My husband and I have just retired in our early fifties and have been scoping out cruise lines, trying to find "the one." I think we've found "the one" that we will cruise with most often--that is, Celebrity. We cruised the Pacific Coast, leaving from Seattle and going all the way down to Ensenada, Mexico. The Pacific Coast cruise on Celebrity Solstice was an excellent experience overall. We had a fabulous time and high recommend the Celebrity Solstice to all interested cruisers.
Let me start from the beginning. We boarded at Seattle, Washington. We were met at the airport and bused to the ship. This process was smooth as silk. We did not have to wait too long in line before we were given our ship identification cards. Once inside, we were greeted with champagne and mimosas and were able to go to the Oceanview Cafe' for lunch. It was a bit crowded because everyone was waiting for their luggage and access to their staterooms.
Once in our stateroom, we were delighted with its amenities. Although we had only a balcony stateroom, it was well appointed and seemed larger than the stateroom we had on the Princess cruise line. The room had ample electrical outlets, both European and American. It had a couch in addition to a nice size bed. It was pretty and fresh in appearance. The bathroom, in our stateroom, only had a shower but it was glassed in, and didn't have the nasty shower curtain we had in one of our previous cruises. The only down side to a cruise ship room is the hard (extra firm) mattresses. Although our mattress had a mattress pad on it, the mattress itself was so hard that I rarely slept through the night. I asked for extra pillows so that I could sleep on top of them for more comfort. Because the mattress had no give (and I mean none), I woke up with a back ache every morning. I never got a good night's sleep. The hard mattress phenom, however, is not unique to Celebrity. I haven't slept comfortably on a cruise ship mattress yet. When will a cruise line offer a "real" heavenly bed option (something like Sleep Number)? The only thing that could lure me away from Celebrity is if I find a cruise line that offers a comfortable mattress.
Our room attendant, Mario, kept the room refreshed, was always available and eager to assist. I asked for extra towels on the first day and he kept the room continually refreshed with towels. Mario refreshed the stateroom twice a day (after we left for lunch or an excursion in the morning) and after we left for dinner in the evening. Mario was always helpful and met every request promptly. He kept the room spotless and neat.
We dined at all the restaurants on this ship--Epernay, Oceanview Cafe', Bistro at Five, Tuscan Grille, Silk Harvest and Murano. All of the restaurants offered excellent food. The Epernay had the best grilled New York strip that I have eaten in a long, long time. It was seasoned and cooked to perfection. It also offered escargot daily and a variety of selections throughout the week. The Oceanview Cafe', cafeteria style, was also very good. It had a carving section, with freshly prepared meats. It also had a least a half dozen salad choices, with a regular salad bar. It gave lots of choices--Italian, Asian, Indian, Mexican--with many fresh preparations available. For example, one could choose a fresh stir fry or freshly prepared waffles and so on. We ate at Oceanview frequently and never had a sub par meal.
To me, the best meals were found at the Tuscan Grille. Although billed as an Italian steakhouse, this restaurant was that and much more. The appetizers--steak tartare, beef carpaccio, crab cake, etc.--were extremely well prepared and delicious. The main courses--the steaks, the pasta--were also excellent. Most important, the service at Tuscan Grille was superb. If you like crepes, you must go to Bistro at Five--try the banana nutella crepe. Murano's, the french restaurant, was also delicious. We had the chateaubriand--it was cooked perfectly. Silk Harvest, the Asian fusion restaurant, offered a whole barramundi (fried or broiled), that was off the hook good. Silk Harvest had traditional Japanese and Chinese offerings but the barramundi was a dish I tried on a whim, that turned out to be one of the better meals I had on the ship. Definitely try to specialty restaurants but don't turn your nose up at the Epernay which offered great service and great food.
We didn't do a lot of excursions. This cruise left from Seattle, stopped in San Francisco, Monterrey, Santa Barbara, San Diego, Catalina Island and Los Angeles. We paid for the hop on/hop off bus excursion in San Francisco which allowed us to tour San Francisco at our own pace. If you choose this option, I suggest choosing a 48 hour pass, not just a 24 hour pass. The ship docked in San Francisco for 2 days. We spent the first day at the piers --watching the America's cup, the seals at pier 39 and going to Ghiradelli's. I wish we had chose a 48 hour bus pass so that we could have explored all of San Francisco in more depth. We were able to go to the Golden Gate Park and China Town. My husband walked across the Golden Gate bridge which I believe was a big highlight for him. The next excursion we took was a trip to the San Diego Zoo. We got there early enough to avoid large crowds and were able to see all part of the park, except for the pandas (very long lines there so if you want to see them, go there first). San Diego Zoo is a must-see if you haven't been there before but it takes all day, thus no other excursions can be taken if you choose it. It required a lot of walking but did offer bus tours and stops as well as ski lifts from one side of the park to the other. My husband insisted on walking the whole time so by the end of the day, I was totally worn out. We did not go to Monterrey, Los Angeles or Santa Barbara as we preferred to relax on those days and simply enjoy the amenities of the ship. We did tender into Catalina Island and were pleasantly surprised by the Arts and Craft Fair they offered. It was a very pretty place and definitely worth the trip. I was able to take some wonderful pictures of the Celebrity Solstice as well as the picturesque island.
The ship offered dozens of activities within a 24 hour period, so many in fact that the average cruiser will not be able to partake of all of them. The big highlight for me was the cruise entertainers. Many cruise ships offer average or mediocre entertainment but not Celebrity Solstice. The comedians were really funny, especially the one who did imitations. The ship also gave a cirque de soleil type show that was simply fantastic (Celebrity: The Show) and I definitely recommend it to all. The singers and dancers were superb. Singers were found in almost every lounge and bar area. I particularly enjoyed Jonny Mantra--who had an unusual voice and exceptions musical abilities. Celebrity also has a separate movie theater--passengers can watch the movie there or in their rooms for free. The movie showings were quite good. The Sin City Comedy show (offered late at night due to adult content) is very funny, unusual and a must see. We did not take advantage of bocce on the lawn but I think I'd try it the next time I go on a Celebrity cruise. My husband and I did not go to the casino but it seemed very busy and a large number of people were drawn to it. The Celebrity's attempt a karaoke didn't seem to work well. Often fostered in Quasar, few people showed up or one lone singer would be belting out a tune (often poorly) and it scared everyone out. I hope they can fix the logistics because in a crowd of preferably inebriated people, I like to do karaoke occasionally but I don't want to the be sole attraction. Numerous self-help seminars and educational talks were available on the ship. My husband and I went to the gym every day. The treadmill machines were out of date. It was hard to set them up for interval walking and to also watch television. They were functional at a minimum level and I was glad to return home to my regular gym. We did not take advantage of aqua class activities but I would like to do so in the future.
The Celebrity Solstice is a beautiful ship. It is well-designed, and beautifully decorated. For a large ship, it does not feel crowded even in the cafeteria. It is restful and peaceful in the staterooms but plenty of action outside for those who want it. The Sky Observation room offers great views and a wonderful place to read a book or take a nap.
On the last day of the cruise, the ship before our departure offered us breakfast. We could get breakfast between 5:30ama nd 7;00am. We all really appreciated this so that we could be fortified for our journeys back home. The only downside to this cruise experience was the trip from Ensenada to Tijuana. We boarded a bus, traveling from Ensenada, Mexico to the Tijuana border crossing, at 7:30am. We waited in the bus, at the border crossing, for about three hours and didn't reach the San Diego airport (via bus) until 1:00pm. My husband and I, as well as many other passengers, feared we would miss our flight. This was not a perfect end to an otherwise perfect cruise. Passengers were frustrated and angry. I hope Celebrity will find a solution to this problem. We were told that the journey would only take two hours. Spending the day on the bus was less than desirable.
I definitely plan to cruise with Celebrity again. It was a marvelous ship and crew. Bon voyage!