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 Western, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Eastern
Good for: Overall Service. Foodies. Value for Money.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Inland Waterways, Mediterranean Western
Good for: Seniors. Foodies. Families.
Regions:Caribbean Southern, Mediterranean Western, Transatlantic
Good for: Seniors. Foodies. Value for Money.
Regions:Caribbean, Panama Canal, Europe
Good for: Seniors. Families. Luxury Travelers.
Regions:Alaska, Australia, Hawaii, Inland Waterways
Good for: Seniors. Singles. Families.
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.
Regions:Bermuda, Caribbean Eastern, Caribbean Southern
Good for: Foodies. Seniors. Group.
Good for: Group. Singles. First-time Cruisers.
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!!!!!!!
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.
The Solstice is the most beautiful ship I have ever seen. Every square inch is decorated with elegance. That's the upside.
On the downside, dinners are insonsistent. Three great dinners and 4 dinners not worthy of a cruise ship anywhere.
The pools were inconsistent. Two very wonderful days followed by 5 days of the coldest water I have ever seen. Very nice -- fly to the Carfibbean to freeze your tuchus off.
The entertainment -- Two good shows, 1 mediocre show, 1 night with no show at all, 2 nights with homespun shows consisting of the musicians from all over the ship, and then one very terrible show of a man playing the Xylophone. This Xylophone player is worthy of a 10 minute warmup act -- not an entire show.
Dan Hanrahan put hundreds of millions into a bheautiful vessel -- now put another few hundred into singers, magicians, and maybe even a good comic. I have 73 cruises under my belt and as an experienced traveler I cannot tell you how I feel so ripped off.
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 December 3, 2008 sailing to Key West and Cozumel was our first cruise ever. We really had few expectations, and unfortunately few were met in return! It started out great with a nice balcony room, bigger than I had anticipated, and well laid out. The buffet lunch was not very good, so I was hoping dinner would be better and it was. A chilly departure was a little late, but I figured that was normal.
We arrived in Key West on time and were surprised at how haphazard the docking procedure was, just a bunch of locals who showed up in street clothes with the guy in charge yelling at Infinity's crew "not to worry." We also had to dock at the Navy base, as another cruise ship was docked at the base of the downtown area of Key West (causing us to shuttle it into town instead of walk). No big deal.
Having previously lived in Florida, Key West was really not the destination we were looking for, but it was on the way to Cozumel! My husband and I had fun finding the restaurant we got engaged in.
The disappointmentstarted when the captain announced technical difficulties with the navigation system causing a delay while someone came to fix it. We ended up leaving 24 hours later with Cozumel being canceled and Nassau, Bahamas being added. To say we were disappointed is an understatement. I was crushed, but insistent on making the best of it.
It became apparent, as I've seen from other reviews, that the crew did not have their act together. We ran into our waiter from the SS United States (specialty restaurant, which was spectacular and well worth the extra $30 per person) and he said they had 300 new crew and the ship was "not the same since it came out of dry dock" (just previous to our cruise), making staff morale and service poor. It was obvious there were water problems on board as well.
Trying to be brief, we found too many things unacceptable for a cruise ship of this nature: NO coffee, yes, NO coffee two mornings in a row! (we were told because of water pressure issues.) People were walking around the buffet complaining and quite ticked off about this. Both nights we went to the martini bar they ran out of the glasses for the martini sampler. When I gave my $10 martini back to the bartender because it tasted like fruit punch, he looked at me and walked away, not even offering to try to make me a new one.
Every time I got eggs they were stone cold, including room service and the buffet. We found the buffet food to be poor, but loved the Aqua Spa Cafe. We heard some complain it that it was too bland, but we found it fresh, tasty and healthy for breakfast and lunch. We also found about 25 old beach towels and empty glasses on the top deck outdoor lounge area at 8am, obviously leftover from the day before. The ship was not kept very clean at all. I found it incredibly frustrating that by the end of day 2 the Purell hand sanitizer stations were very frequently empty and it seemed I had to use 3 dispensers in the bathroom before I found one with soap. Asked for early seating, got late; asked for table for 2, got 8. I could go on more, but will stop, you get the picture.
After they canceled Cozumel, morale among the passengers started to get bad, but everyone commented that it was not just because of the redirection of the cruise, but the poor service on the ship. The guest services area was rampant with complaining passengers. I heard the phrase "this in my 10th cruise and it's the worst!" on more than one occasion. Someone in the elevator said "this boat sucks".
When I got in the water, in the Bahamas, for a much anticipated snorkel (which was supposed to be in warm Cozumel) the frigid temperature took my breath away and caused me to curse one more time at Celebrity cruise lines. The roughly 8 year old kid in front of us almost had a panic attack it was so cold. We arrived back from our excursion to find our air conditioning broken and our room at around 80 some degrees.
Things were bad until the very end -- it was extremely unorganized trying to get off the boat. Our designated exit area by the theater was jammed with people (mostly older and some on the frail side) and the doors were still not open an hour into the scheduled time to get off. We found another area that was open and they allowed us off, luckily our luggage was in hand.
No, it was not a very good introduction to cruising and the $120 refund (our designated amount with an outside stateroom, some got more, some less) was less than acceptable as a consolation prize. Never will I cruise Celebrity again, or recommend it to a friend.
This cruise started when Celebrity Solstice opened four extra weeks of bookings before the original planned inaugural. My travel agent Deb called me and said Celebrity allocated her about twelve cabins for this selective week. I quickly suggested some of my friends to book it and they did. Deb hammered out the details for all of our group. I booked my daughter Jenna and I on the trip. I started looking into air travel at this time. One of the Continental airlines hubs is my home airport -- Newark. They fly directly to Ft. Lauderdale, the embarkation port for this trip. The airfares were a bit higher than I have paid in the past but we were still in a gas high price time, but by cruise time the gas prices had tumbled from over $3 per gallon at the booking time to only $1.50 or so when we flew out of Newark. A nice thing to do is fly into the home port area a day before to get adjusted and see the town. This also reduces the stress levels as you are there and ready to go soyou will see no delays in getting to the ship on time.
I had originally booked an 8AM flight out of Newark to land at about 11AM in Ft. Lauderdale. Then a few weeks later re-checked the flight on the Continental site to see where the seating capacity was. Hmmmmmmmm. Flight was not there. I then went back to my reservation number and checked to see that the flight had been removed and we were now scheduled on the 6:35AM flight out of Newark on the same day. So I then went back in and re-set my seats and called my friends, Karen and Tim, who were traveling on the cruise with us. They also had to reset the air portion of the trip. The same thing happened with our return flight home. Originally set for a noon departure out of Newark but the flight was cancelled in advance and we were shifted to the 10:40AM flight home. Same thing again -- switch the seats --since I am on vacation as soon as the work day ends before we actually go. I am very detail oriented to relax and enjoy the trip. I had packed a 4 oz. bottle of rum in one of the small NTSB approved carry containers. When we went through the check point and down to the plane I purchased a 20oz. bottle of Pepsi for the plane. Also we had a very quick breakfast there McDonald's -- hey it was all that was there.
The plane was on time to board. We taxied away but were de-iced and did not take off till 6:50AM. I had my first drink of Rum and Coke at 6:53AM. Vacation started. My friend Hank in North Carolina will be happy to read this line. Finished the drink about the time we crossed over North Carolina. We encountered no problems getting there as we landed right on time. Right off the plane in Ft. Lauderdale and off to find the luggage pick up. We picked up our luggage and put on our Celebrity bag tags. Then found a taxi to the pier. We stepped out of the taxi and stowed the ship luggage at the port by 10AM. While they had not started the check in process yet, Karen, Tim, Jenna and I checked our bags and went through the port security process. Then settled in for the time to check in. When the check in process started we got onto the line for the Elite and checked in to board the ship. The actual check-in process took about 10 minutes for the express pass and check the passport information against the cruise tickets along with the credit card registration for on-board ship payments. Off we went up the escalator to the ship and this adventure begins.
They had the ship's photographers there to get your entry pictures. Upstairs you had your security picture taken to match it to your sea pass. This is used to log you on and off the ship and to record what you look like. The ship's security knows who is on and off the ship at all times. This helps in ports as they want to make sure all are there. Then up the slanted gangway to the entry deck on level 5. A short left and a right and you are in the entry area where they are offering you a welcome and a glass of Champagne or orange juice. Always my favorite way to be greeted. When we entered we were informed the rooms were not quite ready. We walked to the room and dropped off our carry on luggage in the room and found our room steward Jose from India. He greeted us warmly and after explaining the room quickly let us store the luggage and we went exploring the ship.
Cabin #6257, cat. 2C, Continental Deck. This is one of the regular sized cabins on the new class of ship. Slightly larger than the traditional 170 sq. ft. There is an additional balcony on this cabin level. Very nice fit for two deck chairs and a table. I have always found the Celebrity cabins to be a perfect fit. They are slightly larger than some of the other industry standard cabins at this level. We had enough room for storage in the room as they have raised the bed level about four inches and even the large sized suit cases can fit nicely right under the bed. They moved the life vests from the storage area above the closet to a nice wire basket under the bed. Easy to slide out to get at the life vests for the boat drill. They do have a third sleeper bed -- a trundle bed that comes out from under the couch. But they also have a bed that swings down out of the ceiling and is hidden from view during the day. So fitting too -- would be very roomy and three is not a problem, even though there is less closet space as you may read on the boards. There is plenty of space in the drawers and storage areas in the room. The large double closet has a hanging bar all the way across and about thirty wooden hangers for using to hang the formal wear along with the day to day things as needed. The area under where the Flat screen TV is located has 5 nice and large drawers. To the side of this area is a storage area where your wifi keyboard is hidden. This can also double as a large storage area and did for us on this trip. Under that is the mini bar and your cabin steward will open it for your use if you request it. I think there is also a small pull out drawer in the front of the sit down make up area. There is also an additional light switch and two plug outlets here for your use. Just above the bed are two large cabinets that are used for pillow storage and whatever you would like to put up there. We stored my carry on there the whole trip. The TV has a nice swing arm behind it that you can pivot off the wall for watching in bed. They can go interactive, do movies on demand (which are all free), and music of different types. Here is my problem with the music and how it is set up. They have no menu selection to bring in a large type and shuffle it from song to song mixing up the order. Something I would have liked to do. Additionally there are some nook areas with bars across to hold in things that you want to store there. It held our bottles of wine and soda we had brought on in Ft. Lauderdale. Our steward kept the small ice holder filled and brought a clear plastic wine cooler/ice cooler when we requested it. To re-state on bringing alcohol on board with you as you board the ship -- Celebrity will allow two bottles of wine and maybe a few champagne. They are not strict in this policy but if you are a good passenger and do not try to bring on an excessive amount they are understanding on this issue. Your cabin steward will bring you ice as requested. Now there has been much discussion on the bathrooms on the ship and how they have changed. Yes they are a bit smaller. The counter space is not what you are used to. The shower stall area is now covered by a plastic enclosure. Very nice in my opinion. The shower head has a few adjustable settings but is locked in place and will pivot to direct the water. There are two handles to turn here -- one for water pressure and one for temperature. Both work perfectly to all our satisfaction. They have a step up bar inside for the ladies to shave their legs on if needed. But the drying line I loved to use is now gone. Replaced by two cloths hooks. They have small bottles of shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer along with the standard soap and never ending supply of clean fresh white towels.
Ship We headed out to explore the ship now. From walking into the lobby area on deck 5 I was already in WOW mode. I have been on the Horizon, Zenith, the Century class all ships and the Millie class two ships. Generally speaking from my cruises on older ships in the late 70's and early 80's. Then jumping back into cruising on Celebrity in the early 90's. So I have a view from a lot of angles. With this class of ship Celebrity has stepped up beyond the normal ship out there. I have felt that Celebrity set the standard and then others followed it. This ship build and launch proves that they are still way ahead and setting the pace for cruising elegance and ship board comforts into the next ten years. I walk about the ship almost all the time not using the elevators much at all this trip. I think about 6 times in all -- a bit above my average of two. Walking down the passage way and out to the stairwell area on deck 6 overlooking into the atrium and the tree there. What a nice touch. We walked forward on the port side into the Online@Celebrity area. Nice area with many computers set up. During the week I went and used the computers and the response time was very fast compared to the last time I tried a few years back. Nice soft earth/wood tones here. Very quiet area. Then back down to deck 4 to the main restaurant.
Dining Room The Grand Epernay Dining Room was just like the Millie series ships in size. This was wonderfully laid out. Same soft lines but the stair case was different. The stairs were frosted glass as were the stairwell separators. It split into two sections at the middle one each flowing to the side. We did notice one of the steps was already cracked but they will replace that soon. At night the stairs were back lit with a light green coloring. As usual there is a lot of space between tables to move. The wait stations were enlarged to hold two groups of wait staff at a time. They also had frosted glass a bit higher up than other wait stations to cut the view into them. We were at table 226 right next to the wait staff entrance and exit. There was not much noise at all sitting here. We were also within viewing distance of the well thought out wine cellar in the dining area. There were about 1800 bottles stored there as we were told. You could catch a look at the Sommeliers working in their area and picking up bottles and moving about with various glasses for each wine's use. Bob was our wine expert as always when I travel with him. We were at second seating dinner which is what I like on the ship, to relax a lot and take my time getting to dinner. My daughter Jenna and our friends Bob and Eileen were seated at our table. A lot of nice people to share a week's worth of dinners with. We also invited Kim from the ship's special events staff to dinner the last night. I had brought a coconut back on the ship, as a bet you can't get this on the ship, and tried to get it carved into a Maple leaf for our Canadian guest. But the nut was too green and it did not work out. But they drew a maple leaf on it and it worked out just the same. I would say I was not disappointed with any of the food offerings presented at dinner that week. We did go to the brunch offered one day here. It was very good. Some different offerings than upstairs as it is brunch -- a lot of cross over. It would have been very special to have an omelet station but I do not think they are set up for that. For the dinners everything was fantastic from the presentation to the sauces and taste. The wine parings were excellent for each night's meal. We also went into the restaurant at lunch and breakfast two times to see what other offerings we were missing out on. As with dinner everything was great. Service right there with breads or rolls and a good selection on the menus each time. We sat next to the windows three of the times we went into breakfast or lunch, and the other at the rail overlooking the main floor of the restaurant. Nice view each night from up there. Although there were a lot of people missing from our section of the dining room the first night they did appear throughout the cruise. They must have been in some of the specialty restaurants enjoying their tasty offerings.
I will say one thing for the complete Celebrity staff on the ship. They are wonderfully pleasant and gracious. They are always trying to please you with a special request or menu selection. I like Ice tea at dinner and it was there right after we sat down every night. I will repeat myself here and say that I have found being an Elite member does have a big plus side to it. The part of being able to invite ship's officers to dinner and making new friends on the ship. This is the time to relax and enjoy your dining experience. Try something different and if it does not meet your taste buds in the right way you can re-order. And as always you are on vacation, so have fun with this.
After this we headed forward out of the restaurant on deck 3 past Guest Relations and the bottom of the central lobby which is the Grand Foyer. I had to stop into guest relations a few times. The first to pick up a band aid as I had cut my finger. They even helped me put on the antiseptic and then the band aid the first time. All with a wonderful smile. They also supplied me with a few extra band aids in case I needed to change them. The other times I stopped by were to drop off a nice Ipod I had found on deck 15 at the basketball court. This was a nice slim line one that the owner forgot to pick up when they left the area. I turned it over to the Concierge who took my cabin number and thanked me. The other times I was just stopping by to pick up a bill for my ship charges that I had incurred to date. Each time met with a smile and friendly hello. And as I tried to make a joke about me being a complaining passenger and where I should go for that. They politely pointed me across the foyer to the Shore excursions desk and we had a good laugh at that. The last time I was there some passenger was screaming at our Hotel Manager about something. It was nice to see him calm the passenger down and get him to quietly talk through his concerns. Another reason why I like Celebrity. They will not brush you off and will try to address all passenger concerns as they can. Simon Weir handled it in an excellent fashion. It's a good thing I was on his good side. As with every interaction all the staff are being judged by everyone on the ship including me at all times. And as usual they come through with very high marks for their manners and how the conduct themselves while on company business. This area also had the Passport bar which was colored in a soft honey gold and the shore excursions desk area. I never had the chance to stop at the passport bar area or shore excursions but notice there were always people working or using the services during the normal hours for these places.
Moving up to deck 4 from the Grand Foyer area from the nice flowing stairwell. There were two decorated Christmas trees here at the base of the stairwell that magically appeared on December 1st. As you walked up the staircase to the port side is the most exciting place for a lot of people on the ship. The Martini Bar and Crush. The Martini bar was a frozen bar during the dinner hours which was two sided and had an extensive menu of Martinis and regular drinks. My friend Bob is the expert in this department and would stop by each night to see what new delights were coming out of the skillful staff's mixers. Part of the entertainment is the bartending staff. Tossing the cubes all about followed by the mixing and pouring out of three drinks at a time. They were the pros in this department and had great fun in doing so. This area was always busy before, during and after the dinner hours. It is a great place to meet up before dinner to review the day's events with all the new cruise friends. Or use it as a jumping off spot for the evening. The areas surrounding the Martini bar and Crush were large seating areas with see through curtains to make small privacy areas for your group. Across from this area was Cellar Masters the wine bar on the ship. This was partitioned away with solid dark wooden walls and gates that remained open and inviting. They also had an extensive wine list available here. There was something novel about this area as they had a pour your own glass area. This was all electronic so you could purchase a glass of wine at anytime of the day or night. Just put the sea pass into the slot -- make your selection and use your wine glass of choice -- it poured it out for you. The bottles were shown off behind a glass partition to show the vintage and keep the wine at it's best serving temperature. We walked into this area a few times and saw a few people relaxing reading or quietly conversing. During the afternoon a string quartet would play music here with the sound cascading upwards throughout the whole open area. The open area stretched from the grand Foyer to level 15 at the lawn club. So if you were in the stairwell connected to this or an elevator area you would hear the music. Moving forward from the Martini bar are the Shops on the Boulevard and the Casino. The pictures shown by many people can't do the actual sight of this justice. The boulevard area curves nicely around the casino. So you can walk around it if you like. The items in the shop area were very nice, although they did not have in stock a ship Christmas ornament. In the most forward end of the shop area is the liquor sales area for taking home. They carried all the market named brands at great prices. Sometimes it is easier to just buy on the ship and leave it to them to deliver. Better than on shore purchase and store it. The Casino has a wide variety of slot machines and the standard game tables. All of the slots now operate on a coinless system. Put your dollars in and play away. When finished just cash out and a slip of paper is printed. Either cash it in or use it next time. They have added a Texas hold'em playing table and I stopped by to look at it but the rules escaped me and I moved on. They also had two Texas Hold'em tables for heads up play. I think the minimum to sit down and play was $50. Then it was straight up against all table opponents. The rake was 10% of each hand from what I was told. They did have a lot of tournaments for Hold'em and black jack during the cruise but I never got to them. There was always a lot of people at the hold'em table area and in the casino in general on the trip. If you are captain's club you also get some $5 match play coupons to play with to double your even money bets at the tables. So you could pick up an extra $5 on your bets. But alas they only gave you a limited number. A nice incentive to try a game of chance. There was also a wide screen TV in here for sports viewing. As you moved even more forward you would run into The Entertainment Court. This was a large open area with tables and chairs. There was a large marble clock face in the floor here. They held the shop sales here for watches and jewelry. To the port side is the Quasar disco which did not get going till later at night. And going it did. JR and BK had a lot of friends in here dancing well into the wee hours. To the starboard side of the ship is a new type of addition to Celebrity -- Celebrity Central. This is a small about 100 seat intimate theatre that was used for movies and the comedians on the boat. Well laid out and nice comfortable seats. The one night I was here the area was filled up for the late night comedy show. As you move forward past the elevator banks there is the Solstice Theatre. Here the pictures do tell just about the whole story. But it is still a beauty to behold in person. There are a lot of new innovations for this floating theatre. They had the ability to soar over the audience areas while performing some parts of the show. I was in one night for the Broadway review and the show was well attended and singing, dancing, props and costumes matched everything perfectly. In talking to some of the actors and singers this theatre allowed them to stretch their medium to a higher level and I will agree.
If you exited the theatre on level 5 and walked to the aft end of the ship this is what you would run into. The port side held the Photography gallery. Many pictures were taken and printed for you to see here. I am sorry to say that the Galleria Boutiques on the starboard side did not catch my attention enough to go in and look about. I will say the areas were well dressed out for the window displays. This was where the perfumes and high end jewelry shops were. I do remember looking at some of the art work in the Gallery here amid ship and like it a lot. Across from the Art Gallery is the Galleria Tasting area. Sorry again as I went right by this area without looking into it. But moving further aft on the port side is the Bistro on Five. This had an upscale breakfast and lunch service for a $5 entry fee. Jenna went here one night and said the desert crapes were of the first order. Now across from this area on the starboard side is the Café Al Bacio & Gelateria. This was the specialty coffee and espresso area. They had some nice bakery presentations here for your consumption with your drink selections. Just past here walking still to the Aft is the large bank of elevators. As you enter the stairwell lobby area take a right and just before the exit to the outside, to the left, is the Celebrity Destinations area. This is where you would find the Captain's club desk and the Future cruise sales area. You could use this area to sign up for the Elite tours and to make a reservation to talk to Natalie who is currently future Cruise sales hostess. I talked to Natalie a few times and used the future cruise deposit booking for no trip for the $100 deposit and for the $100 on board credit. Not a bad idea at this point and knowing I will cruise again. The girls in this area were nice to talk to and I left them a plate of my home made cookies. So if you leave this area and make a right then down to the passageway past the stairs and make a right you would enter the ant hallway. Just look down on the floor and you will see that the tile looks like ants in a trail to the wall paintings. Very beautiful flowers painted here on the wall and ceiling. This leads down to the specialty restaurants. You would first enter the Ensemble lounge. To the immediate right is the Michael's club. We played a lot of the trivia games here and Battle of the sexes, which the men won and I got to be team Captain. Then the daily trivia challenge with our team of four which we won for the week. They also had some name that tune and other games here. As nice as any other Michael's club on any other ship. I do not think this area got a lot of traffic at night and there were a few blemishes in the area already. But nothing that could not be fixed right away. The Ensemble lounge is a large stop off bar area before going to the specialty restaurants. Murano is the best of the specialty restaurants here. Much like the ones on the Millie class ships. Just past the end of the lounge area to the left is Silk harvest. This is the Far East restaurant. Across from this is Blu. This is the Aqua class eatery with healthy choices on the menu. You could only get into this area if you are booked into an Aqua class suite or there was an opening. The aft end of the ship had the Tuscan Grille. Our friends and Jenna dined here one night and thought the presentations were excellent. The Tuscan Grille occupies the back of the ship. So you get to watch the wake and the back area of the ship as it is moving. The colors were deep burgundy and dark wood. I did not go into any of these areas as I wanted to save something for another cruise on the Solstice class ships. And I know I will be back. But in talking to anyone who did go into any of the specialty restaurants the food was exquisite and presentations spectacular. Well worth the cover charge for any of the venues.
So as the tour continues and we walk about we skip past Continental deck 6, Sunrise deck 7 and Vista deck 8 which are all decks with cabins in them. Did I mention that I walk just about everywhere I go on the ship? Lots of steps help burn off the calories from the extra stops on deck 14. But someone told me there were no calories at sea. I'll have to test that out one time. More on that later in the review. On the Panorama deck 9 across from the central elevators is the card room. Every time day or night, well not late night, there were people playing on the tables. It seemed like there were enough bridge players to get a good game going from the number of the people and how well occupied this area was at all times. As we move onward and upward to deck 10 the Sky deck. And near the rear elevator bank area is the Library. This is a nice two level area with books to borrow. There are built in shelves. Be sure to return the book before you leave. Nice comfy chairs to sit in. You could get the daily crossword and Suduko games here. They finally listened to me on this. The second tier of the Library is on the Penthouse deck number 11. This deck holds the Aqua class suites and all the larger suites. On the forward section of the ship on this deck is the Relaxation lounge for suite holders. I don't remember even stopping here at all. But there are supporting pictures on the internet that show this area. Up one level now to the Resort deck 12. Dam. I'm tired now and I walked those steps every day at least ten times, from our room on deck 6 to deck 12 or 14 or 15.
The Resort deck holds the pools, Spa and fitness areas. I can easily say this is the most impressive area on the ship as I walked upward. The pools are set up a little differently than before. They sit down a little giving you a place to cool your feet in ankle deep water to get an idea of the water temperature before you go in. Starting from the aft end of this area to forward. The Wet Zone is first. This area doubled as a dance area at night for the ship deck parties. The girls from the cruise staff danced up here on Caribbean night in flame red dresses. The wet zone is turned on in the afternoon and it sprays water up into the air at various heights and intervals. Nice to splash around in on a hot afternoon. Just behind the wet zone was the stage area for the band to play on when leaving port and for the deck parties. Great music to listen to when you want to get your cruise spirit going on sail away day. The next area forward is the Family pool. This is a shallow pool for our younger cruisers and those just wanting to get wet to their waist. The depth varies from about three feet to four feet. A fun time for me was watching a young mom blow up a small kiddies pool while dad watched. I then helped dad, borrowing two plastic buckets from the bar area, fill the small pool up with about 6 inches of water. The two young ladies with mom and dad, who looked like they were 3 and 4 years old, loved it. You would have thought this was the greatest water park in the world encased in a four foot blow up pool. They had a great time of it. Simple ingredients. Pool; add water and imagination and anything is possible. These girls were great fun to see about the ship which I did just about every day. The next area in the pools was the Sports pool. This was separated by a walk across bridge but the pools were completely separated. The sports pool was about 4 foot deep to six foot deep. Same type of skirt area with shallow water. You could sit just above or in the water on the skirt and your book without full immersion. Staying cool by the pool. There were four hot tubs near the pools here and the water temperature was just a nice very warm. Not hot enough to turn you pink quickly but the level that warmed you up and made you relax a lot. We used this area the first day as I brought my swim suit in my carry on and switched so we could do this. It did rain a bit while we were in port in Ft. Lauderdale and while we were in the hot tub. Could have been a problem. But I was wet already and I had on my hat so no problem. The pool bar is just in front of here. They had a great daily special I saw the first day. A large mug of beer, they sold large size mugs that looked over a pint in size of Amstel for about $4.50 or so with the tip. Celebrity has all the nice things to keep you cooled down on this deck. As just to the starboard side of the pool area as you move forward was the Sundries shop. The teeshirt, flip flop and sun tan lotion area. Great location. One thing I will say before we walk through the sliding glass doors was there were plenty of chairs about the pool area and the nice couches for two they built into the decor of the ship. This was a new innovation for me to see. And the last thing you see before the sliding glass doors to the outside area of the ship here is a hanging netted hammock bed with pillows that you could fit a few into. Two was the perfect number for me here. You could get very comfortable here anytime and nap the afternoon worries away. Who needs to worry about those extra calories. That's coming up soon. Stay tuned. When you move through the sliding glass doors you are going forward into the Solarium area. This is a pool covered area with the wooden loungers and very thick and very soft mattresses next to the pool. The mattresses were covered in Celebrity blue and every morning had a fresh pool towel rolled up on them. This was the same for all lounges on the pool deck area. Every morning a fresh rolled towel. The area covering the pool had photo electric cells to capture the sun and provide some electricity for the ship. Not a lot from what I have read but some to start with. There were also the capture the sun areas off the bow suites at about deck level seven. In this Solarium pool area is a nice pool for swimming laps or staying cool. The forward area of the pool has a trellis of red flowers and green vines. They are artificial. It is nice to look up while swimming and see the flowers. Behind this is the fountain area where they flow water out at intervals with color being sent from below in red, blue, green spot lights. Nice to see at night. There are two hot tubs in this area also so if it rains out in the uncovered pool area then just move inside. Another new innovation for relaxation in the area are very large wicker basket chairs. They will fit two or more and have moveable pillows and a wicket backing with materiel covering it to offer some privacy. So you can get in there and stretch out with moving the pillows about. The basket/chair/lounger spins around so you can look out to sea and kick back. On the port side of the ship in the early AM is the Aqua Spa Café. This area offered healthy breakfast choices in the mornings when I walked by the area. As you pass forward from the Solarium area you will enter the Spa area. This area has the Aquaspa, Persian Gardens, Acupuncture, Massage, Hair Salon, Retail outlet and Fitness center. There were always people about this area in the early morning when I made my way here from the early workout on the ship. This is the pampering zone for all. There were different scents in the air each morning for relaxation therapy. I can only speak for the fitness center as this is all I used while on this trip. My daily time in here consisted of using the Nautilus equipment, stretching, doing some sit ups and walking about. The area is well laid out with a separate area for small aerobics and spinning classes. There are about 20 or so Nautilus machines in the forward section and fourteen walker/running machines in front of the starboard windows to look out to sea with. In the past I think they used to have the running machine looking forward and the weight machines behind them. I like the running machines in front as when I work out on the weight machines I am only on each for a few minutes and do not care about a view. I did try out one of the elliptical machines and they had a lot of pre-programmed work outs available to use to help you keep your fitness level. Every morning about 7:30AM the running and elliptical machines were all being used. There was a whole wall to pick a gym towel from and these were always well supplied. There is a small area in front of the fitness area outside. The Spa Veranda if you just want to walk outside for a breath of the fresh sea air. The one thing I did notice was there was a lot of spa staff about and someone always manning their welcome desk. This concludes this deck's description.
I searched all about the ship for deck 13. Forward, aft, port, starboard, above the pool deck and below lido deck but could not find it. I'll have to bring this to Celebrity's attention that a deck was missing.
Well not to skip a beat and moving upward to deck 14 the Lido deck. If you walk from the Aqua spa area to the stairs in the forward section and go up. There you are. Right outside the Sky observation lounge. If you come up the stairs you would enter this most expansive lounge area on the starboard side of the ship. It has a long entry path till you actually get there. Again screening is done by light white blinds you can see through. This is where they held the Cruise Critic and other major parties. They have an expansive bar area to sit at and to the Port side the raised stage area for the live band to perform at. The furniture here is some large loungers up near the windows along with nice comfortable chairs. There were also three semi circular alcove large enough to walk into and store about ten of your friends in. Nice small privacy areas to accommodate small and large groups. This area with over 200 people in on the cruise critic and again on the Elite member gatherings did not look crowded in the least. Plenty of room to move around and find a place to sit. They held Karaoke up here at night and if you were unlucky enough to be there I am sorry for my poor vocal ability attempting to sing "California Girls" by the Beach Boys. I did hear some other excellent singers who were passengers singing in the lounge area. There are always good singers and dancers among the people on the trip with you. There were dance request numbers played by the DJ every night here. This is just so large and expansive area and the glass windows seemed at least twenty feet high. They had a very good band playing here for the Elite party and the dance floor is huge. Here the wait and bar service was excellent. I gave away bottles of Champagne to our two cruise super stars, in my opinion. One who arranged the rum factory tour for about thirty people of the group. The second set up the meet and greet on line bulletin board for all the connections people to send in their pictures and other information to share in advance. Well walking back outside and going to the aft end of the ship you are at the top of the pool well looking down into the pool area. Again there are those comfy lounge chairs with the Celebrity Blue coverings on each one. And the jogging track. I will say one thing on the jogging track. It is nice but the person who laid it out never ran much. The corners near the aft end of the track are too sharp. I had to move the lounge chairs each AM to round off the sharp corners. This was so I would not to tear my knees up while trying to get my running workout in. The surface was new and gripped my shoes even when a bit wet. So no slip sliding off the ship for me. At the aft end of the track area were two large stair cases, one on each side of the ship, that led down into the pool area. At the forward section of the pool well on deck 14 are the Mast bar and the Mast Grill. So if you need a drink why go far when there is this bar. And when you need a quick bit this area will suffice. They had hot dogs, hamburgers and fries here about lunch time and in the afternoon. The large area above the pool had lounge chairs for the sun worshipers. If you needed to be ten feet closer to the sun to get that perfect tan this was you place to be. It is a little quieter here than on the pool deck level and not a lot of traffic about the area. Walking aft again around the large glass expanse that housed the elevators you go through two sliding glass doors. Then making a bee line to the back of the boat you arrive in the Oceanview Café area. If you entered through the port side you would see a regular bar for drinks area. On the starboard side was the scoop ice cream bar area. This is the food court area. And it is where the Solstice shines long into the day. There are no more trays in this area. Just plates and bowls of various sizes. The silverware is sitting on the tables now and there are people who will help you with your plates to a table. I would get a plate then a drink and it was nice not having to worry about the silverware at all till I sat down. As you enter on each end they had cooking stations for the morning breakfast. The ice cream bar area doubled as the waffle station in the AM for the light crispy waffles that Celebrity is known for. Nothing has changed here. The one grill area next to the waffle station made eggs to order and here is where you can get the omelet made to order. They had about 15 different things you could add in. We came up here almost every morning at least to look about. There are five central stations that I remember. One in the middle was set for the breads and muffins. I like the, what I call a Celebrity pop over, brioche. I had them every day on the cruise. Mostly with nothing or split in the middle with honey. The roll was already tasting like fresh butter. I can still taste it now. And see it. Nothing better. Two of the stations were set for fruit, cereal, milks, yogurt and other lit fare. Another has bacon, sausage (two types) and fresh scrambled eggs. In addition the one station had a toaster person. So some days it was get an English Muffin in addition to the other things. They also had a station for English breakfast selections. Everything look nice and fresh every AM. They had four drink stations for juices, tea and coffee. Then find a seat in the expansive seating area and look out to sea as the waves break far away from the ship. I made it a plan and carried it out to get coffee for my travel companions after I finished my morning workout. Carry it down to the cabin for them to enjoy as they woke up. I was told the coffee was very good as I do not drink it. One funny thing that happened in the early AM when I was picking up the coffee was an older gentleman took one of the over sized trays that the crew uses to transport clean coffee cups. He placed his coffee cup on it along with a small plate and walked away. As I watched along with the semi stunned crew. We just smiled and moved along. Lunch selections up here were just as good and tasty. The five stations were always brimming with great choices and many – many selections. There was a salad bar area and as someone put it the dressing were at the start not the end of the line. There was always a fresh fish selection prepared and ready to go. The one grill area doubled as the pasta and pizza bar area. This area never seemed to shut down at all after lunch. Every time I walked by there were at least three different types of pizza selections. What was nice about the pasta bar also was there were multiple pasta types to go along with the multiple sauces you could choose from. There were also add in fixings for your specialty pasta. Great range and great selections. In the late afternoon about 4PM was tea time and you could get some light sandwiches here. Then starting about 5PM the Sushi bar opened off I went there just about every night. They would usually have three or four selections along with the added extras that are in the area. They would open for just about full service at 6PM for alternative dining and when I walked through there was always traffic from that time on till about 10PM every night. The last place on the Lido deck was at the far aft end of the ship. Outside through the sliding glass doors to the Ocean View Bar area. This area was partially covered by the deck above and you could also get a table at the rail over looking the wake of the boat to sit and make memories while enjoying you breakfast or lunch. The interior area here had soft chairs. You could sink into and veg. out after enjoying some thing or event on the ship. In the later evening there was a singer here under the overhang. I think I only caught him one night singing a Jason Martz song. Very good. There is also a small bar tucked into this area under the stairs. Then we will walk upwards to the next level. When does this ship ever end????
Going up to Deck 15 at the aft end. You would walk right into the Lawn Club deck. Right here is the Sunset bar. Across the full back of the ship with very nice wicker chairs to plush yourself down into the watch the sun set from. The chairs extended around each side of the ship so there were more unique seating places for you and anyone with you. There are two separate lawn areas here. On the starboard side of the ship was the Golf putting area. They held the Ryder cup putting challenge here every morning at 9:30AM. I had to run up the stairs from Michaels club where the AM trivia was held. Andrea hosted this event on sea days. The grass is very nice but a bit irregular and not a putting green like quality. More like a fairway level grass. There was also a lot of traffic across the area and it was very soft. There were always at least twenty people in the putting events each day. The Port side of the ship was a true grass Bocce ball court set up. But this area was closed most of the week for repairs or to rest the lawn. Some people did use the area and a young couple had their toddler out her to crawl about so it was used a bit. Moving forward from these areas is the Patio on the Lawn. This was a huge expanse of lawn right on the top of the ship decks. They gave bocce lessons here most of the cruise and did a few tourneys. Mike from the cruise staff hosted some of these events. A lot of people showed up and the rules were modified to let everyone play. I think we had about fifty people one afternoon out there. The best time to be there was late afternoon before dinner with friends to use the lawn area and play your own bocce game with everyone. We did this a few times and Linda led the way with her group up here. A lot of people getting together having fun, drinks and some lawn bowling in the middle of the ocean. Some people who did not know would toss the heavy bocce balls high in the air and dent the lawn. Not good. They may have some trouble here in later cruises as the dents mount up. But I will give Celebrity an A plus for this venue. Well used and very much appreciated. There is a nice walk around area so as not to cut across the grass and thread it down. Connected to this area is the Hot Glass Show area. Every time we were up here playing there seemed to be something in the oven and being sculpted. There were three professionals doing the shaping, molding, creating and talking about it. The only problem being that there is a limited viewing area and the excess spilled on to the lawn area next to this and killed a lot of the grass. I would have to say that the seating was not adequate to the Hot Glass area. If they solve that and the walk around problem to stop the lawn trampling then they have a winner in both directions. Like I saw that the Hot glass shows were over flow attended every day in the afternoon. I don't remember if they did a morning show but those would have been well attended also. One feature here I did like a lot was the cameras they provided inside the ovens while working the glass. It does give a unique perspective and the people working the glass were always using them to monitor the creation in the works. The show seemed to be very long, about two hours each time. There was a small shop to show off some of the glass creations on the port side but nothing was for sale. They did offer to give away some of the pieces in a raffle each day as they were not allowed to sell them at sea. The starboard side of the ship had a small Lawn Club shop for souvenirs and Lawn Club wear. Jumping across the chasm to the forward side of the lawn club deck. Here was the younger cruisers hide out. This area was mostly dedicated to the teen and below age cruisers. We walked up here on the quiet day in St. Kitts. Around to the basketball court which while netted is not protected from the wind. I bet playing here would be a challenge to sink a shot from more the ten feet while the shop was in motion. Inside from the elevator area on the starboard side was the Fun Factory. An it was large – open and well constructed. I think there were two young ladies working here on the day we walked through and looked. They had a lot of new learning innovations, such as an interactive globe get information from. Also large screen TV's and covered blocks and painting areas and each cruiser would have their own storage nook. Walking back out to the port side was the video arcade. The games were nice and new but the prices a little steep as I thought. Forward of here was the Xclub for the teen cruisers to use whenever they would have liked. No one was about the area this day. This was a school in week cruise and I did not expect to see many teens on the boat and did not.
Well walking outside and going forward you would see a stairwell up. This would have led you to the Solstice Deck. A large area for sun bathing and from the looks of it two hot tubs there. We did not venture up here as we had an event to attend. Well that sort of sums up the walk about the ship and what a ship.
I will say this is not your Grandmother's cruise ship. Celebrity has packed in a lot of extras like the hot glass, lawn club, a lot of specialty restaurants and bars and again so much more. We did get off the ship in Puerto Rico and my friends went to the Run Factory tour while Jenna and I walked up the hill to the fort and along the roadway along the ocean wall to fort del Morro. They had a small stand on the expansively large lawn area here. We stopped and bought two kites. One I gave to the ladies working the young cruisers and the other I flew off the ship in St. Kitts – a first for the ship. After I was done with it I presented it to Nick and Simon Weir to take out back and go to it. We got off the next day in St. Maatrin and went to Dove Bay. I had thought this beach was still under repair. It was all there ready to go and the waves were nice to get in and swim about. The water was deep, warm and refreshing. You could rent chairs and umbrellas for $5 each. I did find one of if not the best value on the island. 75 cent Caribe beer. This was just like Carona and with a slice of lime in it cut the heat just right. These were their 1PM to 4PM happy hour prices. I was very happy I found this deal. We sat under the large palm and shaded area and watched the waves crash here for about an hour. I think the taxi ride was $6 each way per person. The roads are a bit winding here but offered a look into where the people on the island lived. We did get off in St. Kitts to go on a hunting expedition for Vanilla as I use a lot of it in backing cookies. We walked down the road to a local supermarket and found it. Labeled $9.95 per bottle. But that was the local currency prices. It ended up we got four bottles for twenty US dollars and got ten dollars back in local currency which we gave to the table wait staff. I don't think I had been to St. Kitts every 5 years or so. There were some kiddies on the ship but you never seemed to see them. We did run into them as a group in the Ocean View restaurant one afternoon. They were all dressed up as pirates and looked like they could take over the ship. It was their ice cream time and they were enjoying it. We ran into our two young cruisers from the small pool again here and they were just adorable. Parents should have pictures taken here as they may have missed out. One of the things I did try this time was to get something for every crew member on the ship. And I succeeded with another ship first. At the awards ceremony I presented the cruise staff with a 5 lb bag on M&M's for all the crew to share. Enough for them to all have one. J I also brought about 20 bags of Skittles and 10 packs of Starburst. These I gave away to just about anyone on the ship. From Simon Weir to our bus boy. And speaking of Simon -- I saw him about the ship every day. Checking into things and picking up discarded towels on the pool deck late one afternoon. This is a tireless job and Celebrity has chosen the right person to debut their new entry. Always in work mode and fun mode when it cam to the passengers and their comforts. A few other things before I close. The plastic wear / glasses they used looked like real glass. It was not till the third day I realized the blue glasses the bar staff were using were indeed – plastic. I then borrowed them every day to carry about my Rum and Coke – well in this case Pepsi. Walking about the ship all the time and into the bathrooms in just about every area one thing. They were always clean and tidy. The places where they had their small rolled towels to dry your hands is something very nice. The food and service was as always at the high Celebrity standards and I do not think I was ever disappointed with an offering. From my embarkation day seafood salad to the last days sit down breakfast of French toast. Excellent from start to Finish. Great service to go along with it in whatever venue we were in. I will say the first night I did freeze my hand to the Martini bar. And was lucky enough to get free before the end of the night. The redness from the hot water they had to pour on my hand to set me free has just about faded.
Disembarkation The Solstice docked very early in Ft. Lauderdale. We were catching an early flight home and did the express checkout. This is where you hold your luggage and carry it all off on your own. We walked off the ship about 8am. The ship security staff checks you off the ship as you leave with your sea pass. Then it's down the escalator or elevator with the luggage and over to customs. I don't think we bought more than $60 on the islands or the ship that we brought home. Out to the Taxi's and at the airport by about 8:30AM. Checked in the luggage and were ready to go before 9AM. I was wondering if we could have caught the earlier flight home that boarded about 9:20AM. Our flight was at 10:40AM. We were called right on time and away we went. My last bit of good luck was on the way home when the stewardess needed change for $100 and offered a free drink for the person who supplied it. Well one free rum and coke, Hank will be proud again, later I was doing real fine. The vacation ended just as it had started -- having a good time.
Ship Impressions This ship is new and beautiful. They have packed a lot into this new entry and people seemed to not be able to take everything in. Well that means a repeat trip or two is in order. The public areas never seemed to be crowded, even the pool well area on sea days. I would like to see when they hit summer what the crowd looks like -- but I think not much different.
Trip This was just a seven day cruise but you would need at least ten to really get to everything the ship had to offer. Maybe the new entry Equinox will handle the longer trips. There were four sea days and three island days. This is the mix I like. We had been to all the stops before but found something new to do at each place.
I hope I covered just about everything on the trip. I would like to thank everyone who was on the trip with me. Jenna, Eileen and Bob, Karen and Tim, Deb and Bill, Kathy and all the other cruise critics and friends I made along the way. I did blind deposit two more trips for ship board credit. So there is a lot of thinking going on for the next trip to sea. At this point I have cruised 30 weeks at sea and 24 cruises in all, most of them with Celebrity. They seem to fit my likes with food and service. Keep planning -- Keep Cruising. Maybe I will see you out there.
PROS Best buffet area ever. No crowding and great food (ocean View café).
Fast on and off ship
Very few smoking areas. No Smoking in cabins or balconies.
CONS Entertainment was about what you would expect from a cheap carnival cruise. Two of the main shows were a guy playing a xylophone. I was totally disappointed in the overall entertainment. I expected Celebrity to be a cut above.
The food in the main dinning room was ok to poor. It seems like they wanted you to go to one of the 5 pay extra to eat dinning rooms. The desserts were the worst of any cruise I have taken.
So much room on the ship is taken up with extra pay places that it seems small and chopped up.
Gym is just ok and the large and beautiful steam room is extra at $60.00 per hour, and it was always empty.
If you have been on the RCCL Freedom of the Seas, you will be completely disappointed in the ship.
If this is your first cruise you won't be disappointed, but most others would expect more from Celebrity.
SUMMARY I would not recommendthis ship unless you got the cruise cheap and just wanted to rest.
This is a great ship -- very modern, brand new, clean, great service, and great food throughout. Feels like a 5-star hotel.
First the bad news: Fois Gras is still being served at some of the restaurants -- a huge disappointment for many travelers due to the horrifying techniques used on geese.
The other bad news -- Some of the shows were absolutely awful. The full band, dancers and singers put on great shows 3 nights, but the rest of the performances were dreadful, unless you are over 80 years old. Two nights a xylophone artist perfomed. We left early, and still can't get that sound out of our heads. There is also a barber shop quartet you cannot get away from. They are everywhere.
Now for the good news: The food is great, even room service.
There are 3 pools with lots of lounge chairs. Best spots are the Solarium pool with soothing music and no kids.
Don't miss lunch in the aqua spa next to the solarium. GREAT, healthy food and awesome desserts.
There are nice shops on board as well.
For outstanding views and quiet times, head up to theSolstice deck. Port side of the ship can get noisy from the smokers on deck 5. You can smoke there or in one section of the sky lounge.
THIS IS A WONDERFUL SHIP!
As a fan of the M-class ships, this was a disappointment to us.
Main Dining Room Dinner: The cut of the meats seemed to be lower quality than on previous X cruises. Presentation fine, but never arrived hot.
Breakfast: This was always very good in the main dining room. (We did not try lunch there.)
Cabins The bathroom is fine, but the stateroom closets are smaller and more importantly for me the drawers are too few. The top drawer gets very, very warm, so be careful what you keep in there. The overhead bed storage would be a problem if you were petite. The handicapped accessible stateroom (friends had) did not have the overhead storage. Personally I do not like to keep things in one large pile. The TV was nice. You can adjust it so viewing in bed is fine. Bedding nice and comfortable. Our bump out cabin 7278 had part of the X logo below the railing, but it did not bother us.
There is a large safe. Can easily fit important items in it.
The Murano specialty dining was not up to the same level as the Oceanliners; it is quitenoisy if you have the wine room booked (as we did). The Ensemble Lounge is on the other side of the entry door. Not one in our party of six raved about the food or service. Other passengers we met gave mixed reviews of all three specialty restaurants; most of the high marks went to the Tuscan. The Ensemble Lounge reminded me more of a hotel lobby than an actual lounge.
The Solarium air temp was always chilly. There were youngsters in the pool a lot. The outdoor pool and hot tubs had young children in them. (This of course can/will change from cruise to cruise.) Lots of chairs available, plenty of fresh/clean pool towels.
We never saw the cruise director walking around the ship, and the activities were so-so. (Of course that changes with new contracts on all ships.)
Celebrity notified smokers when they checked in at the pier about the newest changes to smoking restrictions; lots of unhappy smokers.
The Oceanview Cafe (buffet) was nice, bright and plenty of tables/chairs. Independent stations to get your food, no lines to wait in. Decent food/selection. The pasta station could be better, but in a pinch would do. Always lines for the ice cream.
The mid-ship elevators usually had at least 2 out of service. It seemed more for keeping the glass clean than a mechanical issue.
Grass was 'resting' a lot. For us it was just a large waste of space. The Glass Blowing demo was usually too crowded to get a good view, and/or the winds were kicking up too much to stay out there.
Photographers, especially at port stops, were too pushy. I am not one who likes pictures taken, and they did not seem to understand "No Thanks."
We did not spend any time in the casino, but walking by it never seemed really crowded.
Bistro on Five: Pax we spoke to who ate at Bistro were very happy with it. Reminder: There is a small surcharge. Originally it was to have been no charge.
Men and women have separate salon areas on the Solstice. On our cruise the choice of nail color was very limited. Hopefully they have since added to their inventory. I was not happy with the color choice or the manicure.
Observation Lounge: This is nice, large, and has great views. There is a decent size dance floor. Service will probably get better given a little more time. Location prohibits just stopping in for a drink.
Quasar: We walked in and looked around, then left. Just not our cup of tea. Some activites held there included the WII gaming.
Theatre: Comfy seats, so-so shows.
The ship is new, nice and different, very bright and done in white/cream/beige and chrome. (Not a 'warm' feeling to it.) Every space is dedicated to something; no nooks or comfy seats tucked in here and there to chill out, do some people watching, or read a book.
Crew Some familiar faces; wonderful to see crew members from other cruises. Some of the crew just seemed to be tired. (Understandable, given this was the first regular cruise for Solstice.) Our stateroom attendants (Jose and Agos) and dining staff (Ben and Bradley) were wonderful and very accommodating.
We booked this cruise in June 2007 only because it was a maiden voyage. We are not planning another Solstice cruise.
Embarkation/Disembarkation Both Embarkation and disembarkation went smoothly. We were off the ship an hour earlier than our 'scheduled' time. No problems with luggage.