This is my opinion and review of Solstice. It's a bit long but there was soooo much to write about and being a new ship to Aussie waters I wanted to try to make it quite detailed. Most of the ships that sail in Aussie waters are the ones that the other cruise lines have decided are too old to sail in American and European waters so to have such a classy ship Down-under is just fabulous.
Solstice Singapore - Sydney Nov23- Dec 9Th
We boarded in Singapore for a 16 night voyage to Sydney stopping at Bali, Darwin, Cairns and Brisbane. Lots of sea days and that's what we like. We had a C2 Concierge 2110, with a huge, covered, extended balcony on deck 12. It was a great position near the elevators and one floor up to the buffet. We got to the pier about 11.30 and we were on the ship before 12. Celebrity don't let you into your cabins until 1.30pm so it was very busy in the Buffet till then. In hindsight we should have gone to Bistro on 5 for lunch till the cabins were More
available.( $5 pp charge).
The weather was very hot and steamy in Bali and Darwin with smooth seas. Unfortunately we sailed pass Thursday Island in the dark but we could see the lights. Our first impression of the ship was tarnished with a big stuff collecting passports when we were leaving Singapore and we were 4 hours late and it was 10pm before we sailed out. That was a real shambles and the ship unfortunately offered no apologies to some passengers involved, or disclosed exactly what did happen. There were lots of different nationalities on board with the majority being Aussies, Americans and Brits. The Christmas decorations went up on Dec 1 and looked fantastic.
Solstice is a gorgeous modern ship which we found to be bright and spacious. It's well laid out and easy to navigate around and never felt crowded even though there were 2900 on board. It was the smoothest cruise we have been on and we were fortunate to have smooth seas all the way but there was no motion at all!! Till the last day and then we felt a slight motion. It was like we were in a shopping mall and not on a ship! Not even the slightest bit of rocking and rolling to put you off to sleep at night.
The captain was Captain Yannis Berdos who we found to be rather dull and boring with his morning report on our navigational progress then he started to promote the Ship's tours! That lost us! The Entertainment director was Paul Bayo who has a great voice and did a great job at the Pool Party and lots of other activities. The Activities manager was Peter Baker. The Dancing with the Stripes show where the passengers paired up with some officers for a Dance competition was very funny as well as the Egg Drop. If you want a laugh they are a don't miss. The Cooking demonstrations were very good and they had an Australian Executive Chef for the Australian summer season who was very approachable and was always out and mixing with the guests. I think he was trying to ensure that there was an Aussie influence in the food and even trained the chefs on how to cook some Aussie favourites such as Pavlovas and Lamingtons. All the staff were friendly and not one of them passed us without eye contact and a greeting. The air-conditioning tended to be on the cool side indoors and when we left Brisbane and the temperature dropped, it was actually cold. A couple of the guest speakers were dull but Milo who was the naturalist on board had some very interesting talks.
The theatre is the largest we have seen and it wasn't necessary to get there 1/2 hr before the shows, unlike Princess ships. Show times varied with some nights 7pm and 9pm and then, 8.45 and 10.45pm. Overall the shows were very good and the highlight shows were the Aussie Boys who brought the house down with their rendition of Aussie songs and the Acrobatic Show was amazing and would have to rate as one of the best we have seen on any ship.
We had a great Cruise Critic group with 176 signing up for the meet and greet and had a few functions starting with a wine tasting, as well as organized tours shared within the group.
Deck 14, The Lawn area has real grass..... Yes real grass that they mow!!! You can play a few different games and it had some very comfortable large chairs to lounge in. It's a great spot for sail away and has a bar at the very back of the ship that was a great spot for sail away. In the middle was the glass blowing area, with gas fired furnaces where twice a day they have the glassblowers demonstrating the making of a piece of glassware that is then sold at the end of the cruise. Deck 15 and 16 are great spots for those who like to sun bake.( not us!!) and you do seem to get a great breeze there as it is so high up.
Deck 12 is where the 2 pool areas are, one air-conditioned and undercover. The outdoor area has 2 small pools and 4 spas. Definitely not big enough to have a decent swim in! There were also some great large cane chairs for reading, a couple of huge cocoon chairs for 2 and an actual bed with netting to spend the day in!! It never ceased to amaze me at how many people will spend all day in the sun as most Australians know the dangers of sunbathing and skin cancer. The pool attendants also went round with iced face washers to cool people down it was a pity they didn't go around with sunscreen instead!!!
There seemed to be lots of small areas around the ship for reading which I am sure would be well used by the inside cabin dwellers.
For those who booked Aqua class and suites, they ate at Blu restaurant and were not encouraged to eat in the dining rooms even if they wanted a change of scenery.
I could not understand why they had the table tennis set up in The Central area on deck 4. It interrupted the whole flow of traffic especially after a show. In my opinion, The table tennis should be on the open deck area.
The library is in a very open setting on deck 7 and was well used as a reading room but doesn't seem to have any accountability for those who borrow the few books that were there, and I could only see a sign that asked you to return the books at the end of the cruise.
The cafe is one of the busiest areas on the ship with a large variety of coffees and teas. Most coffees are .$4.50 and they also have tiny rolls and cakes available. There is a gelatti bar but there is a charge.
Internet is expensive and slow. You can also use the Ship's Internet in your cabin with a keyboard and the TV. Fortunately after we left Cairns we had the Telstra signal all the way so I was able to use my Ipad all the way down the coast which was great.
There weren't many kids on the ship and those that were, well, we never saw them. I did speak to a mum who had 3 boys, 14, 12 and 8 and they never saw the kids and had to beg them to have a lunch with their parents. So sounded like the kids and parents were all happy. When they had the Crossing the Equator Ceremony the kids were involved and they had a great time. I felt the ceremony was a bit ordinary and there was very little muck thrown about as we have seen on other ships. Those involved got off very lightly.
The cabins had a modern interior, though I did heard complaints as to how narrow they are. Didn't bother us. Quite roomy bathrooms and large showers with glass doors, much more preferable than the clingy shower curtains. Some cabins had the beds by the balcony window and they alternate with the next room having the bed as you walk in. Fabulous TV system with 20 channels plus music, information, dining options, room service, ability to book shore excursions and check your on board account and photos taken by the ship's photographers. We had a Concierge cabin where we had a complimentary Bottle of sparkling wine, fresh fruit delivered every day, extra breakfast options for in cabin breakfasts, Egyptian linen bedding, fresh flowers plus a few other small in cabin extras. Totally spoil us. We were also very fortunate to have one of the large extended balconies, which was fully covered overhead, where we would sit every day to read and watch the world go by. Also by having a Concierge cabin you get 2 cruise credits instead of only 1 which is a good way to build up your points with Celebrity. We had 2 room attendants as they seem to work in pairs, and every need was looked after and they would have to be the best we have had on our 14 cruises. Breakfast on our balcony, which was lovely, was delivered by our own room attendant so you were always looked after by the same people.
We had the Select Dining option for dinner where we were able to go to dinner at any time we pleased. Sounded great but we did get sick of every night going through the same old thing,"where are you from" etc. The Select Dining allows people to book a specific time every night which meant if you haven't booked you would go in one line with the Booker's in another, and of course they always got a table before you. In my opinion this defeats the purpose of going to dinner at any time if you always book for the same time very night. We found the service and the food to be not up to the Princess standard that we have had previously. What we did like was they have some standard favorites on the menu every night such as French Onion Soup, Prawn Cocktails, Salmon and Steak, Creme Brulee and Cheesecake, so there was always something to fall back on if the menu wasn't appealing. The dining room food seemed to be very hit and miss. Set Dining times were6.30 and 8.30 The Dining room was also open for breakfast and lunch every day except shore days.
We enjoyed the buffet area and liked the way it was set out with different stations. Italian, Indian, Asian, Salads, roasts and veg's, soups, and of course the deserts. Every day the chef had a special dish such as Paella or Fish and Chips and we enjoyed the made to order pastas and stir fries. They also have an ice-cream bar open from11.30- 9.30, needless to say it was always busy.
Murano is international 5 star fine dining $40pp
Silk Harvest , Asian cuisine $25pp
Tuscan Grill, Italian style Grill, $25pp and has the best view right at
The back of the ship
Bistro on Five. light meals and crepes for breakfast lunch and dinner$5
We only tried Bistro on Five and enjoyed it and wished that we had tried it earlier in the cruise.
There are numerous bars and everyone seems to have a favourite and ours was the Martini Bar before dinner. Loved the Apple Martini but there were heaps to chose from and the bartenders loved to put on a show throwing the bottles and cocktail shakers around. They never measure any drinks in any bar and the servings are.... Very generous to say the least!!! Martinis and cocktails were about$10, beers started at $5 and a glass of wine started at $6.50 which I thought were all reasonably priced. Soft drink is $2 per can and all drinks are plus 15%gratuities. There is a huge range of bottled wines but a very limited range of Aussie ones.
Lots of people had the Drinks Package for soft drinks and coffees as well as Alcohol Packages which includes everything. The Basic Alcohol package is about$44 per day which is good value if you drink lots of teas, coffees, waters and spirits and wine.
I was very disappointed that they didn't sell Clinique products as I always have a big shop up when on a ship. If you intend to buy some alcohol, do it early in the cruise as they sold out very quickly and after the first week they had a very limited range left. Spirits were very cheap with some starting at $11.99 but I was told by some cruisers who had been on the ship since Barcelona that they had increased the prices after we got on in Singapore. They must have know that the Aussies would buy up big!
I didn't use the Spa but I did go to the hairdressers and I thought that the prices were quite reasonable at $59 for a cut and $79 for a colour plus gratuities of course.
The tendering process in Bali was nothing short of a disaster and it took us 2 hrs to get off the ship and then we had a 2 hr wait to get back on. Needless to say there were lots of unhappy Vegemite's on the ship but it gave them something to talk about for a while. It seemed to us like the crew were not very efficient at the tendering process so they better learn quickly for the Australian Cruise ports. They provided shuttles in Darwin but charged $8pp which we have never had to do before and considering it was only about 2 klm once again folks were not happy. Cairns they charged $12 for the shuttle and $22 in Brisbane. The tendering process at Yorkeys Knob was much improved and went without any hassles.
Their Shore excursions were greatly overpriced and Bali was just ridiculous!! They were charging $99.25 for a tour which I organized privately for 10 people at a cost of $72 for the 10 of us and our bus could have accommodated 12!!!!!! I know all cruise line tours are overpriced by I felt these tours were ridiculously expensive.
There was a nasty chest infection with a severe cough that a lot of passengers experienced. We were fortunate to miss it, however our Dr always gives us some antibiotics when we cruise...... Just in case! Some people tried to tough it out, but ended up at the Dr's after a few days.
Overall we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise and loved, loved, loved the ship. It was a great experience which has definitely spoil us for cruising on anything other than Celebrity ships. I know we would find it hard to go back to some other ship sailing in Aus now. This was our first Celebrity cruise and it definitely won't be the last! In fact we have booked to go on Solstice again on Jan 28th, Auckland to Perth.
So look out Princess and P&0..... You have some first rate competition now. Well done Celebrity on bringing such a classy ship to Aussie Land and I know that Australians will feel very spoilt and the standard of cruising will now be measured by Celebrity Solstice.
Celebrity Solstice Cruises to Australia & New Zealand