Today, we left for our cruise on the Celebrity Solstice.
A long travel day: Seattle to Houston and then to Ft Lauderdale. We left Seattle in the rain and found it waiting for us in Ft Lauderdale. However, the skies cleared and we enjoyed a warm evening in Florida.
Our hotel is near the Inter-coastal Waterway and the harbor. We had a quiet evening and enjoyed dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant.
Tomorrow, we will see the ships in the harbor.
Ft Lauderdale, Day -1
We awoke to a warm sunny day in Florida!
From our hotel, we could see 6 cruise ships in the harbor:
- Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas
- Crown Princess
- Carnival Freedom
- MSC Doesia
- Holland America Eurodam
- Costa Fortuna
In the evening, we watched the cruise ships head out to sea.
This was our first time to see the Oasis of the Sea – It can carry 5400 passengers and a crew of 2165. After our experience on the Freedom of the Sea, we prefer to sail on smaller ships. The newer, bigger ships are the destination. The goal of the cruise lines is to keep passengers onboard.
We ended the day with a quiet dinner at our hotel.
Ft Lauderdale Day 0
This morning, we saw 5 ships at the pier. Our ship, the Celebrity Solstice is one of the 5.
This ship can carry 2850 passengers and 1500 crew. It’s Celebrity’s largest ship.
For a large ship, the boarding was easy. The only congestion that we experienced was with security screening.
The Solstice is a beautiful ship! We have taken a few photos of the interior and will try to post them while we are onboard.
A quiet day; a good beginning to our vacation. Our “sunset view” cabin is on the rear of the ship and we don’t have any issues with the wind...
One unexpected event: the muster drill was held at sea, on Monday morning – and we didn’t need to carry the life jackets to the muster drill. In hindsight, we would prefer to have the muster drill before we left port. The delay impacted our plans to enjoy our first morning at sea.
However, we did have a nice afternoon aboard this beautiful ship.
We arrived in San Juan in the early afternoon. The ship docked in Old Town so we were able to take a walking tour of the city. It’s a great place to take photographs.
Sint Maarten (Dutch side)/St Martin (French side)
We were one of 5 ships in port in Phillipsburg – 4 of the 5 were the largest ship owned be that cruise line:
- Carnival Dream
- RCL Oasis of the Seas
- Emerald Princess
- Celebrity Solstice
The one small ship in port was the Aida Aidavita – a cruise line that focuses on European travelers.
We took a tour to Marigot, on the French side and visited the market. Later, we spent the afternoon on Orient Beach. We do like the beach on St Martin.
This was our first visit to Tortola. We were the only ship in port that day. Compared to the other islands, Tortola doesn’t get many visits from cruise ships.
We took a tour to visit the highest point on the island (Sage Mountain National Park), a rum factory, and the beach. The roads on Tortola are very narrow with lots of hairpin curves. This was not one of our better tours. Our transport around the island was in the back of a truck that seated 20 people.
It was not a very comfortable journey.
We spent the day on a beautiful beach, 60 minutes from Port au Prince. There was no damage to the dock or infrastructure. The ship was carrying water, food, and medical supplies that were trucked to the area damaged by the earthquake. Since there was no local damage, the cruise line had decided to continue their visits to this part of Haiti and to donate supplies and money to the recovery of Port au Prince. The area employs several hundred local residents and the government owned area allows Haitian residents to sell art and handcrafts to the tourists. All proceeds from the excursions booked onboard were donated to the relief fund.
Our last day onboard – we spend the day on our balcony as we cruise on calm seas and feel the warm sunshine. The day ends with a magnificent sunset -- A perfect way to end the week as the ship sails to Ft Lauderdale.
The disembarkation process was the quickest, and smoothest, we have encountered. We were in a taxi, heading to the airport before 9:30AM—20 short minutes door-to-door. Now, we’re waiting to board our plane for the long flight to Seattle via Houston.
This was an exceptional cruise. The weather was perfect and the seas were calm. Celebrity has perfected the big ship experience by putting fewer passengers on its’ largest ships. There is lots of elbow room and un-crowded public areas.