Going First Class in the Penthouse 1616: Celebrity Solstice Cruise Review by svnseas

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Going First Class in the Penthouse 1616

Sail Date: September 2013
Destination: Hawaii
Embarkation: Ensenada
By way of introduction, we are a couple in our mid-80’s who bemoan the loss of consideration, politeness and gentility that so marks these times. My wife suffers from dementia so that the addition of a third party to share the care of Alice was both welcomed and important to our overall enjoyment of the cruise. We are not, by nature, gregarious people but did find several dear friends earlier on the Cruise Critic website who enhanced our joy.

The Embarkation at Ensenada:

We were delighted to receive a personal telephone call on the Sunday prior from Diego”, who assured us that all had been prepared. Unfortunately, his careful planning fell apart at the hands of Mexican Immigration. Both vans of our caravan (carrying ourselves and the other Penthouse occupants) and another private vehicle arrived almost simultaneously at the Gate of Ensenada Seaport. Despite our pleas that all had been planned for us to proceed directly to the ship, we were all forced to More fill out some Immigration Forms, unload our luggage and then proceed to an awaiting van operated by the Mexican authorities. Our luggage was then piled in all the available space in the aisles, between seats, etc. for the 200 yard trip from Gate to Ship.

We had expected to be among the very few first people embarking so early; however as we were proceeding to the ship three of the Celebrity busses drove up and occupied the usual unloading area. Our van was told to park several hundred feet away at a more isolated area and we were told to carry our own luggage back to the now crowded unloading area. With three bags and a hand luggage, this was becoming a difficult problem for Alice and myself when I finally rested a moment en route " looking for some target to aim at. At that point, Mario, of the ship’s crew, took us under his wing, had handlers take care of our luggage (using the xray machine for hand baggage) and instructing that they be taken directly to Room 1616. Mario then arranged to have someone escort us to the stateroom. Our friend got lost in the crowd and had her luggage delivered to the stateroom while we were at dinner around 7:00PM. I heard the other Penthouse couple say, "We are not used to travelling like this!” but I was much to concerned about Alice and myself to bother myself with naught but ourselves.

In a few words, the Embarkation took on all the aspects of a Chinese Fire Drill " however once Celebrity returned to the picture all was handled with the care and service we truly expected.

The Penthouse:

Although I had seen pictures and movies of the stateroom, I was entirely in awe as all unfolded before me. I had expected some evidence of deterioration, etc after several years of hard service " in both stateroom and general areas of the ship " but was pleasantly surprised at how well everything has been maintained. In all aspects, the appearance, décor, and general condition belie her years of service. We had the Klaviarpiano playing shortly with our disks and " wonder of wonders " found that Hendrick’s Gin was included in the room and on board in addition to Bombay Sapphire. Since this had been consideration that I most regretted loss while on cruise, I was delighted that even this small loss of pleasure was no longer denied and supplied a lot of en suite entertainments. Nice.

Captain’s Club and Elite Status:

We were invited to the Senior Officer’s Table on the second night because we had opted for early dining throughout the trip. The event was in all respects akin to what is usually expected at such a celebration. However, because the shape of the table and high noise level in the room, it was impossible to carry on a conversation with anyone more than one person removed. We nonetheless enjoyed the evening which allowed the ladies to don their most chic evening wear for the event.

We used few of the perks offered to Elite .. never attending the morning breakfasts and evening gathering of the Captain’s Club Elite. Our most favorite times on board were the casual en suite breakfasts which could be enjoyed in our robes. I usually went up to the buffet just before six AM to return to the cabin with coffee and Danish " to be enjoyed on the veranda to watch the sunrise. Breakfast was served about 7:30AM.

While I have my own personal rule not to eat dinner out in any short sleeved shirt and, on this cruise, often wore a light jacket or dressy long-sleeve shirt when dining in the restaurants. It did dismay me that all too often people show little or no regard for others " arriving for dinner in much less formal attire  even reducing their efforts to a previously worn white T-shirt. One such woman coyly boasted on her shirt "I was born in a Brewery!”  a motto not much needed due to her girth and otherwise slovenly appearance.

It is regrettable that many of the niceties of past times are forever lost " however I do commend Celebrity that while it must seek out cruisers of all sorts and financial stations, there were always islands of gentility available. In fact, it is amazing at how many different types are so well accommodated on Celebrity. It is equally amazing that with a full complement of passengers there were seldom times that we felt the least bit crowded in the variety of public rooms available.

Priority Embarkation and Debarkation:

Our one suggestion is that you devise some manner in which Elite passengers can avoid the long lines to get off and get on board ship. Fortunately, we were able to make our way towards the front of the lines " usually by commenting upon our Penthouse status " but running such interference ahead of long line does little to assure the more timid of such access and does a lot towards personal anger of others in the line. I would suggest a separate entry, suitably labeled, for Elite and suite Passengers, that would enable those in that category to proceed to a separate line which then merges with access to the gangway or tender. If nothing else, such an arrangement would certainly inspire many to consider such upgrades on future cruises.

The Restaurants:

We did not visit all the food establishments. Of those we did, we find that Blu was by far the most satisfying and appealing to us. Our two dinners in Tuscan Grille were also a delight with especially fine service. Our dinner at the Silken Garden on the first night was a disaster " at least for me personally, I am especially fond of Sushi and Sashimi and tripled ordered when I found them on the menu = preferring good raw fish to an entrée. However, the Tuna and Salmon Sashimi served can only be described as lightly colored cardpaper " with a texture and taste concomitant thereto. Better remove these items from the menu than mislead your guests.

However, that single service aside, the meals were generally well prepared and presented .. the roast pork chop being exceptionally fine. The special brunch featuring ice sculptures was such a melee of people " thronging with loaded plates " that my wife and guest sought relief elsewhere with little improvement.

The Bars:

Without doubt, Raoul in the Sunset Bar was my favorite bartender and my favorite hangout. I had presupposed that I would spend my time at the Martini Bar and went there first on our first evening. However, I found it loud, disturbing, riotous and without decorum " so we never visited it again. There is no doubt as to its appeal to some. We were fortunate to find the Ensemble Lounge a perfect spot for our pre-dinner cocktail. The String Trio there was also a draw as was the very personal attention of the bar tender.

In Summary:

We enjoyed a totally delightful cruise to Hawaii " no doubt more to the luxury and ease of the Penthouse Suite than to all the many other activities offered. We never got to wet our toes in the pool, nor basked in the sun, or use the spa (we have such niceties in our home in Southern California) and never saw the Glass Show. We attended only a very few lectures, etc. preferring to host a cocktail party or entertainment in the Penthouse.

The expanse of the Penthouse made us feel that is was a retreat from all the hustle and bustle outside " offering a second home with tranquility and peace of mind. I seriously doubt, after being in one, that I would ever consider even a Royal Suite for any future cruise  such was my joy and contentment.

My one last comment on Hawai`I in general is that with the exception of Moloka`i it reminds one of the dry stretches of Southern Calilfornia with a similar touristy flavor. Our highlight excursion was the heli-tour of Maui and Moloka`I - seconded by a 2-hour tour of Honolulu Pedicab operated by one man for $50 - the rest was Disneyland surrounded by water. Less

Published 10/19/13
1 Helpful Vote

Cabin review:

Excellent accommodation - beyond our expectations. A real retreat from the rest of the ship and ideal place to entertain old and new friends.

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