This was our sixth cruise with the RCCI Group and it did not disappoint in any way. We were travelling with Steve, the 'Best Man' at our wedding 24 years ago and his wife Carole, who were first time cruisers.
Coming from the UK, we always stay additional nights in the area, prior to departure in case of delays, cancellations etc (the 'ash cloud' for example!!)This time we stayed at Il Lugano in Fort Lauderdale, a wonderful hotel with mega friendly staff. Although a little way out, it is on the water taxi route so getting around was no problem ($15 all day and you can get on and off whenever/wherever you want).
On to the cruise. Embarkation was swift and easy. Less than fifteen minutes after receiving our sea pass cards, we were greeted on board by a smiling member of crew offering a complimentary glass of Champagne or orange juice. We had all opted for the 'all inclusive' drinks package and this proved a 'winner' since it meant that there were no shocks in the account on the final morning. (You can check your account either at the Purser's desk or the television in your stateroom at any time during the voyage.) This was the first voyage where Celebrity had tried this idea so I don't know if they will continue.
The ship was spacious, and although completely full, did not give the impression of overcrowding as there was lots of space around the pools and bars. The food in the main restaurant was good, served with a minimum amount of fuss and timely - no long delays between courses. One evening we ate in 'Muranos' - probably the best meal I have ever had in terms of quality, service and the attention of the staff and the choice of wines was on a par with any Michelin rated Restaurant.
We had balcony cabins, midships on deck 8, along side each other and were able to have the dividing partition opened so that we had one large balcony on which we could all sit and watch the nights go by, sipping our evening cocktails. The cabins were very spacious with room under the bed for suitcases, more locker space and doors that opened outwards. The stateroom attendants were excellent, with evening turn down service, chocolates on the pillow and of course the obligatory monkey/elephant/swan etc towel arrangement. Overall the crew were very attentive, without being obtrusive, and extremely helpful.
Only one minor area of complaint. The entertainment was not as good as some of the other RCI ships that we have been on, but it did not spoil the whole experience.
We had 3 stops - San Juan, St Thomas and St Marteen which Sally and I had been to before but obviously our friends hadn't. All of the stops provided something different and even for us, returning, we still found something new that we had not seen or done on prior trips. The ice cold towels and cold drinks along side the ship on your return to the ship after visiting the islands were a nice touch and very welcoming. Overall, from initially booking the holiday right to the very end when we spent another week in Florida after the cruise, it was a totally enjoyable experience and one we shall certainly repeat, as will our friends, who are now hooked on cruising.
One issue which came to light after we arrived home - an "amenities charge" had been added to our account of approximately $80.00 on the last evening - something we knew nothing about and had certainly not used/authorised. After several phone calls and Emails, we did have this refunded in full, but there was no apology or explanation. One failure in the Customer Service Department which could have been so easily, and more quickly, rectified. It did not, however, spoil what was an otherwise excellent cruise and has not put us off sailing with Celebrity again.
Read the Eastern Caribbean ports review by Patrick McAuley Publication Date: 07/04/10 Register for a Meet & Mingle! More Celebrity Solstice Cruise Reviews Cruise Critic's Celebrity Solstice Review Write a cruise review!