Why? Having retired my wife and I look for a holiday that provides minimum fuss, unpack once but also provides a degree of comfort. Cruising provides all this and more, so like many we have entered this area with some enthusiasm.
When? We cruise whenever we get a good deal, so season does not really concern us.
What? What was on offer was the Celebrity Cruise Barcelona to Sydney via the Suez, good price promising an interesting trip.
THE GOOD. The Celebrity Solstice is a superb ship, it is difficult to fault, numerous bars, dining choices, relaxation opportunities. The pool area (3) is excellent, one is indoors (good for me with less risk of skin cancer)(5/5). The crew are top class; considerate, efficient, courteous and friendly(5/5). The AQUA class cabin was well laid out, good bathroom, well cared for and we both found it very comfortable (4/5). The entertainment was good, but spoilt by repetition (the 3 leg system), Room TV suffered from the same problem good but repetitive (3/5). Our cabin on Deck 11 at the rear was well located and I can recommend the location as convenient to most areas (4/5).
THE BAD. The ship administration was below par(2/5); I think the SOPs were set up for short cruises (ie 14 days not 46). They have a system of 3 legs on this cruise, for example at the end of each LEG you had to get off the ship then get on again for the system to work. Some passengers even had to change rooms. What made this even worse to endure was the fact that confusion occurred when passengers who were disembarking got mixed up with those that were on excursions who on turn got mixed up with those who were getting off so the could travel on. I HAVE BEEN ON LONG CRUISES BEFORE AND THIS WAS NOT THE WAY IT WAS DONE(2/5). Another gripe I have is the system of 'VALUE ADDED PRICING', ie., price of drinks plus service charge. This frequently takes the price of such items above and beyond "land prices".
THE UGLY. Australians have a lot to thank Americans for, World War II, Doris Day (my favourite), but Automated Gratuities is definitely not one of them. This dreadful system, introduced by companies on the justification that they pay their workers unfairly is not in keeping with giving everyone a fair go. Before company PR people get onto me let me say I earned a living supplemented by tips, more often than not receiving 5 to 10 times my wages, and this, in Australia, a land of reknown non-tippers. Tipping, in person, is a two way street, firstly it rewards the worker for good service instantly and personally, secondly it makes me feel good in that I have been able to show my appreciation, instantly. The Princess line operating out of Australia has stopped this practice Celebrity should consider the same. Put up the prices, pay a fair wage and allow me to show my appreciation in a timely fashion and personally.
THE SUMMARY; In my retirement, cruising is my favourite holiday, each time I go it is better than the last. Cruise ships just seem to be getting better with each new ship. The Celebrity Solstice is no exception, it is a wonderful ship and I cannot wait for my next cruise.
Having said that, I would think twice on going on a long cruise with Celebrity (ie more than say 14 days) as this leg 1,2,3 etc, leaves a lot to be desired in regard to Administration and repetition. Princess lines do it better, all be it with lesser ships.
Finally, Value Added Pricing (same refer to it as Price Gouging) adds up to BUYER BEWARE, shipboard pricing techniques can be complex and well practiced so watch out; whether it is in the coffee shop, bar, gift shops, drink packages or dining choices sometimes it is not what it seems.