Western Caribbean Cruise
August 1-8, 2010
Solstice: Blu Restaurant
by Mary & Vincent
Last January we cruised on the Solstice with Capt. Dimitrios
Kafetzis and had a memorable cruise. We booked the Solstice again in
order to experience the new Aqua Class cruising. Since we published
a review on the
Solstice in January,
we will refer readers to that review on this web site for a
deck-by-deck description of this gorgeous ship and focus this review
on the delights of cruising in Aqua Class. We had a warm welcome
aboard and the week proved to be equally enjoyable.
On Sunday morning, with light traffic on I-95, it
took us less than half an hour to travel from our home in Boca Raton
to the ship in Ft. Lauderdale, where the embarkation process was so
smooth that we were on board in 15 minutes. Alas, the staterooms
were not yet ready, so we proceeded to the Ocean View Cafe` for
lunch. At 1:00 pm, while we were eating, the announcement was made
that our cabins were ready.
Under the supervision of Hotel Director Sue
Richardson, the ship is kept in excellent condition: Solstice is
less than two years old and looks just as new and sparkling as the
day she left the Meyer Werft shipyard – just celestial as she was on
our first cruise. The Solstice (2008) is the first of a class, the
ship's dimension are 122,000 gross tons; 1,033 ft. long; beam is 121
ft. and a draft of only 27 ft. Celebrity's next two ships in this
class are the Equinox (2009) and the Eclipse (2010), in cookie
cutter fashion, and the Silhouette (2011) is in the works. Guest
capacity is 2,850 and her crew numbers 1,200.
There are 130 staterooms in the Aqua Class which are identical to
the deluxe ocean view cabins with veranda (194 sq. ft. with an 54
sq. ft. veranda and 299 sq. ft. with 80 sq. ft. veranda for the
wheelchair accessible cabins). Some of the features in the Aqua
Class cabin are queen size beds, 32”LCD TV, wireless internet access
and a table with two reclining chairs on the balcony. Special
amenities in these rooms include the following: Complimentary dining
in the Blu Restaurant (clean cuisine, spa style food); upgraded
bathroom amenities; plush robes and slippers; oversized towels and
contour pillows; sound and aromatics for relaxing: complimentary
Italian Spring Water; Carafes of infused teas daily; daily canapes;
available full breakfast in room service; daily breakfast in the Blu
restaurant from 7 to 9 am and finally Concierge Services! Waiting in
our stateroom were a bottle of French Brut Champagne, chilling in an
ice bucket, and fresh flowers.
SERVICE & FOOD
Service on board any vessel takes its cue from the
Captain and Dimitrios is a friendly and outgoing Greek! All week we
had marvelous service and were aware that he made passenger and crew
safety a priority on the ship.
Aqua Class is aimed toward a healthy life style and dining in Blu
was always interesting. For years we have been grumbling that ship
portions were always too large--Blu has achieved perfection in
portion sizes. We always felt satisfied after dining, but not
bloated. The décor of Blu is lovely: windows to the sea provide a
terrific backdrop, overhead a gorgeous chandelier, in crystal and
cobalt blue, evokes thoughts of Santorini and the Greek Isles. The
chargers and plates were uniquely shaped and in whites glass and
cobalt blue as were the water tumblers. The whole effect is
We asked the Maitre d' Dariusz Chowaniec if we could have the same
waiters each evening--Wilmer Castillo and Santos Ramirez because
they were so wonderful. They were prompt and remembered all our
likes (i.e., lemon wedges for Mary). We had an excellent sommelier,
appropriately named Napa, and every evening assistant Maitre d'
Marjan welcomed us. Dinner at Blu Restaurant was always a pleasant
and relaxing event.
ceviche, empanadas, baked goat's cheese, soft shelled crabs, beef
carpaccio, lump crab martini, etc.
Soups: Chilled sweet pea with crab and
toasted almonds, tortilla soup, spicy roasted plantain and corn
Salads: Endive, Blu Caesar salad, Boston
bibb and arugula, Shaved fennel and blood orange emulsion, etc.
Entrees: Broiled Atlantic salmon,
roasted chicken breast, NY strip, braised lamb shank with couscous
and glazed carrots, etc.
Desserts: They were tiny and light and
included crème brulee, a variety of fresh sorbets like mangoes and
ginger, etc. Many desserts were mysterious and surprising.
We also highly recommend the upscale Tuscan
Grill restaurant, where we ate and were very happy with the gorgeous
veal chop and the delightful ginger snap tulip cup filled with wild
berries and mascarpone cream for dessert. Vincent noted that
wherever he ordered meat entrees (fillet Mignon, New York strip,
veal chop or prime rib) from the Grand Epernay to the Tuscan Grill
and the Ocean View Café, they were the best at sea.
Perhaps our loveliest meal was with Captain Dimitrios on the first
formal night in the Grand Epernay dining room. He is a wonderful
story teller and he regaled the table with parenthood tales. The
very democratic captain used the dining room menu as his table menu.
Excellent! Yet, we did notice a difference between this cuisine
under Executive Chef Mischa Graafman and that of Executive Chef
Mikael Tochetto on our last Solstice cruise. Chef Tochetto used a
superb mix of French and Italian cuisine, while Chef Graafman's
cuisine has overtones of Holland America and Indonesian spices. As
the Latin maxim says: “De gustibus non est disputandum (no disputing
about taste)”. We met many officers who were always courteous and
friendly, especially the Food and Beverage Manager Michael Bramlett,
who was everywhere and his work was evident.
Wheelchair accessible cabin #1538 is spacious and
just like the one we described in the January Solstice review. The
nicest thing about it is the automatic door opener and the huge
bathroom. Mary had a fall in the bathroom and four stewards
including John our steward and Roman and two others plus Medical
Assistant Alistair all rushed to help and still the bathroom was not
crowded. Alistair took us to the Hospital Facility on Deck 2 where
Dr. Cosmopoulos(?) was wonderful and caring; he took x-rays and
wrapped the knee. All gratis! The facility and the Doctor were
Cruise Director Paul Baya has an excellent voice. He
did a rousing rendition of “Stand by Me” at the Elite Cocktail
Party. We especially enjoyed the Sipra Band and the two girl
singers: Janisa and Maricel, and the male vocalist Bryan Allan. The
Tony Viviano Quartet in the Ensemble Lounge did a lovely job on our
favorite “Green Sleeves.” The Solstice singers and dancers produced
peppy shows and the Solstice Band provided excellent entertainment.
There is plenty to do on board and even educational courses, one can
play Bocce on the lawn on Deck 15. Get out there!
PORTS OF CALL
Day 1: Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale FL Depart:
Day 2: At Sea.
Day 3: Georgetown, Grand Cayman Arrive: 9:00am Depart: 4:00pm
Day 4: Cozumel, Mexico Arrive: 9:00am Depart: 6:00pm
Day 5: Costa Maya, Mexico Arrive : 8:00am Depart: 6:00pm
Day 6: Roatan, Honduras Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 5:00pm
Day 7: At Sea.
Day 8: Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale, FL Arrive 7:00am.
The debarkation process went very smoothly. After
our breakfast in the restaurant Blu, we returned to our cabin and
waited for a crew member that the Associate Hotel Director Sheldon
Thompson had arranged to help us. We are both disabled and need
assistance, even though Mary has a motorized wheelchair and Vincent
has a scooter, we also use a walker for short distances. This time
Vincent's scooter broke down on one of the ramps exiting the ship
and, fortunately, the attendant that was accompanying us helped to
bring the scooter down. Thanks again to the crew for being always
helpful and courteous. By 10 am we were back home in Boca Raton.
Even though we have done many Caribbean cruises,
this was our first done in August. We usually prefer to cruise the
Caribbean during the fall and winter months, when the chances for
tropical storms and tempestuous seas are low, but to our surprise
the weather this time was great. Vincent enjoyed the view from our
starboard balcony, especially the colorful sunsets and the sighting
of Venus, as bright as ever, during the evening in the western
skies. The only evidence of storms during this trip were the
lightning seen from our balcony in the distant cloudy horizon, so
distant that no thundering sound followed the flash of lightning.
Captain Dimitrios Kafetzis must have kept us away from the storms.
We had the pleasure of seeing again this friendly captain who
remembered us from the previous cruise and invited us for dinner at
the Captain's table. Thank you, Captain!
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