OK. There are enough reviews about the food, entertainment, staff, etc. that I don't need to say anything other than the aforementioned "departments" are totally subjective; what one person may find wonderful another may find boring. Having said that this review will go over some of the basic questions you may have about selecting Celebrity Cruises (and the Solstice Class ship).
First a little about us: gay couple in our late 40's. We cruise for good food and drink, relaxation, good service and tasteful atmosphere. We don't do the shows, activities, art auctions and casino. So:
Cabin: Inside, outside, balcony or suite? How much space do you want and what level of services do you require? We were in a Sky Suite which is a very large room, 1 1/2 size balcony, large bathroom and plenty of storage. Concierge and Aqua class? Are you going to use the services. It seems to us that the "perks" don't seem to justify the additional cost, but some travelers enjoy these cabins. It depends on your budget.
Beverage packages: The idea that you drink more to "get your money's worth" is completely incorrect for the majority of people. So you have to figure out what and how much do you drink (not necessarily alcohol)? Take a look at your average vacation day consumption including mornings, afternoons, workout, and late night in addition to pre-dinner. Make sure to include bottled water, expresso-based beverages, soft drinks and wine. Calculate how much you are going to spend if you DON'T buy a drink package versus a drink package. Keep in mind soft drink only, wine only and coffee only packages are available too. In our situation one of us had: a bloody mary in the morning, a glass of wine or bottle of beer with lunch, large bottle of water for working out, latte in the afternoon, 2 drinks before dinner, wine with dinner and an after dinner drink and we felt the Classic Drink package gave us good value.
Specialty Restaurants: We thought the food in the Cuvee Dining Room was generally excellent. If it wasn't our waiter didn't hesitate to offer an alternative. If we wanted more he didn't blink an eye. We do, however enjoy the restaurant feel offered by the Specialty Dining venues. Is the cost worth it? Yes. Keep in mind that very often you can get reduced prices on "the day of" as they try to fill open seats, but you may not get to eat at your desired time with this approach. If that doesn't matter, then wait until you're on board to book and see if you can get a deal. It's also important to remember that the staff in the Specialty Restaurants do NOT get a tip envelope at the end of the cruise, so make sure to tip them at the end of the meal.
Internet: Enough has been said about how slow the internet is. Yes, that's true and yes you do eat through your minutes faster than you do at home. That's just a fact of having access at sea. Should you buy a package? Yes. How much? That's based on expected use. If you think you're only going to access your email and maybe some news you may not need as many minutes. If you think you're going to upload pics to your FB page, watch movie clips of your grandkids blowing out their birthday candles, etc. you'll need more. Keep in mind you can always buy additional packages if you use up your minutes.
Shore excursions: These are on the pricey side BUT if you've never visited any or all of the ports you are visiting and don't have the opportunity to join a tour booked outside of the ships services then this is the way to go. We had never been to all but one of the ports we visited and signed up for 1/2 day excursions through Celebrity (booked when we got onboard). This allowed us the chance to go sightseeing, but still have time to explore the port on our own when we got back. Keep in mind that most shore excursions have you up and ready to go by 8:00 - 8:30, so you won't be able to sleep in.
Spa services: We didn't book anything because the services were REALLY expensive. If you want to indulge and have a some money handy go for it. The fitness center (complimentary use) is well equipped, so if you like a good workout take your gear.
Flights: How soon can you get off the ship? Play it on the safe side and allow yourself enough time to get off, get your bags, get through Customs and Immigration (if appropriate) and get a cab. Keep in mind that you're not the only one trying to get off and get to the airport. Should you use the transfer service provided by Celebrity? You're going to have to wait for everybody booked for the transfer to complete the above mentioned disembarkation tasks, which takes even more time. If you're the kind of person who is impatient and just wants to get to the airport, then pass. You may spend more money taking a cab, but you'll have the peace of mind of being in control of your own destiny.
OK. This is too long! If you have any other questions about cruising with Celebrity please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Cruising!