Sailed on the Solstice week of 2/14 with two other couples with adjoining Aqua Class Cabins on forward port side of Penthouse Deck (Deck 11). The cost of this cruise for the Aqua Class cabin, which provided all of the additional amenities received in Concierge Class with the added benefit of water and tea in the cabin, access to the Spa Relaxation Room and Persian Garden and the specialty restaurant BLU was well worth the modest additional cost,however; this was mainly due to the access to BLU.
While Aqua Class did allow access to the spa services without the daily charge it was extremely difficult to gain access to the Persian Garden. The Persian Garden is basically a room with 7 tiled and heated lounge chairs along with a steam room and sauna room located on either side. While my finance and I were able to get into the room, our friends traveling with us were unable to access this room as it was usually full. The spa check-in area managed the number of people in the Persian Garden at any one time and would tell passengers wanting to enter that the would have to come back later if full. After our friends made numerous attempts to secure admittance, they were always denied access and told it was full. Crew working the Spa check-in did not want to create a waiting list even if if you were willing to stay close buy to the desk. They should have also monitored what was going on in the room as it appeared to be a common practice for people to let their friends/family in once they had procured entrance. In summary it was just poorly managed by the Spa crew. The spa treatments themselves were excellent but there were apparently too few nail polish colors to choose from with a manicure.
The main reason to choose Aqua Class is to gain access to BLU. This was a quiet, relatively small dining area next to the other specialty restaurants that served good food in reasonable portions(without rich fattening sauces). We did migrate to the Murano one night for a special occasion but that was a fiasco. Our waiter questioned everyone on why they chose how to have their lobster prepared (broiled or steamed or thermidor)and was overall annoying. The food and service were fair and definitely not worth the additional money. Back to BLU... the service from the maitre'd to the server (Mildred) and her assistant was first class. There was one evening when we sat at a table for 6 in the front of the room (there are only two round tables of 6)where the service was poor. It was night and day compared to the service at the round table of 6 in the back of BLU. Two people at our table ordered Margarita specials and the server (who took the order) brought one frozen and one not frozen. In addition, an assistant brought an entree to the table and asked if anyone had ordered the dish. We said we did not, but he would wander around and actually came back and asked us two other times whether we had order the dish.
Food outside of BLU at the Oceanview Cafe was fair while the pre embarkation lunch we had at Bistro on Five was quite good. It was definitely worth the $5 charge. The fast food at the pool grill was above average. We did order room service appetizers in the evening which were excellent.
With regard to the Sommelier, after we had broke a pattern of ordering multiple bottles each evening by ordering just a glass or two for the table she seemed to become annoyed and her demeanor changed drastically. Overall wines were very reasonably priced.
Service at all of the bars was good, but there were few crew members taking drink orders from passengers around the pools. The pool chairs do fill up early but the crew were removing passenger belongings that would be placed in chairs to "reserve" for extended periods of time.
The wine bar Cellar Masters was very cozy and nice place to try various wines from all over the world. The bar hosts a very good wine tasting with a red and white selection from 6 different countries along with appetizers. It is reasonably priced and lasts one hour.
While the average age on the ship was in mid-50's it would have been nice to hear some music from the 80's and 90's along with the 50's and 60's. This music would be repeated all day long with no variety. Entertainment on the ship outside of the Cirque to Soleil show and a very talented "Piano Man" named Will Foraker was not that great. The comedy show was a repeat each night. There should have been different performances during the week. The nightclub Quasar was a ghost town almost every night.
The ship is very well laid out and easy to navigate about. There was little motion on the ship, even with a 40 mph headwind one night that was kicking up the seas.
The Aqua Class cabins on the Penthouse deck were also well designed with great bathrooms for a space with less than 200 SF space and a decent size balcony. (All of the ship's non suite baths have a shower with a curved door and the Aqua Class cabins have showers with upgraded shower heads.) The cabin attendants took down the barriers between our cabin and the cabins of the two other couples traveling with us which made the space very roomy and a great place to have cocktails and appetizers before dinner.
A caution about the Aqua Class cabin balcony locations....unless you want a balcony with an extended overhang from the Resort Deck above with obtrusive poles blocking you vision and creating an effect that you are in a cave, book a cabin forward of the the forward elevator lobby where there is no overhang. We realized this when we booked our trip after reviewing the outside of the ship on Youtube. Youtube also provides some very good views on the Solstice's cabins. These forward Aqua Class cabins also provide quick access to the pool areas and spa as they are just one deck up.
With Aqua Class you receive Evian water each day. We had asked our cabin attendant to make sure there was always a couple bottles at all times (bottles were relatively small). He generally was able to meet this request but some days he did not. When their supervisor had asked us if everything was to our satisfaction we said we would like to always have some water bottles in the cabin. The supervisor indicated that he knew our attendant was bringing more than two bottles a day and that he was not supposed to be doing this. This came across as rather unprofessional as we were made to feel that were were asking our attendant to do something that was against the rules. The cruise line stresses that in the spa class that you receive bottled water but it is not clearly disclosed that the amount you receive is limited. Asking for four or even six of these bottles a day for two passengers was not really excessive and should not be an issue. Both cabin attendants were very attentive and strived to please all of their passengers.
Overall the Solstice is a very well designed ship and the Aqua Class cabins are a very good value given their ship location and access to the restaurant BLU. If you are looking for a less hectic cruise on a larger recently commissioned ship with excellent staterooms and good food choices Solstice is your ship. If you want a superior dining experience select an Aqua Class cabin.