As a retired Naval Aviator who spent far too much time on ships at sea in my younger days, I NEVER thought cruising would become my favorite form of vacationing. I became a fan (OK an ADDICT!) 36 hours into my first five day west coast repositioning. This was my eighth cruise, second with Celebrity, first on a Solstice class ship, and first transatlantic experience.
I think I am a somewhat atypical cruiser, concerned first and foremost with pricing, and will book any itinerary that provides a favorable cost benefit analysis. (I almost never pay more than $50.00/day base rate) I don't require, am not impressed by, or interested in, ostentatious accommodations, I am never in my room for any other reason than sleeping, or getting ready to leave again, so I only book an inside cabin. I thought $599.00 per person for this 14 night transatlantic cruise with Celebrity fit my requirements QUITE nicely, and booked with my favorite online agency in mid February.
I flew Airtran out of Minneapolis to Ft Lauderdale with a short layover in Atlanta. It was a typical flight in today's world of budget air travel, twenty bucks for the checked bag brought the total to under $200.00 I stayed at the Ramada Inn Ft Lauderdale Airport/Cruise Terminal. Definitely NOT a luxury resort, but it was clean and comfortable with a free shuttle from the airport and another free shuttle to the cruise terminal. Never used the pool or the bar, but the front desk was friendly, fast, and efficient and the free continental breakfast was just fine.
Arrived at the pier just about 1145 after a 10 to 15 minute ride from the hotel. Already had Celebrity tags on both bags so strolled through the security line in less than 10 minutes. Waited in a check in line for 10 to 15 minutes before getting to the counter. Having checked in online before leaving home, the actual time at the counter was 3 or 4 minutes, most of which was taken by the rep having to walk down to a central point to get the room cards. After spending 60 seconds for the embarkation photo, we were on board by 1215. I keep reading horror story critiques from people complaining about the awful conditions and wait times for check in? Am I REALLY THAT lucky or are there an awful lot of spoiled rotten/incompetent whiners out there?
From the outside, the Solstice is a stunningly beautiful work of science, technology, design, engineering, and decor. If you have any knowledge of the physics and chemistry of metals in a salt water environment you would appreciate just how difficult this is to achieve. "Jaw dropping," "amazing,"
"impressive," "incredible," and "awesome," are all appropriate descriptions.
From the inside, the Solstice is a stunningly beautiful work of science, technology, design, engineering, and decor. If you have any knowledge of the physics and chemistry of any and all materials in a high traffic, constant use environment you would appreciate just how difficult this is to achieve. "Jaw dropping," "amazing," "impressive," "incredible," and "awesome," are all appropriate descriptions.
The entire ship is absolutely beautiful but I think the high points are the theatre, Tuscan Grille, Michael's Club, indoor pool, and main dining room.
If I ever sail on a Solstice class ship again I will request the same type room in or near the same location. (deck 3, starboard side forward) Never any noise or traffic, but less than 30 seconds to the central hub of activity. The cruise critic group on board had a "cabin crawl" that allowed us to see all classes of accommodations with the exception of the penthouse suite and all were great. The ONLY negative comment I can think of, (which was also voiced by quite a few others) was a shortage of closet space. The service by our room steward was flawless from day one and we left him an extra tip.
The food and dining areas were all fantastic. From the separate stations instead of long lines in the buffet, (pay particular attention to the Asian curries) to the incredible views from the Tuscan Grille, and the truly elegant surroundings of Murano. We had select dining because we enjoy the flexibility of dining whenever we want, and the option of meeting new people every night. We prefer tables for six over either smaller or larger groups and never waited more than 90 seconds to be seated. There was exactly ONE incident of anything less than fantastic service when an assistant waiter was a little curt wile handing out menus. Again, I keep reading horror story critiques about bad food and poor service. Could it just possibly be, that it's not the food or service that is lacking but the level of civility and decency of some spoiled rotten and unpleasable cruisers? Due to a blatant oversight on our part, we never even made it to the Bistro for some of the desert crepes we heard so much about, but you HAVE to try the lobster and desert souffles in Murano, the coconut curry duck in Silk, and the ENTIRE MENUE in Tuscan Grille. (OK at least the fillet along with the scallops and shrimp)
Ports of call and excursions were all fantastic and would require a book to detail. We chose the volcano park on Tennerife and the limestone caves in Malaga with Celebrity and both were extremely interesting and well worth the price. We booked full day tours to Seville from Cadiz, and Girona/Figueres from Barcelona with Spain Day Tours, and both were excellent. If you are a little more adventurous and informal, not requiring luxury transport, check out "we hate tourism tours" in Lisbon for a whirlwind, one of a kind ride.
We didn't use the medical facilities or any child care/ kid's program services but did take a look at them. There were only 19 people under the age of 18 on this cruise!
I am not a wine or beer person so can't comment on those aspects but if you like martinis... you have GOT to check out the 6 mini martini sampler for 17 bucks at the martini bar on deck 4. WOW!!! Best deal going on the ship! One pear, one apple, one raspberry, one sunrise, one watermelon, and one classic. They will pour your brand of choice if you ask, and even substitute one flavor of your choice for one in the lineup that you may not like... and the artistry of the preparation and the pour... you just HAVE to see it! And then there is the CHOCOLATE martini (industrial strength) served at the passport bar on deck 3... DON'T MISS IT.
Disembarking... rolled our own luggage and walked off when we were ready, about 745. No muss, No fuss, less than 10 minutes to stamp your passport and meeting up with the buss tour less than 5 minutes after that. How can it get any easier? What am I missing... or am I just that lucky? Once again I read horror stories and can't help but think maybe it's a problem with a lack of cheese to go with all the w(h)ine out there???