Just back from the August 8th sailing of Solstice to Alaska. In this review, I will specifically try to address some of the recent concerns raised here on cruisecritic.
We are relatively new to cruising with only one previous experience on Millennium. Solstice is a better ship in every way than Millennium. While on Millennium, I started making a mental list of all the problems with the ship (rust, shattered glass, splattered paint, loose carpet, worn lounge chairs, pool scum ... the list goes on). With Solstice, I didn't even bother making a list because there are so few flaws. It is a big ship, but rarely seemed crowded (but we did notice long waits for the elevators at times).
We enjoyed the unique features of Solstice such as bocce ball on the lawn, Hot Glass demonstrations, and the Brent Nixon lectures.
We had a great veranda cabin on the "hump" - close to the mid-ship elevators. The layout of the ship really worked for us, with the exception of the Team More
Earth exhibit. That was total wasted space and was never being used.
The ship staffing seemed adequate to us. Stateroom attendants were conscientious and dining room staff were responsive. Everyone seemed to be busy, but not frantic.
Food in the main dining room was just ok - I give it a grade of "B". For our previous cruise on Millennium we were in AquaClass, and we did miss the food quality, service and atmosphere of Blu. We did not try any of the specialty restaurants because the $50 per person surcharge is just ridiculous.
On the final sea day, there was a beautiful buffet in the Ocean View Cafe that included ice sculptures, baked salmon, roast beef, carved ham, many desserts, a chocolate fountain, etc. Many opportunities for "food porn" photos if that is your thing. The Ocean View Cafe seemed well-equipped to handle the large crowds. There was plenty of food and no pushing/rude behavior.
A conversation with cruise director confirmed that Celebrity is trying to change their target demographic to a younger, hipper crowd. In her words: "Celebrity does not want customers who spend their whole cruise reading books in the library and playing bridge in the card room."
We did not find the music on the ship to be too loud or annoying. We quite enjoyed the cover band that performed on the pool deck and in the central lobby. The cirque-style show was just ok - certainly not up to Vegas show standards. The magician/illusionist (Jason Bishop) was quite talented and funny too. We avoided the Sin City adult humor show - not family friendly.
We purchased a few inexpensive items from the onboard shops (neck ties, sunglasses, etc). We are not gamblers and thus avoided the casino. Withdrawing cash from the casino cashier was a good way to deplete our onboard credits (but with a 5 percent service fee).
The weather for our cruise was mixed. Rain in Ketchikan, drizzle in Tracy Arm, clouds in Juneau, sun in Skagway, and fog in Victoria.
The highlight of the cruise was Alaska itself. Misty Fjords (Ketchikan) is not to be missed. The Cathedral Peaks mountain range near Haines, Alaska is spectacular (viewed when sailing the inside passage just outside Skagway). The best glacier viewing was at the North Sawyer Glacier in Tracy Arm Fjord. Many Harbor Seals were seen at the South Sawyer Glacier. A trio of spouting Humpback Whales were observed while sailing from Tracy Arm Fjord to Juneau.
Juneau was our least-favorite port of call. The Mendenhall Glacier was mobbed with tourists. Forget Tracy's Crab Shack in Juneau - they charge $110 for three pounds of crab legs - ridiculous. The final stop in Victoria was so brief that it was not very worthwhile. Many passengers just stayed on the ship. However, a stroll through the Victoria harbor area is charming if the weather is clear.
Although this was a great vacation, I don't think we will be cruising again for quite some time. Too expensive to make it a habit, and there are too many other types of vacations that appeal to us. For us, this really was a "once in a lifetime experience". Less