Our drive to the port from Orlando was easy, and the directions quite clear on exactly where the ship would be located. There were at least 7 ships in port, so reading the signs that described where to go for each ship was a must!! When the Solstice came into view, I had tears in my eyes from all the anticipation and on line chats with Cruise Critics, building up to this moment. She was a beautiful, glistening white, shiny, and clean ship.
My husband dropped me off with the bags and parked our car off site. Within fifteen minutes he appeared inside of security where we checked in together. Our check in hostess was named Barbara. I have never had such a wonderful experience. Since we were early, and she was not too busy, giving us a few minutes to chat. Her personality was sincere, and she seemed very interested in making sure our time on board would be an unforgettable experience. We thanked her, and were whisked up the escalator, where we immediately boarded before noon. Our ship was to leave at 4:00 PM that day.
Once up the gangplank, with a carry on in toe, we had our pictures taken by the photographer, and were welcomed by numerous uniformed staff. We gladly accepted the complimentary champagne offered to us. Our rooms were not ready, as we were early, so we went to deck 14, to the Ocean View Cafe for a outstanding buffet lunch. I had Chinese stir fry, cooked to order, with no MSG! They said they don't use it, which was a plus to me!
Our rooms were ready about 1:00 PM, and we met our Concierge class stateroom attendant, Gladvin Ferrao. Over the next 8 days, he would go out of his way in the hallway to say hello to us, and was always there within minutes with ice, or whatever supplies we needed. Never rude, never interrupting, just never bothersome. He was the perfect Room Steward! Our balcony seemed a little smaller, than on other ships, but we spent little time in our room. The showers were really neat, they are now rounded, and two people can fit in there...trust me! We found the bathrooms more spacious than before. Our five suitcases found their hideaway under the bed, and all clothes fit in the closet. There were plenty of drawers for your belongings, and the second day of the trip, we found a huge cubby hole. It is over the bed. Two huge storage areas, so this become our area for the clothes we had worn during the trip. The safe was the normal size, but held all of our jewelry, passports and other valuables.
Our travel agent gave us a bottle of chilled champagne with a bowl of fresh fruit and two champagne glasses, upon arrival. What a welcome feeling that was after the drive down! We opened the champagne in our room, and sat out on the balcony for a while just relaxing in the sun! The only "special touch" we missed in our room was the animals configured from towels lying on our bed in the evening, after returning from dinner. This was my first cruise that I have not seen the animals in my room, which I looked forward to seeing every night before bedtime. Maybe I should have asked.
My husband, Al, and I wondered around the ship, and found ourselves at Murano's on deck five. We had not made a reservation for Specialty Dining, so we took the time to make a reservation for that evening. Their food was outstanding,and Contemporary French Cuisine themed cuisine. Try the escargot in a ravioli or the flaming strawberries for dessert. Service is extremely attentive, and gourmet. It was worth the extra money for this experience.
There was an A Capella quartet signing, named Metro Park. Be sure to take the time to see them. The group performed in the Entertainment Court on Deck 4, and can be seen singing Bee Gees to the Four Tops. Very ,very good, and on key.
First Formal nights was extremely special as we were able to dine at a rare officer's table. I enjoyed the company very much and considered it the highlight of my cruise!
If you have a chance, and feel adventurous, try the Aqua Spa for Breakfast or lunch. They serve healthy food, and delicious Tuna, chicken, or salmon cooked to order at lunch time. The was was excellent, tender, and flavourful. Seating was very limited, and we found groups of people using the tables to play cards during the lunch hour. It was a little frustrating knowing there were only a few tables but this was not characteristic of most Celebrity passengers we encountered, and only happened one time out of 3 visits to the Aqua Spa Cafe on Deck 12 Forward. The service was quick, and the servers behind the counter were happy and engaging in conversation with the passengers during ordering.
The shows in the evening were better than we have experienced on other ships. We enjoyed the Spirit of Broadway, comedySean O'Shea (he was very funny and had an excellent singing voice), Pulse, which was heartbeat of music and dance, and the headliner: "Solstice-The Show" with a European style theatrical circus about the timeless battle of day and night. Don't miss this show, it's the best one in the theatre. You might also like the Newlywed, Not so Newlywed game Show. That was too funny! and even funnier: we were chosen to be one of the couples on stage! The answers to the crazy questions that Ian (Cruise Director) asked were hilarious! (What we say at sea, stays at sea!)Liars Club can't be missed, the a Guest Comedian, their vocal impressionist Sean O'Shea, Cruise Director, and the Hotel Director. All lies, all fun, very late night entertainment for adults! Loved the humor. One more show not to miss, is on deck almost everyday. It is the Hot Glass Show, on Deck 15, next to the Solstice Lawn. We watched live glassblowing through the partnership of the Corning Museum of Glass.
Things to do that I enjoyed: the Galley tour, art auction, line dancing lessons, napkin folding, a wine tasting seminar, aqua spa's "Persian Gardens", which is a hidden area of the spa,(quiet and elite with sauna's and floor to ceiling windows), cruise critic parties, and cruise critic sail away parties, our slot pull organized for the cruise critics, and of course shore excursions with snorkeling being the ultimate! Don't miss the shopping in St. Thomas, who could resist the jewelry there?
We found the Internet easy to use, and very fast. I never used all my minutes because I was too busy with all the activities on the ship. We never had a problem getting on or off the ship, and we were never ever in a line. With so much offered on the ship, you would think there were only a few hundred people on board, it just never seemed crowded.
We enjoyed the lawn deck and saw many people playing golf and croquette. It is also where the Corning Glass Show is offered.
Captain's Club: I need to mention this. If this is your first cruise, keep on cruising with Celebrity. Your benefits are awesome, including cocktail parties, and free Internet. The more you cruise the more you keep receiving! Our Captain's Club hostess was Jennifer Evans. She was gracious to us at ever encounter, never stopped smiling, and definitely enjoyed her job. She was a long way from Kansas, but could keep up with the best us! She is a tremendous attribute to Celebrity Cruise Lines, and we were happy to work with her!. I missed my bonus credits, as I did not sign up for a cruise on board, but did it 4 days later. My fault! I missed out on $300 shipboard credits!
Debarkation and customs took us about 15 minutes, and then we were back to reality, and wondered why we left the ship at all. The Solstice left me begging to return to Celebrity.
The employees on board the ship gave everything they had. All employees were seen in many different areas of the ship and at different times, always interested in you, smiling, and having the time to say hello. They worked so hard, and with long hours. The reward is no complaining by passengers. Never a bad word was uttered, and most answers ended in , "It will be my pleasure". I think my new theme for cruising will be, "It will be my pleasure to cruise Celebrity"