We had eagerly anticipated our cruise on Celebrity's Solstice following our first Celebrity cruise on Century in late 2011 (Hawaii to Sydney). Solstice presents beautifully and we found everything immaculate although we did feel that it lacked some of the personality of the older Century.
We took advantage of the offered early embarkation which was quite streamlined and we found ourselves onboard by lunchtime, well ahead of our 8pm departure. Disembarkation was likewise very smooth and speedy.
It was our second New Zealand cruise, having cruised previously with Princess. As is our usual practice, we elected not to book shore excursions as we prefer to do our own thing which is very easy in NZ where the locals are so friendly and welcoming.
Our Aqua class cabin was located on Deck 11 and overlooked the stern. Although it provided us with a great outlook, in hindsight we wouldn't choose this location again as we found the fumes and smoke quite irritating. As a result we didn't spend as much time on our balcony as we would normally. The cabin was comfortable and included a sizeable sofa and a compact but well appointed bathroom with adequate storage.
We mostly ate in Blu, the designated dining room for Aqua class passengers. On the whole, we found the quality to be very good, and our request for extra vegetables with our evening meal was accommodated graciously.
One of us requires a gluten free diet and although we noted that Celebrity had made some improvements in its gluten free offerings since our previous cruise, we still felt there was room for further improvement in terms of quality and range of choice of gluten free food.
Our preference is not to make a fuss however we found that unless we spoke up, the range of choice especially for dessert was extremely limited ie., creme br'lee or the same sickly sweet cake, night after night. To their credit, once we did speak up things improved markedly, and we were able to request a different dessert each night. What this demonstrated to us was that it was possible to offer choice, however we would have preferred not to have had to make an issue of it in the first place. Having said that we found Linda, the assistant maitre d to be an absolute gem, and nothing was too much trouble for her.
Without exception, the staff we encountered were friendly and very helpful, although we found that the ships officers were not as visible as were their counterparts on the Century. Likewise we found that although a much larger ship, the Solstice did not have quite the range of activities as was on offer on the Century, where we enjoyed things like watercolour painting.
Celebrity is a good cruise line and with a bit of tweaking here and there, they could raise the bar and be exceptional.