[Last month, Celebrity cruises invited me on board their new ship, the Solstice, for a two-day cruise to experience its food and wine program. Normally, I delete most P.R. e-mails and invitations but something about this one caught my eye: it was leaving from Seattle. Craig’s parents live in Bellingham, one hour north of Seattle. So I forwarded them the e-mail and asked if they were interested. They were. So I told Celebrity that I was sending Steve and Julee along as my correspondents; what follows is a full report by Steve.]
My wife Julee and I don’t think of ourselves as cruising people. We like the freedom of independent travel.
But not long ago Adam offered to let us take his place on a two-day cruise out of Seattle on the Celebrity Solstice. The cruise was for travel agents and writers to promote Celebrity’s new Alaska destination. It was free, we had the time and the emphasis was going to be on fine food and dining… That said to us: “Welcome aboard!”
The Celebrity Solstice is enormous… 16 decks, 10 restaurants, 15 bars and lounges, pools, a spa, fitness center, theaters, a casino, even a natural lawn covering one deck!
It was a two hour wait to get checked in but, once aboard, we were greeted with champagne and a mimosa.
Our stateroom was excellent–spacious and complete…
…with an outside deck and great view…
…and iced champagne and fruit!
Bistro on 5 was our choice for a late lunch of crepes with chicken, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella.
We also had a salad and a dessert crepe with Grand Marnier orange and whipped cream… Very tasty!
Our media group had a wonderful dinner the first evening in the Grand Epernay Dining Room.
A focal point of the dining room is a “wine tower” holding some 2000 bottles!
We had a crab cake appetizer and endive and arugula salad with raspberry vinaigrette.
Julee chose seared halibut as her entrée and I had a favorite, Colorado rack of lamb with steamed vegetables:
Dessert was apple pie with ice cream and cherries jubilee. Overall, the food was great and the service outstanding. The crab cake appetizer was alright but I must say we are spoiled by our own cakes made with fresh-caught and cooked Dungeness crab from the San Juan Islands.
Much of our free time was spent exploring the ship as it made its way north from Puget Sound toward Vancouver Island and back over the two-day sailing.
One highlight was joining a group of media guests on a tour of the large galley that serves the main dining room. The tour was led by the head chef, John Suley. Here he is standing in front of dozens of recipes for dishes served on board.
We learned that the ship, which can accommodate about 2800 passengers, serves between 10,000 and 12,000 meals a day!
All of the bread is baked on board and was consistently delicious.
The final evening featured an exclusive dinner in Blu, one of four “specialty dining” restaurants on board. This restaurant emphasizes healthy preparations.
The dinner highlighted Celebrity’s partnership with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and featured dishes prepared by Seattle chefs Kelly Gaddis, Brian McCracken and Dana Tough.
And what a dining experience it was!
We started with hickory smoked hamachi crudo (raw fish) with fermented chilies, celery root, coriander and smoked tea.
Next was Alaskan king crab nage with fava beans, caviar, kumamoto oyster and cuke blossom. Absolutely delicious! That’s a wonderful oyster sauce surrounding the dish. One of my favorites!
Then came a perfectly cooked Pacific halibut with spring onions, peas, ramp jus, pickled shimegi (Asian mushrooms), yogurt gel and truffles. The various flavors blended perfectly.
Next was my favorite dish-corned pork cheeks with apples, fennel and watercress. The pork was so tender I thought it must have been cooked sous-vide but, no, the chef said. It is just a super tender cut of pork.
The wines served at dinner were a Benziger Sonoma Coast chardonnay and a Rodney Strong Sonoma County merlot. Both were excellent.
We ended with a dessert of cocoa cake with chocolate mousse, peanut butter crème brulee and salted caramel ice cream. Unfortunately, we got just one each!
Thanks, Adam, for giving up your place on this great cruise. And thanks to Celebrity for putting together this event.
We may still consider ourselves independent travelers but an experience like this just might cause us to rethink cruising in the future.
More Posts By Steve:
Steve’s Sous Vide Salmon Adventure