Turning 50 is one of those big milestones in your life that deserve to be celebrated. So, I found what I thought to be the perfect way to do that for my Wife..."Deanna's Hawaii 5-0 Cruise" on the Celebrity Solstice!
We had cruised with Celebrity once before (Auckland to Hawaii in 2008) and enjoyed a fantastic time so we had high expectations of this newer & much larger ship...and we weren't disappointed!
Everything about it from the service to the food, the staff to the facilities and the entertainment to the bars & restaurants was truly EXCELLENT!
I can't thank our Travel Agent Andrea West (www.luxuriousjourneys.com) enough for helping us (& our two Aussie friends) get the best possible deal (including ALL beverages!) and the ideal room on board. I highly recommend her service to anyone considering a cruise!
Boarding in Honolulu was fairly easy and didn't take that long. As the ship stayed in port that night, we took the opportunity to go shopping and then met up with our friends for cocktails at the "Aft Bar" high above the stern and watched the sunset over the harbour. That's where we met one of our favourite crew Mark (from Jamaica) who really made us feel welcome and poured drinks the way we like them-STRONG :-) We had anytime dining so the 4 of us headed to the MDR around 8.30pm and had no trouble finding a table. The service & food was excellent every night that we dined there (4 of the 10 nights) and it really is a beautiful venue. We found a cool cocktail bar that had a bar top made of ICE where we enjoyed more cocktails & funky beats before we went to the nightclub & danced into the wee small hours...a pattern which we repeated for almost every night. (Here we made another friend in "Dani" from the Czech Republic who became our favourite barman & he really looked after us for the entire cruise)
The next day was more shopping & then we met up with our friends for "Maitais" at the "Royal Hawaiian" on Waikiki beach, where we stayed until 4.30pm and got back to the ship in time to make the sailing but sadly missed the lifeboat drill (NOT!)
It was then that I realized it was the first formal night and I had sent my tuxedo away for pressing that morning (thinking it was the next night) so it was a mad rush to get it back and I can't thank our room attendant Lyn enough for making that happen in time! It was this night that our friend Al found the place that was to become our favourite...the "Molecular Bar!" The two 'scientists' (the best way to describe them) made the most amazing cocktails we've ever had using ingredients that you would never believe would work. However, I learned a valuable lesson...only have ONE of their cocktails BEFORE dinner if you want to remember what you ate.
The first port of call was Lahaina on Maui and the tender process was well organised with no real wait time. It probably helped that we were late risers and had things to do before we went ashore (I went to the gym every morning, which was excellent. It even had a sauna in the changing room which I only discovered on day 5 of the cruise) and that we never use pre-booked excursions so there was no need to rush. We had researched the historic places to visit (the Wo Hing Museum is great) so it was a nice afternoon strolling about & just taking in the scenery. There are plenty of bars overlooking the ocean for a nice cold "Maitai" (it was quite hot that day) and the people are friendly & welcoming. To my credit cards regret, we discovered an "Outlet Centre" at the end of the main street with a great range of designer stores, so my Wife shopped up a storm again & we headed back to the ship having made a great contribution to the local economy.
The next port was "Hilo" on the Big Island and even though it was a wet, dreary day, it was another nice place to stroll around, after our taxi driver had taken us up to the impressive waterfall which was really roaring due to the rains. Here, we saw ladies with incredible skill creating beautiful feather lais and hat bands at the "Lyman Museum" along with other interesting displays depicting the islands history & culture. Well worth a visit.
The following day, our last port of call was "Kona" on the other side of the Big Island. This was my favourite destination. It helped that it turned out to be a gorgeous day and the vibe of the place was really great. Again, we sought out the historic places including a huge stone & timber church and directly opposite, the Royal Palace (a place for the royal family to get away from the mainland) which was hosted by a really nice group of volunteers who escorted the 4 of us throughout & explained all of the interesting facts about the history and the stunning collection of furniture/art it contains. The other places that are a 'must see' in Kona are the reconstructed temple of King Kamehameha and the art gallery inside the hotel behind it, with a series of incredible paintings that tell the story of how Hawaii came to be.
We ended our day ashore with a swim at the little beach by the temple (there a changing rooms, etc close by) and even without goggles, I could still see a multitude of fish around the rocks at the entrance to the little cove. Another thing that impressed me was the outrigger canoe school that was taking place on the same beach. Groups of young people were being taught how to paddle the canoes and off they would go out into the bay, one after the other. Certainly a great way to involve them in their culture and give them a fun experience, instead of play station or getting into mischief. Something our country should take note of.
From then on, it was 5 days at sea on the way to Vancouver. This is the part of the cruise that I really enjoy. No need to get up & be somewhere or do anything, unless you want to. Time to relax, read or do whatever takes your fancy...and the Solstice is well set up for that.
We pre-booked a speciality dining package which included 5 nights. 2 at "Tuscan Grille" 2 at "Silk Harvest" and one night at "Murano." We chose "Murano" for my Wife's Birthday and the others were booked around that. The staff at "Murano" are top notch. They really know what they are doing. From the time you arrive to the time you leave, you are made to feel special. I would go as far as saying that it is an entertainment experience in itself. But of course, it's also about THE FOOD. DELICIOUS!!! From the Lobster Tails & Chateau Briand cooked table side to the stunning desserts, it truly was spectacular!
We chose to pay to go again for our friend Shayle's birthday on the second to last night of the cruise & it was just as good as he first night...so ten out of ten for consistency!
"Tuscan Grille" was our next favourite. Again, wonderful service & amazing food! What I really enjoyed was the location. It' right at the end of the stern, with huge windows overlooking the ships wake. I highly recommend asking for a table by the windows.
"Silk Harvest" is the Asian fusion restaurant. I love Asian cuisine but while the food was enjoyable (& the service excellent) it could have had more flavour. I realize the need to cater for all tastes but frankly, if you don't like Asian cooking...just don't go. Those who enjoy the intense flavours of Asian cuisine should not have have their experience lessened to cater for those with less tolerant palates.
The "Ocean View Cafe" food court was also of a very high standard, with a huge range of different food stations to choose from, that morphed into something else throughout the day. They even had incredible Ice Sculptures!
There is also a healthy options cafe located near the fitness centre with smoothies & various other choices for those watching their waist lines.
The shows in the theatre were amazing! One was a compilation of famous Broadway Show Tunes and the other a similar show to "Cirque Du Soleil." A very talented group of singers, dancers & acrobats that I would gladly pay to see again.
The bands on board who performed in the various bars around the ship were great and they all combined for one big show in the theatre on the last night of the cruise. A great way to end what was a fantastic holiday on board Celebrity Solstice.
We will definitely sail with them again!
A nice room with plenty of storage for bags, clothes, etc. The bed was really comfortable and the sheets nice to sleep in. The balcony was of a good size and the furniture comfortable, too.The shower was lovely and the sliding doors make a good seal, preventing any water from splashing on to the floor.The tap would have been better if it was able to pivot, which would have allowed you to get closer to the basin & cut down on splashing on the floor while washing your face, shaving, etc.