Celebrity Solstice March 1st, 2009
Just back from a cruise on Celebrity's newest ship, the Solstice. Had a great time as always. You know the old saying, "A bad cruise is better than a good day at work". This cruise wasn't bad, but in our view, overall not great either. We have only this cruise to judge the entire Celebrity line, so of course, we know that we could be dead wrong on some of our disappointments. In fact we have many with this cruise. This was our 22nd cruise, 1 Celebrity, 14 Royal Caribbean, 2 Princess, and 5 Carnival. Instead of a day by day review that I'm used to writing, I'll compare like and dislikes to our favorite cruiseline, Royal Caribbean.
We found that Celebrity does do a lot of things right, so that's where I'll start. The things we liked: Celebrity's check in, as is RCL's, is extremely easy. We arrived at Port Everglades about 10:50 and were quickly escorted to Celebrity's Elite section that boards first. After a short wait, we boarded at 11:40 and were greeted with a glass of champagne. Way to start a vacation!
The Oceanview Cafe is great. Better food and selection than RCL by quite a margin and free hard ice cream. My wife loved the Asian food while I opted for the meat carver or even pizza (not bad) on some days. We didn't miss trays as the Voyager and Freedom class (as well as others) don't have them either. The food stations are easy to get to with little or no waiting in lines. I believe the plates are slightly smaller than on RCL, but certainly can handle most appetites. We didn't have a problem making a separate trip for drinks and desert. Also loved the aft eating area outside like the Radiance class has. Really nice to eat there.
The cabin is very nice. We had cabin 6165, a class 2C obstructed veranda (veranda size 8 x 7.5) that we were assigned when we upgraded to a veranda guarantee at a great discount. Not really much obstruction in ours as the top of the lifeboat beside was slightly below the balcony floor.
The bathroom is a little larger than RCL and the shower has more room too. My wife enjoyed the shaving bar.
The 32 in flat TV is the best I've seen on a cruiseship. Pulls out from the wall and tilts any way you want. Interactive with many free and pay movies and a great picture. Includes videos of the ships design and building which were very interesting. Book excursions, room service, alternative restaurants, or even room service. Easy to find out how much money you've spent too! I have an MP3 player that charges using the USB port in a computer. This TV had a USB port in the side that I used for this purpose. Lots of other inputs and outputs, but I don't think you can actually hook anything up to them and get to work.
The safe is larger than any other I've seen. Makes securing your larger items a little easier.
Solstice had a great band named "Top Secret". Had two very strong singers and played almost every day, sometimes at the pool, but usually in Sky. Also, A Cappella "Oceans Four" were very good.
Sky on deck 14 is RCL's equivalent to the Crown and Anchor Lounge. A very large area that is not chopped up into different sections as on RCL. Lots of great views from there in the daytime.
On formal nights, most stay formally dressed throughout the evening.
Entertainment: Most of the entertainment on the ship was excellent. The three main production shows were excellent, especially "Solstice". Others have said it's a rip off from Cirque DeSoleil, but I just don't see that. I doubt the owners of Cirque DeSoleil do either or Royal Caribbean would not be able to produce it on the Solstice. Was told at the backstage tour that the show "Solstice" was the first of it's kind on a cruise ship. Not true. Royal Caribbean has had "In The Air" for at least 2 years now. An aerial show that I didn't think was as good as Solstice, but is still excellent.
Deck lounges have nice thick pads and on the top deck, there are many more lounges in the shade than on other ships we've sailed.
Towels, towels, and more towels. You could get all you wanted out at the pool. No exchanging as on RCL.
Cool towels when boarding at a port were available.
Corning's Hot Glass show was very interesting to watch. On the newer Solstice class ships they said that they expect to have a little more room and more comfortable seating. Upgrades to seating possibly coming for Solstice too.
Almost no announcements!!! Bravo!!!! If I want to play bingo I don't need to be told when it is.
Great service with auto tipping. Always someone to take your order or answer a question.
Now the things we didn't like:
The first day, the hawking of drinks by the pool was just unbelievable. You couldn't look up without someone trying to get your order for a drink. In Sky at night, it was the same. We chose not to have a drink one night and were bothered constantly. If you elect not to have a drink on RCL and Carnival, the waiter will place a napkin on the table in front of you indicating you have been asked or are being waited on. Didn't happen here.
Muster drill was ridiculous. We didn't get to sit in a nice lounge and watch the movie. We were crammed into the photo area where we were expected to somehow watch one of the monitors around the room. Too many people crowded shoulder to shoulder and no room to breathe. No monitors were viewable from our location. Only took 15 minutes, but seemed a lot longer.
For a ship this size, I thought the stairways were too narrow. Can't handle the crowds such as after muster drill.
For a ship this size, the theater should have been designed larger.
The Celebrity Central Theater is a good idea for small groups, but it's design is terrible. Fits only about 200 people and the seats have NO room between them. Airline seats are more comfortable and have much more leg room.
Elite and Diamond membership not comparable. RCL has it's own Diamond lounge on Freedom Class ships and usually Cloud Nine on Voyager Class. Free cocktail hour for one hour every day before dinner. Not even a balcony discount with Elite.
Lawn Club? Who's idea was that? Looks nice, but is of such little value to most of the cruisers on the ship, why? So much space wasted that could have been used for more lounge chairs. Sorely needed on the busiest times of sea days.
Pools and hot tubs are only open 7:30 AM to 8:00 PM every day. WHY? There are also only 6 hot tubs on the ship and they are tiny. Towels: Great to have all the towels you want at the pool as I indicated in my positive section, but this invites chair hogs to do their thing. Saw one couple near us have one pair in the sun and one pair in the shade right across. So many others do it that available lounges at the busy times on sea days are not to be had.
Entertainment Court: Great idea, but very poor design. When something is going on there and a large crowd congregates, there is no way you can walk past without going up a floor and back down.
Little entertainment after the main show on many evenings. We had first seating with the main shows usually at or around 9pm. After that there is almost nothing. Going up to Sky to see the band is ok a couple times, but after the same songs over and over, that gets tired. We would have liked to see the comedian. He had several shows, but except for the last night, none we before 11:45, many after midnight. The Love and Marriage (Not so Newlywed) show shown in the main theater around 10:30 on other ships was held in the too small Celebrity Central. Karaoke was held a couple nights in Sky, but was poorly attended and the host was almost begging for people to participate.
Then there was the show where the best part was the end. David Meyer, with his fancy xylophone contraption should play something else and learn how to tell jokes. The backup band made him sound much better than I think he was.
Labadee: In the process of being ruined by Royal Caribbean. Remember 2 or 3 years ago before Royal Caribbean decided to mess with this perfectly fine beach day place. The new pier is being constructed on what was one of the nicest beaches there, Hideaway Beach. Many new buildings springing up as well as the pier which will accommodate 2 ships. Think it's crowded with one? Just wait till October when it's supposed to be finished. The barbecue lunch was extremely crowded because one of the areas near the new pier was not open.
Food: We ate in the main dining room every night. We would say that the presentation and amount of selections is somewhat better than on RCL (equal to Princess), the quality is not much if any better. Nice to see a different menu in front of you, but the food seems to be basically all the same, just called something else.
After being on the ship for a week, we found that the ship was definitely beautiful, but some designs were poor. Seems to be too much crammed into it for the size. The dining room did not "wow" us after a week. In fact it was dull.
Opinions are of mine and wife's only. You may of course agree or disagree of our opinions of the ship.
We don't expect to stray from Royal Caribbean in the foreseeable future. Their ships just have too much more to offer than from what we've seen on the Solstice. Especially being diamond members.