This was our 15th cruise, and my husband and I agreed, the best ever! And ALL of our cruises have been wonderful! What made this one so special was the awesome, magnificent, majestic scenery in all its grandeur whatever the weather or time of day. Just breathtaking. Alaska reminds us of how our world was created -- many pristine areas, great wilderness, abundant wildlife -- we saw a mama bear and her two cubs, 5 or 6 whales, 5 or 6 sea lions sunning on a buoy, a seal swimming across a pond, a seal stretched out on its back sunning on an ice floe, a large pod of playful dolphins, and dozens of bald eagles, juvenile and mature; watched one catch quite a large fish and fly away with it. Presenters Brent Nixon on wildlife and narrating the inland waterway and his wonderful wife Mary Amanda who spoke on the history and culture of the area, of Ketchikan and Skagway and their colorful characters, especially the shady ladies were wonderful speakers and added immeasurably to the enjoyment of the cruise. It was so wonderful to hear talks every day on a cruise ship on something besides shopping!
This was actually our second time on the Solstice, having been on it for a Caribbean cruise in 2010 -- they hadn't changed or upgraded it at all that we could tell except perhaps for rotating the art work throughout the ship. We found it a wonderfully comfortable and well run ship both times.
We have cruised Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Holland American, Renaissance, Norwegian and generally have liked Celebrity the best -- we love their verandah rooms, level of service, and food. I found their coffee uniformly good, so the earlier review that panned it (may have been on the same cruise) must represent the fact that people have different tastes when it comes to coffee! I loved the Cafe al Bacio too, and had my vacation daily drink there each day - never had a bad one!
The only less than stellar experience we had on the ship/cruise was Select Dining. We liked the main dining room food and service very very much, so chose to eat there every night. On other cruises, including Celebrity ones, when we had open seating or select dining we simply appeared at the dining room when we felt like it and were always seated within a few minutes; often in the same area. But on this cruise, they asked Select Dining patrons to make reservations in advance. I could never find anyone at the desk to take reservations in the daytime, nor did anyone ever answer the phone at the number they gave for reservations. The only way to make a reservation was the night before, which killed the whole idea of spontaneity. And, whether we had a reservation or not, every night there was a long line for both (reservations or nonreservations) and a wait of 10 to 30 minutes before being seated. I couldn't figure out why they couldn't get a better system going, as all the other ships we'd had open dining on had.
We had been disappointed with them music/acoustics on this ship in 2010 (not the stage entertainment, but the music in other venues) and were happy that was not the case this time. There was a good variety of music styles; excellent singers; and the sound system was mostly quite good, not distorted or loud.
As always on Celebrity, crew and staff and accommodations were wonderful. This was the first time we'd seen a woman cruise director, and she. Patti Honecki, was very good, indeed.