My wife and I have completed 27 cruises (5 Princess, 5 NCL, 8 RCCL and 9 Celebrity) over the last 20 years. However, this was our first Celebrity cruise since a 2004 Mediterranean cruise on the Millenium (still our favorite cruise). Our choice of Solstice was based on the ship, not the itinerary. We've been to each of the ports multiple times but wanted to experience the Solstice class. The Solstice is now our favorite ship class.
What we liked: • A simple, modern and beautiful ship design. • The Lawn Club and Patio on the Lawn. While grass is not a requirement for cruising, it provides a nice setting to walk on, sit on and sit alongside for a drink while leaving or entering ports. We liked it much more than we anticipated. (Still, its very odd to see it being mowed and watered.) • The atrium which extends from the 3rd deck to the top of the 15th deck. While common on some other cruise lines e.g., most RCCL ships, as far as I know this is the first Celebrity ship class to have one. An interesting note: when in the 15th deck elevator area, live music from the third deck was still loud and clear. • The best ship elevators we've ever experienced, especially in the atrium. They're glass enclosed and very fast. We never had to wait long for one to arrive. Another nice feature is a lit overhang outside each that turns from blue to red when an elevator is stopping on your floor. The lack of a third set of elevators wasn't as inconvenient as we had expected. • Very few public announcements i.e., the noon report from the Captain (every day) and port arrival and departure announcements. There were no announcements about the daily drink special, bingo, art auctions, etc. (However, see our dislikes below regarding music in public areas.) • Cabin bathrooms (non-suite) had plenty of storage space, modern "bowl-type sinks" and excellent clamshell door oblong showers which were the best we've ever experienced on a ship. • Good musical entertainment, specifically the Will Foraker Trio (jazz), Sipra (party band) and the Solstice theater "orchestra". • All recliners on the pool and sun decks had cloth covered sunpads. • A kids area (Wet Zone) with fountains on the pool deck that entertained young cruisers throughout the entire cruise. Even adults enjoyed walking through on occasion. • Select Dining - we had very good experiences. Reserving table times for each night prior to our cruise gave us a higher priority when we went to dinner. We rarely waited for a table for two and never for more than 3-5 minutes. • Celebrity service and food - because it had been six years since our last Celebrity cruise, we were concerned that service and food quality had declined. We found that the service and food on this cruise, while not quite up to previous Celebrity standards, were superior to the other cruise lines we've traveled with. • Well behaved children (all 640 of them). A customer service rep told us it was the first spring break cruise she had ever experienced during which there were no complaints about kids, including teens. While they were occasionally seen, they were never bothersome and seemed to be having a great time. • The Oceanview Cafe (buffet area) is very well designed, making it easy to move between food areas. (It took a while to get used to the fact that it's not on the pool deck as on most ships.) • Tuscan Grille - great location at the ship stern, very good food and service. • The casino was nothing special but the fact that one side of it was open to the shopping boulevard was unusual. It felt less like a confined space than all other ship casinos we've experienced. • Very entertainng "Solstice" show in the theater which was obviously influenced by Cirque du Soleil, a result of the previous (current?) relationship between CdS and Celebrity. Also interesting was the Pulse show, which was very high energy, at least for the first half. • Dining room someliers - this position has been done away with on many mass market cruise lines. They know a bit more about wines and provided a good service for bottle orders. • The Hot Glass Show - a nice event on a ship, especially at night. Easy to view with knowledgeable and personable artistes. • The Captain's easy going, self-deprecating style. Typical of his musings was his noon report on our approach to San Juan - "I have good news and bad news. The good news is that we're approaching the island on our starboard side. The bad news is that we're not sure that it's Puerto Rico..." The funniest captain of any of our cruises. Unfortunately, he is leaving the ship shortly (his replacement was already on board.) • Lifeboat drill - No one likes the mandatory lifeboat drill, but this one was held in public areas. As with most recent cruises, we weren't require to drag lifejackets to it. • Easy to use online services, including the ability to access the internet using the TV in your cabin and a small keyboard in the desk. In addition, the Online Celebrity computer room always had a technical person on-hand to help. • Onboard religious services, especially important during this cruise due to Passover and Easter. • Card room - while we didn't use it, we passed through it several times a day. There were always families playing games. • Cabin balconies that seem deeper than most, with two nice chairs and a tall snack table. • On some port days, French fries, onion rings and foil-wrapped hamburgers were put out on tables near the Mast Bar and the Mast Grill. This shortened the lines at the pool grill. • Free lemonade (and punch, coffee and tea) in the Oceanview Cafe. • Pizza, pasta and free ice cream served in the Oceanview Cafe from noon until 9pm each day. • The Solarium was adult only (16+ yrs) and the pool butlers politely kept it that way. Quiet, cool, relaxing. • Captain's Club Elite member benefits, especially coupons for 45 minutes of free internet time per passenger.
What was disappointing: • Recorded music was always playing on the open decks and in many public areas. Sometimes it was appropriate, but is it really necessary at 8 in the morning and 8 in the evening - and all times in between? • Persian Garden - barely warm recliners, indifferent steam rooms. We were spoiled by a similar area on the NCL Gem during a Med cruise a few years ago. In addition to having a wonderful view over the bow of the ship, the Gem's Persian Garden equivalent had steam rooms and saunas that had windows to the outside, many very warm recliners and a T-pool almost identical to those on the Century, Galaxy and Mercury. • While the cabin bathrooms are well designed, there is very little counter space. • The Solarium was very nice but a warm water pool, like those on Millenium class ships, would have made it even better. • Small, lukewarm hot tubs with very low seating. These are the worst of any ship we've been on. • Captain's Club Elite member daily free wine and drink time between 4-6pm, no shorts allowed. An awkward time, especially for those with late dining and during days in port. We think the schedule is designed to discourage members from taking advantage of this benefit. • Dreadfully slow internet access speeds, even when the ship was in port. • High cost of photos, a common occurrence on most cruise lines. • Ports - Given the "commercialization" that's taken place in the last few years, Labadee was better than we had expected. Time in Tortola was too short, but sailing out of the BVI made for a great afternoon of island watching. Our arrival in San Juan was not until 2pm - half the day is gone. St. Martin was ok, but we were one of seven ships in port that day. The total passenger capacity of those seven ships was around 20,000. The port area and downtown were comfortably packed. • One hour clock time change (fall back) for Labadee. "Gain" an hour one day, lose it the next - a bit disruptive over a 24 hour period. Is this really necessary for an area in which passengers are confined under total control of the cruise line? • Jogging track - all ships have one and we enjoy using it for exercise. However, it would be best if runners avoided using it between 10am and 6pm, especially on sea days. This is an accident waiting to happen. • Windows on the pool deck provide cooling breezes on warm days. However, there was a placard on each pool deck window stating that they must be kept closed. This is the first ship we've been on that's discouraged passengers from opening the windows. Why?
BTW, the port side cabins seemed to have the superior view for this itinerary.
Overall, an excellent ship experience. We'll definitely cruise again on a Solstice class ship in the future.