This was the third cruise for us on the Solstice, and about the 6th with Celebrity. First, despite the recent complaints on the forum, we found no diminution in the quality of the food or the service or in the condition or maintenance of the ship. All were up to our previous experiences. The escargot, lobster tail, and prime rib were all on the menu. It was nice to include some regional specialties, like kangaroo and crocodile (tastes like chicken) as well, and there was a small selection of Australian and New Zealand wines available. The quality, presentation, and service in the main dining room continued to be excellent. We did have an assistant waiter who was a magician- he kept disappearing- but our waiter, Zeus, covered for him very nicely. We felt no need to eat at the specialty restaurants. Breakfast and lunch at the buffet were somewhat hectic and crowded, but the variety and quality of the food was fine, except that we didn't see a single grape or fresh berry or banana even once (except for some desserts, which included bananas.) The coffee in the main dining room was undrinkable, but for some reason was considerably better at the buffet. Cafe al Bacio was delightful, as it has always been, and well worth the small surcharge.
There were a few areas where you could see some cuts had been made. There were no brunches or ice sculpture extravaganzas in the main dining room, there was a string trio instead of a quartet (a violinist here, an assistant waiter there- it eventually adds up.) However, this is all nit-picky stuff.
Our cabin was fairly roomy and kept spotlessly clean, the bed very comfortable and storage space adequate. The only small issue was the removal of the complimentary toiletries the evening before debarkation.
The entertainment was variable. The shows were good, the performers very talented. But they were the same shows, with minor variations, that we had seen on our last Solstice cruise, 2 years ago. The presentations by Milos, the naturalist were truly wonderful; the performances by the singing group in the lobby before dinner were truly awful. The songs were fine, the music not punishingly loud, but the quality of their performances were, to us, below professional standards.
The public areas seemed more crowded than on previous cruises. This might be because the weather was not especially conducive do sitting outside. Also, the Sky Lounge, which is a lovely and spacious area for sitting and reading, was often unavailable because of the ubiquitous art auctions, while the fairly large area usually taken up by the art stuff lay empty and chairless.
The shore excursions were generally quite nice, the descriptions in the brochure again too often inadequate and inaccurate. You would be cautioned about 2 or 3 steps needed to board the bus, but the facts that at tendered ports, you had to descend a flight of stairs to get to the tender, and then ascend
the stairs to get back on the ship, and that at other ports the gangways were frequently quite long and steep went unmentioned.
The staff seemed as friendly and generally happy as usual, and the ship's officers were often visible and involved with the passengers. The Guest Relations staff was also quite friendly and helpful.
The cruise met our expectations, and we would not hesitate to travel with Celebrity again.