This was our first cruise on Celebrity Solstice and our second Caribbean back to back. We have been cruising for over 22 years and have cruised the Caribbean, South America, Asia, Alaska, Mediterranean and the Panama Canal sailing on assorted cruise lines and ships, 26 cruises in total.
The first cruise was in the Eastern Caribbean for seven nights and the second cruse was the Western Caribbean also for seven nights. Both weeks started and finished at Port Everglades. The weather was excellent with only a couple of sun showers and no rough seas. Being May it was shorts and t-shirts during the day. Temperatures felt worse in the Western Caribbean vs. the Eastern Caribbean, we suspect the trade winds in the East made it seem cooler.
We rented a car and drove down to Port Everglades from North Florida that was almost all Turnpike and Interstate. With our faithful SunPass we made the trip in about 4 ½ hours. We returned the car to the rental area at Ft Lauderdale airport and caught the free transfer to the port. One point to make here from our past experience, if you miss a shuttle you may have over half hour wait so leave time for the transfer. We also saw lots of traffic especially at the police checkpoints in the port.
Pier 18 Terminal is new and spacious as it is also used for Oasis of the Seas. We went through everything swiftly except at the Captain's Club dedicated check in. There were only two desks open at 1215. We had one problem; the check-in staff was careless and tried to put my wife's passport down as Irish instead of British that could have caused real problems later. After that everything went smoothly and we were aboard before 1PM, glass of bubbly in hand and allowed in our cabin by 130PM.
Celebrity Solstice - Ship Information
First of a new class of ship for Celebrity Cruises, the Solstice is very innovative both inside and out. We loved the look of the ship and the interiors. As with other Celebrity ships there is a lot of public spaces and art. There was a great attention to detail and the quality of the fittings. Maintenance and cleanliness was outstanding.
Features we really liked in the new Solstice Class ships were the Lawn, Sunset Bar with aft and lawn views. We really enjoyed sitting in one of the resin wicker chairs next to lawn, partially in the shade and watch the sea go by. After dark you could look over the ship's aft and be mesmerized by watching the wake from the engine lit up by spotlights.
The pool and solarium were also excellent with lots of shaded areas, dancing fountains / waterfalls, plenty of sun loungers with cushions and several areas with more of the comfy resin wicker chairs and circular loungers. There are a number of these special chairs and loungers on the Solstice Deck, which is above the Sky Lounge. We love the cold towels passed out at the pool.
We are not big time tree huggers but do feel we need to be responsible for conserving the environment and energy so we were pleased to see the ship had a large number of Photo Voltaic Cells on the roofs and the atriums. While they only produced a fraction of the ship's electricity they also helped to shield the atriums from getting too hot.
We were in a veranda stateroom on deck 8 forward on the port side. The cabin was beautiful with an unobstructed veranda. The bathroom was very large and the rest of the cabin was very nicely decorated. It was probably the quietest stateroom we have ever had that includes a suite we had on another Celebrity ship. Our only complaint was that the storage was less than on the Millennium Class ships. Can't believe that the committee of woman designers that overlooked the design of the staterooms didn't put more storage in the stateroom. Our cabin steward and his assistant were excellent and stateroom was immaculate.
Dining and Beverages
We chose to stick with the second seating rather than the flexible dining option. We really like having the same waiter and assistant each night as they get to know you and your likes and dislikes. We had different tables and waiting staff on each of the weeks. Waiters and assistants were great but we were disappointed in the wine waiter on the first week.
Our biggest disappointment was the dinner menu and the quality of the food. What has always impressed us about Celebrity were the space, service and the food. In the past we had to make hard decisions on what we had for dinner because it all was so good. On Solstice we resorted to selecting at least one item from the Classic Menu each night. The Classic Menu is a number of passenger favorites they serve every night. While the menu and food is still better than most cruise lines it has really lost something.
There is a buffet brunch in the main dinning room on the first sea day that is very nice, try out the cheese cake popsicles. We ate the majority of our breakfasts and lunches in the Oceanview Cafe and the Mast Grill. Great selection and well presented. In the Cafe there are so many food areas that you see people wandering around looking lost.
Lots of interesting lounges around the ship and most with live music. The Crush Martini Bar is fun with the frozen bar and tabletops but we found ourselves in Michael's Club most nights before dinner because we enjoy the den feel with the wood paneling and over stuffed chairs and sofas.
We ate in one of the four specialty restaurants, Tuscan Grill on the night we sailed out of San Juan. The fillet steaks were excellent as was the service. As our sailing from San Juan was after 830PM we had beautiful view of San Juan from the aft windows in the Tuscan Grill during the sail away.
We did not do a lot of the ship's activities but we did attend the lectures on the Caribbean, different subjects and lectures on the different weeks. I must admit we really did not get a lot out of the talks. We did however enjoy the galley, backstage, bridge and engine control room tours.
The Hot Glass Blowing like the grass lawn at sea sounds a bit strange for a cruise ship but in reality the glass blowing was really good and always very popular. Remember to stay to the end of the demonstration as they have a free raffle for the pieces made the previous day.
Celebrity has revamped their Captain's Club and added a lot of new benefits for its members. We are Founder Elite members so we get really spoiled. The new benefits for the Elite level members include coffee and pasties in one of the lounges that includes Mimosas, smoothies and specially coffees. In the late afternoon early evenings there are drinks in one of the lounges. Celebrity has also added many new coupons for the Elite members including one free wash, dry and fold for up to 30 items, free 90 minutes of Internet time, 20% off the second bottle of wine, dry cleaning for one item and pressing for two and other offers. The benefit is per member so if you have two Elite or Select you get two sets of coupons. We thought the laundry and Internet were great. We were able to cut back on the luggage.
Also in the new Captain's Club program they have made the Captain's Club Hostess dedicated to her role and have brought on a separate person to handle future cruise sales. Our Captain's Club Hostess, Zsofia was Excellent, very helpful and cheerful.
Service, Captain, Officers and Crew
As always with Celebrity we were always greeted with a smile by crewmembers when walking around the ship. On this cruise we actually got to meet Captain Yanni Berdos and his officers in smaller groups. After our meeting, the captain would always stop and talk to us when we saw him around the ship; it really made us feel special!
We saw all of the Broadway style shows in the theatre and some of the guest entertainers. While the Broadway style shows did not change between the two cruises the guest entertainers did. The Broadway shows were all good. We had mixed success with the guest entertainers.
What did impress us was how much live music and the quality of the performers from the bands, orchestras, acapella group and the pianist / vocalists. Unlike other ships we have been on, Solstice had performances in the foyers and common areas, which was really nice.
At the end of our first week were required to at least go through immigration even if we did not intend to leave the ship in Port Everglades. Celebrity organized everything and we met our fellow back-to-back cruisers in one of the lounges. Celebrity personnel walked us through passport control in the terminal and then back on the ship. The whole process took less than an hour and only took that long because of stragglers. One very nice touch, as we reboarded at about 1030, the crew met us with champagne even though general boarding had not begun. We used the time before the general boarding started to photograph the ships interiors.
At the end of our second week we sadly had to leave the ship. Everything went really smooth and we were in a taxi to the Ft Lauderdale airport very quickly, taxi fare with a tip, about $15.
It was wonderful cruise and ship. The crew was excellent but while still some of the best food in the industry, variety and quality was below past Celebrity cruises. The Solstice class ships are beautiful and spacious. We really enjoyed the new additions of the Lawn Club, shaded areas on deck, and more live music in the public areas. We had a wonderful time!