About us: DH and I are teachers and this was our 23rd cruise. We have cruised with Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Hal, Princess, RCCL.
We drove from south, central Georgia on Saturday 20th, to Port St. Lucie, about one hour north of Fort Lauderdale which made for an easy drive the morning of embarkation.
I had booked the Marriott Residence Inn online and got a really attractive suite with full kitchen and at a great rate which always make DH happy.
We arrived at Port Everglades, dropped off the luggage, parked in the Midport Garage, and were onboard with mimosa in hand all in less than an hour. Muster drill -without life-vests- was held in venues throughout the ship. We were in Blu which did look nice.
As has been said many times, the Solstice is a beautiful ship. We really enjoyed the dEcor both the contemporary [MDR, Sky Lounge etc] and the traditional [Michael's Club, Wine Cellar - which became two of our favorite places to sit with a drink before of after dinner]. Our stateroom was 8343, port side balcony - the last one which does give a slightly larger balcony. However, be aware that you look down onto a large blue metal area of roof and walkways. Not the best view. The bathroom was clean, bright and the shower a good size. The sofa was awkwardly placed for accessing the closet and there is definitely a shortage of drawers. DH and I really felt that not having large pull out drawers below the sofa was a missed opportunity for storage. We find those very useful on Carnival ships. We liked the dEcor of the room and the flat screen TV but were disappointed to see quite a lot of rust on the balcony walls and the railings really needed refinishing and re-varnishing. Lucas was our steward and was efficient and friendly.
We ate in the Ocean View cafe twice for lunch; the Aqua Spa Cafe for breakfast several times, and apart from room service for breakfast one morning [which was exactly what we ordered and delivered on time], we ate mainly in the MDR. We had select [anytime] dining which worked well for us. We like to be able to decide what to do and when to do it. While the wait staff was in general competent, only one pair seemed to go above and beyond and make the extra effort. I know it is more difficult to build a rapport with the waiters when you have anytime dining, but we have managed it on other cruises.
Food overall was good if somewhat uninspired, but our main criticism was that we often felt the choices were lacking in the MDR. It is the first time on a cruse that I never felt torn between several items, in fact I ended up selecting items which were available every day.
The weather was a little rough to start with and according to the navigator when we went to his talk, the seas were "moderate" with 12 foot swells. We really enjoyed his talk and also the one done by the environmental officer, but DH went to the engineer's talk and said it was disappointing. I went to the first scrap-booking class but as everything we wanted to do seemed to be at the same time, never made it to another one. We always enjoy the dance classes, but the two dancers teaching it were probably the worst we have ever come across [more about the dancers later].
There was some good entertainment onboard. Metro West, the a cappella group was excellent; the Adagio Strings were good; and several other solo musicians were good, but we did not care for the show band. They seemed to think very loud equals very good. Now to the shows. Having taught theatre in both the UK and USA I can honestly say the singers were second rate and the dancers were poor at best. I really enjoy going to the shows onboard any cruise line and love to sit behind the techie working the sound/light boards. With the exception of Solstice the show, which was worth seeing, I cringed while watching the other two productions shows. Paul Baya, the CD and entertainment director [he said] should really suggest a great deal more rehearsal time for the dancers, perhaps then they could perform a cohesive and in step routine. Even DH who freely admits he has two left feet, remarked how out of time the dancers were. The ventriloquist and impressionist were reasonably good. We did really enjoy the hot glass show, and the Captain's Club reception. I am glad that we got to sail with and meet the most amusing captain with which we have ever come across, as this was his last cruise before going on vacation. His sense of humor and timing were outstanding.
The whole point of this cruise for us was rest and relaxation and we managed that with no problem. As we have spent time in all the ports of call, except for wandering round the fort in San Juan, we stayed on board, read and relaxed.
We enjoyed the Solstice and the cruise and will be happy to sail with Celebrity again.