Although we are Aruba addicts, this year (would be our 10th in a row to Aruba) we have decided to try something new. After a lot of research, we have booked a cruise on Celebrity Solstice, Aqua deck, sailing October 31st. We decided, as first time cruisers, to choose the right ship instead of focusing on the destinations. There is no other Caribbean island we can go to that we would like as much as Aruba, so that part of the decision wasn't important to us (it is an eastern itinerary, with stops in San Juan, St. Martin and St. Thomas). Any helpful things we need to know as first time cruisers? Has anyone ever been on this ship? Any advice, suggestions, helpful hints would be very appreciated. Thanks!
We have not been on the Solstice, but we have been on numerous cruises and sailed on Celebrity a couple of times. My parents have sailed with Celebrity numerous times and again in November.
Everyone in our family are in agreement that they are our favorite cruise line.
You are sailing in Aqua class? Make sure you are aware of the specific amenities so that you can take full advantage of all of them. The best place for information, besides Celebrity's own website, is www.cruisecritic.com
Boca Catalina, Arashi Beach Manchebo Beach, Eagle Beach
I am going on the Soltice in November. I've never been on this ship but this will be our ninth cruise. We will also be going back to Aruba in Feb.,so this year we have lots of Caribbean time planned. I have done the eastern Caribbean cruise with Celebrity before. If you have any specific questions, you can PM me. Also, check out the message boards on cruisecritic.com. There are tons of great suggestions on there. Have fun!! Oops, just saw Lisa's post. I see that she has already recommended cruisecritic. Lisa, I see you a lot on there in the Aruba section, giving wonderful advice.
Thanks hatteras. My parents, dh and I look at the ship as destinations now. Love staying on board and sitting by the pool enjoying the peace and quiet while everyone shuffles off the ship on port days. The only except of course Aruba, where we are the first ones off the ship.
The only port/place our dd has not been to that we would like her to see is Ocho Rios and solely for Dunns River falls. At 14 yo she has already done western, eastern and south Caribbean including the Panama canal.
My parents are doing a "quickie" getaway on the Century in November. They sailed her trans-Atlantic and loved it. We looked at the Equinox for Christmas, but we do not know if my grandmother's health will be good enough to allow her to travel. Her last cruise was the Queen Mary 2. Though the rest of us think Princess and Celebrity are hands down better than Cunard, it had always been her dream and she lived it proudly.
Thank you Arubalisa and Hatteras. I don't know enough about cruising to even have any specific questions. I will check out cruisecritic.com. Thanks for the link. I am hoping that I will enjoy the cruise enough so that I won't miss Aruba this year, but I am guessing that it will have to be a really spectacular ship for me to not regret changing our plans! As you said, the ship is our destination - we have tried other Caribbean islands in the past (fly to and stay put), but each time we ask ourselves why we bothered because they just never even come close to what we love about Aruba. However we would like to go on a European cruise at some point, because there are so many countries we want to visit, with so little time! We felt we needed to experience a shorter cruise first, so that is why we decided to do this.
For an idea of what to expect on board, check my link at http://www.our-cruises.com/sitemap.htm and look at anything which says "daily program" and it will give you an idea of activities and entertainment and such while on board. There are a number of cruise lines represented, but you will see, all offer similar activities just in their own individual way.
There will be the live music at different venues at different times of the day- always poolside at "sail-away" from port. For many it is a nice way to begin "happy hour". At night there will be entertainment in different settings, usually offering something for everyone.
Depending upon what your favorite beverages are, definitely take advantage of one of the packages that are offered. They are always a good value.
Days in port are "quiet" with not as many offerings, but depending upon your interests there is as much or as little to do as you like.
Your thinking about this being a test cruiser for future European travels is spot on! My parents have seen a good bit of Europe this way with my Mom having only had to take minimal numbers of vacation days. Make sure you get to St. Petersburg, if pictures speak a thousand words, imo, you will not be sorry.
Boca Catalina, Arashi Beach Manchebo Beach, Eagle Beach
Lisa,Dunns River Falls in Ocho Rios is a great place. My dh climbed the waterfall and it is quite an experience. I had planned on climbing with him, but when I saw it I knew my "bad knee" as I refer to it, would never make it. The vendors there are quite aggressive, grabbing you by the arm and pulling you towards their merchandise. Aruba 76, Old San Juan is very nice. On that cruise, we weren't able to get off of the ship until almost 4:00. We went to the fort and walked around town. Some of the shops closed early, but some stayed open on cruise days. We ate dinner in town and then went back to the ship. They had a great party by the pool that night. (We were on the Century). In St. Martin, we did an excursion called the Rhino Rider. Its like a two person jet ski. We drove out to a cove and the snorkeled around. That was a great tour. In St. Thomas we went to Magen's Bay. Its a gorgeous, very scenic beach, but if I were to do this itinerary again I would go over to St. John's and snorkel at Trunk Bay. We will be doing the western itinerary this time. Its been a long time since we did that cruise so I don't know if these excursions are still available. One of the main things we've learned over the years is that we prefer to do excursions on our own in most ports. We like to get away from the crowds when we can. We also try to stay away from the buffet at breakfast time because of the crowds. I've heard people on Soltice say that they never had trouble getting a table but we have been on some where its been almost impossible. Some cruises offer breakfast in the dining room, or sometime we order room service. If you're in Aqua class, you'll have your own dining room to eat in. We've never eaten there, but people rave about the food. We always always always get off of the ship in port. My husband is very active and gets VERY restless. He's always in the line to get off the ship as quickly as possible, and then we walk and explore all day. I would love to just spend the day lounging around while others are in port, but that's never going to happen for us. If you think of anything you want to know, feel free to ask, and enjoy! Lisa, just curious, when you have only one day to spend in Aruba, what do you pick?
Thanks. I've been to the Falls three times (once on a land vacation and 2 x cruises) and really do not have to go back , BUT dh has only been there once and wants to go back to show dd. Last time we were there the guide wanted an extra tip before he gave us back our camera. But it is a fun experience nonetheless.
When have never had any trouble with breakfasts on Celebrity, HAL, Cunard or Princess. Juggling things at a buffet just does not work with an elderly grandmother so always eat breakfast in the dining room. She, dh and I are usually there by 8 am. My parents eat later, closer to 9 am and it is always much busier then but they have never had to wait for table. Like you said, with Aqua class you have your own dining room anyway. Room service breakfast are pretty good on Celebrity as well.
In Aruba we take a taxi to the beach. There are two vendors who rent chaises and umbrellas at the southern end of the Radisson property. Just take the concrete walkway from the street out towards the De Palm Pier and they are there on the right hand side. You cannot miss them! Other folks like going to MoomBa, but I don't like being that close to the docks. Just me.
Amy has said that there is a vendor on Eagle beach who rents as well. I don't remember if it was by Paradise Villas or La Quinta
Check cruisecritic for private snorkel tours on St John. I cannot count how many great private tours we have found through their destination forums and have never ever been disappointed. If you ever get to Curacao for the day and want to snorkel head to Playa Porto Mari.