My wife and I just returned from this sailing of the Solstice. We are in our mid thirties and as you can see from my signature we have sailed with several different cruise lines. We have always wanted to sail with Celebrity and decided this was the perfect opportunity. From the moment we started hearing about the Solstice, we wanted to sail on her. Here are my thoughts on this cruise and ship.
Embarkation: Embarkation was quick and easy. There are numerous check in lines and also several different stations for the traditional welcome aboard photo as well as the security photo which is linked to your seapass card. I believe that this was the main reason for the extremely quick embarkation process. I think this is worth mentioning though..........traffic getting into the actual terminal was pretty bad. There was nobody directing traffic and several lanes coming from different directions were all trying to enter the terminal at the same time. This is not Celebrity's issue, but just a heads up for anybody that arrives at the peak arrival time.
Ship: The ship is amazing. Everywhere you look you are amazed at how different this ship is from any other ship I have sailed on. One of my favorite features on the ship was the design of the three centrums. There was the main centrum which contained several bars, the restaurant court aft which held all of the specialty restaurants all in one place and the entertainment court forward which contained all of the entertainment venues on the ship(Theater, Disco, Comedy Club). This was an excellent design idea which kept you from having to run from one end of the ship to the other to catch all of the activities.
Stateroom: We sailed in cabin 8323, a category 2a on deck 8. It was beautiful and very spacious. This cabin definitely had the biggest bathroom we have had in a standard balcony cabin. The shower was large and the wife loved the bar installed for leg shaving. I loved the fact that I wasn't constantly banging into the walls of the shower making it sound like there was a wrestling match going on inside. Our stateroom stewards were Dennis and Augusto......they were outstanding and very funny. We had a great time talking and joking with them every day. We bought them a box of guava pastries while in San Juan and gave it to them.........I think that made their week......they couldn't stop talking about how delicious they were. This is one thing we always love to do while cruising........take the time to get to know these incredibly hard working people on board these ships, they have very interesting stories to tell and you may make a new friend for life.
Dining: We had second seating in the GE dining room at table 209. Our waiter and assistant waiter was Raul and Marvin.......they are fantastic and highly recommended. They made excellent recommendations throughout the week and were also very up front in telling us what not to order........which really impressed me. The service and food was fabulous, everything that my wife and I ordered was cooked to perfection, tasty and served in a very timely fashion. After finishing dinner the first night, we struck up a conversation with Marvin and Raul........after that it was liking being with friends at dinner for the next six nights. We also ate in the Silk Harvest and Bistro on Five. We found both venues to have excellent service and food......well worth the cover charge. Probably our favorite place to eat on the ship is on the aft open terrace of the Oceanview Cafe. Breakfast here every morning was just to die for between the food and the atmosphere. The waffles...........WOW......they definitely lived up to the hype. I had them every morning. Another great thing about breakfast in the Oceanview is that all of the food is hot off the grill. The pancakes are cooked right in front of you instead of sitting under a heat lamp for God knows how long. Don't wait until the end of the cruise to have breakfast al fresco on the aft terrace..........try it once and you will be back every morning.
Entertainment: We loved the entertainment on this ship. It was definitely a nice change of pace from the very active cruises that we are used to. We loved all three production shows and consider them some of the best we have seen on cruises. The comedian is great and definitely don't miss out on hearing Jefferson the guitar player or the acapella group, Oceans Four. The pool area was extremely relaxing on this ship. Yes we love all of the action seen on RCCL's ships, but I must say that this was a nice change of pace..........just total peace and relaxation.
Other notes: The Lawn idea is really neat and very nice, but I must agree with the many others that have said it...........I don't think it will last long. There were several areas that were worn all the way to the dirt. I felt that the ship was very steady. The first night out the seas were a little rough and I thought the ship handled it very well. I never heard any of the constant creeks and moans of the ship that others have mentioned. Our cabin configuration had the bed next to the balcony. I don't feel that the closets are small as others have mentioned, but in this configuration I think that they are just poorly placed which makes them seem small. The couch is so large that it makes access to the entire right side of the closet nearly impossible. Overall we didn't have a problem with this, but I can see why some people have issue with it. Another topic mentioned on these boards was the extreme sewer smell. Yes I did smell it, but very rarely.......not anything that would ruin your cruise.
Ports: My wife is from Puerto Rico so we spent a nice day with family there. In St. Maarten we took a cab to Orient Beach. We spent the day at Kon Tiki..........I highly recommend this spot. We have been there several times and the service is great and the staff is extremely friendly. This whole day cost a total of $39.00 without our bar bill. We originally had the Fan Ta Sea Catamaran tour to Nevis booked for St Kitts, but upon boarding we were notified that the excursion would not be making it's planned stop in Nevis. We decided to cancel and just spent the day browsing the shops then hitting the pool.
Final thoughts: After this experience, we love Celebrity and will definitely sail with them again. We found that the service and quality of food was definitely a step up from the other lines we have sailed on. I know a lot of people are not happy about the Solstice because of some of the things they are used to receiving from Celebrity are not on this ship, but for us being our first time with Celebrity we don't know any better. All of the employees we encountered seemed very happy and were always smiling and willing to chat. They were also very willing to go out of their way to make sure you were happy.
The week before we left for this cruise several posters were saying that they were going to cancel their sailing on this ship............my advice is don't. If you are one of the lucky ones that have this ship booked.........start counting the days until embarkation......you will love every minute of it!!!!!!!!!!!