Eastern Caribbean Cruise
Jan. 3-10, 2010
by Mary & Vincent Finelli
spring we booked a transatlantic cruise on the Solstice, but due to
health problems we did not make it. The Solstice is now 14 months
old, her naming ceremony was Nov. 14, 2008; her Godmother is Prof.
Sharon L. Smith a renown marine and atmospheric scientist from the
University of Miami: very apropos! The Solstice's name conjures up
thoughts of our sun star and heavenly worlds beyond Earth. Her
Godmother grounds those ideas and brings to our life on Earth more
The softness of the many delicate draperies on board evokes feelings
of clouds. The highly polished aluminum columns in the Grand Epernay
Dining Rooms and the Champagne bubble like lights on the ceiling,
combined with the beauty of the décor presents an ethereal aura.
Even the night club on Deck 4 is named Quasar and calls up space
images. Suffice it to say, the Solstice is unique, and so is her
Captain Dimitrios Kafetzis. He is a fine Master with a welcoming
sense of humor: ”He is Greek!” with all the connotations and
beautiful manners of a Greek ship's host.
On a Sunday morning I-95 traffic is light and from
Boca Raton to Ft. Lauderdale takes only 25 minutes. We had curbside
assistance with our baggage, wheelchair, and scooter. A crew member
helped us through check-in and we were in our stateroom in twenty
minutes. Excellent! Guests were greeted with Mimosa drinks, very
The Solstice weighs 122,000 gross tons; she is 1,033
feet long and has a beam of 121 feet. Her draft is 27 feet and she
has a cruising speed of 24 knots. She carries 2,850 guests and has
16 passenger decks. What follows is a deck by deck description of
Deck 1 is for crew only.
Deck 2 holds the Medical Facility (which we did not visit)!
Deck 3 aft has the Grand Epernay Restaurant, a glorious combination
of spaciousness and modern design with crystal and chrome fitting in
beautifully, with the three deck tall white draperies. There is an
old saying that drinking Champagne in Epernay (the heart of French
Champagne country) is like listening to Mozart in Salzburg...” (Eperzine
Web magazine). So also are diners in this stunning dining room
treated to bubbles in the ceiling lighting. On Deck 3 are the Guest
Relations Desk, the Shore Excursions Desk and the Passport Bar.
Deck 4 has Celebrity Central entertainment locale, Cellars Masters
(wine, whiskey, or bourbon tastings, etc.). Then, there is the
Fortunes Casino (the Slots are loose, and the give out is published
daily.) Next is the Quasar Nightclub with its polished metal dance
floor, suspended capsule chairs and twinkling lights, there is lots
of atmosphere. Midship are the shops on board and forward the
Solstice Theatre with excellent acoustics, but there are a few poles
obstructing the view of the stage, so choose seats carefully. The
red velvet stage curtain is flanked by two 3 deck tall draperies
composed of tucked white and off white fabrics making a collage of
billows. Very unique.
Deck 5 has the “Bistro on Five” which specializes in crepes, both
sweet and savory. This is a great place for brunch or late night
dessert ($5) the “Cafe` al Bacio” serves exquisite coffee and
desserts. There is also a Gelato ice cream shop, and the Captain's
Club for repeat cruisers. Since Celebrity is part of RCI and we are
Diamond Plus members in the Crown & Anchor Society, we have been
given elite status with great perks. There are the boutique shops
and Michael's Club where cocktail parties and high teas are held.
Aft on Deck 5 are the specialty restaurants: Murano (excellent
French cuisine) Silk Harvest (Asian) and the Tuscan Grille
(Italian), cover charges apply.
Deck 6 through 11 are all staterooms in addition to the
Online@Celebrity (the internet room) on Deck 6, the Library on Deck
10 (open stacks and reading areas, no need to sign in or out (the
honor policy is in operation) and the Relaxation Lounge on Deck 11.
Deck 12 has the Health & Fitness center, the Aqua Spa, the Beauty
Salon, the Solarium, Swimming Pools and Whirlpools. Vincent uses the
sauna and the whirlpool daily and he had wonderful advice and help
Deck 14 has the jogging track, the Mast Bar & Grill (hot dogs,
hamburgers and fries), the Ocean Bar & Café and the Sky Observation
Lounge. There are sky lectures with an on board astronomer at night.
Deck 15 has basket ball courts, a hot blown glass show (Corning) and
the Lawn Club with extensive grass lawn where Bocce Tournaments
between passengers and crew are played.
Deck 16 is the Sun Deck.
Throughout the ship is a huge eclectic art collection, some of it
commissioned for the Solstice and others works are from both famous
cubists like Picasso and Matisse or from photographers like Martin
Liebscher where repeated photographs of himself in different poses
make up a crowd. Very Interesting. The “Full Moon Briars” by Susan
Derges is certainly in keeping with the Solstice theme. Different
staircases have been given themes like “Stair of Light” and “Stair
Stateroom #6141 is a wheelchair accessible cabin
with a large automatic door. When entering on the left there is a
full length mirror and a double armoire in maple wood; a vanity/desk
with lighted mirror, seven drawers, a private safe, and
refrigerator. There is a marble counter top and one chair.
When entering, on the right is a huge tiled bathroom with a tilt
mirror flanked by two large medicine cabinets with glass doors.
There are safety rails all around and a huge shower with a fold away
seat. There is a king size bed with very nice linens of gold white
and maroon. The two reading lamps are close enough to turn on and
off from the bed. The final pieces of furniture are a love seat and
a small coffee table.
The balcony is large and deep: it contains two recliners and a teak
table and chair. The carpet is in Burberry colors: gold, beige and
maroon and the draperies are beige with bands of rose patterns. The
stateroom attendant, Mahmodi is excellent. The cabin is large and
SERVICE & FOOD
Hotel Director Damien O'Connor displays the perfect
temperament to control the Solstice. He is kind, affable and likes
to hear just how the passengers are getting along. He doesn't just
ask questions for conversation's sake, rather he is truly interested
in the passengers' satisfaction. He has a well trained crew, who
make the passengers comfortable and provide for their every need. We
always say that the mood on board filters down from above, with such
friendly leaders as Captain Dimitrios, H.D. Damien and Restaurant
Manager Fabio Scaglione, it's only natural that the crew are also
friendly and sincere.
Food & Beverage Manager Robert Flack has the daunting task of
overseeing 600 crew members who produce and serve more than 12,000
meals daily, yet everything goes off beautifully. Exec. Chef Mickael
Tochetto combines the best of culinary traditions: born of Italian
parents, raised in France! The food on board is excellent, based on
menus by world renown Chef Jacques Van Staden and implemented
perfectly by Chef Mickael. The menu is one of the most diverse at
sea and most ample. No one could possibly go away unsatisfied.
We enjoyed every meal on board, especially the one at Captain
Dimitrios' table on formal night. The Escargot was perfect,
Vincent's Caesar salad and filet Mignon were just the way he liked
them. The Captain was jovial and complimentary; at the end of the
meal he gave each lady at the table a beautiful long stem American
Beauty rose. Our waiter at table #110 in Epernay was José Altamirano,
both he and his assistant Yvonne Williams were very pleasant and
served at a nice pace. Celebrity is probably the only line still
providing a finely trained Sommelier: Ferhat Ebret was cordial and
Vincent was appreciative of his service and knowledge. Bravo.
Some samples from the appetizer menu are as follows: Tropical Fruit
Medley with Lychee nuts; San Francisco Crab Louis; Goat cheese tart
served with red roasted peppers and Balsamic syrup. Soups included
Wild Mushroom Cappuccino with Porcini mushroom dust, and chilled
Gazpacho. Salads were fresh and varied: Belgium Endive and arugala
with red delicious apple and candied pecans. Some of their homemade
dressings included Roquefort, Citrus, Pinot Noir Vinaigrette,
Champagne and lite raspberry.
Entrees include pastas like Spaghetti Carbonara, fish such as Herb
crusted Merluzzo (white fish) and fowl like Grandmother's Coq Au Vin
and Veal Cordon Bleu. Chef Mickael's Ossobuco (excellent) Mary felt
it was a triumph! The aged Prime Rib of Beef was mouth watering.
Vegetarians had a large assortment of dishes including grilled
Kebabs. For dessert there was always a selection of imported
cheeses, fruits and traditional desserts like Crème Brulee, NY
cheesecake, Profiteroles, apple pie, fresh sorbets and homemade ice
There are several Speciality Restaurants. We highly recommend Murano,
and its contemporary French Cuisine: try the sweet breads and the
fois gras and the wonderful Cheese Cart. We are happy to report the
food on board is excellent.
The Solstice has three very nice shows: Adam Trent a
young magician, singer Karen Grainger, and Celebrity Show time
presented Solstice: the Show, which was very nice with aerial
acrobatics. A very interesting offering was Astronomer Vic Stryker,
who lead nightly sky watching. This ship has many things for
cruisers including Casino games, Bingo, Fitness, Bocce, etc.
PORTS OF CALL
Sunday: Ft. Lauderdale, FL Depart: 4:30pm
Monday: At Sea
Tuesday: San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive: 2:00pm Depart: 8:00pm
Wednesday: Philipsburg, St. Maarten Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 7:00pm
Thursday: Tortola, B.V.I. Arrive:7:00am Depart: 1:00pm
Friday: Labadee, Haiti Arrive: 10:00am Depart: 6:30pm
Saturday: At Sea
Sunday: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Arrive: 7:00am
This was another great cruise! We have not had a bad
cruise in a long time, since we have learned what to expect from the
various cruise lines and direct our attention to the things they do
best. We are addicted to cruising, because we know how to get the
best out of every cruise in regard to food, service, itinerary,
ship's environment, repeater's benefits and personal attention. Some
readers of our reviews have accused us of being too soft with our
criticism. We disagree with them since we always include in the
reviews any points which are not perfect and may need improvement.
It is hard to write a negative review when we have enjoyed the
overall aspect of a cruise, which up to now we have always done.
We'll be cruising in search of the perfect cruise or an unpleasant
one; neither of which we have yet experienced.
Our next cruise is in February on the Liberty of the Seas together
with our son Marcello, his wife Paige and their eight year old son
Marcellino. We have also booked a relocation cruise on the Star
Princess, on March 16th, from Rio De Janeiro to Ft. Lauderdale.
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