Let me start with the conclusion: bringing you along on this journey would have probably ranked near the top of the list of blunders.
The Ship: It’s the Solstice, the newest ship in the Celebrity fleet, maybe the newest ship in anyone’s fleet. You can look it up at Celebrity.com and get pictures. It’s a gorgeous vessel. The Solstice is what’s known as a supership—228,000 tons (or something like that), 2800 passengers, three crew members (or so it seems when you need anything that’s free…no, let me correct that, there’s must be about a thousand crew members, because that’s how many people are around trying to sell you stuff…drinks everywhere, jewelry, art auctions, shore excursions, reservations at the ship’s specialty restaurants etc.—and when I say selling, I mean SELLING…like pesky gnats that you can’t swat away). The ship is an absolute monster, albeit a quite pretty monster, tastefully decorated for the most part, with good-looking decks and bars and restaurants. If only they would let you just reach the foregoing conclusion by yourself. There is endless patter among the crew, even P.A. announcements, proclaiming her “the most beautiful ship in the world.” I started off the cruise by taking a comprehensive tour of the ship with Activities Staff member Joe, which ended up being sort of a cloaked infomercial showing everyone where they could spend more money. Having now cased the ship, I can move about with customary aplomb. One of the ship’s highlights is a top deck featuring a gigantic lawn…very attractive, in reasonably good shape, and totally pleasant. It’s my favorite place on the ship.
My Room: Excuse me, stateroom. Darn nice. Reasonably spacious…the bathroom, which features a clean modern look and a rounded walk-in shower with sliding glass doors, is the star of the show…done with light woods and a beigish overall tone. I have a nice double bed (comfortable!), a couch large enough to take a nap on, a desk, big flat-screen TVn a veranda with two stylish “mesh” lounge chairs and a table. I’m located on the “hump” of the ship, which means my veranda is extra-large, about nine feet wide and 11 feet long. Sounds great, huh? It is. Except for “The Obstruction” (more on that later).
The Crowd: Well, let me start with a statistic. My stateroom attendant, Paz, a delightful gal whose favor I curried early on, told me there were 150 wheelchairs rolled onboard at embarkation. I’ll tell ya, it’s an ollllllllllld crowd I’m traveling with. Half of one’s day is spent waiting for creaky people to get in and out of elevators, climb stairs ahead of you, or asking staff to repeat things. Those who are ambulatory have a common denominator: girth. Very few Camp Technique grads among this group. Lots of New Yorkers…Queens and Brooklyn accents abound, and no trouble hearing them anywhere on the ship, as these folks talk LOUD. At dinner I’m seated at a table for seven—a couple from Alberta (she in a wheelchair), a dizzy blonde from Atlanta who sailed on this ship last week as well, an accountant from Richmond, me, and two people whom we’ve never seen since they’ve been no shows at every meal…probably fell prey to the hawkers who’ve been touting the extra-charge specialty restaurants. The food’s okay…banquet quality. The service is weak.
Shiplife So Far: After my introductory tour with Joe, my next stop was the Customer Relations Desk (aka Purser’s Office) to accomplish…what else?…a room change because of The Obstruction (supra). I’m at the late seating,so I had a chance to sample a few of the bars and hit the early show—a musical review. To give you an idea of what century this ship is sailing in, the opening number was the “Theme Song from Peter Gunn.” A British Frank Sinatra wannabe opened things up, gave way to a string quartet who first played Vivaldi (the audience ooooed) and then “Don’t Be Cruel”…they were simply awful. Next came an a capella quarter who did some barbershop and then some songs from the Broadway musical, “The (sic) Jersey Boys”. I left early and went to the much ballyhooed Martini Bar, where they are bringing in a bottle of Chopin for me when we get to San Juan, before going to dinner. After the feast, I of course hit the casino, bright and airy and No Smoking, where I proceeded to earn a profit of $208 playing craps and Three Card Poker.
Today I had breakfast on my veranda, went to bingo ($29!), then hit the pool for an hour (where they had a truly great pop song band), went to a lecture on the Southern Cross which we’ll see from our deck tonight, went to an art auction (bought you some nice things—keep some space open on the staircase!), and took a nap. As I sit here, I’m awaiting Formal Night at the restaurant (I’m wearing blazer and slacks—an astounding number of people, especially the early seating crowd, are wearing tuxedos and very formal gowns). Tonight’s entertainment (starting at 11:00!) is a knock-off of Cirque du Soleil, which should be worth a laugh. I’ll keep you advised of future developments.
The Obstruction: When I booked this cruise, I went on Cruise Critic to hear what people have said about the Solstice and noticed several warnings about obstructions…windows “tinted” with part of the Celebrity’s “X” logo, lifeboats, etc. I sent an email directing that I wanted a room with NO OBSTRUCTIONS and received a confirming email back from the cruise line that Room 1547 had no obstructions. When I got to my stateroom, I walked out on my veranda only to be greeted on my left with a big square steel monstrosity that looked like a cross between a fire escape and a construction crane. It turns out that this is the ship’s window washing equipment which has a permanent home outside my room and few neighboring ones. At Customer Service I showed them a copy of my email and their reply and said I wanted a new room. Reply: the ship is full. Today they told me there’s a chance a room might open up tomorrow—a couple who missed the sailing in Fort Lauderdale and would have to go to San Juan to catch the cruise, from whom the ship had received no communication. I’ll keep you posted.
I’m sending this to you as an attachment since internet service here is about 50 cents a minute. Drinks are $10 plus mandatory 15% tip. The specialty restaurants are an extra $25.
When you mention the word “all-inclusive” or “included” (e.g., at dinner, “Is wine included with the meal?”) they look at you funny.