Ok, take 2,000 gay American men, sprinkle with internationals from Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, and more, place them on a luxury cruise ship stocked with booze and top notch food, add in Caribbean islands, shake it all up, and you can’t help but have an amazing travel experience. Atlantis Events offers about six cruise programs per year, and I had the good fortune of taking one to the Caribbean this past March sailing on the Celebrity Solstice. I cannot convey enough positive reviews of the experience.
Initially, a German friend prodded me to sign on to the cruise. I admit that I was reluctant at first since I’ve tended to prefer independent travel. But I was delighted by my experience with both Atlantis and Celebrity. While Celebrity (or one of Atlantis’ other partners) runs the cruise, Atlantis organizes all the ship programs, including entertainment. All aspects of the cruise were outstanding – the ship’s design and facilities (the Celebrity Solstice offers a very tastefully designed Art Deco style), food, shows, excursions, and parties. For my review of the ship, click here.
On a gay cruise, the parties and people make a unique difference. Every day had a party and most had two – a tea dance (from 5pm-7pm) and another later in the evening. The evening parties were typically themed. My favorite, hands down, was the 70s party. I also liked the White Party on the penultimate night. Be sure to pack some theme clothing as you don’t want to feel left out! Clearly, returning guests were ready for these parties as they packed some pretty involved attire.
One can participate in the planned events as much or as little as one wants. Some partied until 5am and others got up early for yoga. There were always fun excursions, with my favorites being a visit to St. Jean beach in St. Barths and dinner beachside at La Plage, and then a sailing yacht race in St. Thomas. In addition to St. Barths and St. Thomas, the Caribbean itinerary included stops at Coco Cay, Bahamas, and the Dominican Republic. Some guests never left the ship, and I find that quite unusual. Taking a dinghy or tender to shore is part of the fun. Even though we were in port only eight hours or so at each stop, it was still a decent small taste of the islands.
With nearly all meals taken on board, quality food was critical and the Celebrity Solstice exceeded expectations. The buffets at the Grand Epernay and the Oceanview Café were terrific. Twice Grand Epernay had a special brunch which was phenomenal. I also tried the Tuscan Grille and Murano restaurants – both excellent, more intimate, luxe dining options. Book a window table at the Tuscan Grille and watch the ocean from the back of the boat. After, drop by Michael’s Club for a drink at the very clubby, classy lounge.
Atlantis not only produced memorable parties on the pool deck with fun people and good music, but they also offered nightly one-hour shows in the Solstice Theater – my favorite being Miss Ritchfield 1981. And then there was more: the casino, a picnic lawn, nightly cabaret, and an outstanding spa. Finally, the service was superb with an exceptionally friendly staff, both from Atlantis and Celebrity. I think they had as much fun as we did.
The mark of a highly satisfying experience is whether one would choose to repeat it. Well, without hesitation, I’d say yes. And apparently many others agree. I heard on board that many guests had already reserved next year’s March Caribbean sailing as well as Mediterranean cruises.
If you have not taken a cruise, I strongly encourage trying it. The Celebrity Solstice is a marvelous ship, and the Atlantis experience is incredibly fun, memorable, and rewarding. I can’t wait to book my next one!
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