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Hawaii 2013 - Return to Paradise!

Kilauea Volcano

 Waikoloa Village

Join Rick and Marla for an 11-Day Cruise Trip aboard the Celebrity Solstice, September 23 - October 04, 2013.   The Solstice is rated a 5-Star ship, one step above all previous ships we have sailed on.  It is a relatively new ship, hitting the waves in 2008.  We will sail in the lap of luxury.

This unusual trip is actually two cruises in one.  We fly in to enjoy the pleasures of beautiful San Diego, California.  Then we will take a two hour bus ride down to Ensenada, Mexico south of the border.  Celebrity cruise line schedules these buses.  Thanks to an 1886 law meant to protect the American shipping industry, each cruise ship must visit a foreign port; this detour to Ensenada is RCCL's way of dealing with the law.

From Ensenada we depart for Stage One, a 5 day ocean voyage across the Pacific.  This is an unusual feature.  Most people fly to Hawaii, but us.  We have five days to sing, dance and laugh aboard the luxurious Solstice.   From there we begin Stage Two, our cruise through Hawaii.  We start with two ports of call on the Big Island plus an evening passage to observe Kilauea, a spectacular live volcano that pours hot red lava into the ocean.  Next we have two days at Maui.  From there we cruise to Oahu.  If you need to go home a day early, you can leave on Thursday, October 3rd.  However most of us will more likely spend Monday seeing Honolulu and the surrounding areas, then use our ship as a floating hotel... no extra charge.

The following day we can either fly home or get a hotel.  Anyone who wishes to explore Oahu further or see Kauai or Molokai is under no constraint to go directly home.  Why not stick around a while longer?

Cruise Pricing: All rates are per person double occupancy

 Inside Category 10  Deck 8 $1150
 Oceanview Category 8 Deck 3 $1240
 Balcony Category  2B Deck 7 $1495
 Balcony Category 1C   Deck 8 $1535

Departing from Ensenada, Mexico -  Monday, Sept 23 at 11:59 pm (plenty of time to get to the ship!)
Cruise 5 days to cross Pacific -  Tuesday (Sept 24), Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday  (Sept 28)

Hilo, Hawaii - Sunday, September 29th -
Arrive: 8 am  Depart: 6 pm

Mount Kilauea - Evening Sail by to see the lava

Kailua Kona -  Monday, September 30th -
Arrive: 8 am  Depart: 6 pm

Lahaina, Maui - 2 days!  Tuesday, Oct 1st - Wednesday, Oct 2nd,  Arrive: 8 am Tues Depart: 6 pm Wednesday

Honolulu, Oahu -- overnight stay on  Thursday, Oct 3rd - Arrive 8 am.   Disembarkation on Friday, Oct 4th


Group Travel Agent -- Marla Archer
mail questions to 
Phone questions to 713 862-4428

  Cruise Pricing as follows:  
  Inside Category 10  Deck 8  
Oceanview Category 8 Deck 3 
Balcony Category  2B  Deck 7 
Balcony Category 1C   Deck 8 
  All pricing is per person double occupancy

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The Kilauea Volcano

The very first of Stage Two will allow us to visit Kilauea in two different ways.  During the day, if you wish, you can actually hike up to the volcano and take a look. 

Then that same night, our ship will pass by the volcano to give everyone a spectacular view of the continual lava flow as it enters the ocean.  Every night, the slithering lava flow lights up the night sky.  This makes for quite a show as the cruise ship sails past.

Kilauea is currently the Earth’s most active volcano. It is the most recent of a series of volcanoes that have created the Hawaiian archipelago of islands over eons of activity.

Kilauea has been in a state of almost constant eruption since 1983. The volcano only rises 4,090 feet above sea level, but it is still growing. There were 45 eruptions of the volcano in the 20th century alone and Kilauea ejected lava into the air as recently as March of 2011.

Kilauea is only volcano in the world that is simultaneously active enough to be interesting, docile enough to be harmless, and carefully monitored enough to be approachable.

As a result, the volcano is a major tourist draw.

Kilauea is visited by roughly 2.6 million people annually, most of whom proceed up the volcano from the recently revamped Kilauea Visitor Center near the park entrance. A number of hiking trails, points of interest, and guided ranger programs exist, and the Chain of Craters Road, Hilina Pali Road, and Crater Rim Drive provide direct access to the volcano.

To learn more about Kilauea and view 32 amazing photos, click Kilauea Volcano

Waikoloa Village

On the second day of Stage Two, Rick and Marla invite you to join them for a trip to the beautiful Waikoloa Village located 18 miles north of Kona. 

Waikoloa Village is a luxurious Hilton resort located on Hawaii's Big Island.  At 62 acres, it covers an enormous area the size of nearly 60 football fields laid side by side.

Waikoloa Village is known for its lush foliage, wonderful view of the ocean, and its beautiful system of interlocking swimming pools and lagoons. 

What makes Waikoloa interesting is that the resort represents a great human triumph over the cruelty of nature.  Behind its incredible beauty, Waikoloa has a secret.  Waikoloa Village was built right on top of a lava field! 

Just 30 miles in the distance, the enormous dormant volcano Mauna Kea looms over the resort like an ancient sleeping monster.
 Waikoloa was built right on top of the path the burning lava once took on its way to the ocean.

To learn more, click Waikoloa Village.


Hawaii - The Big Island

Mount Kilauea, Big Island

Mauna Kea, Big Island

Hilo, Hawaii

The Evening Sail by Mount Kilauea

We arrive at Hilo on the Big Island at 8:00 am on Sunday, September 29th. 

Hilo is the capital of this island.  This will be the first of two days on the Big Island.  We will visit Kona the following day.

The island of Hawaii is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands, thus its nickname The Big IslandIt is a land of rare beauty and wonder.

The other nickname of this island is Volcano Island
The island of Hawaii is 4050 square miles and is home to the snow-capped, 14000 –foot peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. These immense mountains are part of the fiery landscape of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

But Big Island is hardly a volcanic wasteland. There are
vast macadamia nut plantations, black-sand beaches, and orchid-filled forests. 
Spend the day exploring the wonders of Kilauea Volcano up close on a walk through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or experience the beauty and ferocity of Hawaii’s active volcano from above on a helicopter ride.  You will be in awe of the incredible beauty and power of this active volcano and possibly even get a chance to view molten lava.

If you decide to go Volcano Hiking in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go prepared!  It's a 3 mile hike on uneven ground, steep and rocky terrain.  You must have sturdy shoes.

From black lava flows to rainforest & waterfalls, you'll take in the beauty of Hawaiian nature as you pass wild orchids, ferns & Kahili ginger plants. Visit a lava tube, discover volcanic formations & hike out to a volcanic crater. Hike through rain forests & pass steaming fissures where lava once spewed hundreds of feet skyward.   Then take a drive along the Hamakua coast to one of Hawaii's most impressive waterfalls.

January 3, 2006 marked the 23rd anniversary of the Pu`u `O`o eruption on the east rift zone of Kilauea Volcano. It has the distinction of being the longest-lived rift zone eruption in the 200-year-long historic record of Kilauea Volcano. It is also the most voluminous and one of the most compositionally variable in the Kilauea historic record. This on-going eruption has produced a broad field of new lava flows that have buried over 117 sq km of the volcano's south flank and added more than 230 hectares of new land to the island.

Lavas from this eruption have unfortunately destroyed several communities and numerous man-made structures along the south coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, including 189 houses, a National Park Service Visitor Center at Waha`ula, a church, a store, the Waha'ula Heiau (a 700 year old Hawaiian place of worship), and many other ancient Hawaiian sites.

The coastal highway in this part of the Big Island has been closed since the Nineties as lava flows covered 14 km of it with lava now as deep as 35 m.

More recently, 2011 was an exciting year at Kilauea with 3 eruptions.  Most notably was the eruption on March 5th when lava spewed 80 feet in the air.  The lava rocketed from a new fissure on Kilauea’s east rift zone, between the Pu'u`Ō`ō and Napau craters. A fissure is a split in a volcano that opens in a straight line. The new fissure, called Kamoamoa, created amazingly tall lava flows.

In December 2011, scientists reported their discovery of lava deposited by Kilauea's most deadly eruption in recorded history, which killed more than 400 people in November 1790.

Or if you prefer, snorkel in the giant tidal ponds of Lava Tree State Park and experience some of the most extensive and beautiful coral gardens in the world. Walk through the tropical botanical garden, where you will see native plants, giant trees, tropical vegetation and endangered plant species.


Mauna Loa Eruption, Big Island

Pu'u'O'o Volcano

Spencer Beach, Big Island

Akaka Falls, Big Island

Hawaii Island Sunset

Evening Sail By at Mount Kilauea

One of the highlights of the cruise is our evening sail by Mount Kilauea. 

The Kilauea Volcano is the most active and the youngest volcano of the Hawaiian shield.  It erupts almost constantly from the vents on the rift zone and the caldera.

Kilauea has records of uninterrupted eruption since 1983.  And these are not just little outbursts either.

Since 1998, the island has grown 560 acres due to  volcanic activity.  Mind you, this isn't exactly farm land, but it is still amazing to watch how land must have been formed in the days before humans even walked the earth.

Every night, the slithering lava flows light up the night sky.  This makes for spectacular views from the cruise ship as we sail past.

Be sure to bring your camera and get a good spot on deck for the show!!

Big Island -- Kona  


We arrive in Kona at 8:00 AM on Monday, September 30th for our second day of adventures on the Big Island. 

The Kona Coast is a favorite spot to visit.  Located along Hawaii’s western shore, where the slopes of Mauna Loa and Hualalai meet the sea, the Kona Coast is a region of endless lava fields and golden Pacific sunsets.  The clear waters are perfect for diving, snorkeling, and deep-sea fishing.

If you prefer to walk, explore dozens of Kona’s charming and fascinating historic sites.  Enjoy stories of Kona’s colorful characters and the places they inhabited.  Experience the treasures of the King’s summer palace as well as the beautiful palace grounds.

Go fishing in the billfish capital of the world.  The calm, deep-sea fishing grounds off the coast of Kona are teeming with marlin, yellowfin tuna, mahi mahi, wahoo and short-nose spearfish year-round.

Be sure to get a taste of the local flavor by trying Kona’s world famous coffee.  Just one taste of this rich, smooth coffee and you’ll want to bring some home with you.

Kealakekua Bay is famous in Hawaii for an unusual reason.  In 1778 James Cook was the first European to discover these islands. the spot where Captain James Cook lost his life.  On a return trip a year later, Cook was murdered in 1779 by island natives. Tensions began over the theft of a small boat.  However Cook's death was largely an act of vengeance.  The natives were furious at Cook over the earlier murder of one of their chiefs by a British lieutenant under his command.

Today this area
is significantly more peaceful. It is one of the best snorkeling spots on the island.  The area is a state park and conservation site teeming with undersea life.  It is a great place for both experienced snorkelers and novices to explore the marine world. 

Bring your camera when you visit Akaka Falls and Kahuna Falls, two impressive Hawaiian waterfalls. Both are located at Akaka Falls State Park, a short 20 minute drive north of Hilo where we will be staying. At the park, you will take a self-guided, 0.4 mile hike through dense tropical vegetation to see these two towering Hawaiian waterfalls. This hike offers a glimpse into the wonders that Hawaii's tropical rain forests offer. Breathe in the fragrance of jungle flowers as you travel along the short (about ¼ mile) trail to the falls. Here you can spot a huge variety of palm trees, banana plants, banyan trees, bamboo groves, impatiens, and a plethora of vines worthy of a Tarzan movie as you walk along the path. 

Common wisdom says to visit
Kahuna Falls first. It is the lesser of the two waterfalls at 400 ft. This amazing waterfalls will set the stage for the even more impressive Akaka Falls, which drops 442 ft. into a pool of water below.

Of the two falls in the park, Akaka Falls with its water falling over a 420 foot drop, is definitely the more spectacular. Be sure to walk all the way to the edge of the path so that you can see the falls from top to bottom, including the pool below. You will be a fair distance from the falls so you don't need to worry about getting wet from spray.

Hamakua Coast is a scenic drive through former sugar cane plantation lands now planted with trees and dotted with small farms of ginger, papayas and many other flowers and foods. The Hamakua Coast is a stunningly beautiful place whose history and leisurely way of life are treasures its communities want to preserve.

One visit and you'll understand why the Waipio Valley is often referred to as the "Valley of the Kings". It is the largest and most southern of the seven valleys on the windward side of the Kohala Mountains.  It is a mile wide at the coastline and is almost six miles deep. On both sides of the valley there are cliffs reaching almost 2000 feet with hundreds of cascading waterfalls, including one of Hawaii's most celebrated waterfalls - Hi`ilawe.

Waipio Valley is located along the Hamakua Coast on the northeast shore of the Big Island of Hawaii, the Waipi`o Valley is the largest and most southern of the seven valleys on the windward side of the Kohala Mountains. The Waipi`o Valley is a mile wide at the coastline and almost six miles deep.  Along the coast lies a beautiful black sand beach often used by motion picture production companies.  

On both sides of the valley there are cliffs reaching almost 2000 feet with hundreds of cascading waterfalls, including one of Hawaii's most celebrated waterfalls - Hi`ilawe.  The road into the valley is very steep (a 25% grade). In order to travel into the valley, you must either ride down in a four-wheel drive vehicle or hike down to the valley floor.

Waipi`o means "curved water" in the Hawaiian language. The lovely Waipi`o River flows through the valley until it enters the ocean at the beach. 

The Waipi`o Valley is often referred to as the "Valley of the Kings" because it was once the home to many of the rulers of Hawaii. The valley has both historical and cultural importance to the Hawaiian people due to its status as the most fertile and productive valley on the Big Island of Hawaii. 

Kona Crater, Big Island

Kealakekua Bay

Hamakua Coast

Waipio Valley

Waipio Valley

 Napoopoo Sunset, Big Island

Kaloko Sunset, Big Island

Waianapanapa State Park, Maui

Kahakuloa Head, Maui


Maui, Waterfall Island


We arrive in Maui on Tuesday, October 1st at 8:00 am. 

We have two full days to enjoy the second largest Hawaiian island.  The ship doesn’t depart until 6:00 pm on Wednesday.

Maui is known for its numerous beaches, rain forests, waterfalls, and eucalyptus groves.

Be sure to visit the Haleakala National Park with its 30 mile trail system full of spectacular plants and foliage. Don’t miss the view from Haleakala, the largest dormant volcano in the world.  The scenic journey to the top takes you through upcountry Maui.  The view from the top at 10,032 feet is magnificent as you can scan the Pacific in every direction.   Mark Twain once wrote, "It was the most sublime spectacle I have ever witnessed and I think the memory of it will remain with me always." 

Maui has many beautiful attractions.  One in particular is the Maui Tropical Plantation.  This 60 acre working plantation is a fun way to discover more about Hawaii's rich agricultural history.  A tram ride allows you to visit every corner of the grounds.  There are hints of many goodies to be sampled.

Another popular place to visit is the Iao Needle (pictured at right), a 2,250 foot cinder cone pinnacle that pierces the clouds.  This state park features lush mountain terrain.   You can combine the impressive natural beauty of Iao Valley State Park with a visit to the new Maui Ocean Center. This way you can discover the mysterious world that lies hidden below the surface of Hawaii’s oceans.

Rent a car and travel the winding roads along the famed Hana Highway and take in the spectacular scenery:  lava cliffs, tumbling waterfalls, and tropical hillsides.  For 35 miles the Road to Hana twists through jungle, over bridges, past waterfalls, and along cliff edges.  It slices through a landscape featuring canyons and gulches carved out by the many streams.  Travel along the West Maui Mountains to Kahakuloa Valley, home to families who live and practice the ancient customs as their ancestors have for over 1500 years.

Makena Beach....what a gem!  Wide, pristine, expansive.... and even though many more people are enjoying its exquisite beauty now than in the days not so long ago when you had to drive down a long dusty desert road to get there. However, even though there are now parking lots, port-a-pottys, and luxury resorts within easy reach, that element of the wild still lingers.  ANYTHING can happen at Makena....famous for it's "clothing optional" status. 

Since we have two full days in Maui, why not travel to Lahaina After Honolulu, Lahaina is Hawaii's second best known town. You can enjoy dozens of shops, restaurants and historical sites.  It is a superb walking town!  The drive is only 45 minutes each way. 

Lahaina is best known as a whaling village.  In the early 1820s New England whaling ships began visiting.  The missionaries were soon to follow.  By the 1840s Hawaii had become the principal forward station of the American whaling fleet.  Lahaina was the favorite port of call because of its protected offshore waters.  The whaling ships have long disappeared from Lahaina, but this waterfront town continues to preserve the lively spirit and look of the salty 1800's. 

Waianapanapa State Park is a
122-acre preserve that encompasses a lovely black sand beach, dramatic sea caves, natural stone arch, campground, hiking trails, and remnants of the first road built around swimming due to strong currents and a rocky reef.  Black sand is the result of lava the island, the old King's Highway. 

The black-sand beach is lovely but dangerous for flowing into the ocean and shattering when it comes in contact with the cool water. The volcanic pieces are then smashed against each other and the shoreline with each wave, thus creating the black sand. There is a stone bridge, and, a short hike away, the huge smooth volcanic tubes or caves.

Haleakala, Maui

The misty Iao Needle, Maui

Makena Beach, Maui

Kamaole Beach, Maui

Sacred Pools, Maui

Haleakala National Park, Maui


 Oahu, Surf Island


Our cruise ends in Honolulu, Hawaii.  We arrive on Thursday, October 3rd at 8:00 am, but we are given the opportunity to use the ship as a floating hotel for the evening.  Disembarkation is the following day.

This gives you the whole day to explore Oahu to its fullest, after all, it is the most populated of the Hawaiian Islands. Or stay
a day or two after to explore Hawaii’s most populous and famous island in even greater depth.

Where else can you find monstrous surfing waves, a multi-billion dollar skyline, high tea at the beach, and stunning mountains complete with mist, rainbows, and waterfalls?  

Honolulu is located in a beautiful protected bay with the stunning Diamondhead Volcano guarding its flank. Honolulu has been the commercial, political, and cultural center of the Hawaiian Islands since the 1800s.

Honolulu is a cosmopolitan center that is renowned for its fabulous hotels, shopping, restaurants, the world-famous Waikiki Beaches and breathtaking views in every direction.

By far the most popular destination in Honolulu is Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial.  This destination serves as a moving tribute to this important historic event. The USS Arizona has rested in its watery grave at Pearl Harbor since December 7, 1941. The overturned hull of this battleship entombed 1,100 sailors caught unaware by the Japanese bombs that sank this mighty ship and brought the United States into World War II.  The memorial was built in 1961 as a tribute to all the men and women who lost their lives on that historic day. The memorial is 184-feet long and carefully crosses over the Arizona's mid-section. Openings along the both sides of the memorial afford a dramatic view of the ship resting on the floor of the harbor. A marble-walled chapel at the far end of the memorial lists the names off all the sailors entombed here.

Maybe you want to put on your swim suit and head down to Waikiki Beach.  Hawaiian for "Sprouting Water", this is one of the most famous beaches in the world. The two mile stretch of white sand coast is fronted by hotels and tourist facilities. The area is excellent for swimming, surfing, boogie boarding, catamaran and outrigger canoe rides.  It is a perfect beach with crystal clear water, backed by lush mountains, laced with clouds and rainbows, as well as the luxurious hotels which line the shore.  You can watch the surfers or maybe appreciate the local beauties on the beach. 

Another excellent suggestion is to rent
a car and check out the a wide variety of interesting destinations.

You can the visit the
North Shore with its fabulous surfing waves.  The waters of North Shore feature the famous Bonzai Pipeline.  This coastline is blessed with pristine white sand beaches and its waters form perfect waves and tubes. The high surf's waves may reach heights of up to twenty-five feet plus. The surf can rise quickly going from two feet to twenty-five feet high and larger during the course of a day.  As a result this area is known for its world-class surfing.  There is also body boarding, body surfing, great swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving in the Summer months.  And the scenery on the beach itself is often quite inviting. 

The exact origin of surfing is unknown, but most historians believe that the Polynesians were already well versed in the sport by the time they migrated to the Hawaiian Islands some 2,000 years ago. Early Hawaiians called surfing "he‘e nalu," which literally translates to "wave sliding." During this time, only high-ranking ali‘i had access to the best surf spots. King Kamehameha himself was said to be an avid and skilled surfer.

Go for a swim or snorkel at Hanauma Bay.  Formed during Oahu’s last eruption, the area is now a marine preserve with extensive underwater life.  Hanauma Bay is a "curved" bay that was declared a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park in 1967.

Hanauma Bay is the very best beach area if you are new to Scuba diving or snorkeling with a diversified population of fish and a rich coral reef. The bay floor is the crater of a volcano that opened up to the ocean when the exterior wall collapsed.  There is a large sandy beach perfect for sunbathing and there are several hiking trails leading to breathtaking lookouts.  The bay provides some protection from large ocean waves and allows swimmers a terrific opportunity to view the reef life in a safer, protected environment.

A favorite thing to do is to visit
the hulking dormant volcanoes Diamond Head and Koko Head.  Diamond Head looms large over the Waikiki. Actually named Le’ahi by Hawaiians, it received its well known name in the late 1700's when British seamen saw calcite crystals sparkling in the sunshine and thought they had found diamonds. A hike to the top of Diamond Head takes about an hour over a well-worn path. The summit offers a spectacular 360-degree view of Oahu and is a must trip for photography enthusiasts.

Definitely check out the fabulous Waimea Falls Park.  This 1800 acre park features botanical gardens, kayaking, cycling, and of course a fabulous waterfall.  Waimea Falls is located in the beautiful 1800 acre Waimea Falls Park.  In ancient times, the Hawaiians believed that Waimea had healing powers and they would bring their wounded soldiers to the waterfall and lay them in the water for healing.  The water has a reddish tint, due to the iron oxide found in the volcanic soil that flows down from the mountains by the Waimea River.

Another interesting place to visit is the Polynesian Cultural Center, the only place in the world where you can experience all the islands of Polynesia in one place. Watch natives in each village demonstrate crafts and skills such as creating clothing from bark, stories through dance, baskets with leaves, and fire by rubbing sticks. During feature presentations you'll hear intriguing descriptions of cooking methods, transoceanic travel, and the preservation of traditions and history without a written language.

A very popular destination in Honolulu is the Iolani Palace pictured at right.  This is the only Royal Palace on US soil.  The Iolani Palace was constructed in 1882 during King Kalakaua's reign.  King K and his sister Liliuokalani (Lily to her friends) lived in the palace holding royal court from 1882 to 1893 as well as lavish balls and banquets.  They met a sad end however when in 1893, a group of American businessman staged a successful coup d'etat ending the monarchy. 

Honolulu with Waikiki Beach and Diamondhead

Pearl Harbor

Bonzai Pipeline, North Shore, Oahu

Surfing at the North Shore

Waimea Waterfall, Oahu

Iolani Palace, Honolulu

Waikiki Beach, Oahu

North Shore Sunset, Oahu

Sunset Beach, Oahu

Hawaiian Sunset, North Shore, Oahu


About the Celebrity Solstice

Marla's Note:  The Solstice is a Five-Star Ship.  It is the most luxurious ship we have ever sailed on.  

As I read the reviews of the Celebrity Solstice, I smiled when one person suggested the Solstice should  be avoided by any people who prefer whimsical decor plus singing and dancing waiters. This is a veiled reference to another cruise line.

I am really looking forward to taking a cruise where I can carry on a conversation and enjoy my dinner without being interrupted by dancing waiters just at the time my meal is served.

The Solstice is completely about elegance.  No other word describes it more.  First class all the way. This is my kind of ship!

Celebrity has staked its reputation on finding world-class architects and designers who have created a new benchmark in cruise ship design. Every inch of the ship was created for comfort.  As a simple example, your bathroom will be a pleasant surprise.

For starters, the showers are 25% larger than the average cruise ship.  In addition, there is a curved acrylic shower door that is superior to the typical shower curtain

You will enjoy the spaciousness and contemporary styling of the room in general. The bathrooms are actually large enough for two people to get ready at the same time.  Imagine that!  There is ample storage space and Bath products, such as shampoo, conditioner, soap and lotion, are provided.

Storage space is excellent, with many nooks, crannies and cubbies to store stuff, in addition to the normal closet shelves and hanger bars. Other amenities are typical: robes, safes and refrigerator/mini-bars. Even in a cabin studded with high-tech electronics, the mini-bar accounting is handled by ticking off items on a usage list (thankfully) rather than by one of those automatic refrigerator sensor thingies.

Each cabin has LCD flat-screen television interfaced with a Mac mini computer. This state of the art system allows passengers to book reservations, services, and excursions; examine their accounts; check menus.  You can also watch on-demand entertainment in every cabin.  For those who wish to leave their laptops at home, you can access the Internet in-suite by using their stateroom's keyboard and remote control.

Solstice's most distinctive feature is definitely the Lawn Club, a half-acre of real grass perched at the very top of the ship and offering a quiet, country-club feel.

Guests can play croquet, putt around some golf balls, play a game of bocce, or even take a little picnic. 

Surely with five days at sea our group will find time to have a putt-putt tournament.

At one end of the space, the world-famous Corning Museum of Glass has created a studio to present Hot Glass Shows, in which master artisans explain the art of glass-blowing during creative, high-energy performances centered around creating a finished vase, bowl, or other item.

The pool deck on the Solstice is one of the most serene and resort-like in the cruise industryIt features two pools surrounded by 25-foot A-frame canopies that have luxurious day beds at their bases and large cantilevered awnings up top, providing shade for chaise lounges spread out along two decks.

Forward of the pools is a glass-ceilinged, adults-only Solarium.

This spacious area offers a lap pool, cushioned teak lounge chairs, and an atmosphere that is sure to calm any jangled nerves from losing the putt-putt tournament.

The towering, airy Grand Epernay is the ship's main dining room, spanning two decks at the aft end of the ship. The room is bright, and light in tones with ample use of the ship's signature design element, glass. In fact, instead of a wine cellar, one end of the dining room is accented with a two-story glass wine tower, replete with tall ladders to reach bottles at the highest levels.

The restaurant feels spacious.  No one can possibly feel crowded.  There is ample room to navigate between tables, and the room's openness, combined with extensive carpeting on the floors, results in a tolerable noise level.

Our dining will be at 6 pm.  Service is said to be prompt, attentive, helpful and friendly.

The Oceanview Cafe is the casual dining area. 

It is a multi-station buffet for breakfast and lunch.  If necessary, it can also serve as an open-seating alternative venue for dinner

For example, we have an overnight stay in Maui.  This allows you to return to the ship anytime you wish.  If you come back to the ship too late to be seated in the Grand Epernay, this area is a nice backup.

Other offerings include ice cream, pizza and pasta, sushi, afternoon tea and late night snacks (from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.), all without additional charge.

The Oceanview's layout is excellent, featuring many serving and prep stations situated as islands in the middle of the room rather than stretched along the walls.

The result is a dependably uncrowded, spacious operation offering an extensive number of choices. Perhaps this will be our meal time hangout for breakfast and lunch.

As the pictures suggest, the Solstice is a special ship.   It is a large ship about the size of the Carnival Conquest that we have sailed on many times.  It holds 2,800 passengers.

Royal Caribbean has three tiers.  Azamara is the elite end while Celebrity is said to be one cut above the regular RCCL ships. 

Considering all Royal Caribbean ships that we have sailed on to date... Serenade, Brilliance, Navigator, Rhapsody, Radiance, Jewel, Vision... have been excellent, tastefully decorated ships, a "cut above" simply means we will be even more spoiled than usual.

We will enjoy award-winning cuisine, superlative service with attention to detail, spacious accommodations and unique shows in a state of the art theater.



Celebrity Solstice versus Pride of America

Marla's Note:  One question sure to be asked is "Gee, Marla, why did you select an 11 day cruise?  Why not cruise on the Pride of America for 7 days like we did in 2007?"

Pride of America's rates have doubled since we sailed in 2007.  Five years ago we advertised an Inside Cabin for $750.  Today an Inside Cabin on Deck 4 sells for $1500.  Today's rate for a POA Oceanview Cabin on Deck 4 is $2000.  A POA Balcony Cabin on Deck 7 is $2125. 

Now compare those totals to Solstice.  You are paying $350 to $700 less for more time on a better ship!

In addition, there are savings on air fare using San Diego. I might add that San Diego is a wonderful place to visit with all kinds of interesting things to do in this beautiful city by the sea.  As an added savings bonus, we are allowed to use the ship for hotel accommodations on our last night in Honolulu.  You would otherwise expect to pay at least $200 for a quality hotel.   

I realize this trip isn't for everyone.  After all, not everyone can get this much time off from work.  But for those who can, this vacation is an incredible value!   When you add the cruise savings, hotel savings, and airline savings that were a bonus by sailing on the 5 star Solstice, you can see why I made the decision I did. 

Ask yourself this - why would you want to pay considerably more to sail on a 3 star ship for only 7 days?   Instead of the grueling direct flight to Hawaii, we get five additional days of exquisite pleasure at sea.

This trip means a better ship and a longer vacation for less money!!

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