Celebrity Solstice Cruise Review by Jacs: Great first cruise on Celebrity
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Great first cruise on Celebrity
We have recently returned from our first cruise with Celebrity, after doing one cruise before on RCI. We are an Australian couple in our early 30's with no kids. Cruise was the 18 night transpacific from Honolulu to Sydney, stopping in Maui, Papeete, Bora Bora, Moorea, Auckland and Bay of Islands.
Embarkation: We arrived at embarkation at about 4pm and had no lines. Check in was seamless and we were on the ship 10 minutes later. There was no champagne or orange juice but I think that was because we were there later. We did recieve a nice little shell lei though. Room was ready right away so went straight up, bags took a couple of hours but were there by dinner.
Room: we were booked into Aqua Class in cabin 1661, which is the very last on the port side, before the aft cabins start. I had heard mixed reviews of this cabin due to its distance from the lift and the fact that the cleaning cart gets positioned opposite the door when they are doing the rooms, but we loved More it. The configuration is the bed near the bathroom, and the couch near the balcony. We liked this as we had space around the door to enjoy the balcony, and didn't clog up the entrance with stuff just because there was space.
Aqua class bathroom was great, loved loved loved the glass shower screen instead of a curtain, and the shower head was lovely and soaking. Didn't really use the body jets as I found them poorly located for tall people :)
Cabin attendant was lovely, always greeting us with a smile and hello. Every day we got 3 pieces of fresh fruit, 2 bottles of water and a pitcher of flavoured ice tea which changed flavour daily. There was also canapés daily which we had to fill out a little slip with what time we wanted them every day, but after the first few days we didn't bother as they usually consisted of a handful or tortilla chips, a spoonful of dip and some olives.
Room was a little run down, still nice but we had 2 broken drawers and the front door handle was hard to turn. Storage was ample as long as you utilise the lift up cupboard over the bed and all the drawers.
Massive plus of this roomis the balcony. The last balconies on each floor angle out a little at the far end, so you end up with about 2 foot of extra depth for almost half the length. You also get a great view forward because of the angle. View back is a little limited due to the solid bulkhead, but we didn't feel like it hindered at all. The cabin is a little bit more of a walk to the elevator but nothing bad, the few extra steps helped keep the waistline in check :)
Dining: being in aquaclass we ate in blu most days for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast is great, with full cooked options of bacon, eggs, waffles, French toast and pancakes, plus great cold options like cereals,, yoghurts, smoked salmon, bagels and muesli that is mixed table side for you. My favourite breakfast was the blu parfait, a mix of blueberry compote, vanilla yoghurt and granola. I had this nearly every day!
Dinners were also superb, I only had one meal the entire time that wasn't outstanding, and it was more due to my taste preferences than it not being good food. Portions are a little smaller than the mdr, but all that ment was I left satisfied rather than stuffed. Waitstaff were fantastic, as we're the sommeliers who remembered your drink preferences after the first night, and always made great suggestions when you wanted something new.
Buffet was great for a buffet, good amount of choice and always hot and fresh. I particularly liked the Indian food section and the pasta station. It was difficult to get a seat in the busiest time but we usually just went right at the start or we would find a seat and go up one at a time to get food.
Specialty restaurants were also good, our favourite being Tuscan grill which we went to 3 times. Steak was always cooked perfect and the calamari starter was fantastic. Mural was good but a bit overpriced at $45 each extra, but the pork belly starter and the lobster main tasted superb. Silk harvest also had good food, but we preferred the starters over the mains so next time would just order a bunch of them.
Entertainment: as a person who is younger than the typical celebrity demographic, I found the entertainment a little lacking, but it is the sacrifice you make for the overall more sophisticated feel of the ship, which I did enjoy. The shows were ok, the formal night productions were great but I found the guest performers a bit hit and miss. Daytime activities largely consisted of seminar type things, cooking demonstrations and dance classes. Evening was the show, trivia and dancing in the atrium or music at one of the venues. We found ourselves either at a bar or the casino after dinner as non of the activities usually interested us.
An absolute highlight of the entertainment was the hot glass show though, which I went to multiple times. These 3 guys are so talented and was a joy to watch them each create something every show.
Bars: we had the premium drinks package, so was able to try most drinks as part of it. The martini bar was fun and lively, and always busy. The ensemble lounge seemed to be the place of choice for most people, with a string quartet or jazz band playing each night. My favourite was the molecular bar, which we tried the first night and went back most nights afterwards. Slajana and Adrian behind the bar were a delight, making you lots of things off menu and coming up with new interesting cocktails to try. Each one was a little artwork :)
The ship in general: I loved how sophisticated and modern the ship feels, the decor is beautiful. Whilst on RCI I did like the royal promenade, I didn't miss it on this style of ship, as it ment everyone wasn't congregating in the one spot and public areas were spread over 3 levels. It never felt crowded. The pool area was good, hard to get a chair at pool level some days but didn't see obvious chair hogging, it was just great pool weather :) Solarium was nice and quiet although it would have been nice if the roof could open like with other ships as it did get hot in there with the warm sun.
The ports. The itinerary was fantastic, French Polynesia was just paradise. Only 2 out of the 6 ports were docked, the rest were tenders. I found the tender process to be seamless, the ticket system worked well and I never had to wait in a queue. Generally it took about 3 hours to work through the ticket numbers and reach open tendering if people didn't want to get up early to get a ticket. The only negative was when we did a ship tour in Lahaina, we were told to meet at the theatre but instead of all meeting then being put on the tender all at once, they gave you your sticker then sent you to the tender. The result of this was that everyone that got to the theatre on time were stuck waiting on a bobbing and rocking tender for all the people that thought that the meeting time was just a suggestion, as it was 30 minutes before the actual departure time on the ticket. So most people were waiting on the rocking tender for 30 minutes before the last couple rocked up.
Disembarkation. On the two sea days before we arrived in Australia, everyone had to present for a quick interview with australian immigration. We were given the incoming passenger card to fill out and just had to present that and our passport to the official to stamp. Non Australian and New Zealand passport holders also need a visa and I was amazed at the amount of people I was in the ilounge organising them during the cruise because they didn't know they needed one. I'm surprised it wasn't something celebrity checked at checkin? But the immigration procedure was easy, you were given a letter with a time based on your deck number, and we had no wait. I did see a large queue the day before though so we may have got lucky.
On day of embarkation we had breakfast at 6.30 when blu opened, and 20 minutes later they were turning people away saying it was a 45 minute wait due to being full. The seating was only half full but I guess they only had enough staff for half the seating. This surprised me for the last day where you had to be done by 8 instead on 9, and I'm sure it annoyed the people who missed out. We then waited in the MDR from 8 until 9.30 for our number to be called.
When we got into the terminal it was in dissaray, people wandering everywhere not able to find their bags. Turns out they were calling numbers to disembark before the bags had even been unloaded, so everyone was chocking up the space and the baggage guys were trying to line bags up while people were ripping them off the carts. A bit of chaos really.
Customs was easy, just 2 people checking your cards then sending you over to a table to check the food you were declaring. The problem was that this line overlapped with the line for the taxi, which stretched back to the baggage claim area. So you went through customs, only to have to double back past the customs guys to rejoin the line for a taxi. Some people just pushed in much to the chagrin of other passengers. This was all on Sydney ports shoulders though, not celebrity. The wait for the taxi was around 20-30 minutes, but the line moved steady.
So to sum up, we loved this cruise. The were a couple of negatives but nothing that would effect our enjoyment of our holiday. Even getting sick with bronchitis on the second day didn't mar the overall experience, I would definitely sail with Celebrity again and definitely in Aquaclass. Less
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