We have travelled worldwide and vacationed a lot. But never cruised, For my 60th Birthday we decided we would try it. After considerable research and lots of friends recommending Holland America, Cunard, Princess, we opted for midsize ... Read More
We have travelled worldwide and vacationed a lot. But never cruised, For my 60th Birthday we decided we would try it. After considerable research and lots of friends recommending Holland America, Cunard, Princess, we opted for midsize luxury with Regent. I liked the all inclusive idea.
We added a 5 day land tour also booked with Regent which subsequently we regretted as it would have been better to do land tour first and end on a high of luxury cruise ship, rather than be disappointed even by 5 star hotels. and a bus with guide and others was not what we wanted. Next time we would still cruise with Regent but hire a car and do our own tour.
Regent booked and included flights from Orlando, met us in the Vancouver air baggage claim and that was last we saw of our bags until we reached our suite onboard. A private car took us from air to ship terminal.
The TSA were still there but were not as annoying as usual.
Champagne welcomed us on board, and as it is my favourite drink when mixed with cassis, Kir Royale,we started as it continued for 7 days, free booze throughout trip including wine with all meals.
The room was big with a balcony, I would not travel without one.
The service was exquisite.
We breakfasted in bed every day, and it was about 3 days before we got hang of order card so we ended up with 4 breakfasts every day for the 2 of us.
Scenery is fantastic on Inside Passage, and we saw whales, dolphins,seals, and went on some excursions which took us even closer to blue glaciers. All well organised, no queues as we were about 500 folk on a 700 ship.
This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the 1960's ... Read More
This was my very first cruise back in 1997. I noticed that they didn't show the port we embarked at which was Puerto Rico nor was they year available but I was determined to see St. Lucia's Marigot Bay where they filmed the 1960's version of 'Dr. Dolittle' with Rex Harrison (after attending 6 yrs of vet med and dreaming of becoming a doctor since I was 5 and when the movie came out...I was about 7 and knew it would be a veterinarian because of it lol.)
We drove from New Orleans to Miami to visit family before we fly to Puerto Rico to board. This went well enough but living in Vegas for a year...my first impression was that it was as gaudy as the casinos :P No matter. It was about the ports of call and although I felt like a kindergartener getting off a bus for a field trip...I was pleased by all the different places you could see in a 1 or 2 weeks on these things!
As bikers, we are used to a lot of freedom so being cramped in what we called a sardine can and having to dine at the same place at a certain time didn't appeal to us. Nor having to come in from play at certain times but all in all...the trip to St. Lucia with its Pitons, Harley rentals in Guadeloupe, and the spice island of Grenada (which also had a vet med there) was worth it (we didn't care for the us virgin islands or other places...we are rain forest, hiking trails, waterfall buffs. I had a beach house anyway so laying on a beach wasn't a vacation to me at that time).
I didn't cruise again until last year. Twice. Now it will be twice this year! I am gaining more knowledge on how to use the ship's facilities, book my own excursions if they are sold out or have nothing appealing, make sure we are in a large balcony at minimum, and dining alternatives (although the busy carpeting is an eye sore lol) and realizing the value of these types of vacations!!!! You can't stay at the holiday inn down the road and eat at fast food joints for these prices!! And really....although bikers will say that it is all about the journey....sometimes I'd prefer to dig the destinations :)))))
All in all...I wish I did these cruises more when I was younger. I am partial to carnival because of the king bed and a bit larger rooms but would like to try other ships. I believe for the value though...I'll always be loyal to Carnival :)
Hey it only seems a short time since I wrote our last review and here I am back to share more with you on our cruise on Azamara.
Since I last wrote, we are both one year older but still (if you will allow us) wish to consider ... Read More
Hey it only seems a short time since I wrote our last review and here I am back to share more with you on our cruise on Azamara.
Since I last wrote, we are both one year older but still (if you will allow us) wish to consider ourselves mid 50s, we are British so we do not cope with change too well so were stressing ourselves pre cruise - after ten trips with Celebrity why had we allowed a lovely future cruise consultant to convince us to try Azamara?
Pre cruise and embarkation
As always we did our own pre cruise arrangements so we flew out via Paris with Air France and enjoyed an excellent two days at The Fullerton in Singapore, right beside Merlion. Singapore is a very organized city, some might say antiseptic - it certainly was going to be our last port where we would see this type of environment for a while.
It was very easy embarking at Singapore (even if it did look like we were coming through a workman's hut to get there), our cases were immediately looked after by porters and the whole process was very straightforward. As we were in a suite it also included making arrangements for dining in Prime C on the first night. Non suite passengers were being given "timeslots" for the Main Dining Room.
Immediately on boarding it was clear that the smaller ship was going to have advantages - not sure if this was an advantage but I made a pledge to always use the stairs as it was only a maximum of 4 floors for us. Our Sky Suite was spotlessly clean, we did see our Butler aka Stateroom Attendant (whom we never saw again until the night he was hoping for an extra tip - we had prepaid our service charge in the holiday cost) and later the Senior Butler introduced himself. Two nice guys but both struggled to hit the standards we had enjoyed in Celebrity, but no big deal.
Nice touch on Azamara is the night time treats made by the pastry chefs left in the room for you and the afternoon canapEs had been replaced by lovely "tapas type" selections from Mosaic Cafe (Cova to those used to X!)
We quickly settled into a routine, we were sailing with friends - it was clear if we wanted to eat together and enjoy the Speciality Restaurant some planning was required so we made all our reservations (8 in total) for the whole trip. You need to make plans quickly if you want your chosen days so be warned, don't get into relaxed shipboard life until you get your plans made. Which restaurant was my favorite - that's an unfair question because they are both wonderful - excuse me drooling again I remember the Black Angus Steak in Prime C and the Sea Bass in Aqualina and the bad girls dessert - the Chocolate Fondue. Recommended service charge $5 per person is very fair. We did however notice when we ate as a group of 6 in Aqualina the service was slow, however when it was just two of us it was very slick.
The main dining room had a couple of bad days not in terms of food but very shamolic service, not in getting seated but after then. There were a lot of crew off sick and I think the others were just so stretched. The senior managers recognized the problems so no big issue - the bottle they sent over was very appreciated so I forget how long we waited each night but it was about 4 wine glasses long. Again we found eating as a 2 was handled far better than when we were a 6. That said, the quality of the food and presentation was very good indeed and we did feel it was lighter. The range of choices was very good with a whole page of staple choices available very night (steak; salmon; prawn cocktail; Caesar salad etc) as well as a menu that changed nightly
I am a sloth in the morning - sorry others say a Grouch, so we enjoyed breakfast in the room most days. We did venture to Windows Cafe a couple of times at breakfast, it was a bit crowded but there was a lovely lady making fab English muffins and I loved the granola yogurt and fresh fruit mmm
So overall I gorged my way round Asia and dreaded my home appointment with Mr Scales.
Activities and Entertainment
Shipboard activities were the usual, trivia, dance classes, bingo - what was a notch up was the enrichment series; it is an absolute must. Jonathon Fleming's introduction to each country - culture, history, key sights etc - was wonderful and as it was replayed on the stateroom tv you could fit in listening to him at a time to suit yourself.
Evening activities did not work for us as we tend to eat at around 8pm. With the slow service in the dining room (and our deliberate decision to enjoy the slower pace in the Speciality Restaurants) we never made the shows which tended to have 2130-2200 starts. There is everything of a large ship - just on a smaller scale, casino, bands in lounges, a disco and smaller revue shows.
Our ports of call
As we were overnighting in Singapore before an early afternoon sailaway we had the chance to do a trip on the morning of Day 2. The must do is take the Sentosa Skytrain (cablecar) the station is in the tower block beside the Cruise terminal. Sentosa Island is OK, but the big thing is you glide about 200 feet above your new home - and can get amazing aerial photos of the ship. Cost was about $30 (Singapore dollars) for the two of us and they took credit cards.
Anyway, the ever informative Captain Carl "I've doubled up and come down to two and one" Smith - that's the ropes he is talking about by the way, had us set sail and our adventure began. Immediately he was challenged by strong currents so it became a flat out run slightly bumpy at times to reach Laem Chabang (for Bangkok) in time.
So what of our excursions - on this trip when we had excursions we arranged them all through the cruiseline, we were not adventurous enough to go it alone as we usually do. Some of the guides were very good the others, particularly those in Hanoi and Hoi An were not well organized so time was wasted and we became self managing tours.
Bangkok - We did the Treasures of Bangkok trip. The journey into Bangkok took about 2 hours each way and the coach was very comfortable. We went to Happy Rooms - yes a new name for the holiday vocabulary - at very clean service stations. We had an excellent guide and were taken to Wat Trimit, the Temple of the Golden Buddha, known for its famous Golden Buddha which is 3m high and then on to Wat Po, the most extensive temple in Bangkok with its 15 meter long reclining Buddha. Thank goodness it was lunchtime, I had been exercising all morning take your left shoe off put your left shoe on take your other shoe off - you know the no shoe rule so do not wear lovely new white socks as dear husband did - no amount of power powder will clean them! Lunch was excellent, with a Thai buffet served on a converted rice barge as we cruised along the Chao Phraya River - this was a really good use of time. Later we visited King Rama V's favorite place, Vimanmek Palace. Unfortunately shopping was at a "jewelry store" - the cruise line had warned us about this in advance it seems it something they have no control of for this year but have made it known that this is not what is wanted.
Day 2 we went to the amazing Sanctuary of Truth, a wooded temple that has given employment for over 25 years to local crafts people but is still 15 years away from completion. It is hard to describe this place - but you can also leave your own bit of carving, so up top beam front building left you will find my scratch. On the way back out of Pattaya (seedy and not nice) we stopped at - you've guessed it - another branch of the jewelry store. If you want to shop in Thailand it is going to be tricky as the port is not near any shopping and the excursions do not give you any opportunity. Pattaya on your own does not really help as Pattaya is not a good place to find any shopping.
Sihanoukville - Many went on the long trip to Pnomh Penn and came back with good stories. We knew that we could not do too many long trips and decided to have a local day which gave us a good chance to explore locally. We took the ships shuttle (free) into town and then negotiated a Tuc Tuc for $5 to get to Sokhu Beach which has a good hotel. For $8 we were able to enjoy all the facilities including their private beach (no hawkers etc), nice loungers. It must be the best place to go as we met the Captain, Hotel Director and four other senior officers on the beach during our day there. Cambodia is a poor country, you will see sights that are not what westerners are used to and you probably will not want to eat much ashore. But it is worth every minute ashore
Ho Chi Minh City - We did the highlights tour and it was a really good value 5 hour trip with a good guide in which we saw all the main highlights. Although you will see lots of lovely buildings etc the fun of this place is the sights and sounds. Just count how many are on the motorbikes and see what is the most eccentric thing you see being carried on the back of the bikes - you will have dinner conversation material for the rest of the trip and beyond!!
Hoi An - Here it was Chinese New Years day. Again, the port in Da Nang has nothing near so we opted to see if we could find anything open further afield. We went on the Hoi An on your own trip. This is the best way to do Hoi An you have the advantage of the transport (local taxis are very scarce indeed) and a little input from the guide but then you are free to see all the sights on your own and all the places are well signed and have explanatory plaques. This is also an excellent shopping stop - mind you the lantern is going to be bigger than your case but that's another story and it is home ok honest!!
Hanoi - Again a 2 hour bus run from Halong Bay took us on the Hanoi Past and Present trip. This is another day when the shopping is not good - whilst it states shopping opportunities this is at the Service Station (overpriced) you stop at both ways for a rather long time. Good news - absolutely spotless Happy Rooms. Past and Present gives a really good overview of Hanoi including a visit to the "Hanoi Hilton" and a fun rickshaw/cyclo ride - individual seats and shut your eyes at the junction; remember red lights are only suggestions in Vietnam. Seriously though you really get the feel for the city in this half hour ride right at street level.
We had an overnight stop and the must do was the Day one trip we did to Halong Bay by boat. You can see why the Bay is being considered as one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. It is a very pleasant cruise around though be prepared for traders who rope up and hop onto the boats. The first words the little children learn there is not Mum or Dad but "One dollar". Just remember to have plenty one dollar bills with you (Guest Relations have loads as they know everyone will need them all this cruise) and the traders do give up quite quickly and move on to another boat.
Hong Kong - We were berthed on Hong Kong Island away from the centre so a free shuttle was put on to the ICF which was ideal as that was right by the subway and bus station. It is also by the 3 mile elevated walkway where you walk through office buildings and malls above street level - very pleasant. We did our own thing, took a bus to Aberdeen Hong Kong - the Aberdeen Scotland graduate had to see the other Aberdeen - and then we went up on the Peak Tram as the weather was clear. In Hong Kong you need to have flexible plans as there is no point going up the Peak unless it is clear - then you just have to go for it!! Getting around is so easy HK$50 for a 24 hour subway pass, great value and it is so efficient, clean and easy to get around. Ending the trip
Disembarkation was so easy - you stay in the comfort of your room until your code is called - you can listen via the ship TV - you go down, the officers shake hands with you and off you go. For us, it was 7 minutes from the code being called until we were in our taxi with our luggage where we were off to the Peninsula Hotel, a grand dame, bit expensive but an experience.
Well we don't do change, but we did and we enjoyed it. Azamara Quest is a good product, its got glitches, its report card against Celebrity does have some areas where it can improve particularly around the dining room and butler service but it is a great experience. We ventured to countries we would never have gone to without the comfort of our ship and we had our eyes opened. It was fun and we will be back on Azamara Quest in August - decision has been confirmed!
Oh and PS - the use the stairs only rule was met and with the healthier food served onboard the weight gain after two weeks of the feeding frenzy was ZERO!!!
This was our first cruise with Crystal and our fourth different cruise line. We chose this leg of their world cruise in order to visit cities where we had lived and worked during our careers. The cruise was March 15 through 27, and its ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Crystal and our fourth different cruise line. We chose this leg of their world cruise in order to visit cities where we had lived and worked during our careers. The cruise was March 15 through 27, and its route was Hong Kong - Chan May (Hue) - Saigon (overnight) - Laem Chabang (Bangkok)(overnight) - Koh Samui - Singapore (overnight). Our travel to and from the cruise was independent; we spent several days in Hong Kong before the cruise, and we travelled further in the region after disembarking.
Embarkation in Hong Kong: Boarding from the Marco Polo Hotel was painless. The bell boy just pulled our two suitcases from the hotel to the ship baggage area in Ocean Terminal. We were on board by 1230; our cabin would be available at 3. One piece of missing information for boarding for independent travellers is that you receive no instructions when and where to board. You also receive no contact instructions. My wife and I are well acquainted with Hong Kong, so we knew the ship would be at Ocean Terminal. We did not know the ship would be in port for two days; on its first day we just went to the ship security personnel at the gangplank and asked. They said that we could board any time after 12 noon the next day. Now, this information along with a contact phone number could easily have been added to the massive packet one receives from Crystal.
Some statistics: The ship can carry 1,080 passengers; we are ca 900 on the leg Hong Kong - Singapore (remember this is a round the world cruise, Los Angeles - Southampton in 104 days). I don't know how many got off in HK, but ca 500 boarded; 380 got off in Singapore. There are only 167 Crystal first time passengers. Around 400 are doing the entire world cruise. The story is that around 125 book the world cruise every year (seems that Crystal alternates this cruise between its two ships). The staff of 650 is from 45 countries with no one nationality predominating. Our stewardess (not cabin boy) was from Croatia. Our head waiter was Austrian, senior from Turkey, and junior from India. Our cabin with verandah was smaller than Holland-America, but it still had lots of nooks and crannies for storage. Room under the bed for suitcases. Two sinks in the bathroom. The usual TV, safe, fridge, robes and slippers, and an impractical, too large, Crystal tote bag (however, useful for taking dirty clothes to the laundry).
Fellow passengers: older and moneyed, and very international, although Americans were the majority. A guest list is published for each leg listing passenger and state or province (US or Canada), or country. I would categorize most of the men as either business or lawyers, with some medical persons. There were at least two retired generals. The passengers ranged from very pleasant and interesting to the very stupid and obnoxious, eg, Where is the capital of Viet Nam? Why do I have to use Baht in Thailand? On a large ship you don't necessarily have to be around the people you don't like. When you are only 900, the chances are better that you will meet them more than once. There were a few infants and children. While jewelry was not in short supply during the day, it really came out in the evenings. Formal nights also brought out elegant dresses and quite a variety of men's formal attire.
The ship: As it's smaller, it was easier to negotiate. Decks 5 and 6 were the public areas. Decks 7 through 11 were cabins. Deck 7 was no verandahs, 8 and 9 were verandahs, and 10 and 11 were penthouses. There are no inside cabins. Deck 12 was the pool, Lido, and the like. There are only three shops - all upscale - on board: two jewelry and one clothing. The clothing shop has a couple shelves of sundries, and that is it. There is no liquor store; there are special order forms if you do want to buy liquor. Like other cruise lines, there is artwork on board for sale. No auctions; you see something you like, contact the sales person. Period. In fact, the best example of the sense of the Serenity is that there are no public announcements. No count down to bingo, no art auction, no t-shirt sale. The captain comes on once a day from the bridge, gives the ship's location, maybe a comment about the day's activity (his welcome party, for example), and a "thought for the day." And that is it. All you need to know is in the daily newsletter/activity page; if you have a question, go to the front desk or ask the concierge. Crystal Lines assumes the passenger is intelligent and literate; he does not need to be told what activities there are. The ship has a relaxed itinerary; it rarely moves at 18-20 knots. Sometimes it only does 12 knots.
Dining: On this leg, dress was three formal, two informal, and the rest casual. Crystal Lines is no better than any other cruise line when it comes to handling your dinner request for table size and time; they will screw it up. We asked for a table for two, first sitting, and got no table, second sitting. We stood in line along with everyone else to talk to the maitre d' and got first sitting and a table for 8. Fortunately, our table mates were a most genial and friendly bunch, and we had a great time for the entire trip. The other three couples had also each asked for a table for two. With overnight tours and other dining choices, we were rarely the full complement at dinner. Two nights my wife and I were the only ones; I think at least four nights we were not present. The dining room dinners are excellent; just notch up whatever meals you know from your current cruise line. Service is, of course, what one expects. When you enter the dining room, the string quartet is playing, and the waiters are lined up to escort each lady to her table. Nice touch! Trouble is, most husbands don't know what to do when the waiter comes forward and offers his arm to the lady. The wine list is excellent and pricey (hey, this is Crystal), but you will have interesting choices. You definitely have to try a dinner at the Italian Prego restaurant and one at the Silk Road Chinese restaurant. No extra charge for the meal; just tip extra. Remember to make your reservations for these two restaurants on-line; do not wait until you board to make them. We did not try the sushi bar attached to the Chinese restaurant; it looked good, but we have enough sushi places at home. The Lido buffet compares roughly to that on any other line - the food is just better quality. And the service is better; a lady will have to fight to carry her own tray. And if a male looks even a bit wobbly or old, his tray will also be carried. An interesting touch that we at our dinner table all jumped on is the "Tastes" dining area at poolside. This is full-service dining with a menu almost the same as the dining room (limited because of the small kitchen). This is elegant casual dining every night with no time limits; and yes, there is a wine list and full bar. I think this became quite popular as people "discovered" it. There is also a respectable hamburger joint and ice cream stand at poolside.
The Crystal touch: We celebrated my wife's birthday on board. I booked dinner in the Prego restaurant and requested some sort of chocolate dessert. My cruise agent said that Crystal acknowledged the request, but I should check with the Prego maitre d' after boarding. I did, and he said that they usually serve a chocolate cake for such an occasion. Fine. I also asked at the photo shop if a photographer could take some pictures. No problem. What happened at dinner was amazing: first there were a couple balloons at our table when we arrived. When it was time for dessert, the cake (with one candle) came simultaneously with the ship string quartet playing "Happy birthday." And the photographer was on hand for the whole show. Well done! Another touch was on our return to the ship from Bangkok. The timing was such that we could have missed lunch in Bangkok. We boarded the ship at 4PM. In our cabin were two large plates of sandwiches and other cold goodies with a sign, "welcome back from Bangkok."
Activities on board are varied: lectures on a variety of subjects, music lessons, dance lessons, ikibana lessons, Spanish lessons (?), computer courses for college credit, etc, etc. The fitness center seemed to be active, the library, while small, was well stocked, the casino did not appear to be busy when we dropped in (possibly busier around midnight), and there were relatively current movies on in the theater. We only attended a couple shows, and they were quite good - a Broadway singer and a ventriloquist. We did not have the impression that there was a thundering herd heading for the theater after dinner as on other lines. The internet center seemed to be quite busy, probably because in part of all the people on board for the full 104 days. There are live cameras on board that broadcast on the internet. One fellow at our table coordinated with his son by cell phone when and where in the internet center he and his wife should stand so that the children could see them. Other people were also using the center to download photos from their cameras and send them on to friends and family.
Shore excursions: We found, as with other lines, that it is better to book your shore excursions on-line long before you board. If you wait, you may not get what you want. For example, in Laem Chabang, Crystal offers an overnight in Bangkok at the famed Oriental Hotel. We booked and got the hotel. Others waited too long and while they got the trip to and from Bangkok, they had to overnight in other hotels, and not the Oriental.
News is readily available. A small news compilation is delivered daily to your cabin. The cruise line version of the NY Times is available at the front desk. CNN and ESPN are on your cabin TV. A unique offer - at $6.50 a copy - is a daily copy of your complete hometown newspaper (minus ads). The selection of newspapers is amazingly large and international. The paper size is roughly tabloid size; the NY Times version was quite a thick package.
Laundry: While there is the usual laundry service on board, there is also a free laundry room (four washers and dryers) on each deck. This facility is quite popular - at all hours - and some of the genteel civility onboard disappears once people enter the laundry room.
Disembarkation: Given the location of Singapore, many flights leave at night. Thus, some people had to leave the ship at 3AM. Independent travellers were "invited" to leave by 10AM. The ship managed to make one final mess for us. When we boarded, the staff made the usual swipe of my credit card for the payment of the ship bill. Several days into the cruise I was notified to go to the front desk to make arrangements to settle my account. Many apologies, but apparently some of the card swiping at check-in did not get into the computer. They swiped my card again, had me sign a blank AMEXCO form, and all was done. At 8AM on debarkation day in Singapore, I was called by the audit staff to settle my account at the front office. I was not a happy camper, and the girl at the desk was scrambling to find my blank form, check my account in the computer, and in general try and figure out what happened. She finally did find my form and muttered something about my name having been misspelled in some entries. The account was settled, and we were on our way. It just showed that for all their highly touted efficiency and service, Crystal can - and does - screw up like any other line.
Even with my grumbles, this was a fabulous cruise, and I would gladly sail with them again. Any questions, e-mail me at
"Emphasis on providing a delightful experience" "The Regent Experience" "Unsurpassed levels of luxury define the Regent Experience" "Your every desire and wildest dreams fulfilled" "Uncompromising excellence" "Unparalleled service and ... Read More
"Emphasis on providing a delightful experience" "The Regent Experience" "Unsurpassed levels of luxury define the Regent Experience" "Your every desire and wildest dreams fulfilled" "Uncompromising excellence" "Unparalleled service and attention"
Just some of the claims made by Regent Seven Seas Cruises in their promotional material.
As a special celebration for our silver wedding anniversary in March 2008, my husband and I, together with two friends, booked a seven-day cruise on Seven Seas Navigator, sailing in July. Regent's ships are advertised as being six-star and they frequently mention in their advertising material, "the Regent Experience", "The ultra luxury world of Regent Seven Seas Cruises". These are the reasons we decided to book with Regent, as we wanted a very special occasion. How we were disappointed!
Within two days of boarding, three of our party went down with diarrhea and loss of appetite, which lasted several days. Consequently, not much food was eaten. There were several other passengers on board suffering the same complaint. We decided to treat ourselves with medication, as the cost for seeking the advice and help of the onboard doctor was very expensive. We brought our problem to the notice of the Cruise Director, but he made it clear he did not want to know.
There were poor hygiene standards on board. The use of antibacterial gel was not compulsory, either when boarding the ship or when entering a dining area. It was available, but not in a prominent position and many passengers did not bother to use it. During our time aboard, there were two instances when we were given dirty glassware and crockery and we witnessed a waiter carrying a cream jug, to our table, with his hand clasped over the top, instead of carrying it by the handle. Definitely not six-star!
There was poor service on the pool deck, tables left uncleared and no towels for the sunbeds. Again, not what one would expect from a 6-star ship. In the main dining room, on two occasions when a large party of Colombian people arrived, service at our table and others was extremely poor, with most of the waiters fawning over this family and we were left with empty wine glasses and long waits. Presumably the Colombians tipped well!
The Asian staff on board worked extremely hard, were very pleasant and aimed to please, but they were under pressure and it showed. Some of the older Italian staff, we found to be arrogant.
A passenger we spoke to also complained about lipstick on a glass she was given. The waitress asked her if it was her own lipstick!
Our suite was very nice and we have no complaints there. However, suffering from diarrhea, we spent rather longer in our rooms than we would have liked!
On our return home we wrote a very fair letter of complaint to Regent. Their reply was purely and simply a big brush-off. They don't want to know. They suggested we caught a bug from the airport and have told us that they meet the highest standards set by the US Public Health Authorities. What we experienced and witnessed could never be classed as high standards.
We have sailed with other lines in the past such as Swan Hellenic and Seabourn and found both to be excellent.
I would have far rather been writing a rave review and have wonderful memories of a special celebration. Unfortunately, we were very disappointed. We definitely did not get what we had paid for and will not be sailing with Regent in the future. The 'Regent Experience' we experienced, is not one we wish to remember!
This was our second time sailing with Oceania (the other in 2005 Barcelona to Istanbul). We like the smaller ships (less than 700 passengers) and the port intensive itineraries of Oceania. The ships are very nicely appointed and have a ... Read More
This was our second time sailing with Oceania (the other in 2005 Barcelona to Istanbul). We like the smaller ships (less than 700 passengers) and the port intensive itineraries of Oceania. The ships are very nicely appointed and have a "country club casual" ambience. No need to pack all that formal wear.
Although staterooms are known to be on the smallish side, they are very well laid out and comfortable. In 2005 we had Concierge Level balcony Stateroom which was very nice, however on this cruise opted for the somewhat larger penthouse suite which had a bathtub and came with butler service. Our butler was extremely pleasant and efficient but did not find having a butler significantly contributed to our enjoyment of the cruise. Although I was completely satisfied with the concierge level stateroom, my husband enjoyed the extra space of the penthouse suite especially as was 14 day cruise.
Dining on Oceania was wonderful experience. Maybe not quite ***** but certainly much better than many of the larger cruise lines. We generally dined in the main Dining Room - no set seatings so could dine when you pleased. Had the option of dining alone, with group or to be placed at an open table. Many of the tables were for 2 but well positioned so could have a private meal but were at the same time conducive to meeting others. Particularly enjoyed the speciality Italian restaurant Toscana and dined there on a number of occasions. Polo Grill was also nice but menu limited to fairly standard steaks & chops. For breakfast we generally ordered room service & ate on our balcony or had croissants & coffee up in the Horizon Lounge (very quiet). We are not buffet type people and generally avoided the buffet except to pick up a few appies to enjoy in our stateroom. Unlike other cruise lines, Oceania do allow you bring your own liquor aboard to consume in your stateroom. Can also bring your own wine to dining room but charged a corkage charge so not worth extra cost. Normally we would order bottles of wine with dinner, and what was not finished was stored by the wine steward for the next day.
Without set seating, you did not always have the same service staff. However being a smaller ship and longer cruise we did get to know a number of the staff. Service was exceptional and friendly.
Where Oceania falls down is on entertainment and shore excursions.
Entertainment - The house orchestras were OK but the headlined acts were so so bad. I generally would walk out but my husband would stay because they were not only bad but they were terrible! One of the entertainers on our Baltic cruise was the same as on our Mediterranean cruise in 2005.
Oceania is adult oriented and do not have children's/teen programs. Not a "party boat".
Shore excursions: Grossly overpriced and Oceania have the habit of canceling excursions at the last minute if they don't have enough people signed up. Excursion desk staff, although pleasant, were unable/unwilling to provide port information other than related to their tour. Generally a local tourist official would board when we got into port but a bit late for advance planning. For St. Petersburg , Oceania gave us the impression that it was very difficult to get a visitors Visa for Russia and it would not be possible to get off the boat without taking one of their excursions. Fortunately at the last minute we learnt this was not the case & booked 3 day tour with Alla Tours which was fabulous. Best advice is to try and pre-arrange own tours or get a good guide and do it on your own.
With this last cruise, had a few problems pre-cruise with our flight deviations. Our itineraries were different as husband was returning a week later from UK. We received our flight confirmations from Oceania and all seemed OK as we had requested until we called the airlines to book our seat assignments. Evidently my husband's reservation had been changed & he was scheduled to fly out to Stockholm a day later than me. Took over a week to rectify.
Would I sail again with Oceania - probably yes but am a bit hesitant because I enjoy going to the evening show as part of the cruising experience.
First lets get the nearly obvious out of the way. The really all inclusive is the only way to go! The crew really get to know you, the service, the wine, the food, the decor, all top notch as I'm sure you assume. The line has a great Crew ... Read More
First lets get the nearly obvious out of the way. The really all inclusive is the only way to go! The crew really get to know you, the service, the wine, the food, the decor, all top notch as I'm sure you assume. The line has a great Crew to passenger ratio, with tons of empty space all over the place. Our cruise was 100% booked and with a long waiting list and yet we could take a walk around at night and not see a single other couple on the deck.
Our Cruise was from Athens Greece to Dubai UAE. This was the trip of a lifetime, and the very first time this ship was in the middle east. For being the first time at all these ports every kink was well worked out ahead of time, and the middle east is no easy place to have everything go so smooth. With the extreme Volatility in the region, we still felt very safe and secure. The boat had several different defenses against modern pirates and we received a military escort that was never more than 20mins away at all times. The safety and well being of each and every passenger really is the ships #1 concern and it shows. The Cabins were spacious and they nearly all have a balcony. The beds were a great vacation for my back as well!
Now on to the few things I was not so impressed about, and yes, it took me quite a while to think of anything to even speak of. As nearly every reviewer already stated, yes, there is quite a bit of vibration on the ship. This didn't effect us while sleeping though, but was a little annoying at times when eating on the higher decks. So to start off, the pool and Jacuzzis closed much too early each night. There really is no reason to close them at 7 or 8 pm. Most nights they even drained them and put nets over them. This not only took away from the aesthetics of the pool deck area but we heard several people say that they missed being able to take an after dinner dip in the pool or relax in the Jacuzzi, not in the heat of the mid day sun. I'm sure there's some insurance reason behind closing them, but it was very disappointing to see that the passengers were not trusted to swim once the sun went down.
Now onto the TVs. All rooms have Movies on demand at no charge. Slightly tricky at first to figure out, I don't think we realized we even had this feature until about the 10th day! The quality of the movies was all DVD quality. BUT and this is a big but... whoever handles the Audio/Video on the boat should be at the very least, made to take some sort of course to learn what they are doing. Any special recordings or video interviews on the boat were just plain laughably horrible. Most of the color was green. For example, I watched the presidential debate live via satellite in the lounge and in my room. Than for the next day it was played back to back on one of the channels, but now in absolutely horrible quality. It was like watching a copy of a copy of a copy of someone who recorded the debate with a camcorder pointed at a TV. and than add some bright green and now you've got what it looks like. I have no idea why no one that works on the ship let this go on like this. We poked fun about this with several other passengers several times on our voyage. And this can't be blamed on the Satellite, because it came in perfect the first time.
While we were in our mid to late 40's we felt like the real youngins on the ship. I'd have to say that on our voyage the average passenger age was 70. which was just plain higher than what we were led to believe. This is no cruise for a family with children, or for that newlywed couple... well unless your on say your 3rd marriage that is! But truth be told we met some amazing other couples on the boat. We enjoyed the company of so many people. We were just shocked by how friendly everyone was. As you talk to everyone throughout your stay you start to find out that nearly everyone on the boat this is now on average there 5th, 6th, even 8th time back with Regent. That alone speaks all for itself! There is certainly a reason why once you go Regent you never go back! I like to keep a healthy lifestyle and the ship had an excellent fitness center, stocked with 4 or 5 treadmills, cycling machines, all with flat screen TVs, free weights, and many machines. Also both a walking and a running path on the decks. Shuffleboard, golf, and a pool you can swim laps in.
The menus each night also featured low carb, vegetarian, low salt, and simple dishes in addition to the regular menu, so staying healthy was easy to do thankfully. The Compass Rose was actually so much better than The Portofino. But that was mostly due to the Portofino having a authentic middle Eastern menu since that was where we were. But whatever restaurant you choose there is no waiting, a table is always free just for you. The music on board was just a 6 out of 10. It's all a little Corny and you can tell everyone singing just couldn't cut in in the industry and just settled on a cruise ship. I would've rather heard some violins, than heard the almost Disney like music acts that were there. We also would've like to have heard a little more Sinatra songs.
Shore excursions were all decent. We set up many of our own things since we could set up some of the same exact excursions at 1/2 the price.
This was our first cruise with Regent and we have certainly found our cruise line to call our own. We look forward to our next cruise in the near future.
Embarkation in Hong Kong took about 15 minutes and without incident. We were on the same ship in the Caribbean in March, so we knew what to expect. Our Luggage were delivered within 1/2 hour. We boarded the ship after spending 3 extra ... Read More
Embarkation in Hong Kong took about 15 minutes and without incident. We were on the same ship in the Caribbean in March, so we knew what to expect. Our Luggage were delivered within 1/2 hour. We boarded the ship after spending 3 extra days in HKG at the new W Hotel and it is high tech in everyway. In fact we had some problem figuring out how to operate room amenities. The view was partial harbor view, since there are couple of luxury condos in front. The hotel with the best view is the Intercontinental bar none. One unique feature of this cruise was that Mariner made 1 1/2 day ports of call at major destinations. HKG, Hong Gai Vietnam, Hue, Saigon, BKK and overnight in Singapore where we disembarked. This allowed us to participate more in depth excursions. Cruise provided one complimentary 4 hours cruise of Halong Bay onboard typical Junk which was very relaxing and beautiful.
I arranged my Vietnam tours with local agency and it worked out fine, plus 50% saving compared to what was offered by the cruiseline. Our tours were private with driver and an English speaking guides. Transaction involving fees for the tours went without a hitch. Deposit and balance paid on arrival. What was most important was that dockside meet was arranged in advance by obtaining permit from the government which is included in the price. This was part of their Asia Golden Circle Cruise for the total of 102 days, but you can cruise on various segments you found interesting.
The crew was very attentive as usual, good room service menu and best of all it is all inclusive. There is absolutely nothing to pay, unless you purchase premium beverages or make other onboard purchases(photos,boutique). Cabin is spacious and all have balcony, no inside cabins, free do it yourself laundry facility with ironing board, automatic detergent injection system. Our cabin was close to 400SQ, walk-in closet, mini bar provisioned with mixes, soft drinks and beer. You can also request 2 bottles of liquor for your room per cabin and bottle of champaign during embarkation. Tray of fruits always replenished daily, nightly turn-down service. I also would like to mention that under your bed has enough space to store 4-5 various size empty bags which really helps out. The ship departed HKG at 11PM on the second day and I must say the departure from HKG at night is spectacular. Most beautiful second to none, maybe Sydney?
Our first ports of call was Hong Gai which is the closest port to Hanoi, very interesting city, if you can master navigating massive traffic congestion. It is most difficult to cross those street with hundreds of scooters and aiming right at you. The secret, our guide showed us, is stepping off the curb(not many traffic lights)maintaining steady pace(not slowing down or speeding up) which gives drivers to anticipate your movement which prevents surprises and prevents hitting you. Trick is to do it, but its hard stepping off the curb into on coming traffic. But it works and we did fine with no injuries(I'm 69 and my wife 59). Hue was very interesting, you have a choice of visiting Citadels and Temples in Hue or head out to HoiAn UNESCO Heritage Site. We went to HoiAn combined with Marble Mountain and Da Nang. Good choice, we thought.
Onboard you have a choice of dinning venues, Signature, CompassRose, La Veranda and Latitude. We were not disappointed with any of them with few exceptions. Latitude menu was OK, but not thrilled with it(Indian, then Thai), I think many felt that way. We loved CompassRose, food was consistently good with variety, Signature over-rated, La Veranda(always casual)always had interesting menu selection. In defense of Latitude, they are replacing it with a Steak House, when the ship enters dry-dock at the end of this cruise cycle. We took breakfasts and one dinner in our cabin and both were on time, good presentation and full table cloth service. We ordered dinner with wine selection and two bottles were delivered with dinner. Breakfast was buffet, but you could request items at your table without serving yourself, same for Lunch. There were several poolside dinning with extravagant offering of lobsters, premium meats and numerous other premium seafoods, Mexican menu and even pizza. Absolutely no complaint with their foods and quality. Todays restaurant prices would command $50 per plate easily for what they were offering.
The entertainment was fine, very quaint venue with variety of entertainment, nothing outstanding , since I'm very critical. But it is what is expected of cruiseship entertainment. Variety shows, singer, solo pianist accompanied by Regent's own band, small trio and solo instrumentalists at lounges. Done in good taste. We had 3 formal nights which I'm not too thrilled about, but ship of this class, you can always expect it. I prefer all country casual type of dress code for every functions, but the I feel that type of passengers this class of ship caters to demands it which is part in parcel of traveling on luxury liners. We participated on 2 nights, but decided on La Veranda instead on the last one which was fine. The ship enforces dress code for the evening very close.
HCMC was very orderly compared to Hanoi, ship provided free shuttle service to Rex Hotel(one of the finest in Saigon with history). Because of our size we were able to navigate up the Saigon River for 4 hours to be much closer to city center. Mega cruise-ships on the other hand had to dock nearly 3 hours away, because of much deeper draft. This prevented excursions of any meaning, especially if they were scheduled for one day call at Saigon. Thailand was just as chaotic, but very interesting place to visit. Called on Ko Samui and BKK, spent one night BKK, because the drive into BKK was 2 1/2 hours again. Finally two days at see and arrived in Singapore on Nov 1 and disembarked on the morning of Nov 2. We stayed in Singapore for additional 2 days. Very clean and organized city, we can all learn from them. But the laws they enforce on their citizens can not be imposed in this country, because of ACLU and other organization. However, there are no homeless on the streets, no beggars, trash or graffiti and crimes are virtually none. If you are going to do some shopping get them done in Vietnam or Thailand, because Singapore is expensive and they don't bargain as much.
As mentioned in the introduction, we are both seniors and this was our first cruise. We read every cruise review we could find and found the Cruise Critic site to be extremely helpful.
Before selecting a cruise, we developed a ... Read More
As mentioned in the introduction, we are both seniors and this was our first cruise. We read every cruise review we could find and found the Cruise Critic site to be extremely helpful.
Before selecting a cruise, we developed a "wish list" of expectations. First, we wanted to see as much of Europe as possible. We were interested in a relaxing atmosphere which ruled out children of all ages. (We're not anti-children, but there's a time and a place). We didn't want Las Vegas type glitz, but we also didn't want a strictly "seniors cruise." We wanted to avoid having to mingle with huge gaggles of humanity, and while we preferred to avoid the rigidity of a very formal atmosphere, we did not want to go too far in the direction of "casual" which all-to-frequently degenerates to "grungy." Finally, we hoped for some interesting dining experiences.
We are very pleased to say that the Azamara Journey fulfilled all our expectations. The ship's capacity was 700 passengers which was perfect in every way. We never felt crowded, never had to wait to be seated in a restaurant, nor when leaving or returning to the ship. This cruise did not offer babysitting services nor did it have a "game room." Combine that with the time of year, and it was an all-adult passenger list. We experienced 10 ports with one day at sea. Because we were not familiar with any of the ports and did not feel comfortable touring on our own, we availed ourselves of many of the ship excursions. We were not disappointed.
We were very pleased with the food preparation and choices as well as the wide selection of beverages. We had a choice of restaurants ranging from a casual buffet and pool-side grill to a main restaurant and two specialty restaurants. We also used room service on occasion. We were amazed at the quick response time for room service. We frequented the main restaurant for dinner. We always asked to be seated in an area served by one head waiter and his assistant. They were a real "dynamic duo" who not only provided excellent service, but entertainment as well. The ship's staff and crew were very friendly and helpful. We had arranged for a room with a balcony which was well worth the additional cost. We used the balcony frequently when we were arriving at or departing from ports, and occasionally we ate breakfast there as well. Since this was our first cruise we were fascinated watching the pilot boat bring the harbor master out to the ship at each port to guide the ship into port. We were able to view this process each morning from our balcony.
The ship was maintained beautifully. It was clean, neat, and nicely appointed. The service staff was excellent and made your comfort their priority. The entertainment was good and varied. The variety of excursions offered at each port was more than adequate. They ranged from mild to strenuous, and on two occasions we selected "strenuous" excursions which were still manageble for us. On a scale of 1 to 10, our tour guides ranked between 7 and 10 with a preponderence falling in the range of 9 and 10. We were able to tune to video introductions to each excursion from our rooms each evening so we had some idea of what to expect during the tour. We pre-arranged with private car services for tours of Rome and Sorrento and we were very pleased with our choices. In Rome we used Fabrizio Melaragno's "All Around Italy" car service that can be accessed at allarounditaly.net. Fabrizio was extremely animated, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable. We saw more of Rome than we had ever imagined possible in one day. He also arranged for us a to have a personal guided tour of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica and Square.
In Sorrento we used Renato Cuomo's Limousine Service which can be accessed at www.carsorrento.it. Our driver, Paolo, was wonderful. He knew everyone everywhere we went. We learned a great deal of information about Sorrento, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast that he shared with us from his personal knowledgebase. He made us feel very comfortable and welcome.
We would strongly recommend both of these car services.
We had such a wonderful experience on this cruise that we are already starting to plan our next one.
Solstice Cruise Review - Trip - 11/30/2008 through 12/7/2008 By Thomas Treimel
This cruise started when Celebrity Solstice opened four extra weeks of bookings before the original planned inaugural. My travel agent called me and said ... Read More
Solstice Cruise Review - Trip - 11/30/2008 through 12/7/2008 By Thomas Treimel
This cruise started when Celebrity Solstice opened four extra weeks of bookings before the original planned inaugural. My travel agent called me and said Celebrity allocated her about twelve cabins for this selective week. I quickly suggested some of my friends to book it and they did. We hammered out the details for all of our group. I booked my daughter Jenna and I on the trip. I started looking into air travel at this time. One of the Continental airlines hubs is my home airport - Newark. They fly directly to Ft. Lauderdale the embarkation port for this trip. The airfares were a bit higher than I have paid in the past but we were still in a gas high price time but by cruise time the gas prices had tumbled from over $3 per gallon at the booking time to only $1.50 or so when we flew out of Newark. A nice thing to do is fly into the home port area a day before to get adjusted and see the town. This also reduces the stress levels as you are there and ready to go so you will see no delays in getting to the ship on time. I had originally booked an 8AM flight out of Newark to land at about 11AM in Ft. Lauderdale. Then a few weeks later re-checked the flight on the Continental sight to see where the seating capacity was. Hmmmmmmmm.... Flight was not there. I then went back to my reservation number and checked to see that the flight had been removed and we were now scheduled on the 6:35AM flight out of Newark on the same day. So I then went back in and re-set my seats and called my friends, Karen and Tim, who were traveling on the cruise and sir with us. They also had to reset the air portion of the trip. The same thing happened with our return flight home. Originally set for a noon departure out of Newark but the flight was cancelled in advance and we were shifted to the 10:40AM flight home. Same thing again - switch the seats. Since I am on vacation as soon as the work day ends before we actually go. I am very detail oriented to relax and enjoy the trip. I had packed a 4 oz. bottle of rum in one of the small NTSB approved carry containers. When we went through the check point and down to the plane I purchased a 20oz. bottle of Pepsi for the plane. Also we had a very quick breakfast there McDonald's - hey it was all that was there. The plane was on time to board. We taxied away but were de-iced and did not take off till 6:50AM. I had my first drink of Rum and Coke at 6:53AM. Vacation started. My friend Hank in North Carolina will be happy to read this line. Finished the drink about the time we crossed over North Carolina. We encountered no problems getting there as we landed right on time. Right off the plane in Ft. Lauderdale and off to find the luggage pick up. We picked up our luggage and put on our Celebrity bag tags. Then found a taxi to the pier. We stepped out of the taxi and stowed the ship luggage at the port by 10AM. While they had not started the check in process yet. Karen, Tim, Jenna and I checked our bags and went through the port security process. Then settled in for the time to check in. When the check in process started we got onto the line for the Elite and checked in to board the ship. The actual check-in process took about 10 minutes for the express pass and check the passport information against the cruise tickets along with the credit card registration for on-board ship payments. Off we went up the escalator to the ship and this adventure begins.
They had the ships photographers there to get your entry pictures. Upstairs you had your security picture taken to match it to your sea pass. This is used to log you on and off the ship and to record what you look like. The ships security knows who is on and off the ship at all times. This helps in ports as they want to make sure all are there. Then up the slanted gangway to the entry deck on level 5. As short left and a right and you are in the entry area where they are offering you a welcome and a glass of Champagne or orange juice. Always my favorite way to be greeted. When we entered we were informed the rooms were not quite ready. We walked to the room and dropped off our carry on luggage in the room and found out room steward Jose from India. He greeted us warmly and after explaining the room quickly let us store the luggage and we went exploring the ship.
Cabin: #6257, cat. 2C, Continental Deck. This is one of the regular sized cabins on the new class of ship. Slightly larger than the traditional 170 sq. ft. There is an additional balcony on this cabin level. Very nice fit for two deck chairs and a table. I have always found the Celebrity cabins to be a perfect fit. They are slightly larger than some of the other industry standard cabins at this level. We had enough room for storage in the room as they have raised the bed level about four inches and even the large sized suit cases can fit nicely right under the bed. They moved the live vests from the storage area above the closet to a nice wire basket under the bed. Easy to slide out to get at the live vests for the boat drill. They do have a third sleeper bed - trundle bed that comes out from under the couch. But they also have a bed that swings down out of the ceiling and is hidden from vies during the day. So fitting two - would be very roomy and three is not a problem. Even though there is less closet space as you may read on the boards. There is plenty of space in the drawers and storage areas in the room. The large double closet has a hanging bar all the way across and about thirty wooden hangers for using to hang the formal wear along with the day to day things as needed. The area under where the Flat screen TV is located has 5 nice and large drawers. To the side of this area is a storage area where you wifi keyboard is hidden. This can also double as a large storage area and did for us on this trip. Under that is the mini bar and your cabin steward will open it for your use if you request it. I think there is also a small pull out drawer in the front of the sit down make up area. There is also an additional light switch and two plug outlets here for your use. Just above the bed are two large cabinets that are used for pillow storage and whatever you would like to put up there. We stored my carry on there the whole trip. The TV has a nice swing arm behind it that you can pivot off the wall for watching in bed. They can go interactive, do movies on demand (which are all free), and music of different types. Here is my problem with the music and how it is set up. They have no menu selection to bring in a large type and shuffle it from song to song mixing up the order. Something I would have liked to do. Additionally there are some nook areas with bars across to hold in things that you want to store there. It held our bottles of wine and soda we had brought on in Ft. Lauderdale. Our steward kept the small ice holder filled and brought a clear plastic wine cooler / ice cooler when we requested it. To re-state on bringing alcohol on board with you as you board the ship - Celebrity will allow two bottles of wine and maybe a few champagne. They are not strict in this policy but if you are a good passenger and do not try to bring on an excessive amount they are understanding on this issue. Your cabin steward will bring you ice as requested. Now there has been much discussion on the bathrooms on the ship and how they have changed. Yes they are a bit smaller. The counter space is not what your are used to. The shower stall area is now covered by a plastic enclosure. Very nice in my opinion. The shower head has a few adjustable settings but is locked in place and will pivot to direct the water. There are two handles to turn here - one for water pressure and one for temperature. Both work perfectly to all out satisfaction. They have a step up bar inside for the ladies to shave their legs on if needed. But the drying line I loved to use is now gone. Replaced by two cloths hooks. They have small bottles of shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer along with the standard soap and never ending supply of clean fresh white towels.
We headed out to explore the ship now. From walking into the lobby area on deck 5 I was already in WOW mode. I have been on the Horizon, Zenith, the Century class all ships and the Millie class two ships. Generally speaking from my cruises on older ships in the late 70's and early 80's. Then jumping back into cruising on Celebrity in the early 90's. So I have a view from a lot of angles. With this class of ship Celebrity has stepped up beyond the normal ship out there. I have felt that Celebrity set the standard and then other followed it. This ship build and launch proves that they are still way ahead and setting the pace for cruising elegance and ship board comforts into the next ten years. I walk about the ship almost all the time now using the elevators much at all this trip. I think about 6 times in all - a bit above my average of two. Walking down the passage way and out to the stairwell area on deck 6 overlooking into the atrium and the tree there. What a nice touch. We walked forward on the port side into the Online@Celebrity area. Nice area with many computers set up. During the week I went and used the computers and the response time was very fast compared to the last time I tried a few years back. Nice soft earth / wood tones here. Very quiet area. Then back down to deck 4 to the main restaurant.
Dining Room: The Grand Epernay Dining Room was just like the Millie series ships in size. This was wonderfully laid out. Same soft lines but the stair case was different. The stairs were frosted glass as were the stairwell separators. It split into two sections at the middle one each flowing to the side. We did notice one of the steps was already cracked but they will replace that soon. At night the stairs were back lit with a light green coloring. As usual there is a lot of space between tables to move. The wait stations were enlarged to hold two groups of wait staff at a time. They also had frosted glass a bit higher up that other wait stations to cut the view into them. We were at table 226 right next to the wait staff entrance and exit. There was not much noise at all sitting here. We were also within viewing distance of the well thought out wine cellar in the dining area. There were about 1800 bottles stored there as we were told. You could catch a look at the Sommelier's working in their area and picking up bottles and moving about with various glasses for each wine's use. Bob was our wine expert as always when I travel with him. We were at second seating dinner which is what I like on the ship. To relax a lot and take my time getting to dinner. My daughter Jenna and our friends Bob and Eileen were seated at our table. A lot of nice people to share a weeks worth if dinners with. We also invited Kim from the ships special events staff to dinner the last night. I had brought a coconut back on the ship, as a bet you can't get this on the ship, and tried to get it carved into a Maple leaf for our Canadian guest. But the nut was too green and it did not work out. But they drew a maple leaf on it and it worked out just the same. I would say I was not disappointed with any of the food offerings presented at dinner that week. We did go to the brunch offered one day here. It was very good. Some different offerings than upstairs as it is brunch a lot of cross over. It would have been very special to have an omelet station but I do not think they are set up for that. For the dinners everything was fantastic from the presentation to the sauces and taste. The wine parings were excellent for each night's meal. We also went into the restaurant at lunch and breakfast two times to see what other offerings we were missing out on. As with dinner everything was great. Service right there with breads or rolls and a good selection on the menu's each time. We sat next to the windows three of the times we went into breakfast or lunch the other at the rail overlooking the main floor of the restaurant. Nice view each night from up there. Although there were a lot of people missing from our section of the dining room the first night they did appear throughout the cruise. They must have been in some of the specialty restaurants enjoying their tasty offerings.
I will say one thing for the complete Celebrity staff on the ship. They are wonderfully pleasant and gracious. They are always trying to please you with a special request or menu selection. I like Ice tea at dinner and it was there right after we sat down every night. I will repeat myself here and say that I have found being an Elite member does have a big plus side to it. The part of being able to invite ships officers to dinner and making new friends on the ship. This is the time to relax and enjoy your dining experience. Try something different as if it done not meet your taste buds in the right way you can re-order. And as always you are on vacation have fun with this.
After this we headed forward out of the restaurant on deck 3 past Guest Relations and the bottom of the central lobby which is the Grand Foyer. I had to stop into guest relations a few times. The first to pick up a band aid as I had cut my finger. The even helped my put on the antiseptic and then the band aid the first time. All with a wonderful smile. They also supplied me with a few extra band aid's in case I needed to change them. The other times I stopped by were to drop off a nice Ipod I had found on deck 15 at the basketball court. This was a nice slim line one that the owner forgot to pick up when they left the area. I turned it over to the Concierge who took my cabin number and thanked me. The other times I was just stopping by to pick up a bill for my ship charges that I had incurred to date. Each time met with a smile and friendly hello. And as I tried to make a joke about me being a complaining passenger and where I should go for that. They politely pointed me across the foyer to the Shore excursions desk and we had a good laugh at that. The last time I was there some passenger was screaming at our Hotel Manager about something. It was nice to see him calm the passenger down and get him to quietly talk through his concerns. Another reason why I like Celebrity. They will not brush you off and will try to address all passenger concerns as they can. Simon Weir handled it in an excellent fashion. It's a good thing I was on his good side. As with every interaction all the staff are being judged by everyone on the ship including me at all times. And as usual they come through with very high marks for their manners and how the conduct themselves while on company business. This area also had the Passport bar which was colored in a soft honey gold and the shore excursions desk area. I never had the chance to stop at the passport bar area or shore excursions but notice they were always people working or using the services during the normal hours for these places.
Moving up to deck 4 from the Grand Foyer area from the nice flowing stairwell. There were two decorated Christmas trees here at the base of the stairwell that magically appeared on December 1st. As you walked up the staircase to the port side is the most exciting place for a lot of people on the ship. The Martini Bar and Crush. The Martini bar was a frozen bar during the dinner hours which was two sided and had an extensive menu of Martini's and regular drinks. My friend Bob is the expert in this department and would stop by each night to see what new delights were coming out of the skillful staff's mixers. Part of the entertainment is the bartending staff. Tossing the cubes all about followed by the mixing and pouring out of three drinks at a time. They were the pros in this department and had great fun in doing so. This area was always busy before, during and after the dinner hours. It is a great place to meet up before dinner to review the days events with all the new cruise friends. Or use it as a jumping off spot for the evening. The areas surrounding the Martini bar and Crush were large seating areas with see through curtains to make small privacy areas for your group. Across from this area was Cellar Masters the wine bar on the ship. This was partitioned away with solid dark wooden walls and gates that remained open and inviting. They also had an extensive wine list available here. There was something novel about this area as hey had a pour your own glass area. This was all electronic so you could purchase a glass of wine at anytime of the day or night. Just put the sea pass into the slot - make your selection and use your wine glass of choice - it poured it out for you. The bottles were shown off behind a glass partition to show the vintage and keep the wine at it's best serving temperature. We walked into this area a few times and saw a few people relaxing reading or quietly conversing. During the afternoon a string quartet would play music here with the sound cascading upwards throughout the whole open area. The open area stretched from the grand Foyer to level 15 at the lawn club. So if you were in the stairwell connected to this or an elevator area you would hear the music. Moving forward from the Martini bar are the Shops on the Boulevard and the Casino. The pictures shown by many people can't do the actual sight of this justice. The boulevard area curves nicely around the casino. So you can walk around it if you like. The items in the shop area were very nice. Although they did not have in stock a ship Christmas ornament. In the most forward end of the shop area is the liquor sales area for taking home. They carried all the market named brands at great prices. Sometimes it is easier to just buy on the ship and leave it to them to deliver. Better than on shore purchase and store it. The Casino has a wide variety of slot machine and the standard game tables. All of the slots now operate on a coin less system. Put your dollars in and play away. When finished just cash out and a slip of paper is printed. Either cash it in to use it next time. They have added a Texas hold'em playing table and I stopped by to look at it but the rules escaped me and I moved on. They also had two Texas Hold'em tables for heads up play. I think the minimum to sit down and play was $50. Then it was straight up against all table opponents. The rake was 10% of each hand from what I was told. They did have a lot of tournaments for Hold'em and black jack during the cruise but I never got to them. There was always a lot of people in the hold'em table area and in the casino in general on the trip. If you are captains club you also get some $5 match play coupons to play with to double your even money bets at the tables. So you could pick up an extra $5 on your bets. But alas they only gave you a limited number. A nice incentive to try a game of chance. There was also a wide screen TV in here for sports viewing. As you moved even more forward you would run into The Entertainment Court. This was a large open area with tables and chairs. There was a large marble clock face in the floor here. They held the shop sales here for watches and jewelry. To the port side is the Quasar disco which did not get going till later at night. And going it did. JR and BK had a lot of friends in here dancing well into the wee hours. To the starboard side of the ship is a new type of addition to Celebrity - Celebrity Central. This is a small about 100 seat intimate theatre that was used for movies and the comedians on the boat. Well laid out and nice comfortable seats. The one night I was here the area was full up for the late night comedy show. As you move forward past the elevator banks there is the Solstice Theatre. Here the pictures do tell just about the whole story. But it is still a beauty to behold in person. There are a lot of new innovations for this floating theatre. They had the ability to soar over the audience areas while performing some parts of the show. I was in one night for the Broadway review and the show was well attended and singing, dancing, props and costumes matched everything perfectly. In talking to some of the actors and singers this theatre allowed them to stretch their medium to a higher level and I will agree.
If you exited the theatre on level 5 and walked to the aft end of the ship this is what you would you would run into. The port side held the Photography gallery. Many pictures were taken and printed for you to see here. I am sorry to say that the Galleria Boutiques on the starboard side did not catch my attention enough to go in and look about. I will say the areas were well dressed out for the window displays. This was where the perfumes and high end jewelry shops were. I do remember looking at some of the art work in the Gallery here amid ship and like it a lot. Across from the Art Gallery is the Galleria Tasting area. Sorry again as I went right by this area without looking into it. But... Moving further aft on the port side is the Bistro on Five. This had an upscale breakfast and lunch service for a $5 entry fee. Jenna went here one night and said the desert crapes were of the first order. Now across from this area on the starboard side is the Cafe Al Bacio & Gelateria. This was the specialty coffee and espresso area. They had some nice bakery presentations here for your consumption with your drink selections. Just past here walking still to the Aft is the large bank of elevators. As you enter the stairwell lobby area take a right and just before the exit to the outside to the left is the Celebrity Destinations area. This is where you would find the Captains club desk and the Future cruise sales area. You could use this area to sign up for the Elite tours and to make a reservation to talk to Natalie who is currently future Cruise sales hostess. I talked to Natalie a few times and used the future cruise deposit booking for no trip for the $100 deposit for the $100 on board credit. Not a bad idea at this point and knowing I will cruise again. The girls in this area were nice to talk to and I left them a plate of my home made cookies. So if you leave this area and make a right then down to the passageway past the stairs and make a right you would enter the ant hallway. Just look down on the floor and you will see that the tile looks like ants in a trail to the wall paintings. Very beautiful flowers painted here on the wall and ceiling. This leads down to the specialty restaurants. You would first enter the Ensemble lounge. To the immediate right is the Michael's club. We played a lot of the trivia games here. Battle of the sexes, which the men won and I got to be team Captain. Then the daily trivia challenge with our team of four which we won for the week. They also had some name that tune and other games here. As nice as any other Michael's club on any other ship. I do not think this area got a lot of traffic at night and there were a few blemishes in the area already. But nothing that could not be fixed right away. The Ensemble lounge is a large stop off bar area before going to the specialty restaurants. Murano is the best of the specialty restaurants here. Much like the one's on the Millie class ships. Just past the end of the lounge area to the left is Silk harvest. This is the Far East restaurant. Across from this is Blu. This is the Aqua class eatery with healthy choices on the menu. You could only get into this area if you are booked into an Aqua class suite or there was an opening. The aft end of the ship had the Tuscan Grille. Our friends and Jenna dined here one night and thought the presentations were excellent. The Tuscan Grille occupies the back of the ship. So you get to watch the wake and the back area of the ship as it is moving. The colors were deep burgundy and dark wood. I did not go into any of these areas as I wanted to save something for another cruise on the Solstice class ships. And I know I will be back. But in talking to anyone who did go into any of the specialty restaurants the food was exquisite and presentations spectacular. Well worth the cover charge for any of the venues.
So as the tour continues and we walk about we skip past Continental deck 6, Sunrise deck 7 and Vista deck 8 which are all decks with cabins in them. Did I mention that I walk just about everywhere I go on the ship. Lots of steps help burn off the calories from the extra stops on deck 14. But someone told me there were no calories at sea. I'll have to test that out one time. More on that later in the review. On the Panorama deck 9 across from the central elevators is the card room. Every time day or night, well not late night, there were people playing on the tables. It seemed like there were enough bridge players to get a good game going from the number of the people and how well occupied this area was at all times. As we move onward and upward to deck 10 the Sky deck. And near the rear elevator bank area is the Library. This is a nice two level area with books to borrow. There are built in shelves. Be sure to return the book before you leave. Nice comfy chairs to sit in. You could get the daily crossword and Suduko games here. They finally listened to me on this. The second tier of the Library is on the Penthouse deck number 11. This deck holds the Aqua class suites and all the larger suites. On the forward section of the ship on this deck is the Relaxation lounge for suite holders. I don't remember even stopping here at all. But there are supporting pictures on the internet that show this area. Up one level now to the Resort deck 12. Dam. I'm tired now and I walked those steps every day at least ten times, from our room on deck 6 to deck 12 or 14 or 15.
The Resort deck holds the pools, Spa and fitness areas. I can easily say this is the most impressive area on the ship as I walked upward. The pools are set up a little differently than before. They sit down a little giving you a place to cool your feet in ankle deep water to get an idea of the water temperature before you go in. Starting from the aft end of this area to forward. The Wet Zone is first. This area doubled as a dance area at night for the ship deck parties. The girls from the cruise staff danced up here on Caribbean night in flame red dresses. The wet zone is turned on in the afternoon and it sprays water up into the air at various heights and intervals. Nice to splash around in on a hot afternoon. Just behind the wet zone was the stage area for the band to play on when leaving port and for the deck parties. Great music to listen to when you want to get your cruise spirit going on sail away day. The next area forward is the Family pool. This is a shallow pool for our younger cruisers and those just wanting to get wet to their waste. The depth varies from about three feet to four feet. A fun time for me was watching a young mom blow up a small kiddies pool while dad watched. I then helped dad, borrowing two plastic buckets from the bar area, fill the small pool up with about 6 inches of water. The two young ladies with mom and dad, who looked like they were 3 and 4 years old, loved it. You would have thought this was the greatest water park in the world encased in a four foot blow up pool. They had a great time of it. Simple ingredients. Pool; add water and imagination and anything is possible. These girls were great fun to see about the ship which I did just about every day. The next area in the pools was the Sports pool. This was separated by a walk across bridge but the pools were completely separated. The sports pool was about 4 foot deep to six foot deep. Same type of skirt area with shallow water. You could sit just above or in the water on the skirt and you're your book without full immersion. Staying cool by the pool. There were four hot tubs near the pools here and the water temperature was just a nice very warm. Not hot enough to turn you pink quickly but the level that warmed you up and made you relax a lot. We used this area the first day as I brought my swim suite in my carry on and switched so we could do this. It did rain a bit while we were in port in Ft. Lauderdale and while we were in the hot tub. Could have been a problem. But I was wet already and I had on my hat so no problem. The pool bar is just in front of here. They had a great daily special I saw the first day. A large mug of beer, they sold large size mugs that looked over a pint in size of Amstel for about $4.50 or so with the tip. Celebrity has all the nice things to keep you cooled down on this deck. As just to the starboard side of the pool area as you move forward was the Sundries shop. The t shirt, flip flop and sun tan lotion area. Great location. One thing I will say before we walk through the sliding glass doors was there were plenty of chairs about the pool area and the nice couches for two they built into the decor of the ship. This was a new innovation for me to see. And the last thing you see before the sliding glass doors to the outside area of the ship here is a hanging netted hammock bed with pillows that you could fit a few into. Two was the perfect number for me here. You could get very comfortable here anytime and nap the afternoon worries away. Who needs to worry about those extra calories. That's coming up soon. Stay tuned. When you move through the sliding glass doors you are going forward into the Solarium area. This is a pool covered area with the wooden loungers and very thick and very soft mattresses next to the pool. The mattresses were covered in Celebrity blue and every morning had a fresh pool towel rolled up on them. This was the same for all lounges on the pool deck area. Every morning a fresh rolled towel. The area covering the pool had photo electric cells to capture the sun and provide some electricity for the ship. Not a lot from what I have read but some to start with. There were also the capture the sun areas off the bow suites at about deck level seven. In this Solarium pool area is a nice pool for swimming laps or staying cool. The forward area of the pool has a trellis of red flowers and green vines. They are artificial. It is nice to look up while swimming and see the flowers. Behind this is the fountain area where they flow water out at intervals with color being sent from below in red, blue, green spot lights. Nice to see at night. There are two hot tubs in this area also so if it rains out in the uncovered pool area then just move inside. Another new innovation for relaxation in the area are very large wicker basket chairs. They will fit two or more and have moveable pillows and a wicket backing with materiel covering it to offer some privacy. So you can get in there and stretch out with moving the pillows about. The basket / chair / lounger spins around so you can look out to sea and kick back. On the port side of the ship in the early AM is the Aqua Spa Cafe. This area offered healthy breakfast choices in the mornings when I walked by the area. As you pass forward from the Solarium area you will enter the Spa area. This area has the Aquaspa, Persian Gardens, Acupuncture, Massage, Hair Salon, Retail outlet and Fitness center. There were always people about this area in the early morning when I made my way here from the early workout on the ship. This is the pampering zone for all. There were different scents in the air each morning for relaxation therapy. I can only speak for the fitness center as this is all I used while on this trip. My daily time in here consisted of using the Nautilus equipment, stretching, doing some sit ups and walking about. The area is well laid out with a separate area for small aerobics and spinning classes. There are about 20 or so Nautilus machines in the forward section and fourteen walker / running machines in front of the starboard windows to look out to sea with. In the past I think they used to have the running machine looking forward and the weight machines behind them. I like the running machines in front as when I work out on the weight machines I am only on each for a few minutes and do not care about a view. I did try out one of the elliptical machines and they had a lot of pre-programmed work outs available to use to help you keep your fitness level. Every morning about 7:30AM the running and elliptical machines were all being used. There was a whole wall to pick a gym towel from and these were always well supplied. There is a small area in front of the fitness area outside. The Spa Veranda if you just want to walk outside for a breath of the fresh sea air. The one thing I did notice was there was a lot of spa staff about and someone always manning their welcome desk. This concludes this decks description.
I searched all about the ship for deck 13. Forward, aft, port, starboard, above the pool deck and below lido deck but could not find it. I'll have to bring this to Celebrity's attention that a deck was missing.
Well not to skip a beat and moving upward to deck 14 the Lido deck. If you walk from the Aqua spa area to the stairs in the forward section and go up.... There you are. Right outside the Sky observation lounge. If you come up the stairs you would enter this most expansive lounge area on the starboard side of the ship. It has a long entry path till you actually get there. Again screening is done by light white blinds you can see through. This is where they held the Cruise Critic and other major parties. They have an expansive bar area to sit at and to the Port side the raised stage area for the live band to perform at. The furniture here is some large loungers up near the windows along with nice comfortable chairs. There were also three semi circular alcove large enough to walk into and store about ten of your friends in. Nice small privacy areas to accommodate small and large groups. This area with over 200 people in on the cruise critic and again on the Elite member gatherings did not look crowded in the least. Plenty of room to move around and find a place to sit. They held Karaoke up here at night and if you were unlucky enough to be there I am sorry for my poor vocal ability attempting to sing "California Girls" by the Beach Boys. I did hear some other excellent singers who were passengers singing in the lounge area. There are always good singers and dancers among the people on the trip with you. There were dance request numbers played by the DJ every night here. This is just so large and expansive area and the glass windows seemed at least twenty feet high. They had a very good band playing here for the Elite party and the dance floor is huge. Here the wait and bar service was excellent. I gave away bottles of Champagne to our two cruise super stars, in my opinion. One who arranged the rum factory tour for about thirty people of the group. The second set up the meet and greet on line bulletin board for all the connections people to send in their pictures and other information to share in advance. Well walking back outside and going to the aft end of the ship you are at the top of the pool well looking down into the pool area. Again there are those comfy lounge chairs with the Celebrity Blue coverings on each one. And the jogging track. I will say one thing on the jogging track. It is nice but the person who laid it out never ran much. The corners near the aft end of the track are too sharp. I had to move the lounge chairs each AM to round off the sharp corners. This was so I would not to tear my knees up while trying to get my running workout in. The surface was new and gripped my shoes even when a bit wet. So no slip sliding off the ship for me. At the aft end of the track area were two large stair cases, one on each side of the ship, that led down into the pool area. At the forward section of the pool well on deck 14 are the Mast bar and the Mast Grill. So if you need a drink why go far when there is this bar. And when you need a quick bit this area will suffice. They had hot dogs, hamburgers and fries here about lunch time and in the afternoon. The large area above the pool had lounge chairs for the sun worshipers. If you needed to be ten feet closer to the sun to get that perfect tan this was you place to be. It is a little quieter here than on the pool deck level and not a lot of traffic about the area. Walking aft again around the large glass expanse that housed the elevators you go through two sliding glass doors. Then making a bee line to the back of the boat you arrive in the Oceanview Cafe area. If you entered through the port side you would see a regular bar for drinks area. On the starboard side was the scoop ice cream bar area. This is the food court area. And it is where the Solstice shines long into the day. There are no more trays in this area. Just plates and bowls of various sizes. The silverware is sitting on the tables now and there are people who will help you with your plates to a table. I would get a plate then a drink and it was nice not having to worry about the silverware at all till I sat down. As you enter on each end they had cooking stations for the morning breakfast. The ice cream bar area doubled as the waffle station in the AM for the light crispy waffles that Celebrity is known for. Nothing has changed here. The one grill area next to the waffle station made eggs to order and here is where you can get the omelet made to order. They had about 15 different things you could add in. We came up here almost every morning at least to look about. There are five central stations that I remember. One in the middle was set for the breads and muffins. I like the, what I call a Celebrity pop over, brioche. I had them every day on the cruise. Mostly with nothing or split in the middle with honey. The roll was already tasting like fresh butter. I can still taste it now. And see it. Nothing better. Two of the stations were set for fruit, cereal, milks, yogurt and other lit fare. Another has bacon, sausage (two types) and fresh scrambled eggs. In addition the one station had a toaster person. So some days it was get an English Muffin in addition to the other things. They also had a station for English breakfast selections. Everything look nice and fresh every AM. They had four drink stations for juices, tea and coffee. Then find a seat in the expansive seating area and look out to sea as the waves break far away from the ship. I made it a plan and carried it out to get coffee for my travel companions after I finished my morning workout. Carry it down to the cabin for them to enjoy as they woke up. I was told the coffee was very good as I do not drink it. One funny thing that happened in the early AM when I was picking up the coffee was an older gentleman took one of the over sized trays that the crew uses to transport clean coffee cups. He placed his coffee cup on it along with a small plate and walked away. As I watched along with the semi stunned crew. We just smiled and moved along. Lunch selections up here were just as good and tasty. The five stations were always brimming with great choices and many - many selections. There was a salad bar area and as someone put it the dressing were at the start not the end of the line. There was always a fresh fish selection prepared and ready to go. The one grill area doubled as the pasta and pizza bar area. This area never seemed to shut down at all after lunch. Every time I walked by there were at least three different types of pizza selections. What was nice about the pasta bar also was there were multiple pasta types to go along with the multiple sauces you could choose from. There were also add in fixings for your specialty pasta. Great range and great selections. In the late afternoon about 4PM was tea time and you could get some light sandwiches here. Then starting about 5PM the Sushi bar opened off I went there just about every night. They would usually have three or four selections along with the added extras that are in the area. They would open for just about full service at 6PM for alternative dining and when I walked through there was always traffic from that time on till about 10PM every night. The last place on the Lido deck was at the far aft end of the ship. Outside through the sliding glass doors to the Ocean View Bar area. This area was partially covered by the deck above and you could also get a table at the rail over looking the wake of the boat to sit and make memories while enjoying you breakfast or lunch. The interior area here had soft chairs. You could sink into and veg. out after enjoying some thing or event on the ship. In the later evening there was a singer here under the overhang. I think I only caught him one night singing a Jason Martz song. Very good. There is also a small bar tucked into this area under the stairs. Then we will walk upwards to the next level. When does this ship ever end????
Going up to Deck 15 at the aft end. You would walk right into the Lawn Club deck. Right here is the Sunset bar. Across the full back of the ship with very nice wicker chairs to plush yourself down into the watch the sun set from. The chairs extended around each side of the ship so there were more unique seating places for you and anyone with you. There are two separate lawn areas here. On the starboard side of the ship was the Golf putting area. They held the Ryder cup putting challenge here every morning at 9:30AM. I had to run up the stairs from Michaels club where the AM trivia was held. Andrea hosted this event on sea days. The grass is very nice but a bit irregular and not a putting green like quality. More like a fairway level grass. There was also a lot of traffic across the area and it was very soft. There were always at least twenty people in the putting events each day. The Port side of the ship was a true grass Bocce ball court set up. But this area was closed most of the week for repairs or to rest the lawn. Some people did use the area and a young couple had their toddler out her to crawl about so it was used a bit. Moving forward from these areas is the Patio on the Lawn. This was a huge expanse of lawn right on the top of the ship decks. They gave bocce lessons here most of the cruise and did a few tourneys. Mike from the cruise staff hosted some of these events. A lot of people showed up and the rules were modified to let everyone play. I think we had about fifty people one afternoon out there. The best time to be there was late afternoon before dinner with friends to use the lawn area and play your own bocce game with everyone. We did this a few times and Linda led the way with her group up here. A lot of people getting together having fun, drinks and some lawn bowling in the middle of the ocean. Some people who did not know would toss the heavy bocce balls high in the air and dent the lawn. Not good. They may have some trouble here in later cruises as the dents mount up. But I will give Celebrity an A plus for this venue. Well used and very much appreciated. There is a nice walk around area so as not to cut across the grass and thread it down. Connected to this area is the Hot Glass Show area. Every time we were up here playing there seemed to be something in the oven and being sculpted. There were three professionals doing the shaping, molding, creating and talking about it. The only problem being that there is a limited viewing area and the excess spilled on to the lawn area next to this and killed a lot of the grass. I would have to say that the seating was not adequate to the Hot Glass area. If they solve that and the walk around problem to stop the lawn trampling then they have a winner in both directions. Like I saw that the Hot glass shows were over flow attended every day in the afternoon. I don't remember if they did a morning show but those would have been well attended also. One feature here I did like a lot was the cameras they provided inside the ovens while working the glass. It does give a unique perspective and the people working the glass were always using them to monitor the creation in the works. The show seemed to be very long, about two hours each time. There was a small shop to show off some of the glass creations on the port side but nothing was for sale. They did offer to give away some of the pieces in a raffle each day as they were not allowed to sell them at sea. The starboard side of the ship had a small Lawn Club shop for souvenirs and Lawn Club wear. Jumping across the chasm to the forward side of the lawn club deck. Here was the younger cruisers hide out. This area was mostly dedicated to the teen and below age cruisers. We walked up here on the quiet day in St. Kitts. Around to the basketball court which while netted is not protected from the wind. I bet playing here would be a challenge to sink a shot from more the ten feet while the shop was in motion. Inside from the elevator area on the starboard side was the Fun Factory. An it was large - open and well constructed. I think there were two young ladies working here on the day we walked through and looked. They had a lot of new learning innovations, such as an interactive globe get information from. Also large screen TV's and covered blocks and painting areas and each cruiser would have their own storage nook. Walking back out to the port side was the video arcade. The games were nice and new but the prices a little steep as I thought. Forward of here was the Xclub for the teen cruisers to use whenever they would have liked. No one was about the area this day. This was a school in week cruise and I did not expect to see many teen's on the boat and did not.
Well walking outside and going forward you would see a stairwell up. This would have led you to the Solstice Deck. A large area for sun bathing and from the looks of it two hot tubs there. We did not venture up here as we had an event to attend. Well that sort of sums up the walk about the ship and what a ship.
I will say this is not your Grandmother's cruise ship. Celebrity has packed in a lot of extras like the hot glass, lawn club, a lot of specialty restaurants and bars and again so much more. We did get off the ship in Puerto Rico and my friends went to the Run Factory tour while Jenna and I walked up the hill to the fort and along the roadway along the ocean wall to fort del Morro. They had a small stand on the expansively large lawn area here. We stopped and bought two kites. One I gave to the ladies working the young cruisers and the other I flew off the ship in St. Kitts - a first for the ship. After I was done with it I presented it to Nick and Simon Weir to take out back and go to it. We got off the next day in St. Maarten and went to Dove Bay. I had thought this beach was still under repair. It was all there ready to go and the waves were nice to get in and swim about. The water was deep, warm and refreshing. You could rent chairs and umbrellas for $5 each. I did find one of if not the best value on the island. 75 cent Caribe beer. This was just like Carona and with a slice of lime in it cut the heat just right. These were their 1PM to 4PM happy hour prices. I was very happy I found this deal. We sat under the large palm and shaded area and watched the waves crash here for about an hour. I think the taxi ride was $6 each way per person. The roads are a bit winding here but offered a look into where the people on the island lived. We did get off in St. Kitts to go on a hunting expedition for Vanilla as I use a lot of it in backing cookies. We walked down the road to a local supermarket and found it. Labeled $9.95 per bottle. But that was the local currency prices. It ended up we got four bottles for twenty US dollars and got ten dollars back in local currency which we gave to the table wait staff. I don't think I had been to St. Kitts every 5 years or so. There were some kiddies on the ship but you never seemed to see them. We did run into them as a group in the Ocean View restaurant one afternoon. They were all dressed up as pirates and looked like they could take over the ship. It was their ice cream time and they were enjoying it. We ran into our two young cruisers from the small pool again here and they were just adorable. Parents should have pictures taken here as they may have missed out. One of the things I did try this time was to get something for every crew member on the ship. And I succeeded with another ship first. At the awards ceremony I presented the cruise staff with a 5 lb bag on M&M's for all the crew to share. Enough for them to all have one. ? I also brought about 20 bags of Skittles and 10 packs of Starburst. These I gave away to just about anyone on the ship. From Simon Weir to our bus boy. And speaking of Simon - I saw him about the ship every day. Checking into things and picking up discarded towels on the pool deck late one afternoon. This is a tireless job and Celebrity has chosen the right person to debut their new entry. Always in work mode and fun mode when it cam to the passengers and their comforts. A few other things before I close. The plastic wear / glasses they used looked like real glass. It was not till the third day I realized the blue glasses the bar staff were using were indeed - plastic. I then borrowed them every day to carry about my Rum and Coke - well in this case Pepsi. Walking about the ship all the time and into the bathrooms in just about every area one thing. They were always clean and tidy. The places where they had their small rolled towels to dry your hands is something very nice. The food and service was as always at the high Celebrity standards and I do not think I was ever disappointed with an offering. From my embarkation day seafood salad to the last days sit down breakfast of French toast. Excellent from start to Finish. Great service to go along with it in whatever venue we were in. I will say the first night I did freeze my hand to the Martini bar. And was lucky enough to get free before the end of the night. The redness from the hot water they had to pour on my hand to set me free has just about faded.
Disembarkation: The Solstice docked very early in Ft. Lauderdale. We were catching an early flight home and did the express checkout. This is where you hold your luggage and carry it all off on your own. We walked off the ship about 8am. The ship security staff check you off the ship as you leave with your sea pass. Then it's down the escalator or elevator with the luggage and over to customs. I don't think we bought more than $60 on the islands or the ship that we brought home. Out to the Taxi's and at the airport by about 8:30AM. Checked in the luggage and were ready to go before 9AM. I was wondering if we could have caught the earlier flight home that boarded about 9:20AM. Our flight was at 10:40AM. We were called right on time and away we went. My last bit of good luck was on the way home when the stewardess needed change for $100 and offered a free drink for the person who supplied it. Well one free rum and coke, Hank will be proud again, later I was doing real fine. The vacation ended just as it had started having a good time.
Ship Impressions: This ship is new and beautiful. They have packed a lot into this new entry and people seemed to not be able to take everything in. Well that means a repeat trip or two is in order. The public areas never seemed to be crowded even the pool well area on sea days. I would like to see when they hit summer what the crowd looks like - but I think not much different.
Trip: This was just a seven day cruise but you would need at least ten to really get to everything the ship had to offer. Maybe the new entry Equinox will handle the longer trips. There were four sea days and three island days. This is the mix I like. We had been to all the stops before but found something new to do at each place.
I hope I cover just about everything on the trip. I would like to thank everyone who was on the trip with me. Jenna, Eileen and Bob, Karen and Tim, Deb and Bill, Kathy and all the other cruise critic and friends I made along the way. I did blind deposit two more trips for ship board credit. So there is a lot of thinking going on for the next trip to sea. At this point I have cruised 30 weeks at sea and 24 cruises in all. Most of them with Celebrity. They seem to fit my likes with food and service. Keep planning - Keep Cruising. Maybe I will see you out there. Longboysfan Thomas Treimel