A little about us: DH and I are in our early 40's and have 3 young children. We are both in exec level positions at tech companies, and have travelled extensively. We both love good food, and enjoy most any cuisine - whether it's fine dining or a well made burger & fries.
Our previous cruising experience: Before we were married, DH had done a transatlantic on a recently-made-infamous cruise line and I was a cruise virgin. A couple of years ago we took the kids (and 3 sets of grandparents) on a Disney cruise. It was fabulous, and I was hooked.
Why Celebrity: To celebrate our anniversary this year, we decided to do an "adults only" cruise. It was my job to research cruiselines and itineraries. We were looking for upscale experience, good food, nice suites, and outstanding service. I had a colleague who had returned from a honeymoon cruise on the Solstice a year earlier and raved about it, so it was down to Celebrity or HAL. We chose Celebrity based on reviews and dates available for the itinerary we were looking for. We booked Sky Suite #1665, Deck 11 Aft.
Embarkation & First Impressions: We arrived at the terminal at 10:15 and the first person who made a great impression on us was a very friendly baggage handler who took our luggage and directed us to the terminal. My only experience being DCL, (who has a great terminal), I was a little taken aback by the Celebrity terminal building. It looks like a small airplane hangar. We found our way inside and into the suite line - not that anyone was in any of the lines at this point. We got our Sea Passes & were directed upstairs to wait in the suite area. There was a slight delay to boarding due to an inspection by the FDA (according to the chef on the Galley Tour we took later in the cruise). But soon they called the suites to board... yipee!
We were greeted by a large dollop of hand sanitizer, and then immediately handed a slippery glass of Proseco. It was too early for lunch, so we decided to explore the ship...
Pretty soon we were getting hungry and decided it was time to procure some chow. After checking out the Aqua Spa Cafe in the Solarium, we headed for the Ocean View Cafe to see what it was like... I wish I would have taken a photo! It was a sea of people, and more crazy than either of us wanted to deal with at the start of our "relaxing" vacation. We headed to Bistro on 5 instead. The wait was a little long, but the food was pretty good, and we didn't have to deal with crowds or chaos.
While we were eating we got the announcement that staterooms were ready - yay! So as soon as we were done, we headed up to deck 11 to see ours. Sky Suite #1665 was even more fabulous in person than in the photos we had seen online. We loved all the room! It was so nice not to be cramped up and have a spacious sitting area away from the bed. The storage was far more than we could possibly use. 8 large drawers, & 2 wardrobes. The bathroom was nicely laid out and also had so much storage, I did not even need my hanging toiletry kit (no where to hang it anyway).
We heard a chime in our cabin and waited to hear the announcement that followed, then another chime... still no announcement. Then the door opened. Apparently we had a doorbell! Our butler, Caetano, introduced himself and explained his services and asked if there was anything he could do for us. He also brought in our luggage, which was waiting out in the hall. After we unpacked, we easily stored our suitcases under the bed.
We headed to Blu, our muster station for the safety drill, and then up to the Sunset Bar for sail away and to meet our CC Roll Call group.
Goodbye Ft. Lauderdale! We returned to our room to find that Caetano had brought us our requested shrimp cocktail. This is the good life. We changed for dinner & then headed to the theater to see the "sampler" show that would feature some of the entertainers onboard for the week. We were very impressed by the vocal talent onboard the ship. Especially an acapella group called the Neptunes, they were just outstanding!
The MDR menu didn't look great to us that night, so we made reservations for Silk Harvest after the show. We had a sushi sampler, BBQ Korean ribs, shrimp & scallop Shu Mai, and the Duck in coconut curry sauce. The ribs and duck were outstanding. The sashimi was very good, the sushi tasted a little stale. After that we called it a night. It was early still, but we NEVER get a chance to go to bed whenever we want. The funny thing was, our butler asked me the next morning if I was feeling better. He assumed I was ill since we turned in so early.
Day 2 - At Sea & Anniversary Dinner at Tuscan Grille: Woke up at 7:45 & got our tennies on to walk some laps. Went up to the "lap track" that is above the pool deck. It was so windy we had to lean forward a bit when walking on one side of the ship. It was a little commical. It's not a big track, you would have to circle it many times to get a decent workout in. We did a few laps & then decided to get breakfast. DH wanted to try the Oceanview Cafe again, I was a little scared. Surprisingly it was not a madhouse. DH wanted to try the eggs benedict of many flavors. I got standard breakfast fare. We were able to get a table near a window. Food was decent, coffee was terrible. After breakfast we went to Cafe Al Bacio for real coffee. The Caramel Macchiato became my favorite.
We had a CC Party at 10:15 in Cellar Masters - which is a lovely space. We met a few more characters from our Roll Call there and had some juice & pastries (second breakfast). Then it was time for the Galley Tour. I was thinking this would be a small-medium size group of people, casually walking through the ship's galley with a chef, getting some informal chat about how things work. NOOOOOO. We went to the MDR, were handed another dollop of sanitizer and slippery glass of Proseco, and walked inside to see that it was FULL of people. We had to sit at the very back of the dining room. There was a power point preso showing, and a group of chefs on the stage. The head of Food & Beverage introduced each one and they did a Q&A while each group went off with one chef to tour a specific galley. Each group had about 20 people in it, and we were group number 42! No kidding. It was interesting though. My favorite part was when they explained how they make their own water via reverse osmosis on the ship out of sea water... and a woman in the audience asked if she should drink it due to her shellfish allergy. Love it! The galley was immaculate - it looks like no food is prepared in there. They said the surprise FDA inspection was passed with flying colors.
We were celebrating our anniversary that night and dining at the Tuscan Grille. We had been anticipating this greatly, especially due to the many positive reviews here on CC. Tuscan was hit and miss for us. We had some dishes that were good, and others that were not. Our servers were great, and we had a lovely table to watch the sunset over the wake.
Here's the nitty-gritty on our night at Tuscan: DH had the calamari as an appetizer, which he enjoyed, and I had the crabcake - which I found mushy and heavy on filler. We both had the Caprese salad next, which we did not enjoy. The tomatoes were very fresh, but there was no basil on the plate, only some arugula - I can't fathom a Caprese salad with no fresh basil - and the balsamic drizzle lacked "zing", so the dish seemed flavorless. For entrees, DH had the ribeye which he said was "ok", and I had the filet. My filet was the size of a softball, which meant there was no way it was going to be cooked to a consistent med-rare, and it wasn't. It was tough in places, and undercooked in the middle - hard to eat. The horseradish mashed potatoes that came with my filet were excellent. The mac and cheese that came with DH's ribeye was bland. He also ordered a side of the lobster alfredo to try, it was good.
At the end of the meal we were serenaded by the RM and his staff with "Happy Anniversary to You" in Italian, which was lovely. They presented us with a beautifully decorated chocolate cake. We also ordered the pistachio creme brule. DH liked the creme brule - I liked the flavor, but thought the consistency was odd, it was very creamy, like soft pudding. I was expecting it to be more firm. It did have pop rocks on the top, which was odd, but fun.
Day 3 Puerto Rico & Segway Tour:
The next day we woke up to breakfast set up on our balcony by Caetano - this is how I would like to start every day of my life. We had some time to speak with Caetano this morning and get to know a little about him, his job and his family. It was very interesting and I am glad we had this opportunity.
For lunch this day we ate in the MDR. It was "just ok" for us. The gellato after made up for it!
For a "pulling into port" drink we chose an iced tea from Cafe al Bacio, delicious! It was so nice to stand on our balcony and see Puerto Rico come into view. We had to be in the theater at 2:15 for our excursion. They gave each person a sticker with a number on it, and then called the group numbers in order to exit the ship. It seemed like a good system.
We chose the Fortification Segway Tour through Celebrity. Great choice! There was only a small group who did this tour, and I have no idea why. It was a hot day, and we passed so many people huffing and puffing up all the hills on the crowded walking tours, while we had practically a private tour (only one other couple) and such ease in getting around that we were able to see so much more this way.
When we returned to the ship we saw the illusionist/magician Adam Trent. We normally aren't big on that type of entertainment, but he was really outstanding. After the show we had dinner at Murano. We were taking advantage of the 20% off special, and the fact that we did not love the MDR menu again that night. It is a lovely space. We had a nice table in a corner where we could see all the action in the room.
All our starters were delicious, lobster bisque, scallop wellington, goat cheese souffle. Then we moved on to entrees. DH had the lobster prepared tableside. I had the Dover Sole, fileted tableside. Our poor server... my fish did NOT want to be fileted. He was wrestling with it like it was some sort of MMA match, but in tuxedos and scales. Finally the Maitre de came over and did it for him, also with much muscle needed. By the time I got the fish on my plate it was mangled and did not taste good. They offered me something else, but I did not want to make my DH wait any longer, and I was pretty full at that point anyway. We did do the cheese course, which was outstanding.
We had martinis that night, and saw the late night comedian, Troy Thurdgil, who had us both laughing out loud throughout the show.
Day 4 - St. Maarten: Due to an emergency on a HAL ship, we were able to dock in St. Maarten vs. tender, which we were thankful for (not for the emergency though - hope that turned out ok). We were looking forward to our first relaxing day at a beautiful Caribbean beach... well, we did get the beautiful Caribbean beach part.
We chose the St. Martin Beach Rendezvous excursion, which includes transportation, reserved chairs, and lunch at Orient Beach. I would not recommend it.
We got off the ship to get in line for the excursion and realized that we had picked a popular one - there were quite a few folks qued up.
Soon we got on a nice, air-conditioned bus and headed for the French side of the island, and Orient Beach. We had a tour guide with us who narrated the entire 30 minute(?) trip. It would have been ok, had she not yelled into the PA the entire time. My eardrums were about to burst by the end.
When we got to Orient, we saw the beautiful white sand / aqua blue water that we had been hoping for, and then we walked out onto the beach. It was pretty much wall to wall people. Our "reserved" chairs were at the back of the beach, 3 or 4 deep in from the water. We couldn't see the ocean without looking around a sea of flesh.
I should mention that there is topless bathing allowed at this beach. Now, we are not prudes and were well aware of this going in, but perhaps had not braced ourselves for the possibility of seeing some of our fellow Celebrity passengers, (many in their "not so elastic years"), in all their glory right there in front of us. Ah well. We went for a walk on the beach and were able to take in the beauty without some of the distraction.
The lunch offered was a choice of ribs, chicken, or fish. We had the chicken, and fellow passengers around us all agreed that none of the dishes were very good. At least we had nice surroundings while we ate. Then it was a little more beach time and back on the bus to the ship.
Dinner at Blu: When we returned to the ship we checked out the MDR menu and yet again were not excited about it. This was becoming a recurring (and expensive) theme. We decided to dine at Blu. Those in suites may dine there for a $5 per person charge when there is room available. Caetano suggested that any time before 7 or after 8 would be a good time to get in, so we opted to go after 8. We played a little Bocce Ball to pass the time.
What a great decision this turned out to be! We got in with no problem, the dining room was barely Â½ full at 8:15pm. It was an excellent meal, and we were wondering why we hadn't tried this venue earlier. I would tell you what we had, but I don't remember the specifics -- there is just a note in the journal that says it was excellent. That was the one day I decided not to take my Dramamine -- and we pulled out of port during dinner & started to rock a bit towards the end of the meal. I had to return to our cabin and take the meds that night, no journaling for me. Take the pills every day!
Day 5 -- St. Thomas & Our St. John Excursion: The next morning I woke up at around 5:45 am to the ship creaking & rocking a bit, we were pulling into port in St. Thomas. Even though DH growled a little, I pulled the curtains open and went out on the deck to watch. We were being tailed by the Silhouette!
We had another wonderful balcony breakfast, and then headed back to the theater for our excursion to disembark. We were really hoping for a better beach experience today since it was our last chance this cruise!
Before the cruise we met a great couple on our CC roll call who had trekked over to St. John on their own on a previous cruise, and offered to share a cab with us this time. We all booked the Destination St. John Guided Shopping and Leisure Time excursion, solely for the use of the private ferry that would take us from the cruise dock directly to St. John. Once there, we would ditch the excursion and take a cab right to the beach.
We had a short walk to the ferry and chose seats up top for a great view (this would be a wise move, we found out later).
Our ferry ride was quite the event. It was a long 45 minutes. The first 5 were calm... then we were in open sea and "the tiny ship was tossed"! Sitting up top in the front was a good thing, because we could keep an eye on the horizon and get a nice breeze in our face (and the occasional spray from the bow). I felt so bad for one of our CC mates down below who was pretty green for the trip, and some actually did get sick. For me it was more like Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Our captain narrated the whole way over and peppered us with fun trivia about St. Thomas and St. John, showing us various points of interest along the way.
When we arrived in St. John, they asked who would like to go directly to a beach, apparently they are used to folks just wanting to use the ferry service for this, and about 20 of us raised our hands. They directed us to some open air taxis (they seat 8-10 passengers). We hopped in one with our CC mates and a group of others and away we went. As we drove through the lush landscape I kept thinking "this is what a tropical island looks like." And then we rounded a corner and saw our first St. John beach... Caneel Bay. All we could say was "WOW!" We dropped some of the group off there and then headed for the next beach. As we rounded the corner and saw that one, Trunk Bay, "Double WOW!"
(You can see the photos in my review on the Celebrity board under my CC name CactusGirly)
We did notice that there were quite a few people on that beach, and that is where we dropped the rest of the group off at. DH and I were thinking "I sure hope our beach is as nice as this!" We would not be disappointed.
Cinnamon Beach: Our CC friends had recommended Cinnamon Beach, and just a few more minutes up the road our taxi pulled into a small lot surrounded by trees and announced we were there. We paid $7 ea for the ride and walked down the tree-lined pathway towards the beach. There was a small restaurant on the way and restroom/shower facilities. When we got to the beach, it was like someone had plucked paradise out of a postcard and plopped it down right in front of us. There was a small shack renting chairs and selling snacks & drinks, we went inside to get some chairs and this was the view...
Once we had our chairs we walked a short way down the un-crowded beach to find a shady spot to park ourselves. There were trees hanging over the sand where we could hang our beach bags, and then we settled in for a few hours of reading and enjoying the perfect day.
About 30 minutes before we had to be back at the ferry we packed up and returned our chairs, rinsed off our feet and said goodbye (sadly) to Cinnamon Bay beach, and our little slice of heaven.
The ferry ride back to St. Thomas was less eventful, the seas were more rolling than choppy, but it was much warmer. They did serve complimentary rum punch on the way back.
After showers & changing, we went up to the Sunset Bar & got ourselves an adult beverage, then headed back to our suite to order room service for lunch. It was nice to relax and watch a movie while we ate. We had burgers & shrimp cocktail. Both quite good.
Hot Glass Show: That evening we decided to attend the Hot Glass show. I am so glad we went to the evening show. (Go early to get good seats, totally worth it to sit up front) It was perfect weather, and at one point during the show they turned off the stage lights so you could see the glow of the air bubbles in the glass -- very cool. Those are 3 wildly talented ladies, and their commentary during the show really made it fascinating. We both enjoyed it immensely.
This night we ate dinner in the MDR for the first time on the cruise! We showed up at about 8 pm and had a short wait for a table (we had Select Dining) which surprised us. It was actually quite crowded / busy in there at that time. We thought the food was ok, nothing stood out as excellent. We were seated at a two-top and they are situated so close together that you may as well be dining with another couple. Thankfully we enjoyed the company of the couples we were seated next to on both occasions we ate in the MDR for dinner.
Day 6 -- At Sea: This was a day of utter and complete relaxation. We started with a special brunch buffet in the MDR. Although it was a bit crowded (we got there at 10:15, I heard it got worse later), it was totally worthwhile. The ice carvings alone were worth going for -- beautiful! The food quality and variety was impressive.
After brunch we read in chairs near the Sunset Bar for a while, then decided to do room service lunch again and enjoy some "suite time".
Molecular Bar: That night was formal night. Before we got all fancy, we stopped by the Molecular Bar to have a cocktail. We were surprised that at 5 pm people were already out in force in their tuxes and finery. Folks take formal night seriously on X! (I like that, BTW) For our first drinks, I had a Scorpion's Kiss (not my favorite -- too sweet), and DH started off with an Agave and Avocado Margarita (quite good, very smooth). After that we tried a drink that is not on the menu, the South of the Rio... YUMMY! It has muddled jalapeno peppers & cucumber in it, along with tequila, a cucumber foam on top, rimmed with a hibiscus salt... oh my, I wish I could make this at home.
When we were sufficiently cleaned up and beautified for formal night, we headed to the MDR. It was around 8:15 pm. YIKES! There was a bit of a crowd waiting to get in. We didn't think to make reservations. There was a very long line for both the Reservations and No Reservations groups.
The Reservations line seemed to be moving just a tad faster, but not by much. After about 20 minutes we made it to the front of the line and gave our name and were told to wait in Cellar Masters for our table. We only had to wait there about 10 more minutes before they came and got us. Once again we had a 2-top that was really a 4-top, sitting next to a lovely couple from South Carolina. Thank goodness for great tablemates!
Tonight's meal was outstanding! I had the cold lemon and asparagus soup, which was really different and good. For entrees DH had the shortrib lasagna, and I had the cornish game hen - both were superb.
After our meal we had another chance to enjoy hearing The Neptunes perform, and then we enjoyed the Dessert Extravaganza! Yum.
Day 7 -- At Sea (Our Last Day ): One last breakfast on our balcony, sigh. Although it was a bit hot, heading back to Ft. Lauderdale those Aft balconies do get full sun in the mornings.
After breakfast we attended the "How The Ship Moves" lecture... wow, I don't quite know how to summarize it kindly. The speaker, one of the ship's Officers, could use some public speaking lessons and guidance on how not to offend women in a presentation (what makes a ship go? engines! those big things that go vroom ladies). Mercifully, it was only 30 minutes long and we were able to sneak out of there as soon as the Q&A started.
The Martini Bar "Incident": I am going to chalk the poor presentation up to the fact that the Officer was distracted by the "incident" that occurred in the Martini Bar right before the lecture started. I don't know what happened, but some kind of sewer leak or backup made it's way into a corner of the Martini Bar seating area... it was not good. There was a whole team in hazmat suits trying to clean the situation up, and a group of Officers standing there with their cell phones looking frazzled. They had the area roped off so no passengers could come near it, but you could smell it all the way over by the casino & shops. Ick. They had a crew on it all day cleaning like maniacs, and apparently had it cleaned up to an acceptable point by that night because the bar was back open. There were plenty of people drinking in there, although we had no idea why because it still smelled awful.
The Gallery & Shopping on Board: After we left the lecture, we headed to the Gallery to purchase some of the photos that had been taken during the cruise. They had a special -- 4 8x10s, one in a commemorative frame, for $79.95. I was surprised at the quality of the photos, many of them seemed washed out -- like too much flash was used. I was glad we had taken so many with our own camera.
We walked through the shops to do some last minute shopping after that. On the first day they had a 50% off sale where I purchased a nice hoodie that was normally $62. I was glad I had, as they were all gone the next day. On this day there were no more 50% off items in the clothing area that we wanted, but we each did buy a t-shirt. They didn't have many sizes left of some of the popular ones. I got the last one in my size, so if you see a t-shirt you like, go ahead & get it the day you see it! DH had spotted a leather Fossil bag that he really liked, and we had looked at it several times throughout the cruise. He even looked it up on Amazon to see if the price was reasonable in the shop (it was less expensive onboard than online). I bought it for him as a surprise that day when he went back to the cabin.
Packing & Valet Luggage Service: We eventually went back to the cabin and ordered room service for lunch while we packed . We also handed out some additional tips to those who took care of us.
Earlier in the cruise we had stopped by Guest Relations and got the forms for the Valet Luggage Service. We STRONGLY RECOMMEND THIS!!!! It is $20 per person, and will be the best $20 you spend on the cruise. You have to turn in the forms by noon on Friday (I think). We just had to fill it out & give a copy of our flight itinerary to Guest Relations. Then, when you come back to your cabin on the last night your boarding passes are waiting for you on your bed! You put your luggage out as normal by 10pm, and the next day you disembark whenever you please, (they will give you a letter with a time, but you can stay up until last call), and sashay right through the line out to customs. While everyone else is struggling with their luggage, yours is already on it's way to the airport my friend, and you will not see it until you land once you get to your final destination. We were the envy of everyone in line around us, who were all asking "why didn't we do that?!"
That night we went to see the variety show, mainly to catch the last performance of The Neptunes, (we were like their groupies), and were wowed by the fun surprise at the end of the show (I won't ruin it for those about to sail). We loved it!
We had our final dinner at Silk Harvest... the duck was calling to us. (Seriously, try the duck.) After dinner we finished packing & set our bags out. We ordered apple pie & cheesecake from room service as our final hurrah (before we are back to our healthy eating at home). Both were excellent! This was only the 3rd dessert we had on the cruise, and I am glad we didn't know how good these room service desserts were until the last night!
Back to Reality / Disembarkment: Received our wakeup call at 6:30 am, got ready and pulled together our last few items in our carry-on bags. We had a nice breakfast in Blu, and then went to Cafe al Bacio for coffees and to relax in the comfy chairs there. We stayed parked there until they kicked us off the ship (about 10:15 was last call to disembark). Then we got in line for customs. As I mentioned, we were the envy of the line with no luggage to fight with. I don't know why more people don't do this. It took us about 30 minutes to get through the line, and then we had to get in another line for a taxi to the airport. Goodbye Solstice, until we meet again. As we looked up and saw our balcony for the last time, the rain started to fall... I think it was the angels weeping for us.
Here were my concerns before we cruised, and how each turned out --
1. Weather -- would it be too cool for this "thin blooded" Arizona girl this time of year?
a. Mother Nature was smiling down on us this trip, because the weather was fantastic. It was chilly (to me anyway) when we landed in Ft. Lauderdale and during sail away, but after that we had sunny skies and perfect temps the whole time. I was glad I brought a couple of light sweaters for around the ship though -- they like to keep it cool in some of the common areas. The water at the beaches was a little brisk, but not so cold that you couldn't get in and enjoy it.
2. Dining -- how would the food quality be? Would we get a chance to enjoy all the specialty restaurants?
a. We only had dinner in the MDR twice, and once was on formal night. We had lunch there once, and a special brunch buffet once. I found the food in the MDR during the normal dinner & lunch to be equivalent to a typical chain restaurant in quality/taste. We were disappointed in the menu selections most nights, and chose to dine at the specialty restaurants more than we thought we would. Murano was our favorite, then Blu, then Silk Harvest.
3. Cabin Location -- would soot or motion be a problem being in the Aft?
a. No to both. The only time I noticed soot was one evening when we were pulling out of a port and a few tiny specks fell on my dress. Other than that, I never even saw any on our balcony. As for motion, we felt some rocking but it wasn't anything that seemed more prevalent in our cabin than anywhere else on the ship.
4. Sea Sickness -- on the DCL cruise I felt ill a couple times, even while taking meds. Would I have a problem on this cruise?
a. I started taking the non-drowsy Dramamine the morning before we got on the ship. I also brought ginger candies with me (which I never ate). I only felt queasy once, and it was the day I didn't take a pill, Â½ way through the cruise. I started taking the pills again and was fine after that. DH was fine the whole cruise, but unfortunately now that we are on dry land has some Mal de Debarquement symptoms... he should have kept up the Dramamine after he got off, apparently. We will keep it in mind for next time.
5. How Crowded Will The Ship Feel - and do pool chair hogs really exist?
a. The 4 places where the ship felt crowded were the Oceanview Cafe on the first day, the gangway when we had to disembark at a port, the brunch buffet, and yes, sadly, anywhere near the pool. The one disappointment for me was that in the 7 days we did not use the pools once. Yes, the chair hogs do exist, (and they are out starting at about 8:30 am), but there are also just masses of people around the pool all day. Anytime we went out there, you could not find 2 chairs together near the pool. Other than those instances though, the ship never felt like it was at even Â½ capacity to me.
6. The Drink Package -- would we make those darn drink packages pay off?
a. We agonized over whether or not to get the Premium Alcohol packages, and we did purchase them in the end. We are SO glad we did. We came out just about even -- and the ease of having it far outweighed the few dollars we might have saved by not having it. We used it frequently at Cafe al Bacio, The Martini Bar, The Sunset Bar and Molecular Bar. The variety of drinks we tried without even a second thought made the cruise so much fun!
7. Packing -- will I pack enough / too much / forget something?
a. I could have packed WAY less swimwear, like I said we never used the ship pools, and I did not need my hanging toiletry kit. I wish I would have packed nail clippers and deep conditioner for my hair -- that Caribbean sun/wind is hard on a gal's tresses.
8. Will We Be Bored?
a. No. We were never bored for even one nanosecond. If we weren't enjoying some activity on the ship or in port, we were enjoying each other, relaxing in our beautiful suite or in one of the comfy spots around the ship. I don't know how anyone could be bored. We both love to read, brought our Kindles along and used them frequently.
9. The Dreaded Noro... Would We Get It?
a. No. Thank You Lord (and diligent Celebrity staff and fellow passengers!) We did not have any Noro issues on our sailing that we were aware of. The hand sanitizer is everywhere, and I brought my own too. The ship is spotless (Martini Bar "Incident" aside). There wasn't a time when we were walking around the ship when we didn't see someone cleaning something. Most people we saw entering the restaurants used the hand sanitizer. We were in line at the airport talking to a couple who had just come off the Ruby Princess. They had a Noro outbreak on day two on their ship, and those with the illness were quarantined to their cabins with Sea Pass cards taken away. We were imagining being confined to an inside cabin for 5 days with no ability to see sunlight. Yikes!
2. Our Fellow Passengers -- Would We Find Them Delightful, or ... Otherwise?
a. 99 percent Delightful! We met some very nice folks on this trip, especially some of our dinner companions and shore excursion buddies. There were many interesting characters onboard and everyone we talked to seemed genuinely pleasant and happy to be there. Only a couple small exceptions... doesn't there always have to be a few? The night we went to see the late night comedian, there were a couple of guys who were drunk as skunks and really needed to be cut off / escorted out of the venue. I felt bad for the man and his wife who were sitting near them and politely tolerating their craziness.
The other exception was our neighbors friends. On a few sail away occasions, they would have get-togethers out on their balcony with these folks, and unfortunately it made it a get-together with the entire aft balcony section due to the volume of this couple's voices -- especially the woman. She was so loud and obnoxious that we found ourselves either coming back in our cabin and shutting the door or just looking around at other folks out on their balconies, who were also in misery because of this woman, and laughing. I tried tossing a grape or two at the balcony divider in a sad, passive-aggressive attempt to quiet her down, to no avail. The night we pulled out of St. Maarten was the worst, and after she declared that she was going to get ready for dinner and left -- I swear there was applause all around the aft balconies.
Customer Service: I think Celebrity's real differentiator is the service and hospitality of their staff. Throughout the cruise, most every crew member we encountered was genuinely warm and freindly, and helpful whenever we needed it. We particularly enjoyed the hospitality of the restaurant servers, Cafe al Bacio baristas, and our room attendants & butler. The only exception to the Celebrity norm that we found was the bartenders at both the Martini and Molecular bars, who didn't seem to be the friendliest or most service-oriented guys. Outside that though, we were consistently impressed.
Summary: The Solstice is such a beautiful ship. I wasn't prepared for how stunning it would be. I was expecting a more "cold" or stark Scandinavian style decor for some reason, but it was anything but cold. It is a ship that is warm, inviting, and has something interesting to look at around every corner.
The service on board was, overall, outstanding. You cannot help but relax while being taken care of to such a great extent while onboard, and leave your stresses behind.
We have so many wonderful memories from this trip, from an evening spent discovering a new cocktail (or three)... to a magical island getaway. It was truly a vacation to remember.