Just back from the 12/19 sailing of Celebrity Solstice. Our group was my husband and myself (40s), our two daughters (14 and 11), and my in-laws (70s). We have only cruised once before with the kids, and that was on Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas about 3 years ago. My in-laws picked this cruise as it seemed like a good deal for a nice ship and itinerary.
We had read that there are often not a lot of kids on the Celebrity cruises, but there were about 500 on this cruise as it was over the holiday break. So, I think the mix of ages on board was more diverse than the apparently usual older set.
We arrived at the cruise terminal around 11:30am and embarkation was relatively easy. The ship is indeed gorgeous like a posh hotel. We enjoyed the Oceanview Cafe for lunch and were able to get in our rooms around 1. Compared to other cruises, the veranda rooms seemed pretty spacious and the bathrooms were especially well designed. There isn't a lot of drawer space in the room, but plan to hang a lot of things and utilize the storage area over the bed. Our kids had their own room next door which was nice. Our room attendant did a nice job, although nothing out of the ordinary.
As for food, we ate in the main dining room every night except one night we ate at the buffet. Our waiter and assistant were very good and attentive, although no better than the ones we had on Grandeur 3 years ago. The food was more "upscale" than what was offered on the Grandeur, and we enjoyed all our meals. The presentation was beautiful, although the quantities were sometimes a bit small. I wished they had some more "mainstream" choices for our girls, especially for the appetizers, but overall everything was delicious.
The Oceanview Cafe had many choices at all meals and was a step up from the Grandeur for sure. We also had room service breakfast one day, which was delivered on time and enjoyed on the veranda.
We enjoyed the pool area several of the days. With a lot of families on the cruise, it was a bit crowded. We didn't have any problem with getting drinks from the pool bar waiters. Some other things we did during sea days were the galley tour (interesting), group trivia, and hot glass show.
We enjoy going to the evening shows on cruises, and these were okay. My recollection was that the production shows on Grandeur were better. The first night show was kind of an overview of some of the entertaiment that would be one the ship . . the band, acapella quartet, etc. The trumpet player was fracking some notes and it just left a bad impression as to the quality of the entertainment. On the other hand, the acapella group Metro Park is outstanding and we enjoyed them whenever we heard them throughout the cruise. The second night Cirque show was good and they seemed to be well enjoyed. The 3rd night "vocal impressionist" was interesting . . . I guess like a Las Vegas act. He had kind of an over-the-top David Hasselhoff personality. My kids really enjoyed the magician, although the adults in group weren't that impressed. The 5th night "Pulse" production show was probably the one I liked the best. Yes, some of the dancing could have been better, but overall I found it entertaining. The Christmas show was short and okay, more of the same acts from before. Same with the last night . . . the vocal impressionist, magician, etc. Whoever designs these shows needs to work a little on the "wow" factor . . . think Disney.
As for kids programs, my younger daughter at 11.5 and in middle school felt too "old" for the 9-11 year old program. The 14 year old was a little intimidated by all the older teens in the teens program. So, despite there being a lot of kids on board, neither of them really clicked with the other kids. I think what they really missed the most from Royal Caribbean were some of the "fun" touches . . . towel animals in the room, more people dancing on the deck at sail off, pool games, etc. Actually, the Celebrity staff seemed to be trying to encourage some of this, but the guests weren't that receptive. I also wish there were more places for them to hang out together, rather than just the separate rooms due to their ages.
Regarding ports, we did our own thing in each one and enjoyed ourselves. Trunk Bay Beach at St. Johns (took ferry from St. Thomas) was gorgeous and worth seeing, although there was a "red flag" that didn't allow you to go in the water.
Our group decided that one of the most impressive things about this ship were the public restrooms. Always spotless! The whole ship seemed clean and the staff were all friendly.
Oh, I should note that the seas were a little rough especially on day 6 and we did feel it! The ship was even creaking! So, don't assume there will be no motion on these big ships.
Overall, an enjoyable family cruise. I think the kids probably would have preferred a different ship, but the price was right and