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About Lrtalk

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    Cool Cruiser

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    Palmas Del Mar, Puerto Rico
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  1. One thing I forgot to mention in the original post is the suggestion to always inquire as to whether the ship has a naturalist on board for the journey to and from the glacier that is being visited. The experience on Solstice journeying into the glacier and back out was enhanced substantially by the expert they had on board who made periodic announcements over the speaker system regarding what we were passing and spotting wildlife. The insight was a huge difference maker in the whole experience, and it could be heard from anywhere on the ship via the speaker system. Explorer didn't have this last week.
  2. Our family finished a week on Explorer in Alaska on Friday. In June 2015 my wife and I along with another couple spent a week on Celebrity Solstice in Alaska, and our kids decided they wanted this year’s family vacation to be a cruise in Alaska. So it was decided - cruising Alaska two years in a row but on different boats that go out at the same time on almost the same route and this time with our 21 and 24 year old girls. Two junior suites turned out to be the best setup for us. We were on Deck 10 just aft of the center elevators. The location was perfect being a short walk to Windjammer for either food or drinks. I didn’t even open the bottles of wine brought on board since it was so easy to get there for a beverage. Rooms were really nice and spacious. Closet space was exceptional with lots of racks, and there were numerous storage drawers inside the room. The balcony was plenty big with two chairs and a table. Our attendant was exceptional even to the point of being around more than what we would have liked. He did an excellent job keeping up the room and helping when we needed something. The boat itself is nice. Promenade is people watching central. The parade on first day was cool, and the cruise director and staff put on a very good musical show from the walkway above the promenade later in the week. Pizza slices in the cafe were very good - unusual for pizza on a cruise boat. The English pub was a favorite place to pick up a beverage with a very cool atmosphere. There were a lot of kids - not just a few; a lot. Surprising to us given that it's an Alaska cruise versus Caribbean. Entertainment was a mixed bag. The ice skating show was spectacular. My daughter is an ice dancer and was over the top about taking her own skates for the free skating sessions. She was able to meet some of the skaters and even took a private lesson from one of them who taught her some things she hadn’t known in all of her years of skating. Otherwise the entertainment in the theaters was average at best. My wife and I were recounting Solstice entertainment compared to Explorer, and Solstice is clearly at a higher level. Food in Windjammer is mediocre. The buffet room on Solstice was the best of all of the boats so far. Room service food was consistently cold on Explorer, so ordering hot type foods from there is something to avoid. Food in the MDR was a mixed bag. Escargot appetizer was very good. French onion soup was bad with watery soup and a crouton that had to be cut with a knife from being so hard. Entrees were hit and miss. The prime rib steak I had on the first night was one of the worst cuts of meat for a prime rib I’ve ever seen. It was so tough from gristle that chewing was a chore. The strip steak that is offered as a regular every night was consistently a good cut of meat and well cooked. Vegetables were average. The lobster on the fisherman night night was good but so small that the wait staff without our saying anything brought an extra plate of lobster and veggies saying that it was for the four of us to share in addition to what we had ordered. It was clear they were aware of the lack of substance being served. Desserts were decent - nothing special; nothing bad. In regard to food, it has become apparent that the best food on ships in general is going to be in the specialty dining restaurants. On Solstice, the Murano specialty dining room came with our room, and we had all of our sit down meals on board there except for one. The food was incredible and consistently very good. On Solstice, the buffet room food was better than Windjammer. On Explorer, the only specialty restaurant that we all decided to do was Johnny Rockets, and it was excellent. Food is going to be a “get what you pay for” proposition based on our experience across the board on ships, so the best approach is to just understand that this is the reality and go with it. On Solstice, we booked all of our excursions through an outside tour agent who handled everything extremely well and put us on excursions that we all agreed were exactly as advertised. This time we booked them on the boat with RC, and the results were mixed. We made a point of only wanting a small boat for whale watching in Juneau since they are more nimble and less crowded. The guy even showed us a picture of the boat he was booking to try to prove it. It turned out that he booked us on the largest boat with the biggest crowd of all of the boats out that day. To their credit, RC refunded half of the cost for each of us as a goodwill gesture and said that the agent who booked the cruise was being reprimanded. As on earlier cruises, booking through the boat is no advantage, and the fear of missing the boat is way overrated. It just doesn’t happen. And one thing we’ve noticed is that you can always book excursions outside the dock last minute for most things if you decide last minute to do one. So being outside the box on this can be productive. We had a very nice week on Explorer with our girls and made some really good memories. My wife and I are going back to Alaska in the near future on a cruise since we love the trek and the scenery and the excursions so much. For us the choice of boats will be Solstice, at least with what we know at this point. Part of this is the fact that we would rather be on a boat with more adults as opposed to one like Explorer that has lots of kids, but setting that aside between food; entertainment; and overall atmosphere; Solstice was the clear overall winner between these boats. Solstice is a little more expensive, but with cruising you get what you pay for. Food and entertainment are a big deal to us, and Solstice is the easy winner on those fronts.
  3. Similar to airlines, want first class; buy first class. Those who pay for premium make the option to buy less more affordable. If you want a good deal on a cruise, thank those who pay a premium for helping make it happen. Everyone has a choice of cabins. Choose wisely.
  4. Molecular alone is worth the cost of the daily UG. The printed menu is just the beginning. The bartenders have their own creations that rock.
  5. We sailed Solstice in June in Sky Suite with Luminae. Every meal for the week was in Luminae except for one quick lunch in MDR by necessity to get off for an excursion. Luminae and Sky Suite are game changers. Incredible service and awesome food. You get what is paid for without question.
  6. That was part of the reason for our upgrading. They were not available.
  7. Luminae with a sky suite rocked. We never made it to the MDR for dinner with Luminae there. Food is seriously good. Brunch is great on sea days. They will make pretty much whatever you want - menu is basically a suggestion for brunch.
  8. On Solstice last week for Alaska. Classic package and gratuities were included. Two days in I upgraded my package to premium to get the Molecular Bar; Martini Bar; better beers; better vodka; and better wines at dinner. Wife left hers at classic. Very much worth the ten dollars a day for me, especially for Molecular. That one spot is worth it.
  9. Do the whale watching and helicopter glacier landing combo. There is plenty of time. We saw a bunch of whales, and the glacier thing was incredible.
  10. For what it is worth, booking a room with priority boarding is the bomb dot com. There were very long lines at noon, and we were able to walk around them. From getting out of the cab to being in the boat was about ten minutes. Guessing it may have been a pretty long wait otherwise from looking at lines.
  11. We were on the June 12 Solstice trip. Stayed in a Sky Suite. Got the invite to the helipad for Tracy Arm, and it was a highlight. Room was on an aft corner with wraparound balcony. Upgrade to premium beverage was ten per day, and room comes with Luminae restaurant. Also comes with one other specialty dining nite. The other specialities were not a lot if we had chosen that for more nights. Mjchael's didn't hold much attraction for us since we like to roam and meet folks. For the pieces we preferred the sky suite was perfect. Other suites were 2,500 higher.
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