We have cruised on 5 different lines and are Diamond with Royal Caribbean. This status transferred and we were "Elite" on Celebrity. This was our first Celebrity cruise. In addition to the cruise, we planned independent pre and post cruise stays in different cities. When we originally booked, somehow we missed the pre/post cruise option and when we decided to book, they were all sold out. I did a lot of research beforehand and booked independent activities within the cruise shore excursions or on our own. I will go into more detail when discussing excursions.
Synopsis: The Celebrity Solstice is a beautiful ship but leaves something to be desired. It did not live up to the Celebrity commercial hype. Cabin Stewards and Wait Staff in dining room were great.
Details and Review:
Embarkation/ Disembarkation aka 'The ordeal with our confiscated item': We boarded on the evening of the first day as we had an overnight in port. They confiscated my steamer because it had a metal part on it. I even put our cabin luggage tag on it but they failed to log it in their book and we did not get it back when we disembarked. We are still in the process of getting a refund- which has not been guaranteed. Maria Del Cruz who works in security was there when we boarded and when we were on the gangway to get off. She gave us such grief because the item was not in her log book. Since we checked the night before we got off and were told it would be on the gangway, we packed our receipt. Not have the receipt in hand and security failing to log it in the book caused this officer to treat us as if we were making up a story about them confiscating a $60.00 steamer. It took over 45 minutes to get a superior officer out to assist on our request. Celebrity did not have a form for us to fill out and we only got contact info on who to call after the superior officer came out. Once we got to our next city, we found our receipt and then called Celebrity/ RCCL customer service number and the lost luggage department. We copied our receipt and sent it in. Initially, customer service was not going to compensate us but after hearing about the ineptitude of the security staff on our disembark; they have said we would be given a little in an OBC for our next RCCL cruise. We are still waiting to hear about getting a refund on the cost of our steamer- the receipt for which we are sending in today. Bottom line, we had the steamer because the cruise was only 12 of our 25 day trip and Celebrity needs a better way to keep track of things, and forms to fill out reporting lost items, if they are insistent on confiscating them. They also need more empathetic staff who can take the information quickly and efficiently so that passengers can make outbound flights.
Note: Take the City/ Express train to Circular Quay. Cost is reasonable and it is very quick. It takes about 15-20 minutes from the airport to the port. This is assuming you can manage your own luggage. Short walk once at Circular Quay from where you exit to where you can board the ship. There is a lot of traffic in Sydney and be prepared to spend close to an hour traveling by taxi between the airport and the port.
Get the name of the person confiscating your item- in fact, use your phone and take their picture with your item and your receipt. That way, when you exit the gangway if you have locked up your receipt, you can show them the picture and have your receipt right there.
Public areas: The lounges and dining areas and public areas are designed nicely. The ship is immaculate as well.
Stateroom: We booked an accessible cabin due to some recent surgery; it was a nice, large ocean view cabin on deck 3 (3102). It was quiet and in a great location near stairs and elevators. Our cabin steward and assistant steward were fabulous. The only problem we had with the cabin was the fact that there was no inside lock. Our steward advised we just put the do-not- disturb sign on whenever we were in the cabin. We did this and had no problem with anyone walking in but I would have felt much more comfortable if there was a lock to secure the door when we were dressing or sleeping. The drawer on the desk was broken and once we reported it, it was repaired promptly.
THERE ARE NO LAUNDRY LINES IN THE ROOM. There are some hooks for wet bathing suits but it is worth the $12.50 to buy one from Magellan or other travel supply store.
Activities: The activities on board left much to be desired. We were very disappointed in the lack of planned activities. We heard this comment as well from others who have sailed on Celebrity before and sailed on the Solstice prior to this cruise. We had early dinner and had about an hour of down time before the shows which was fine but when the show was over at 10:00, many nights there was really nothing going on. The cruise director would remind everyone that there was music around the ship and that was correct; but, that was about the only thing going on in the evenings. The music was pretty mellow and there was no 'active' piano bar as we have been use to on other ships. Everything was 'passive.' Too passive. One night the director commented on the Sky Lounge and how the bartenders won the dance contest because no one was there; that night, we went to the Sky Lounge and they were playing music to put everyone to sleep. We mentioned it to our wait staff and he did get the DJ to pick up the pace. Once that happened, people began to dance and they stayed for when the band showed up at 11:30. An hour and a half of "down time" between the show and lively music was simply too long and many people, including us, would call it a night long before 11:30. That is so unusual for us. Even at home, I stay up 'til 1:00 or 2:00 a.m! Celebrity needs to have things to do for people who are not ready for bed at 10:00 p.m. We did go to the game area and the Mah Jong players were as loud as any group of kids could be. You might want to find a quiet place to play games if you have similar players on your voyage.
One of the other issues is that we noticed some of the more interesting daytime activities occurred on days when most people were in port. Bottom line: we found this particular cruise to be very limited on 'fun' activities. We did play trivia daily and met a lot of really nice people there.
Television: Ok, I know I really sound as if I am complaining but even the TV shows left so much lacking. Since we didn't have much to do in the evenings, we watched more TV than we have ever watched on a cruise ship. The on-demand movies were good but how many times can you watch Snow White and the Huntsman? The TV channels themselves were just about all news except for a couple which showed really old reruns of Seinfeld and The Big Bang Theory. In order to see anything more recent, there was a charge. Make sure you download your favorites to your IPhone or IPad before you leave home!
Dinner: We were disappointed in the meal choices in the main dining room. We found that we like the food on RCCL, Disney and even Carnival to be more varied and of the same quality. It seems as if the 'best' choices were all offered on the same night and on only one night!
Breakfast: Breakfast always seemed to take so long and if you order pancakes or French toast, you better order 3 or 4 portions to start with! Without exaggeration, the pancake portion was two about 3" diameter and ONE piece of bread for the French toast. They were portion sizes I would give my kids when they were preschoolers! The one brunch was chaotic. We sat on the 4th deck and had to go to 3rd for food. The breakfast items were placed throughout the lunch items so by the time you got toast or bacon, the eggs were cold. I suggest, you skip the brunch and go to the buffet on Deck 12 or 14.
Lunch: Many options including the Bistro on 5. Generally we were happy with the lunch options in all venues including the Aqua Cafe although they really give you such a small amount that you have to request additional when you are being served or you can plan on going up for a second round.
Room Service: We always had a problem ordering on the TV. When we would call, whoever answered the phone sounded as if we were bothering them. When ordering breakfast for more than one person, they never could get it right. We had friends in for a late breakfast one morning and we tried to make it very clear on the order form that there would be 4 people to feed and they got the entire order wrong including only bringing enough coffee for two. They need to get the ordering system fixed so they will know if the bacon goes with the eggs or the pancakes, etc.
Buffet: The food was good but we were not, generally, happy with the choices. We ate more pasta and pizza on this ship than on any other, ever.
Cheese Danish CAN ONLY be found at the Al Bacio Cafe. There is no charge for the snacks but there is for the coffee. I guess they figure you will buy coffee there if you want a Danish. Wrong. I would pick up a cheese Danish and then take it with me to the Elite brunch at Tuscan Grill because they didn't have them there either. You cannot even order them with the pastry or Danish basket from room service.
New Yorkers: They did have Black and White Cookies at Al Bacio cafe as well. They were good but not as good as what you get in NY. Not living in NY anymore, I found them to be a nice little surprise treat.
Laundry service was good and prompt.
Internet Cafe- as on most ships it is slow. If you have a credit, put it on your account right away as it takes a day or so to show up. We could never log on from our phone or TV in cabin but had access to a computer whenever we went to the internet cafe. The staff there was helpful. To get signed up initially, there was a long line so get there ASAP or try to be first on line when they open on your first sea day.
Port and Shore Excursions: We loved the ports. We did a lot of research and booked 'behind the scenes' and additional activities to do once we reached the ports. On a few, we were concerned we would not get back to the ship timely if we went on our own due to the distance of the place we were visiting so we booked the ship's excursion and when we got to the place, we checked in and did the activity/ behind the scenes tour we booked on our own. Our only suggestion would be since Akaroa was a substitute port for Christchurch, that the buses for "Christchurch on your own" have more than one stop/ location for drop off and pick up. We had to take a take each way to the Antarctic Center, where we booked the Penguin Encounter, for about an additional $60.00. The ship's excursion goes to both the Antarctic Center and Air force Museum which if we had known just how close they were to each other, we would have signed up for that excursion but skipped the museum and just gone directly to the Antarctic Center- assuming that would be possible.
Suggestions: Book these on your own if you want time with animals while 'down under'.
Penguin Encounter at Antarctic Center in Christchurch;
Magic Moments with the individual animals and trainers at the Healesville Sanctuary;
Wild Australia experience at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney.
Entertainment: We went to most of the performances and they were OK. The best was they musician/ singer (can't remember his name) Born in Italy, grew up in Australia and now lives in Las Vegas. He was very talented and very entertaining. The production shows were OK. The "cirque" take-off was good but there really wasn't a story line- as was the problem with their production shows. I think I am getting spoiled as the Disney Cruise line shows and the RCCL (really big ship) shows have been simply terrific.
Music in venues around the ship: good, but see caveat above (too mellow, everywhere.)
Elite: activities and events were very enjoyable. Chandru did an excellent job. The brunch SHOULD have some hot items and a way to toast bagels or muffins. Having cheese danish would be nice too!
Summary: Australia and New Zealand were great. The ports were great; the people were friendly; the shore excursions we chose were good and I am glad we booked the additional tours/ behind the scenes on our own. I am truly glad we went and a cruise is a good way to see if you want to visit again. I definitely do!
I am glad we cruised on Celebrity this one time because now I know that we really enjoy the livelier ships. I don't need 10:00 pm bedtime when I am on vacation! Having only 22 kids on board was nice as we didn't feel overrun with them but I think we would rather have more kids and more activities available even if we aren't traveling with any ourselves. Celebrity needs to work on their dining selections and breakfast room service menus and the portions need to be bigger than you would serve to a 4 yr old child. Security needs to take better care of items that are confiscated and they need a more streamlined procedure for when an item is not waiting at the gangway after it has been confiscated. The room stewards and dining staff were excellent as was the elite coordinator.
Would we cruise Celebrity again? Yes. Will it be our first choice? No. If none of the other lines have the itinerary we want, we will choose Celebrity but, honestly, we like Disney best- true white glove service, activities, entertainment and generally a bit higher cost than the others; Royal Caribbean- second; Carnival- third; Celebrity -- fourth; and after cruising once on Norwegian- we will never cruise on that line again.