Itinerary was the driving force behind selecting this cruise. Secondarily, reconnecting with why we fell in love with cruising in the first place: a relaxing, elegant and delicious departure from everyday life where all the logistical ... Read More
Itinerary was the driving force behind selecting this cruise. Secondarily, reconnecting with why we fell in love with cruising in the first place: a relaxing, elegant and delicious departure from everyday life where all the logistical stresses of planning and travel are taken care of for you. And considering those driving factors, Celebrity Cruises, and more specifically, the Celebrity Solstice delivered all these, in spades! Having taken 13 previous cruises (with Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Disney), I can say with ease that this was, by far, the best overall cruising experience we've ever had. It was simply stellar from beginning to end.
About us: we are a couple in our late 30s with two children. Our children did not sail with us (they had a fabulous two weeks with grandparents). We have taken 13 total cruises prior to this one on a variety of different cruise lines, this one being the first with Celebrity Cruises. We sailed in an Aqua Class stateroom with the Classic Beverage Package.
Our last few cruises have been on Oasis class ships (Oasis & Allure) with Royal Caribbean. As we've witnessed a significant downturn in experience aboard Royal Caribbean, along with an increase in the Theme-Park-ish feel (along with the hard-sell at every turn), we were very excited to board a smaller ship, with fewer people and fewer "WOW" features. Celebrity Solstice was exactly what we were looking for. The ship - beautiful and well maintained at every turn - never felt crowded, never felt hurried and never felt stressed. This had a fundamental impact on our entire experience, and one that we greatly appreciated. Pool side loungers were always available. A table within the Oceanview Cafe (buffet) was always available. A great seat within the main show theater was always available. And - a bartender was always available. Overall, the Solstice is just large enough to contain a larger amount of offerings, while not losing the intimacy of a smaller ship.
We sailed in an Aqua Class cabin on deck 11. It's tough to compete with the Disney Fantasy on stateroom, especially when traveling with children/families. Although not the size of a Disney stateroom, the Celebrity Solstice staterooms are well appointed, and featured many elegant touches which increase the feeling of modern luxury. For example, the shower featured a spa type, rain forest style shower head with optional side jets. The shower was also the only one aboard any cruise ship I've ever sailed which was tall enough to fit my 6'8" frame, without the need to duck my head the entire time. Another elegant touch - the bathroom mirror was gently heated from behind to prevent fogging. Chairs on the balcony included foot stools, which made for a slightly more relaxing time of enjoying the Alaskan wilderness pass by. The stateroom featured plush bath robes and slippers, along with binoculars and two umbrellas. The scented reed diffuser was a nice touch which I wasn't expecting to enjoy as much as I did. Outside of this, the rest of the stateroom was exactly what you would expect out of any modern cruise ship.
The spa was a nice addition to our experience. Also something I wasn't expecting to enjoy as much as I did. As a member of the Aqua Class, you have access to the Parisian Garden section of the Spa, which is essentially 3 main rooms: A large room containing heated loungers (with a fantastic view out of the port side), a heated and scented lounging room (great for opening up the sinuses) and a steam room. We normally spend a significant amount of time on cruises by the pool. Either in the main pools or hot tubs. We found that a few minutes in the Parisian Garden satisfied our desire to relax in the water. After 10 minutes in the steam room we were as relaxed as we've ever felt and ready to move on about our day. All of this to say, the Spa perk was not the one that drew me to the Aqua Class upgrade. However, after experiencing it and being so pleasantly surprised, it would now firmly be a part of what brings me back to Aqua Class.
Dining is where the Solstice far outpaces the competition. The food on board this ship was simply phenomenal. Every single dining experience far exceeded our expectations, even by day 7. Sailing Aqua Class, we fully leveraged our opportunity to dine in Blu. Blu is, in my opinion, the equivalent of dining in a specialty restaurant. In fact, we dined one evening in Murano, and while absolutely delicious, it caused us to fully realize just how amazing the dining experience is at Blu. It is my opinion, that the opportunity to dine in Blu, in and of itself is worth the upgrade price we paid to sail in Aqua Class. Stepping outside of our Aqua Class perks, even dining in the main dining (which we twice did for lunch) far exceeded any other main dining room lunch we've experienced. This, coupled with incredible food served in the Oceanview cafe, there's simply no comparing the dining to any other ship we've sailed on. Celebrity Solstice was the best.
Entertainment was good on Celebrity Solstice, there was certainly nothing that left me yawning and/or wondering "what's next". The shows featuring the main cast are very similar to other cruise ship shows you've seen (mainly an excuse to place a bunch of songs you already know into a medley with an artsy theme weaving them together). The main difference on board the Solstice was the talent of the main-stage singers - they were very, very good. The smaller ensembles performing in the various nooks and crannies of the ship were all good as well. With that said, I think the best entertainer on board the Solstice is the captain: Captain Tasos. He. Is. Hilarious. By far the most personable and entertaining captain we've ever sailed with. Every announcement, every presentation, every show which he was a part of was immediately elevated due to his presence and comedic timing. It feels odd to say the captain had such a large impact on the entertainment aspect of the cruise, but if I'm being honest, he was a large part of it.
It's worth noting how much fun the Silent Disco event was. This was held in the Martini Bar and surrounding area. It is three different DJs, all broadcasting their own mix of music, which you then enjoy within the comfort of your own set of wireless headphones. You can switch between DJs utilizing the channel button on your headphones, as well as control your own personal volume. The lights on the outside of your headphones (either red, green or blue) display to everyone, including the DJs, which channel your listening to. While the music is thumping through your headphones, outside the headphones there is no music (hence the "Silent" part of the disco). Everyone has great fun in finding the channel that's playing something enjoyable, and the DJs have fun in competing for your listening ears. One can also have great fun in taking their headphones off and listening to passengers attempt to sing along to what sounds like no music. This was a truly unique event which I haven't seen on other cruise lines, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Service is another aspect where I feel Celebrity Solstice outshines the competition (including Disney). Every single crew member was outstanding. There was not one single dark spot in the service we received. Every one we met put forth an elegant, luxurious feel to the service, along with a willingness to bend over backwards to accommodate every request. Even more incredible: as we arrived at different times to Blu every evening, we were placed in different service sections (experiencing three different service teams throughout the sailing). All of which, I simply can't say enough good things about. They were polite, personable, and willing to deliver recommendations, offering their honest opinion in a truly friendly and elegant way. To add to this, the bar/lounge staff were also a delightful surprise. We opted for the classic beverage package on this sailing (one of the perks included in our Aqua Class upgrade). While I was excited to utilize the package, I was also hesitant as I've seen how difficult other cruise lines (specifically Royal Caribbean) make it to use. I was half-expecting that every beverage would be met with long lines at the bar, or difficulty in getting bar-tenders attention, or met with the need to sign for every drink with pressure to provide more in gratuities, or even worse, eye rolls from the bar staff when presenting our beverage package (all of which we have witnessed on other cruise lines in the past). I'm thrilled to report that Celebrity Solstice had none of this. Our beverage package was incredibly easy to use (too easy almost). No receipt signing, no additional gratuity pressure, no eye rolling. It was simply: 1) Present Room Key 2) Receive Beverage. It was that easy, everywhere. We found every crew member to be knowledgeable in how the package worked, and all were willing to provide incredible service, even once they found out we were on the package. The package includes specialty coffees, bottled water, and alcoholic beverages up to $9. Want a beverage that's more than $9? Simply pay the difference (between $9 and the cost of your beverage). Given the ease of using the beverage perks, and the amount of beverages it includes, I feel we more than made up for the cost.
Lastly, I mentioned at the beginning that itinerary was the driving force behind choosing this sailing. We had never been on an Alaskan itinerary prior to this one. With that said, we didn't elect for any cruise ship sponsored shore excursions. And with that said, we loved every minute of being in port. We ventured out on our own at every stop, hiking halfway up Deer Mountain in Ketchikan, taking a cab ride to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, and walking to the Gold Rush Cemetery and Reid Falls just outside of Skagway. At every port we felt we were able to see the city on our own terms and escape the crowds. While all of our activities could be viewed as on the adventurous side, we are certainly not thrill seekers, nor are we avid mountain hikers. We simply wanted to capture the essence of every port town as a local might witness it. We were not disappointed. All of this to say, I felt the Celebrity excursions were a bit on the pricey side and primarily "touristy" in nature. Which is why we opted to explore on our own. I heard no complaints from passengers on board regarding the logistics or organization of excursions, leading me to believe they were enjoyable and well organized. However, I have no firsthand knowledge.
To summarize, we absolutely, without reservations, would sail on Celebrity Cruises and the Celebrity Solstice again. Celebrity Cruises has reconnected us with why we fell in love with cruising in the first place. The "WOW" features of the larger ships are fun for a time, but incredible seas, incredible sights, incredible food and incredible service are why we come back to cruising again and again - and Celebrity Solstice, I feel, is doing this better than anyone. Read Less