CELEBRITY SOLSTICE SAILING March 15, 2009
This was our first cruise so we really didn't know what to expect.
The following is our experience on March 15th, 7 day cruise out of Fort Lauderdale on the new ship The Celebrity Solstice. Our comments are meant for people in their 50's+
Our stateroom was #9237 (9th floor, midship) just about 20 steps off of the elevators making it very convenient to get around to anywhere on the ship. No long walks to the elevators. BTW, all of the elevators are in their own lobby so you don't hear any noise whatsoever in your stateroom. Also make sure your stateroom is not right above or looks out onto the life boats. Decks 9 and 10 are clear of them and provide great views. Midships of course is best for the ride should the seas become a little choppy.
BOARDING We boarded around noon and it was very fast. Approximately 15 minutes with no delays at all. Celebrity has gotten this process down to a science. You will also receive your "Ship Pass" here. This is the card you will use for everything: getting on and off the ship and charging everything to.
"First things first" Once aboard we went to the Main Dining Room to check our seating assignment. This is definitely advised to make sure you are pleased with where you will be seated for the "remainder of the cruise". This is the only time you can change this seating location, so definitely make this visit before doing anything. There is a concierge in the Main Dining Room who will make those changes for you if you're not happy with your seat assignments.
Just FYI, The 4th level of the Main Dining Room is clearly preferable to the 3rd level. The 3rd level does not provide the open, airy feeling of the 4th level. Seatings are at 6:30 and 8:30 PM.
Go to your stateroom Your stateroom and luggage-in-room should be ready NLT 2:00 PM. When we first entered the stateroom we thought it would not work or be able to accommodate all of the luggage we brought. Not True. The stateroom is well thought out and engineered...it makes use of every nook and cranny. It worked well for the both of us for the entire week. My wife particularly appreciated the bathroom! No shower curtains in the shower, rather curved glass doors....Nice!
PACKING CLOTHES We over packed because, being 1st cruisers, we thought there was a need for different outfits on the 2 formal nights as well as the other nights in the Main Dining Room.
Dress Code On formal nights it should be noted that everyone does dress up so be aware, otherwise you will be the odd man out.
For Women You do not need an outfit for every night. My wife says go to Chico's and get travel pants (they do not wrinkle) and dress them up with tops and jackets. They offer dressy and well as smart casual selections. Enough Said.
Do not pack cotton balls or Q-tips. The ones supplied by Celebrity are unbelievable. Better than you buy in the stores
There is a vanity with a mirror for doing your hair right next to the veranda door. Well thought out. Men On Formal nights. no need for a tuxedo. A nice dark suit or smart Sport Jacket /slacks with tie will do nicely. On the 2 formal nights, the vast majority of the people DO NOT WEAR tuxedos. Actually the men in tuxedos start looking like the "father of the bride" if you get the drift here.
EATING BREAKFAST: You have many choices: · Order Room Service (at no cost) - Very Convenient · Main Dining Room for "sit down" service - Very Nice! 7-9AM Hint: You have to "Request" berries as they do not have them on the menu, and they are delicious! · Oceanview Cafe (Large eating area with a tremendous array of food stations)
Comments: We found that ordering "Room Service" (you can order via the TV up until midnight the night before) for breakfast early in the morning (7-7:30AM) was a blessing. We ate a small continental (coffee/juice/croissant) on the veranda every morning and avoided the crowds. If we felt like it later, we would then go to the Main Dining Room (open from 7AM - 9 AM for whatever we felt like.
If you would like to eat later than 9 AM, then you have the Oceanview Cafe available. But around 9AM - 11 AM it gets extremely crowded and getting a seat together becomes a problem especially if you are traveling with another couple.
LUNCH As with all meals, the normal times to eat make the Oceanview Cafe (Deck 14) very crowded and hard to get a seat, SO the options are....Room Service or the Main Dining Room (when at Sea). You'll get the feel of this after about 2 days at sea. DINNER The food in the Main Dining Room is OK - Good, but nothing special. We found that they "consistently" prepared the fish dishes too well done, leaving the fish extremely dry. If you want more food however, simply ask for it and they will bring it. On the other hand, the specialty restaurants are exceptional and you are never ever rushed as you might be in the Main Dining Room.
We did eat at the Tuscan Grill and the Murano.
The Tuscan Grill - Italian. Located on Deck 5 at the stern of the ship with ceiling to floor glass walls with an incredible view of the wake being left by this vessel and the sunset...Truly an inspirational experience! Heading south towards the islands, we made our reservations at 6:30PM. This left us with more than enough time to complete dinner and then enjoy the sunset over the ocean 7:30 - 7:45PM. Simply Outstanding! The filet was exceptional as was the entire dinner. Service level was the same. Well worth the $25 per person, when compared to the Main Dining Room... for a change of pace if you are so inclined.
Murano - French Located on Deck 5, just before The Tuscan Grill, this is an extraordinary restaurant. Extraordinary! This restaurant charges $30 per person but you would have to go far to experience the menu selection, food quality, presentation and level of service they deliver. If he's still there ask for Jose as your server. He was exceptional as well and you will never forget the experience he provides. In my opinion this could easily be a 4-5 star restaurant in any large metropolitan city. The entire experience was thoroughly enjoyable! We highly recommend both restaurants.
ENTERTAINMENT Music - Deck 5 There are 2 locations that can provide a very relaxed and entertaining atmosphere after dinner. Michaels Club and the Ensemble Lounge. Fine musicians all.
Shows - Deck 4 The shows in the Solstice Theatre are truly professional and thoroughly enjoyable. If Rob Magnotti (comedian) is still appearing do not miss him. Previously appeared on the David Letterman show and SNL. We laughed for 45 minutes. CASINO The casino is nicely decorated, however there is a noticeable lack of game tables (roulette and blackjack) while there are far more unattended slot machines. Celebrity should rearrange and adjust accordingly.
PORTS OF CALL If there was a weakness with this cruise, in my opinion it was the Ports of Call. If you look at the itinerary, you'll notice that there are really only 2 locations that provide a fairly fully day off the ship. St. Maarten and Labidi, Haiti...no earthshaking destinations and quite a few people actually stayed on board and enjoyed the ship. The other locations only provided hours at the destination. Combine that with 2 days at sea...And ...if you've been to the islands before....well, you've seen them all. Same ole, same ole!
SOME OTHER NOTES:
Liquor for sale on the ship In the ship's liquor store you can actually purchase liquor cheaper than on the islands. We purchased 2, 1 liter bottles of Absolut Vodka for $20 or $10 per bottle, comparable to $20+ per bottle on shore. Other bottles of "high end" liquor are also available at these deeply discounted prices. Once purchased, the bottles are boxed and will be sent to your room the night before Disembarkation.
If you're traveling with another couple and they're conveniently next door, you can have your stateroom attendant open the veranda divider and you can share both verandas for drinks, snacks, etc. A very nice feature.
I also recommend tipping the stateroom attendants as soon as you meet them on the first day. This sets the tone for the entire voyage and your service will be beyond reproach! Our attendants were incredible, no matter the request or time, they were there for us.
CLOSING This being our first cruise we were more interested in the ship and not the ports of call. The ship is 1st Class! Period! We spoke with many people who had been on many cruises and other ships and cruise lines and they all said this vessel was outstanding as well as the crew services.
Our takeaway is...for the price point and class of ship, you can't beat Celebrity. We will cruise again on Celebrity but only on the new class of chips like The Solstice. We are now strongly considering a 10-12 day Mediterranean cruise in 2010 on the next new ship (The Equinox) where the itinerary provides "full days" at ALL of the ports of call it visits (lessons learned) and where we know what the ship will be like.
All in all, a wonderful experience and we hope these comments will be of some help to "first cruisers" like us and others as well if you're about to sail on The Celebrity Solstice.