Embarkation Day was just as bad as we expected and then some. The lines were very long and no provisions were made for the elderly and mobility impaired. There was no food provided until you were on your assigned bus to Ensenada and no water available in the huge tent. The lack of water was a good thing because there were only two portable bathrooms with - surprise - long lines. The buses were in poor condition; dirty and we had broken seats. When we arrived in Ensenada there was another long line to get on the ship. I can't imagine the logistical nightmare Celebrity had trying to offload 2800 passengers and get them to San Diego and then get 2800 new passengers onboard.
This cruise was advertised as a Wine Tour up the Pacific Coast. The price was right and the itinerary was great - after the Ensenada debacle. But to call it a wine tour was misleading. There were wine tastings and seminars onboard for a hefty fee and there were no stops with easy access to vineyards. We found the wine by the glass on the ship satisfactory but the recommended bottle selections were high priced and not even high scoring wines. The wine stewards were overworked in the dining room and lacking in knowledge even though they tried to be helpful.
The entire crew seemed overworked but eager to please. Towards the end of the cruise it appeared that several crew members were ill. Our cabin stewards were diligent and hard working. If we asked for something, they got it for us. We have cruised with Celebrity before and we noticed once again that the senior officers were not engaged with the passengers.
The long lines for everything were a turnoff and the lack of a pleasant, quiet place to relax, read or have a drink made our trip less than great. The noise level all over the ship was terrible. We did not try the Solarium because the weather was very cool but we have been told that was a relaxing spot.
The food was adequate; quantity over quality in many cases. Room service was fine and the heads up call before delivery was great. The buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner had a variety of items but they were repeated almost every day. It was hard to find a cleared table and several times I juggled my plate and cup back to the cabin so I could sit down to eat. The MDR is beautiful but the lights are so dim that it is hard to read the menu. Hint:Take a small flashlight with you. Service was fine after I asked the waiter to take our orders as soon as we came in. We had the late seating and being from the East Coast it was almost midnight our tummytime when our entrees were arriving. We didn't try the overpriced 'special' restaurants but we enjoyed the specialty coffee shop and the Bistro on deck five.
Entertainment was spotty. The production shows were good but the early show was so crowded you couldn't get a seat unless you came in 45 minutes early. The late show at 10;30 was too late for us but I heard that it wasn't ever crowded. Celebrity would do everyone a favor by having shows at 6 and 8:30. The band and singers in the Atrium were loud and you couldn't escape the noise easily. The lovely room at the top of the ship was taken over every night by the free cocktail hours for the Elite cruisers. We were told we could come in but they wouldn't serve us until the Elites were leaving. The view up there was beautiful but the furniture was peculiar and uncomfortable.
Overall the Solstice is a beautiful ship. Our cabin was very clean but smaller than any veranda that we have ever had on our previous 45+ cruises. The closet is inadequate, drawer space minimal. The bathroom was pretty but the faucet was not well designed and it was tight quarters around the commode. Our balcony appeared to be cut off and could have been extended another 3-4 feet. There seemed to be a ledge under the ship's name right where our balcony ended.
I would not cruise on a ship this size again but I would recommend Celebrity to a younger cruiser looking for a good value. There is a certain buzz around the ship and that seems to appeal the younger crowd. The 1-2-3 deal was a good promotion and most got their money's worth judging by the lines in the bars.