It could be argued that the new Celebrity Solstice is the prettiest ship at sea. I doubt that you would find many who would not agree. But there are a whole lot of steps along the way that make Solstice unique. Celebrity has done a great job focusing on the total cruise experience and beyond.
It seems that new builds these days all have a flashy signature feature that sets them apart from others. Solstice is no exception. The big one here is the Lawn Club. Located high up on deck 15, Celebrity has grown an expanse of short golf green-like grass about the size of a football field. Ok maybe more like a large backyard but it sure seems like a huge space in person. It's something you just don't expect to see on a ship and nothing can quite prepare you for the experience.
Home to picnics, various "yard" games, and even private parties, the Lawn Club comes complete with its own shop, cafe and bar. If this were a Carnival ship they would call this the "Fun Deck" because it also houses the Fun Factory Kids club, a basketball court, Video Arcade and another unique experience, the Hot Glass show, where professional gaffers craft works of art right before your eyes. But this is nothing you will find on a Carnival ship or any other brand for that matter.
These unique experiences have been really well done in a unique signature way that will prove to set Solstice apart from even her sister ships that will follow. It all comes down to ground level where what they do directly impacts the guest experience. As with so many other successful ideas it is the details that make the difference.
Bartenders that can open a bottle of beer tossed in the air, Pool Butlers actually paying attention to guests and anticipating their needs, as well as very well educated crew members who know their jobs well, make the difference.
Someone was paying attention here when they designed how this was going to go. Often overlooked while an organization struggles to cover the bases, Celebrity not only covers but blows the bases away, creating an experience like no other.
It is as though someone said, "Ok, design a ship, but make it the very best one you can possibly make it. Spare no expense. Leave nothing out. Dream up new features. And make it all very user-friendly". Take for example, the live tree growing in the middle of the ship. Yes I said live tree. Make that "huge live tree". It's not enough to have it; the crew all knows details about how it was planted, lives and will grow six decks high eventually. The crew does not hesitate to approach the casual viewer to let them know all about it too. I think this is one of the most unique parts of the onboard experience. The crew here really goes out of its way to enrich the experience.
It is as though not only the needs but the unexpected desires of guests have been not only anticipated but are constantly brought to their attention.
The staterooms are a great example of this.
A quick glance would leave one with the impression that these are nicely appointed but nothing unique. Further examination though reveals many innovative features. In the bathroom, for example, a low level illuminating light is on constantly to lead the way in the dark. A huge flat-screen television boasting a nice selection of movies, internet access, ordering for room service and more swivels away from the wall enabling it to be positioned just right for viewing anywhere in the cabin. 15% larger than most Celebrity staterooms on other ships, these offer a very nice space you may not want to leave.
But leave you will as you explore areas of the ship that flow seamlessly from one to the other.
Arguably the largest selection of shopping at sea, the "Shops on the Boulevard" flow into the largely non-smoking casino which is an extension of an assortment of lounges, and an area known as the "Entertainment Court".
Aptly named, the Entertainment Court features a central space where live music emanates into the surrounding areas very nicely, tying them all together. While other cruise lines seem to be cutting back on live entertainment, Celebrity has taken a few steps back in time and brought back a wide variety of talent. Case in point; on deck entertainment.
I was on deck enjoying a leisurely afternoon one day, steps away from food and bar service, an indoor pool should the weather turn bad, and the an assortment of lounge chairs, hammocks, and private areas. As the stage was out of sight, it took me a while to realize that the enjoyable and thoughtful music I was hearing was not prerecorded but a live five piece band. Later, when their set was over, a different band came to play, followed by a solo guitar player and then others. This theme was repeated many times over throughout the voyage. A string quartet filled the atrium area, a jazz trio played in one of the lounges, and a full band played in the showroom, even a piano player in unexpected areas at unconventional times made for a rich experience.
Dining options also added to this deep, enriching theme.
In addition to the stunning single main room, Grand Epernay, dining options are plentiful. The Aquaspa cafe offering refreshing spa cuisine as well as the always open Bistro on Five with Crepes and Sandwiches in a casual setting. The Mast Grill I enjoyed while on deck was only steps away from the signature Oceanview Cafe, a scatter-style buffet with an assortment of stations well-suited to most any taste.
Specialty dining with a nominal cover charge was not limited to just one or two offerings. Murano, a sophisticated dining experience featuring European style service and wines from around the world is a headliner. Silk Harvest, featuring the exotic tastes of Asia in a casual, family-style setting is very popular. The Tuscan Grille offers a sophisticated steakhouse with and Italian accent and robust wine list. Finally "Blu" has private dining for AquaClass guests only featuring clean, modern cuisine from the old and new world.
The Aqua class area of the ship offers some of the most well appointed staterooms on board too. But more than just extra features like a superb shower and upgraded amenities, the whole AquaSpa area of the ship is unique unto itself. This area anchors a "Wellness" theme featuring a full service spa enhanced by the solarium and a quiet renewing space called the Persian Garden as well as medi-spa, salon and fitness center.
The whole Wellness concept extends to other areas of the ship as well.
All staterooms and verandahs, for example, are non-smoking. A bold move on the part of Celebrity, this idea came directly from guest requests and comments. There are adequate but largely removed areas for smokers but the Celebrity is really trying hard to make a statement as part of the whole experience. Smoking is restricted to a small area of the casino, slots only. The whole feel of it all reminded me of when restaurants had smoking and non smoking sections before turning all non-smoking. I suspect that Celebrity will be the first line to pull off the entirely non-smoking concept, once tried but failed by Carnival's Paradise several years ago.
To me, the extent that Celebrity is willing to go with the smoking issue is a great example of the direction they are going with this ship and the experience it elicits. A great diversion from real life is the hallmark of a cruise. Celebrity, through the unique features of this ship, also gives you something to take home with you. Whereas the end of the cruise often meant the end of the experience, Solstice leaves the door open, allowing one to take home the feel of it all.
If you are one of the lucky ones who has fully embraced all that a cruise has to offer you may have felt renewed and maybe even a bit changed by the end of the voyage. The Solstice experience allows you to not only be changed, but to do something with that change once you return to real life.