Our family of 4 had been interested in cruising for some time and thought it could be a new standard vacation for us, but this was our first trip chosen because of a group that featured fantastic speakers. Since we have no prior cruise experience with which to compare the Solstice, we can only compare it to our international family travel and resort experiences.
The disappointment began a week before the trip when the ports changed causing us to rebook our excursion (on the painfully slow Celebrity web site). We just chalked that up to the uncertainties of cruising.
The second disappointment was when we reached the port and had to stand in the sun (without sun screen) for two hours due to the prior norovirus outbreak that other reviewers had mentioned. This disappointment was overcome quickly as my boys and I were excited to see our first cruise ship up close and watch it pull out of the harbor.
The cabin itself was very nice and well designed even compared to a small hotel room. My next disappointment I blame on myself for booking the four of us into a single cabin (as we often share a single hotel room or suite while traveling). The pull out beds were fine but uncomfortable and there really wasn't enough space for luggage. Clearly we would have been better served booking two cabins and might have even saved money if the second were an interior one close to the veranda stateroom we were in. This was a rookie mistake but I do wish our travel agent, Celebrity or guest relations would have suggested an alternative when they saw 4 guests booked to a cabin.
The group lectures we attended made the whole trip worthwhile, however, the room provided was forward on deck 14 and the motion was considerably worse than in other parts of the ship. The audiovisual capabilities were fairly primitive and parties in the Sky Lounge could often be heard through the door. I wouldn't recommend this ship for any kind of business meetings.
Our boys attended most of the lectures but we sent them up to deck 15 several times to take advantage of the X-Club program. They found nobody in the teen area and no diversions other than old board games and mismatched sets of playing cards. We know Celebrity caters to an older demographic but we were disappointed in the children's offerings. They swam in the pool a couple of times but it had no interesting features and was smaller than our pool at home.
A highlight of our trip was the excursions. Perhaps we over paid by going through the ship, but we really enjoyed our time at Orient Beach and our first time snorkeling at St. Thomas.
We thought the onboard entertainment was quite good, particularly the solo pianist.
Then it was time to get back on the ship for two days at sea and the norovirus hit...
As other reviewers have mentioned the ship came into port with several sick passengers. The crew did go to heroic lengths to clean every surface and enforce hand sanitizing throughout the ship.
Despite these precautions a significant portion of our group became extremely ill for 2-3 days during the trip. Coded announcements were made about people getting sick in public areas. It was particularly disconcerting to hear 3 of these announcements in an hour. Its difficult to enjoy even the decent meals on the ship if you think you might be seeing them again.
Two days out from disembarkation my wife (the most diligent handwasher in the family) became deathly ill. The next day my oldest son fell victim to the virus as well. It is frustrating being that sick and knowing you have no ability to cut your trip short. We managed to drag ourselves off the boat Sunday morning, through a disorganized disembarkation, and my wife and son were still miserable on our flight back.
So perhaps we just had bad luck or we are a bad fit for cruising, but we will probably stick to land-based vacations rather than take our chances on another floating petri dish.