Departed from Bayonne (not listed in departure ports list)
- Ship is elegant and gorgeous. The central lighting in the MDR is amazing! Likewise the twelve-deck towers of glass elevators in the atrium. I loved looking across the atrium space to gathering areas on the forward side.
- Cabin stewards were wonderful. The halls were always full of stewards going about their business and offering cheerful greetings to every passer-by.
- Dining room staff went above and beyond. We loved them. The manager stopped at each table nearly every day asking for feedback. Friends and table mates who tried premium restaurants assured us they were a waste of money -- that standard dining room meals were equally good and well-presented.
- Security for reboarding was nicely handled.
- Cabin was generally comfortable, with lots of hangers. Other storage is limited, as noted later.
- Bathroom was excellent. Lots of hot water, and towels seemed to be changed within minutes after leaving cabin -- even though we always rehung, indicating we would reuse. Would be even better with drying line.
- Mattresses were supremely comfortable. I actually like being able to hang my toes over the end.
- We liked the dim light that remains always on in bathroom. Nightlight in cabin was welcome in interior unit, though we'd feel safer if it remained lit when power was off. We had a power outage in an inside cabin once and became totally disoriented, making it hard to locate our flashlight or find our way to the door.
- Bathroom ventilation was excellent.
- Front desk staff were cheerful and always tried to be helpful, though they were usually not well-informed, and not always believable.
- I appreciated that we docked near town in San Juan rather than at the newer remote dock that fellow cruisers told us about.
- Hamburgers at the (free) grill were superb and fries outstanding.
- The Captain's Club reception at the end of the cruise was terrific.
- My two favorite places to hang out were the Hide-Away and the Library. One type of chair in each location was tolerable to sit in for prolonged reading (see later comment about chairs).
- The self-service complementary coffee and tea on the Hide-Away was a welcome treat, especially for those of us with cabins far to the front of the ship.
- Unlike dining room chairs, chairs in the buffet area were comfortable and easily positioned.
- Staff in the buffet area did a splendid job of keeping tables cleared and cleaned.
- Trivia was great, though some specialty sessions seemed absurdly obscure, and many times staff had the answer wrong, but were disdainful of looking things up.
- Tea selection was awesome.
- Food was okay, with great variety. Some dinner entrees were disappointing, others magnificent. One meatless pasta entree tasted like pot roast on noodles, yuck! I should have sent it back. Chefs may have gone overboard on entree innovation. Vegetable servings were meager and seemed to have been waved through a column of steam too quickly to soften -- the result was predictable raw-tasting, tough veggies. Fortunately salads were great. Overall, the food was adequate, not cause for complaint, but I don't pretend to be a foodie.
- Variety of activities was fantastic, but it wasn't always clear what was free and what fees were involved, or how to sign up. Activities Director Pete seemed not to know the ropes and repeatedly dropped ball after encouraging me to set up a free event. He told me it would be in the daily bulletin. Later I learned that Celebrity protocol precludes listing unhosted events in the bulletin (understandable). In spite of his assurances, it did not even appear on the announcement board until an hour beforehand. (Pete acted surprised to learn this, and I heard him make a call directing staff to take care of it right then the previous evening). Promised assistant never showed with promised paper and pens, and set-up staff was preparing for a different gathering presumably scheduled to use the room at the same time. Needless to say, results were discouraging. Is this because Pete was leaving for vacation the next day, or maybe he was just clueless, or staff acts in a vacuum? Not impressive!
- Educational lectures during sea days were occasionally misleading or inaccurate. One speaker jumped around a lot and seemed not to have control of her material. I attended only one and decided to skip the rest.
- Lounge area for Trivia was marginal. Foot traffic often interfered as passers-by called out answers. Furniture was difficult to move for large-group sessions and quite uncomfortable to perch on.
- All seats on sun decks were lounges. There were none available for sitting upright.
- The "free" coffee was disgusting -- perhaps to encourage sales of premium brands? Sorry. I dig in my heels at that type of coercion. I switched to tea.
- Clothing storage in cabins is lacking. We had lots of hangers we could remove from the rod, but the closet lacked shelves, and we had only three extra deep, narrow drawers, enough for one person, but definitely not two. Shallower ones would be better. We climbed on the bed to use overhead bins for stacking folded shirts, jeans, etc. This complaint was shared by people in all cabin categories.
- The awesome bathroom lacks a drying line for wet swim suits, which take much longer on the small hanging knobs.
- Furniture placement in cabin was awkward, not like illustration photo. When in use, the desk chair blocked access to the far side of the bed. No reading light was available for the one armchair (not two like in photo).
- Interior hallways and lounges were over-cooled on warm days. The ship's doctor I consulted for the cold I caught mid-cruise blamed the constant shift from the hot outdoors temps to frigid hallways.
- Most chairs aboard were far too deep for the average woman but the ones in the buffet have good lumbar support, thus encouraging a slouching position uncomfortable for many with back problems. Some chairs did have cushions, but the cushions were fixed in place, furthering the problem rather than helping. I spent a lot of time perched on the edge of chairs, trying to keep my aging back straight.
- Dining room chairs are world class awful. They are elegant to look at, but way too deep for the anyone shorter than 5'10". They must have been chosen by basketball players! Fortunately pillows are available for those who think to ask, but some pillows were better than others, and having to tell the servers "Please give me the striped pillow rather than the red one, and please don't ever give me that horrid thick cushion again ..." makes me feel like a whiner and does not enhance the dining experience (even though our servers were awesomely obliging, anticipating every need)!
The chairs seem to weigh 100 lbs, with thin legs that sink deeply into the carpet. Even with assistance it's nearly impossible to position them precisely, and leaving the table for the ladies' room was too awkward to contemplate -- thus dinner was cut short a couple of times.
- The theater and shows were a huge problem for me. I attended fewer than half the shows in the Silhouette Theater. This is less of a problem than it might seem, because I don't generally enjoy the sort of shows Celebrity features under any circumstances, but I don't like being forced to make that choice because attending them is painful! They were physically painful for two reasons.
First, they were way too LOUD! After the first night, I wore ear plugs, which made the volume tolerable, but fuzzed out the sound. It's ironic that they control smoking to protect lung health even though when in international waters, but think nothing of assaulting tender ear nerves with sound equivalent to large jet engines. My macho uncle lost most of his hearing because he refused to use hearing protection.
The second pain source in the theater was the seats. The backs are positioned to encourage lounging. They slope enough that I kept sliding forward in my seat, causing my lower back to sag and go into spasms. Carrying in a pillow was not an option I'd consider. I will not attend shows on future cruises, should I book any. Suppose I could get a discount? Yeah, right!
- Music in Deck 3 Atrium was also deafening, making it unpleasant to join the throng of dancers. (It's tough to have sensitive ear nerves and great hearing.)
- I did not attend any late evening events in Celebrity Central, the Sky Lounge, or the pool area because they were even louder than the ones in the theater, and based on feedback from friends, it was nearly impossible to find a place to see the action anyway. The really good ones I watched on t.v. later.
- Even the MDR was quite loud. It was barely possible to carry on conversations at the dinner table. But that was poor design, not amplified noise, so more tolerable.
- When I filed a formal complaint about the volume, I was solicitously assured by customer relations staff and the cruise director himself that "we will look into it and turn it down a tad." Yeah, right. If anything, it got louder!
Overall, I'd rate this cruise experience three stars. If I disregard the activities, noise and chairs, I'd rate it 4.5. But the uncomfortable seating and noise levels don't even rate a 2. I'd rather go on a smaller ship with fewer loud entertainment events and more comfortable lounging and reading facilities, and it seems unfair that I am unable to enjoy the premium entertainment I'm paying for on Solstice class ships.
We only signed up for one Ship Excursion (that cost only twice as much as buying the same tickets ashore), and that only as insurance against unforeseen delays returning to the ship. We had a great time getting around on our own, as did most of the people we met.
DO NOT expect the helpful staff to provide any shore information not connected with ship-sponsored excursions. Remember -- they are there to sell excursions and ship services, not to help us find free WiFi, drugstores, or public libraries ashore.
In spite of my ambivalence about this cruise, I do like cruising, especially the longer cruises with more sea days and am disappointed at Celebrity's news that next year all cruises will leave from Florida and be limited to a single week.