For our third cruise, we chose Celebrity because we heard the food was much better than Princess and some other lines. I don't consider us picky but perhaps we are. My husband and I are both 52 yrs old and we travelled with our 20 year old son departing Ft. Lauderdale on July 4, 2010. We booked the Family View Veranda Suite #8107.
I can assure you, that the ship is beautiful and well kept. The embarkation and disembarkation procedures were excellent. We got to the pier at 10:30 and were processed quickly to a waiting area where I believe we waited for perhaps 30-40 minutes. Service on board was nothing but exceptional from our room stewards, food servers, shop personnel, etc.
Firstly, the family suite was more than adequate. The master bedroom was huge. The bathroom layout and storage redesign was extremely well done. I carry a lot of assorted sundries, medications, creams, lotions, etc. and there was room to spare. That was a pleasant surprise. AND you could actually turn around in the shower. A superbly designed bath area compared to other ships. My son's room had bunks and an individually controlled thermostat - important to him because my husband and I love air conditioning and he is always cold!
The only negative I can say about the room is that the furnishings in the living room area were uncomfortable and sparse. Perhaps that was done on purpose but more comfortable chairs and sofa would have been nice.
The Solstice theater is beautiful. We heard raves about the Cirque de Soleil type show but we weren't particularly impressed. I think we just aren't Cirque fans. We did love the Broadway Ghost light show where the dancers and singers did a wonderful job with songs from West Side Story, Miss Saigon, My Fair Lady, Rent and Hairspray. It was a lot of fun. I love Broadway and thought the performers did a great job. We also saw part of the Magician/Illusionist's act...also so/so.
I did a 100 minute seaweed wrap and massage at the spa with a massage therapist named Rachelle from the Philippines. It was the BEST treatment I ever had and Rachelle was superb! Ask for her!!
Now for the food.....really and truly disappointing. The Ocean view buffet was so sub par compared to the Crown Princess. Rarely, did the menu change and it seemed like the buffet closed earlier and earlier every night. They had the essentials but what I would call "cheap food"....pizzas, bread, lunch meat, salads, etc. For lunch, I loved the Indian curries but how many people want spicy? Some days they had sushi but it was poor man's California rolls, generic wrapped in seaweed...with no roe on it. Pre Made sushi for sure.
Plenty of hot pasta....again very cheap to make. We never saw shrimp, scallops or crab claws on the buffet like we did on some other lines...and I thought Celebrity was known for its food!
Now on to the Grand Epernay. I can say that I enjoyed this restaurant. One side of the menu remains constant and the other changes every night. Some of the really good entrees I had were veal osso bucco, lamb shank, a sliced filet with morelle mushroom sauce and believe it or not excellent spaghetti and meatballs that put my Italian grandmother's to shame AND they made the pasta al dente like I asked for. The only thing I fault the Grand Epernay for was the uninspired desserts. I am a chocolate lover....I don't think I saw chocolate mousse on the menu once. The desserts were truly sub par and all the little pastries tired and tasteless. The Select Dining option was great...we were seated VERY quickly every night and the servers most attentive.
Had to try Murano after reading the blogs on this site. What a waste! They foamed everything..it was disgusting. Like I'm talking blowing foam on top of everything I had that night...very nouvelle pretentious type cuisine...which would be ok if it was taste tempting. We started with an amuse bouche that was one escargot in a bearnaise or hollandaise type sauce that was oh so bland. The two ingredients simply did not go together. Also why would you serve that as a teaser appetizer when escargots are on the menu? Our server raved about the lobster bisque. My husband I both thought it was terrible. Supposedly, the chef boils the stock for hours. The soup arrives with a very small spinach timbale in your soup cup that also has maybe two small pieces of lobster in it and then they bring a small teapot with the broth in and pour it over and foam it. Really horrible....I've had MUCH better lobster bisque at my local diner. I then had the shrimp and scallops risotto. Let me just say, I am the QUEEN of risotto makers. Well to my surprise the risotto was fairly decent BUT they put it in a little ramekin and blew foam on top of it! What is it with this foam??? The rest of the dish was just OK. My son did have excellent venison and my hubby said his lobster was better than the lobster he had the one formal night at the Grand Epernay. Skip Murano and stay with the
The biggest mistake Soltice's designers probably made were with the pool areas. WAY to small for the number of passengers. The outdoor adult pool was filthy with stuff floating on the bottom every day and kids kept swimming in it because the kiddie pool was too crowded. Sometimes the pool attendants chased kids out but most of the time they didn't. We much preferred the indoor pool simply because of the crowds. In my opinion, they should have abandoned the lawn club and put another pool up on the top deck...plus the grass is always "resting" and you can't use half the lawn area anyway. A truly big mistake when designing this boat in my opinion.
The ports of call were ok. Best two spots were Cayman and Roatan. I'll write about my off shore excursions in another blog since I booked them all myself and not through the ship.
I did unfortunately, have to use the ship's hospital the last day at sea. They thought I had norovirus. They hydrated me with IV and gave me some injections that knocked me out for 12 hours....which I needed because I was really sick. Kudos to the medical staff...I felt horrible bothering the nurse at 1 a.m. in the morning and then she had to page the doctor at 3:30 a.m. because my condition got worse. Both were very professional and it is good to know you are in good hands should something like that unfortunately arise.
In conclusion, a truly beautiful ship but much could be improved at the buffet. Also, my husband and son were in tuxes for the formal night and I would say LESS than half the ship passengers were tuxes. This is a custom that is truly falling to the wayside.
But again, great cabin and services aboard the ship...a truly elegant vessel.