My wife and I are Diamond Crown and Anchor members on Royal Caribbean. We are very happy with Royal Caribbean, but wanted to try something different. When Celebrity introduced the Solstice, I decided to give Celebrity a try.
Let me first talk of the complications I had with the reciprocal loyalty perks I was to receive as an honorary Elite Captain's Club member. When I booked this reservation, I gave them my C&A number and they awarded me a new CC (Captain's Club) number for Celebrity. When my documents arrived, our CC numbers were not in the booklets. I called Celebrity and they told me not to worry and that they had me on record as an Elite member. My X-press Pass, printed off the internet, did indicate I was Elite. At check-in, our Sea-Pass cards were handed to us and they did not say "Elite Member" on them. When I inquired, they told me I had to take it up with Guest Relations on board. Once boarded, I went to Guest Relations. They told me I had to wait until 3:00 to speak with the Loyalty Ambassador. 3:00 rolled around and I did speak with her. She put "Elite Member" stickers on our cards. Then, for the rest of the cruise, we received nothing...no events announcements, phone notifications, nothing. When it came time to disembark, I was given the highest number they had since I drove to the port. Again, I went to Guest Relations, and again, they had to re-issue me new stickers so I would have priority disembarkation.
To be honest, I really don't care about the CC program because the perks are not that good. So why am I complaining about the CC program? I'm just making anyone else in my situation aware of this so they may avoid this problem in the future. By the way, there were several other Diamond members on board that did receive the reciprocal perks with no problem. I may have just been an exception. Oh, and if you are one of those people who are jumping ship from RCI because of a decline in perks.....don't go to Celebrity. What RCI currently offers is still leaps and bounds better.
Boarding time was a little later than I am used to. They began boarding at 12:00. I was told this is the usual time for them.
SHIP - When I stepped on board, I knew I was going to be happy. Solstice is, perhaps, the most beautiful ship I have ever seen. Granted, there was a newness to everything, but this ship was stunning. Solstice is 122,000 GT, 1033 feet long, and carries over 2800 guests. Despite the mega size of this ship, it had a small ship feel. Not once in this entire cruise did I feel crowded. The ship is sectioned in a way to prevent overcrowding in any one area. Also, for me, it was nice to board a ship and have no idea where to find anything. I loved discovering and finding my way around a new layout. There was an area called Entertainment Court. This are was at the entrances to the Solstice Theater, Celebrity Central (Enrichments and Comedy), and Quasar nightclub. The Ensemble Lounge was the hub to Michael's, and the specialty restaurants.
ROOM - We stayed in room 9223, a category 1B veranda. It was located on what could be considered Solstice's "hump." The room was decorated very comfortable. There was a 32" flat panel LCD television that was interactive. The music selection included almost every genre and artist you can think up. The free on-demand included dozens of recent release movies. The veranda was very spacious. I loved the wood deck and tall wooden table. The Solstice veranda furniture was much nicer than anything I have seen on RCI. The bathroom was very spacious and modern. The shower was the largest I have seen in any veranda room category under a suite. My wife loved the built-in foot-rest for leg shaving. Something I also found nice was the absence of balcony lights. This allowed us to keep our shades open at night without neighbors forgetting to turn their lights off. My only gripe was a lack of storage space. There are not enough drawers. Oh, and one more thing....about 1/3 of the glass on the veranda was covered by a portion of the large "X" on the side of the ship. It was not bad, but I do not recommend booking a cabin where the entire glass is covered, as you can barely see through it (the rooms next to me...9225, 9227, 9229...were completely covered).
LAWN CLUB - When I first saw the Lawn Club, I thought the entire grass area was a waste of space. This opinion changed as the cruise went on. I joined in on playing Bocce and loved it. It was very nice to walk around barefoot on the grass. The Lawn Club is completely separated from the pool area and provided a very relaxing area to sit. Personally, I can't wait to cruise a sister ship and play Bocce again. The Hot Glass show was a nice touch and attracted a crowd every time.
SHOWS - There were three production shows. The first two were very similar to what I'm used to on RCI and were so-so. However, the last show, "Solstice - The Show," which is a Cirque du Soleil style show, was fantastic. This show rivaled, or was even better than some of the ice shows on RCI.
LOUNGES - The Martini Bar is very popular. I loved sitting at the ice bar and enjoying my espresso martinis. In regards to the bar areas, there was not a bad venue on board. Even the Passport Bar down on deck 3 was a nice area to enjoy a drink. Galleria Tastings on deck 5 was an interesting venue. My only bar complaint was the Pool Bar. It is not shaded like on RCI ships. If you want to get out of the sun, you have to go up to the Mast Bar on the next deck.
FOOD - The main dining room food was very good. I found it to be better than RCI. I really liked how the shrimp cocktail, my favorite appetizer, was available every night on the permanent selections menu. There was also a lobster, shrimp, and stone crab appetizer that was fantastic. The service was perfect. I could not have asked for it to be any better. The main dining room was a little strange, in my opinion. I am not a fan of how they designed it. There was too much white and silver. Elsewhere, the Oceanview Cafe also served very good food. My only complaint there was a lack of seating. They really need to add more tables on future sister ships. Also, the Mast Grill was good. It was nice to find burgers, hotdogs, wings, nachos, etc at any time during the day while poolside.
SPECIALTY DINING - I only tried Tuscan Grille. I found it to be right in line with Chops on RCI. The food was absolutely delicious, right down to the chocolate fondue desert.
SOLARIUM - I loved the completely enclosed glass Solarium. They kept it air conditioned so it never got too hot. Unlike RCI, they had a sushi bar in the Solarium that was open around lunch time. Also, the seating was very comfortable. They had round, covered chairs that you could crawl in to and go right to sleep. My only complaint here is a lack of enforcement on the no kids rule. The signs were not very conspicuously posted and no employees enforced the rule. On the second sea day, there were a few teenagers and, most annoyingly, a couple of screaming kids at one of the lunch tables with a family. The screaming is one thing, but this an enclosed Solarium. The sounds echo.
GENERAL GRIPES Outdoor Promenade - I have always enjoyed walking around this part of ships, especially at night. On Solstice, it went around neither the bow, nor the stern. You could not go to the heli-pad like on RCI ships. On the sides, the view is completely obstructed by the lifeboats. There are only two areas, about 100 feet long, that you can look out to the water from either side of the ship.
Shops - They wanted $40 for souvenir Solstice t-shirts. I own silk t-shirts that cost less than that.
Drinks - They ran out of Captain Morgan three days prior to the end of the cruise. This just makes no sense to me.
People - For the most part, this crowd was very well behaved. Unfortunately, there was a medical emergency that re-routed us to San Juan when en-route to Labadee. The nature of the emergency prevented an air-lift, so we were delayed several hours by this alter in course while we went to meet up with a USCG vessel. When it was announced that we were going to miss Labadee, I was appalled at some of the things I heard people say. It amazes me that so many people can be so heartless. Now, I was also disappointed, but not to the point of cursing the person who was hurt like some of these people were. As luck would have it, I also had rowdy neighbors that partied in their room until 3 am. (by the way, that is not a Solstice gripe.....just mentioning how stupid people are everywhere.)
GENERAL KUDOS Pier Service - I loved how they set up palm trees and a sitting area on the pier at the gangway in every port. When returning to the ship, they served cold towels and ice water to everyone. If Celebrity does this on every ship, I am impressed. I thought this was a very nice touch.
Tips - Tips are automatically added daily to your account at a rate of $11.50 per person. You do have the option of removing this charge if you like, or even adding to it. For me, I found it convenient. On RCI, I always felt dumb handing over a tip envelope with a voucher inside. With this system, service does not decline since you can still add to it, yet tips are not something you have to concern yourself with.
Announcements - The only announcements were the necessary ones. There were no bingo, etc announcements, and the announcements that were made were only in English...not extended for several minutes to cover all languages.
Enrichment - This is the first I have attended these. To be honest, I don't even know if RCI offers them.....never seen them before. I found them to be a very nice, and an educational break from the norm
CONCLUSION - Over all, I found the Solstice to be excellent. My gripes are very, very minor in the grand scheme of things. If this is the way Celebrity does business, I foresee many more Celebrity cruises in the future.