We have cruised Royal Caribbean on six previous occasions with an inside cabin. This was our first Celebrity Cruise and we decided upon our first Veranda cabin since there was a great price (55 and over) on Concierge class cabins.
We flew Southwest in from our home near Baltimore early the day before and got a room at the Ft Lauderdale Hilton Marina. The cost of a cab from the airport was about $16 plus tip. This hotel is nice but a little dated. The room was fine, being clean and with a most important attribute: a comfortable bed. The hotel is next to the cruise port at a marina and is surrounded by all types of boats and yachts. It is really neat walking out the hotel door along the piers and seeing this. The hotel is also on one of the stops for the Ft Lauderdale water taxi. For $15 a person (cash only) you get to hop on and off the taxi all day at its many stops and visit many spots in Ft Lauderdale. We enjoyed the day doing this. Woke up the next morning and we could see the Solstice from the hotel. Check out was at 11AM and a short 5 min taxi ride later we were at the terminal (about $7.00 plus tip).
Embarkation was a breeze. We were able to get our sea pass cards immediately and then waited upstairs in the terminal till about 1PM when boarding began. Aqua Class passengers were first followed by the Concierge Class (that was us). We were greeted with a welcome on board from the smiling crew and a complementary glass of champagne or Mimosa. Our cabin was not ready so we went to the Oceanview Cafe for some lunch (More on the food later). Our cabin (1048) was ready about 2 PM and our luggage arrived between 4 and 5 PM. We arrived to fresh flowers, sparkling wine and fresh fruit. Every evening a small plate of hors D'ouvres was delivered prior to dinner, another nice touch. The 190 sq feet or so was plenty large for us. The LCD TV was great and we watched some programs while getting ready for dinner or bed. We also used it to check our spending account on the ship. The bathroom had large soft bath towels (Egyptian) and a larger shower than we has been used to in inner cabins. We loved the curved acrylic shower door in lieu of the shower curtains we have had on Royal Caribbean ships. This cabin is located behind a jutting out of the ship's structure so the Veranda during sailing had no wind issues. There was a small table and 2 comfortable chairs with foot stools on the Veranda. We had no issues with cigarette or cigar smoke on the Veranda from any of the surrounding staterooms. Our cabin attendants were excellent.
The ship is just great and has a little something for just about any adult. The Library was chocked full of many books if you wanted something to read. The glass blowing exhibitions daily are great. There was a card room that I noticed was used by a number of passengers for bridge and other games. There was a theater showing films. We did not go there and we thought it odd that most of the films were shown at night when there were other options. There were plenty of places for drinking from the Cellar Masters Room for wine appreciation (including auto dispense wine machines) to other various bars. The casino seemed to have enough tables (2 roulette, 1 craps, 3-4 blackjack, 2 automated Poker, 1-2 Three Card Poker and 1 baccarat) for the size of the ship. Too many of the tables however had $10 or above limits and not enough $5 tables for my taste (I did win $35 the last night at blackjack ? ). There were plenty of slot machines and to tempt one into playing, the Daily Paper had a running count of how much money was paid out on the cruise in the casino. My guess is most of that money was lost back to the casino ?. They did not however tell one the take by the casino. The Internet Cafe had plenty of laptop work stations. Unfortunately, coverage was sporadic and slow. We could not get into our home internet email for some reason so I had to open a Gmail internet email account as we were conducting some business with our daughter and needed to be in touch with her. I would just as soon not have to spend the money on the internet with such spotty, slow service and at a discounted $.60 a minute the cost adds up quickly.
We ate at the Oceanview Cafe for Breakfast and lunch most days. Breakfast had everything one would want; eggs Benedict in various country forms, eggs cooked to order, omelets cooked to order, fruit, yogurt, bacon, sausage, ham, bagels, English muffins and more. For lunch you could step up to and fill your plate from a great salad bar, pasta/pizza, Indian, Asian or American grill and sandwich stations. There were cheese, bread, ice cream and deserts galore along with hot food/carving stations. I cannot resist GOOD food and the 8 pounds I put on in the 7 days of this cruise showed it. Overlooking the pool was the Mast Grill where one could get hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, wings and fries or onion rings. A few of the afternoons we tried the fries, onion rings, wings and dogs and all were excellent. For dinner we ate in the Epernay Dining room at a table for 8. At 58, we were the youngest couple, but we thoroughly enjoyed our older table mates company.
The food was good and our waiting staff was competent but both were nothing spectacular. We never saw the Head Waiter for our section of the Dining Room. Two evenings we opted for the Tuscan Grill and Murano. Both nights the food and service were just spectacular. Is it worth the $30-35 fee? I would say a resounding "YES". My wife's surf and turf in Murano was just exceptional and my lamb chop was delicious. We did the initial wine tasting on the 1st day. For $20.00 each, we were able to sample 12 wines from various regions of the world. The sommeliers at the 6 stations dispensing the wines were very informative. We loved this. We were going to do the the Riedel workshop, but my wife became ill and we had to cancel. Entertainment on board after dinner in the Solstice Theater we enjoyed. The Circ Du Sole shows while not up to Las Vegas Standards were still good. If you have never heard Hyperion Knight you are missing out on a great showman. His piano playing was nothing short of spectacular along with his explanation of the lives of some of the great composers' music he was playing and how their lives played into the music. The cruise director John Grantham was fantastic. He was a former actor and stuntman. He had a show one day that he showed old clips of himself performing stunts and acting. He then had a question and answer session for about 45 minutes with the audience that was very interesting. This is a must see.
The Solstice deck was our preferred sunbathing spot. The solarium was great, and the pool and hot tubs were less crowded. 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. As for the weather, sunny but really windy the entire cruise. Many of the water related tours were cancelled at Costa Maya due to the high winds and rough seas. Despite the wind, the seas were only 4-8 feet I would say worst case and the ship was steady and solid as a rock. You could tell very little swaying. The ports, Grand Cayman we had visited on our 1st sailing on Royal Caribbean back in 1997. We took an island tour that lasted 4 hours (did not go to Hell) and then my wife went to work shopping (my accounts went all to hell). In Cozumel, another island tour, this time pushing merchandise. This did make a stop at Discover Mexico. The best things about this place were the scale models of many of the fine buildings throughout Mexico. At Puerto Costa Maya we opted to skip the tours, visit the shops at the port and then spend the day relaxing at the pool. Finally at Roatan, Honduras we had another island tour that my wife had to skip due to a mild case of Montezuma's revenge. This was probably my favorite stop. While the people were dirt poor and you really felt sorry for them, the island itself and beaches were really beautiful. In summary, the Celebrity crew and the Solstice ship were great. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and will definitely go back for another Celebrity sailing.