Recently sailed on the Celebrity Solstice, on the first leg of a repositioning cruise from Australia to Hawaii and ultimately back to North America. Our journey ended in Hawaii, where we stayed on for another 5 nights enjoying the sights of Honolulu.
I will say from the outset, the Solstice is a floating palace full of wonderful places to explore and fun to be had. We enjoyed every minute on board her, and for us, the best part was the extended sea days between ports. Very relaxing!
We embarked in Sydney on the 8th April, having booked into "Concierge Class" for this sailing. Embarkation was pretty easy, took about 30 minutes to get up from the dock side to the embarkation lounge. One thing we thought would happen, was that as concierge class (or higher) you would have a priority in boarding. Sort of happened with a separate line for all those classes other than general, but in fact it turned out the the general class boarding was the shorter line and moved far faster than ours. Shows that most people were actually paying for the higher cabin class I suppose. Once on board, the rooms were not yet open for occupation, so we had lunch in Bistro On 5. Lovely cafe, serving crepes for lunch, well worth the extra $5 per person to be able to sit down and not fight through the lines in the buffet.
Our cabin was on deck 21, starboard side with a balcony, located close to the stairs and elevators. As far as that goes, not a problem as we heard very little noise from either the elevator space or the stairs. Perfect for getting to the pool deck, (on the same deck as us) and to the outside spaces. Cabin size was good, loved the bathroom with the glass shower doors, plenty of room to do what you needed to do in there. But, we had a problem that wasn't rectified the whole cruise. For some reason or other, the cabin always had an underlying odour of sewerage! We spoke to guest services and they did send an engineer up to see us, but were unable to locate why this was the case or how to rectify it. We were offered alternate cabins after we departed, but have to say none were of the standard or location we booked for. It was ok whilst the outside door was open, cleared the odour out of the cabin, but when closed up, first thing to hit you was the smell. We did get used to it, but was a little off putting when we first moved in. The cabin steward did find us a room deodoriser/ perfume that sort of cancelled the odours,but that was all that was done. Had no further contact with guest services over this, not sure what the problem was. But, other than that, our cabin was in the perfect place for us. Loved the bed by the way, king size!! And the ship has a no smoking policy on the balconies, made for a much more enjoyable time when we sat out there. Tip! Ask for room service for breakfast, beautiful way to start the day.
We ate in the MDR on most nights in "Select" seating, which suited us. Met heaps of very interesting people each night and the wait staff and sommeliers were excellent in their knowledge and professionalism. Never had more than 5 minutes to wait to get a seat for dinner, and most times we were able to sit in the area of the dining room we enjoyed being in.
Dined in both Tuscan Grill and Muranos on two separate nights, have to say that Tuscan was our favourite. Food was sublime, plenty of it and wonderful decor made the experience worthwhile. Muranos was ok, but over priced for the meal we thought. Of course, the menu was different than in the MDR, but we just felt that it wasn't that much better to ask for the extra payments. Unfortunately, never got to eat in Silk Road, so can't comment.
One experience to definitely get to do is Chefs Table. This was never advertised, but we knew from previous experiences on other ships, that this would be offered. We booked early in the cruise through our maitre de and were not disappointed. Highly recommend anyone contemplating taking part in this experience to ask early at guest services and do so, as it fills very quickly. We had 10 other people dining with us, the chef explained the meal, sommelier perfectly matched wines with courses and at the end of it all, we got a marvellous cook book signed by the chef. Well worth the money we felt.
Stage shows were magnificent, great variety of guest entertainers and the two major productions on stage were worth of any land based theatre we thought. The Circe De Sole style show was packed, a highlight of the entertainment on board.
A little disappointed with the rest of the on board entertainment, very short spots and all the live entertainment was over by 11:30 - midnight most nights. The artists themselves were of a high standard, especially the house band, but the actual play times were not very long. Would have enjoyed a late night piano bar style location with sing along style entertainment, but that is just us.
No shortage of bars, all of a very high standard. We had the "premier" drinks packages, for us was great value, definitely got our monies worth from that purchase! Best bar was the Martini Bar, followed closely by the Molecular Bar. But all the bars are worth visiting.
Gymnasium was adequate, but have to say that the cardio equipment was wrongly positioned I believe. All the machines were placed across the the floor, (facing out the starboard windows) instead of being in line with the vessel, (stem to stern)which meant that you perspective was skewed to what your brain was saying. And especially when we were in heavier seas, with the vessel rolling was bringing on cases of motion sickness to people using the gear. But, overall, the gym was a good size with plenty of equipment. Dud get crowded, but I never had to wait for a machine or weight station.
A well thought out program was the Celebrity Life classes. We attended on most days, especially the talks given by Milos. Very entertaining as well as being educational. Every topic he covered was pitched at the general level, he made it very easy to understand and on top of that, he is a great entertainer. Loved his hats!!
Pool deck was fun, plenty of deck lounges and loved the fact that there was a separate "adults only" area with its own pool and spas. Have to say that it seemed to be well policed, never saw any children in there at all the whole cruise. Tip for sunbathing, go to the Solstice deck on 16, well out of the way, great beds and private. Can go topless up there if that is what you are looking for.
One down side to this cruise was the lost time when we arrived at Lahaina, waiting for US Immigration agents to get on board. Supposed to have 10 agents on board at 0700, only 1 was on board then Took many hours before they were all on board, most people missed their shore excursions, (us included) due to this delay. Not the ships cause at all, blame lies ate the feet of the US agency and lack of preparation.
Disembarkation was a chore at Honolulu, once again not the fault of the cruise line but a issue with a bomb hoax in the port facility. Imaging 3000+ people all wanting to get off and been held on board until the situation was resolved!! Eventually got off, and a tip if you want a taxi quickly, grab a porter! Saved us tons of time, went straight out to the taxi rank and into a cab in no time!!
Overall, we enjoyed this cruise, the sea days were what we looked forward to the most. As far as age grouping went, we are sort of "in between" the cruise demographics that the cruise lines cater to. This particular cruise had a very high proportion of 60+ cruisers, many retired and returning to North America. And this was probably reflected in the lack of late night entertainment which we have found on other ships with a younger age grouping. The disco was open to late, but was never really hopping. Would I cruise with Celebrity again, definitely. The service was excellent, public spaces plentiful and well furnished,the ships crew and officers professional and attentive. The only downside to this trip was the outbreak of GI. It is a problem that the ship tried to hold at bay, plenty of hand cleaning stations, entry to the dining rooms had staff on hand to dispense antiseptic hand cleaners etc. But, like it seems to happen on long duration cruises, Norovirus did make an appearance, laying low a fairly large proportion of guests. Luckily we escaped it, cast iron tummies I think!