Mr friend and I sailed on Celebrity Solstice November 17, 2010 out of Ft. Lauderdale, 7 days to San Juan, St. Maarten and St. Thomas with 3 days at sea. We booked very late, the Monday before the Sunday sail date,via a local travel agent in Bahamas. We ended up with an accessible cabin on Deck 7 which obviously was still available. We are not disabled but were happy to accept this cabin, which was assigned by the cruise line, as it was extra spacious (more on the cabin later).
We took an early flight out of Nassau to Ft. Lauderdale via Jet Blue and took a taxi to the port. Short 10 minute ride, less than $20 fare. We arrived at 11:30 a.m. and there were no lines or crowds. The curbside porters were very helpful in tagging bags and the check-in process inside the terminal was very quick (completing the information on-line does make a difference). We were walking up the gangway before noon.
The ship is very, impressive; far more so than the RCCL and Carnival ships sailed prior to this. The welcome glass of champagne was a nice touch. The ship is beautiful, classy, very clean with elegant public spaces, and many quiet private areas to relax. We explored the ship for about an hour and a half until the cabins were ready at about 1:30 p.m.
Cabin - very spacious, seems to me to be about 40-50% larger than the regular balcony cabin. The door opens and closes automatically. The bathroom is very spacious with a large roll in shower with seat, hand held shower head. No glass shower doors of course; only a curved shower curtain. Only "problem" was that some (not a lot) water from the shower did end up on the bathroom floor while showering but not enough to be a problem. The balcony was also wider that the regular balcony with a table and 2 chairs. Not a lot of closet space but good enough for 2 people. Drawer space is scarce but again enough for 2 for a week. Also stored suitcases under the bed so no storage problems. We liked the rounded ends on the bed which also gave the impression of more space. The bed itself was Extremely comfortable and delivered some wonderful nights' sleep. The flat screen TV was perfectly placed for viewing from bed or from the sofa. The TV had decent programming but could be used for almost anything from booking reservations and tours to viewing your photos taken around the ship.
Dining - We had requested a table for 2, late seating. We were at a table for 8 but decided to give it a shot. Our table mates ended up being a very unfriendly Latino group who totally ignored us. After this experience the first night we immediately asked the Maitre D for a change and the following afternoon we received in our cabin our new assignment, a "2 seater" on the other side of the wine tower. Of course the 2 seater turned out to be a four seater since the placement was literally 12 inches away from another 2 seater. This seemed to be the case throughout the dining room which afforded no privacy. Not a problem as this time our "table mates" were a younger more pleasant couple. The first 3 nights we dined in the main dining room. The meals were well prepared, hot, beautifully presented. Good choices each night with interesting appetizers. The desserts were OK but not as good as Carnival, in my opinion. On the Wednesday we had reservations at Murano. The ambiance and service were excellent, a notch above the main dining room which is impressive since our dining room team (waiter, assistant and the Maitre D) were outstanding. I was not blown away by the meal however, very good but not worth the extra charge in my opinion.
For breakfasts and lunches we loved the Ocean View Cafe; great set-up with multiple stations which minimized traffic. Loved the omelette stations and the many international options for breakfast and lunch. All of the stations we tried (except the Pasta which was just OK) were excellent, fresh, hot and very tasty. Great salad and bread options and desserts also, including ice cream/yogurt service just inside the entrance. Not impressed with the self service tea/coffee/juice stations however as crowds will invariably leave a mess. Not enough waiters circulating offering tea/coffee refills which would have reduced the logjam at the stations. Only other issue here was the problem in finding a table at peak times.
We tried Bistro on Five once and this was very good; nice space and never crowded. The Mast Grill serves up some extremely tasty and fresh burgers, hot dogs, onion rings, fries, grilled chicken etc. A very popular spot during the day.
Gym /Spa- the gym is well equipped, very clean with a great view at the front of the ship. The 2 times I visited there was absolutely no crowd. My friend visited the spa and was very, very impressed with the service and the quality of the treatments. This comes with a pretty hefty price tag so beware.
Entertainment- Not as good as Carnival as the options were more subdued. The music groups performing around the ship were very good. The disco was practically empty most nights. There was a lively deck party a couple of nights and music and dancing in the foyer area a couple of nights. Things seemed to be geared to an older crowd and shut down pretty early most nights. There was the usual bingo, trivia games and a very entertaining newlywed show. There was always seats available for the shows, early or late.
Ports - This is a beautiful ship to relax so if that is your goal this is a great itinerary with 3 sea days. San Juan is a very interesting, beautiful, historic port. The ship does not arrive until 1 p.m. however. We took a 3 hour city tour which was very good. Otherwise we walked around old San Juan which is a very beautiful and romantic city.
St Maarten was our favourite port with it's interesting history. We took a tour covering both the French and Dutch sides which ended in the shopping district. Great shopping with good bargains if you are willing to haggle.
St Thomas - good shopping with beautiful hilltop vistas but pretty crowded with so many ships in port.
Disembarkation - this was a bit disappointing. Even though we had the latest time to leave we still encountered huge lines and a long wait to clear US customs. It took over 1 and a half hours from leaving ship to getting into a taxi! Majority of this time was on the Customs line or on line waiting for a taxi.
Overall, Solstice is a very impressive ship, a bit more subdued than Carnival but not necessarily a bad thing. Caters to a more mature crowd but not stuffy by any means. Big, clean, very stable in rough seas. Very good service and friendly staff in all areas that we used. Should you choose to sail Solstice you will enjoy listening to the noon updates from the captain. He is hilarious, very funny and very entertaining. I would definitely love to sail on Solstice in future or on her sister ships Eclipse/Equinox. The itinerary is not the best but the ship itself is like an upscale resort. Happy sailing!