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3 Celebrity Solstice Cruise Reviews for Cruises for the Disabled Cruises to Caribbean - Eastern

This was our fourth cruise. Twice on Princess and our 2nd on Celebrity. We are in our early sixties and really enjoyed our last Celebrity cruise on the Summit through the Panama Canal in 2007. We enjoyed a more sophisticated and ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise. Twice on Princess and our 2nd on Celebrity. We are in our early sixties and really enjoyed our last Celebrity cruise on the Summit through the Panama Canal in 2007. We enjoyed a more sophisticated and interesting group of travelers, and expected the same on the new Celebrity Solstice. The Solstice is a beautiful ship that offers all the features of the Millennium Class plus more. My wife is in a wheelchair and we found a lot of accessibility built into the ship, negating the small ramps at the doors to the exterior decks and at the entrance to the bathrooms in the accessible staterooms. The accessible staterooms featured doors that opened and closed automatically, as did the doors to the public restrooms. The Solstice is the most impressive ship we have sailed on with it's 12 story Atrium, glass elevators, modern eclectic dining room, 2 story library, 3 story theater, Spa, and exceptional Deck Plans. The food was excellent, but compared to our past Celebrity cruise was a step below what we expected. All of the dishes were excellent and the level of service was what you would expect, but small signs of cost cutting were noticeable (such as the mixed seafood plate on the last formal night with prawns, scallops, and a very small lobster tail instead of the featured Lobster Tail dinner which we had on the Summit in 2007. The night we had Chateaubriand the pieces of meat were a different cut than any I have ever had (they looked more like pieces of flank steak). One night the Chef recommended Dinner entree was "Pork Chops". My wife and I ate in 2 of the Specialty Restaurants and were impressed with the Service and Food. The Silk Harvest Asian restaurant and the Italian Tuscan Grill were well worth the extra charge to eat there. The Fillet Mignon in the Tuscan Grill was 2 inches thick and the best piece of beef we have ever eaten. We had a table in the Tuscan Grill with windows that looked out the stern of the ship as we left St Maarten, and were also seated next to the windows in the Silk Harvest looking out the side of the ship as we left St Kitts. The food in the ship's buffet the "Oceanview Cafe" was outstanding and the best we have ever had on a cruise. Waiters were always standing by to assist my wife in her wheelchair, and we almost always got a table next to a window to enjoy the view as we ate. The only time we had trouble finding a seat was right after we embarked because everyone was ushered to the cafe to wait while the staterooms were being finished. We also experienced the same thing on the morning we disembarked. The most striking thing about the ship and cruise were the mix of cruisers on board. The mix was what you would expect on a Carnival or Royal Caribbean cruise, they was not your typical Celebrity cruisers we remembered from the past. Many people ignored the dress code in the evening, and some were trying to eat in the cafe at lunch without a shirt. I am not sure if the depressed cruise market has made Celebrity more affordable to a broader range of people or if Celebrity is catering to a different market? My wife and I came away disappointed and so did other passengers we talked to who were expecting a more elegant cruise. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
My better half and I sailed on the Celebrity Solstice from Fort Lauderdale on January 3 and returned January 10, 2009, sailing the Eastern Caribbean. We booked a Veranda, Concierge Class cabin, Stateroom number 1184. My wife has mobility ... Read More
My better half and I sailed on the Celebrity Solstice from Fort Lauderdale on January 3 and returned January 10, 2009, sailing the Eastern Caribbean. We booked a Veranda, Concierge Class cabin, Stateroom number 1184. My wife has mobility issues and rides a Lynx D-4 electric scooter, and I will address some mobility issues during this discussion. Since last year we sailed on the Mariner of he Seas, and the two ships are somewhat comparable, I will be using it to discuss comparisons Embarkation was easy. We drove from our home to Fort Lauderdale, about a 4 hour drive and arrived about 11AM and boarded around Noon. We went straight to the Oceanview Cafe, as the rooms were not ready. The Ship We were immediately impressed by the ship. Its dEcor and arrangement was a wonder to the eye. We loved it. As to accessibility, we only found three issues. We were assigned to assembly area D2 for lifeboat drill, which was located in the Silk Harvest Restaurant. For our assembly we had to go out unto the outside deck on Deck 5 and reenter near the restaurant. The problem was that the ramps for both of these entries were not designed with the Lynx in mind and in both cases the cart became stuck on the lip of the door. We also encountered this issue coming unto Deck 15 forward while trying to come out of the video arcade unto the deck. The design of some of the ramping should be reconsidered. Internally, there were no issues, and we found the other guests to be generally accommodating with regards to the elevators, unlike the experiences we had the previous year on the Mariner, where we often had to go up to go down and vice versa. Dining The layout of the Oceanview Cafe, compared to Windjammer on the Mariner, was more user friendly, as the open food court concept made access to the different stations much easier. Also, seating in the cafe never seemed to be the issue that we found it to be on the Mariner. As to the food, we did find it, from the beginning, to be superior to that we had on the Mariner the previous year. During several trips to this venue, both for breakfast and lunch, we found the staff to be accommodating. During three different occasions, my wife had staff come forward as she rode her cart to act as her personal waiters, helping her select her food and seating her. This amount of caring was unexpected and welcome. The Grand Epernay was understated. We actually found the main dining on the Mariner to be visually more exciting. The three tiers and the grand staircase on the Mariner were spectacular and had a classic charm. The Grand Epernay seemed to have a much more modern design feel. That aside, excepting the first night, we found the meals to be a step above those served on the Mariner and consistently chose items on the Chefs menu, which changed daily, as opposed to the standard menu that did not. As to the wait staff, our waiter Atyar and his assistant Tacky were wonderful, but, then, so were the servers we had on the Mariner last year. Note that the formal nights were the second and sixth night, with the parade on the last formal night. We only tried one of the specialty restaurants, the Bistro on Five. We ate there three times, once for breakfast and twice for lunch. The breakfast crepes could have been lighter, but, then, again, we returned and loved it as an alternative. It was well worth the five dollar per person cover charge. While addressing food, I guess I should talk about room service. Yes, we used it several times during our stay. We used it twice for breakfast and twice more for late night snacks. It was always delivered timely and warm. Our Room Once the rooms were ready, we repaired to ours in order to start our day off. Previously we had traveled in interior cabins, so this was our first experience with an exterior room. We will not be going back. The room was spacious, and while the balcony was relatively small, it was more than large enough for the two of us to sit on and enjoy. Additionally, while ours was not a handicapped accessible room (they do have some in the forward section of the ship) we found that we had plenty of room to bring my wife's assembled cart into the room and park it so that it could be recharged at night. The only issue with regard to the room might be storage. That is, until I discovered that the luggage could go under the bed. Additionally, our two room attendants, Roger and Indra, were friendly, efficient and accommodating. Anything we needed or requested, they delivered speedily. On board Activities We enjoyed the shows and activities aboard ship, but four stood out. The hot glass show should be seen by everyone at least once. One thing to remember is that everything they create is given away by the end of the tour, generally during the last couple of shows. We attended one of their shows during which the children from the kids programs were in attendance. The staff selected two pictures drawn by child in each group and recreated the picture in glass while the child who drew the picture watched on. At the end of the show, they announced that these pieces were to be given to the children who drew the picture. What a special prize for them. The tour of the kitchens was probably one of our most memorable. We had Executive Sous-Chef #3 Michiek from Poland as our tour guide. During the tour he mentioned in answer to one question that he makes pierogies (Polish dumplings). At the end of the tour, we managed to talk to him and as my wife is of Polish ancestry, they had something in common. Imagine our surprise when he agreed to make pierogies for us, and they were delivered for breakfast on Wednesday morning, our anniversary. Thank you, again, chef! The other two had a degree of similarity; the first was a cooking demonstration conducted by the executive chef and his assistant and the second was a cooking competition ala iron chef. Both were enjoyable and the second was funny, as well, as the guest critics, chosen from the audience, made the show. A note about the shows in the Solstice Theatre, generally, disabled individuals are found relegated to the back of each of the two floors. Getting to the front rows can be difficult. But, thanks to Jay, "the Foodie", we learned that there is a lift available on at the extreme left that can take you to the lower level. It is good to know and the staff will assist you if you ask. The Solstice Players were awesome! The A Capella group-MetroPark were exceptional. My wife really enjoyed Karen Grainger, a female singer who did impersonations. We really enjoyed Solstice-The Show. It was fashioned after Cirque-du-soleil. All of the players were talented and upbeat. Not a scheduled event, but, do to my wife's background, we also took a tour of the sick bay. We talked to the head nurse, a nice gentleman from South Africa with a Doctorate in Nursing who had been a University professor there. He showed us the facilities and told us that the staff consisted of two doctors, and three nurses. He showed us their emergency room, and their ward, as well as their fully stocked pharmacy. We also met, and my wife talked to, the junior doctor from the Cameroons. We met him outside of the facility, riding with him on the elevators one trip. He told us he had been with the company for two years. Excursions: Normally we have had no difficulties with regards to excursions and my wife's cart. Both on last years cruise and this, the tour operators have evinced an Island attitude, i.e. "No problem, man," and have managed to get the cart on the bus. This year Tortola was the exception. Finding our tour, after getting off the ship, was somewhat of an adventure in itself, but, we found our operator and she checked us in for the Historical and Cultural Tour. We waited right next to her for about 20 minutes until they were ready to load the bus. At that point she turned and told us that we would have to leave the cart. She stated that they had made no provisions for handicapped individuals. We told her about our previous experiences and the ability to disassemble the cart and stow it, but her response was that she was not going to make any accommodation that might cost her seats on the bus and that we could go get a refund. Well, we talked to Erroll from the ship, the Shore Excursions representative, and he took our tickets and arranged a refund. We then went to Guest Relations and told them our story. The young lady at the desk took notes and that was about all we really expected. But, Guest Relations followed up with two telephone calls, and chocolate covered strawberries delivered to the room, and Shore Excursions called, as well, to ask if they could do anything further. This was really an impressive show of concern. As to the two excursions we did take, the Old and New San Juan tour in Puerto Rico, and the Butterfly Farm and Marigot tour in St. Maarten, both were enjoyable, though we liked the second one the best. The Butterfly Farm was amazing and our tour guide was wonderful. They and he made the entire trip accessible for my wife. Labadee: Labadee has changed so much in the last year that we were amazed. Last year my wife could only take her cart to the jetty where the tender docked and then had to transfer to a beach wheelchair. This year, the entire venue has been revamped with paved walking areas throughout the venue and new buildings and event sites. They even had a private beach set aside for Concierge Class, so that there was no need to rush to claim beach chairs, like last year. Additionally, the straw market has been moved. It has been moved further back, and two sites created, one with fixed prices and the other with the typical straw market feel, and price negotiation. We tried both, and while, if you worked at it you could get a slightly better price at the straw market, the fixed price market was selling the same items at what seemed to be a fair market price. We brought a couple of items at each place, and the price difference was not enough to matter, really. Overall: Just to let you know, the crew works an average of 15 hours a day, 6 ½ days a week, if they are lucky. They work for six straight months and then get two months off. They do not get paid during their down time, but the company does, generally, pay their airfare both ways. The crew members we talked to seemed to be happy and loyal to the company. They all strive to please. For us, the Master, Captain Dimitrius (who was Greek-just ask him) was by far, the most likable and entertaining Master we have encountered on our cruises. He was light hearted, approachable, and really funny. He was a show all on his own. Putting that aside, he kept us well informed and we arrived at most ports early. The seas were rough; but you did not feel it like on other vessels we have been on. We enjoyed the cruise and would go again in a heartbeat. Next year we might try for the southern Caribbean, as we did the Western Caribbean on last years cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
CELEBRITY SOLSTICE Eastern Caribbean Cruise Jan. 3 - 10, 2010 by Mary & Vincent Finelli Last spring we booked a transatlantic cruise on the Solstice, but due to health problems we did not make it. The Solstice is now 14 months old, ... Read More
CELEBRITY SOLSTICE Eastern Caribbean Cruise Jan. 3 - 10, 2010 by Mary & Vincent Finelli Last spring we booked a transatlantic cruise on the Solstice, but due to health problems we did not make it. The Solstice is now 14 months old, her naming ceremony was Nov. 14, 2008; her Godmother is Prof. Sharon L. Smith a renown marine and atmospheric scientist from the University of Miami: very a propos! The Solstice's name conjures up thoughts of our sun star and heavenly worlds beyond Earth. Her Godmother grounds those ideas and brings to our life on Earth more meaning. The softness of the many delicate draperies on board evokes feelings of clouds. The highly polished aluminum columns in the Grand Epernay Dining Rooms and the Champagne bubble like lights on the ceiling, combined with the beauty of the dEcor presents an ethereal aura. Even the night club on Deck 4 is named Quasar and calls up space images. Suffice it to say, the Solstice is unique --- and so is her Captain Dimitrios Kafetzis. He is a fine Master with a welcoming sense of humor: "He is Greek!" with all the connotations and beautiful manners of a Greek ship's host. EMBARKATION On a Sunday morning I-95 traffic is light and from Boca Raton to Ft. Lauderdale takes only 25 minutes. We had curbside assistance with our baggage, wheelchair, and scooter. A crew member helped us through check-in and we were in our stateroom in twenty minutes. Excellent! Guests were greeted with Mimosa drinks, very refreshing. SHIP OVERVIEW The Solstice weighs 122,000 gross tons; she is 1,033 feet long and has a beam of 121 feet. Her draft is 27 feet and she has a cruising speed of 24 knots. She carries 2,850 guests and has 16 passenger decks. What follows is a deck by deck description of her layout. Deck 1 is for crew only. Deck 2 holds the Medical Facility (which we did not visit)! Deck 3 aft has the Grand Epernay Restaurant, a glorious combination of spaciousness and modern design with crystal and chrome fitting in beautifully, with the three deck tall white draperies. There is an old saying that drinking Champagne in Epernay (the heart of French Champagne country) is like listening to Mozart in Salzburg..." (Eperzine Web magazine). So also are diners in this stunning dining room treated to bubbles in the ceiling lighting. On Deck 3 are the Guest Relations Desk, the Shore Excursions Desk and the Passport Bar. Deck 4 has Celebrity Central entertainment locale, Cellars Masters (wine, whiskey, or bourbon tastings, etc.). Then, there is the Fortunes Casino (the Slots are loose, and the give out is published daily.) Next is the Quasar Nightclub with its polished metal dance floor, suspended capsule chairs and twinkling lights, there is lots of atmosphere. Midship are the shops on board and forward the Solstice Theatre with excellent acoustics, but there are a few poles obstructing the view of the stage, so choose seats carefully. The red velvet stage curtain is flanked by two 3 deck tall draperies composed of tucked white and off white fabrics making a collage of billows. Very unique. Deck 5 has the "Bistro on Five" which specializes in crepes, both sweet and savory. This is a great place for brunch or late night dessert ($5) the "Cafe` al Bacio" serves exquisite coffee and desserts. There is also a Gelato ice cream shop, and the Captain's Club for repeat cruisers. Since Celebrity is part of RCI and we are Diamond Plus members in the Crown & Anchor Society, we have been given elite status with great perks. There are the boutique shops and Michael's Club where cocktail parties and high teas are held. Aft on Deck 5 are the specialty restaurants: Murano (excellent French cuisine) Silk Harvest (Asian) and the Tuscan Grille (Italian), cover charges apply. Deck 6 through 11 are all staterooms in addition to the Online@Celebrity (the internet room) on Deck 6, the Library on Deck 10 (open stacks and reading areas, no need to sign in or out --- the honor policy is in operation) and the Relaxation Lounge on Deck 11. Deck 12 has the Health & Fitness center, the Aqua Spa, the Beauty Salon, the Solarium, Swimming Pools and Whirlpools. Vincent uses the sauna and the whirlpool daily and he had wonderful advice and help from Natasha. Deck 14 has the jogging track, the Mast Bar & Grill (hot dogs, hamburgers and fries), the Ocean Bar & Cafe` and the Sky Observation Lounge. There are sky lectures with an on board astronomer at night. Deck 15 has basket ball courts, a hot blown glass show (Corning) and the Lawn Club with extensive grass lawn where Bocce Tournaments between passengers and crew are played. Deck 16 is the Sun Deck. Throughout the ship is a huge eclectic art collection, some of it commissioned for the Solstice and others works are from both famous cubists like Picasso and Matisse or from photographers like Martin Liebscher where repeated photographs of himself in different poses make up a crowd. Very Interesting. The "Full Moon Briars" by Susan Derges is certainly in keeping with the Solstice theme. Different staircases have been given themes like "Stair of Light" and "Stair of Water." CABIN Stateroom #6141 is a wheelchair accessible cabin with a large automatic door. When entering on the left there is a full length mirror and a double armoire in maple wood; a vanity/desk with lighted mirror, seven drawers, a private safe, and refrigerator. There is a marble counter top and one chair. When entering, on the right is a huge tiled bathroom with a tilt mirror flanked by two large medicine cabinets with glass doors. There are safety rails all around and a huge shower with a fold away seat. There is a king size bed with very nice linens of gold white and maroon. The two reading lamps are close enough to turn on and off from the bed. The final pieces of furniture are a love seat and a small coffee table. The balcony is large and deep: it contains two recliners and a teak table and chair. The carpet is in Burberry colors: gold, beige and maroon and the draperies are beige with bands of rose patterns. The stateroom attendant, Mahmodi is excellent. The cabin is large and comfortable. SERVICE & FOOD Hotel Director Damien O'Connor displays the perfect temperament to control the Solstice. He is kind, affable and likes to hear just how the passengers are getting along. He doesn't just ask questions for conversation's sake, rather he is truly interested in the passengers' satisfaction. He has a well trained crew, who make the passengers comfortable and provide for their every need. We always say that the mood on board filters down from above--- with such friendly leaders as Captain Dimitrios, H.D. Damien and Restaurant Manager FabioScaglione, it's only natural that the crew are also friendly and sincere. Food & Beverage Manager Robert Flack has the daunting task of overseeing 600 crew members who produce and serve more than 12,000 meals daily, yet everything goes off beautifully. Exec. Chef Mickael Tochetto combines the best of culinary traditions: born of Italian parents, raised in France! The food on board is excellent, based on menus by world renown Chef Jacques Van Staden and implemented perfectly by Chef Mickael. The menu is one of the most diverse at sea and most ample. No one could possibly go away unsatisfied. We enjoyed every meal on board, especially the one at Captain Dimitrios' table on formal night. The Escargot was perfect, Vincent's Caesar salad and filet Mignon were just the way he liked them. The Captain was jovial and complimentary; at the end of the meal he gave each lady at the table a beautiful long stem American Beauty rose. Our waiter at table #110 in Epernay was Jose` Altamirano, both he and his assistant Yvonne Williams were very pleasant and served at a nice pace. Celebrity is probably the only line still providing a finely trained Sommelier: Ferhat Ebret was cordial and Vincent was appreciative of his service and knowledge. Bravo. Some samples from the appetizer menu are as follows: Tropical Fruit Medley with Lychee nuts; San Francisco Crab Louis; Goat cheese tart served with red roasted peppers and Balsamic syrup. Soups included Wild Mushroom Cappuccino with Porcini mushroom dust, and chilled Gazpacho. Salads were fresh and varied: Belgium Endive and arugala with red delicious apple and candied pecans. Some of their homemade dressings included Roquefort, Citrus, Pinot Noir Vinaigrette, Champagne and lite raspberry. Entrees include pastas like Spaghetti Carbonara, fish such as Herb crusted Merluzzo (white fish) and fowl like Grandmother's Coq Au Vin and Veal Cordon Bleu. Chef Mickael's Ossobuco (excellent) Mary felt it was a triumph! The aged Prime Rib of Beef was mouth watering. Vegetarians had a large assortment of dishes including grilled Kebabs. For dessert there was always a selection of imported cheeses, fruits and traditional desserts like Crème Brulee`, NY cheesecake, Profiteroles, apple pie, fresh sorbets and homemade ice creams. There are several Speciality Restaurants. We highly recommend Murano, and its contemporary French Cuisine: try the sweet breads and the fois gras and the wonderful Cheese Cart. We are happy to report the food on board is excellent. ENTERTAINMENT The Solstice has three very nice shows: Adam Trent a young magician, singer Karen Grainger, and Celebrity Show time presented Solstice: the Show, which was very nice with aerial acrobatics. A very interesting offering was Astronomer Vic Stryker, who lead nightly sky watching. This ship has many things for cruisers including Casino games, Bingo, Fitness, Bocce, etc. PORTS OF CALL Sunday: Ft. Lauderdale, FL Depart: 4:30pm Monday: At Sea Tuesday: San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive: 2:00pm Depart: 8:00pm Wednesday: Philipsburg, St. Maarten Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 7:00pm Thursday: Tortola, B.V.I. Arrive:7:00am Depart: 1:00pm Friday: Labadee, Haiti Arrive: 10:00am Depart: 6:30pm Saturday: At Sea Sunday: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Arrive: 7:00am CONCLUSION This was another great cruise! We have not had a bad cruise in a long time, since we have learned what to expect from the various cruise lines and direct our attention to the things they do best. We are addicted to cruising, because we know how to get the best out of every cruise in regard to food, service, itinerary, ship's environment, repeater's benefits and personal attention. Some readers of our reviews have accused us of being too soft with our criticism. We disagree with them since we always include in the reviews any points which are not perfect and may need improvement. It is hard to write a negative review when we have enjoyed the overall aspect of a cruise, which up to now we have always done. We'll be cruising in search of the perfect cruise or an unpleasant one; neither of which we have yet experienced. Our next cruise is in February on the Liberty of the Seas together with our son Marcello, his wife Paige and their eight year old son Marcellino. We have also booked a relocation cruise on the Star Princess, on March 16th, from Rio De Janeiro to Ft. Lauderdale. Happy Cruising! Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
Celebrity Solstice Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 5.0 4.5
Dining 4.5 4.1
Entertainment 4.5 3.8
Public Rooms 5.0 4.6
Fitness Recreation 5.0 4.1
Family 4.0 4.1
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.7
Enrichment 5.0 3.8
Service 5.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.5 4.0
Rates 4.0 4.2

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