I booked this cruise well in advance as part of a GLBT group to be part of the solstice inaugural. When the date changed and the ship was delivered early the group coordinator decided to leave the group as-is. I decided to stay with the group and am glad to have done so! I shared my cabin with a good friend from SanFran - this was the 3rd time we had shared a cabin together.
Let me start by saying that out of 20+ cruises I personally found the Solstice to be the most stunning, lovely and comfortable ship I have ever set foot on. At every turn she delighted visually. The finishes and fabrics were of an overall high quality, were well selected to create an appropriate mood and ambiance and never jarred my senses. All the seating in public spaces was comfortable. Public rooms flowed well and were laid out in a fashion that was logical and intuitive. I never found myself feeling lost or turned around in any fashion, which has not always been the case on other ships I have sailed.
Overall I like the new cabin layout. Some things could be improved. Short sofas and larger nightstands for example. Regardless of which configuration you get access to the closet is difficult, even for very petite persons. I loved the layout of the bathroom, storage space was amazing in there too. My only concern is that the shower doors really should be textured or frosted. Clear shower doors are fine for some couples traveling together, but in many cases they make it inappropriate for many people to have dual-use of the bathroom unless they want to watch their travel companion cleaning all their private parts. This means it will take 2 people sharing a longer time to get ready for dinner, going ashore, etc. The interactive tv system is brilliant and the selection of free on-demand movies and music were exceptional!!!
I was in a "hump" balcony concierge class room (#1243) that was the furthest out on the trailing edge of the hump. the balcony was about 2.5 times the depth of a standard balcony and I LOVED it! No matter the weather we could enjoy our time out there and it was also an excellent spot to host pre-cocktail-hour cocktail-hour ;) This particular balcony are rectangular and have a triangulated edge that faces aft. It was never windy, got enough sun to be enjoyable and offered enough shade to be useable.
The concierge class perks were nice little touches that made our cabin a nice haven to relax in. Flowers were replaced when appropriate (about 3 times during the week). The towels were large and fluffy, the evening canapes were a nice touch and varied daily. We did not use the umbrella as our Caribbean itinerary. We did enjoy having the binoculars available as well. I do think the shower heads for CC need to be hand held like in aqua class, but that is a minor quibble. For the small price difference over the standard balconies I felt it to be worth the money spent (about $75pp over a 1A).
Dining throughout the ship was of a high standard. Does this mean gourmet - no - but considering they are mass catering for 2800+ passengers I felt that the product delivered was of a consistently high quality. Buffet foods were well presented, fresh and had many made to order options. The food court layout was difficult for many passengers to get used to the first day or two, but once folks realized you can just jump in and out and not wait in line for many items it flowed better. The Main Dining room food was creatively presented and prepared and seasoned nicely. Again, not gourmet but definitely high quality. I had several entrees that I found exceptional - 5 months later I still have memories of the delicious Quail stuffed w/ sweetbreads and a truffle oil reduction I had one night for dinner - SUPERB! I was disappointed that they have discontinued serving sorbets before the entrees on formal nights. That has always been one thing that really set the Celebrity Dining experience apart for me. Desserts have always been a weak spot for me on cruise ships and I found those on the Solstice to be par for the course.
Specialty dining on the Solstice comes in many guises and all are wonderful experiences in themselves. We ate at Tuscan Grille, Muranos and the Bistro on five (aka - Bistro for $5). Tuscan Grille was a nice change of pace and the food was well prepared and presented. Murano was exceptional both in service and presentation. Food was of an extremely high quality and the preparations were unique and well thought out. The mushroom soup cappuccino was unique - hot frothy mushroom soup with a scoop of mushroom gelato on the side - yes mushroom gelato! - tasty on its own, but stipped into the soup enhanced the soups flavor and turned it from exceptional into sublime! The maitre'd on our sailing was from Macedonia and he made our dining experience in Murano exceptional - especially his informative, yet humorous cheese presentation. Never have I had such a cheese course as that! Bistro on five offered a nice casual dining alternative and the controversial $5 service fee was well worth it! the crepe selection was imaginative and well thought out, sandwiches, salads and soups were all quite tasty as well! Several times there were waits of 20-30 minutes for tables so obviously the service fee was not a deterrent to many passengers, and I feel that Celebrity has done the right thing by instituting it as had they not it would have been a mob scene!
Entertainment is so highly subjective, but for my tastes the Solstice delivered a high quality program of production shows, lunge performers, lecturers, etc. Never once did i have to "search" for a venue to enjoy live music or dancing. The casino has a large # of video slots, which I prefer, and many .001, .002 and .005 machines. I gamble as part of my entertainment. I have no pretenses of winning or making money at it. Just something to divert for a few minutes each evening or on a rainy sea day.
For non-smokers the highly restrictive smoking policy is quite literally a breath of fresh air and I applaud Celebrity for this move. I do wonder though how much it is impacting bar revenues - especially in the disco and casino.
The main pool is visually beautiful, but even the slightest ocean swell causes it to slosh all over the deck like crazy. entry/exit points are not in the most practical locations and loungers are crammed tightly together. There was never a problem to find a lounger and many options existed for either sun or shade. the solarium pool was lovely, but horribly underused. Had there been a Thalassotherapy pool like on the Millenium-Class, or a retractable roof like on the RCCL Radiance/Vision Class I think it would have been more popular. On cooler weather itineraries I am sure it will be much appreciated. The Thalasstherapy pool was sorely missed by this cruiser!
Staff throughout could not have been friendlier or more accommodating. They were always on hand to supply whatever I needed but were never overly pushy. For being a 2800+ passenger ship I was surprised at how many staff members to pains to learn passenger names and greet them by name at every opportunity - this shows good training on Celebrities part and a staff that is happy to be there!
Overall, for a relatively new ship there was little in the way of glitches and nothing that caused me reason to complain. Solstice really is a game changer for Celebrity - it takes many of the excellent features for which they have long been know and brings it up a notch. This ship, and her siblings, will particularly shine on longer cruises. 7 days is not really enough to enjoy everything that she has to offer!