Celebrity Solstice - Eastern Caribbean Cruise - 10/30/10 - 11/07/10
My partner and I are 29 and 30 years old, respectively, and have cruised only on Royal Caribbean ships prior to this cruise. We are active and enjoy snorkeling and water sports, as well as culture, wildlife, and historic tours. As this was our first Celebrity cruise, we weren't quite sure what to expect other than what we had read, and that this line was a "premium" line. Nonetheless, we were very excited about the cruise, the ports, and especially the ship.
Overall it was pretty smooth. We were onboard sipping champagne within 30 minutes of arriving at the port. However the Port Staff were overly stern, and tended to treat grown adults as though they were naughty children, scolding them for walking too fast, or going under a rope, when there was absolutely nobody in front of them... I think they could be a little nicer.
Celebrity Solstice is an absolutely beautiful ship. It is elegant and modern, yet classy and traditional at the same time. I have read reviews by others who have said that the ship was too modern, or too simple in dEcor, I couldn't disagree more. It was absolutely stunning, well planned, and easy to navigate. There was always a delightful place to stop and sit for a drink, a game of cards, or a chat with friends. In this review I will only speak of things that I myself experienced, so I won't mention, for example the Aqua Spa Cafe, since I didn't ever eat there.
We reserved a verandah stateroom, Cat. 1A (7247) which is aft, just off the main elevator bank. Our balcony was enormous, and could easily have fit 15+ people with room to spare. The thing that I found odd was that even though the balcony was so huge, we had only the same two chairs and small table that normal balconies had. You could easily have fit a full size table and 4 chairs, or even a chase lounge, but we made do with what we had, and loved it just the same.
The stateroom was very well designed, with storage everywhere. The beds were slightly higher than on Royal Caribbean ships as our luggage slid easily under without much effort. There are two storage cabinets above the bed which were very handy in storing our flippers, snorkel gear, and other such items that normally don't fit anywhere. The life vests are stored in large wire baskets under the bed rather than in the closet. We took them out of the baskets and put them under the bed and lined the basket with the large plastic bags from the dry cleaners and used it for a clothes hamper, which was quite handy. The closet was smaller than other ships and had sliding doors that were a bit clunky. I would almost have preferred there were no doors at all, but there was more than enough room for the two of us (and we do NOT pack light). The bed was comfortable, but the pillows were strangely small, almost perfectly square! We asked our attendant for a few extras, which he happily delivered. Our cabin also had a leather sofa that converted to a trundle bed.
The bathroom was our favorite part of the room, by far! It is larger than any stateroom bathroom we have experienced, with many drawers and cabinets for storage, the toilet brush is even hidden away in its own little cabinet. The shower was quite large as well, and featured a foot rest for the ladies to use while shaving. All the fixtures in the bathroom were by Hansgrohe and worked quite well. The sink was a vessel configuration which was both attractive and functional. They provided shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and soap. We only used the soap, but they all smelled lovely (lemon grass). The bath was finished with glass mosaic tiles in neutral tones, and there was a night light feature that kept the bath slightly lit when you turned the main light off. The only complaint I have about the bathroom is the toilet paper holder. It is mounted facing you, under the counter, and there is a heavy metal cover that doesn't really make much sense unless they were planning on the room being very windy. We mostly took the roll off the holder because it was so frustrating to use.
The rest of the cabin was very stylish as well, with a nice flat panel TV with internet, several plugs, and lovely granite tops on the counters. Our friends in the next cabin said that they wished there were plugs nearer to the bed as he uses a breathing machine while sleeping. We didn't mind the plug placement, and always bring a travel power strip.
The TV interactive system was by Apple, and was very user friendly. Room service, Account info, Photos, General info, etc. were all available using your remote, or the wireless keyboard they provided.
We loved our stateroom more than any other we've experienced on any ship!
The Lawn Club, as it is called, is a large live grass lawn on the top deck of the ship. It is also home to the Hot Glass show. Some have called this a useless area, but I loved it. There are several seat groupings around the lawn, as well as a country club styled bar. If you wish you can enjoy a cigar up here, and the views are spectacular. We never got around to playing bocce or lawn bowling, but it did sound like fun.
The adults only area was beautiful, with lighted fountains and peaceful music, it was a lovely place to relax and unwind. My only gripe is that the chlorine odor was very pronounced here, but it was to be expected, and really wasn't much of an issue at all.
Sky Observation Lounge
What a beautiful space! I felt like this area had so much potential, but was vastly underused. Most nights it was pretty much empty, which was really sad considering its prime location above the navigational bridge. We played cards here on the rainy days provided by Hurricane Tomas.
On deck 7 near the main elevator bank below the library there is a huge waste of space called Team Earth, which consists of some couches and chairs, a large globe, and a table with 2 computers that told you about how green the ship was... I appreciate the effort to communicate the environmental advancements of the ship, but considering the card room had only 6 tables and they were always full, I think they could have found a more intelligent use for the space.
The Main Dining Room
The main dining room was stunning. It was two levels with a large opening in the center of the second level allowing you to see the main floor below. Our table was on the second level near the railing. The styling was very modern, yet something about it reminded me of the architecture of the 60's with strange angles and rocket like shapes. It was absolutely beautiful and very well designed. The lighting was exceptional, with huge fixtures throughout, as well as LED cove and trim lighting that changed color, to change the atmosphere. I have read other reviews that said the Dining Room on Solstice needed a theme, I could not disagree more. It was beautiful, yet simple. Perfect for the ship! I am not a fan of themed restaurants, I don't see why a space can't merely be beautiful, and not be themed.
As for the food in the MDR, it was very good for the most part. Some of the dishes were a bit bland, and others were slightly strange, but nearly all tasted good. We ate in the MDR 4 nights and I never had a bad meal. Others at the table said the lamb wasn't the best, and that the steaks were not cooked as requested. Mine were delightful. Some of the soups weren't the best, but they were by no means bad.
The service in the MDR was mixed. Our Waiter, Roberto was very efficient, pleasant, and always smiling. He worked very hard to make sure we all enjoyed our meals, and delighted us each night with a magic trick or puzzle to solve. Our Assistant Waiter Dave was very nice, but slightly forgetful. We had to remind him several times about drink refills, and had to ask several times to have plates removed. The Bar Waiter Nicholas, was not good at all. He only appeared once or twice during dinner, so we learned quickly to order 2 drinks at once because we might not see him again. He didn't have a very good tableside manner either, never smiling, not very nice at all.
I know this is by no means the fault of the dining room staff, but I found that the number of birthday singing requests was ridiculous! 5 to 10 times every night! You could tell the staff was getting annoyed as well, they were constantly having to stop what they were doing to sing to someone. They only one I enjoyed was a lady who had just turned 93! All the staff and all the tables around her were singing, and a big round of applause topped it all off. I guess I am saying, unless it is a real milestone birthday or anniversary, etc., just sing to your selves, and let the dining staff do what they do best.
It is billed as an Italian Steakhouse, which I assumed that meant it was something like combining a really good steakhouse with a really good Italian restaurant. Sounds fantastic right? Not so much, the food was beautiful, visually, but not as lovely on the palate. The service was fantastic, but the food just didn't measure up. The meatballs were especially disappointing. The texture was far too soft. One touch with a fork and the meatball simply fell apart.
This Asian themed restaurant was visually stunning. The dEcor was very much Asian in its influence, but was also quite modern and chic. I felt like I was in a posh New York Asian restaurant. The service was wonderful. The waiter brought us several appetizers (all of which were delicious). We also ordered hot green tea, which is served in a cast iron pot. It was always kept full and piping hot. Our table was on the window, with beautiful views of the ocean waves below. Our entrees were delicious as well; better than any Chinese I have had on land. The dessert was good, but not fantastic, but honestly I was so full, that it really didn't matter, and Asians aren't really big on desserts. Candy yes! Desserts no.
A fine dining French restaurant is what Murano is. Our experience in this restaurant can be summed up in one word... Heaven. This is simply one of the finest meals I have ever eaten, on land or at sea, and I have eaten at some of the world's finest restaurants. The food was just delicious, the staff was even better. Our waiter Emil and our assistant waiter Marco were simply perfect. We never had to ask for a single thing... I think they have some sort of mind reading device, because they were always on top of everything. The filet of beef finished tableside was divine; the soups were amazing as well. They served us a cheese course, and then dessert, cordials, and coffee or tea. My only complaint about this meal was that I only had a reservation for one night. Had I known, I would have skipped the Tuscan Grille and eaten here again.
The next afternoon, they offered a Royal Champaign Tea from 2:30 till 4pm. It was $19 for champagne and tea, or $15 for just tea. We were presented with a menu which described each of the teas, as well as all of the sandwiches and pastries we would be enjoying. We opted for a pot of the Lapsang Souchung tea which is a black tea smoked over pine fires, which gives it a very unique flavor. I loved it. We also tried the Vanilla Orchid tea and our old standby Earl Grey; both of which were lovely. The service is white glove and quite fancy. I loved it, absolutely loved it. They served us an assortment of finger sandwiches, pastries, and freshly baked, warm scones with clotted cream, raspberry jam, and orange marmalade, of course. The champagne was rosE, and was served with fresh sliced strawberries. As before the service was perfection. I can honestly say that I loved Murano completely.
Cafe al Bacio
This was a small coffee bar off the main atrium on Deck 5. I only went there a few times, and it seemed as though if you ordered anything more complicated than a double espresso, they got confused. Luckily that is pretty much all I ever wanted, and it was delicious. Coffee by Lavazza, yum!
Bistro on 5
This was Crêpe restaurant opposite the coffee bar on Deck 5, hence the name... Andrea was the hostess and she was reason enough to keep coming back. It was obvious that she knew what she was doing, and she was always as friendly as can be. She checked on everyone in her restaurant throughout the meal, and made absolutely sure everyone was happy. The crêpes were divided into 3 categories; Breakfast, Dessert, and Savory. All of them are wonderful, but beware, the Hot and Spicy, is truly that! There is a $5 cover charge for this restaurant, which we felt was more than worth it. We ate there 5 times during the cruise. Another benefit was the Bistro on 5 was open till 2am!
This is the casual buffet. The offerings were good compared to previous cruises. I always found something good to eat, and never felt like it wasn't up to par. A few times it was difficult to find a table, but the waiters were very helpful, clearing plates and getting drinks promptly, etc. I also really enjoyed the open-air tables at the back of the cafe with a bar in the middle.
We ordered room service 4 times during the cruise, and every time it arrived within 20 minutes and was hot and delicious. I found the menu to be pretty generous compared to other cruises.
Bars and Lounges
This was our very favorite place for a drink on the ship, although it took a bit to find it. It is slightly hidden for some reason. Kelby is a very talented bartender. He is very professional and knowledgeable in his craft. Kelby has a menu of specialty cocktails that he prepares to perfection upon request. The list of ingredients he stocks at his bar is staggering, with items such as basil leaves, rose petals, grilled pineapple juice, Date infused bourbon, and Liquid Nitrogen, just to name a few. All of these items are prepared fresh daily by Kelby for his bar. He works alone, and as such the drinks may take a few moments longer than at other bars, but watching all the work that goes into them is entertaining and adds to the anticipation of tasting your chosen libation. As Kelby would say of his job "I make it happen" and he truly does! Cocktails are $12 each, but are included in your premium drink package if you were wise enough to get one! One of my favorite drinks on the menu was called Coming Up Roses, and consisted of muddled limes, rose petals, rose essence, raspberry rum, champagne, and rose-raspberry foam... makes me thirsty just thinking about it. By my very favorite concoction served by Kelby was not on the menu and was called a Strawberry Caipirinha. Just ask him to make you one, and tell him to add a shot of Navan to make it really special.
The bartop is literally frozen, which I must admit is pretty cool... pardon the pun. The bartenders here are the kind who juggle bottles and try to visually entertain you while preparing your drinks. The drinks were pretty ordinary as martinis go, and I must admit the boys did drop a lot of bottles and cups while tossing them around. It was a fun place to sit for a bit and have a drink, but the novelty soon wore off.
This was the disco on the ship. Visually it was awesome, with LED lights everywhere, fantastic colors and electronic patterns that were ever changing. The vibe I got was one of being in a famous Las Vegas Ultra Lounge, in a VIP booth. The only problem with this fantastic disco was that it was always completely empty, I mean empty! Several nights we were the only ones there, which was sad, because it was one of the coolest venues on the ship.
This was a great place to sit and have a glass of wine. It had a slight Hunting Lodge/Country French theme going, and it was delightful. In the back they had some self-serve wine dispensing machines, which were pretty cool. Sadly the room was almost always empty.
The shops on the ship were really nice. They had all the old standards like the logo shop, the perfume shop, the liquor and cigarette store, watch store, etc. They also had a series of higher-end shops that sold designer clothing, jewelry, hand bags, etc. Prices in all the shops were really not that bad, and I found deals in all of them.
Casino was very nice, there was a centrally located bar, with tons of slots and tables. My only gripe is that the table minimum was high at $10. Usually I find the $5 tables and stay for hours, but there were none to be found on Solstice.
We felt there could have been more activities scheduled throughout the days at sea, and felt that the activities staff could have been more visible.
The shows in the main theatre were nothing spectacular. The dancers were not the best. The only show that had a real wow factor was the Solstice show with the Cirque style performances. There were several primary performers that were amazing in this show, but always in the background there were those awful dancers that just seemed out of place. It would have been much more dramatic to have only the featured act on stage.
The late night comedian was funny, but the venue was hot and stuffy. Given the number of people that showed up, I think the main theatre would have been a better choice for this show.
The live band that played most nights in the main atrium was good, but the singers at times were very bad, and reminded me of karaoke, rather than professional singers.
The piano player in Michael's club was extremely good, and we enjoyed him very much. He also played at various times around the ship, and was equally pleasing.
The Hot Glass show was very entertaining, and interesting to watch. During the show they created 3 pieces from molten glass and explained every step in detail, while keeping it lively and entertaining. They raffled off some of the items they made during the cruise a couple of times. I wasn't present either of the times they gave out the raffle tickets... it is completely random I heard. I would have like to take one of them home.
I opted for a shave and facial with massage in the AquaSpa. Nazel was my barber, and he was fantastic. He was very good at what he did, and I left the spa feeling relaxed, refreshed, and with the closest, smoothest shave I think I've ever had. I regret not going back later in the week for another shave!
The fitness center and sauna was very nice and very well equipped. I must be honest though, I didn't use the fitness center nearly as much as I should have considering the caloric intake I was enduring each day.
I absolutely loved this ship. It was for the most part, very well designed, and well staffed. The crew and staff made you feel like you truly were a celebrity, although there were a few among them who could use some more training; the vast majority were professional and efficient. The Captain who was Greek by the way, was quite funny. We enjoyed his daily announcements very much. Did I mention he was Greek? I will definitely sail with Celebrity again, and again, and again, but I don't think I'll toss Royal Caribbean to the wayside. Celebrity is my relaxing cruise line, and Royal is my adventure cruise line... Depending on what I am looking for, I now have options! I hope you found this review helpful. Cheers!