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51 Celebrity Holiday Cruise Reviews

This was our 4th Celebrity holiday cruise and probably our last. We sailed from Fort Lauderdale on the Solstice on the Dec 28th,, 2008. Having cruised on two other Celebrity holiday cruises, both 14 nights, I was familiar with the long ... Read More
This was our 4th Celebrity holiday cruise and probably our last. We sailed from Fort Lauderdale on the Solstice on the Dec 28th,, 2008. Having cruised on two other Celebrity holiday cruises, both 14 nights, I was familiar with the long standing quality of the line. On this particular holiday cruise, I saw a much different side of Celebrity. First, there is no getting around the fact that Solstice is a real beauty. Modern in every way, she is clearly the most breathtaking lady on the high seas. Solstice could evolve into a remarkable ship, if and when she grows up and becomes a proper lady. She is fresh from the shipyard with a crew still attempting to gel and get their act together. The Celebrity management team seems to be in the middle of a paradigm shift, searching for a way to stay profitable in a very tough economy. And that seems to be the root of all that is not so wonderful about Solstice. Clearly, Celebrity, like other travel companies, is struggling to maintain its core repeat customers and targeting mainstream first time cruisers with respectable incomes. In a way, Solstice is an experiment at sea as management attempts to redefine cruising while staying profitable in a challenging economy. I'm guessing some of their innovations are just not going to cut it. STATEROOM: The cabins, nearly all with verandas, are spacious and loaded with easy to use technology. We loved this about the ship. With flat screen TVs and an interactive entertainment system complete with pay and FREE movies on demand, the intentions are right on target. Our Concierge Class cabin included a remarkably comfortable bed with luxurious linens, towels and an ultra modern bathroom. Make sure you take advantage of the "pillow menu". I loved the full body pillow! We had a cabin on Deck 12. All Concierge and Verandah cabins have adequate closet and drawer space and an ample size veranda. We were situated very close to the pool mid-ship, so we enjoyed an exceptionally smooth sailing. Service from our stateroom attendant was good but the benefits of upgrading to a Concierge cabin are becoming increasingly questionable. Gone are the days of feeling "special" when booking a Concierge Class cabin. The upgraded linens and bathroom amenities were nice, but didn't justify the $1,000 additional expenditure for the upgrade. We could care less about the nasty tasting canopies and the complimentary bottle of champagne. The reality is that all veranda cabins are the same size. It's the extra touches and the location that separate a Concierge Class cabin from a standard veranda. If you want to spend extra dollars on this ship, upgrade to a suite and enjoy the larger cabin and butler service. We wished we had a butler on this cruise, because when it came to dinner reservations, trying to make arrangements on our own was challenging. DINING: - The ship offers five alternative dining options, all which charge an additional fee ranging from $5.00 - $25.00 per person. We dined at Blu, Silk Harvest, Tuscan Grille and Bistro on Five. Each was enjoyable and offered a quality dining experience. We especially enjoyed the Asian fare at Silk Harvest and the excellent fillets and Italian dishes at Tuscan Grille. We couldn't say the same for the main dining room. In fact, we found our one night at Grand Epernay was far from acceptable. It was the classic "we smelled the fish coming" and when we tasted it, even the tartar sauce couldn't hide the strong fishy taste of our Mahi. - To enjoy a good meal on Solstice, plan to pay extra because the main dining room misses its target. It was nowhere close to the high quality of food and outstanding selections we'd grown to expect on a Celebrity. Clearly food quality has taken a hit as the company trims expenses and monetizes every part of the cruise experience. The main dining room attempts to present an image of a fine dining experience. From the stories I heard from other passengers, they are failing miserably. Perhaps stepping back to the basics would give this beautiful dining area justice. Why not good old chicken, steak, Mexican and Italian dishes done right, rather than fancy entrees that just don't sound appetizing and miss their mark when it comes to tasting good? - The buffet on deck 12 is adequate but far from memorable. Many items are still not marked leaving guests wondering which mystery meat or salad they are about to select. Worst of all, the offerings seemed to never change, making for a buffet experience that is both boring and disappointing. It doesn't take long to surmise that if you want to experience truly good food, you are going to have to pay extra for it...plain and simple. - Solstice is NOT prepared for capacity sailings. On embarkation day, hundreds of passengers were angry because either they were booked at the wrong seating or they were unhappy with their table assignments. At one point, security had to be called to calm an angry customer. And breakfast and lunch buffets during our holiday cruise were always crowded and plagued with lines. (If Celebrity can't please customers with designated seating times, perhaps they should take a chapter from the NCL playbook and consider moving to Free Style Dining. EMBARKATION & DISEMBARKATION: - Smooth and amazingly brisk. No problems here. We were on the ship and in our cabin in less than 20 minutes. Unlike other sailings we've been on, leaving the ship was equally painless and well organized. High marks for getting on and off the ship. Too bad we were anxious to get off? POOL & OUTSIDE DECKS: - During peak vacation periods on Solstice, plan on jumping out of bed by eight AM if you want a remote chance of securing deck chairs. Towels had to be replenished by 9:30. It appeared all 2850 passengers on board, pale and determined sun seekers, marked their spots on decks 12 & 14. This reminded us of a pack of dogs marking their territory then guarding their spot in the sunshine. On our first sea day, we made the mistake of sleeping until 10AM. My wife resorted to paying a pool butler to secure two chairs in the sun. (Silly us- thinking we could actually sleep- in on our vacation). - While the hoards scouted hard to find spots to tan, half a football field of green grass was empty on the top deck, aft. The only live lawn at sea was an interesting "out of the box" idea in some boardroom, but in reality it is a terrible waste of space. It was used by only a few who bothered to play Bocce or Crochet, truly two of America's most popular past times....NOT. - There is an interesting display of glass blowing next to the struggling grass. Again, an innovative idea but underutilized. If even 50% of this space was used as an alternative sunning spot, the need to hoard deck chairs forward and mid-ship might disappear. - We were disappointed that Solstice did not include a deck where we could walk completely around the ship like many other vessels. Instead, walking was confined to a very small walking track around the pool. With the hoards of passengers at the pool, navigating around others just wasn't worth the effort. PUBLIC SPACES: Aside from the pool and deck areas, public spaces on Solstice are magnificent and well planned. We seldom felt crowded or claustrophobic in most of the inside spaces. They give the appearance of a contemporary yet luxurious ship. Only the buffet on Deck 12 and the sundecks made us want to jump overboard and swim to an unpopulated island getaway where thousands of bodies of all sizes and proportions were not lined up like bacon ready to be fried. ENTERTAINMENT: Overall, Solstice provided above average entertainment in the main showroom. The typical Broadway reviews had a fresh new spin and a clone of Cirque de Ole was a fresh and innovative departure from the normal cruise ship fare. The showroom features state of the art production tools that make the shows vibrant and contemporary. Plenty of seats in the main showroom too, which tells me many passengers missed some good shows. The ship also features a smaller venue called Solstice Central, featuring comedy. After being annoyed every day from the masses on the decks, we would have loved to have found some levity from a good comedian. But again, in what can only be an attempt to keep passengers up late drinking and gambling, the comedian never performed before 11PM and some nights, as late at 12:45. Hate to be a party pooper, but we don't care to hang out in the lounges and drink all nights, so we and others were just out of luck. As I said earlier, it's all about monetizing every minute of the day to increase revenues. Keeping passengers up an extra hour or two can't hurt bar sales, the shops and of course, the Casino. We walked through the Casino and it seemed modern, clean and very adequate. - Kudos for the LIVE MUSIC! Unlike many other cruise lines which rely on prerecorded music in their showrooms, Celebrity DOES spend money on talented live orchestras. Whether it was providing live music for the singers & dancers during a show in the main theatre, or entertaining around the pool on New Year's Eve, the Celebrity Orchestra was fantastic THE PORTS: We choose the Solstice for the shipboard experience rather than the ports. - San Juan: How many more times must we waste a day in San Juan? Am I missing something here? We find the beaches in San Juan among the ugliest in the Caribbean. Surely Celebrity can find a more innovative port than San Juan. I recommend staying on the ship in San Juan and taking advantage of actually having your own deck chair and some personal space. - St. Kitts: Absolutely beautiful. If you're a beach person, hire a taxi and spend the day at a beautiful and sparsely populated beach. We NEVER book tours on the ship as we find them significantly more expensive and always crowded. The last thing we wanted was to more "herding us around like cattle". No thank you. - St. Marten: Another nice stop. We shared a taxi with some other passengers and spent the day at Orient Beach. The beach chairs were inexpensive, there were plenty of places to grab a drink or have some lunch and of course, lots of naked sunbathers. THE VERDICT: A beautiful ship with a friendly crew, however: We will NOT book another 7 day cruise on Solstice during high season, especially not over the holidays. Remember, we have taken several 14 day cruises on Celebrity and loved them. I think the shorter cruises and lower price tags turn the ship into a more mass market product which is not for us. Who wants to get up early just to throw a towel on a deck chair? No thank you. We sincerely hope Celebrity takes some actions to prevent overcrowding. It's just not relaxing when you feel like you are part of a herd of cattle. They will also need to make their main dining room offerings more attractive and enhance the quality of the food. Get back to basics. Celebrity is driving us and many other past customers, to their more upscale product, Azamara Cruises. And frankly, I think that just might be their strategy: Making Celebrity a more mass product by cutting expenses, and sailing at over capacity whenever possible. For those of us who still look forward to the relaxation of being on the high seas, be prepared to pay more in search of an upgraded product. Perhaps we will meet you on Azamara, OR on a different cruise line that values its repeat customers with a loyalty program that actually has rewards and perks that mean something. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
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