Spent 7 days on the Solstice from 1/30/11-2/6/11. This is my 15th or 16th cruise. I've sailed on everything from the defunct Hawaiian Cruise Lines to Paul Gaugan/Regent. My wife and I booked this trip as a "get away from the kids for a week" cruise. Having been on many different styles and "levels" of ships, we chose luxury over activity. Seeing this rated as a 5.5 star ship, it was an easy pick. I have found that you often trade "activity" on a ship for an older crowd but better food. Here's my brief review:
SHIP: Very nice ship. There was a Norovirus outbreak prior to our sailing and we waited an extra 2 hours at the port before boarding. They needed to sanitize the ship. By day 2, they had removed the bread baskets, salt/pepper shakers, and anything else you could touch from the tables as we apparently had an outbreak on our ship. It became a bit humorous with all the announcements saying, "Mr. Purell to Deck 8." Thankfully neither of us got sick and they did a great job sanitizing. The features on the ship are nice, but it lacks the extravagant "main lobby" that many of the older ships have. The deck layout is intuitive, there are plenty of "nooks" to hide out in, and the upper deck "lawn" was really cool. Some people complained of a lack of deck chairs by the pool, but we didn't find it a problem. The lawn was removed on the 6th day of the cruise for a "hardier turf." I wonder if that happens every cruise. I did notice that the shows were completely packed, as were the "guest lectures" on Pirates and the Bermuda Triangle. Having the muster drill in the auditorium was nice, no life preservers or anything.
FOOD: The food in the dining room was decent. It really was hit or miss when it came to the entrees. There are 2 options at dinner, a constant food menu and a variable food menu. The constant was available everyday, the variable obviously changed with each meal. I found the constant to be lacking. Artisan cheese usually consists of more than cheddar, swiss, and blue. Digressing... The variables were hit or miss. I would rely on the waiter since they ate this same food every week. The best dish in 7 nights? The quail, by far. The lobster might as well have been shrimp. I found the majority of meals tasted as though they were reheated frozen food. However, the portion sizes were appropriate and you didn't feel "stuffed" or "famished." The exception was the Tuscana restaurant. Wonderful view out the back of the boat (great when you are pulling out of port). The food was exceptional. Tasted as though it was prepared right then and there. Only issue was the amount was absurd. I think they compensate for the high fee ($30/pp). By the end of soup, I was done. Regardless, I recommend paying the price, at least 1 time.
Drinks? $2.30 for a coke. yep, 1 coke. For the remainder, $5-15/drink. The beverage deals are no deal. For the premium, it only covers up to $11 drinks (not the highest specialty drinks), and it works out to having 7 drinks per day in order to make it worth it. Keep that up and you might as well eat 3 desserts every day!