By Peter Chisholm
ASHLAND – Slowly but surely vacationers are returning to cruising. Cruise lines are offering incentives to those booking cruises for this winter and beyond.
And, let’s face it, a week or two away from winter is just what the doctor ordered for many of us. In agreement with me were Brian and Lisa from Canada. They have sailed 12 times. One important comment from them was that the ship was very clean. And something everyone wants, the ships was easy to board as well as disembark.
They also noted that they were comfortable sailing as they are both fully vaccinated, and in Lisa’s opinion everyone needs to travel, relax & enjoy.
Lisa’s advice that everyone needs to travel, relax, and enjoy is most certainly true.
Which is why in retrospect, I decided to book a cruise for the first week in December and was fortunate to find an 9 day, 8 night cruise instead of the traditional 8 days and 7 nights. And it was sailing to the Mexican Riviera from Los Angeles, a destination we had never visited. Let me add, that like our new friends from Canada, we were both fully vaccinated.
When we sailed on the afternoon of December 3rd, the Discovery Princess was leaving just before us and for fans of the long-ago TV show the Loveboat, it played the first few bars of the theme song on the ships horn. Of course, I had already had the full song set to play on my cellphone thru You Tube.
Our ship the Celebrity Lines Solstice sailed at 4pm with somewhere around 1,600 passengers aboard.
The Solstice entered service in the fall of 2008 and was the first of the Solstice Class of ships that had been ordered by Celebrity. The ship weighs 222,000 tons, has a12-story atrium with a couple of trees growing in it. On a top deck it has a lawn which is where I watched the Brazil/Croatia World Cup game. One final fact, the ship is 1,033 feet long which is a bit over three football fields. When one’s cabin is forward and the main dining room is in stern, well let me tell you, that is a long walk.
During the cruise, we stopped at three ports.
The first was Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. After arriving on shore, we boarded a bus to go to Todos Santos where we had lunch at the Hotel California. Remember the Eagles song from the late 60’s, well this is the Hotel California. Naturally we all took photos of the sign.
Next stop on our agenda was Mazatlan, Mexico. We hired a taxi to give us a tour which included a stop at the city’s Bomberos (Fire) Station. After telling them, I had been a call firefighter, the members gave me a shirt as a souvenir.
The final stop was Puerto Vallarta, Mexico which was always on the Loveboat’s itinerary. We took a tour to a ranch for lunch and a tequila tasting. Depending on its age, the liquor changes in color. Of course at any age, it’s still a strong drink.
Half the cruise were days spent at sea. The Celebrity Solstice had a variety of activities for those passengers who didn’t want to spend their days by the indoor and outdoor pools. Wine tastings, a great coffee shop, shopping at a variety of stores, the casino, games, a large fitness center, meetings for all types of interest groups including Veterans, LBGTQ, and others. In the evening there were performances in the ships theater which has 1,400 seats. The entertainment featured the Solstice’s singers and dancers as well as some guest performers.
Of course, the most popular activities were eating and drinking. The two level main dining room was the size of a large hotel ballroom, then there was a self-service dining room featuring all kinds of food stations serving everything from breakfast to late night snacks. The Solstice also features premium dining rooms where one pays extra but the food is five stars. And let’s not forget room which is available.
And for those who might want something stronger then coffee or water, I believe I counted 14 bars. That includes a wine bar, a martini bar, the casino bar, pool bar, top deck bar, and bars I might have missed.
Cabins on the ship were spacious and almost all had verandas.
No cruise ship can sail without a crew. The crew of the Solstice came from around the world. They were ready to assist you at a moment’s notice. The waitstaff for our table remembered our names after the first 10 minutes. The same was true at the coffee shop.
I think it appropriate to close with a final comment from Lisa, “relaxing around the pool, chatting with others at the sunset bar, great entertainment, just a wonderful time”.
That’s a great way to put it. Forget about the Pandemic.
Go online and take advantage of the many cruise specials being advertised.
We chose Celebrity from past experience, and it didn’t let us down. Of course, choosing a cruise line is an individual decision. But it’s cold outside, so go online, you’ll be surprised at how easy you can book a vacation of a lifetime at reasonable cost.
And please forget about the media headlining anytime a ship has a large number of covid cases onboard. I’ve been home a week now and if I get it, I know it’s not from the Solstice.
Peter Chisholm is an Ashland resident.