Celebrity Solstice - Western Caribbean April 25th -May 2nd.
General Info: My wife and I (ages 57) and my brother and his wife (62) went on this cruise. This was our 12th cruise (3rd on X) and my brother's 6th.
Pre-Cruise: Booked thru online agency and had a good experience. Drove to FL and stayed the evening before the cruise at the Spring Hill Suites by Marriott (Ft. Lauderdale Airport, Dania Beach). Good rate, free parking for duration of the cruise and free transport to port. They also arranged pick up after cruise for only $8 pp.
Embarkation: The best of any of our previous 11 cruises. At the port by 11:00AM, checked in by 11:05, in the waiting lounge for a very short time and on board by 11:30. Cabins available at 1:00pm.
Ship Observations: Wow, what a beautiful ship. Contemporary but very stylish and classy. All public areas were extremely nice and well thought-out with the possible exception of the Grand Epernay Dining Room. We did not really get what they were trying to accomplish with the design and color scheme. All white and cream colored with silver lighting fixtures. Some neon accent lighting that changes colors but just not very pretty when compared to the grand dining rooms on other X ships.
Celebrity Theatre was very nice but this particular cruise had some real problems with the main show lounge that I will discuss later.
Cabin: We had Cabin 8232 on the Vista Deck, starboard. This was a hump cabin with a standard size balcony. It was located right at the aft elevator lobby just across from the sliding glass doors that open/close automatically to help soundproofing from the elevator lobby. We loved the cabin and bathroom design. Very nicely decorated and really a lot of storage space. Comfortable beds and sofa. We were a little concerned with noise since the cabin was so close to the elevator lobby but it was not a problem and was very convenient.
The balcony had very nice adjustable chairs and a good size teak table you could eat room service meals on. One note regarding port or starboard. We found that our starboard cabin was always facing the open water when in port. If you wish to have views of the city, you might prefer the port (left) side on the W. Caribbean route.
Dining Room Food: We were a little concerned and expected a drop in food quality since our last X cruise on the Summit in 2005. NOT SO. The food in the MDR was BETTER than our cruise 5 years ago and the quantity was more substantial. Everything we had, except for a loaded baked potato, was excellent. Some highlights for me were the Escargot (every night), Chateau-Briand (sp?), Lamb, Fresh Fish and Caesar Salad with anchovies upon request. No one in our group experienced a bad meal. And, my brother and his wife who have cruised exclusively on Oceania in recent years, were very impressed.
Oceanview Cafe Food: If you can't find something you like to eat here, you need help. Amazing selection of salads, hot foods, pizza, pasta, desserts, ethnic foods, ice cream, deli and about anything you could imagine.
Specialty Dining: TUSCAN Grille - This is an area we were a little disappointed in. Perhaps I was expecting too much but we did not feel the food to be that much better than the MDR. I had the crab appetizer which was a real disappointment. It tasted like mashed potatoes with a little crab flavoring thrown in. I also had the Onion Soup. It was good but from comments on previous posts I was expecting a lighter soup. It seemed to be exactly like the French Onion Soup you could get each night in the MDR. The Caesar was also just like the one in the MDR although it was made table side. I selected the filet which was a very nice cut of meat but it was overdone and really not as good as the Chateau-Briand in the MDR. Everyone in our group had beef.
We did love the Dark Chocolate fondue for dessert. Our waiter also brought the Kobe Meatballs for the table which were ok. Perhaps the best thing was the Eggplant that the table also shared. Again somewhat disappointed in the food although the service was excellent.
Bistro on Five - We ate here once and wanted to more often. Loved the food and quite a deal for $5 pp. We had the Steak Panini and Mediterranean crepe which were excellent. The lentil soup was good. But the real stars were the dessert crepes. We had the Banana Nutella crepe which was amazing. The Italian crepe was also very good.
Service: Cabin Steward - Our cabin steward (Cipriano from India) was excellent...efficient and unobtrusive. Our in-cabin safe did not work when we arrived and he had someone up and it was fixed within 5 minutes. When we needed a corkscrew and umbrella we had them within minutes. He was like a ghost...we rarely saw him but our cabin was always spotless when we returned and he was always around.
Main Dining Room - A little rocky the first night but excellent after that. Our waiter was "Shake" from India. Not really talkative but very efficient and always brought us several things for the table if we asked. The assistant was Ebru, a lovely lady from Turkey. She was very personable and we really enjoyed her. One note on the dining room service. Even though service was excellent we could tell they were very busy with little time to visit like on past cruises. I assume they have more tables that they are responsible for now.
Lounges / Bars - Good service and if we went once many remembered our name the next time.
Wine Service - Had an excellent wine steward, Nenad from Serbia. He made excellent suggestions and usually one of the less expensive choices.
Other Staff - We were disappointed that the captain was new after all of the great things we heard about the previous one. But, his job is for us to arrive safely and we did. John Grantham was the cruise director. He was okay but seemed to talk a lot about his former acting and stunt man career. He was great at the 50's trivia night and we had a blast.
Entertainment: There were some real problems early during our cruise. Rigging had fallen in the main Celebrity Theatre and they were unable to have shows for the first 2 evenings until they could get someone from Chicago to meet the ship in Grand Cayman. They got this fixed and that evening the curtains would not open and they had to improvise again. The entertainment for the first couple of evenings was in the Atrium Foyer which was inconvenient and not a good place for viewing. We received a $50 onboard credit and assumed it was due to the shows being affected.
The productions show we saw was just okay. Kind of like all of the others we have seen. The Solstice show was very good and worth going to. Considering the ship was in high seas with very high winds and was rocking it was impressive what they were able to do.
We also had a couple of guest entertainers, an amazing ventriloquist named Ken Groves. Plus, a "Musical Impressionist" Greg London who was very entertaining and found out on this cruise he was getting a show in Vegas.
The ships band Sipra was great!! They could play anything from the 50's through today's music and were always playing somewhere it seemed. The 70's night music was so much fun.
Ports: Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Roatan, Honduras. Not much to do in these ports if you don't like water. We booked a wave runner excursion to Stingray City and Rum Point Beach in Cayman through a local company. It was great. Other ports just stayed near the port and shopped. Went into "downtown" Roatan and it was a very poor area and we did not stay long. Not much to see.
Debarkation: Like embarkation, the best we have ever experienced. We were told to be in the MDR at 8:50. Off the ship by 9:00AM and had our bags within 5 minutes. On the bus back to the hotel by 9:20. They had their act together on this.
Be aware that in Grand Cayman the ship time is one hour ahead of the local time. The wave runner trip we booked left at 11:00AM. However, we found out after we were ashore it was actually 12:00 ship time and the last tender was at 3:30. This was never mentioned in our Celebrity Today program and we felt it should have been because it is very important. We were very nervous but got back to the port a little before 3:00. The ship's time was changed that evening prior to our Cozumel stop. A suggestion to X is to change the ship time to match the evening before to match local time in G. Cayman. It would be very easy to see a clock while ashore showing 3:00 when ship time is actually 4:00. Very easy to miss the ship if you are not careful.
Ship never felt crowded except for peak times in the Oceanview. However we were always able to find a place to sit and also find lounge chairs on the pool decks.
Piped in music on board. VERY annoying. I had read this in previous posts but thought so what...no big deal. But it was everywhere and very loud. Don't get me wrong, I love loud music but this was kind of new-age music much of the time and just seemed out of place and intrusive. If you have music could some of it be Caribbean music?? But there were speakers everywhere that I could even hear over my IPOD earbuds. And it apparently was so loud in the gym you could not hear anything else.
Fellow Passengers: Not many children and seemed to be an older crowd. Most dressed as suggested with a few in shorts in the MDR.
Conclusion: Book this Ship! It was wonderful and I am now in a state of depression. It is an amazing feat to have such good, consistent food and service on a ship this size. Any questions feel free to ask.