We're a married couple in our 40's. This was an Atlantis Events Charter cruise. We love to travel but have only been on 2 other cruises (both Atlantis Events Charters and on RCI). This was our first cruise on Celebrity.
We flew in two days before our Sunday sailing and rented a car through Dollar. At the counter the woman told us that we could return the car to the center nearest the port and that we could also get a shuttle to the port.
We stayed at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood. We originally had reservations for the Westin Beach Resort in Ft. Lauderdale which was just opening however due to unfinished construction they offered to put us up at the Diplomat instead. They did offer us a one night free stay at the Westin in Ft. Lauderdale when it opened.
The Westin Diplomat was a beautiful hotel and not too far from the port. We had one of the few rooms in the hotel without a balcony which is located right next to the elevators. Unfortunately, in the middle of the night you could hear the movement of the elevators. Since we were only staying another night we didn't complain to the staff about it. In the future, if we stayed here, we would ask for a different room. Even though we rented a car, we ate dinner both nights at the hotel. The first night we ate at a Bar/Grill type of restaurant affiliated with the hotel across the street. There is a walkway above the road so you didn't have to deal with traffic. The second night we ate at the Asian restaurant in the hotel and had a wonderful meal. For a Saturday night it wasn't very busy. My biggest disappointment with the hotel was the gym facilities. There were some machines and dumbbells but the area was not that big. With a few people using the space it got very crowded and there's nearly no where to do a basic workout with the dumbbells.
On Sunday morning we checked out of the hotel at 11:45 and went to the port to drop off our luggage. We just had to show ID at the gate to get to the ship. After dropping off the luggage we went to a nearby Walgreens to get some water and odds and ends. The rental return place was incredibly close to the port. I would definitely rent with Dollar again. The shuttle stopped at the Princess ship before dropping us off at the Solstice.
When we entered the terminal it looked like many people were sitting down waiting to get on the ship. Since we were in Concierge Class we got to a line that was practically empty. After checking in there was someone asking if we wanted to book any of the specialty restaurants for that night. After we got our passes and took our first picture we went immediately on the ship, or at least we thought we were. There were several long lines all converging into one to board the ship so we had to stand and wait which didn't seem too long. We were on the ship in about 20 minutes with a glass of sparkling wine.
We went to our room to drop off the carry ons, put our stuff in the safe and headed up to the Oceanview, then to explore the ship. I was so excited to be on this ship that I really didn't want to sit and eat. We sat at one of the tables at the back of the ship. Unfortunately, the table was a very low, more like a cocktail table (not all of them were low, but it was the only one open on the back) so eating was a bit difficult. It was the price to pay for eating outside with a crowded Oceanview.
After lunch we headed out to see the ship. I must admit that I saw places that first day that I never got around to visiting the entire week (like the photo gallery but more on that later).
First of all, we loved the look and feel of the ship. We checked out the lawn, which again, was probably the only time we went up there. It was very quiet and looked to be a spot if you wanted peace and quiet. On the other hand, the pool area was quiet busy and everyone was hanging out and getting ready for a fabulous week.
The muster was held at 4:30 and was a bit of a bother. Our rooms had to go to Muranos which ended up being very crowded. It was probably hard for some of the people in the room to see the video. The stairways were very crowded as people descended and did not appear to be all that orderly.
Our sail off was delayed because of the entertainer that Atlantis brought onboard for the first night. We didn't sail out until the performer and her band were off the ship which occurred about 10:30 PM but that didn't stop us from enjoying the first night even if we were still docked.
Our first stop was at the Martini Bar, which was the busiest place on the ship the whole week. The bartenders were great however service was slow because they really do put on a show every time they make a drink. Its fun to watch and the drinks were delicious. I got the Martini flight which left me slightly buzzed.
Dinner this night and the remaining nights were pretty much the same. The food was good to excellent but nothing really stood out. The food we had on RCI was similar however; I thought the desserts on RCI were better. Dinner, like all Atlantis Charters were all open, there is no assigned seating time and I think that might have thrown off some of the people in the dining room since they couldn't quite grasp the concept of "joining" other groups. Luckily the tables we sat at were always entertaining and the people we met were great. In fact a couple we met towards the end of the cruise ended up becoming great friends.
Shows: We didn't really get to see many of the typical cruise shows that Celebrity puts on. We did see the last night show which was a revue of Broadway songs. It was ok, typical cruise fare, although they did use a live orchestra but it had a lot of American Idol type singers (belters who could sing really well but lacked any acting talent)
Our favorite place to hang out during the day was at the Solarium. I had read on CC that it was cold there but we never had a problem with the temp of the air. The temp of the water in the hot tubs was another thing. It was never hot but we still enjoyed it. The solarium was also the place where the Aqua Spa Cafe was located. I never ate here as the food never seemed that appetizing. My husband ate here once because he liked the smaller portions and healthy choices. The seating area is small here too.
We ate most of our lunches at the Oceanview Cafe. Most of the food was the same from day to day however; they did change up some of the specialty food like the Asian area. They had some delicious Spring rolls and shrimp in this area. Breakfast was also pretty similar everyday. Lots of choices and the food was very good.
Our stops were Labadee, Dominican Republic and Curacao. Labadee was nice, I like the open air market (many people don't because of the aggressive sellers) however, if you keep walking on it is not a problem. The food at lunch was typical labadee fare, however, the ribs were actually quite delicious and I could have eaten them all week.
We took the shuttle bus (that cost $7.00 r/t) when we got off in Dominican Republic. It took you to an area with some shops and plant life. We didn't find it all that interesting and heard that many of the shops at the second stop were closed (we didn't get off the bus and headed back to the ship).
Curacao was lovely. I booked the SCUBA excursion online and was not disappointed. It was a shore dive which I thought would be lousy but the sea life and plant life were amazing. It was one of the best dives I have been on, two dives, 60 and 40 ft. It did rain while we were docked in Curacao so we didn't get to walk around the area and shop. Curacao did provide fireworks for us as we left that evening. It was splendid.
Our last two days at sea were somewhat relaxing and busy at the same time. We took in all the parties that Atlantis offered yet still found time to relax and enjoy the pool and casino during the day. We also had Chita Rivera performing on the ship. She performed many of the numbers from her Broadway career.
Disembarking the ship was very quick. We were off the ship by 8:30. We were renting a car for the day because our flight out was at 3 and the rent a car companies at the airport offered a shuttle at the port however, we didn't wait for the shuttle and just took a cab. It was only about $20 and we were there in 15 minutes. There were plenty of cabs available too. Our airline didn't allow people to check bags for their flights until 3 hours before the flight time so we had to load the luggage in the back of the car until we returned for our flight. Friends who were also leaving later found that while they wouldn't take the luggage at the counters, if you did the skycaps they were taking the luggage.
All in all we loved the cruise and rebooked for the Atlantis Charter again next year, same time, same ship. We love meeting the people that are aboard the charters since unlike the mainstream cruises, everyone is on the same vacation.
Of the three cruises we were on, this ship was by far the rockiest. One night the ship was rocking so that we ended up taking a Dramamine before bed just to make sure we didn't get sick. It was also one of the windiest ship decks we've been on. If you were on the decks above the pool deck you were always getting whipped around.