I just got back from a cruise on Celebrity Solstice. January 2-9th. I'd like to start off by saying cruising is not my favorite, and I was with extended family, so this was not the trip for me. I previously had cruised to Alaska On Princess and loved that trip, but this was a little different.
In addition, this was a critical time for my work, so having limited access to my phone & high internet charges didn't help. I also received a $50 roaming charge just for having my phone on!
We stayed @ the Westin In Ft Lauderdale the night before & ate @ their restaurant Shula's. It was very nice & gave us a chance to explore Ft Lauderdale before we had to leave for the boat.
Embarkation was a breeze and we were met immediately by our room steward who was very attentive throughout our trip.
We had to meet for a briefing an hour after being on the ship. I'm all for safety but cramming 100's of people into a small space & making them stand there for an hour was too much. I think we were waiting on passengers who drifted in 30 minutes late. I remember on my other cruise there were maybe 75 people per room & we actually received instructions. I think we received a couple of minutes of instruction but we couldn't hear due to the dull roar of people talking.
The plusses: Nice ship, great food. Do spend the $30 a plate for the Italian Steakhouse or the $25.00 for Silk Harvest. The crepes for $5.00 were awesome as well. If you don't want to spend the money the food in the dining room & the buffet was very good. The buffet becomes very limited if you go after 10:30 am (before lunch) or if you go after 3:00 pm (before dinner) Seating was no problem but we tended to eat late.
The staterooms were nice & there was a lot of room for clothes, as long as you didn't pack too much. I'm not sure how the ladies with 7 suitcases survived but I had plenty of room for my one. You will have a room attendant who will cater to your every need, so that was a plus.
Of course, being in a warm climate was the biggest benefit so I don't want to complain too much!
The people watching is great & not sure this is a negative or a positive but this is one well dressed crowd!
If your airline allows it, pay for the luggage valet service. They take your bags the night before & you don't see them again till you arrive @ your destination. Our bags were the 1st off! I think this is only available on AA & one other airline, but well worth the $25.00.
The negatives: There are trip hazards everywhere! The 1st night my stepmother tripped coming in from the balcony & fell. Had a black eye & bruised face the rest of the trip. Come to think of it, there were a lot of women walking around w crutches & in wheelchairs by the end of the trip so watch your step.
The pools are sad, pathetic oversized hot tubs. There are 2 outdoors & an indoor one that smelled & reminded me of the Y. The 1st & last time I went up there ¾'s of the boats population was packed in the sunning area like sardines. Nowhere to sit, lay or stand. The other ½ of the deck is GRASS & lots of it. Perfect if you are into bocci ball, totally useless if not. In fact people were laying out on the grass because the itty bitty pool areas were swamped. We heard several complaints of people leaving a towel or a magazine on a chair all day just to save it. Then they would leave expecting it to be there when they returned hours later. Overall It was just way too crowded for me.
The only way to get a drink is to stand in line @ the bar and have a uninterested crew member serve you. While the crew were very nice if they passed you in the hall, most seemed bored out of their minds. The fact they get 15% gratuity on the beverage packages doesn't make them hustle at all. Speaking of which, if you are only planning on drinking sporadically pay ala carte. If you think you will drink 5 drinks a day or more get a beverage package but just get the classic. Beware of the martini bar: the drinks are $11.50 per person & the classic beverage pkg covers up to $8.00. However you will be charged the full price of the drink. Crazy. Also with the beverage pkg remember that you are on shore 3 days (if you go) so I'm not sure it's worth It but it was added to our monstrous bill @ the end so all I can say is it's probably worth it if you plan on drinking all day, but if not don't bother.
There are activities on the boat but personally I was bored to tears. I'm not interested in sales-pitchy health sermons or art auctions, but I did want to try the "High Tea" only to find that it was $25.00 per person & you had to be dressed to the nines. We didn't find much in the way of entertainment and the ship was quiet after 11:00. The shows seemed to have mixed reviews, some said they were boring, others said they were entertained. The hot glass show was enjoyable.
I did decide to get my hair cut & it was an hour well spent & kept me from having to do it at home.
Also, if you are a smoker you will be destined to just a few very windy areas of the ship, or a few chairs on deck 5. There is one bar that allows you to smoke inside, the rest of the areas are outside. There were a lot of smokers on the trip!
We had an 8:30 pm seating for dinner. This may have been my undoing. Spending 2.5 hours at a table with nothing to do but eat that late at night & visit with my family was a chore. If I cruise again I will go freestyle.
One last thing for the ladies: bring your feminine products & lots of them. Maybe you can set up shop & sell them to recoup your trip charges. The ship's gift shop ran out. So did Medical. I had to beg, borrow & steal & thank god for my sister in law. Not good.
The casino was a good place to waste some time & of course lots of money, throw a $20 in the slots and you can play for 3 to 4 minutes, maybe 10 if you are lucky. Do not expect to be served, it was our experience that if you wanted a drink you needed to go to the bar. This was the case @ every bar.
Do Not hit the ATM to gamble more. It's not worth it I assure you!
We enjoyed the old/new San Juan tour & I would do that again. I think we saw a fair amount of the city. Old San Juan was crazy busy but didn't hold a candle to the craziness of St Thomas. 6 cruise ships equals 12,000 people milling about. We went to Megan's Bay in St Thomas & found an itty bitty slice of sand amidst thousands of sun worshipers. However, the bar was good at the beach and the tour was fun. Next time I would try to get further away from the crowds.
St Maarten was the best. We hired a driver & had a wonderful time. Do get out of Philipsburg & try & see as much of the island as you can. We had lunch in Marigot & saw all the scenic spots so that was definitely the highlight. We had a private driver named Bernard & he was a lot of fun.
Other than that, I was so ready to get off that boat I couldn't tell you. Disembarkation took awhile but was no big deal. The buffet the last morning was a nightmare so we chose to go back to Westin & eat again @ Shula's. Our flight didn't leave till 4:00 so we had a lot of time. The Ft Lauderdale airport was very crowded with nowhere to sit. I was happy to get home!
I still have vertigo by the way so watch out for that. My Dad developed viral Influenza and is still sick. Overall Celebrity seems to be a good cruise line, this review is more for the people who are debating cruising, not for those who love it. Enjoy if you go!