My First Impressions: Walking on to the Solstice was an exciting experience for me. Having followed its construction and first sailings on Cruise Critic, I felt I already knew the ship well. The Solstice does have the feel of Celebrity. I spent the first 30 minutes racing around the ship and it was then that I realized Solstice was even more stunning in its splendor, more inviting than I had imagined.
The embarkation from being dropped off by a friend to standing on the ship took 9 minutes—I timed it. It could not have been better organized.
The ship met and exceeded every expectation I had formed. The flowing columns and ascending stair case told me I was back on Celebrity. The atrium with its view to the top and suspended tree (now trimmed) added another dimension (though it felt a bit borrowed from a national hotel chain). Riding up and town the elevators gave a real sense of grandeur to Solstice.
Celebrity put a lot of attention when into the ship's lounges. Cellar Master's is a gem. On two different nights I sat in a comfortable chair listening to a string quarter (I love string music) and just sipped in the ambiance. It is an amazing place to simply rest at the end of the day. Ensemble Lounge (located en route to the specialty restaurants) is well appointed, and if you walk to fast, you will miss the entrance to the L shaped Michael's Club. The piano has been moved to the base of the L which makes Michel's more functional. I also visited Cafe al Bacio almost daily—I love cookies.
The Dining Rooms are well designed. The Grand Epernay is grand, but not my taste. The Specialty restaurants were small, intimate and very inviting. The Tuscan Grille really grabbed my attention. I was traveling solo and thus did not dine at any of the specialties, I sure will when I return to Solstice Class ships with friends.
The pools look wonderful, but are cold. No problem with chair hogs. You can always find a comfortable place to plant yourself. I loved chilling in the air conditioned Solarium, but missed the T-Pool which I had become addicted to in my two Millennium cruises. The Solstice Theatre is a work of art and the Entertainment Court became the center of much enjoyed music. Celebrity Central needs to be used more—it is a very useful entertainment venue. I did enjoy a comedian at a late show, but is too nice a space for watch seminars.
The Lawn Club at this point is over hyped. The grass is very fragile and very thin, built on a several inches of sand. As a result, the putting green and croquet do not respond as we expect grass to respond. If the Lawn Club is going to remain viable, it must be heartier and Celebrity must find more uses for it. The Hot Glass show at the edge of the Lawn Club was popular and a fun way to spend two hours.
I liked the Relaxation Room concept in the Aqua Spa and liked even more that I was not hassled about product after my massages (or maybe they know that a sixty six year old man is not going buy the stuff). I did appreciate that the Casino was non-smoking and thus contributed more to Celebrity than I had planned.
Another bank of elevators would have been nice, but then again, walking is nice also.
The food in the Grand Epernay was overall good to very good, but not great. There was no wow factor and plenty of bland seasonings. The soups were great, however. The Oceanview Cafe was certainly on upgrade from Millennium. The choices were many and the flow is well organized. The Bistro on Five was disappointing. I love crepes and the Italian dessert crepe I ate on the first night was stale and overcooked. I did not return. I can't comment on the Specialty restaurants, but comments I heard were nothing but totally positive.
My initial table assignment was a single (one place setting). After protesting I was moved on the second night to a table for six where there was one other couple who has also requested a table for six. Finally, on the fourth day, another couple who been placed at a table where no one else spoke English arrived at our table.
The new emphasis on shows, particularly the Solstice and Pulse shows worked for me—fast with paced, with lots of movement. Comedian Dave Burleigh did great impressions. I am a space nut so I partook in a lecture series by astronomy and space by Apollo veteran, Dr. Ralph Pass.
I love Celebrity's commitment to live music from the Celebrity orchestra, to the Inspiration Strings, a Steel Pan artist, Guitarist Jefferson Ang and to a Jazz Trio. The cruise experience is enhanced for me by hearing live music more often than not as I move about the ship.
My room, an aft Sunset Veranda was nice, had the necessities (a bed and a bathroom). The angles in the room break up the box like effect. The storage space is limited and the room does not feel bigger than the Millennium aft cabin I had for my Alaska cruise. The aft baloneys on M Class ships are special, not so on Solstice. Service:
Service was excellent. My room attendant was the best I have had. She seemed to have my schedule down and was often there to open doors for me. My waiter was also very good. Beyond that I appreciated the smiles from all staff, the many hellos and the attendant in my corridor who was always singing when I walked past here.
Itinerary: This is not an itinerary I would have chosen to sail absent The Solstice. Three sea days is too much for a Caribbean cruise and San Juan is deju vu all over again for me.
I ran into the brothers Weir one afternoon and asked if all five Solstice Ships would be sailing the Caribbean in the winter and Europe in the summer. No, was the answer. The Solstice Ships would be going worldwide and Celebrity was thinking about making Singapore the home port for one of the ships. Good news, at least for me.