Three of us recently returned from the 7/4 sailing on the Celebrity Solstice, Alaska Sawyer Glacier cruise. We have all cruised multiple times in the past, but this one was "special" as my elderly, handicapped but still sharp as a tack Mother would be joining my husband and me. Gullible idealists, we assumed that the Celebrity tag line, "Modern Luxury" and a pricey cabin would reward us with what we expected. Alas, from our booking date on May 1, they failed to deliver as promised and caused me hours and hours of frustration on the phone and in letter and e-mail conversations to address all their oversights.
We worked with "Certified Vacation Planner ". I could not have been more specific about the need for a fully handicapped accessible cabin. She also booked our flights on "Choice Air" and reserved airport transfers. We paid $5227.78 on that date.
When I received the confirmation, I discovered that the cabin was not handicapped accessible and the third person, 92 year old granny, was expected to climb into an upper berth. Next, I discovered that we had been charged an additional $207 for " any time dining". The time necessary to straightening out this mess was inexcusable. Every time I called, I was told the wait time was close to an hour, but at least they kept up the pep-talk about "modern luxury.
We fixed this situation and were reassigned to a cabin identified as "handicapped accessible" with a queen/king bed and an convertible couch (More on the convertible couch to follow). They also removed the $207. for "anytime dining". OK.... things were looking up... but only briefly.
I then reviewed the air arrangements we had purchased through our Celebrity Certified Planner, round trip from LA to Seattle. The first leg was fine with a appropriately scheduled flight. But, the flight home was another thing. Although disembarkation began at 7AM our flight back to California was scheduled more than 13 1/2 hours later, at 8:35PM. Again, I called Celebrity. Again, I was put on hold with the ongoing "pep-talk" for another hour. I explained that it was absurd to think that a wheelchair bound 92 year old could be expected to rise before 6AM and sit, either in a wheelchair, taxi, or aircraft for 20 hours straight. They suggested that we book a series of "shore excursions" in Seattle to fill our time They didn't really get it, nor were they interested. I was told that they could change the flights at an addition cost; I seem to remember $150.00 a person. I told them to forget it. I then called Alaska, the airline we were booked on. The Alaska Airlines rep was most gracious and accommodating, moving our flight up to noon and even making sure we had seats that would be most suitable for someone with a mobility issue. NO COST.
We were booked in a Concierge Class cabin which promised a Concierge Lounge at the dock while waiting to board, in our cabin, fresh flowers, a custom "pillow menu", and bathrobes. When we arrived at the dock check-in, we asked about the lounge. The blank stares meant that this amenity did not really exist or that no one had ever asked about it in the past. Oh well.
We get to the cabin, which was actually quite spacious and pleasant. Alas, no flowers. Celebrity staff was seemingly unaware of the "pillow menu" and we had only robes and towels for 2. Next, bed time. The third bed, the convertible couch" turned out to be a chair whose seat pillow was removed and a rubberized mattress installed....on the floor! Unbelievable.
On the plus side, the ship was well appointed, clean and spacious, although much of the lounge furniture was showing significant wear and age. The stateroom hallways were sometimes difficult to navigate with walkers or wheelchairs since there were usually large housekeeping carts in the way.
On several occasions we attempted to call housekeeping and/or the cruise assistance desk. NO ONE EVER ANSWERED. A third line, dubbed the "Concierge", connected us, on every occasion to a recording "the person in stateroom (?) is not answering.
Food was OK, sometimes quite good, other times failing miserably. I enjoyed one of the best racks of lamb I have ever had offset by the final evening presentation of the "chef's recommendation" an excessively breaded but not browned thick slab of inedible "shoe leather" veal "cordon bleu". Vegetables were well prepared. Fresh and never overcooked.
The BEST part of the cruise was provided by our overworked, but always amazing attentive, smiling and positive dining room waiters, Rodrigo Nadora and Mark Manuel. Our sommelier was also delightful and wonderfully attentive ,although, regrettably his name escapes me. Additionally, floor helpers in the buffet area were fantastic about helping elderly or handicapped folks who might have issues maneuvering a walker and a plate of food. It never was crowded as is so often the case on some of the more "bargain" lines. It was never hard to find a window table.
Embarkation and disembarkation staff were alert, timely and very, very helpful with assistance for those who required extra time or equipment.
The last night, we reviewed the dreaded "FINAL BILL"... another $1700 plus which included only two "second level" beverage packages and tips.
Is Celebrity worth it? I don't think so, but then I remember Rodrigo and Mark who salvaged 6 weeks of confusion, annoyance, overpromising and underperforming and overcharging by those in far more executive and pivotal roles.