Back to the Start: Solstice Part 1
This will be the final entry in the Solstice log. I have appreciated all your positive reactions and it’s been fun attempting to share the journey with you.
Dinner last night was totally uneventful, followed by “Ghost Light” (in case you are unaware, a ghost light is the bare-bulb light theatres traditionally leave on stage at night to ward off “ghosts” from past performances), the ship’s homage to Broadway. Very impressive sets (as I indicated they spent a small fortune on the physical aspects of the entertainment venue). Songs and dances from Hairspray, Chorus Line, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Wicked, Chicago, Miss Saigon and one other (what are “If I loved you” and “You’ll never walk alone” from?). Show not as impressive as the sets (as I also indicated, the buzz around the ship is that they ran out of Entertainment money and had to hire the cheapest talent available). I sort of feel for the performers. They’re all so young and enthusiastic. They’re just not all that talented.
Today (Saturday) at mid-morning we had a real storm at sea. The ship was rocking like never before and the New Yorkers scurried from the pool area like rats and proceeded to seize all the good inside seats on the ship, including those in the Library and card room. I tell ya, they’re a competitive bunch. The bad weather hung on until mad-afternoon (it’s now early evening…sunset, in fact…and the sky in clear and bright), so I spent the bulk of my time on my veranda…me and the Obstruction. Incidentally, I’m still waiting to hear about “reparations” for that. I made my reservation through a Toronto travel agent whom Wendy Perrin (who in my book is to travel what Joe Morgenstern is to movies) of Conde Nast Traveler ranks as No. 1 in the cruise area; I sent them an email about the problem and they replied that they’re communicating with Celebrity corporate. I’ll probably just end up taking the $250 credit. I’ve taken a picture of the monster with my phone camera; when I get home I’ll have someone show me how to download the picture.
I previously remarked how impressed I’ve been with the bathroom in my cabin. Very spacious and well designed, with lots of little drawers and shelves to put stuff. For any of you thinking about new bathrooms, there is one feature you should keep in mind. As I mentioned, my shower is a walk-in with rounded sliding glass doors. In addition to the shower head, there is a small console beneath the shower handle with five “nozzles.” You can shower using just the shower head, or alternatively, with the shower head and the five nozzles blasting. Really nice.
And today is Tip Day. To insure that I didn’t forget, my faithful stateroom attendant Paz has provided me with little envelopes addressed to: (a) her and her assistant, Rolando (those two were great, and I hit ‘em with double the Tip Recommendations in the little Celebrity booklet and in the tip notice outside my door and in Celebrity Today and everywhere else you look), (b) the “Assistant Chief Housekeeper” (who’s that?!), (c) my waiter (I’ve had several since I keep flip-flopping around different tables, and I made the rounds last night), (d) the waiter assistant, and (e) my Assistant Maitre d’ (this is the guy who keeps helping me find new tables and I gave him a super tip last night).
And as Bill Christian alerted me, today they held the big Bingo finale when they gave away the big money. Here you have two choices: the traditional paper squares except that instead of marking “hits”, you punch them through with your finger, or an electronic machine that keeps the tally automatically and alerts you when you’re one number away and then when you have a bingo; in order to get an electronic machine, you had to line up at noon for a special reservations process…when I went down there, the line was sixty feet long… because the machines sell out. The price? Oh no, not the $29 I referenced earlier in my missives. For today, the big date, the machine price is $69! (For that you get 36 cards in each game. The alternative was 72 cards per game for $99.) Good thing I had a little house money to play with.
So, the experience is now winding to a close. There was a moment yesterday when I was a little wistful about that, thinking I might like a few more days. But by today I’m ready to call it a cruise. A final night at the Grand Epernay (the main restaurant) with Mel and Roberta and Diana…Roberta stopped me at the Bingo room and asked me to join them…hopefully it won’t be a repeat of the other night’s fiasco…and the Farewell Variety Showtime extravaganza in the theatre, about which there will be no review since this report is going to press now; you’ll just have to sail the Solstice yourself to determine how good it was. Afterwards, a nightcap at Michael’s Piano Bar, then off to bed, because I’m among the first group disembarking in the A.M. NO MORE CASINO TIME!
And how does my Solstice experience grade out? (Remember, I’m a tough grader.) The ship? It’s a behemoth, and it’s a wonder…well designed, well equipped, a treat for the eyes…it gets an A. My stateroom? As good and stylish as a deluxe hotel room…much more compact, of course, but very well thought out and furnished and decorated, and then there’s that super bathroom…another A. Staff? Pretty good, some (bartenders, especially) better than others; overall they appear to be well trained (all, of course, are veterans of other Celebrity ships and for the most part they’re attentive and cordial; saw little or no surliness, which is remarkable considering the crowd they have to deal with (e.g., at the table next to me last night, a guy went ballistic because they had given him a menu from last week’s cruise…it offered an “Intermezzo” course, which has been now been eliminated…cost-saving considerations, for sure…and he demanded he be served what appeared on his menu)…about a B. Food? It’s taken me five or six days to figure out the things they know how to cook pretty well and which stuff to avoid; still nothing can change the fact that at lunch it’s a madhouse, with all 2800 people trying to grab food and more importantly, trying to find a table to sit at, and at dinner it’s faux elegant and you’re dealing with what amounts to hotel banquet food… a C-. Entertainment? Sorry, kids…D+. The crowd? No grade assigned…sort of unseemly to be grading people; still, I’m going with Crystal or Silversea next time. Overall? B, I guess.
Lest I forget, today’s Bingo results: No, I didn’t win the big one ($3,880 on the fill-your-whole-card game), but I did share a win on one the prelim games and pocketed another $140. Is there such a thing as Professional Bingo?
The next time you hear from me, I’ll be on terra firma. So long from the Solstice.