Year Started: 1988
Ships in Fleet: 10
Summary: This premium cruise line features beautiful ships on itineraries world-wide. Excellent cuisine, great service, roomy staterooms. Modern Luxury at value prices.
Regions:Caribbean, Panama Canal, Europe
Good for: Seniors. Luxury Travelers. Singles.
Regions:Bermuda, Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern
Good for: Foodies. Seniors. Group.
Good for: Group. Singles. First-time Cruisers.
Regions:Caribbean Western, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Eastern
Good for: Overall Service. Foodies. Seniors.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Seniors. Foodies. Overall Service.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Foodies. Value for Money.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Hawaii, Inland Waterways
Good for: Seniors. Families. Foodies.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Mediterranean Eastern, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Group. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Western, Mediterranean Eastern
Good for: Foodies. Overall Service. Value for Money.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Hawaii
Good for: Foodies. Seniors. Group.
Both my wife and I are in our 50s and have cruised the Eastern Carribean many times. We found Solstice to be extraordinarily pleasant for a number of reasons.
Embarkation was relatively easy, and we were processed and on the ship within 45 minutes of arrival to the port. Our stateroom was located on deck 8 with a balcony. We found the room spotless and quite comfortable. The same can be said for the bathroom.
The couple we travelled with had a stateroom right next to us.
Please be careful with balcony rooms. The wind generated when you open your stateroom door while your balcony door is open can be dangerous. The other couple discovered this when her bathroom door, not properly shut, flew open with such force as to break her nose! Outside of that, the cruise was fantastic.
The dining room food, in my experience, was absolutely delicious. Steaks were cooked properly, side dishes were excellent, and the service was friendly and efficient.
While the pool area experiences the same problems as other cruise lines with chair saving, it really wasn't much of a hassle. There were plenty of chairs available evenif they were not poolside. If you were hungry at poolside, there was the outside grill that served fabulous sausage, hot dogs, guacomole and chips, chicken, kbobs, etc. Or, you could simply walk into the Oceanview Cafe and feast on an enormous array of food, including sushi, pizza (which was pretty darn good), ice cream, Asian food, beef, and on and on.
The ship is quiet and I never got the sense that I was constantly being sold something. We never chose to eat in one of the alternative restaurants because the food in the Main dining room was superb.
The shows were very good and the comedian was quite funny. The casino was probably my biggest disappointment because you simply could not win. The blackjack tables use 8 decks and I swear, no matter how hard you tried, you couldn't beat those dealers. It seemed they showed tens and aces on nearly every hand and I played a lot of hands! My advice to any seasoned BJ player is to forget it.
Overall my cruise experience was very nice. The average age on the ship seemed a little bit over my age range (which isn't young either!) The ship, by the way, is gorgeous, clean and well maintained. Our room attendant (room 8110) was awesome. I highly recommend trying this cruise line.
Having been on every major cruise line (31 cruises to date), I felt that the food on this cruise was average to poor.
The entertainment was eccentric.
The ship itself was spotless and very handsome.
If you want a nice seven-day cruise at a reasonble price, the Celebrity Solstice will fit the bill.
My wife and I sailed on the Celebrity Solstice from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to San Juan, St. Kitts and St. Maarten. Our primary motivation for selecting the cruise was to experience the new Solstice class Celebrity ships. We were not disappointed!
The Ship The Solstice, a large 122,000 ton vessel, is hard to describe in a word. Tastefully elegant, beautiful, eye-catching, and superb are all appropriate. The décor throughout is excellent with great color mixes that range from white and light in the main dining room to dark and elegant in Michael's Club or the Murano restaurant. Celebrity has selected a new art company, the Millenia Fine Art company for its art auctions and displays all around the ship. The paintings, sculptures and photographs are everywhere and are excellent. Art is even displayed on the slot machine players' screens.
Unusual uses of outside light enhance the ship interiors. The guest relations desk and the shops have outside windows or light backgrounds. The shops are also along a boulevard-like walk.
The Lawn Club, on the top deck, with a large area of real grass was unusual, to say the least. Glass blowing was inthe same area.The public areas were nicely designed with plenty of comfortable seating in just about every available space. Bars, clubs, and food venues were readily available on decks four and five as well as the dining rooms and buffet. Elevators were conveniently placed and waits were reasonable even during peak use times.
Parking and Access There is a convenient parking lot next to the ship, about a five minute walk to the ship. It is easy to drop bags at the terminal, park the car and walk to the ship. The parking is outside so you can count on a filthy car when you return in a week. There is a lot of construction next to the ship and current terminal so we concluded that Port Everglades is working on a new parking garage, terminal or both. They need the garage.
Food and Dining The food was excellent in every dining venue that we tried. The Grand Epernay Restaurant, the main dining room, had nice selections for lunches and dinners. We noted that the meat/steak was above average on the Solstice. The Oceanview Café, their buffet, was one of the best, if not the best, buffet areas we have experienced. The food display/serving area was one large area where we could see which foods they were serving. The seating area was very large and easily accommodated guests without a lot of walking and looking for a table. The buffet had a large variety of foods for every meal.
We tried two of the specialty restaurants, the Murano French themed restaurant and the Silk Harvest oriental restaurant. Both were excellent with very nice menus. We thought the Silk Harvest was a special flavors delight.
Staff The staff was excellent. Stewards, waiters, hosts, desk personnel, officers and crew were all attentive and seemed pleased to be there. They kept the ship clean and neat, kept the food and drinks coming, and spoke and smiled when you met them.
Rooms The rooms were well designed. We did think they were a little narrower than similar rooms on other ships. This was emphasized by the fact that the location of the beds was alternated from close to the closets to close to the balconies in adjacent rooms with the widest areas being where the beds were located. Lighting in the rooms was unique with a lot of control. A nice feature was a low level bathroom light that was on all night, making a night time bathroom visit much less hazardous. Bedding was comfortable. Closet space seemed to be less than we have experienced on other ships.
Casino The Solstice casino had a large selection of games including "penny" slot machines. The slots were coinless ticket-in/ticket-out, which is nice as well as clean.
Entertainment The theatre, movie theater, lounges, entertainment court, and pool area all had entertainment available throughout the cruise. There was adequate seating in each area. The Ensemble Lounge, near the specialty restaurants, seemed to be an especially popular gathering place.
Smoking If you smoke, you need to be made well aware of the Celebrity smoking policy and the on-ship restrictions so that you won't be surprised or disappointed when you get on board. Smoking is not allowed in any cabin or on any balcony. There are designated smoking areas, outside on the port side of deck five (the outside walkway/promenade) on the back half of the ship, is one such area. If your cabin is convenient to this area it will help. There are also other areas designated, but not all are as convenient.
We believe Celebrity needs to revisit their policy and should include some smokers in the policy group.
Pricing Prices seemed to have taken a step up on the Solstice. My special gripe was the drink prices. Beer, for example, ranged in price from $4.50 for a bottle of domestic beer to $6.00 for a bottle of premium beer. Gratuities were $11.50 per person per day, higher than many other ships, but the staff earned every penny of every gratuity.
Conclusion The Celebrity Solstice is unique and has set new benchmarks in several areas, especially in décor and design.
Introduction We are a couple in our 50's. This was my husband's second cruise and my eighth. I have cruised on RCCL, Princess and Celebrity ships over the last 20 years. Ours was an 11 night holiday cruise over Christmas and New Years, with 5 days at sea. Ports included Grand Cayman, Cartagena, Panama, Costa Rica, and Cozumel.
High Points The ship is beautiful. It is a very easy ship to navigate with several banks of elevators which are well positioned for easy access. Public rooms are spacious and nicely appointed. The theatre is very comfortable with loveseats instead of single seat seating. Small underlit tables are handy for drinks and purses. I found many nooks and crannies to sit and read and people watch. The promenade deck is equipped with lounge chairs for an afternoon snooze. The ship has aged gracefully and there is little sign of wear and tear.
The cabin was very well designed. We chose an ocean view on the bottom level. It had plenty of space to store clothing and the beds were high enough so that four large suitcases could be hidden, out of sight. The bathroomwas well stocked with spa quality soap, lotion, shampoo and conditioner in refillable bottles. The view was superb. I spent a fair bit of time curled up in the oversized chair by the window looking at the waves which were only about 30 feet below. In fact we liked the cabin so much that we would choose this kind of view, instead of a balcony, for future sailings.
The musical venues on the ship made a positive contribution to our enjoyment of this cruise. We danced in the Rendez Vous Lounge every night, to the music of the Carl William Quartet. He approached us on the first night and asked us, along with other passengers, what kind of music we liked to dance to and he continued to be warm and charming throughout the cruise. The house band, Fusion, was excellent and took delight in playing requests and serenading people who were celebrating birthdays or anniversaries. A really good guitarist/vocalist played in the vicinity of the Café Nova each evening. It was a fun place to go to enjoy a coffee and chat. The A Cappella group was also excellent. I have never been on a cruise which offered such an extensive menu of music, with something for everyone, scheduled at regular times and in very pleasant settings.
I am not a big fan of buffets, but I must admit that I became one on the Constellation. Line-ups were short when we had breakfast and lunches, and the selection of food was long! Made to order omelettes were always available along with breakfast breads and pastries that were delicious. Made to order pasta was also wonderful at lunch, cooked by a chef who could not hide his pleasure in preparing such delicious offerings to the passengers. I am sorry that I did not make a note of his name. Desserts were plentiful and really tasty at the lunch buffet. Snacks were offered in the late afternoon and were in the form of small sandwiches and buns and assorted cakes. Timing is everything on a ship and a few times we were too late to take advantage of these wonderful little bite-sized treats.
I am a person who notices small details and I appreciate ambience. One of the features I enjoy about RCCL and Celebrity is their attention to art on the ship. The ship is a floating gallery and whoever selects the pieces should be praised for their ability to select works that speak to so many types of people. I always wondered why the cruise lines have not made guided tour tapes with headphones, to be used by passengers, as an onboard activity for sea days. There is an air of whimsy to the collection and it serves at least for me, as kind of a visual banquet. Sculpture is everywhere and the reclining woman in the indoor pool area is stunning. You will find very little bare wall space on this ship and I am the kind of passenger who will stop and look at framed photos lining the corridor and I will appreciate each featured piece on the landings of the staircases. My hat goes off to those who have made the decision to spend so much money amassing such a collection. I enjoyed it every day of the cruise.
I first tried a Thalassotherapy pool onboard the Century a few years back before the ship was refurbished and the questionable decision was made to do away with the pool. A much larger Thalassotherapy pool is found on board the Constellation. It is covered and intended for adult use only. Spa music is piped in and the whole atmosphere is calming and soothing. The water is very warm in this pool with curved overhead pipes positioned in the corners which spout high pressured jets of water intended to massage the back. At each side of the pool is an elevated rack of wide smooth pipes which you can stretch out on and jets of water pulse under you for a full body massage effect. In short, it is a little bit of aquatic heaven!
The Ports were interesting on this cruise. We experienced the partial crossing of the Panama Canal by ferry, the only excursion which we booked through the ship. It was really enjoyable despite the to/fro hour long bus ride on a bumpy road. The ferry departed from the second set of locks and the guides on the bus and ferry were both informative and entertaining. We even saw a crocodile. A light buffet lunch was served and cold drinks were provided. In Grand Cayman we took a cab to the Reef Grill and enjoyed their beach for the full afternoon. Lounges can be rented for 5 dollars and an umbrella for 10 dollars. Food is good and reasonably priced and change rooms/washrooms are available. One great feature about this spot is that they have a beach and bar web camera so that at a prearranged time you can stand and wave at your friends and family. Don't miss Nachi Cocum while in Cozumel. You don't have to reserve a spot at the Reef Grill, but you must reserve this beach club in advance and place a small deposit online. Like the Reef Grill, it is a short cab ride away from the port. The property is gorgeous and the service outstanding. It has a pool with a swim up bar, change rooms and, for an extra fee, opportunities to engage in water activities. Upon arrival, you are escorted to shaded lounges by your waiter who will continue to serve you drinks and superb food, covered under your admission, throughout your day long stay. The guacamole and breaded grouper are wonderful and the best Pina Colodas I had on the cruise were from Nachi Cocum. The sand is a little coarse, so you may want to wear beach shoes. After a swim, you can snooze on the hammocks under the many palm trees which grace this property. We felt that we received excellent value for the money we paid. Last, but not least, is the Craft Market in Costa Rica, just steps away from the ship. Don't miss it. You can get great deals on coffee and vanilla and the crafts made from the local wood, exotic to us, are beautifully made and very reasonably priced.
Low Points I am sorry to report that the quality of Celebrity food, in the dining room, has declined. This was the first cruise I have ever taken where I didn't look forward to my evening meal. The food was not bad. It simply wasn't very good and if I had to analyze why that was so, it would come down to a lack of flavor. The food was bland. Strangely, desserts in the dining room were not nearly as flavorful and appealing as those served in the buffet. I kept hoping that the food would improve after the first couple of days, but it did not.
Security was also an issue on this ship. Children were in places they should not have been and the security crew turned a blind eye to it. Even when confronted with the fact that children were in the adult hot tubs, the security officer I approached seemed very reluctant to address the issue with the parents present. Chair hogs were out in full force and despite warnings posted on the daily passenger newsletters left in the cabins, these inconsiderate passengers were given free reign to place their personal belongings on lounges, walk away and not return for hours, thus depriving other passengers of the use of these chairs. The posted consequence for this behavior was to have the property removed by the pool attendants, to be reclaimed later at a specific location. Not once did I see this happen. The most disturbing incident of a serious breach in security took place when an unescorted child of about 8 years old was allowed to board the ship after walking back alone along the pier at Costa Rica. This disregard for the rules and safety on the part of ship security personnel left me wondering what would happen in the event of a real crisis on board the ship or at sea.
Lower Points While this cruise was operating at full capacity and the passengers were paying premium fares because Christmas and New Years were celebrated during the cruise, I was extremely disappointed with the nature and lack of festivities to mark the holidays. The Christmas show in the theatre was embarrassing. Production problems were obvious to the audience from the start and the stage was filled with a mish-mash of all things Christmas, assembled without thought, imagination or any sense of design. To call the whole fiasco amateurish would be an understatement. Carols were sung by some of the entertainment crew on the staircase on Christmas Eve and once again the whole thing seemed to have been thrown together at the last minute, rounding up whoever they could manage to find. Each day we received a newsletter in our cabin listing the activities for the day and filled with advertising sheets promoting Celebrity excursions, services and products for purchase. The song books, which were so hastily distributed minutes before the carols were sung, should have been enclosed in this package along with the program of songs. Instead the whole activity was brief and poorly attended. The final omission which made me most indignant was the lack of music in the dining room on Christmas day. When I asked why Christmas music wasn't being played over the sound system, at the very least, the waiter just shrugged his shoulders and shook his head and appeared to be as confused as I was.
Entertainment in the theatre was very poor. Once again, attendance at the theatre for me in previous cruises was an experience I looked forward to each day. This was not the case on this cruise. The ship's company of entertainers was very young and lacked any stage presence. The shows were boring and the staging uninspired. Having cruised on a Princess ship last year, I was very disappointed. I have never been on a cruise which did not feature at least one stand up comedian. Eleven nights on a cruise ship without a comedian is eleven long nights. On last year's Princess cruise you had to go early to get a seat in the theatre, it was that popular. Surely, the number of vacant seats should be an indicator to the entertainment director that all is not well. To please a wide cross section of ages and preferences, a cruise line needs a wide cross section of talent. Today's passengers are a savvy lot and what passed for entertainment ten years ago will not pass today. All of the onboard innovations in the world will not make up for a lackluster program of theatre entertainment.
Closing Remarks My husband and I enjoyed our cruise. However the low and lower points were such that we would seriously consider not taking another Celebrity cruise. It is a competitive industry and I hope the executives monitor sites such as this one to evaluate the delivery of their product. When we pay such a high premium to cruise at Christmas and New Years, we expect better "extra touches." A variety of entertainers who are talented is an important part of our cruise experience. A satisfying dining experience is a must. Finally, a security presence which inspires confidence among the passengers is another aspect of cruising which we value. Because of the great need for improvement in all of these areas, I do not think my next cruise will be with Celebrity.
Loved the ship and especially the entertainment in the theater by Linda Gentille. She was spectacular in her show. Very much a Liberace type entertainer but a virtuoso keyboard and comedy performer. The other shows were good too but she was awesome.
We loved the crew and the cruise director Rob LeForest who was so professional and fantastic!!!!!!!
CELEBRITY SOLSTICE December 7-14, 2008 7-day Caribbean Round trip Ft. Lauderdale
Cabin: 1112 Category: CS (Celebrity Suite)
Dining Reservation: Grand Epernay, Deck 4, Table 553, Late Sitting
Preface I'd like to point out that all cruise reviews are subjective. This review is based on my experiences and opinions only. Yours may differ. Please take it for what it is and don't read too much into it. I can't tell you how often I've read a negative review on a message board, and then someone replies afterward that they are thinking of canceling their cruise. No one should be making those kinds of decisions based on opinions and experiences of people you don't even know. We all have different backgrounds and expectations, which is why no two people on the same sailing will ever come away with the exact same impression. If you are booked on SOLSTICE or are thinking of booking, I say go for it! Personally I could not imagine having anything but a fantastic time on this incredible vessel.
Background My partner and I are both right around 40 years old and experienced cruisers. We have been together for 12 years and livein Atlanta. This sailing on SOLSTICE marked my 71st cruise if I am counting correctly. We have sailed on everything from Carnival to Silversea and most lines in between. We are not loyal to one brand but I must admit Celebrity is a favorite. We have sailed on all the current Celebrity classes of ships and enjoyed each one. I am Elite level status with Celebrity, not that it means a whole lot compared to the same status on some other lines. We booked SOLSTICE over a year ago when reservations first opened, and have been anxiously awaiting her debut.
Pre-Cruise We drove down to Florida from Atlanta. We stopped to see a friend in Bradenton then headed to the Naples area for a quick visit with my mother. Eventually we ended up in Ft. Lauderdale where we spent two wonderful nights at the Fairmont Turnberry Isle Resort. I highly recommend this resort to anyone that wants a first class experience prior to his or her cruise. It's adjacent to Aventura Mall and only minutes from the beach (the hotel has a private beach club for guests) so the location can't be beat. It's pretty much right between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. See www.fairmont.com/turnberryisle.
Embarkation After a lovely breakfast overlooking the golf course at Turnberry and a quick workout in the fantastic gym, we headed to the pier. It's only a short 15-minute drive North on Biscayne Blvd. from the hotel directly to Port Everglades. Parking at the pier is $15 per day, or $105 for the week. Parking for SOLSTICE is literally right under her bow and it's an easy walk to the terminal although a shuttle is offered. We dropped off our luggage and decided we wanted covered parking so we headed to the garage. We then took a shuttle from the garage back to SOLSTICE.
Embarkation was a breeze. Suite guests had a special check-in desk that was up the escalator and we were on the ship in no time. I ordered a soda-package for my partner in advance ($40) and it was nice to see the sticker was already placed on his SeaPass card. The souvenir drink container that comes with the package was waiting in the cabin. FYI there are four types of SeaPass cards on SOLSTICE and they are defined by color.
Silver -- Suite Guest Aqua -- Aqua Spa Guest Gold -- Concierge Class White -- Standard
In addition your Captain's Club membership level will be printed on the card.
Your dining reservation is not printed on the card, but there will be a separate card waiting in your cabin with this information.
A nice touch is the welcome glass of champagne upon entering the ship.
Our Cabin We booked cabin 1112, a Celebrity Suite located right on the "hump" on the Starboard side of the ship. The location could not have been more perfect. The main elevators and entrance to the library were right outside our door, although we never heard noise from either. We absolutely loved this suite and there are very few things I would change. One annoyance is the bedroom door did not have a stopper so we had to stuff a sock under it to keep it open. There was an opaque glass window between the bedroom and living room and this should have been clear glass with a blind for privacy. This way you would have been able to see the ocean from bed. You really had to pull the main door shut when you left or it would not close all the way, and yes, the cabin did creak a lot even when there was very little movement. I think the creaking will subside when the ship has been broken in. It's not something that was horrible, but it was noticeable. I might add there were no unusual smells in the area of my cabin, but aft on Deck 10 I could smell a fish odor. Nothing too offensive but it was there.
Shortly after arriving our Cabin Stewardess Ana Maria introduced herself. She did a wonderful job and had a great personality. Afterward our Butler John introduced himself and took the time to showcase the features of the suite and offer his various services. John did a great job and was very attentive and punctual if you ever needed him. Flowers, fresh fruit, a bottle of champagne, and a pre-ordered bottle of wine were all waiting.
The suite consisted of a separate bedroom with an extremely comfortable king size bed, two large nightstands with drawers, a phone, a walk-in closet that contained a large safe, binoculars, a Celebrity tote bag, and two umbrellas. There was another small closet that contained about 10 shelves as well. The 40" flat panel TV rounded out the bedroom amenities.
The bathroom was small for a suite, but very functional and well laid out. We loved the designer tile and deluge type showerhead. There was also plenty of storage under the sink and in a large medicine cabinet over the toilette. Towels were huge bath sheets and very soft, and of course there was the usual soap, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion. Cotton balls and q-tips were also provided. A phone was also featured in the bathroom.
In the main part of the suite, there was a very comfortable sectional sofa that converted to a full size bed. A large coffee table, an oversized lounging chair, a vanity desk with phone and chair, a full size closet with mirrored doors, and a large credenza with a huge 52" flat panel TV with surround sound. In the credenza were cabinets with storage for glassware and the mini-bar.
The glass sliding door to the balcony slides instead of opening and closing like a regular door, and this was a plus in my book. On the balcony we had a beautiful teak table with cushioned chairs and a very comfortable cushioned lounger. The balcony was completely covered and private. We enjoyed having breakfast on the balcony (served by John) on a few occasions.
Overall this was one of the best cabins I've experienced. I loved having a separate bedroom and all the furnishings and décor were top notch, like something you would find at a 5-star hotel. All the lights were on a dimmer, which was a nice touch. The service we received was fantastic and to the level of Silversea. For instance when John would bring room service, he didn't just drop off a tray but lays down linen and silverware and sets everything up just as if you were in the dining room. Something else that impressed me was the "Attention to Detail" card we received early in the cruise. This is something else that Silversea does but is not often found on a premium or mass-market cruise line. Rather than wait until the end of the cruise and the comment card, this card gives Celebrity the opportunity for service recovery before it's too late. We did not have anything for Celebrity to address so we did not use it.
Special mention must be made of the TV system on SOLSTICE. Being somewhat of a "techy" I was in heaven. I'm a huge Apple fan, and every TV on SOLSTICE is powered by an Apple mini-Mac. This is very impressive to me. Without question it's the best interactive TV system I've seen on land or sea. From your wireless keyboard which is also a remote, you can view your account; check the ship's location (not quite working yet); see a view from the bridge; surf the internet; order room service; order a bottle of wine for dinner; book shore excursions; listen to a variety of music; order free and pay per view movies and documentaries; look at the daily activities for the day; view the dining room menu; and yes, even watch TV! The only thing missing for me was you could not create your own playlist of music selections. This is something that can be easily added.
The Ship So much has already been written about the physical aspects of SOLSTICE that I'm not going to get into too much detail. I will mention if there was ever a ship that was designed to my personal taste in décor it would have to be SOLSTICE. I was simply blown away by the design, the attention to detail, the art, the layout, etc. etc. At every turn there was visual stimulation and it was easy to appreciate that no expense was spared with the creation of this spectacular vessel. I can honestly say there was not a single area on the ship that I did not find appealing. Normally I would point out my favorite areas, but every area was a favorite on SOLSTICE. Cunard's QM2 up to now has been my favorite modern passenger ship. She is simply stunning. SOLSTICE is now tied with QM2. The two ships are very different, but both are standouts in terms of design and detail. SOLSTICE truly sets a new standard, and nothing in the premium and mass-market can come close. To be honest I feel her level of design and detail is suitable to a much more luxury end product. She is almost too cutting edge for the market she serves.
Over the past year I have followed the progress of SOLSTICE and studied her deck plans. My three main concerns were:1. Not enough deck space 2. No proper promenade deck 3. Not enough elevators and only two stairwells
I can say that all three of my concerns proved unfounded. On my sailing there was plenty of deck space and you could find a prime chair even if you arrived late in the day like I did. Let me also mention that every deck chair on SOLSTICE is padded (another luxury touch). It's true the promenade deck on SOLSTICE is almost non-existent, but I found it didn't hamper my experience in the least. There were plenty of other great spots to walk and sit outdoors (especially the aft end) and of course I had a private balcony. My last concern was the elevators. Again, not a problem and in fact the elevators were among the best I've seen on any ship. They were very fast and efficient, and you never had to wait long. I might mention the glass elevators are probably the most beautiful afloat.
The swimming pools are important to me because I spend a lot of time swimming and sitting by the pools during the day. All the pools on SOLSTICE are heated and fresh water. They are almost too warm for my liking. I know there had been reports about very cold pools on past cruises, but I can assure you this is no longer the case. Also, all pools are closed at night on SOLSTICE and netted over. This is a typical policy for Celebrity although I'm not sure why. The parent company Royal Caribbean keeps one pool open 24 hours and many other lines keep a pool open 24 hours. This is a Celebrity policy I would like to see changed.
There has been much discussion of "The Lawn". Personally I thought it was nifty but it really had no bearing on my enjoyment of the cruise. I thought that perhaps I would resent it since it takes up so much primary deck space, but as it turns out this is not the case at all. It does take up a lot of space but there is plenty of other deck space to go around. It was nice to walk on The Lawn at sunset or sit by it and watch the ocean but that was about it. To be honest if Celebrity decided to replace The Lawn with something else on subsequent ships it wouldn't matter in the least to me.
I loved the twin funnels and I'm glad the "X" has been applied to one. Looking up at those funnels at night, lit up with the exhaust steaming out, reminded me of the old days of Chandris Lines. They are a piece of nostalgia for me on this state of the art ship.
One facility I would like to make mention of is the gym and Aqua Spa. Both are excellent facilities. The gym had the most modern equipment and every piece of cardio had a flat panel TV attached to it. There is also a small outdoor veranda in front of the gym which is great for some fresh air, and often times spinning classes were set up out there. Very nice touch. The Aqua Spa is a first rate facility although not quite as nice as the Canyon Ranch Spa on QM2. As a suite guest I had unlimited free access to the Persian Garden and Relaxation Room. These areas are primarily for the use of Aqua Spa guests. The Persian Garden was quite enjoyable with heated relaxation tiled loungers, themed showers, a large steam room, and an aromatherapy room. All these areas have large windows overlooking the ocean. The Persian Garden is coed and it was empty or lightly occupied most of the time. Inside the men's changing room are lockers, showers, and a decent sized sauna holding about 6-8 people. Unfortunately there is no view from the sauna like on some other ships.
Dining and Service Dining is a really subjective area; so again please note that everyone will have a difference of opinion when it comes to food.
In a nutshell I was quite pleased with the food and service on SOLSTICE. There is some room for improvement but considering this was only the third revenue cruise I was quite impressed.
As a suite guest you are entitled to two free specialty-dining experiences and you may also dine in Blu on a space available basis. We only dined in the Grand Epernay three times and took full advantage of all the dining options SOLSTICE has to offer.
Grand Epernay: Absolutely gorgeous space with very comfortable chairs and plenty of room between tables. Food was hit or miss depending on what you ordered. Service was decent, not great. We had a table of 10 on the second level, ok location. I would have preferred to be on the lower level in the center section.
Murano: We absolutely love this experience. The food and service were 5-star, as good as anything I have experienced at sea or on land. This is truly upscale gourmet dining in a beautiful setting. Service was flawless.
Blu: Again I loved this experience. It's "clean cuisine" but that doesn't mean it's not delicious or filling. Many of the items on the menu can be found in the Grand Epernay as well, but they are prepared differently in Blu. No heavy sauces for instance. I felt the food and service were excellent, and in fact when I return to SOLSTICE I will book Aqua Class so I have a table reserved in Blu. In addition the atmosphere in this space is excellent. It's really a beautiful space.
Tuscan Grill: Probably the best location on the ship, all the way aft with windows all around. Again we experienced first-rate food and service at Tuscan Grill. Menu choices were excellent and we loved the dark chocolate/fresh fruit fondue for desert.
Silk Harvest: Once again an excellent experience. We started with soup and sushi, which were wonderful. They have a tempura shrimp and avocado roll which is to die for! Service was also excellent.
Bistro on Five: There is a $5 cover for Bisto on Five and you can order as much as you want. There are mainly salads, paninis and crepes. I had a breakfast style crepe that was pretty good, but not exceptional. We had spotty service and only dined here once. The setting is beautiful in the heart of the ship with views over the Promenade Deck.
Aqua Spa Café: Never made it here.
Mast Grill: Never made it here.
Oceanview Café: Typical buffet style food that is similar to the buffet food I've experienced on most ships. There is only so much you can do with a buffet. I loved the layout and the "food stations" made getting what you wanted very easy, once you figured out the layout. I really liked the fresh pasta and the ice cream bar, which was free and included premium toppings like Reeses Pieces. At the ice cream bar there was a selection of hard ice cream flavors and soft serve. We never had a problem finding at seat at the Oceanview Café and often enjoyed sitting on the aft open deck. Sometimes getting silverware was an issue as it's supposed to be on each table, but the staff had trouble keeping up. I'm sure this will get worked out in time.
Entertainment My partner and I don't participate in organized entertainment during the day, so I can't comment on what was offered. We are pretty independent, sleep late, and do our own thing on our own schedule. At night we do like the shows and SOLSTICE had three production shows that we attended.
Solstice -- The Show: An excellent production with none of the typical singing and dancing. It was mostly acrobats in a Cirque du Soleil type production.
Pulse: I did not care for this show in the least. I sat through it although I was close to walking out. One reason I always sit in an aisle!
Ghost Light: Typical Broadway type cruise ship show. I enjoyed it because there are featured more modern Broadway musicals instead of the usual classics.
One nice thing about all the shows was a live band provided the music. This is unlike lines like Princess and Holland America that use only recorded music and a "click track" for their production shows.
What was the best entertainment on the ship? Peter in the Martini Bar! He put on a great show every night and made some kick-a drinks!
I also enjoyed the band in the Ensemble Lounge, Top Secret in the stunning Sky Lounge, and Guitarist Jefferson Ang at the Oceanview Bar during sunset.
Ports and Weather We had decent weather for the most part. There was some minor movement of the ship but nothing out of the ordinary. This was due more to the very windy conditions and not rough seas. I feel SOLSTICE is as stable as any other ship I have sailed.
The ports were St. Maarten, St. Kitts, and San Juan. We have been to each of these ports several times and we didn't take any tours. We ended up staying on the ship in St. Kitts. I really picked this cruise for the ship and not the itinerary.
Disembarkation All good things must come to an end, and SOLSTICE was no exception. We received priority disembarkation and were invited to a special breakfast in Tuscan Grill the last morning at 8:45am. I'm not sure if this was because of Elite status or because we were in a suite? We showed up at 8:45am and were advised we could sit and have a bite to eat or disembark right away. We opted to disembark. The process was very easy and we were on our way in no time. Disembarkation on Celebrity has become very civilized, as there are zero announcements the last morning. This is in keeping with the Celebrity policy of keeping announcements to a minimum. For instance you don't hear those revenue-producing announcements four times a day like you do on other lines. There is one announcement at noon and that is it.
Post-Cruise Since we drove to Ft. Lauderdale, we decided to break up our drive home and spend one night at Disney World. It's about a three hour drive up to Disney and we stayed at the Walt Disney World Dolphin. After Turnberry and the SOLSTICE the hotel was a bit of a disappointment, but we still enjoyed ourselves. We like to shop at Downtown Disney and this was the primary focus of our visit. There were a lot of sales and discounts being offered on Disney merchandise, and this is something we have not seen in the past. A sign of our sad economic times for certain.
Conclusion This was really an excellent trip all around. I enjoyed the drive, visiting my mother, Turnberry Isle, SOLSTICE, and Disney. It was also great to see some friends onboard that I don't get to see very often.
CELEBRITY SOLSTICE is truly a remarkable ship that did not disappoint. I think the attention to detail in her design is unsurpassed. Without question I will return to SOLSTICE or one of her new sisters in the future. I feel confident I can recommend SOLSTICE without question, but of course not everyone will see things through my same eyes.
The Celebrity "Solstice" Raises the Bar for Cruisers.
The first of the planned five "Solstice" class liners from Celebrity sets a new standard in cruise ship competition. They traded rock-climbing walls for a six-star ship with five-star prices.
Even though we were on the second actual voyage, we did not experience any of the serious glitches that we expected for a brand-new $800M cruise ship. Instead we were treated to a gorgeous travel and destination experience.
Embarkation was fast and smooth. Our veranda stateroom (the majority of the ship accomodations) was very comfortable with all the storage needed for the 14-day cruises planned for the future. Rooms are 15% larger than the typical stateroom and you could feel the difference. Curved walls and great lighting made the stateroom welcoming for more than just sleeping. Little touches like a foot rest in the shower and a veranda door that totally shuts out noise are just a few of the amenities. Flat-screen TV’s saved space and had an easy-to-navigate program for everything from room service to booking shore excursions to In Demand and Pay-Per-View.
The dining room food was better than other five-star cruise lines. We ate atthree of the four specialty restaurants and experienced the level of service and cuisine that makes the added charges ($20-$30 per person, including gratuities) a good value. The Murano was the star, but the Silk Harvest and The Tuscan were not far behind. The Bistro on Five was a real bargain, offering unlimited delicious crepes and paninis for just $5.00 per person.
The staff was not only friendly as you would expect but they are very proud of their ship. It shows in their efforts to make your experience so great that you are compelled to stay on board as some cruisers did rather than try to return home to blizzards.
The ship is beautiful. Art work is wonderful and varied from mozaics to sculpture. Each venue has its own theme that is reflected in carpets, walls, lighting, chairs, tablecloths and even the plates. Every corner and minor detail has been scrutinized to maximize the experience. We saw teams of people from the shipyard and cruise line and design group constantly roaming the Solstice looking for anything that could be made better. When I suggested an outlet near the bed, they jumped on including the idea in their report.
Entertainment is world class. The main theater was designed to bring the show into your lap. The stage juts out into the audience. There are wires that let the performers go up and even around the entire lower level. The performers are talented and energetic. Even the rear of the stage is no longer a curtain but a backdrop for dazzling light effects and constantly changing backdrops.
Shows ranged from "Blast" type percussion skits to Broadway hits where the dancing, singing and set and costume changes were accomplished so fast and seamlessly you have to wonder how they do it.
Throughout the ship you can experience entertainment ranging from a string ensemble to an a capella quartet, to comedians, lecturers and others, all showcased in various, beautiful surroundings. We didn't miss the absence of other typical cruise activities like masquerade parties and Midnight Buffets every night. The ship was decorated for the holidays in stunning, but not over-done, wreathes, garlands and flower displays.
The totally unique Corning Museum of Glass "Hot Glass Show" was such a big hit they are already tearing up some of the top deck (which is real grass!) to add more bleacher type seats. The glass artisans go from start to finish creating beautiful, museum-grade bowls, vases and glass sculptures. And, they do it with electric furnaces that don't get as hot as the gas-fired furnaces they typically use and coping with tricky cross-winds. There are usually two 2-hour shows a day. While their work is not for sale (yet), some pieces are raffled to the guests for free.
Stops in Puerto Rico, St. Maarten and St. Kitts went well. But, shopping in St, Maarten was not only down 75-90%, according to the merchants, but the bargains aren't what they used to be. There were five large cruise ships in town the day we were there but the stores were absolutely empty, even of lookie-loos.
We found the train ride around St. Kits (actually St. Christopher’s and Nevis) to be a great way to see the island. The upper level is open, with free drinks and guides and singers. The lower level is enclosed with a bathroom. Locals wave at the passengers and seem glad to have visitors. Tourism is all they have since they closed the last sugar refinery on the island.
The biggest faux paux was when I used word association to remember our cabin attendant's name, Alfredo, by calling him "Fetuccine". Oh, well.
If you are looking for a great experience and value, consider the Solstice class from Celebrity.
I am writing to share a problem my husband and I experienced on our 6/15/09 sailing aboard the Celebrity Summit from Venice to Barcelona. We invested $11,998 on the cruise fare alone, opting to upgrade to one of the finest cabins on the ship for a very special occasion: our honeymoon. We never expected what was to follow.
6/15 - We immediately noticed a sewage odor coming from our balcony and felt ill before we even set sail (i.e., nausea, headache, dizziness). We blamed the dock and avoided the balcony.
6/16 - We wanted to enjoy sailing from Venice on our balcony, but the smell was unbearable. We hoped the air quality would improve as we sailed to Croatia.
6/17 - We went to the medical facility and were told there was at least an hour wait. We opted to visit a pharmacy in Croatia so as not to miss out on the port and compromise our trip any further. However, once we were off the ship, the air was fresh, and we started to feel better.
6/17 - Sailing from Croatia at over 20 knots, the foul odor onboard intensified, despite thestrong breeze. At our expense, we e-mailed our agent at Prestige Travel for guidance, and called Guest Services. Guest Services did not respond, and the Hotel Manager was not available. We then stood at the Guest Services desk until the Hotel Manager, the Chief Engineer, the Chief Housekeeper and their assistants came to our cabin to assess the problem. They only acknowledged a "food odor," though it clearly smelled like a dirty toilet. The Chief Engineer suggested they "flush" the black water sewage system. In the interim, we were offered no reparations. Our room could not even be changed as the cruise was reportedly sold out.
6/18 - The sewage odor persisted, less so on our balcony, and more so in our cabin as well as the entire Deck 6 hallway. The cruise staff did not follow up with us, so we called the Hotel Manager again. It was maddening to have to spend any more of our honeymoon dealing with this. The Hotel Manager stated that while compensation would be in order, the nature and extent of that compensation would depend on how quickly the problem was resolved.
6/21 - The Hotel Manager offered us in writing 25% of the value of the cruise base price (i.e.., to compensate for 3 of the 12 days) to be issued as either a cruise credit towards a Celebrity Cruise with restrictions, or the same dollar value to be put towards our charges on our current cruise, with any balance being returned to the credit card provided upon embarkation. This would have been acceptable, except that the foul odor was worse than ever. We asked to reassess the situation towards the end of the cruise since the problem was clearly unresolved. However, as we disembarked, the problem remained unresolved.
A Celebrity Cruises representative in Miami who would only identify himself as "Victor" contacted me days later to extend the same offer. I felt the offer was unfair, so "Victor" agreed to contact me after the July 4th holiday to reach a mutually agreeable decision.
7/10 - "Victor" had not called back, so we called him. We were informed that he was not available and no other associate or supervisor could assist us. We left messages all week for his return call with associates who would only identify themselves as "Audrey" and "Pamela."
7/15 - "Victor" finally returned our call, and we informed him that we felt our cruise fare should be refunded, not just because we were deprived of the cabin experience we paid for, but because we spent our honeymoon inhaling sewage fumes and wasting time trying to solve a problem we did not create with cruise staff and representatives who have resisted every effort to right this wrong. "Victor" stated that refunds are never issued, so I immediately faxed him the original offer that was made in writing by the Hotel Manager. "Victor" stated he would call me back after discussing the matter with his superiors.
7/20 – "Victor" called to state that Celebrity Cruises could only offer 25% of the cruise fare as a cruise credit to be used by us alone over the next calendar year, excluding holidays. He further stated that the original offer from the hotel manager in writing only applied while were on the ship, despite the fact that this was never mentioned, in writing or otherwise, by any member of the cruise staff at any time.
We have shared this information with our travel agency and the following cruise ship executives, without any response to date: Mr. Daniel Hanrahan - President & CEO Mr. Richard Fain - Chairman & CEO Mr. Brian Rice - Executive Vice President & CFO I truly hope that by sharing this information with you, we can help ensure safe and fair travel practices in the future.
Last spring we booked a transatlantic cruise on the Solstice, but due to health problems we did not make it. The Solstice is now 14 months old, her naming ceremony was Nov. 14, 2008; her Godmother is Prof. Sharon L. Smith a renown marine and atmospheric scientist from the University of Miami: very a propos! The Solstice's name conjures up thoughts of our sun star and heavenly worlds beyond Earth. Her Godmother grounds those ideas and brings to our life on Earth more meaning.
The softness of the many delicate draperies on board evokes feelings of clouds. The highly polished aluminum columns in the Grand Epernay Dining Rooms and the Champagne bubble like lights on the ceiling, combined with the beauty of the décor presents an ethereal aura. Even the night club on Deck 4 is named Quasar and calls up space images. Suffice it to say, the Solstice is unique --- and so is her Captain Dimitrios Kafetzis. He is a fine Master with a welcoming sense of humor: ”He is Greek!” with all the connotations and beautiful manners of a Greek ship's host.
EMBARKATION On a Sunday morning I-95 traffic islight and from Boca Raton to Ft. Lauderdale takes only 25 minutes. We had curbside assistance with our baggage, wheelchair, and scooter. A crew member helped us through check-in and we were in our stateroom in twenty minutes. Excellent! Guests were greeted with Mimosa drinks, very refreshing.
SHIP OVERVIEW The Solstice weighs 122,000 gross tons; she is 1,033 feet long and has a beam of 121 feet. Her draft is 27 feet and she has a cruising speed of 24 knots. She carries 2,850 guests and has 16 passenger decks. What follows is a deck by deck description of her layout.
Deck 1 is for crew only.
Deck 2 holds the Medical Facility (which we did not visit)!
Deck 3 aft has the Grand Epernay Restaurant, a glorious combination of spaciousness and modern design with crystal and chrome fitting in beautifully, with the three deck tall white draperies. There is an old saying that drinking Champagne in Epernay (the heart of French Champagne country) is like listening to Mozart in Salzburg...” (Eperzine Web magazine). So also are diners in this stunning dining room treated to bubbles in the ceiling lighting. On Deck 3 are the Guest Relations Desk, the Shore Excursions Desk and the Passport Bar.
Deck 4 has Celebrity Central entertainment locale, Cellars Masters (wine, whiskey, or bourbon tastings, etc.). Then, there is the Fortunes Casino (the Slots are loose, and the give out is published daily.) Next is the Quasar Nightclub with its polished metal dance floor, suspended capsule chairs and twinkling lights, there is lots of atmosphere. Midship are the shops on board and forward the Solstice Theatre with excellent acoustics, but there are a few poles obstructing the view of the stage, so choose seats carefully. The red velvet stage curtain is flanked by two 3 deck tall draperies composed of tucked white and off white fabrics making a collage of billows. Very unique.
Deck 5 has the “Bistro on Five” which specializes in crepes, both sweet and savory. This is a great place for brunch or late night dessert ($5) the “Cafe` al Bacio” serves exquisite coffee and desserts. There is also a Gelato ice cream shop, and the Captain's Club for repeat cruisers. Since Celebrity is part of RCI and we are Diamond Plus members in the Crown & Anchor Society, we have been given elite status with great perks. There are the boutique shops and Michael's Club where cocktail parties and high teas are held. Aft on Deck 5 are the specialty restaurants: Murano (excellent French cuisine) Silk Harvest (Asian) and the Tuscan Grille (Italian), cover charges apply.
Deck 6 through 11 are all staterooms in addition to the Online@Celebrity (the internet room) on Deck 6, the Library on Deck 10 (open stacks and reading areas, no need to sign in or out --- the honor policy is in operation) and the Relaxation Lounge on Deck 11.
Deck 12 has the Health & Fitness center, the Aqua Spa, the Beauty Salon, the Solarium, Swimming Pools and Whirlpools. Vincent uses the sauna and the whirlpool daily and he had wonderful advice and help from Natasha.
Deck 14 has the jogging track, the Mast Bar & Grill (hot dogs, hamburgers and fries), the Ocean Bar & Cafe` and the Sky Observation Lounge. There are sky lectures with an on board astronomer at night.
Deck 15 has basket ball courts, a hot blown glass show (Corning) and the Lawn Club with extensive grass lawn where Bocce Tournaments between passengers and crew are played.
Deck 16 is the Sun Deck.
Throughout the ship is a huge eclectic art collection, some of it commissioned for the Solstice and others works are from both famous cubists like Picasso and Matisse or from photographers like Martin Liebscher where repeated photographs of himself in different poses make up a crowd. Very Interesting. The “Full Moon Briars” by Susan Derges is certainly in keeping with the Solstice theme. Different staircases have been given themes like “Stair of Light” and “Stair of Water.”
CABIN Stateroom #6141 is a wheelchair accessible cabin with a large automatic door. When entering on the left there is a full length mirror and a double armoire in maple wood; a vanity/desk with lighted mirror, seven drawers, a private safe, and refrigerator. There is a marble counter top and one chair.
When entering, on the right is a huge tiled bathroom with a tilt mirror flanked by two large medicine cabinets with glass doors. There are safety rails all around and a huge shower with a fold away seat. There is a king size bed with very nice linens of gold white and maroon. The two reading lamps are close enough to turn on and off from the bed. The final pieces of furniture are a love seat and a small coffee table.
The balcony is large and deep: it contains two recliners and a teak table and chair. The carpet is in Burberry colors: gold, beige and maroon and the draperies are beige with bands of rose patterns. The stateroom attendant, Mahmodi is excellent. The cabin is large and comfortable.
SERVICE & FOOD Hotel Director Damien O'Connor displays the perfect temperament to control the Solstice. He is kind, affable and likes to hear just how the passengers are getting along. He doesn't just ask questions for conversation's sake, rather he is truly interested in the passengers' satisfaction. He has a well trained crew, who make the passengers comfortable and provide for their every need. We always say that the mood on board filters down from above--- with such friendly leaders as Captain Dimitrios, H.D. Damien and Restaurant Manager FabioScaglione, it's only natural that the crew are also friendly and sincere.
Food & Beverage Manager Robert Flack has the daunting task of overseeing 600 crew members who produce and serve more than 12,000 meals daily, yet everything goes off beautifully. Exec. Chef Mickael Tochetto combines the best of culinary traditions: born of Italian parents, raised in France! The food on board is excellent, based on menus by world renown Chef Jacques Van Staden and implemented perfectly by Chef Mickael. The menu is one of the most diverse at sea and most ample. No one could possibly go away unsatisfied.
We enjoyed every meal on board, especially the one at Captain Dimitrios' table on formal night. The Escargot was perfect, Vincent's Caesar salad and filet Mignon were just the way he liked them. The Captain was jovial and complimentary; at the end of the meal he gave each lady at the table a beautiful long stem American Beauty rose. Our waiter at table #110 in Epernay was Jose` Altamirano, both he and his assistant Yvonne Williams were very pleasant and served at a nice pace. Celebrity is probably the only line still providing a finely trained Sommelier: Ferhat Ebret was cordial and Vincent was appreciative of his service and knowledge. Bravo.
Some samples from the appetizer menu are as follows: Tropical Fruit Medley with Lychee nuts; San Francisco Crab Louis; Goat cheese tart served with red roasted peppers and Balsamic syrup. Soups included Wild Mushroom Cappuccino with Porcini mushroom dust, and chilled Gazpacho. Salads were fresh and varied: Belgium Endive and arugala with red delicious apple and candied pecans. Some of their homemade dressings included Roquefort, Citrus, Pinot Noir Vinaigrette, Champagne and lite raspberry.
Entrees include pastas like Spaghetti Carbonara, fish such as Herb crusted Merluzzo (white fish) and fowl like Grandmother's Coq Au Vin and Veal Cordon Bleu. Chef Mickael's Ossobuco (excellent) Mary felt it was a triumph! The aged Prime Rib of Beef was mouth watering. Vegetarians had a large assortment of dishes including grilled Kebabs. For dessert there was always a selection of imported cheeses, fruits and traditional desserts like Crème Brulee`, NY cheesecake, Profiteroles, apple pie, fresh sorbets and homemade ice creams.
There are several Speciality Restaurants. We highly recommend Murano, and its contemporary French Cuisine: try the sweet breads and the fois gras and the wonderful Cheese Cart. We are happy to report the food on board is excellent.
ENTERTAINMENT The Solstice has three very nice shows: Adam Trent a young magician, singer Karen Grainger, and Celebrity Show time presented Solstice: the Show, which was very nice with aerial acrobatics. A very interesting offering was Astronomer Vic Stryker, who lead nightly sky watching. This ship has many things for cruisers including Casino games, Bingo, Fitness, Bocce, etc.
PORTS OF CALL
Sunday: Ft. Lauderdale, FL Depart: 4:30pm
Monday: At Sea
Tuesday: San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive: 2:00pm Depart: 8:00pm
Wednesday: Philipsburg, St. Maarten Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 7:00pm
Thursday: Tortola, B.V.I. Arrive:7:00am Depart: 1:00pm
Friday: Labadee, Haiti Arrive: 10:00am Depart: 6:30pm
Saturday: At Sea
Sunday: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Arrive: 7:00am
CONCLUSION This was another great cruise! We have not had a bad cruise in a long time, since we have learned what to expect from the various cruise lines and direct our attention to the things they do best. We are addicted to cruising, because we know how to get the best out of every cruise in regard to food, service, itinerary, ship's environment, repeater's benefits and personal attention. Some readers of our reviews have accused us of being too soft with our criticism. We disagree with them since we always include in the reviews any points which are not perfect and may need improvement. It is hard to write a negative review when we have enjoyed the overall aspect of a cruise, which up to now we have always done. We'll be cruising in search of the perfect cruise or an unpleasant one; neither of which we have yet experienced.
Our next cruise is in February on the Liberty of the Seas together with our son Marcello, his wife Paige and their eight year old son Marcellino. We have also booked a relocation cruise on the Star Princess, on March 16th, from Rio De Janeiro to Ft. Lauderdale. Happy Cruising!
We are firm fans of Celebrity but this was our first cruise aboard their newest ship Celebrity Solstice. We had chosen their ten day Eastern Mediterranean cruise which left from Civitevecchia and journeyed to Messina, Athens, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Mykonos, Santaroni and Naples.
Embarkation We had made our own way to the ship by meandering through Italy and had taken advice on these pages on how best to get to Civitevecchia from Rome. Views had been divided between getting a taxi for 120 euros or getting the local train from Rome Termini at a cost of 5 euros and then a taxi to the ship. We opted for the latter and certainly on the way to the ship it was a cakewalk (less so coming back) and we left on the 12:40 pm train and were actually in our cabin enjoying the complimentary fizz by 2:15 pm. However three things to note -- the train departs from platform 29, which is a 500 metre walk down another platform with cases, so if you have mobility problems bear this in mind. Secondly, the local train has no facilities for luggage storage -- ok whenthe train is not full, as when we were going out, but not so when packed -- and thirdly there are apparently only 12 taxis in the whole of Civatevecchia so it is a sellers market and they charge 15-20 euros for the three mile trip. You can dispense with the taxi and walk the three quarters of a mile to the dock gates and then get the free dock shuttle bus to the ship, but on the way there we happily paid the taxi demands, especially as it was very hot!! Once at the ship the boarding procedures were super efficient and we were immediately on board and our luggage was with us within about half an hour.
Cabin Our balcony cabin was at the aft of the ship, as we like to see the wake and also both sides of the ship when cruising. We had opted for the highest accommodation deck which was deck 12, as their balconies were more shaded and there was less risk of any soot from the funnels -- one disadvantage of a cabin at the back of any ship. On Celebrity Constellation such balconies are much bigger than the standard but not so on Solstice -- but both the balcony and the cabin was everything we had hoped for and one massive improvement from the Constellation was the bathroom. It was much bigger, with double sinks and a large walk in shower with sliding doors. In the cabins all the furnishings were new and of a high level and we had chosen concierge class as this gives little touches like Frette linen and towels, champagne, fruit and flowers which make one instantly at home and expectant of a good holiday. Our steward was instantly on hand to introduce himself and although we hardly saw him or needed him during the cruise he did a superb job in keeping everything in tip top shape.
The Ship We were soon walking around the ship and I have to say that we were bowled over by it's quality and grandeur. It was soon quite clear that a lot of money and a lot of know how had been expended in the ship's design and facilities. Its elegance is quite different to that of the QM2, which is 'grand county house elegance', as the Solstice is far more 'modern chic boutique style elegance'. It is however quite stunning and the quality of such things as the chairs and fittings in many of the bars and public rooms is a real indication of this. Equally on some of the sun decks there are huge sun beds, whilst there are cabanas near the open pool, sun tents in the indoor pool and comfortable couches on the aft deck and the piece de resistance is the Lawn Club on deck 15. This is a huge piece of real lawn around which there are a limited number of tables and chairs, a bar and a feeling of great calm and peace. We were to use this a great deal to play boule or just to relax with a book and amazingly it never seemed to get crowded, unlike the outdoor pool and to a lesser extent the indoor pool areas. Unfortunately the thalossophery pool facility has disappeared -- apparently a victim of Health and Safety legislation -- the nanny state obviously exists on both sides of the Atlantic! Another design feature, similar in many ships is that of a large central atrium served by 8 glass lifts and including a real tree and from the lift atrium (not from the tree) one could view many of the bars and facilities such as the coffee shop, library and card room. Spreading out from the central atrium on decks four and five were the shops on the boulevard, the casino and the numerous restaurants and bars. All in all a stunningly designed and executed ship which oozed modern quality and freshness ..... we were instant converts.
Interestingly we talked with many of the staff, some of whom we knew from the Constellation and they were equally positive about the ship and its facilities and one really sensed that they had a genuine pride about it ..... a thing I had only sensed before at Grill Level on QM2.
Restaurants The main restaurant is the Grand Epernay and again the design is stunning with the ceiling lighting arranged to look like champagne bubbles and the organisation of the upper tier into discretely sized units a clever feature.
This is the standard restaurant and I have to say that both the quality and variety of the food were outstanding and it almost beggers believe how such a level can be achieved for so many people. There is a very American flavour to the menu, which is no bad thing unless one is hoping for meat and two veg, which this restaurant will not deliver. However the seafood was excellent, as were the various hot and cold soups and the variety of salads. My only minor criticism was that the menu was a little weak on fish dishes but that was a minor blip. The service was also superb being both friendly and efficient, and the sommelier was knowledgable and equally efficient. Like most ships the free coffee served at the end of the meal was mass produced but this could be rectified by going to the Cafe al Bacio which served outstanding coffee for a couple of dollars and proved the ideal way to finish ones meal. However ones eating choices only started with the Epernay for if one wanted, one could eat in about six or seven other eating venues provided one was prepared to pay the supplement which varied from 5 dollars to 30 dollars per head. Three of these restaurants were almost immediately booked up by the largely American clientele, which was not a reflection on the standard of the Epernay but more of the American mind set when on holiday, which is very different from that of their GB counterpart. These restaurants were the Murano (elegant French at 30$); Tuscan Grill (Italian American high quality steak house at 30$); Silk Harvest (sophisticated Asian and fusion at 20$) and Bistro on Five (crepes, salads and light food at 5$).
We only ate at these restaurants twice -- firstly one night at the Bistro as we just wanted something very light and it was excellent, although it was the one pay restaurant that one did not need to book in advance and was not much used. Secondly we went to the Murano and found it to be an outstanding 5 star restaurant with impecable service -- some of the signature dishes included a superb snail tortellini, crab tien, a wonderful dover sole veronique and for dessert (and one of the best I have ever tasted) a superb crepe suzette ballon rouge, which the head waiter cooked at one's table. The whole meal was an absolute steal for 30$ per head, as in London one would easily pay £100 per head, but this is where the American and US attitudes may diverge and where the Celebrity cruise philosophy comes into play (see later).
Breakfasts and Lunch For breakfast one has the choice of cabin service or of going to the buffet ot restaurant. The free cabin service has been extended and is now very extensive and includes a whole variety of hot options, although inevitably they are not piping hot by the time they reach your cabin. We tried this a couple of times and then opted for the buffet where the choice is vast and caters for the health conscious to the cholesterol crammer in equal measure. Lunch was a choice between the buffet, the grill or on some days a set meal -- we usually opted for the buffet which was well organised and had a vast array of salads, as well as a wide choice of hot dishes, but was something that was not overly noteworthy, although to be fair I can't get excited about most buffets ..... you are eating rather than dining! One other thing to note is that there is also an extensive free 24 hour room service menu, which we did have the need to try but was another excellent service that was offered in the standard cruise price. Finally we met some people who had gone Aqua class where they have their own restaurant called Blu and they were singing the praises of this .... so one takes one's choice.
The Bars There are a whole range of bar options and I have to say that many of them were outstanding, depending on ones choice of tipple. My three favourites were -- the Martini Bar which is a fun area with a counter made of ice and a number of 'performing' barmen with outstanding juggling tricks whilst making your drink. A great place for a pre dinner drink but immensely popular with the American clientele so a little crowded and hectic. On the other hand Celler Masters was a most elegant setting for a glass of wine served by very able bar staff, who I later learned had had to pass strict tests on wine knowledge set by the overall Cellermaster, Laszlo who we had first met as a senior sommelier on the QM2 and is a definite class act. Another wonderful setting for a quiet drink is the sumptuously decorated Michaels Club which is in marked contrast to the one on Constellation, where the resident entertainer Perry Grant holds court. Here the mood is soft with a tinkling piano, only a few people and a brilliant Ukranian barman called Max who makes wonderful martinis and cocktails. How about this for professionalism -- we met Max last May on Constellation and when we walked into his bar he immediately remembered our names, the brand of gin I liked and the brand of champagne my wife preferred and he greeted us like long lost friends .... I was amazed at his memory but he wan't and saw it as all part of his job.
The Entertainment We do not bother much with the organised entertainment and in fact only took in one show and no other organised activity apart from one wine tasting. However if I had wanted an emphasis on this aspect I think that I would have been disappointed as the shows were mainly the Celebrity troupe supplemented by an English violinst, an American comedian and an American impressionist. The one show we did go to we enjoyed very much which was Bobby Arvon, the guy who sang Happy Days and who was a real old style crooner and consumate entertainer.
The Itinerary The itinerary was the standard Eastern Med one which we have done many times before but always enjoy visiting the majority of ports and particularly Athens, Rhodes and Mykonos. We went on organised trips at Messina for Taormina and at Athens for the ancient sights and the Plaka and these were fine and one simply recognises one is paying for the convenience of ship to ship transport and for a guide. Other than that we did our own thing at Rhodes, Mykonos and Naples but stayed on the ship at both Kusadasi and Santorini to enjoy the full benefits of the Solstice without many people about ..... quite wonderful and so relaxing. It is a quite beautiful part of the world and in particular the Greek people are so wonderfully friendly and superb ambassadors for their country. We usually try and have lunch in a non touristy restaurant (found by asking a few of the locals where they eat) in order to get a better feel of the local culture and this way one meets some delightful people who just want to please you with their food and their culture. Incidentally the food is twice as good and half as dear.
The Celebrity Formula Here I am going to be a little contentious and no doubt will be misconstrued by those who are over sensitive to what they perceive as snobbery. Celebrity is an excellent cruise line but it is not for everybody -- this is said not on the lines of class distinction but on the lines of what people want from a cruise line. Celebrity offers a high quality package at a very reasonable price for what is included but on top of this it offers a variety of extras that one has to pay to enjoy. This formula is fine with the Americans who are literally queing up to spend the extra, provided it is of a high quality and enhances the enjoyment of their holiday. However I have noted on these pages that many Brits want an all-in package and do not expect to pay a lot more for extras ..... if this is your requirement then Celebrity is probably not for you.
The reality with tips at 12$ pp per day, pay restaurants (if you choose them), drinks with service charge, treatments, trips, etc. that one has to budget probably about an extra 500$ a person for a two week cruise. I personally have no problem with this formula, as it is in fact a cheaper one than say Grill class in Cunard where one pays far more up front but less for added extras -- in fact the basic price of say Princess Grill to Concierge is probably double. However if you are the type of cruiser that wants a lot of organised entertainment, wants fairly standard British meals, wants a launderette, wants to make tea in your cabin, doesn't like at least two or three formal nights, doesn't like a heavy emphasis on US requirements and objects to paying standard tips and 15% on all waiter servce functions then Celebrity is NOT for you whereas perhaps P&0 or Thomson are. Again I emphasise this is not a snobby comment (although I will be amazed if I don't get some abuse from the chip on the shoulder brigade) just a matching of needs to the type of offering that is given.
Incidentally, I was very pleased to see the way that standards are upheld on the Solstice, as on the first day security guards visited an adjacent cabin, where a passenger had been smoking on his balcony and made it very clear to him that if it happened again he would be off the ship at the next port. No I wasn't the snitch, I assume they had sensors.
Disembarkation In marked contrast to embarkation it was a bit of a nightmare for travellers making their own arrangements. One had the choice of using a Celerity transfer bus to Rome at £60 per person and off loading you at a non helpful set down point or of pre booking a taxi at say £110 or of taking the free shuttle to the port gates and then walking the 3/4 mile to the station, as there are no local taxis available as they are only interested in taking you to Rome. We chose the latter option and almost inevitably were met by huge crowds at the station and an uncomfortable journey into Rome on a train where there was no provision for luggage. Although the cheap option I am not sure the return local train journey was the best and in retrospect would use this for the outward journey and order a taxi for the return.
Summary A great cruise on a stunning ship which was rather like a floating, high quality Pleasure Palace that is organised on US lines and which is based on the Celebrity formula of providing a high quality basic package with add on extras at the choice of the individual passenger. Will I be using Celebrity again? ........ You bet ya ..... you see, I am already influenced by the US style which in a nutshell wants high quality facilities and service but doesn't mind paying for it .... and as they say, there's the rub.