My husband and I had heard Celebrity Cruises is on par with Princess. Since we have cruised Princess so many times, both being Platinum and many of the ships are the same we thought a change was in order. We were really excited to try something new.
Wow! We just walked on about 2:00 pm. However, no one showed us where our room was or indicated how to get there. The map we were given was a cut-a-way of all the decks that really didn't help. Our experience of how ships are laid out got us there. We also knew to head up to the buffet at the top deck.
Wow. again. The room was about the same size as a mini-suite on Princess. Our room was a balcony with an obstructed view. The obstructed view meant that we could not see all the way to the front and back of the ship. However, that wasn't a problem, in our opinion. In addition, the bathroom has a glass door enclosed shower. Both of us could get into the bathroom! Two of our three bags arrive. After two calls to the room steward and guest relations the third bag arrives about 8:00 pm.
We signed up for four shore excursions for the first four days of the cruise. A change was made to the first excursion and we were notified of the change and sent the tickets to our room our first night. We arrive back to our room after a long day the first day and realize we don't have any other tickets for the next three days. (Did I mention we paid for these BEFORE we left for the trip?) Hubby calls the shore excursion desk and they send our tickets to us as REPRINTS after 10:00 pm since they are so busy. Hmm. What happened to the first prints?
In fairness to the shore excursions, we felt the hefty prices we paid were well worth it. There is no way we would have seen Nice, Monaco, French Riviera, Florence, Pisa, Rome, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast in such a short a time although it was exhausting.
Food on Board
Hmm. This takes some thought since I want to be fair. The buffet upstairs was hit and miss. Sometimes it was good and sometimes pretty bad. We didn't know whether the food we chose would be hot, lukewarm or cold. I liked the layout but not the delivery. I saw a stir fry station with all the ingredients but no stir fry cook. I stood there but no one seemed interested in helping me. One night we got the meat balls, which were excellent. The next time we went there my husband said the meatballs were like they were just taken out of the refrigerator. If we wanted hot food at breakfast we had to stand in line and order our eggs specially cooked. After a few days, we gave up on the buffet. It seems a good choice too since the Norovirus problem. (See Norovirus heading.)
The Dining Room at Lunch
We tried this one day. The service was so bad that the table of two next to us left before ordering because they had waited so long just to be waited on. It took over an hour to receive our lunch. I had told my husband they had another five minutes before I walked. The waiter finally told us that it was the kitchen's fault. They didn't expect so many to eat there that day. It was the day we sailed out of Venice at 1:00 pm.
My husband ordered a hamburger and fries on deck. Two men were working the grill. By the time the hamburger was made his fries and burger were cold. He described it like the three stooges were cooking it although it was only two people. The final day, I counted 27 people in line for the grill.
The Dining Room
We really enjoyed this, well, the service. The waiter and his assistant were excellent. I would describe the food as passable. Example: I ordered Mom's pork chop, chef's recommendation. It was a pork chop that was coated with shake n bake with a sweet sauce. You never knew what exactly you would be getting. Since I had already had an appetizer and a soup, it was no big deal. I will give the sous chef high marks. The soups were always excellent.
Tuscany Steak House
Our travel agent had given us two dinners to a specialty restaurant. We chose the Tuscany Steak House. It is beautiful, overlooking the bow of the ship, about 12 foot above the wake in the very back. I ordered the fried calamari, Cesar salad, NY strip with crispy fried potato wedges and creme brulee. The Cesar dressing is made table side.
The calamari batter had no salt. It was very bland. The Cesar salad was also unexciting. The lettuce was old and room temperature. The potato wedges were soggy like they had been cooked and stored under a heat lamp. The steak was good, Yay! The creme brulee was pretty in appearance but just so so. I am used to a very rich dessert. The waiter asked about the Cesar salad and I told him it was ordinary. He then proceeded to argue that all Cesar dressings are the same recipe. Knowing better, I didn't argue with him and said nothing about the rest of the meal. For crying out loud! Red Lobster has a better Cesar saIad. I'm just glad we didn't pay for it. On the TV on the ship the claim is made that the Tuscany will rival any 5 star restaurant in Europe. I say, "It will not."
We resorted to the crepe restaurant for lunch the last three days at the end of the cruise. It was excellent and worth the $5 extra per person. The service and all the courses were excellent and HOT, when they should be!
Also, we had breakfast in the Solarium on 12 which was very peaceful and enjoyable.
To be fair, we were too tired much of the time because of our long days on excursions to attend the shows. We did enjoy the dance band and the DJ who played music since we are dancers. The DJ was especially cooperative in playing the music we wanted.
We had wonderful service in the main dining room at early sitting dinner from our waiter and his assistant. However, we never knew who the maitre'd was or who the head waiter was, if there was one. Service in the buffet was not so good. Tables were cleared slowly even when it was hard to find one during busy times. One had to seek out a waiter to buy a drink. At shows, no one approached us to buy a drink. Our room steward did an excellent job.
I cannot write this review without addressing this issue. It permeated the trip. Everywhere we went there were the hand sanitizers. This is a issue for me because I cannot tolerate the smell. It makes me very ill. I constantly had to dodge it. (Please be assured that I always washed my hands thoroughly.) However, why wait until the end of the cruise to serve passengers in the buffet when you had the virus on the previous cruise? There was a barricade set up to go into the shops , running the gauntlet of hand sanitizers. Obviously, I didn't go into the shops. My husband proposed buying stock in Purell as a joke. He asked a bathroom attendant how the crew were doing with the virus and he looked like a deer caught in headlights. He denied any of the crew had the illness. My husband then joked about the "disease ridden passengers". Isn't it interesting that the virus continues from cruise to cruise? Fortunately, we didn't get the dreaded virus even though we never got squirted with the disinfectant. I did research since the trip. I chose not to read any reviews before I went. The virus has really been a problem on this ship, hasn't it?
What a free for all! I am used to Princess helping everyone get off the ship. Celebrity has virtually no one helping you find your luggage. My husband finally found the same piece of luggage that was missing the first night on the belt it was supposed to be on after 15 minutes. It appeared miraculously after all others were gone. Then we made our way to our transfer that we had paid $30 each to the airport. They loaded our luggage onto a transfer truck. Then they made us wait 30 minutes while they filled EVERY LAST SEAT on the bus! Then we arrived at the airport to find our luggage unattended on the curb. Then we missed a flight we could have caught if we had gotten there earlier because Delta cancelled our original flight. So we had an additional night in Barcelona, but that is another story.
We bought a transfer from the cruise line so we would have a smooth transition to the airport. I talked to the young women in charge. She worked for the port, not for the cruise line. It cost us twice as much as a taxi to book through the cruise line. Another life lesson learned
If you view the Celebrity Solstice as a floating hotel to get you to the ports in the Mediterranean you want to see with adequate meals, it is worth it. My husband and I don't regret the cruise. We would never have been to all the places in Europe. The pros outweigh the cons. The ship is not the important component of this cruise. We were wowed by the destinations. Our opinion is that the Celebrity Solstice is not equivalent to a Princess cruise.