Hawaii cruise Solstice April 29 2018
Pleasebear with us for this will be a rather lengthy and detailed review.
Afew words about us and the purpose of this review. We are in our late 60’sandhave been on more cruises then we can remember starting in the early 70’s. I ama retired Restaurant owner, Certified Sommelier and Italian trained chef. Forthe past many years we have only sailed Celebrity. We do this because we knowwhat quality to expect. The purpose of the review is to praise the wonderfulcrew members that made our voyage so wonderful and point out a fewopportunities so Celebrity can be even better.
Wegot up at 3:00am to make the 6:00am flight to LAX. With a 1 hour layover wewere on our way to Honolulu. On the last 3 or so cruises, there has beenCelebrity staff with a sign directing us to a free shuttle. Not this time. We had to arrange for a shuttlelast minute at the airport to the cruise pierfor $32. The issue was not about the money but the lack of communicationbetween my booking agent, Celebrity and myself. We were not informed that ashuttle had to be prearranged.
Whenour bags were taken off the shuttle, I handed them over to a porter and he putthem on a conveyer. We then went to get checked in. We are Elite and my Brideis a bit handicapped. The whole process from off the shuttle to on the shipmaybe 20 minutes. Awesome. That is Celebrity!
Wehad been up for ever and my Bride was at the end of her rope. We snuck into ourroom before everything was officially open. I went to the Aqua Spa Café to getus a bite to eat and take it back to the cabin. The server behind the countersaw that I was trying to balance 4 plates and offered to pack everything on toa tray for me to carry. That is Celebrity!
I gother situated in the cabin and I went to do my confirmation thing. I went toMurano to check on the reservation. We always do Murano the first night becauseyou can get a 30% discount on the cover charge.
Thereservation was OK. I then requested a specific table and a red rose for my Bride.I have made these same requests numerus times on other cruises. I was alwaystold “Yes sir, of course”. This time I heard “We will see what we can do” NotCelebrity.
Ithen went to the MDR to check on our dinner table. We had just cruised on theSummit and our 2 top position was terrible. The area where our table was to be wasoccupied by a group so I could not see it. I was reassured by a staff memberthat all of the 2 top tables on the “S” class ships were well located.
Ourreservation for Murano was for 6:00. We were taken by a server to the wrongtable and I had to redirect him.
OurChef de Rang, Olikeno, was right there pulling out our chairs. When I checkedon the reservation, I had requested that we would not be having any bread andbutter and the table was set accordingly. Because I am kind of a wine guy Ichatted with or Sommelier about the correct wine and food pairings. As iscustom I enjoyed a glass of Colin Champagne. The Creamy Maine Lobster Bisque, could have been warmer, Diver Scallop WellingtonStyle, the puff pastry was soggy, and fillet of sole Veronique prepared tableside. The sole was to die for but the vegetable garnish was cold. My Bride had SmokedSalmon & Peekytoe Crab Parfait, Young Spinach & Frisée Salad and Steakand lobster Medium rare but not with the cream sauce just a white wine sauce.Everything was awesome. It was hot and tasty. The potato vegetable garnish wasnot.
Afew nights later we went back to Murano I ordered the Heirloom Tomato &Buffalo Mozzarella Salad for my Bride. I understand that tomatoes are out ofseason and are not truly vine ripe but they could have been better. Thedescription did not say anything about onions on the menu. She hates onions.She was not a happy camper. She then had the sole and she is not much of asauce girl she said no when it was offered. She was not thrilled with the dish.I flagged down our Chef de Rang Olikeno and the sauce was there literally in ablink of an eye. My Bride was pleased as punch. The only other opportunity thatevening was the giggling female Comis De Rang. Servers at Denny’s can giggle toa guest. NOT at Murano. Not Celebrity.
Onanother night they were super busy like crazy. I have not seen seamlessteamwork like this in years. It as if every server knows what is needed atevery table in the room. Olikeno was busy doing some table side preparation andhe could not even see us to know if we were ready for our next course. It waswith the sharp eye of Veeshesh the Comis de Rang, our meals came out withperfect timing. Thatis Celebrity!
Onthe first night, Olikeno mentioned that if there was anything that we wouldlike to have prepared that was not on the menu just ask and we will see if itcan be made.
I amcertain they could do a great job on French cuisine but not Italian. Stick withthe menu. It is awesome.
Wehave been coming to Murano before it was Murano. They called it the S.S. UnitedStates on the Infinity. Back when they had a piano player and Cesare salad donetable side. I understand that times have changed but it would be wonderful ifthey would wheel the cheese cart over to the table and bring back the smalltower of chocolates and pastries. Now there are only 4 or 5 little bites ofchocolate on a plate.
Afterwe had had our rather challenging 1st diner in the MDR we went toMurano to change our reservations. I told our Maître d’ in Murano Arif of ourexperience and he invited us to come and join him for a glass of Champagne andsome dessert after the show with his compliments. That is Celebrity!
Aftera good night’s sleep, I had a chance to chat with Krishun our room attendant. Iasked to have the refrigerator emptied and to have extra bath towels. I alsomentioned that the round table on the veranda was in very poor shape. Heremoved the table and replaced one of the chairs that had a tear in it and emptiedthe refrigerator while we were at diner. Krishun did an outstanding job atcleaning the room and was extremely flexible on cleaning when we were gone. Oneday while he was off duty, he came and opened our door for us as I hadforgotten the key. It took engineering a few days to repair the table but itcame back looking good as new. A great guy.
My Bridewas coming down the hall with 2 bags in her hands and Krishun took the bags andopened the door to the cabin.
Iwas impressed with the wood railing on our veranda. It looked brand new. Iasked one of the engineers how they repainted the railings and was told thatthey take off sections while the ship is embarking new guests and change themwith refinished ones. That isCelebrity!
Ittook me a while to understand how the light switches work. There are about 5 ofthem.
Aftera few nights we learned that the TV swings out from the wall so you can view itwhen in bed.
Itwould be great if the TV worked all of the time. We would be enjoying one ofthe free movies on demand and the TV would stop working. This happened a fewtimes so I called Guest relation and it was repaired.
Wecould hear the phone ringing and conversations from the cabin next door. Therewas a time when there were Q-tips and cotton balls in the bathroom. Now youhave to ask for them and you get a small plastic package with 2 Q-tips, a smallnail file and a cotton ball.
Thereis a great amount of storage in your room. We only had to ask Krishun for a fewextra hangers.
Ourfirst night at sea was really rough. We were really rocking and rolling. Whenwe got to our cabin we noticed that 2 bottles of Pellegrino were given to us asa gift from Jimmy and put on our table.
About3:00am we heard a crash as the bottles fell off the table hit the floor andbroke. I guess they got rocked too much. Krishun was right there first thing inthe morning to clean up.
Wehad early seating in the MDR. Jimmy was our front waiter,
Vamanwas the Assistant Waiter and Yuska was the Sommelier. Jimmy has been on cruiseships for a while. Starting out as a dishwasher. I asked him how he likedCelebrity and he said the staff is treated better than the other line. We werevery impressed that with some exception the three of them worked well as a team.Jimmy was extremely professional yet engaging. Every request we made he handledto perfection. When we were in the Murano, they offer thin slices of lemon withthe bottled water. This seemed to eliminate the seeds. When we were in the MDRthe first night the lemons were in wedges causing lots of seeds in the water.We mentioned the lemons and the bread opportunity to Jimmy and every day goingforward, everything was 100%. That is Celebrity!
Wehad a lunch in the OVC and I ordered two small bottles of Pellegrino and handedover my card. Much to our amazement the water came with a plate of slices oflemon. I asked Jimmy about this and he told me that he has the ability to putnotes for other servers about our needs. That is Celebrity!
Yuskais a young Sommelier seemed to be a bit timid and nervous waiting on aCertified Sommelier. I ordered a glass of Colin Champagne before dinner. Theycould not find it. After waiting too long, I ordered another lesser qualityChampagne and it could not be found either. So I ordered a California sparklingwine. They found it but it was not at proper temperature. I was fuming. Thisservice was not acceptable and not Celebrity standards. Yuska was besidehimself and extremely upset. None of this was his fault. All in all during thecruise there were 5-6 times that I ordered odd ball wines and they did not knowwhere they were. We ordered for diner what Jimmy recommended. I had thePancetta crusted Pork loin and a glass of wine that would pair well. The porkcame and the loin was wrapped in a layer of bread. Not a bit of Pancetta to beseen. I was not happy. To make a long story, after a lengthy chat with the MDR SousChef, Sinisa the Cellar Master and Nenad the Assistant Maître D’, everything wasresolved, or so I thought. I enjoy a very unique after dinner drink that I hadjust had the night prior in Murano.
It couldnot be found either. I waited 35 min. Not Celebrity.
Thenext night in the MDR we had a new Sommelier. A nice girl with great service. Aslight opportunity was the 2 dirty glasses that were given to me. I guessmanagement did not want any more issues with Yuska however the problem wassystemic and not with Yuska. We chatted with Sinisa the Cellar Master and hadYuska reassigned to our table for the rest of the cruise. We did not feel itcorrect he should be penalized. He was awesome. Great guy! He even made a greatwine pairing recommendation. The Cellar master Sinisa would chat every time weran into each other on the ship. He gave us a very unique bottle of Malvazija Istarskafrom Croatia that we shared with friends and our service staff.
Sinisareally knew his stuff. I went to the premier $50 tasting and there were tonesof questions. He answered every one of them right on the money. As an addedevent he sabered a bottle of Champagne.
Goodjob Sinisa. That is Celebrity!
Wedined in the MDR more nights. One night I had Yuska order our dinner and pairit with the correct wine. He did real well. The only opportunity is theEscargot. The wine pairing was perfect but it appears to me that every year thesnails get smaller. Everything was top drawer. Jimmy and Yusak recommended thebraised veal and it was some of the best I have ever had. Yuska recommended aPinot Noir from Argentina. Excellent. That is Celebrity!
Ifyou love a Risotto, you have to have the mushroom risotto in the MDR. I am arisotto master. I ordered it along with my entrée thinking that it would not beto my liking. I finished it and asked for a piece of bread to clean the plate.Awesome. That is Celebrity!
ThenI had to stuff myself with my second entrée. Isn’t life terrible?
Therealways seems to be a communication opportunity between table servers and thebeverage servers. I enjoy an espresso after my meal and like it done 100%correctly with the light brown creama that forms on the top. I told Jimmy andthen had to repeat myself to the beverage girl. The worst part is that I got amacchiato not an espresso. Not Celebrity
Ocean View Cafe
Consideringwe live in the buffet capital of the world, we try to stay away from them. Wedid how ever find the Ocean View Café (OVC) quite nice. The tables were alwaysbeing cleaned and for the most part the beverage service was quite good. Theonly opportunity was that we could not get a full bottle of Pellegrino. Onlythe small ones. There was a large variety of selection with food from differentparts of the world featured daily.
Beingpicky, it was rather inconvenient to have to go to 3 other tables to track downsome Splenda. This was true in the MDR and the OVC. Not Celebrity.
Ifyou do not see something you like just ask and they will see if they can get itfor you. My Bride loves pineapple but there was never any on display. Seek andyou shall receive. She got it every time. That is Celebrity!
Wewere originally scheduled to have dinner at Murano the last night but at thelast minute changed our mind to try a bit of Italy. We have dined at Tuscangrill many many times in the past and never had an outstanding experience. Ihad mentioned to the hostess when I made the reservation that we are veryinformed guests and would enjoy a service staff that would be able to pleaseus. We cannot tell you how great the experience was. I do not know the words.JP was our front waiter. He was knowledgeable, professional, engaging andfunny. Our sliced lemons followed us to Tuscan grill thanks to Yuska.
Thefood was piping hot and served in the proper order. Alister was our Sommelier.He is a friend of Yuska and knew about our needs. He even gave us a glass or aunique red from southern Italy to have with the pork belly. Sorry I forgot thename of the wine. I was impressed that a ½ finished bottle of wine wasdelivered to us. That is Celebrity!
Theonly miss step was that the Maître D’ never stopped by to say hello.
Withour Elite status we each get a scoop of gelato. I enjoy the pistachio. Thefirst one had no flavor and not even one nut. I mentioned this to the attendanta few days later. She apologized and gave me another on the house. That isCelebrity!
Weordered it once. As the years pass I notice that there are more up charges foritems from room service. $7.00 for steak and eggs, $5.50 for a quality hot tea.
Wegot a call from room service about 30 minutes prior confirming that they wouldbe charging for the tea and the steak. Everything was good and as hot as couldbe expected.
My Brideloves Café Bacio. We go there 2-3 times a day for Cappuccino or some of theirgreat tea. The Biscotti are always a treat. I would say of the 30 or so timeswe went there they had the biscotti maybe ½ the time. We also found itinteresting that we had to ask for sugar.
TheYellow high back chairs are beautiful to look at however they take up so muchroom you cannot slide them back far enough to comfortably get to you table.
Onewould think that on a cruise to Hawaii Macadamia nut cookies would always beavailable. They were on a few days however they were baked too crisp. NotCelebrity
Formany years we have attended the free wine 101 tasting class for Elite members.We have never been impressed. The Sommeliers did not even properly explain howto properly taste wine. On this cruise we were extremely impressed with Victorthe Sommelier in Laminae. He was the most knowledgeable Sommelier on the ship.He was also the only Certified Sommelier on the ship. Great Job Victor. Thatis Celebrity!
Doto some inclement weather the outdoor grill was not open every day. They wouldmove it to the OVC. When they are not too busy they can put the burger bun onthe grill to toast it a bit but are not able to when they are swamped. Goodburgers. I recommend you order one right off the grill. Juicy.
Wetook the Hop on Hop off trolley in Honolulu and was really good. We took theGreen line. It takes about 70 minutes. You can hop off at any location alongthe way like a restaurant and the trolley will pick you up again in about 30min. The tickets are $25 if you buy them there but you have to find a way fromthe ship to the depot.
Wealso took the Volcano vineyards tour in Hilo. It took about 45 min up the mountain.For me I found it very interesting for their vinification methods and differentfruits and grapes they used. The most exciting part was after the tasting. Iwas talking with the wine maker when a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit us. We bothran to the winery to assess any damage. He was lucky.
Thesignage for where you get on the bus was very poor. We waited by the excursionpick up sign for 20 minutes before we were rounded up to board the bus. We werethe last ones on the bus and had to sit apart from each other.
Shopping on board
My Bridesaid that the selection of goods was not as good as the last trip. We love toshop for jewelry.
Becareful. If you purchase expensive stuff, the shop will tell you it is dutyfree. That is not true. If you put the charge on your sea pass card you willpay duty for any purchase over $800 when you leave the ship. You can put thecharge on your own credit card and lie to customs if you want. Do not pay anyattention to the price on the piece you are interested in. We were looking at afew watches and were able to get the price reduced by 30%.
Celebritymakes it as easy as possible. Being Elite, we wait in the Tuscan Grill for ournumber to be called. They offer coffee and a few pastries while we waited. We were number 22 because we had a lateflight. We went to guest relations and purchased a shuttle from the cruise portto the airport. $30 a head. Ouch! There is no Uber or Lyft in Vancouver. Westood in line for 45 minutes waiting for the bus. The bus ride took 45 minutes. Total time fromship to airport was 3 hours.
Therestrooms were packed with lines out the door during debarkation. On all othertimes there was an attendant cleaning the restroom and as always the cottonhand towels. This time there was no attendant and no hand towels.
Oneof the most underappreciated departments is Guest relations. They have to knoweverything about everything. They have to deal with angry guests from all overthe world in many different languages. They have to do this with a smile. Imust commend Petra.
Kristythe Captains club hostess was another great asset. I normally have Conciergeprint our boarding passes. Kristy was Awesome. She was going on break but tookcare of me any way. It was a lengthy process because of the air line. I did notknow that I needed my credit card so she waited for me to get it.
Wemake it a point to talk to the officers on the ship.
CemalOzcelik Food and Beverage Director
MariusRestaurant Operations Manager
Wehave known Cemal for over 10 years and he is the best of the best Food and BeverageDirectors.
Ichatted with Cemal and Marius about most of the concerns I mentioned and sothey could address them.
SinisaMicetic Guest Relations Manager
Ihave always enjoyed talking with the Guest Relations Manager. They are probablythe best listeners on the ship. They are problem solvers. I did not pose andopportunities. I just wanted to say hello and we got sharing crazy stories for½ hour.
Odds and ends
Weare kind of old school and to not like to see tattoos on the hands of servers.
Althoughthe wine lists were issued in January of 2018, they were torn, stained andcreased.
Wewould like to see cotton napkins be used throughout the ship. The polyesterones don’t cut it for us.
Thereare real orchids in the restrooms and at the entrance to the specialty venues.What a nice touch.
Wewent to a show and I ordered a beverage with a twist of lemon. I got a wedge oflime. When I enquired I was told they were out of lemon twists.