May 24, 2024

Aboard Celebrity Solstice – Part Two

Celebrity Solstice launched in 2008.

Most cruisers know booking early has its advantages. You can select the cabin and deck of your choice, book the shore excursions you want and get your preferred dinning selection. We didn’t book early enough it seemed on our Celebrity cruise and ended up waitlisted for the early dinner sitting. When it came time for the first night of dinning we were slotted into “Select” or open seating. Although this can be fine most of the time, we ended at a table in a high traffic area and decided to duke it out with one of the dining assistants the next day to find a table in the early sitting.

Finally got the table we wanted – two by a window!

Next day, the matter was quickly sorted after a conversation with Nellie, a maitre’d assistant and we got a spot at a table for ten. So far, we’re the only ones at the long table with a window on to the beautiful Pacific Ocean.

Solstice is a 120,000 ton Panamax ship carrying about 2800 passengers. About 80 per cent of the ship are balcony cabins along its 12 decks. It has two atriums and the main one, opposite the guest relations desk is a main gathering area dancing with an excellent nightly cover band. One of the main features, as mentioned, is a large lawn area on deck 15.

Celebrity Cruises has since the Covid 19 era continued to get high praise for its clean ships, excellent food and service staff. While the line has been known for many years for its cuisine, its service, in my view, had sometimes been a bit on the cool side with indifferent waiters and bar staff. On this cruise, I would say the service has improved and ranks with another ‘Premium’ class cruise line know for its friendly and engaged staff – Holland America.

The itinerary for this cruise includes Moorea, Tahiti, and Raiatea. After that it heads to Auckland and Bay of Islands in New Zealand before the last leg to Sydney. Tomorrow we arrive in Moorea where we’ve rented some bicycles to tour this beautiful island. This is a sentimental stop for our editor, Anne Vipond, as she visited her with her parents when she was 16. They stayed at Club Med which unfortunately close many years ago.

Aboard Celebrity Solstice

Celebrity’s 120,000 ton Solstice was launced in 2008 and carries over 2800 passengers.

It’s been over a decade since I last cruised on Celebrity Solstice. At that time I was invited aboard with travel agents and other journalists to sample Celebrity’s newest ship and for some reason came away unimpressed. It remains a bit of a mystery why but I think I was cranky over very minor things such as the use of synthetic material instead of real teak on the promenade deck and I also didn’t like the idea of the exposed workings of the atrium elevators. The lawns on the upper decks seemed contrived.

But I was so much older then, as the saying goes, and now, being younger I see the Solstice in a different light. This is a beautiful ship with many intelligent features and a layout which still stands up well some 15 years after its launch, And today I like the idea that so many teak trees were spared from the Solstice’s decks.

Aboard flight AC flight 519 to Honolulu to catch Celebrity Solstice.

My wife and I boarded the ship in Honolulu for a 17 day cruise to Sydney stopping at French Polynesia and New Zealand. We flew from Vancouver on an Air Canada 737 Max which I think is too small a plane for such a long flight. Nevertheless, it departed on time and we and our luggage made it fine after the five and half hour flight. We hopped in a cab and went to the very serviceable Ramada Hotel located near the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Cab fare is around $50 to $60 USD.

Having a morning and a few hours in the afternoon gave us plenty of time to revisit the area near the hotel along Ala Moana Boulevard and the beaches near the Hilton. Soon though it was time to take the short cab ride to Pier Two and get aboard the ship. Arriving, checkin was a breeze, Celebrity allows passengers to book a time to checkin. Lo and behold, several staff were waiting for us and in minutes we were on the ship and in our cabin. Celebrity does lifeboat drill individually so there is no master drill after you get to your cabin – a big improvement over the draw-out process of assembling on the deck with hundreds of other weary ‘guests’.

Our travel agent, Todd Hancock from Seacourses, convinced us to get one of the cabins with an angled balcony which is bigger that most in the ‘Concierge Class’ cabins. And he was right, these are nice comfortable cabins. The other smart thing about the Solstice is the doors are inset so ambient noise is reduced and you are out of the way of other ‘guests’ when you enter and leave your cabin. Another good aspect is the cabin door swings outwards so doesn’t bang or interfere with the bathroom door.

The next challenge though was trying to get a table at the early sitting as we, booking late, had been relegated to Select or open seating. That’s for the next blog.



New Cruise Destination in south Belize

Norwegian Cruise Line has spectacular cruise resort in southern Belize.

Harvest Caye, a new Caribbean destination developed by Norwegian Cruise Line in Southern Belize, welcomed its first guests this month. Located just one mile offshore, Harvest Caye offers Caribbean travelers an authentic Belizean experience that highlights the country’s beauty and nature, along with resort-style amenities including a sprawling pool and private luxury beach villas; a variety of eco-activities and interactive wildlife programs; and an exhilarating cross-island zip line. With its close proximity to the mainland, Harvest Caye also offers guests easy access to a wide variety of adventure excursions. This spectacular resort-style port of call is the ultimate tropical destination experience and the only port in Belize that features a cruise ship pier for guest convenience and comfort.

Harvest Caye beach area.

The Harvest Caye experience was designed to showcase all that Belize is known for, from native plants and trees that all play a part in the destination’s eco-system, to the indigenous hardwoods used in the destination’s buildings, and the warm and welcoming Belizean team members who greet guests upon arrival.

“We have worked closely with the government of Belize to ensure that that this spectacular destination was authentic for our guests, provided economic opportunities for the local community and preserved and protected Belize’s incredible natural beauty,” said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line.

Guests onboard Norwegian Dawn, sailing from New Orleans, were the very first to experience all that Harvest Caye has to offer, stepping off the ship and right into paradise.

Harvest Caye’s seven acre pristine beach is the highlight of this unique destination, showcasing Belize’s stunning white powder sand and crystal clear waters. Guests can enjoy the day on chaise loungers, relax in clamshell tents or indulge in privacy at one of the island’s 11 luxury beach villas, available for daily rental. These indulgent enclosed villas are the ultimate beach escape and feature an expansive porch overlooking the sparkling waters of the Caribbean Sea. Each villa can accommodate up to 10 guests and come complete with every comfort including air conditioning, dedicated lounge areas, a private restroom, indoor and outdoor showers, hammocks, and exclusive dining and beverage options with dedicated concierge service so guests never have to leave the beach.

To learn more visit: NCL Harvest Caye

Cunard unveils 2018 voyages

Cunard’s three Queen ships have a revamped itineraries for 2018.

From March through December 2018, Cunard’s three iconic Queens will sail on a new programme of destinations and special event sailings. Guests will be able to visit extraordinary places around the globe and experience exclusive events never seen before at sea, all from the luxury and glamour of Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria and newly-remastered Queen Mary 2.

On board every Cunard Queen, guests are welcomed to discover a wide array of entertainment and activities to suit every taste. In addition to new itineraries, the 2018 Programme features a lineup of special event cruises including high profile speakers and excursions themed around passion points to add an extra dimension to each voyage.

Voyage du Vin (June 1-8, 2018 / Spain and Portugal):
Wine tasting on board Queen Victoria introduces guests to some of Europe’s finest wine and port destinations, along with on board lectures from experts such as Will Lyons and excursions around the Atlantic Coast with port calls in Spain, Portugal and Guernsey.

A Photographic Journey to the Land of the Midnight Sun (July 1-13, 2018 / The Fjords):
Guests on Queen Elizabeth’s Norwegian Voyage will learn professional tips from esteemed photography experts such as Ross Hoddinott, one of Englands’ leading wildlife and landscape photographers, and take a trip to the Arctic Circle to photograph the stunning phenomenon of the “midnight sun.”

Big Band Ball (August 24-28, 2018 / Netherlands Escape):
Once again Queen Elizabeth plays host to a spectacular celebration of music and dance with a 13-piece Big Band Orchestra delighting guests with music from Glen Miller and Duke Ellington.

Transatlantic Fashion Week (September 2-9, 2018 / Westbound Crossing):
This unique experience allows guests to indulge in the glamour of fashion shows on board Queen Mary 2 while being treated to inspirational talks with some of fashion’s most reputable names including the respected British fashion writer and journalist Colin McDowell.

A Journey of Genealogy (November 4-11, 2018 / Westbound Crossing):
For the first time ever Cunard has collaborated with, the largest online family history resource in the world, to offer guests the opportunity to trace their family trees on the remastered Queen Mary 2.

Princess deploys two ships to East Coast

Princess is now dedicating two ships on east coast for 2018.

The 2018 Canada & New England cruise season offered by Princess Cruises showcases the fall foliage to iconic destinations along the east coast and offers the largest deployment ever with two of the cruise line’s newest ships – Regal Princess and Royal Princess.

The 3,560-guest Regal Princess and Royal Princess, sailing for the first time together departing from New York and Quebec, offer 10 cruise departures on four unique itineraries, visiting 12 destinations in New England and Canada.

“We’re excited to bring two of our newest ships to Canada & New England in 2018, so that more guests can enjoy the gorgeous fall foliage and famed destinations and landmarks in this region,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises president.

All 2018 Canada/New England are open for sale on December 1. Highlights include:

Royal Princess makes her maiden 10- to 11-day voyages out of Quebec and New York featuring overnight stays in Quebec on every voyage. These cruises visit Newport, Boston, Portland, Saint John (for the Bay of Fundy), Halifax, Sydney (Cape Breton Island), Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island) and Quebec. The 11-day cruises include an overnight stay in Boston. Cruises depart Sept. 25; Oct. 5 and 16.

In addition, Royal Princess offers a 14-day Canada & Colonial America cruise from Quebec to Ft. Lauderdale featuring calls in Port Saguenay (scenic cruising of the Saguenay River), Sydney (Cape Breton Island), Halifax, Saint John (for the Bay of Fundy), Bar Harbor (for Acadia National Park), Boston, Newport, New York and Norfolk (for Williamsburg and Jamestown). This cruise departs on Oct. 26.

Regal Princess sails on seven-day cruises roundtrip from New York, visiting Newport, Boston, Bar Harbor (for Acadia National Park), Saint John (for the Bay of Fundy) and Halifax. Cruises depart Sept. 22, 29; Oct. 6, 13 and 20.

A five-day Canadian Atlantic Provinces Getaway out of New York is also being offered aboard Regal Princess, visiting Saint John (for the Bay of Fundy) and Halifax. This voyage departs on Oct. 27.

Princess ups Alaska presence

Princess will increase its capacity in Alaska by 15 per cent.

Princess Cruises is bringing its largest deployment ever in 2018. With a 15 percent capacity increase, offering unique itineraries, cruisetours and authentic onboard experiences, more guests can enjoy the cruise vacation of a lifetime.

In summer 2018, seven Princess Cruises ships will sail Alaska’s pristine waters on 130 cruise departures, with more than 75 percent of all voyages sailing to Glacier Bay National Park, departing from Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver, B.C. and Anchorage (Whittier). In addition, the cruise line has over 22 cruisetour options providing guests the opportunity to journey into the interior of Alaska, visiting five custom-built Princess Wilderness Lodges.

New for 2018, Island Princess will feature a full season of calls to Icy Strait Point, a unique and remote wilderness experience, on every seven-day northbound Voyage of the Glaciers itinerary. Also new for 2018, guests looking to cruise roundtrip from Los Angeles can choose from two 12-day cruises.

While on board, guests will encounter a variety of ways to engage in unique Alaska experiences through the award-winning North to Alaska program, featuring Cook My Catch, an exclusive culinary program allowing guests to return from select Princess fishing excursions to have the chef prepare their very own catch of the day. Also offered, the crowd-favorite Puppies in the Piazza, where real Alaska sled dog puppies are brought on board for guests to interact with. On land, guests will hear first-hand tales from mountain climbers who have conquered Denali as they tell the exhilarating stories of their journey at the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge.

“Princess continues to build on our long-standing recognition as the best cruise line in Alaska,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises. “There’s no better way to see Alaska’s glaciers, wildlife and national parks than from the perspective of our spectacular ships, exclusive rail service and Princess-owned wilderness lodges, and we are proud to provide our guests even more opportunities to visit the Great Land in 2018.”

The 2018 May – September Alaska program includes:

Alaska Cruises
With 130 departures from Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver, B.C. and Whittier featuring unique ports, there are options abound for exploring Alaska in 2018 aboard Princess ships, including:

Voyage of the Glaciers – Princess’ most popular Gulf of Alaska sailings between Vancouver, B.C. and Whittier features two glacier-viewing experiences on every voyage, with visits to the UNESCO-listed Glacier Bay National Park plus either Hubbard Glacier or College Fjord. These cruises are offered aboard Island Princess, Coral Princess, Star Princess and Golden Princess.

Inside Passage –This awe-inspiring part of Alaska, known for its lush scenery and pristine fjords, will be featured on seven-, 10- and 12-day roundtrip voyages from Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Ruby and Emerald Princess sail on seven-day cruises roundtrip from Seattle with all Ruby Princess cruises featuring a visit to Glacier Bay National Park. Grand Princess sails out of San Francisco, featuring five departures visiting Glacier Bay. Two 12-day cruises roundtrip from Los Angeles aboard Emerald Princess and Golden Princess will also include Glacier Bay.

Carnival Fantasy arrives in Mobile, Ala. for year-round Mex cruises

Carnival Fantasy will work on year round cruises to Mexico from Mobile.

Carnival Fantasy arrived at its new homeport of Mobile, Ala., this week to launch a schedule of year-round four- and five-day cruises to Mexico.

The 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy departs Mobile on a five-day cruise to Cozumel and Progreso, kicking off a year-long schedule of four- and five-day cruises to these stunning Mexican ports.

“With its Southern charm, excellent terminal facilities and easy-to-reach location, Mobile is a terrific new addition to Carnival’s homeport lineup and we’re delighted to offer these convenient and affordable cruises to Mexico’s most popular ports of call,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line.

“We are pleased and excited to welcome Carnival Cruise Lines back to the City of Mobile,” said Mayor Sandy Stimpson. “This is a moment we’ve been working toward since the day we took office. It represents a win for our city, a win for Carnival and most of all a win for the thousands of people who can once again enjoy a great cruise out of one of America’s greatest cities.”

Carnival Fantasy’s four-day “long weekend” itinerary departs Thursdays, calling at Cozumel. Five-day itineraries depart Monday and Saturdays, visiting Cozumel and Costa Maya or Progreso.

Each of these destinations is known for beautiful white-sand beaches, interesting historical sites and attractions, and excellent snorkeling, scuba diving and watersports. During the day-long call at Progreso, guests have the opportunity to visit Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, while guests visiting Cozumel can check out ancient Mayan ruins or enjoy the destination’s wide range of shopping and dining experiences. At Costa Maya, guests can explore the centuries-old Chacchoben ruins or visit the Lost Mayan Kingdom, a multi-million-dollar water-themed attraction featuring spectacular slides, an elaborate lazy river, a suspended ropes course that spans the property and more.

Cruise Industry launches awareness campaign

Washington, DC — February 7, 2013 — Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) today announced the launch of ‘Cruise Forward,’ a new industry-wide communications initiative that will promote awareness of cruising’s wide-ranging contributions and engage stakeholders across the global cruise industry.

See more of the Cruise Forward story: CLIA.

New ships coming for Avalon

Avalon Waterways is building three new ships scheduled to start sailing on European waters in 2014 on the Rhine, Main and Danube rivers. The Poetry II will have 52 suites and 12 staterooms, while the Avalon Illumination and Avalon Impression will be slightly larger with 66 suites and 17 staterooms each.

See more at: Avalon Waterways.

Great Honeymoon Destinations

Whether on a cruise or landtour, romantic destinations make a honeymoon memorable.

After the excitement of the engagement, the careful planning of the Big Day, and the emotional jet lag that accompanies finally walking down the aisle, newlyweds will tell you that they look forward to their honeymoon like a child anxiously anticipates Christmas morning. This is the moment when you and that special someone can finally relax, unwind and enjoy one another’s company without worrying about seating arrangements, gift registries and whether or not Uncle Charlie will have a few too many gasses of champagne at the reception party. While the phrase getting away from it all might be a bit overused, that’s exactly what you’ll want to do.

Take The Time to Plan Ahead

However, before you travel the world and the seven seas (there are actually 113), certain precautions should be taken. Identity theft is common while traveling. Whether your personal information is compromised at an Internet cafe or you fall victim to a card skimming scam, it’s good to have an extra layer of protection when you travel. The last thing you want is to have your bank account drained while you’re sipping an umbrella drink or taking a gondola ride around Venice. Identity theft protection services like Lifelock will give you a peace of mind and keep your bank account safe. In the old days, you might have had to put small padlocks on your luggage to protect your belongings. LifeLock’s Facebook page offers you tips on how you can protect yourself from credit card fraud and identity theft. While you want your honeymoon to be romantic and relaxing, you also want it to be safe.

The World’s Most Romantic Honeymoon Destinations

  • The Caribbean has always been a honeymoon hotspot, so if you have beach on the brain, then head to the region famous for its powdery white sand, turquoise waters and trade winds. St. Lucia, a small volcanic island in the Lesser Antilles, is often called the island of love. It is less touristy than Jamaica or the Dominican Republic, and when you first see the Pitons, a pair of stunning mountains that define the island, you’ll have the feeling that you’re entering through the gates of a tropical paradise.
  • While romantic cities like Paris or Rome will never go out of style, if you want a more economical honeymoon, there’s nothing better than Dubrovnik, Croatia. Less traveled than the Almalfi Coast or the French Riviera, Dubrovnik has a unique blend of coastal charm and medieval beauty. In other words, it’s like a seaside version of Prague. From national parks and waterfalls to super-istrian wines and world-class seafood, Dubrovnik is for the honeymooners who like the road less traveled.
  • From Maui to Lanai, Hawaii has countless honeymoon highlights. Beautiful beaches, volcanoes and elegant resorts are just part of the Aloha package. Hawaii has an unmistakable vibe. From surfing and sailing to Yoga, everything in Hawaii has a spiritual component to it.
  • There’s no city in the world that looks like Venice. Its narrow, warren-like passageways and beautiful canals give it a fairytale feel. From the Grand Canal and Saint Mark’s Basilica to the island of Murano, famous for its glass blowing, when you visit the City of Water, romance is around every corner.
  • St. John, part of the U.S.. Virgin Islands, is the most tranquil of the three islands that make-up America’s Paradise. There are hiking trails, wildlife, eco-friendly bungalows, and the entire island is part of 5,000 acre National Park. Trunk Bay, a beach on the island’s northern side, is continually rates as one of the best beaches in the world.

Visiting one of these hotspots for your honeymoon is just what you and your honey need to relax and celebrate the love you have for each other. Maybe you can even have the opportunity to visit several amazing places on a cruise! Regardless of what you decide to do, remember to have fun and enjoy this special time together; a honeymoon can be forever appreciated in your memories if you go to the right place.