We had never been on a cruise before, so we used a travel agent to find one that would be just right for us. I am so glad we did, as our cruise experience was just what we desired. My husband and I were celebrating our 20th wedding ... Read More
We had never been on a cruise before, so we used a travel agent to find one that would be just right for us. I am so glad we did, as our cruise experience was just what we desired. My husband and I were celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary, and we wanted a stress-free, relaxing, indulgent vacation, away from our four children. Our vacation turned out to be exactly what we wanted.
We arrived in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, October 23rd, the day before our ship sailed. We stayed at the Hilton Embassy Suites, which was pretty nice. There were plenty of places within walking distance for dinner that night, and the hotel provided a nice full breakfast on Sunday morning. When we looked out our hotel window on Sunday morning, we could see the Solstice in the distance. The hotel provided a shuttle, which began running at 11 am, which ran to the dock. Security and check-in at the dock were very easy. We breezed through security and then had to wait about 15 minutes in line to check in. Once through, we walked right onto the ship.
The ship is beautiful and you feel pampered from the moment you arrive. It was drizzling when we boarded, and they had two crew members standing by the walkway to the ship to help keep us dry for the two steps it took to get underneath the overhang. The ship is very elegant and sophisticated in its design and decor. We stopped at the Aquaspa Cafe and had a little snack. The food there seemed very light and refreshing, not to mention healthy. We then made our way to the Ocean View Cafe where we had a delicious buffet lunch. It was crowded, but not surprising considering the fact that everyone had just boarded and everyone went straight to the buffet. We found a table and I enjoyed a delicious made-to-order stir-fry. I had chocolate mousse for dessert and it was yummy. The Ocean View Cafe is the buffet area of the ship and that is where a full buffet breakfast, lunch, dinner, afternoon tea, midnight snacks, etc. are served. We did not purchase a beverage package, and did not miss it. There was iced tea, lemonade, water, juice, coffee, tea and hot chocolate available to us. The food at the Ocean View Cafe was very good. Made-to order omelets, fresh fruit, waffles, different varieties of eggs benedict, bacon, sausage, breads, sweets, cereal, yogurt, you name it at breakfast. Lunch offered many hot dishes, made-to-order stir-fries, pasta, sandwich fixings, lovely salad bar. The hand scooped ice cream offered there was excellent and available in many tasty flavors; praline and chocolate were favorites. I liked that you could sit outside to eat and enjoy the view. We never ate dinner there, so I can't comment on that.
After lunch, we made our way to our aquaclass room. It was beautifully and stylishly decorated. We had plenty of room for our clothes and storage of our suitcases (under the bed). The bed was very comfortable. The private verandah was spacious and provided two reclining lounge chairs, foot rests and a small table. We enjoyed it very much and watched the sunrise in our plush provided bathrobes almost every day. The bathroom seemed to be a very nice size and the shower was great. The space was designed very well and we never felt cramped or awkward or crowded. Our Cabin steward was very nice and took care of our every request quickly. We ordered room service a few times and it always came quickly. One morning we ordered breakfast and it came right at the requested time. We slept well, and did not notice any annoying noises. There was a strange smell in the hallway and our room sometimes, but it did not really bother us, and we could not identify what it was. The bottled water and flavored iced tea that was provided every day was a nice touch. We requested the complementary canapes one evening, but they weren't that exciting and we did not get them again.
Being in an aquaclass room, we had access to the Persian Garden in the spa. The Persian Garden is a private room with about 8 heated tile beds facing a wall of windows. A steam sauna, dry aromatherapy sauna, and two rain showers, are in smaller adjoining spaces. Soothing music plays throughout. It was a heavenly place. On any given day, the beds would be filled with people, sleeping or reading. I dozed away many an hour there and it was blissful. It was one of my favorite places on the ship.
Another perk of being in aquaclass, is the privilege of being able to dine in the restaurant named Blu instead of in the main dining room. We never got there for breakfast, but we did eat dinner there almost every night. It was like eating in a five star restaurant every night. The food was innovative and delicious. The portions were just the right size and you could finish your entire meal without feeling stuffed. The ambiance was more intimate than in the main dining room, and the decor was modern and opulent, yet understated. The tables by the windows were coveted, and many people tried to get there by 6 pm or earlier in order to snag them. The servers were attentive, friendly and entertaining.
One evening we went to Murano for a special anniversary dinner. It did not disappoint. We got a very romantic table, tucked away in the corner. Our lobster and filet mignon were cooked at the table with flourish by two waiters, who them presented our plated and domed food in synch. It was such fun. The food was mouth-watering and we ate too much. The portions were average American size (meaning huge!), and we could barely finish our meal. We missed the Blu portions! It was an awesome meal though and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
We also ate lunch one day at Bistro on Five which serves crepes. They were delicious and the salad was also excellent.
The public places of the ship were lovely and we did not feel crowded. There were many places where you could find a private place to relax. The pools and hot-tubs were pretty crowded. We were always able to find a deck chair, however. We especially liked the Solstice Deck for its quiet and seclusion. The bar service at the pool seemed fine. The hot glass show is always fascinating to watch. We sat there for a couple hours captivated. The lawn was very nice and refreshing, but we did not really "use" it much. The shops, casino, lounges, bars, library, etc. were all comfortable and inviting. There was always live music playing in many areas of the ship, and the musicians were excellent. We often stopped to listen to them during our day.
We only went to the theater twice: once to see the cirque type show, which was ok, and the second time to see the variety show at the end. I think the performers were ok. The musicians seemed very talented and entertaining. The comedian was the best; we wished we would have gone to his full show. The captain and crew were all very entertaining as well.
I will discuss the ports in the port review section, but I will mention here that getting off and on at the ports was very easy and efficient. The cold water, fruit juice and icy towels provided when re-boarding after a hot day in port, were most welcome.
The other passengers seemed mostly in the 50 and up age range. We saw a few children and quite a number of younger couples. In general, everyone seemed very nice, well dressed for dinner and well behaved.
The gym seemed very well equipped and well used.
All in all, we had a wonderful time. We felt very pampered and rested by the end of the week. The food was fabulous, the vibe was relaxing, yet elegant, and we felt like we were in another world. I would definitely cruise on the Solstice again and definitely in aquaclass. Read Less