We just returned from a seven day eastern Caribbean cruise departing on 2/28/10 on the Celebrity Solstice and we had a great time. I would recommend the cruise highly. This was our 9th cruise, past cruises having been 4 on Holland America, 2 on Princess, 1 on NCL, and 1 on the old Renaissance line. In the past, we have chosen cruises mainly on the itinerary, and this time, we chose based on the ship as I had read great reviews of Solstice, we wanted to try Celebrity, and we primarily wanted a warm destination and to rest and be pampered.
The Solstice has a contemporary decor, rather stark for my taste. Holland America has beautiful large flower arrangements throughout the ship which I loved and missed on this cruise as there were none on the Solstice. The art on Solstice is very modern, some of which I would not even characterize as art whereas on Holland America ships, the art is more traditional and more to my liking. So I prefer the decor of Holland America. However, as the week progressed, I loved the amenities of Solstice which made up for the decor for me.
We did not book the cruise until 9 days before departure for a quick qet away, and we booked an inside cabin this time. (We usually get an outside or balcony) I was told that the inside cabins are actually about 10 square feet larger than the outside on Solstice, so I went with the inside. Wished I had taken the balcony, as they looked lovely and I missed having a window. However, the cabin was very nice for an inside cabin. Only complaint was that there was not enough drawer space. The bed was nice, but I think the beds and linens on Holland America were better.
I thought the food on Solstice was a notch above Holland America overall. In my opinion, the ocean view cafe food (a/k/a the lido) was as good or better than the dining room food. We generally like to dress for dinner and go to the dining room, but it seemed slow in the dining room and I felt it took too much time, and a couple of nights, we considered just going to the lido but did not because my husband had to pre-order his special diet food and we hated to not show up. The service in the dining room was definitely not what I expected. Had to ask for them to refill iced tea every night. We had signed up for a table of 8 at late setting for which we were wait listed. Two days before the trip, I called and they said they could give me the late seating. When we arrived, we had early. So I asked to be changed to 8:30, which they did for the next night. However, when we arrived, they took us to a table for 4 in the very back corner, completely out of the loop, with no one else at the table. I hated the location and we missed meeting new people. I went back the next day about changing again, and was told that when I came that night, he would find us a better table, but we just didn't bother. We discovered the Aqua Spa Cafe which served breakfast and lunch at the solarium pool, and we ate there alot and loved it. We ate at the speciality restaurant, Murano. It was a lovely setting, but can't say that I loved the food. I would not eat there again. It was a little too heavy and fancy for me. I did not know what some of the items on the menu were, and many were just not anything I liked. It was $35.00 per person, and to me, not worth it. I would have liked to have eaten at Blue, but we were told you couldn't eat there unless you were in Aqua Class or in a Suite. We did love the ice cream on this ship. All homemade and wonderful. I did not like the iced tea on this ship. It tasted like something from a machine which is what it was, not fresh brewed. My other complaint was that it seemed like we had the same vegetables every day in the lido cafe, lots of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. I think the weak point in the lido was breakfast. Same thing each day and not too exciting. However, overall, I thought the quality of the food on the ship was a notch above Holland America, except for in the dining room, which I would say was no better than Holland America.
When we arrived at St. Maarten, there were 6 large cruise ships, including Oasis of the Seas, so way too many people. Very bad planning on Celebrity's part. The stores were packed with people. So we went back and took an island tour. Our taxi driver showed us the list on ships there for the month and there was 1 ship there the day before and 2 the next day, some days none. He said Wednesday was always the busiest day with 6 ships each Wednesday. (However, my understanding is Solstice changes it's itinerary in April) In addition, not enough time at Tortola. Ship was scheduled to be there from 7 am to 2 pm. (Who wants to go to a beach at 7:00 am?) However, we were not cleared to leave ship until after 8 am and the departure was moved up to 1:00 pm with no explanation that we heard. We took a taxi to Cane Garden Beach, but only had about 45 minutes there until we had to start back. Tortola seemed to me to be the best port on this cruise and is supposed to have beautiful beaches, but just not enough time to scratch the surface there. It was cool, foggy and it rained all day in Haiti, but we finally walked over to the beach at Labadee in the afternoon to go to the shops so we could buy something to support the locals. However, from what I could see, the set up looked pretty commercialized, and from what I could see, I liked the Holland America private beach set up better as it looked more like a real beach.
I liked the solarium pool best. As you would expect, it was next to impossible to find a good chair on sea days. Plus, the chairs were packed in too close around the regular pool. There is a walking path on the pool deck, but you are walking around the sun bathers and it's not a very long circle. The teakwood walking deck on Holland America much better.
The passengers on Solstice seemed overall a younger average age than on Holland America, although that doesn't matter that much to me.
In conclusion, I loved the cruise and the ship and would go on Solstice again. There were some things about Holland America I liked better but some things about Solstice I liked better. Overall, I give a slight nod to Solstice, but not that much. I could have gotten a balcony cabin on Eurodam for about what I paid for an inside cabin on Solstice, so I wonder if the Eurodam might have been a better choice. However, we wanted to try Celebrity and we liked it very much. \