To preface, we were on the 8/19 Seven Night Alaska Cruise. I was with my family (parents are in 50s, 2 children in 20s). This was our second cruise ever, the first being a six night Caribbean cruise with NCL. We were in an Aqua Class cabin ... Read More
To preface, we were on the 8/19 Seven Night Alaska Cruise. I was with my family (parents are in 50s, 2 children in 20s). This was our second cruise ever, the first being a six night Caribbean cruise with NCL. We were in an Aqua Class cabin which gave us access to Blu (the AquaClass restaurant) and some other amenities which seemed inconsequential in hindsight.
Embarkation was very easy. Because we were in an AquaClass cabin, we were able to board anytime between 10am and 3pm. We were dropped off by an Uber in front of the cruise terminal around 2:15pm. It took us about 15 minutes to go through security/get our Cruise Pass and we were on the ship.
Our cruise was full (about 2,850 people) and the ship felt full at most times. There were very few public areas on the ship that were quiet and uninhabited during our days at sea. Although the ship felt slightly dated, overall it was clean and well designed.
We were in cabin 1627 on the 11th floor. The cabin was decently sized for a cruise cabin and had plenty of compartments for storage. TV system is nice for checking account charges and ordering room service, however the 20 TV channels were low definition and spotty when not in port. We had two adjoining rooms and they were able to combine both our decks which was very convenient.
There were mixed reviews for our dining experience. We had the specialty dining package (3 dinners for $100) and it was well worth it. The food and service in those three restaurants were off the charts. The 3 dinners for $100 is a great deal, but they do offer short notice specials when restaurants don't fill up so ask about those.
We also had access to the AquaClass restaurant, Blu. The service there was excellent (on par with the speciality restaurants), however the food was average. We had some really great meals there, but also some meals that were so-so.
The negativity comes with the common dining experiences. The buffet (Oceanview Cafe) has terrible food and was always crowded (so crowded that they had to bring in extra chairs and tables during lunch hours). The set-up and food quality is much like that in a school cafeteria (AKA not good). We also ate in the main dining room (Grand Epernay) a couple of times. Service was OK (noticeably worse than Blu) and the food was terrible (raw chicken, cold french fries, etc.)
The ship is designed for older passengers and the on-board activities were designed that way. There is a glass-blowing studio on board (we never attended) and the shows looked pretty tacky. The gym is underwhelming. A lot of cardio equipment, which is vital because it was always crowded when I was in there, but very little weight lifting equipment. There a good number of machines, but free weights only go up to 75 pounds and they only have 3 benches to use. Equipment was pretty worn as well.
The casino was small but had enough tables not to feel crowded (at night there were probably 8 blackjack tables, 2 roulette tables and 1 craps table). Minimums were $10 for most tables. Be careful with blackjack. I played 4-5 times and lost all of my money each time. Maybe it was just luck (I play using basic blackjack strategy), but my odds seemed very different than when I played at other casinos which I do often (possibly due to the automatic shufflers). I spoke with some other people on the ship who has similar experiences with blackjack.
Just like our dining experiences, the service on the ship was varied. Our room attendants were excellent although not always easily accessible. Like I said previously, the service in the speciality restaurants and Blu was awesome. I never had a good experience with a bartender on the ship. Every time I needed to order a drink, I was grunted at or told that I need to upgrade my drink package. All employees on the ship are from foreign countries, so there was a language barrier at times.
We did some amazing excursions, all of which were booked through Celebrity. I would recommend booking through Celebrity. Even though it may have been slightly more expensive (an extra $5-$10 per person), they set every thing up when you arrive.
In Ketchikan, we took a seaplane into the fjords with Taquan Air. Despite the lack of wildlife, the fjords were beautiful and I would highly recommend. In Juneau, we went on the 'Whale Watching and Rainforest Hike' tour with Gastineau Guides. This was our favorite excursion of the trip, mainly due to our guides, Trevor and Andy. We saw humpbacks, sea lions, seals, bald eagles, and salmon. We hiked in the national park and had an awesome view on the glacier. Again, I would highly recommend.
In Skagway, we took the White Pass Rail up to the Summit and then biked down with Sockeye Cycling. The train ride was beautiful and we actually saw a bear (although we were told that bear sightings are very unlikely). Make sure to sit on the left side of the train if you're going up because the views are much better. The bike down was harrowing at first, but a really cool experience.
We went to the Butchart Gardens in Victoria. The Gardens are spectacular but unfortunately, because we arrived in port at 6pm, we weren't able to see all of the Gardens in the natural light. They do light up the Gardens at night, but it's just not the same. Due to that, as well as the long drive, I would recommend activities in downtown Victoria, which looked like a pretty cool small city.
Disembarkation was as easy as embarkation. I bought the $27 6:45am shuttle the airport because I had an early flight and it was not worth it. By the time I waited in line to get on the bus and then waited for it to fill up, my family, which left the boat at 7:30am, had beaten me to the airport. If you have an early flight, chose the 7:30am self-disembarkation and take a cab.
We had been told for years that Alaska was a must-visit destination because of it's natural beauty and wildlife and I would have to agree. Apart from our excursions, we saw a ton of humpback whales from the ship and even saw an Orca and a couple of seals. The glaciers, mountains and waterfalls are spectacular as well. Even though the Celebrity Solstice did not live up to expectations as a 'luxury' cruise liner, our trip to Alaska will definitely be a memorable one. Read Less