Cruise Ship: Celebrity Solstice
Cruise Destination: Western Caribbean
Cruise Dates: August 1-8, 2010
Guest Contributor: Mary & Vincent Finelli
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.
Celebrity Solstice Embarkation
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.
Celebrity Solstice Overview
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.
Celebrity Solstice Service and 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 understated beauty.
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.
- Appetizers: Seafood 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 soup, etc.
- 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.
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.
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