It wasn't awful, it just was below average. This was my 24th cruise and we went with 11 family members to celebrate my son's graduation. Alaska, we figured a once in a lifetime opportunity; so when my wife started planning this 6 months ago we figured let's spend a little more and go on the best? We held Celebrity in high regard for service, food, and generally set Celebrity ahead of RCCL, Norwegian, Princess and Carnival…. what a shame.
We had been on the Solstice before around 4 years ago out of Florida, the Galaxy twice, Century, and Summit twice; so we just figured great food, service and professional entertainment well unfortunately Carnival Splendor in June out of NY. was astronomically better in all those categories for half the price…
So let's get to the review by starting with the positive: the ship is beautiful and well maintained. Love the room layout and especially the bathroom. Flat screen tv has on demand free movies and music. Never felt crowded on the ship and traffic flowed wonderfully. The Oceanview Cafe is one of the best buffets we have had as far as variety and taste. Must try the soft serve ice cream, and the Cafe for coffee on the 5th floor is a must. The basic drink package was well worth it as the ship does not skimp on size and strength of drinks; bar service was adequate, and I love not signing all of those papers. Shout out to some hard working Celebrity staff: Von and Lindy (entertainment staff), Sanjay (room steward), Stanley MDR head waiter who tried his best. Brent Nixon and Illusionist Jason Bishop were both awesome.
Service: Hit or miss; it just seemed on several occasions that we were bothering staff whenever we needed attention. They were okay, but going through the motions is not okay on a high priced vacation. Main dining room waiter and maitre de tried their best and worked hard, but our assistant waiter was pretty much worthless except for filling our water.
Entertainment: Other than Brent Nixon, and Jason Bishop together with Von and Lindy running a few trivias and games was amateurish at best. Singers and dancers were not very good and were visible throughout the ship. The Solstice needs more to do for younger crowd and I mean 50 and under; not just enrichment. I am 49 and was bored by 10PM. More trivia, dance parties, games like the Quest etc. liven things up. No basketball free throw or 3 on 3, no golf putting. I don't mean to nitpick but c'mon some activities. I wasn't crazy about the cruise director she would ramble and that is coming from someone who can talk; she put me to shame in running at the mouth. And beware there is only One repeated comedy show on 7 day cruise. Celebrity try emulating Carnival which has it's own comedy club... Silver lining was the DJ's were actually pretty good, just wish they had an organized venue that attracted crowds. House band was good as well.
Food: I will tell you up front that Carnival has a better selection on main dining room menu than Solstice. It's not that the food was bad, it was okay but choices are limited and portion size is skimpy. Forget about dessert menu, you are lucky if you get two choices a night other than the daily menu. Here is a prime example of what irked me; my wife likes seafood so on the first three nights they offer salmon as the one seafood dish; what's ironic is that you can have salmon everyday because it is on the everyday choice menu. Why didn't Celebrity pick another seafood option for the daily menus. My party said well maybe it's because we are in the salmon capital of the USA; I said so what you can still have salmon every night, put another option on menu. I also wound up eating a substantial amount of apple pie and ice cream because dessert selection was limited. Please fix the menu or you will lose many Celebrity loyalists; because it truly was your food and service that put you ahead of others… Not anymore after this cruise…
Ports: Unfortunately it rained for 5 straight days but that is Alaska. We made the best of it. Ketchikan was a lovely, quaint city. If you get a chance and have a child under 16 rent a fishing pole and fish off the bridge for salmon. In one hour before our tour my son and I pulled in 5 huge salmon. No bait, just a jig. $20 for the pole what a deal… We did the deadliest catch tour and it was fascinating but pricey. Crew was very engaging and entertaining. Tracey Arm you must get up and experience it; beautiful. Get up art 5:30 AM dress warm and tough out the cold to get the greatest perspective. Hint aft deck is empty and panoramic views are breathtaking. Juneau was okay, it poured so we just shopped for 1 hour. Celebrity you really screwed up the tender system; so disorganized it took many people 1.5 hours to get off ship. Hopefully you cruise on the week Princess has to tender; they alternate weeks as to who docks/tenders. Skagway: we rented a van and drove into the Yukon. That was spectacular and you really need to see Emerald Lake. Last but definitely least was Victoria, BC. What a beautiful city; we just walked around in awe after dinner. If we venture into the Northwest again from our Pittsburgh home, Victoria will be a stay.
Embarkation and Debarkation: we have left from many different ports so all I can say is be organized prior to departing. Embarkation was fine, debarkation is another story. An RCCL ship arrives the morning you arrive and chaos is around you when you get luggage through customs. What a mob scene good luck.
Overall: I say this after all of our cruises, you make your vacation what you want your vacation to be. Despite all of the negatives, we loved being with family for an extended period of time. Alaska is really a beautiful state, so we were fortunate to have the means to see it. Therefore, I count my blessings and regardless of the letdown in food and service from Celebrity; we still feel that cruising is the most enjoyable way to travel and to visit places. Unfortunately, Celebrity will not be our first choice next time….