This was the 3rd cruise for my partner and I having previously travelled with RCI, NCL and Disney. From the outset I would place Solstice in third place behind RCI and Disney (with Disney outclassing the other ships).
My partner and I are in our late 30's / early 40's and enjoy travelling, good food, a few drinks, shows and a good variety of entertainment.
Travel to the port of Barcelona was easy as we live in the area, so a train and a taxi ride got us there by midday. Check in was superb. I think we were on board just 20 minutes after getting out of the cab!
The entrance to the ship was by gangway on deck 4 by the Martini bar. When boarding other vessels there has been an immediate "Wow" factor. We did not feel this as the entry felt rather enclosed. The sparkling wine on boarding was a nice touch but we did have to battle through sales people for alternative dining, drinks packages and wine packages. We actually got caught with these people for 20 minutes and could have done without the hard sell so quickly.
We had a walk round and first impressions were that Solstice is a beautiful ship with some stunning spaces and nicely presented artworks.
Next stop was the Ocean View for a buffet lunch. Again the first impression was great with stations for Mexican, curries, BBQ, roasts, Chinese, pizza, pasta, salads and lots of desserts. We tried the curries and they were delicious.
The staterooms were available when we finished lunch and we made our way to deck 8. The room was large and well laid out and spotlessly clean. There was loads of storage and the shower was unexpectedly large.
After another walk around and Muster we made our way to the Sunset Bar for the CC first meet and greet. This was fun and it was satisfying to put some faces to some names. Subsequent to this we watched sail away and then got changed for dinner and popped in to the official CC meeting in Michael's club.
We had second seating for dinner. Although we had requested a table for 6 we got a table for 2 at the back of the restaurant. What was odd was that there were 4 tables for 2 in a line with only about 2 inches between each table. The effect was of having a table for 8 where people were less inclined to chat and where we were all eating different courses at different times.
The food in the MDR was ok. There were no dishes that stick in my memory and there was LOTS of red meat. It wasn't bad but just not great. We also had dinners in the 3 main alternative venues. Morano (stuffy, dark a bit pretentious and the lobster made me ill), Tuscan Grill (best views on the ship and the best food. Loved it all and left stuffed!) and Silk Harvest (asian inspired and ok).
Tried Cafe Bacchio one day but thought the coffee was a bare pass and definitely not worth the $6 for the one I tried.
Buffet was always reliable for breakfast and lunch, but the variety never changed. It was the same food every day and by day 6 I was bored of it.
The Mast Grill had the burgers etc.., but these were not grilled to order as advertised and as with most things on the ship I would grade as ok. Also the service here was awful. Food was thrown on a plate and thrust at you. Every time I visited I had to give the plate back and ask for fires, or cheese etc..., it was never offered.
Entertainment was the second biggest disappointment on the ship. It was truly awful and the worst I have experienced in cruising. Each night the same bands played (an acapella quartet, a jazz band, a pop band and a lounge singer). Same songs with each band moving round the ship periodically. It became very tedious very fast.
Unfortunately the show lounge was equally uninspired. Just passable shows most of which I walked out of. Even the big Solstice show (meant to be Cirque style) was a let down. Some great performers but it felt like I was watching a 1980's seaside variety show. I had higher expectations.
Service ship wide was good but very superficial. Lots of "hi, how are you today?" "Have you had a good day?" "did you enjoy......?" however nobody really wanted to hear an answer and in a lot of cases walked off before you could engage.
Bars were generally good with a special word to the Martini bar where most nights were spent.
The sundeck on sea days was absolutely brutal! Not enough space for the overcrowded ship (built for 2850 with over 3100 on our cruise). It was so bad on the first sea day that I did not sit out for the rest of the cruise on the open deck. It was also too loud as the deafening bands always seemed to be there, too many screaming kids and too many very rude people hogging sunbeds and pushing each other.
Kids in general were not well controlled with large packs roaming the halls, especially on sea days.
The highpoint of the ship for me was the Hot Glass Show. I can't praise these 3 men enough. Funny and very talented I went to at least 5 shows.
Lawn club itself felt like wasted space and the lawn was resting for most of the trip so that further cut down on sun bathing space.
We did not use shore excursions except for one question in Venice where they were quite rude. Guest relations managed to answer my question however and every time I needed to speak to them were professional and helpful.
Ports were all interesting and we self toured. Kotor and Dubrovnik were the high points. As expected the Med in the summer is very crowded.
Disembarkation was smooth and efficient.
Overall the ship was so near to great and then kept missing the mark. Entertainment and food needed more variety. I am sure on a 7 day Caribbean trip you don't have time to tire of the same music and menu, but on a 12 day trip you need more. The main theatre also needs an overhaul. Please Celebrity look at your competition and put some effort into this area. Sundeck space was lovely to look at when empty but was like a war zone when full. MDR was tasty but not memorable.
Finally a word about fellow cruisers. With the exception of the CC people we met (all of whom were lovely of course), the people on board were some of the rudest I have ever encountered (and I live in Spain where rudeness is almost a sport). They pushed and shoved, hogged sun beds, were very dismissive of staff that were always trying to help and completely unappreciative of the fact that apart from themselves 3099 other people had also paid to be on vacation and wanted to destress. I was so looking forward to this trip and had heard such fantastic things about Solstice. Maybe my expectations were too high.