"" Writer's Wanderings: Celebrity Solstice--Setting Sail

Monday, February 02, 2009

Celebrity Solstice--Setting Sail

After a leisurely breakfast and a quiet morning walk, we took a taxi to Port Everglades to board the Celebrity Solstice. We arrived at noon and fifteen minutes later were beginning our walk around the ship. (If your documents are all in order and you have your passports handy, check-in is very quick and painless.) Celebrity allows you to board early but your stateroom is not available until after 1 p.m.
Our goal was to head immediately for the specialty restaurants to be able to get our choices for reservations since Bob was unable to make them online. For some reason he kept getting the response that nothing was available until 10 p.m. each night. Thus our first impression of the ship was the area where the specialty restaurants are located. It was a mouth-hanging-open beginning. The area is absolutely elegant. The comfortable Ensemble Lounge with its dark wood accents and playful entrance where the walls resemble a garden and the floor tiles have columns of little yellow ants painted on them transitions you to a lobby area where the restaurants are located.
We were able to make reservations for the nights we had chosen and continued on to the spa area where Bob wanted to be sure he could reserve his spot for the thermal suite and to check out the fitness area. We found lots of great machines to help keep the weight from creeping up.
From there it was off to lunch. As is usually the case the first day of the cruise, the buffet was packed with people and carry-ons. Never judge a buffet area by the day of embarkation. We managed to find some nourishment—never difficult on a cruise ship, and before we were finished eating, the announcement was made that our rooms were ready.
Our stateroom was a pleasant surprise. It was not nearly as small as I expected and tastefully done with light colored wood and two toned bed linens. Besides the bed, a vanity, and a couch that can double as another sleeping space I suspect, there was a comfortable sized closet and several drawers, sufficient for our clothes and accessories once they arrived mid-afternoon. The balcony seemed to have a little more leg room as well. The bathroom was a delight to see with a modern raised washbowl and fixtures. There was lots of storage space for toiletries and such. The counter is not very wide but its narrowness lends to a more spacious feeling.
We finished our initial tour of the ship trying to orient ourselves to the layout. It fits the cruise ship basics: food in the back, spa and show in the front, shops and casino mid-deck. But from there, this ship offers several unique venues. On deck 15 is a lawn where you can play bocce ball, crochet, and practice putting. And in the midst of all of that is the glass-blowing arena (more on that later).
There was also something called the Solstice Deck where large padded wicker loungers and comfortable seating areas could be had for a more quiet respite from the outdoor pool which can get noisy. The Solarium also has a pool which I suspect may have been heated or was just warmer from being indoors. It is also a bit quieter than the outside pool where the music is lively and the games are to be had. There are cabana-like loungers that can be angled for views of the pool or hot tub or the ocean.
Life boat drill was at 4 just before our sail-away at 4:30. Everyone met at their muster station and with a new twist, watched a video of what we were to do in an emergency—not unlike the “safe on a plane” movie I blogged about a bit ago.
We sat near the Sunset Bar and watched as the Solstice maneuvered away from the dock, backed up and then headed out to sea. It is always fun to be out when the ship passes the many condos along the entrance to Port Everglades. The residents/guests in the condos all come out on their balconies in the late afternoon when the ships are leaving port to wave flags, blow air horns, and bid bon voyage.
While the main dining room, the Grand Epernay, was a bit more glitzy than elegant, it was all very comfortable and ran smoothly for the first night when waiters are guiding guests to tables and learning their needs and requests. At last the long anticipated breadsticks arrived and were quickly devoured. Celebrity is noted for these crunchy little goodies that wreck havoc with the good-willed dieter. The menu was a bit difficult to read. While the light blue scripted letters looked pretty, in the dimmer lighting the words were harder to make out—at least for those of us with aging eyes.
The night was dedicated to the Super Bowl and in the Solstice Theater amid proper Super Bowl party decorations the giant screen featured the game from 6-10 p.m. For those who couldn’t leave their favorite team for a moment, there was a buffet set up with anything a football fan could imagine. It was a wonderful party except for the Steelers win. But then I’m a Browns fan. The Cardinals gave them a good run though. Tomorrow: Day at Sea and the Murano specialty restaurant.

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