employees was not up to par. There was no comment card in the room to tell them what they were doing right or wrong. I did not feel welcome like I have on other cruises. It was a lot of money for 2 days. I think we will stick to Princess and Royal Caribbean from now on. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
With daughter, Jeanne (Dgtr - Luv2Trvl) we are just back from the June 11th trip. Pictures will be coming later, but want to give some thoughts that might help someone contemplating a trip. Dgtr and I did Galapagos first followed by Machu ... Read More
With daughter, Jeanne (Dgtr - Luv2Trvl) we are just back from the June 11th trip. Pictures will be coming later, but want to give some thoughts that might help someone contemplating a trip. Dgtr and I did Galapagos first followed by Machu Picchu. Someone on this board felt the ship week was more of a "camp" rather than a cruise. I heartily agree, as we were up early for the first Zodiac ride, back for lunch, a couple of hours for changing clothes, reading, etc., out for the second excursion and then back to change clothes, go to the next day's briefing and dinner. We feel Celebrity Xpedition was a class act, as we were cared for every step of the way, any special needs were met. In the airports, we were met by a Guide holding a white sign with a blue 'X'!! Our luggage was taken care of, both incoming and outgoing. During the two weeks, the only time we were on our own was at the Lima Airport when returning to Miami. Machu Picchu will be covered in a separate page. Dgtr had an excellent Olympus Stylus 770, that took land stills and movies, together with terrific underwater pics (camera goes to 33 feet). She also had the silicone covering that made holding underwater easier. My Sony Cybershot H9 took excellent, true pics also - not underwater. I'm glad someone on this board suggested the Xpedition waist pack for holding cameras and other equipment that made getting in and out of the Zodiacs easier. Dgtr bought a great backpack at Target - lightweight with lots of pockets - and cheap. Dinner took a very long time. The Maitre D' was very good and pitched in to help. When we knew our decisions about the next day's excursions, Dgtr and I went to the 6:30 pm dinner. Service was quick and a couple of times we were through eating and able to catch a good bit of the briefing. Meds: We started Diamox and Pepto a day prior to our leaving Boston. I gave them up in a couple of days, but I think Dgtr continued for another day. After a few days, some people including Dgtr had stomach cramps and were just not feeling well. At that point, my bottle of Ginger Capsules made a few rounds. Dgtr did become ill and had to stay home from the two Darwin excursions. Dr. gave her bottle of Pedialyte, 2 Immodium tablets and another med that helped considerably. Also ordered some light meals. So glad to see Sharon up and about from her illness. When someone became ill in Machu Picchu, our guide told her to not drink OJ - perhaps the acidity. Good sunscreen and bug repellant. Clothes: Some people complained about shoes with side openings, because of sand. I had Merrell's that were closed on the sides, but mesh on top. Had Teva sandals for wet landings and a pair of slides for the plane and dinner. My personal experience with shoes was to have a good sole to deal with large and small lava rocks that are sometimes slippery. I took 2 pairs of slacks and 3 tops for dinner, 2 bathing suits, 3 pairs of shorts, 1 lightweight zip sweater with hood, 1 very lightweight rain jacket, Xpedition hat (available ship store), 3 cutoffs, 4 T-shirts. We took a little more than others, due to our extended trip. Misc.: Snorkel and goggles - take your own, if you have them. Some of the ship equipment was defective and made snorkeling not easy. Several people used ship wet suits that were fine. Water was fine after the first dip. Toilet paper - necessary in Ecuador and Peru. Dgtr found small rolls that were easy to carry; small packs of Kleenex a good substitute. Sample bottles of dry soap. $$$: Ecuador uses USA money. Hair dryer in the desk drawer I used for drying shoes and clothes. Take enough batteries, as I gave some extra AA's to a traveler. The ship only had AAA's. Internet was available but slow. Dgtr's and my small knowledge of Spanish helped. One of our travelers spoke fluent Spanish. You may want to learn or brush up on this language. It did help, especially on land. Penthouse: One traveler said it was not worth the extra $$; however, in our case it was perfect. The rooms gave us special time together, but afforded us our own space also. We moved the 2 sofas in front of the sliding doors. Re: beds: One room had twin beds that were put together to make a very comfortable dble. Twin beds in the connecting room could not be put together, due to a slight wall separation. Verandas were separate, but that was no problem. Naturalists/Zodiac: The Naturalists were excellent and extremely knowledgeable. I do have a balance problem and shortness of breath and they willingly helped me. Even other travelers including Sharon's husband gave a helping hand or shoulder. Carlos took a walking stick for me, even though I did not ask for it. The Zodiac drivers knew their business in helping to get us in and out of the ship and at the excursion points. One or two days of rough seas proved their abilities. Intensity excursions: One of the Naturalists told me that often times one can see more varied nature on the Low Intensity rides than offered on land at the same time. Guests: From reading past input, I was surprised that the ages went from 7 or 8 (just a guess) to a woman, who was 87. The younger children seemed well behaved and enjoyed themselves. Weather: We were very fortunate to have good weather - only a few drops at Darwin Station. A couple of days of rough seas that made ship walking unsteady. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
We are a 50-something married couple with 12 cruises under our belts, so, I think we have enough experience to be objective. We have sailed on Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess, Holland America, Celebrity (Mercury), and Oceania. After a ... Read More
We are a 50-something married couple with 12 cruises under our belts, so, I think we have enough experience to be objective. We have sailed on Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Princess, Holland America, Celebrity (Mercury), and Oceania. After a day or two onboard Millennium, my husband looked at me and said, "I think we've finally found what we've been looking for". After all seven days and nights, I agree completely! Embarkation was very quick, we got there at 11:00 am, and boarded this ship 15 minutes later. Celebrity has a better system for checking people in than the others. When we got onboard, we were greeted with a smile and a glass of champagne, and escorted to our cabin. We had taken advantage of a deeply-discounted special and booked the lowest category cabin 2180 inside, hoping to upgrade at the pier, but the ship was sold out so we couldn't do that. As it turned out, the cabin was adequate for us, having plenty of drawer and closet space (and, believe me, I'm a heavy packer!) and a bigger shower than most. Our cabin steward was Miguel, he was excellently efficient and so pleasant to deal with. The ship is gorgeous, elegantly decorated, and well designed layout. Our tablemates were interesting and friendly (they were two couples who have had 44 cruises on Celebrity each--and we gleaned their knowledge over the course of the week about how to get the best price, cabins, etc-- and, by the way, they had all traveled on the other lines, too, and they were all convinced that Celebrity has a superior product--they were retired people in their 60s). The wait staff was very good, and the food was delicious. It was every bit as good as on our Oceania cruise, which touts itself to be "the best cuisine at sea", which was also excellent, but we paid three times as much for that cruise. The food in the Olympic restaurant is wonderful, but what really sets it apart is the 5 star service. It is a treat that no one should miss, and well worth the extra price (30.00), you can also order a wine tasting menu with the food and it is 57.00 total. We ordered three glasses of wine and it was 41.00 but it was exceptional. We also ate one night at the "Casual Dining" venue on top of the ship, it is part of the buffet area that at night they fix up with white tablecloths, you order off a menu, and waiters serve you. It was as good as the formal dining room, you don't always need a reservation, though they appreciate it if you do. We were impressed with the quality and variety of the entertainment, actually wishing we had a few more days on board to try everything to do. We spent a lot of time in the pool area and spa, so we missed a lot of lectures, movies, and classes. The spa was wonderful, the treatments were pricey, but one of the free things to do was spend time in the Thalassotherapy pool, then go into the bathroom by the spa, where they have a free sauna, and good hot showers, and nice toiletries. Even though they did have a few specials on port days, I wound up spending as much in the spa as my cruise cost! We went to the Cruise Critic party (which isn't really a party, just a "gathering" with coffee, rolls etc in the morning), it was interesting to put faces and names together, and sit around discussing our perceptions of this ships VS others in the past. To sum it all up: If you're looking for an elegant ship, with lots of entertainment choices, and excellent food, this is your ship!! For us, Carnival is too "wild" (loud obnoxious kids and parents, drunks, and blasting music with dirty lyrics), Holland America too old, and while we loved our cruise on Oceania it didn't have near the entertainment options, there were times that we were bored. We also like Princess, but after two Celebrity cruises, I can honestly say they are a cut above the other mass market cruise lines. Read Less
Sail Date April 2005
This was our second cruise with Celebrity, the first was on the Millennium. We are in our mid fifties, and have cruised for the last 18 years. Arrival & Embarkation-- We flew to San Diego the day before, stayed at the Holiday Inn Old ... Read More
This was our second cruise with Celebrity, the first was on the Millennium. We are in our mid fifties, and have cruised for the last 18 years. Arrival & Embarkation-- We flew to San Diego the day before, stayed at the Holiday Inn Old Town, nice and well located, and has an airport shuttle. Since we made all our own arrangements, we purchased a transfer voucher from Celebrity, and returned to SD airport around noon, to the baggage area in American Airlines. We were directed to leave our luggage, and sent out to wait to board a bus to Ensenada. We received a bottle of water and a granola bar as we boarded. The trip took three hours,with no problems at the border crossing, but when we arrived at the Coral Hotel in Ensenada we had to wait in the bus for about another 30 minutes while they did the boarding passes and credit card work bus by bus, then we were loaded up onto another bus and driven a short drive to the pier, and then waited in line to board the Infinity. Once on board, at approx 4:30pm, we received our welcome glass of champagne and a personal escort to our room. We had a balcony cabin, and loved it. We went up to the Mast Bar on deck 11, to a pre-arranged meeting spot with some of the people from our Cruise Critic Party. It was fun finally meeting the others that we had been talking with via computer for the last six months. We sailed at 9pm. Four Days at Sea--What can I say, we really enjoyed checking out the ship, getting a start on that suntan,and just relaxing. Early seating dinner and wonderful tablemates, a great wait staff, and scrumptious food. If you like to dance, the Rendezvous Lounge was a great spot to listen to music and dance, and it was right next to the dining room. Even though this is a big ship, it never really seemed crowded, always found a couple chairs to lay out in on deck, and there was always seats at the shows. We went to a movie one night, and found the seats uncomfortable, the room very cold, and the screen difficult to see. I especially loved the aquaspa area, the warm salt water pool is so relaxing, and the hot tubs are never very crowded. We often ate a light lunch at the aquaspa cafe. We used room service for our breakfast most of the time. First Port of Call--Hilo- We docked at about 7am, we had been here 10 years ago, and had done the Volcano Tours. This time we went to the Botanical Gardens, short, inexpensive and beautiful. Second Port--Kona- Had to tender into shore here. Sunny Kona, did a Zodiac snorkel tour, highly recommend it, a little hard on the back bouncing across the waves, but only 12 to a boat, and good snorkeling. Third Port--Maui- There was only one day scheduled here and we really needed two. Once again we had to tender ashore. Shared a rental car with two of our tablemates and drove to a beach connected with a hotel and used their facilities, mediocre snorkeling. The road to Hana will have to wait till next time. We had to be back on board by 5:30p at all ports. Fourth Port--Kauai- Beautiful Kauai, this island you must stay on for a few days to appreciate it. And we did come back here post cruise for three days. We toured Wiamea Canyon while on the cruise. Fifth and Final Port--Oahu- We disembarked here in the morning and all went smoothly. If you are making your own travel arrangements, don't buy the cruise transfer to the airport, much cheaper and quicker to get a taxi outside the terminal. We had been here before and suggest the Pearl Harbor Memorial and an island Circle Tour. Happy Cruising and Aloha! Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
This was one of the better cruises my wife and I have enjoyed. We are both in our 50's and this was our 9th cruise together. We have cruised RCL and NCL as well as Celebrity. We had read and heard horror stories about the 2 hour bus ... Read More
This was one of the better cruises my wife and I have enjoyed. We are both in our 50's and this was our 9th cruise together. We have cruised RCL and NCL as well as Celebrity. We had read and heard horror stories about the 2 hour bus ride from San Diego to Ensenada as well as embarkation. However everything went very smooth and we found the sunny bus ride along the Mexican coastline to be surprisingly picturesque. We had arrived by air in San Diego at 11:45 AM and by 4PM we were in our Ship room with minimal delays. I would say that Celebrity could have done a better job informing passengers as to what was happening during the periodic waits on the bus, The ship is beautiful and well maintained. We sailed at 10 PM and the first 24 hours were a bit rough with 15 foot swells and 50 mph winds but thanks to patches and Meclezine we were not seasick...just a bit drowsy and dry mouthed as side effects of the medication. The remaining days were beautiful (daytime temperatures in the 70's and 80's) with calm seas as we traversed the pacific averaging 21 knots. By far the most outstanding facet of this cruise was the entertainment. The Celebrity Dancers and singers and musicians were the most talented troupe we have ever seen on any ship ! Several full scale production shows and "Let's Rock" is not to be missed. Additionally, "Lighthouse" is an extraordinarily gifted a cappella Quartet which entertained nightly. Service, food, and friendliness aboard the Infinity was certainly good but not exceptional and we got the impression that Celebrity was adjusting to the larger numbers of passengers it is now carrying. Our best cruise still remains the Mercury in 1999 in the Caribbean. The Public areas of the Infinity are indeed beautiful with lots of glass for viewing. Michael's is no longer a Cigar lounge (The outside bar on the Aft of deck 10 is the only option for cigar smokers) and yet there was more cigarette smoking on the port side of inside lounges than I can ever recall on other cruises. This secondhand smoke was especially irritating to my wife. We had a room with a small verandah midship on the 8th deck which was very comfortable and clean. Unfortunately there was a "clanging' noise in the ventilation or plumbing system of the cabin which was more pronounced after midnight. The engineer could never correct it although we were offered another room. One of the nice features of the Cabins is the TV channel which features a map showing exactly where the ship is located in real time. There were plenty of deck and pool chairs available throughout the ship and no area of the ship ever seemed crowded with people. The Solarium is also a wonderful feature of the ship. The Ports of Call and tours in Hawaii were very nice . Wonderful photo opportunities. Transportation and Tender services were safely handled. I would recommend that Celebrity get the tour operators to ease off the pushing of "Hilo Hattie's" as the primary place to shop on each of the Islands, however. It seemed like every effort was made by the tours to connect to the Store. All in all this was a relaxing and enjoyable cruise that pretty much lived up to our expectations. We appreciate the absence of constant PA announcements and the professionalism of the Greek crew which made safety and comfort a priority on the Seas. Disembarkation was also orderly. It was a total Air, Land, Sea adventure which was well worth the money. Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
Hawaii Cruise Review Celebrity Infinity November 16-27 2003 Introduction My name is Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. I am a retired city attorney and Edith is a homemaker and former health services provider. We live in ... Read More
Hawaii Cruise Review Celebrity Infinity November 16-27 2003 Introduction My name is Phil Haggerty and my wife is Edith Goble. I am a retired city attorney and Edith is a homemaker and former health services provider. We live in Phoenix, Arizona and this would be our 10th cruise. Our prior cruises have been: Carnival's Elation to the Mexican Riviera, the now defunct Commodore Lines Enchanted Isle for 11 days in the Caribbean; a 7 day Caribbean cruise on Celebrity's Galaxy; from Santiago to Buenos Aires on Celebrity's Mercury; to Alaska on Sun Princess; another 7 day Caribbean cruise on Norwegian Sun; a trans-canal on Celebrity's Infinity; a Mediterranean cruise on Celebrity's Millennium and a Baltic cruise on Regal Princess.   Why this cruise? Very simply, neither of us had been to Hawaii before. We thought that the itinerary, with two stops on the Big Island, two days on Maui and one on Kauai, followed by an overnight stop in Honolulu, would give us a good look at the islands. We also arranged for a time share week on the Big Island following the cruise, and the timing of this also gave us two extra days in Honolulu. The Itinerary Federal Law requires that ships which are not U.S. flag vessels, (and this means every cruise vessel now operating), must land at one foreign port somewhere on any trip in which they touch a U.S. port. So Hawaiian cruises (1) either depart from or return to Ensenada, Mexico or Vancouver, British Columbia or (2) depart and return to Hawaii, but detour to Fanning Island, a tiny independent nation a days sail from the islands. We sailed from Ensenada, spent four days at sea, and seven days traveling from port to port in Hawaii. Review Format - What Is Covered and What Is Not I suppose there are people who call their travel agents, tell them to book a cruise, and do nothing until the day before embarkation when they pack and take off. We like to plan a lot, and feel that this is part of the fun of cruising. So we divide the review into pre-embarkation planning, getting to the ship; the cruise proper, port visits, and debarkation, followed by an overall picture of how we liked it, and the reasons for our feelings. We will add a short section on Hawaii visitation, but not a review of our post cruise travels since this is a cruise review and not a travel review. Since we do not gamble, we will not review the Casino, which seemed fairly nice. Except for a free demonstration, and the purchase of some face powder, we do not use the spa facilities. We can't rate the service or comfort of the poolside deck lounge area either. We do not play trivia games or newlywed games. If I tried Karaoke with my singing voice, the Captain would signal for another lifeboat drill, or perhaps just abandon ship. We did not attend any art auctions because once you have done this two or three times, there is nothing new, either by way of art works or in the presentations. Pre-planning Any Cruise If you have questions about any ship or cruise line, you can get a review of most ships and cruise lines in the "Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships 2003" Douglas Ward; Berlitz Publishing Co.; the "Unofficial Guide to Cruises 2003"; Kay Showker and Bob Sehlinger; Wiley Publishing Co. and "Stern's Guide to Cruise Vacations 2003"; Steven B. Stern, 13th ed. Pelican Publishing Co. You can find (or order) these at most large bookstores such as Borders or Barnes and Noble. All three of these books will also provide a wealth of detailed information on cruising. Since itineraries are subject to change, and not set much more than a year in advance, you should go to the cruise lines' websites to get the correct itineraries and dates. You then can check with your travel agent to see the brochures which will give you a schematic of the ships' layouts and cabin locations. In many cases you can order brochures directly from the cruise lines, but these brochures for the major lines cover separate specific destination areas, and not the entire cruise line repertory in one brochure. (Small lines with few ships are an exception.) The pricing options vary widely. Every line has an early booking discount; many offer specials in the last days before sailing if you want to take a chance; and there are a variety of "specials" and package deals through various travel agencies. No one recommends that you do your booking through the net; having your travel agent do the actual talking to the booking clerks is best; but the net can provide a lot of information. Some people make the itinerary the prime factor, some the cruise line or specific ship, and others are controlled by time constraints and the availability of cruises within their budget range. Like many people, we consider the itinerary first, and then look at the cruise line and date options. As an exception. we decided that since we had never sailed on Holland-American, specifically looked for a convenient date and itinerary on this line for our next cruise, and succeeded in booking a short Caribbean trip on Veendam next March. Shipboard Accommodations Once you have decided on the cruise line and itinerary, the next decision concerns the actual accommodations to be selected. The range here is again very large, from suites of more than 3000 square feet (how big is your house?) to "standard" cabins of about 180 square feet. Obviously the difference is price. These days the newer ships feature "veranda" cabins which make up almost half the cabins available. Then there are a variety of staterooms labeled "suites"; some of which, like Celebrity's "sky suites" are little more than larger cabins with added amenities and features such as butler service, access to spa facilities at a reduced rate, etc. Many people, like us, enjoy the outside access of a veranda, where you can sit on a small deck all your own and enjoy the sound and smell of the ocean for a better "at sea" experience. Others, including a travel agent I know, book the lowest cost inside cabin on the theory that they don't spend much time there, and they can enjoy the rest of the ship to the same extent as the people in the largest suite. Traditionally the higher decks are more costly for identical cabins. Very often the costlier suites are on the upper decks; the Millennium class ships of Celebrity being an exception with all its expensive suites being located on deck 6. Most cabins have only showers, and only very expensive suites have double sinks. Unless you bring an excessive amount of luggage, you will find that cabins, even the smallest, hold a large amount of clothing, toiletries, etc. Ships architects have long mastered the art of squeezing the maximum amount of storage space out of every square foot of cabin area. Hotel architects could learn a lot by observing how ships utilize space. What about your bags? In most cases they will fit under the bed, but the ship will store them elsewhere if necessary. This of course leads to the topic of what to pack. The cruise lines will offer their suggestions, as will the books cited above. However the season, destination, length of cruise and type of ship control this. Some lines such as Holland America, Celebrity and Princess tend to more formality than Carnival or Disney Lines. A new, somewhat upscale line, Oceania, has no formal nights and neither does the very expensive Seabourn Line. But no line actually requires formal wear, although they may not admit passengers to the main dining rooms for dinner in bathing wear, cut-offs or shorts. Aside from that, the weather and the destinations basically control what to bring in the way of clothes. Some ships have self-service laundries, and the Berlitz guide will tell you which these will be; although if you closely peruse the ships' layouts in the brochures, you may discover the laundry rooms on your own. Getting to the Ship and Back Home The next consideration is planning the route to and from the ports of embarkation and debarkation, which very well may not be the same city. All cruise lines offer to purchase air fare to and from the cruises for you. If they do so, they will normally include the transportation between the airport and the pier both ways. You can purchase your own air tickets, of course, and you may be able to buy transfers to and from the pier separately. If you are going round trip from the same city for departure and return; a common event for Caribbean cruises, you can probably do better buying your own air tickets, especially if you are good at internet shopping. Your travel agent may be willing to help if you have bought the cruise from him or her, even though their commissions these days on air travel are virtually non-existent. If you are required to use "open jaw" flights; i.e. leaving from different cities for embarkation and debarkation, it is a little more complex to get any savings compared to the cruise lines, who can save money by block booking on major airlines. [For a good example of pre-cruise flight planning, read the review of our Celebrity Mercury cruise from Santiago to Buenos Aires in January 2002 on this website.] However you may end up with weird routings as we did on this cruise because we felt we should use Celebrity in order to insure the right connections to Ensenada. You can vary the departure dates, but the cruise line might charge extra for this service. Celebrity waives any deviation charges for cruisers who are members of its Captains Club. If you can do so, always provide extra time, and for safety's sake, an extra day in planning your air connection to the departure city. Trip Insurance Finally, there is the issue of trip insurance. We recommend it, but suggest that you buy from one of the independent insurers rather than the cruise line. The basic reason is that insurance you buy from the cruise line only covers you for services supplied by them. If you fly independently, take off on shore excursions that you book yourself, or extend the trip before or after on your own, the cruise line insurance will not cover you. However your own carrier will cover all events within the dates you specify. We have found a firm known as CSA to be responsive and reasonable. Incidentally, you do not have to insure for all the costs; but you can pick a figure you would settle for to cover the travel portion. In other words, you don't have to add the flight cost to the cruise cost because you would probably not lose both. The main point is that with any coverage you get theft insurance, baggage loss, baggage delay and health coverage. You can even get pre-existing health condition coverage if you buy a higher priced policy as soon as you book the cruise. Talk to you travel agent about various policies that are available since they are commissionable also. It is worth it for peace of mind. Off to the Islands Getting to the ship was really strange. Celebrity flew us from Phoenix to Los Angeles by United shuttle, and then by noisy and vibrating United commuter turbo-prop from Los Angeles to San Diego. Air mileage from Phoenix to San Diego is 310 miles and takes 50 minutes. It was 498 air miles via LAX and 3 hours total travel time. The only explanation for this idiocy is that Celebrity possibly does not do business with the so-called "regional" carriers like Air West and Southwest which had 7 direct flights from Phoenix to San Diego in the same time frame. As we arrived in San Diego, at 9:30 A.M. after getting up at 4:30 for a for a 7:30 flight from Phoenix, we saw Infinity in the harbor where it had debarked its passengers returning from Hawaii. At about 10:15 I saw it sail away for Ensenada. The Celebrity staff which met us at the commuter terminal where we arrived were pleasant and efficient, but nonetheless we waited in the terminal until noon before we boarded a bus for our Mexico destination. Once past the border, a 30 minute trip, the rest of the ride was quite nice. There is a great view of San Diego all the way north to La Jolla as you go west through the hills outside Tijuana, and for the next hour you drive along the coast with the mountains on one side and good to spectacular views of the ocean on the other. The road is basically a four lane divided highway, so traffic moves smoothly. There is a great deal of construction going on in this stretch of road, clearly directed towards Americans with many homes as well as high rise condos. Half the roadway traffic signs are in English. Although the Celebrity staff had told us it would take 2½ hours, after about one hour and fifteen minutes we rounded a curve to see a wide bay and Infinity docked at the harbor; a beautiful sight. We stopped at the Hotel Coral beneath a university on the hillside with striking architecture. The hotel was advertising a "bargain" special of a two day stay for $280.00 U.S. Not my idea of a bargain, although it looked like a nice place. The check-in was extremely fast and we re-boarded our bus for a fairly quick trip to the pier. We were the second bus to arrive, and the ship was not ready for us as we could see the stern lines to the dock being tightened into their final position, and the gangways being put in place. After about 15 minutes we were allowed on board with no further delay beyond the obligatory boarding photo shoot. We were greeted with champagne, which we declined, and provided an escort to our cabin. We were "at home" by 3:15; very good time once we left the airport. Our luggage arrived about 4:00, the fastest we have ever experienced. Shortly afterwards our cabin steward, Ralph appeared, and then we were greeted by our butler, Alfred, who had also been our butler on Infinity in December 2002 when we sailed through the Panama Canal. Since we knew we had the same stateroom, we had our travel agent "request" Alfred, but of course had no idea if he was still on the ship or what his cabin assignments might be. Since we had our luggage, we were able to unpack, make a quick trip to the dining room to check on the menu, and then shower and change for dinner, much better than the usual experience of eating in our traveling clothes. Our dinner companions arrived slowly. First were Tony and Linda from Atlanta, then Louis and Paulette from Sonoma, California, followed by Pat and Bill from Florida. There still was room for another couple. Jim and Dawn from Fort Collins, Colorado joined us on the first sea day. Our waitress was Adela, a very attractive young lady from the Czech Republic, and her assistant was Kemal from Turkey. The dinner was as the smoothest and best we had ever had for an initial shipboard meal. As we ate we could see buses still arriving at the pier. There had been some delays, and Pat and Bill had endured a breakdown just short of the border near San Ysidro, California. After dinner we went to the first night "show" which was a typical abbreviated event with introductions of staff members by the Cruise Director. We then sailed away. Infinity as a Ship We returned to our cabin to turn in early. The cabin measures about 251 square feet with a 57 square foot veranda, compared to a "Premium" outside cabin with 191 square feet and a 41 square foot veranda, or a "Deluxe" ocean view cabin of 170 square feet with a 37 square foot veranda or an ocean view cabin and inside cabin of 170 square feet and no veranda. The walls are paneled wood with attractive paintings and good lighting. One wall is mirrored. The bathroom is small but efficient, with a great deal of shelf and other storage space which was not close to being entirely used. There is a hair dryer in the bathroom, not in the cabin as on Regal Princess! Aside from the bed the sky suites have room for a small sofa and an upholstered arm chair with small table, in addition to a desk with its own chair. The closet is ample with a sort of "walk-in" area. There are adequate drawers and shelves. The veranda has a teak arm chair and lounge chair with ottoman, all outfitted with full padded cushions which are very comfortable. All cabins have safes. The television is a decent size. I could have requested an internet hook-up had I brought a laptop. Celebrity supplies its suite guests a small pair of binoculars and two very large umbrellas in addition to a sizeable carryall bag. We are also provided with personalized stationary and a bottle of complimentary champagne which sat in its ice bucket untouched for the entire trip. All cabins have thermos pitchers for water, with a daily change of fresh ice. The overall impression of the cabins is that they are very clean, extremely efficient, and quite attractive in an art deco style. Infinity lived up to its reputation as a spotless, clean, spacious and relaxing ship. It has a displacement of 91,000 tons. This is a measure of the interior size, and is of value in measuring the amount of space per passenger. With a maximum standard passenger complement of 2000, this works out to a 45.5 space ratio. By comparisons, some cruise ships have a ratio as low as 29; while the super luxury ships like those of the SilverSeas line can run to a ratio of more than 60. Since the standard cabins on most of the larger (1200+ passenger) ships tend to be about the same size; from 175 to 195 square feet, the larger area means that the public spaces on a high space ratio ship like Infinity and its three sister ships; Millennium, Summit and Constellation, are larger, and there are more of them. The consequence for the passengers is a feeling of spaciousness and luxury. As on most ships this size, Decks 6, 7, 8 and 9 of Infinity are almost entirely devoted to cabins, as are Deck 2 and part of Deck 3. Deck 10 is the usual pool deck and buffet deck, Decks 11 and 12 are walking decks and sports decks, with the highest deck featuring a large lounge-night club forward with excellent views. Deck 3 is the deck with the "front desk", bank and excursion office, movie theater and meeting rooms. Decks 4 and 5 have the main theater forward and the main dining room aft, with the shops, casino, lounges, photo gallery and the like between the theater and the dining room. Nowadays alternative dining rooms are found at various levels, and the United States, which is Infinity's luxury alternative dining room is on Deck 3. Celebrity puts its children's center at the aft end of Deck 11, almost completely out of sight and sound. But then Celebrity does not normally cater to children, and there have seldom been more that 15 or 20 on the cruises we have taken with them. We try to walk a lot while on board, using the stairs for almost all occasions, and Deck 7 and 8 close to midship is probably the most convenient location and one I try for when booking, although we had no choice but Deck 6 on this trip. But no matter what your desires may be, these are big ships, close to 900 feet long, and you are going to do some hoofing, like it or not. Monday - Thursday Sea Days These were definitely "sea" days, with strong winds up to 45 knots and 8 foot swells. While Edith and I were not bothered, we heard that some people were seasick, and we saw a lot of patches to prevent mal de mer. At times the waves in the pools were extreme, even in the Thalassotherapy pool. You could almost body surf from one end to the other, and since this pool is covered and heated, it was fun. Out on our balcony we had salt sea spray for a definite ocean feel. On the whole, we found no inconvenience and a nice "sailor's" atmosphere. It was chilly outside, and there was little use of the regular outside poolside deck chairs, but since we don't indulge in this form of relaxation, we did not care. The Library We immediately noticed one change on board. Celebrity decided to provide a full time librarian, the first we have seen on any cruise. This was a very nice touch, and Erin was both good and enthusiastic in her job. Celebrity deserves high marks for this addition. Prior to this, the job was assigned to other employees, often dancers or other entertainers, and their schedules and backgrounds were not conducive to providing support. Erin also ran daily programs for those interested in books, including one dedicated to mystery writers which I greatly enjoyed and which was well attended. Daily Shipboard Activities We noticed that there seemed to be a larger number of daily informational programs, called the "Discoveries Enrichment Series" There were usually about 5 scattered through the day. At least two were conducted by naturalists on the Islands, their wildlife and sea life. There was one series on the events surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor by a gentleman with a distinct viewpoint on the politics involved. Neither Edith or I attended, but Tony from our table really enjoyed him. There also was a lady of Hawaiian descent talking about the history of the Islands, the hula (conducting "lessons") and an introduction to the Hawaiian language. While we did not attend all the nature talks, we went to a number of them and found the speakers very well qualified and enlightening. Celebrity appeared to be extending the number and scope of this series from prior cruises and is to be encouraged in this. Aside from that, there were the usual array of "sports" activities, trivia contests, bingo, art auctions, jewelry seminars, spa information promotion talks, and port shopping talks. There were a few free exercise classes in the gym and dance classes. We attended one stretch class and were the only ones there. Despite this, the instructor held the class, even though it was on one of the rough early sea days. This was in contrast to Princess, where the instructor cancelled a class where three of us showed up on the grounds the sea was too high. And this was on Regal Princess where the gym was on the 2nd deck with sea motion barely perceptible. Credit should be given to Celebrity for serving the interests of the passengers, not the crew! There was usually at least one movie per day. Entertainment The entertainment was standard for all cruises on larger ships, but the big shows were better than on most trips we have taken. Celebrity always has a quartet playing show tunes or semi-classical music. This one was the Rainbow Quartet and while doing a very nice job, leaned to show tunes without any of the light classical music occasionally played by the Enigma Quartet which we greatly enjoyed on our Millennium and Mercury cruises. These quartets often play in the Cova Cafe de Milano, and area on Deck 5 which often offered pastries (free) as well as a broad coffee selection in a very pleasant environment. We did notice that the servers would ask once if you wanted anything to drink, and if you waved them off, that was it. You were never bothered or made to feel that you really should have ordered that "Drink of the Day" advertised in the daily ship's news letter. There also was a dance band, a pianist and the "Black and White Duo" playing dance music before dinner each day in the Rendez-Vous (sic) lounge near the main dining hall. We felt that they leaned to the country and honky-tonk too much, and were not the best we had heard compared to other trips. We missed our lovely Amanda; Mary Amanda Fairchild; the harpist from Millennium. On a cruise of this length there were four production shows. As Captain's Club members, we were invited to a backstage tour, which was interrupted when one of the movable dance band stages slid across the main stage, due to the high seas, into another portable stage containing the grand piano. This limited our tour a little since our guide, who was the production manager for all events in the main theater, had to secure things quickly. But he did have time to tell us about the production shows. They are contracted for by Celebrity from a firm which puts them together for cruise lines and perhaps other venues. They cost about $1 million each, so they are kept in the cruise line repertoire for five or six years. This means that if you cruise the same lines frequently, you will see the same shows, although usually with different performers. So Edith and I had seen all four of these big shows on Millennium and on our prior Infinity cruise. Nonetheless, we do find these "Las Vegas" style shows enjoyable. The casts are fairly small with five "leads", who are basically singers and 12 "singers and dancers" who are largely dancers. This provides a fairly cozy feel, and the sense that you actually know the individual performers after one or two shows. The other Celebrity Theater shows had a variety of different acts. They included a magician/musician, Garin Bader, whom we had seen on an earlier cruise and who is pretty entertaining and talented; a comedian who we skipped as usual; and a singer, David McClaine, who had a decent repertoire, and who was not nearly as loud as the singer on Regal Princess who drove us from the room. There also was a musician with an unusual instrument, a sort of electrified zither, who was fairly entertaining. And on one of the island days a group of local entertainers, mostly hula dancers, from ages about four years old up, came on board to put on their semi-professional act. The Celebrity Theater holds about 900 with comfortable seats, good sight lines from virtually all seats, and the ability to stage almost anything. The shows as always were hosted by the Cruise Director, Don Fluke, who was very pleasant and informative, with no attempts to be a comedian; which was appreciated. You cannot expect true Broadway or Las Vegas caliber shows on a cruise ship; but within the framework of this type of venue, the entertainment was quite good. The Princess cruise shows we have seen on two cruises were about equal in quality, and the entertainment on both of these lines were superior to our single experience with Carnival and far above our one Norwegian trip. We look forward to Veendam in March and Serenity in September; with Galaxy in between in May. Cuisine and the Dining Venues This has always been a Celebrity strong point, and it seemed to improve on this cruise. The main dining room is on two levels at the aft end of decks four and five, with a grand staircase connecting the two floors. We always choose the main, or early seating. I mentioned the smooth service and fine presentation on the first night, and this continued throughout the voyage. Celebrity always has a variety of vegetables, and they are always well prepared and presented. If a restaurant does its vegetables proud, then you can be sure the rest of the food will be prepared extremely well also. Cruise lines are traditionally limited in the variety of selections they can offer at any one meal, but with the addition of a vegetarian menu, the option of ordering steak or salmon on any evening and a wide range of appetizers, this is not a problem. And Celebrity never duplicates any menu items on any cruise, even its two week trips. In addition, this line has somehow arranged its table coverage so that the wait staff is not overworked and never appears rushed as they do on Princess. Adela had a chance to discuss food items with us and chat with us during and after every meal. Our assistant maitre d' also visited us every night and clearly was keeping track of things. We seldom include this individual in our tipping plan since they often appear to do nothing, but that was not the case, at least with our maitre d' on Infinity. Since everyone's taste in food differs, I will not include a recitation of my menu selections (although I did keep notes on each meal). Suffice to say that I was not disappointed with a single choice, and there were only a very few notes of dissatisfaction at our table for the entire trip among all ten of us. We also dined in the specialty restaurant, the United States, once again, and as on our first Infinity cruise, were delighted by the service as well as the meal. It costs $50.00 for two, and should be done at least once on every cruise on the four Millennium class ships which offer such a choice. We also think the buffet setup and quality on Celebrity is better than on any other ship. There are four separate buffet lines (although they are not all always opened up), so there is a minimum of delay. The food has some imagination, and is usually quite warm, if not exactly hot. Breakfasts have a fairly good selection, with usually about four fruits along with the usual selections. There is a separate omelet station. There is also a sushi bar open in the evenings, and a pizza station which makes its own pizzas on the spot. We had a spinach pizza one night which was delicious. Next to the Aqua Spa and Thalassotherapy pool is a special "Healthy foods" small buffet open for breakfast and lunch. We enjoyed the fresh papaya obtainable there (but probably only on Hawaiian trips). There is also an outside grill for those who cannot live without hamburgers or hot dogs. At dinner there is a set up for alternative dining in the buffet area, but we never tried this although we heard that it was nice. The meal components on Crystal, SilverSeas, Radisson, Oceania and Seabourn lines are all reported to be at the gourmet level. No large ship like Infinity can reach this level. But again, these luxury lines charge at least 50% more than Celebrity, which is no more expensive than Princess or Holland American and only slightly more than Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Carnival. But the food and service on Celebrity cannot be matched by Princess, NCL or Carnival. I cannot speak for Holland American (yet), but I have heard from those who have traveled RCI that it is not even close to Celebrity in food and food service. Shore Excursions The most salient factor of shore excursions on this cruise was the simple but critical fact that Hawaii is in the United States. This meant that we could research all sorts of possibilities for excursions well in advance, and make arrangements by telephone or internet with ease and mutual understanding. The next factor is that every port, with the possible exception of Hilo, has a wide range of shore expedition choices. Celebrity supplied us with a slick, multi page brochure of all its sponsored shore excursions. We did not take one. In fact the only shore trip we bought was a snorkeling trip for me, purchased directly from the Pacific Whale Foundation for the internet price of a little over $68.00. Their trip was a double snorkel trip, the first part being to the island of Molokini, basically a small semicircle of a volcano top, off Maui; followed by lunch in the afternoon and a second dive on the ocean side of Lanai. This was a 7½ excursion, and quite a bargain as well as providing us with a truly wonderful diving experience at Molokini. The fish were plentiful at both sites, and the coral at Molokini was amazing in its color and variety. The internet provided a wide range of diving tours at almost every port. What we did was rent cars and travel on our own. Our plans to meet an old friend who had moved to Hilo were frustrated by the weather. The ship sailed into the harbor, but when past the breakwater was actually tossed against the pier by a severe sea which came in over the breakwater. Then the Captain was apparently informed that the weather would get worse, so he turned around and sailed away without docking, leaving my friend John waiting for me on the pier. We simply sailed around the Big Island to Kailua-Kona on the leeward side, arriving in the evening instead of the next day. We though we could tender in and check on our rental car arrangements, but after waiting by the tenders for an hour or so, we were told that the lights at the tender pier were not sufficient to allow us to land, and that the Coast Guard barred any tendering. The Big Island - First Pass The next day we drove our rental car clear across the Big Island, through the delightful town of Waimae and into Hilo, which we explored on foot. We saw that the waves were still very high, and auto travel was barred on the bay front street. Hilo is a quaint town, with stores from the 50s and a busy farmer's market. We ate at a very nice restaurant called Kaikodo, which we located by accident, located at 60 Keawe Street, a block up from the waterfront and a block down from the Federal Courthouse and Post Office. Traveling by car in Hawaii is not rapid since the only four lane roads are a brief stretch on Maui and on Oahu. The speed limit on the Big Island is 55 mph, with many stretches lower than that. We found out later that most if not all Hawaii police forces do not use regular, publicly owned official police cars, but have the police officers drive whatever car they choose to buy and run at public expense, and furnish it with a blue light for the top as its sole designation that it is a police vehicle. So you really have to watch the limits. The rental cost was not high, but the gasoline charge was, and gas is very expensive on the islands, about 40 cents more than even California. We heard on a local television show that the actual cost of transporting gas to Hawaii is only about 6 or 7 cents a gallon, so the gas companies are raking it in. Maui Our next port was Lahaina and we used our cell phone to call the rental agency, which told us the van was on the way to pick us up and take us to the airport. Cell phones work well here. We drove up Mount Haleakala, over 10,000 feet of twisting but good roads. A favorite tour is to ride a bike down after being driven to the top, but we saw several people biking all the way up, and a few who we saw made it to the top. The diversity of Hawaii is surprising. As you go through different elevations the scenery changes. At about 3000 feet it looked like New England with deciduous trees, rolling hills and lots of cows. Hawaii is great for livestock. The views into the crater on Haleakala are good, and we could see the top of both Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island 80 miles to the south. This is a highly recommended trip, especially in your own vehicle. We looked all over Halakeala for the state bird, the endangered nene, which looks like a small goose, but found none. Towns along the north coast were well developed and looked like southern California. Real estate prices are sky high, especially on Maui. The ship stayed overnight in Lahaina, and the next day was my snorkel trip described above. Edith wandered around Lahaina which she reported to be hot and totally tourist oriented, nowhere nearly as interesting as the real Hawaiian towns we had seen the prior day. A lot of people went to a typical staged luau, which includes a show. The reviews were mixed, but most thought is was pretty expensive for what you got, especially since the ship put on the same type of polynesian show as its regular offering, and there is of course no charge for that. There is a trip called "The road to Hana" which involves a long drive around Haleakela through a semi-tropical area with true "South Pacific" hidden valleys and waterfalls. If you have your own transportation, you can probably enjoy it on the first day, since there is no worry about getting back to the ship on any time schedule. Infinity is very good about allowing early diners eat at the late seating on these nights. We plan on this trip on our next visit. Kauai Kauai, the next stop, is a truly beautiful island. There are two major areas to visit here. One is the Waimea area on the west side of the island, and the other is the Hanalei district on the north coast which is basically a seashore of reported beauty. The Waimea trip involves driving up a ridge with a beautiful canyon on one side, called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and a series of ridges running down to the Na Pali coast on the west. We chose the Waimea trip, and drove our rental car west out of Lihue, the port town, on Route 50 through small towns on the south coast and then turned north. The road is actually an inverted Y, with two roads up joining together after a few miles. We recommend taking the 2nd, westernmost road up because it is much easier to spot from the road you are on. This road is Route 550 and is marked. There were low lying clouds which barred our view west to the coast, but about halfway up is a lookout point with a large parking area clearly labeled as the Waimea Canyon Lookout. This is a good vantage point for the canyon, and we enjoyed the view. It does look a little like our own Arizona Grand Canyon in terms of colors, We spotted a feral goat about 400-feet below us and could clearly hear his neighing in the quiet air. This lookout place is as high as the tour buses go. We drove on to the next to highest spot, Kalalau Lookout, which would have provided a view down to the western coast except that it was covered with clouds, a frequent occurrence probably. We then walked up a road to the east, closed to auto traffic, to the Puu O Kila Lookout, through drizzling rain. We could not see much and started back when we ran into two fellow passengers from Infinity. The man lives in Maui and was showing his girl friend around the islands. They were going to walk down a trail, So we went back for another look. As the clouds cleared away to the east and south and we could suddenly see all the way down the Waimea Canyon to the shore on the south coast about 15 miles away. Then, in just a couple of minutes, the clouds closed in again, and the view was lost. Of course you have to remember that across this canyon to the east is another range which creates the highest annual rainfall, over 450 inches a year average, on the face of the earth. We returned and where the road branched off, took the eastern route which was shorter, but provided a number of good coastal views. This is a tour to be taken if you have a chance, and can be done with much more freedom and at lower cost in a rental car. On the way back, and close to the main town of Lihue we stopped at a large Trading Post at a stoplight. This place also was a Museum for the necklaces made by the native Hawaiians who are the only residents of the private island of Ni'ihau, which is located about 12 miles northwest of Kauia, and clearly visible on our trip down the canyon. These necklaces are made from tiny, flower shaped seashells found only on the shores of that island. They are extremely beautiful, but very costly, with some marvelous specimens in the museum costing up to $6,000.00; and standard strands starting at $150.00. Like our Navajo rugs, the museum specimens usually had the names of the makers attached. Despite the clouds we thought the Waimea Canyon trip was just great, and we thought Kauai was a marvelous place. Oahu and Honolulu We then sailed to Honolulu, where we would have an overnight stay on the ship before debarking on Thanksgiving Day. So on Wednesday we left the ship and walked around the downtown area near the pier for a few blocks before we caught a city bus to the Waikiki area. Seniors showing Medicare cards, I had mine of course, but Edith is still too young for one, get to travel for half price, that is $1.00. We continued past the east end of Waikiki Beach (it is about two miles in length) to the Honolulu Zoo, which is just below Diamondhead. There we saw a lot of nene in a fine exhibit area. We walked back along the beach to the Parc Waikiki Hotel where we would be staying, and had a very nice lunch, with an extremely pleasant and helpful waitress. Since Honolulu is a pretty good sized city, about 800,000; and has only one freeway, we stopped at our hotel desk to get directions from the airport where we would pick up our rental car the next day. They had the directions on a printed card. We traveled back by bus to a small but very authentic and somewhat exotic Chinatown near downtown, and walked back through it to the ship's pier. We had a special party that afternoon for Select and Elite Captain's Club members (five and more Celebrity cruises) which was attended by perhaps 15 couples and gave us a chance to have a nice chat with some staff members. Debarkation was quite relaxed since we had priority treatment again as Captain's Club members, and had no plane or tour to catch. Even more relaxed were Bill and Pat from our table who were not leaving the ship at all, but proceeding back to the states on board for a round trip. Our priority status also gave us a separate baggage area which let us get on an airport bus to pick up our rental car without waiting in a very long line in the pier building. We again rented a car and drove across Oahu to the northwest coast. We detoured to drive around Schofield Barracks, the Army Post featured in the novel, and subsequent movie, From Here to Eternity. The old post barracks are attractive and functional at the same time. They exemplify Army efficiency when it is really working well. We hoped to see good surfers at work on the northeast coast with its famous Banzai Pipeline waves at Sunset Beach, but there were very few waves at all, so this was disappointing. Oahu is roughly square, trailing off to the south east, so that there is a southwest coast, a northwest coast, a northeast coast and a south coast with Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Waikiki and Diamondhead all in a row. We drove clear down the north east coast and through a tunnel south back to Honolulu. Since many cruisers will stay an extra day or so in Honolulu, it is appropriate to describe in our ports of call section of this review. A prime attraction is the USS Arizona Pearl Harbor Memorial. It is a U.S. Navy facility and operation, and is free and open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Do not bring any bags, even handbags or camera bags. Photos are permitted, its the bags that are seen as security risks. You line up for tickets and are given (not sold) a ticket for a specific tour in first come-first served order. The trips out to the Memorial across the harbor towards Ford Island are by navy run tenders, and they stop at about 4:00 in the afternoon. Since the number of people allowed on the Memorial is strictly limited by its size, unless you get there early, you may not be able to get a ticket. There is a small museum on land which can be visited freely at any time. We were a little late on Friday morning, and had not brought hats or sunscreen. So we decided not to wait, and to come back later. We went back at about 1:30 or 2:00 to see no line, but to find out that there were no more tickets available either. So our attempts to see them memorial were a failure, although we did enjoy the museum, which I enjoyed since I distinctly recall being the first in my family to hear the radio newscast that we had been attacked and telling my family who were reading the Sunday newspapers. The shopping on Waikiki is amazing. There are more stores, and more high end shopping than any place I have ever been except New York City. Since this was the start of the Christmas season, the stores were all open to 10:00 and jammed with customers, a substantial number of whom were apparently Japanese, and who were freely buying. But there were obviously a goodly number of locals and mainland tourists as well. The beach itself is not bad at all. The surf was not high here either, but the water, as in all the islands, is extremely clean, clear and pleasant for swimming. Traffic in Honolulu is bad, and driving is not much fun, but we got used to it in two days. One way streets are a special problem, and it is not always clear how you get onto the single in town freeway, H1, or where the exits will take you. If you shop at only one place in all the Islands, this place is Baileys Antiques and Aloha Shirts, Inc. This is a crowded, funky, marvelous store with more aloha shirts than you could imagine, including not only decently priced contemporary ones, but shirts from the 1940s running $150.00 and more. It is located at 517 Kapahulu Avenue, which is also the street fronting the Zoo, and is 90° to Kalakaua Avenue, the main street running along Waikiki beach to Diamondhead. I left my credit card at the store on my way out of town, and called them from the airport. They had found it and at my request, mailed it to our time share in Kailua. Like many places in the Islands, we found the tradespeople at Bailey's to be extremely friendly and pleasant, and rather laid back rather than frantically trying to sell you things. Of course there are a number of Hilo Hattie's, the trademark Hawaiian wear store chain. They carry a lot of decent quality merchandise without being terribly expensive, and would be our next choice for shopping. We ate at two good restaurants outside the hotel. One was the Sunset Grill in Restaurant Row, about halfway from downtown to Waikiki, and Kincaids, which is actually a chain restaurant, in a shopping center just west of Waikiki. Edith had a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner at the Sunset Grill, but, as in just about everyplace we ate in Hawaii, if they had fresh fish, that is what I chose, and in these two restaurants, with satisfaction. We drove around Diamondhead, but the timing did not work out well for climbing it, which we understand is spectacular if you get to the top at sunrise or sunset. The Big Island Revisited After Oahu, we went back to the Big Island for a week's stay at a nice timeshare about a mile from the main part of Kailua. If you cruise there, and can take a trip to the town of Waimea, we recommend seeing the Parker Ranch Historic house. This was once the largest cattle ranch in the United States, and still may be, although it is no longer owned by any member of the family. The original Parker jumped ship in 1809 and a few years later married the niece of the warrior King Kamehameha who united the Islands by defeating all of the local kings and chiefs in a series of bloody wars, and established the Hawaiian monarchy which lasted until the end of the 19th century. The photos of the Parker family are fascinating. Also worth visiting are the coffee plantations and a coffee cooperative on the Naapoopoo road to Kealakekua Bay near Captain Cook, south of Kailua on Highway 11. The Bay itself has good snorkeling. For body surfing there is a good although very small beach called White Sands Beach, or Disappearing Beach about 3-4 miles south of Kailua on Alii Drive, near a supposedly very good restaurant called Jamison's. It is called "Disappearing Beach" because the sands wash away each winter, and return each spring. The first day I was there, the surf was up and body surfing was great. Also, in Kailua, in the Safeway shopping center, is a restaurant that everyone, with good reason, recommends, with the unlikely name of Oodles of Noodles. Don't let the name or location put you off. It is delightful, had excellent food, and is reasonably priced. We also ate at Huggo's (that's correct, two "g"s) near downtown Kailua. The setting was just great, we sat outside on a porch area overlooking the bay with the waves slapping the rocks beneath us, and the service was excellent. But I thought the meal left something to be desired. It did not touch the delicious ono I had a few days earlier at a very unpretentious restaurant in the tourist area just near the tender pier. I think it was called the Galley, and was upstairs. Edith did not like the lasagna there however; but I guess you should not expect great Italian food at a seafood restaurant. Aside from this, the great attraction on the Big Island is the volcano, but it was not erupting and since it is a 90 mile drive from Kailua, we did not bother to try it. We also visited a friend who was staying at one of the very high end resorts on the Kohala Coast. The Big Island, like Oahu, is roughly square, with a long Kona coast on the southwest side. Kailua is often called Kailua-Kona for that reason. The Kohala coast is very barren except for these resorts, which are pretty much self contained, with no true towns very close by. The windward, or north east side is quite extensive, including the Hilo area. It is also subtropical and gets a huge amount of rain, 150 inches a year being typical of Hilo, whereas the Kohala and Kona coasts only get from 6 to 10 inches. The reason for this is that the big mountains, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, separate the windward from the leeward sides, and the prevailing winds running into these huge mountains, drop all their moisture on the windward side. The south east coast is basically the side of Mauna Loa, with its volcano offshoot, the Kileaua Caldera about two-thirds of the way down at 4000 feet sending its lava flow, when flowing, into the sea. To get from one side to the other there are three routes, one through the Volcano National Park past the Kileaua Caldera; one up north through Waimea, and one between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, called the Saddle Road, which is forbidden to rental cars even though it is entirely passable according to reviews I have read. The Waimea route is so pleasant that I would see no reason to try the Saddle Road unless both peaks were clear of clouds, in which case it might be spectacular. Or you could rent a four wheel drive for lots of money and really go road trekking! Hawaii Overall as a Cruise Destination The islands have a wide variety of topography, and a wealth of attractions. There are a host of activities geared to the tourist trade which by now is the greatest source of income, the sugar and pineapple cultivation industry largely having moved away. There are also a great many books available everywhere, covering all possible aspects of what is really a rather small state. The weather never changes much, with winter being considered the rainy season and summer the dry. But these terms are relative, since location counts more than time, and no weather system stays around too long - everything blows through in a day or so. It is strange to hear a weather reporter on a local station describe a morning temperature of 60° as "nippy". The only problem is choosing among the various attractions, with six or seven choices at most locations. In addition, this is the easiest place to avoid the high cost of cruise sponsored tours since there is a lot of competition, rental cars are cheap (although gas is not), and directions are in English. Well sort of in English - Hawaiian street names are difficult to pronounce and remember; and signs are not always as informative as they should be. Public transit in Honolulu is excellent, and while available, sporadic in the smaller islands. Food is California priced; that is, higher than most places outside New York, and not really too outrageous. Of course the tendency is not to dine extensively on land since you can return to great food on the ship; but daytime shore excursions often mean land lunches. With a good set of maps, some advance research, and a spirit of adventure, you can really have a great time in this beautiful place. We did, and we are seriously planning doing the whole cruise over again next November and seeing what we did not have the chance to see this trip. Overall Experience This was an excellent cruise. We felt that Celebrity had moved its service and food up a notch from its prior very high ranking. We liked their touches beginning with escorting you to your cabin on arrival. We enjoyed having the daily news sheets with world news and sports, delivered to our suite, but available for every one and in several languages at the Guest Relations area. We loved the concept of having a librarian, and appreciated the staff's willingness to conduct exercise classes for two people. We were delighted by the enthusiastic cooperation of the dining room staff in assisting our birthday party for our waitress. We admired the special service in the United States Dining Room; the excellent stateroom care and the overall appearance of the ship. We greatly enjoyed the relaxed entertainment in the quiet and delightful Cafe Cove de Milano. We know that there were people who were not as pleased with the cruise as we were, but we think that perhaps their expectations might have been different. We know that the husband in one of our table groups was not nearly as pleased with the excursions that his wife loved, but we can hardly put the blame for that on Celebrity. There are always things that come up that could have been better. We were a little miffed with the confusion and eventual failure to allow tendering into Kailua-Kona after our forced abandonment of the landing in Hilo; but this was really a factor of weather. Nobody really enjoys tendering, but with large cruise ships there is no other choice in many ports. It would be impossible to suit the entertainment standards of all passengers. After all, I would prefer classical music, opera and real ballet; but this would be an unrealistic expectation. As standard cruise type entertainment goes, this cruise was again a touch above other Celebrity cruises, and much better than any comparable line. We feel the best individual performers we have had were Lindsey Hamilton, a soprano who had played West End shows in London, and who entertained in Celebrity Theater shows on Mercury around Cap e Horn, and Amanda Fairchild, the harpist on Millennium for our Mediterranean cruise; but the overall level was very high on this cruise. Within the limitations of providing for the general level of taste and expectations of 2000 people, Celebrity does a very fine job, and better than any other line in its major ship category. We think that every cruise line we have been on, including Celebrity, could do a better job with its daily programs, but we are not sure exactly how. This trip was one of the best for the lectures on the ports to be visited and the conditions, wildlife and customs to be expected on shore; better than on any other Celebrity trip, so perhaps there is improvement in that facet of passenger enrichment. For the first time ever on any cruise, we thought that the formal portrait actually looked like us, and we bought it. We have already noted our dissatisfaction with Celebrity's arrangements for getting us to San Diego, and there were some problems with the buses carrying people to Ensenada. I would guess that this problem is more a factor of the ports selected for embarkation than anything else, and there may be little choice; although there were clear choices on air transportation between Phoenix and San Diego. We should have done our own air purchases, and bought separate airport to ship transportation vouchers at both ends of the trip. Hawaii is worth seeing, and if you have never been there, a cruise like this is a great way to get to know the islands in a relaxed and reasonably informative way. If you are going to do it, do it on Infinity. Read Less
Sail Date November 2003
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