This was our second cruise, our first cruise last September was a 10-day cruise on the Queen Mary 2. The Solstice 14-day transatlantic cruise turned out very different from our intial expectations. Celebrity's sales pitches/brochures and passenger revues led us to form a high level of expectationson.
Unfortunately the QM2 is a hard act to follow, which greatly influenced our views and opinions of the Celebrity Solstice. Net result of these expectations we believed that Solstice class ships would equal or ever better the QM2 augmented by the fact that Celebrity Solstice class ships are rated at 5.5-Stars vs. the Queen Mary 2 only 5-Stars.
First the good news:
- The Celebrity Solstice is VERY well maintained and well run ship.
- It is kept spotlessly clean.
- The service given by 99% of the staff was impeccable; most of the crew/staff went out of their way to please.
- Though cabins are smaller on the Solstice class ships than on the Queen Mary 2 they are more nicely decorated.
- The house keeping staff (cabin boy) would change towels twice a day, and he would constantly be keeping the cabin meticulous clean and tidy a far superior service than you would receive in most 5-star hotels
- Food in the specialty restaurants was VERY good and the service and ambiance was spectacularly impressive.
- Food presentation in the main dining room (MDR) always looked good and on about 7 occasions (both lunches/dinners) the food quality could be described as very good.
- Daily & nightly entertainment was good.
- The weather the whole way across the Atlantic was fantastic we only experienced two nights that could describe it as being slightly bumpy.
- The lawn on the Solstice was one of the best-maintained lawns that we had ever seen. Would compare well with any bowling green in one of the top country sport clubs.
- My wife and I both only gained 2 kilo's.
Now for the bad news:
- Celebrity over markets their cruise ship quality service and culinary prowess. Their marketing wording & picture brochures do not actually openly lie but their marketing message is greatly over exaggerated. (The problem with this is that it gives passengers a sense of disappointment and letdown when confronted with the reality of what is actually offered.)
- Though the Solstice was very clean & well maintained there was none of the "WOW" factors of the Queen Mary 2.
- When walking on board for the first time the impression was like entering a top of the line Holiday Inn hotel vs. a 5-Star Four Season or Hyatt hotel. Nice but no WOW factor.
- Lots of chrome & glass stairs with modern contemporary decor. (We much prefer the quite luxurious opulence and elegance of Cunard.)
- Solstice has much of an open plan concept though some might think this better than the distinctive & separate bars and public sections you find on the QM2.
- I would have no qualms about going to sea in a category 1 or 2 hurricane on the QM2 but would not like to experience very rough seas on any Solstice class ship, they would pitch and roll like a bucking bronco (Ocean liner vs. cruise ship).
- As previously stated food in the main dining room was generally well presented and looked attractive but the quality was poor (not the Chef's fault).
- During the one and only brunch with all the ice carvings and fancy looking food displays (as previously stated the presentation was good but actual quality was generally poor) I asked one of the waiters at the fruit section if could I have some papaya as there were 9 big uncut papaya's on display. He's reply was very telling and it explained a lot of things: "No we do not have any cut papaya for brunch because it is too expensive". This went a long way of explaining why we were very disappointed with the food quality compared to our experience on the QM2.
- Due to higher fuel costs and to protect their bottom line Celebrity must have cut the food budget quite drastically over the last while because they used to have a reputation for good food though I predict this good reputation is going to disappear. This is born out by Celebrity having gone through quite a few "Executive Chef's" over the last three years. The food challenge Celebrity has is that you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. No mater how much lipstick you put on the pig. By continually claiming you are serving "silk purses" is misleading that leads to passenger disappointment.
Rather than go on bitching about the quality of the food in the MDR I must say we enjoyed the trans Atlantic cruise experience on the Solstice.
Because the food factor is so important to us and the Solstice MDR experience has put our 14-day December Caribbean cruise on the Solstice Eclipse in doubt even though we havealready paid $2,130.84 for our air fair and cruise deposit. If we cancel before the full payment due date in September, we will have a penalty charge on the purchased airfares.
We were going to purchase an "On Board Passage" for the $300 OBC but decided against doing so because of our uncertainty of cruising with Celebrity again. If we go on a cruise again we might try Holland America or Princes, or a trans Atlantic return from New York on the Queen Mary 2 if I can get a good price as Cunard tends to be a bit more expensive.