This was only the 2nd cruise for my husband and myself so we did not have a great idea of what to expect. Our first cruise was on a Princess ship on a Mediterranean itinerary and it was AMAZING. So it was actually a little hard to follow that one with a cruise to New Zealand. New Zealand is very beautiful and the ports were lovely, but it's just not the same impact. I chose Celebrity as I had read it was a step up again from Princess so I guess I did have some expectations. The Solstice, although a beautiful ship, does not have the wow factor of the Crown Princess and we did not feel that it was laid out as well. However, having said that, there were aspects of the ship that were far superior.
The CABINS: are beautifully laid out and the bathrooms are fabulous, with plenty of room for two people and lots of storage and a fantastic shower with glass door and not the tacky shower curtain that we had previously experienced. The Apple interactive television in the room is wonderful and had plenty of movies to entertain us when we wanted to stay in our room plus it was great to be able to view our onboard account periodically and make sure it was all correct. We booked a Concierge stateroom but not sure how much extra we paid over a regular balcony stateroom, as we had anticipated that it would be better and so took no notice of the cost difference. Upon reflection, we would never waste our money again on a so called upgrade because you get so very little for the extra money. The Concierge rooms were exactly the same as other balcony rooms and all you really get for the extra dollars is a bottle of sparkling wine and some rather pathetic little flowers, some very ordinary canapes daily, and 'fresh fruit' that was not fresh just changed over occasionally. The list of extra amenities included plush bath robes, that you could apparently get in any class of cabin if you asked for them. The sparkling wine, I managed to get swapped for a bottle of Chardonnay which I took to the dining room,(so did not need to pay the $25 corkage), and drank over several nights. The canapes were a bit of a joke and we cancelled ours after a few days anyway. It was easier just to pop up to the oceanview if we wanted a light snack in the afternoon anyway. The upgraded tote bag doesn't seem to exist anymore, even though all of the literature that promotes Concierge class lists it. The only benefit really was embarking in one hour as opposed to 2 hours that other people told us it took them to board.
Our stateroom attendants did an amazing job and even provided us with some really clever towell animals that were much so much fun to find when we returned to our room at night.
DINING: We started with room service breakfast each morning which was adequate but ended up going to the Oceanview cafe which had a better selection and is really well laid out and never had a problem finding a table. We also had lunch in the Oceanview each day and were very happy then as well, with a good selection always available. This was a big improvement over our previous cruise where we had one meal in the buffet and refused to return as it was poorly laid out and impossible to ever find a table. This cafe was really a pleasant surprise.
Dinner we had select dining so we were in the main dining room each night and enjoyed meeting new people each night and generally enjoyed the food there. We are not real 'foodies' and are usually happy to eat whatever gets put in front of us, but we did notice that the food was rather 'hit and miss' and alot of other passengers made the same comment. The biggest disapointment was on the last formal night when we had the highly anticipated Lobster tail, which everyone on our table commented on being rather rubbery and tasteless. Such a shame! Overall though, the service was good and most meals were enjoyable.
Spa/Gym: The gym was good with plenty of treadmills and a few bikes and some cross trainers. As expected it was often difficult finding free equiptment at peak times so it was just a matter of turning up at the right time. Only once in 12 days did I see a crew member reminding people who were hogging the treadmills and cross trainers that there was a 20 minute limit for these during peak times.
Entertainment: I was really looking forward to the shows but we ended up only staying for a few minutes as most of the ones we attended just weren't to our tastes. I thought that a little more thought would have gone in to 'Australianizing' the entertainment for this side of the world, to accomodate the growth of Australian cruisers, however apart from the very entertaining Mario D'andrea, the shows were mostly comprised of the ships singers and dancers, some of whom were a little cringe worthy. Also the American comedian appeared to have no knowledge of anything relating to Australians and New Zealanders and really only targeted his show to the American audience. He was slightly amusing, but it ended there. The much hyped 'Cirque du Soliel' type show, 'Solstice, the show', was reasonably entertaining and had some interesting acrobatic work and supposedly was telling the timeless story of day and night. Really?? The brother and sister illusionists on the final night were talented but did not perform for long and wasted most of their time on stage with some card tricks anyway.
Celebrity Life: There were some fabulous cooking demonstrations happening and we had a lot of fun in some of the dance classes that I had really been looking forward to. There were dance classes held each sea day. A few of these classes were run by a very competent and fun instructor, Emma was her name and her male dance partner, who made the Waltz and Merengue so much fun and easy to learn. There was another young girl given the job of teaching some other dance styles like the Tango, and a few others that she took, but neither her nor her partner had any skill in teaching and the classes were a shambles with most people just left confused about what they were doing. That was a shame. Don't know why these were held in the public area, at the bottom of a staircase, in a thoroughfare area. The Sky loungewould have been a much better venue. Perhaps it was so the classes could provide cheap entertainment to other passengers.
Hot Glass Show:This was amazing. We went to a number of the shows and each one was as entertaining as the last. These very talented artists were great show people and the processes they go through to reach the end product were very interesting and entertaining.
Overall, a lovely ship and a nice cruise, but not really sure whether I would choose Celebrity next time. I guess it would depend on the price and itinerary.