We selected this cruise at the last minute and didn't realize we had done the same exact cruise on the same exact ship as before. We really only wanted to get away and had fond memories of our first time so we had no remorse to have booked it again.
This time around we booked in Celebrity's Aqua-class. We really didn't spend a lot of time researching what Aqua-class was so we were in for many pleasant surprises. First of all when we arrived at the port we followed the long cattle line for only a short while until one of the crew members reviewed our boarding pass. He said "Your with me, please come this way" as he escorted us out of the line over to a specially marked line that bypassed probably several hundred other passengers. We were on-board within 15 minutes after arriving at the port. When checking in the person told us that we should check out the special reception for us at the spa first.
We were greeted with mimosas and champagne as we came aboard and met with a sincere crew that seemed happy to have us on board. There was nothing fake about them. We made a bee line for the spa reception only to realize, after asking for the reception, that it was actually only the traditional spa tour so we were a bit confused about the reception.
The Solstice still seems brand new. The rooms and the rest of the ship gives you the impression that it hasn't been used yet. The maintenance crew was always tending to little details so that no finishes seemed damaged, scuffed or otherwise worn. We noticed one member paying special attention to the molding where the carpet meets the wall; I wasn't sure what exactly he was doing but he was carefully adjusting the molding with a small tack hammer and seemed very meticulous with what he was doing.
We stayed on the 11th floor which is adjacent to the spa. See my comments on the room itself.
Favorites on the ship:
The Molecular Bar: we enjoyed this particular feature of the ship in which they make these wonderful cocktails from generally all natural ingredients including Roses, cloves and a large variety of other things including nitrogen. They display all the ingredient on the bar so when you walk by or are sitting at the bar you get all the wonderful smells of spices etc. The first time we were on this ship the Bartender was a woman by the name of Ana. We were so hoping that she would be there; she was so into her craft and loved explaining to us what and why she was doing what she did. I am so happy to report that we were greeted by a new bartender by the name of Goksel who goes by the name of "G." He was cheerful, friendly and just as much into what he did as Ana. We went there every night. The drinks are $12 each but they really are outstanding. There are several times during the cruise when after 10PM you can buy one get a second one for half off. We even took a class on how to make the cocktails. This bar is located right in the art gallery. Most do not discover this bar until later in the cruise. By the fourth night it gets busy so if you visit it early on in the cruise "G" can give you more special attention. "G's" backup Molecular chef is "Stan" who was also very nice and an excellent bartender.
Captain Gerry is clearly well loved and respected by the Solstice crew. He presents well and exudes confidence. He is also a very talented guitar player and singer. He also appeared in two shows singing and playing guitar.
Daily Deliveries to the room including: bottled water, fresh fruit, canapes and fruit infused water. The brochure on this class promises a pillow menu and a room aroma menu; we never saw either but there were plenty of pillows and there was a lemongrass scented diffuser. Champagne was delivered one evening along with a cheese-plate. Unlimited access to the aroma therapy steam room, sauna and Persian terrace. A pair of binoculars, beach bags, bathrobes and slippers were in the room for us. Exclusive access to the Blu Dining room. Blu is a specialty restaurant that has its own chef and provides a more intimate and "less rushed" alternative to the main dining room. The food is great. As a matter of fact, the night before we were to board we had dinner at Shula's in Ft Lauderdale. We had a fillet Mignon there and it was so good that we were afraid it would ruin our cruise food experience. To our surprise we were offered a fillet Mignon in Blu and it was definitely better; we could cut it with a spoon and oh so tasty. The best part of Blu is that the portions are "correct" and you don't feel like you are going to explode after eating. You feel more than satisfied but not sick.
Stateroom Attendant: "Steve" was our stateroom attendant. He greeted us by name before even seeing us near our room. I believe the magic trick here is that they send the boarding pictures up the the stateroom attendants. As was our previous experience the stateroom attendant seemed to anticipate how we "live" in our stateroom. Our ice bucket was always filled once he realized I love ice water. We've cruised at least 10 times and Celebrity's stateroom attendants are the best.
Celebrity's approach on hand sanitizing:
Excellent. They greet every person as they enter an eating area with a Purel dispense. There are Purel stands at each entrance but they actually also have personnel there to proactively dispense hand sanitizer. This is a great approach. We heard that other ships, that were also in the area got hit with the Norovirus; those ships also did not actively push the hand sanitizer. I don't know if it was intentional on Celebrity's part but at the Ocean View Cafe the pans/containers they use to serve the food from are small so they are always being changed and freshened up; we thought this may have helped to keep things from being handled too many times.
Very few negatives but there are a few: menus for the restaurant were never updated on the iTV system, evening room service at times took hours..even after calling to make sure we hadn't been forgotten and this was not the case the last time we were on this ship (morning room service was always pronto). Food was always hot or cold as it was supposed to be. Excursion booking on the iTV system never seemed to work.
We've cruised most of the bigger lines but this last Celebrity cruise will make us loyal to them from now on.