In summary, our view is that a cruise is what you make it and we had a fantastic time, due mainly to the people we met on CC (now that's really telling you something!)
X is our favourite cruiseline but on this occasion once you stepped out of the square they couldn't organise a "knees up" in a bordello with a hand full of $100 notes. (Or a Party in a brewery)
If you take out the "odds and sods", the cruise was roughly 50% Australians; 25% Americans and 25% from "Old Blighty".
Checkin was fantastic - awful if you were Aqua, Concierge or Select - we plebs went through twice as fast.
Safety Drill was abysmal (lucky we weren't on Costa).
Food was average to good, the dining room crush in Select not so.
Tendering was absolutely horrific - why they persist in using contract Tenders instead of the ship's tenders I'll never know. The ship's crew are professionals and can move the same number of people faster - the ships tenders are small er and don't have to wait around for half an hour or more to fill up
Officers were invisible (very unlike X). We saw the Cruise Director once, and his side kick twice.
Staff were nothing short of amazing, the management definitely not so.
They travelled through the Torres Strait (a waterway equally as important as the Panama) in darkness. If it hadn't been for the Torres Pilot (Captain John Foley), who is passionate about his work and gave an excellent presentation, 99% of passengers would have missed it. His presentation on James Cook packed out the theatre (what does that tell you about the quality of the other "beyond the Podium speakers?) Australians don't want to hear Americans giving out irrelevant and inaccurate information about their country. (As an aside Celeb need to update their inaccurate shore maps in their brochures).
Bridge announcements were next to useless - who wants to know lat and Long - we want to know how far we are from say Rockhampton and what's important about it if you get my drift.
In my view, and there will be many who disagree, the Solstice is just too big. We prefer the Millennium size ships - and their equivalent in other cruise lines.
To prove my point we're booked on Infinity, Spirit and Radiance (all around the same size) but are also prepared to give Solstice another go - so what does that tell you?
But at the end of the day a cruise is what you make it, so just put all this aside and enjoy!