Having it All

WHY SACRIFICE INTIMACY FOR VARIETY WHEN YOU CAN HAVE BOTH?

BY LENORE RICH


I adore the warmth and sophistication of a small ship (why should I dine with thousands?) yet hate to forego the myriad activities of a large one. Wanting both options, and unsure if I’d be craving a burger bar or a sushi bar, a pomegranate martini or a double chocolate milkshake, I set out to discover a “luxurious and healthful small ship experience” aboard a mega-ship. Just to be safe, I booked two one-week cruises aboard Celebrity’s award-winning Solstice Class ships, each easily housing 2,850 passengers  and touted by Frommer’s as “the most fragrantly beautiful mega-ships ever built.” Venues include a spa (with treatments like bamboo massage, acupuncture, Botox and 14K gold facials), a fitness center with spectacular water views, and state-of-the-art theaters (one equipped for cirque-type aerialists). Lounge options include a martini bar with frosted counters and a molecular bar tended by lab coat-wearing mixologists who create tantalizing, smoking concoctions with liquid nitrogen. Consider the Lawn Club, a half-acre of real grass on which you can play bocce, hone your putting skills, sunbathe, picnic or sip chardonnay under the stars. And—to satisfy the newly emerging cruise demographic of 30 to 50 year olds—a fabulous nightclub.

My mission was to have it all, but without the lines, crowds and 5,000-plus calories a day (despite my husband’s desire for all of this!). So here’s what I found:

Booking one of 130 coveted spa-inspired AquaClass staterooms grants exclusive entry to Blu, a signature dining room that “puts a spin on spa cuisine.” Here, open-seating breakfasts (smoothies and frittatas included) and healthful dinners are available in a serene, intimate setting. Unlimited access to the relaxation room and Persian Gardens (a peaceful enclave within the spa), Frette robes, Hansgrohe shower panels and a spa concierge are among the enhancements. If spa-inspired is not your thing but pampering is, consider Concierge Class or a Butler suite.

Specialty restaurants were well worth the surcharge. In Murano, five (gorgeous!) servers treated our party of four royally, flambéing, deboning and tossing contemporary French cuisine tableside. Qsine, one of the most innovative restaurants on land or sea, was a culinary adventure. Forewarned that this venue is best experienced with others, our table of eight newfound friends perused menu offerings on iPads and Rubics-cube-like gizmos. The internationally themed food was creative, delicious and outrageous, evoking much good cheer for the duration of our four-hour meal. (Although we missed the evening’s scheduled entertainment, we created our own.)

To avoid the elaborate lunch buffet on sea days (a tough task since the aroma is hard to resist), we opted for lunch at the more sedate creperie, conveniently located near the gelateria! (Those in the know head here as soon as they board.)

Celebrity has designed on-board programs categorized as Savour, Discover and Renew. I can hone the art of wine pairing or choose to detox for health and weight loss. I can learn a new language with Rosetta Stone or practice it in the iLounge. An urge to tango? Prepare a gourmet meal? How about a Smithsonian lecturer? The possibilities are overwhelming… so I head to the spa to de-stress!

Clearly, there’s something for every taste on the high seas and I know I’ll be back to try it all! Or I can just sink into the closest cocoon chair with a pineapple caipirinha and do absolutely nothing!


Don’t Leave Home Without It!

  • Pack sample sizes of suntan lotions, insect repellent and cosmetics. Consider ear plugs, chargers, a mini flashlight, crazy glue, baggies.
  • An over-the-door shoe caddy or organizer is a space saver in the cabin and a catch-all for small items.
  • Duct tape, now in an array of colors and patterns, can save the day. Repair a torn hem or handbag, secure rattling hangers or drawers in rocky seas, secure your favorite cap to the deck chair or personalize your black luggage for easy identification. Turquoise? Leopard? Go for it!
  • Copies of passports, credit cards, tickets and prescriptions (including eyeglasses) should be left with a contact and also carried with you. Or why not email them to yourself for easy access?
  • Cross pack with your travel companion. If one bag is lost or delayed you’ll each have something to wear! And seriously consider travel insurance for those unexpected problems.
  • Alert credit card companies, particularly if traveling out of the country, and find out which of them assess (hidden) foreign purchase fees, often 3%.
  • A current passport with an expiration date well beyond your travel return date is crucial. Check the expiration when booking your trip. Need a visa? Injections? Plan ahead!

WITH LIMITED STORAGE AND NEW AIRLINE WEIGHT REGULATIONS, PACKING LIGHT IS KEY.

  • Create a wardrobe based on solid neutrals. (Yes—sage is a neutral!) Fabulous accessories are key. Will your tablemates remember that you wore the same “column of black” on multiple evenings, or will they remember your gorgeous leopard scarf, red belt, or statement necklace?
  • Men: Good time to come out of your comfort zone with great belts, ties and watches. Try that pink or lavender shirt you won’t wear at home and prepare for compliments.
  • Note: Several cruise lines have relaxed their dress code to Country Club Casual. Those who lament leaving their gown or tux at home, play up the accessories. Diamonds and gemstones spell instant black tie glamour.
  • Consider the purchase of a new camera or laptop on board. Celebrity, an authorized Apple reseller, gives lessons in the iLounge—you’ll have the entire cruise to get advice from the experts.