Monday, November 24, 2008

Celebrity Solstice Review

Jen's 2 Nights on the Celebrity Solstice Inaugural

Last weekend I was very fortunate to be chosen to represent Betty Maclean Travel, Inc. on a 2 night inaugural cruise of the brand new Celebrity Solstice!!! I have to say I was was impressed the Solstice and came back with many pictures and a very full stomach. The Solstice surprised me on many different levels. As many have said on the cruise she was posh, hip, and very well decorated. They had 10 restaurants to choose from all of which were fabulous, as I had the chance to sample many menu items. The nightlife was one of the best I have seen at sea. They had European style circus shows- much like Cirque du Soleil. Their disco was fun and jam packed due to the great music, lighting and fun seats including those that hung from the ceiling! Their new glass blowing show by the Corning Museum of Glass was a truly unique experience on a cruise.


Tina and I were in cabin 9180 in a category 1B which I thought was very nice. When we got the Solstice first thing as always I unpacked all my stuff and in doing so I found that the closet space was fairly small on the standard balcony cabin that we had. I did learn if you prefer more closet space a Sky Suite is perfect as they have his and hers closets and more room in the cabin overall. I than checked out the bathroom which was very well designed. They had the shaving foot rest in the shower as promised which I thought was brilliant! Ladies you know how difficult shaving in a cruise shower can normally be. But the shower stall was a bit short if someone of my husband’s height were showering (6'5). I was very happy with the chairs on the balcony as they ditched their usual plastic chairs and replaced them with very nice comfortable reclining chairs. Speaking of chairs...I was told the CEO himself sat in every style of chair on the ship for final approval! If this is correct he did a fantastic job picking out the seating throughout the ship! I would have to say there were more wonderfully comfortable places to sit than on any other ship I have been on. I loved the beds placed by the pool with privacy dividers, hammocks, lounge chairs and my most favorite the hanging chairs in the disco.

Cabin Photos:

Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom with Veranda- Cabin #9180

Celebrity Suite- Cabin #1609

Royal Suite- Cabin #1609

Penthouse Suite- Cabin# 1611


I was very impressed by the shows on board as I would normally sit in the back to sneak out in the middle or skip the show completely, but this was different. The show I was able to catch amidst my busy couple of days was "Solstice" which was a Cirque du Soleil type show. It was a collection of short but exciting acts with great lighting and design. It captured my attention from start to finish.

There were several other bars and lounges for all kinds of tastes in the evening. At Cellar Masters they had fine wines and mellow laid back music and atmosphere. Across the way there was the Martini Bar/ Ice bar which was a fun and sexy bar to say the least. There was ample seating around the bar where the bar was lined with cold layer of ice. They had a smaller bar just to its side where they did a martini and caviar tastings as well. The bartenders were fun and performed tricks for those around the bar. I would have to say this bar was an overall hit and guests were sure to find whichever type of Martini they desired here. You might want to try the French Martini which seemed to be all the rage that night!

Well that is not all as they also had the Observation Sky Bar, Casino, Micahels, Passports, The Pool Bar with music accompanied by a fabulous fountain light show. If I could say anything about the top decks at night is that the lighting was truly something special. It was like being at a hip club in South beach.

The Martini Bar/ Crush

The sailaway deck party, was accompanied by a fountain light show!

Dance the night away-

Celebrity did a smart thing in drawing attention just outside the Quasar Disco after the show. They had the most wonderful quartet singing which drew quite a crowd. Normally I would have expected that to be a bust but really they were very talented and cute too! As that ended they drew the crowd into Quasar for some late night dancing! There was a great mix of fun music and the place stayed packed until late into the night. After some late night dancing a bunch of us wanted something to eat and when normally at this time of night (2am) everything is closed their Bistro 5 was still open for late night diners. We helped ourselves to some crepes and brownie sundaes before we had to get to bed for our sad day of debarkation.

Quasar Disco

Glassblowing on the lawn-

The glass blowing had to be one of my favorites being a big fan of the arts! The shows are there for your entertainment several times a day by the Corning Museum of Glass and they sure did a fantastic job. The glassblower who did our show had been blowing glass for over 25 years but has never on a moving cruise ship. They did say they had to adjust to the additional wind and temporal weather conditions. That certainly did not stop them from creating a very nice piece of art all while getting to watch. The neat part was that they had overhead cameras to catch the parts you could not see from your seat. They even had a camera in the glass kennel, now that is high tech!

Speaking of the Lawn, I do think that is a very innovative thing to create for a ship, however for me it wasn't really something to get all that excited about. Maybe it’s because I live in a city that has grass everywhere I go, but I just could not get myself to understand the hype. I did love the signs they posted which said "Grass is Resting"!! How funny is that? They even had foot washing stations, yes folks you heard right! Foot washing stations! haha that is just too funny!

Treats for your taste buds-

There were so many dinning choices on board the Solstice! I tried my best to try all of them but let me tell you that was not an easy task! My personal favorite is always trying the ice cream. I would rate the buffet ice cream station an 8. They had hard scoopable ice cream made up of many flavors and a topping bar! But I will still give Holland America the one up on ice cream as they had waffle cones and the yummiest of homemade flavors. Than I discovered the Gelato bar....I would have to say that was absolutely divine but....there was a small cover charge to that ice cream.

Ok off the ice cream and on to the rest. The main dinning Grand Epernay had such an elegant design with its super light colors and clean lines. I would say it shined and sparkled but not too much over the top. I enjoyed the everything from the appetizer to the desert. And if that were not enough our waiter even over heard us talking about how much we love chocolate and brought us each a tasty piece of chocolate!

The specialty restaurants were all in one area of the ship with a low lit lounge that flows out to all four. The lounge also connected to Michaels club where they kept the same casual relaxed atmosphere as their previous ships only cutting out the cigars. I can say this ship has cut out smoking in most areas including verandas and left only a couple areas to smoke designated on the ship.

The four specialty restaurants were Tuscan Grill, Silk Harvest, Blu (for Aqua Spa Guests), and Muranos. They did a tasting outside the restaurants one afternoon and I would have to say that all four are worth dinning in. Another great thing about having all four in the same area is less crowds. I did not notice crowds standing outside the restaurants at all in comparison of Grand Epernay right before dinner. This is one great perk for me as I hate standing out there with a huge crowd waiting for the dinning room to open.

Cost of the specialty restaurants ranged from $20 to $30 per person. At Murano they serve a blend of classic and modern continental cuisine; Silk Harvest for Asian food featuring everything from Pakistani to Chinese and Thai to Vietnamese; and Tuscan Grille, a steakhouse venue with an Italian twist, including an antipasti bar.

Retail Therapy-

Yes, that is what the sign said! I am sad to say I did not make any purchases on this cruise but not because they didn't have anything I didn't want....They had some of the best shops I've seen on a cruise ship and the layout was more like a high-end shopping center. They had less logo type shops and more of what we really want to buy....things to wear, accessorize, and sparkle! Nice taste Celebrity!!!


This was one of my favorite spots on the ship. It was fully covered in case of rain showers and the lighting was soothing. They had nice music and chairs that can put you to sleep. At night the fountain lights up and dances to the rhythm of the music.

Aqua Spa-

Think sanctuary of relaxation! I think for me this was quite a revelation in cruising in the premium market. When you book your cabin in the Aqua Class you not only get a sizable amount of wonderful amenities but you are also unlimited access to the Persian Gardens and relaxation room. Within the Persian Garden you have gentle music, mosaic tile heated chairs to melt your stress away, steam rooms with light aromatherapy, and rain showers to refresh your minds just before your trip back to the cabin. This was just the tip of the iceberg for me and Aqua Class. After seeing all that the Aqua Class offers I would highly recommend this to any of my clients. The room comes with all the amenities of the concierge level room and than some! Some of the highlights for me are the large terry robes, champagne and fruit basket, yoga mats, pillow menus to get it just right, and upgraded showers with the Hansgrohe shower heads. After that relaxing morning at the spa, you might want a light lunch at the Aqua Spa Cafe. After a long afternoon by the pool or maybe a trip ashore, Aqua Spa guests are allowed access to the specialty restaurant Blu. This dinning is reserved especially for Aqua Spa guests and Celebrity was gracious enough to invite me to dinner in Blu on our first night. This was such a fabulous experience all the way from the above and beyond service down to the filet that I could have cut with my fork!

High Tech Ship!

Overall this ship really outdid any other in the tech department. One of the high tech wonders were the ipod hookups on all the cardio equipment in the fitness center. This enables you to hook up your ipod/iphone to keep it charged and watch and listen to your ipod off their very large touch screen. I also loved the interactive t.v.s in the rooms and the features it provided. I was able to very easily navigate the t.v. screen to order room service, watch tv, watch movies, make dinner reservations and more... Let’s touch on this movie thing a bit more. I have to say a large downfall of most ships is you have great first run movies playing all day and night, but......I usually end up watching the end, middle, and than beginning in that order. That is because I always turn the tv on right in the middle of a movie. But with on demand you can pick from a large list of free movies and this allows you to pause - for when you want to go off and get a spa treatment, eat, take a nap etc... and than resume later on. If you don’t like the selection of the free movies they also have pay per view movies to purchase. If you want to use your phone or your laptop for a small fee the whole ship is also wireless.

Check out this 6 minute video with all my best pics and video clips of the ship!!!!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Holland America Eurodam

This weekend I received an invitation for a ship inspection aboard the brand new Holland America Eurodam! What a ship she is! I have to say I was very impressed with the contemporary design and sophisticated elegance. It was larger than Holland America Lines’ other ships yet still as traditional and intimate. I wish I had more time to truly experience all that she had to offer though I did manage to get a “taste”. I say this quite literally as Holland America treated us to a fabulous lunch in her main dinning room. This was quite a treat and much larger than my usual lunch consisting of 5 courses and wine.

I will start with the cabins as I toured my way from the Penthouse cabin down the standard inside. The penthouse was quite the sight. As you enter the cabin you pass the butlers pantry which would be used to host dinner party served course by course or a cocktail party with your friends and family. The living room has a table for 8 and a large sofa that sleeps two. The living room was quite comfortable and had flat screen TVs throughout. There was a door to the very spacious balcony which brought me to the outdoor Jacuzzi. That had to be the highlight of the cabin for me, as I would sit out there quite a bit. What a treat to be able to sit outside in my private balcony in the Jacuzzi while sailing the Mediterranean! They had two bathrooms, guest and master. The master bathroom had a split bath and it was gorgeous! There were lots of gold furnishings and even a tub with a fountain shaped like a lion.

The next level down was the Deluxe Veranda Suite. I highly recommend this category stateroom as it does provide a substantial list of extra amenities, among them the priority embarkation and the Neptune Concierge Lounge. As I boarded the ship I saw a separate area just to facilitate the boarding of the Deluxe Veranda Suites and above. This makes the process stress free with shorter lines and fewer crowds. Once these guests get on the ship they may stop by the Neptune lounge to meet the concierge and have a drink and hors d'oeuvres. Some other wonderful benefits to being in a Deluxe Veranda Suite is the complimentary laundry. When cruising with my husband we certainly take advantage of this amenity. By having our laundry done throughout the cruise we don't have to pack as much and can go home with clean clothes while not having to do laundry later myself. As for the cabin they came with a large wrap around couch and terry robes and towels. The veranda was a nice size and had wicker chairs with soft cushions and a foot rest. I liked the colors of these new cabins and the couch was very comfortable and fit in very well with the décor.

The Superior Veranda Suites were also very nice, though a slight drop in size from the Deluxe Veranda Suites. Most of the difference in size seemed to come from the living room area where they replaced a wrap around couch with a smaller couch that sleeps one.

The Deluxe Veranda Ocean views are slightly larger than a standard balcony with a love seat in the sitting area across from a vanity.

The interior stateroom comes in two sizes and if I were to be forced into an inside cabin I would definitely chose the larger stateroom as it has a decent size sitting area.

Next is what I think will be very popular on the Eurodam is the Spa staterooms. They come in inside, ocean view and suite cabins. Be aware of the balcony category that is a spa stateroom which has a French balcony. You can stand outside on it but there is no room for chairs, so make sure to speak with your travel consultant (Jen Mitchell) when choosing a cabin. It might not be so terrible if you like being able to open your balcony door but never sit outside on it. The spa staterooms are in close proximity to the spa and include some extra amenities such as:

Organic cotton bathrobes and slippers
iPod™ docking station
Soothing color palette
In-room slate table-top water feature
Yoga mat
Pedometer for use aboard ship
Fitness DVD
No-host minibar initially stocked with specialty waters
Cut-fruit tray at embarkation
Invigorating shower head; wooden bathmat; aromatherapy bath salts
Room service Spa Breakfast
In-room Spa Menu
Spa concierge to book treatments

Now moving along to the public areas of the ship…..I just loved the culinary arts center. I have seen it on their other ships, but this one was just fabulous! They have culinary demonstrations as well as other classes such as towel folding. Since I am a total movie buff, I was very excited about their screening room. It had a very large screen and the most comfortable reclining leather seats. Speaking of very comfortable seats I would have to say Holland America has the most comfortable seating in their Crows nest and Explorations Café. Something that they tried on the Eurodam that is different from their other ships is putting the Explorations Café up where the Crows Nest is, giving you a great view while you sip your latte and read a book.

On to my favorite part….dinning! The buffet on the Eurodam has a very special restaurant called Canaletto which is a reservations only Italian restaurant which is complimentary for all guests. Tamarind Restaurant and Silk Den Lounge is their new Pan Asian Restaurant and lounge with panoramic views of the ocean and Lido Pool area. Sadly there was no time to try this restaurant but it will be top of my list when I cruise on her for a regular sailing.

The main dinning room was where Holland America was gracious enough to serve us lunch. I had the duck pâté, seafood chowder, mahi mahi with rice and vegetables and a fabulous fruit pastry for desert. I can surely say I left the ship full!

Something new that Holland has done on the Eurodam is add new poolside cabanas. The cabanas are available to reserve by the day or by the cruise. Available on two decks, they are tastefully decorated, filled with amenities and provide an exquisite poolside retreat. The Retreat is your own private oasis located high above the rest…the ultimate place to relax surrounded by healthy refreshments and luxurious amenities.

Well I think that about sums it up. I hope you enjoyed reading about my day on the Holland America Eurodam. I will give this ship a big two thumbs up!