We still like Royal Caribbean and I am sure will cruise with them again in the future, so when I make comparisons it is not meant to detract form the Royal Caribbean Experience which is still a good one.
Embarkation was a breeze. I much prefer sailing out of Port Everglades than Miami. We arrived a little early, but were ushered right onto the ship (about 12:30pm) Here the difference started.
On most cruise lines you are greeted with servers trying to sell you the expensive drink of the day, or sign you up for the numerous additional cost on board experiences. On the Solstice we were greeted with a welcome on board pleasant smiles and a free glass of champagne or Mimosa. This was a nice change.
We wandered the ship for a while then went to our cabin. We sailed Concierge class, and the fresh flowers were a very nice touch, along with sparkling wine and fresh fruit. The fruit was replenished daily as needed.
The ship is a nice cross between modern and old cruise ship ambiance depending on what area you are in. The dining room is very modern, as is the Sky Lounge, while the Michael's Piano bar reminds me of the older ships (I worked for Chandris/celebrty in the 1980's)and had that smaller ship ambiance.
The food was excellent overall. The buffet which we ate at for Breakfast and lunch most days offered an excellent selection, and the design and flow of this restaurant I think was an improvement over Royal Caribbean Windjammer cafe (Or people Jammer as we affectionately named it last time we sailed with Royal Caribbean). There were one or two times when it took a few minutes to find a seat, but the staff did a great job of cleaning tables promptly.Each day the Lunch selections offered included a nice salad bar, pasta/pizza station. Indian section, Asian section, American grill section, sandwich station. Excellent cheese station, bread station, Ice cream bar, Deserts, bar, and two (or was it three) hot food/carving stations, plus other smaller stations which varied daily.
My husband opted for the beer package, which he found to be an excellent value. We were a little worried before sailing that Celebrity offering a Beer package might result in some Booze Cruise type passengers, but this was not the case. He also worried that the service may suffer. Again not the case. The service throughout the ship was excellent, and again above what we have received on other cruises.
Celebrity did not offer a wine package, and I think wine sales are a big part of their revenue. We did do the initial wine tasting. I had planned on doing another, but just did not get around to it. It was worth the $20.00. I would have loved to do the Riedel workshop, but I thought $85.00pp was a little too expensive. (close to $200.00 for the two of you after 15% gratuity)
Entertainment on board was a little lacking compared to other cruises. The late night comedian was very good, the shows were mediocre. the choreography was sub par and the specialty acts were just OK. Having seen and performed in many shows this was not a big deal for me, but for those of you who like good entertainment this may be disappointing.
The different bars were interesting. We did enjoyed the molecular bar, and the bartender was happy to share her knowledge of the drinks with a smile. I recommend trying one.
I really enjoyed the cellar masters, and again the bartender was happy to share his wine knowledge. One thing noticed and appreciated, when we ordered a more expensive glass of champagne, he did taste it first before pouring as this was an open bottle. He promptly disposed of it and opened a fresh bottle. Many restaurants I know would not do this. We also liked the auto dispense wine machine. Great if you want to taste some more expensive wines without buying the whole glass, but if you are a wine lover watch out. You just might get a liking for one of the more expensive ones.
The wine server in the main dining room was also excellent. She was happy to save my half bottle for thee next evening, and despite us sitting at different tables each night (Select dining) there was never an issue getting the half bottle the following evening. Something we had had a problem with on Royal Caribbean.
Over all the service was above and beyond throughout the ship.
One note about Select Dining. This works great for us, and we had no problem being seated most times within minutes of showing up with no reservation. For those of you considering select dining however please remember flexibility is the key. There were some unhappy people waiting for tables for select dining. This was their own doing and not the cruise lines problem. You cannot expect to sit at the same table every night and get the same waiter if you choose select dining, and if you insist on this, then be prepared to wait a while. This is not the purpose of select dining. If this is important to you choose a set dining time.
Our cabin C3 1020 froward starboard side was great. Quiet. Nice sized bathroom, Comfortable balcony furniture and good A/C. Comfortable bed. The cabin was a little on the smaller side compared to RCCL balcony cabins, but well maintained. Again the cabin steward went above and beyond. We opted out of the nightly Hors D'ouvres. How much food can you eat. We instead enjoyed the fresh fruit, or brought some cheese down from the buffet.
Having been to most of the ports before, I elected not to get off the ship in San Juan. I instead had a massage. They were offering a great deal while the ship was in port. Salt Scrub neck and back massage, and mini facial for $109.00, I also added the scalp massage for an extra $20.00. Wonderful. Again above and beyond as far a service, and one of the better massages I have had on any ship.
Glass show was great Don't miss this.
Solstice deck was my preferred sunbathing spot. Less crowded. The solarium was great, and the pool here seemed to stay cleaner than the other pools.
The main outdoor pool area was always crowded, so we did not really use that area. We also liked that you did not have to sign out towels or check towels in. On this cruise line they treat you like adults.
There really were no Kids on board to speak of. Greta for us.
Celebrity is not for everyone. The Disco was pretty much empty by midnight. This is not a cruise to take children or young adults on. Really not much for them to do. It is very much an older, laid back crowd. For families I still would recommend Royal Caribbean.
Specialty Dining. We dined in the Murano one night. Excellent, but very much in the French Style, and the entrees were a little over sauced for our tastes. (I had the lamb and my husband had the venison.
The Roquefort ice cream that came with the cheese course was unusual and good. We did however prefer our meal in the Chops restaurant on RCCL Liberty. I would probably try the Tuscan grill next time.
The food in the main dining room was excellent, and choices were plentiful. Sometimes a little over sauced or over salted. We think we would try Aqua class next time.
I enjoyed the cruise. Boat was nice, the snorkeling was nice. The equipment (Mask, fins etc) could have been better. Both our vests were missing clasps. My mask leaked. (it was too big) The first set of fins my husband was given were split. I am an experienced snorkeler, so I was able to deal with the mask issue, but when I asked if they had a smaller mask they said no (I am sure they had some children's masks on board which would have worked for me) They really did not seem interested in assisting me, so I just dealt with is. It did detract from the overall experience though. The overall experience was better than OK, but not as good as it could have been compared to similar tours we have taken. There was room for improvement.
That being said I would take this again as opposed to just walking around St Thomas shopping.