We just returned from a 14 night transatlantic cruise on Solstice, from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona. The Solstice is a beautiful ship, and we had high expectations based on other member reviews. Overall we were very well satisfied with the ship and the cruise; however, in our opinion, as "dazzling" as the Solstice may be, it still has some shortcomings. Note that dining, entertainment, activities, and service were not among them.
The Oceanview Cafe has an excellent layout, and is designed to minimize long lines that slow you down. We had to wait at times for a specific pizza coming out of the oven, or a hot sandwich to be prepared, but dining options are varied and well spaced out. Finding a table at popular times can be dicey, but is manageable. Food quality and variety was very good.
We had a table for 4 at the 8:30 dinner seating on Deck 4 in the Grand Epernay Dining Room. We were seated near the windows, and we had a more open feeling, than similar areas on Deck 3. Our servers were top notch - very responsive to our needs and wishes. They ensured that dishes were done properly, and they remembered our likes and dislikes. I feel there may always be some minor food quality issues, but overall the quality was excellent. We found the food and service to be good enough that we only ate in a Specialty Restaurant one night. I have to note that they also had lobster tails that were bigger than large prawns. Wonderful!
I agree with the Cruise Critic's comments about Solstice having "one of the best interior architectural designs." They also said "passenger flow is excellent." I disagree with that as a general statement. The entertainment shows are spread throughout the ship as usual. However, they put on some popular shows in the Grand Foyer on Deck 3 and Celebrity Central on Deck 4. Sight lines and seating for the Grand Foyer, even with people hanging over the railings on Decks 4 & 5, are terrible. Noise levels near the Passport Bar, and people just passing through made it hard to hear. Celebrity Central is a small circular area that is a key Deck 4 passage way between the Solstice Theater, the Cinema, and the rest of the ship. People exiting shows in the theater walk right through the viewing/performing area, during performances. I feel Celebrity should consider changes in the entertainment venues and look at making better use of the Sky Lounge.
There are adequate bars and lounges and the service and entertainment were very good. We liked the Ensemble Lounge the best. The servers were among the best we have had. Drink prices were normal. Dead times in the lounges were not too bad. Bars in the Grand Foyer area tended to be crowded and loud. Entertainment in the Celebrity Theater was overall very good. As usual, the band was outstanding. For the crossing, Celebrity did an excellent job of adding a number of highly interesting guest speakers. Good move.
Internet service was terrible and room availability lacking due to number of Apple classes put on. When you could get in and get online, it was a rip-off because it was so slow, you burned minutes like crazy. They advised not trying from our rooms because it was so bad.
Our Concierge cabin was the same size and layout as regular Veranda cabins. Amenities are nicer and those were enjoyed. Canapes were not to rave about, but we still enjoyed them. Expanded Room Service menu is a winner. Bathroom layout is very good, and the sliding doors on the shower, are significantly better than a shower curtain. The bad news is that storage space is very, very poor. Worst -- they gave up a lot of closet space for a wider entryway into the cabin. Second worst -- the small drawers, that required you to stuff clothes in them, which caused more wrinkles. There are two storage areas above the bed, which my wife could barely reach. It was disappointing.
We did not use any of the Celebrity shore excursions, as they are too expensive and groups are too large. We used Hop On Hop Off tours in Tenerife and Lisbon, and Top Day Tours for Seville. Top Day Tours was excellent.
Embarkation in Fort Lauderdale was smooth and quick. Being in a Concierge cabin helped with that as we had a separate check in line, but all paper work was handled effectively. In Barcelona we had an airport transfer with Celebrity and that worked well. Only problem was getting up before daylight to meet the time schedule.
Overall it was a fun cruise, with smooth seas, and you can't beat the value of a Transatlantic cruise.