We are a senior couple and this was our 4th cruise, all others having been on NCL ships, our most recent cruise only 2 months ago to Alaska. We did the Eastern Caribbean cruise with 3 other couples, and found the Solstice to be a notch above all of the NCL ships we've been on. Our stateroom was very nice and clean with excellent service by the room steward. For the first time on a cruise we were assigned to a table with our group at 6pm in the dining room, and didn't find this to be constraining at all, as on the NCL ships, we went down to the dining room as soon as it opened each evening to get a table before the crowds showed up. There were two formal nights, and a suit and tie were quite satisfactory. Food in the Oceanview Cafe, the main buffet on deck 14, was very good and the buffet stations were laid out so there never seemed to be a big crowd trying to get breakfast or lunch. Juice bars were far better laid out and there also seemed to be more table space than on the NCL ships. I'm not great on entertainment, but I did go see the glass blowing demonstration at the top of the ship and it was excellent. I saw the variety show which was a sample of all the entertainment - pretty good. Now for some more specific comments.
Embarkation OK but not great. A half hour of lines and security checks before we were finally on the ship. Getting off the ship at the ports we visited was faster than I have seen on any previous cruise. A trip down the elevator to deck 2 and then walk right out. We made debarkation easier by booking an Everglades tour at Fort Lauderdale, so we met in a group and were escorted off the ship straight to our baggage and customs.
In regard to eating, though the food was quite good in the main restaurant, the menu wasn't very clear in describing some of its items, particularly in the part of the menu that changed each night, so sometimes it was a bit of a chance as to what one would be served. The waiters were very good about bringing something else if what was ordered didn't turn out well, but I don't like to waste food. The main dining room was white and black, not themed at all. I prefer the NCL themed dining rooms at least in regard to atmosphere. Also, no restaurant had fish and chips; a favorite on the NCL ships.
I bought a soda pass and I have the same complaint that I've had on all the ships I've been on. The passes cost quite a bit, but soda can only be gotten at the bars. If you're in your stateroom and want a coke, it means a trip in the elevator to the nearest bar. Even the cheapest motels have pop machines on every floor, and I'm sure machines could be programmed to accept a soda pass card. It was almost impossible to get enough pop at the bars to justify the $35 cost of a soda card, so next time I'll probably get drinks at the juice bar and buy pop for $2.35 per can and forget the card.
Though we skirted a hurricane through much of the cruise, weather information was non-existent on the TV news channels or offered by the ship on the TV. It would have been so nice to have a daily satellite picture of the hurricane. The Captain did make a daily announcement about the weather, but you had to be in the right place to hear him. When I got home I got a complete track on hurricane Thomas and its strength every 6 hours with a free computer program called Hurricane Tracker. As it was, the last two days, the seas were quite rough and it was very windy. Now I have a better picture why.
1.5 hour Shopping presentation was mostly a waste of time except for those who were going to buy jewelry and diamonds. I'd rather be willing for a dentist to be drilling.....
None of these are major complaints and we'd easily recommend the Solstice to anyone looking for a cruise on a good ship. In fact, we bought the Passages package which gives you shipboard credit on a future cruise. They don't advertise it - you have to go to the cruise sales office and ask. We were very happy with this ship.