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82 Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades) to Caribbean - Western Celebrity Solstice Cruise Reviews

If it wasn't for seniors (60 and above ) half the fine restaurants in the USA would go out of business in a week. Also 1/2 the cruise ships would be scrapped within a year. Seniors have the money and the time to travel at any time of ... Read More
If it wasn't for seniors (60 and above ) half the fine restaurants in the USA would go out of business in a week. Also 1/2 the cruise ships would be scrapped within a year. Seniors have the money and the time to travel at any time of the year. We have been on 4 Celebrity cruises and have no complaints, food was good to excellent , cabin and room attendants were superb. Embarking ( 20 minutes at most) and disembarking (15 minutes or less) were well organized. Cruise was a cocktail cruise. They offered it to 130 people. It include 3 classes on making and tasting cocktails plus a 4 course Tuscan lunch with cocktail pairing. Read Less
Sail Date February 2014
Returning from the Caribbean just a week ago now, I find I'm longing for an excuse to book our next cruise aboard the Solstice! Our third cruise in 18 months, we finally made the jump from Royal Caribbean to Celebrity, and found it ... Read More
Returning from the Caribbean just a week ago now, I find I'm longing for an excuse to book our next cruise aboard the Solstice! Our third cruise in 18 months, we finally made the jump from Royal Caribbean to Celebrity, and found it met all of our expectations. A little background: We're two friends from college, both in our early 30's, and while we're always mistaken for a couple, we've found that we're just great travel partners! We've both taken 6+ cruises, spanning the range from Carnival to Regent, with our 'standard' having been Royal Caribbean to this point. Both active individuals, we tend to look for a balance between beach time and activities, and always appreciate meeting new people while traveling, and have been lucky enough to make some great friends along the way. After fare changes pre-cruise, we upgraded from a Veranda stateroom to AquaClass. Excited about the added amenities, we most looked forward to dining in Blu, and use of the spa facilities. That, along with preferred embarkation and disembarkation, we thought we were already living the life of 'Modern Luxury'! Embarkation We flew into Fort Lauderdale the morning of embarkation, and arrived at the port without issue around 11:00am. After a very quick check-in process, we were escorted to the AquaClass waiting area and only a minute or two later, invited to board the ship. Something to note regarding the Port Everglades cruise terminal -- it's big! Six ships were setting sail that day. In addition, port staff, and not the ship staff that so often takes forever with other cruise lines handle the check in process. This made a tremendous difference in efficiency and quickly getting through the cue. On Board Greeted with a glass of champagne, we were on our way to tour the ship. Rooms wouldn't be available for another couple hours, but that didn't stop us from getting acquainted with the ship -- and it's a beautiful ship -- and heading to the pool. The short version of what happened next is this: Cabin's were ready around 1:30 and after proceeding to our room found the floor was being dried after a 'flood' from the air conditioning unit the previous day. Our cabin attendant was right there waiting for us, and kept us well informed of what was being done, and assured us everything would work out well. After returning from the muster drill, it was clear the issue was larger and we would need to be moved. A quick chat with our room attendant, and a trip to the Guest Relations desk, we were invited to move to a Sky Suite on deck 12. We now found ourselves in a unique position to experience the benefits of both AquaClass and a Sky Suite. The Guest Relations staff made sure to apply our AquaClass status to our new room (suite guests normally need to pay to dine in blue or use the spa facilities), and brought us up to speed with the suite amenities -- a complimentary dinner in one of the specialty restaurants, and butler service. Whatever would we do with a butler!? Room First, the AquaClass cabins: Great rooms in general, and in comparison to other lines, quite luxurious. The welcome champagne, afternoon iced tea, and cabin layouts are all pluses. Uncertain that they're worth the additional $ (on average about $100 per person), but certainly jump on them if fares change or deals are being offered. The Sky Suite: extremely large, and well appointed. Never have we spent so much time on our balcony while at sea -- clearly having twice the amount of space makes a difference! Add in the fact that we weren't tripping over each other and it was clear this was a tremendous upgrade from our normal balcony room. Only downside is the excessive noise coming from above. Being on deck 12, we were directly below the Oceanview Cafe. Unfortunately, nothing can be done about the noise -- just be aware of your room location when booking. Dining & Food Dining in Blu was a welcome change from the main dining room. Something to note -- when you book AquaClass, you don't receive a main dining room table assignment, rather you're expected to be dining in Blu each night. The food is wonderful, and while it's billed as a 'healthier' alternative to the main dining room, it's not that different. Food in both locations is great, and if you want to order off the menu -- that is, the standing menu for the night is not to your liking -- feel free to request something else. The biggest difference we appreciated was that Blu is a much more intimate dining location, and while busy each night, it doesn't have the same 'organized chaos' of the main dining room. In fact, all dining locations on the ship were great -- the food was a definite step up from Royal Caribbean. The buffet never seemed too crowded, and always an option for a sandwich, salad, slice of pizza, or sushi. Bars & Drink Packages We thought long and hard about the drink packages, and at the end of the day decided on the Premium Alcohol package for each of us. A few notes about the differences in packages: The Classic package is good for cocktails up to $8. If you order a drink that costs more than that, you need to pay the full price of the drink. In contrast, the Premium package is good for drinks up to $12, and if you order a drink that costs more than that, you only need to pay the difference in price. Give a lot of thought to what you'll be dinking. Add in bottled water, specialty coffee drinks (latte's and cappuccino's), Pellegrino and wine at dinner, and without doubt we made the package work for us. It was also nice not having to sign for each individual drink! The Pool Bar is SLOW -- a complaint we heard from many people. Plan on sitting and waiting for a drink for a good while. Instead, I recommend heading up to deck 14 just above the pool bar to the mast bar -- much friendlier and faster service! Great crowd too, and where we met some good friends. The Ensemble lounge is fantastic -- great for a pre-dinner or post-dinner drink and to listen to live music. The Martini bar is also a great crowd, and fun to try new drinks at. Ports This is the first time we didn't book at all through the ship. We've booked excursions directly in the past, but almost always found something that jumped out at us through the ship. This time, we were much more in the mood to sit on a beach and enjoy the sun. And that we've decided doesn't warrant booking through the ship. Grand Cayman - We got it wrong here. The problem with 7 Mile Beach is that it's 7 miles! Where's the right spot!? We headed for Royal Palms beach club, and were quickly disappointed when the $2 admission fee was met with $10 per beach chair, and super crowded. Also keep in mind that tendering in Grand Cayman takes time... plan on an hour to reach your destination, and an hour to get back on the ship. There's no particular reason for this -- it just takes time to get off the ship, to the dock, in a cab, and to the beach. Plan accordingly! Cozumel - On the recommendation of a friend that had visited a few weeks earlier, we headed for Paradise Beach. What a great day! We shared a cab with a family of four ($4 per person) and headed to the beach resort. Admission is $2, and use of the water activities (snorkel gear, kayak's, and water trampolines) will cost you $12, but is completely optional. Unlike the day before, our $2 admission gives use of all the facilities including chairs and umbrellas! The complex is huge, with a full bar and restaurant, and failry reasonable prices. Roatan - On a whim, we headed for Little French Cay. Great location, but how we got there was the issue... Uncertain of the port layout, we missed the taxis and wandered through the gauntlet of tour operators. We arrived at our destination about an hour and twenty minutes later, only to come across some soon to be friends that took the taxi option and had been on the beach for an hour already. Regardless, it turned out to be a great day, and while it got busy in the early afternoon, we had a relatively peaceful morning. Costa Maya - Following the advise of our newly found friends in Roatan, we headed for Pez Quadro Beach Club. Great location and an extremely relaxed beach atmosphere. Being Good Friday, there were a lot of local's visiting the beach, but it never seemed chaotic despite being busy. Getting to the beach was $2 per person by taxi (located outside the cruise port), and once there we opted for an all-inclusive package. Not the best deal of the trip, but still nice to have an easy and relaxing day. At the end of the day, this turned out to be a great trip -- probably our best yet. Not necessarily because of the ports, but more because of the ship and level of service. The attentiveness of the crew and staff was a noticeable difference to our previous cruises, and despite getting off to a rough start with our cabin, any issues were resolved effectively and quickly. If you're looking at sailing the Solstice -- I highly recommend it! Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
We've been fortunate to have a great cruise experience on each of our 3 cruises. However, Celebrity seemed to offer a high class of service and provided a much more relaxed experience that either Royal or Disney. Maybe it's just ... Read More
We've been fortunate to have a great cruise experience on each of our 3 cruises. However, Celebrity seemed to offer a high class of service and provided a much more relaxed experience that either Royal or Disney. Maybe it's just because we are getting older and aren't looking for a party on our vacations? But even our 11 year old son thought that this cruise topped them all. The ship was tastfully done and had the feel of a high quality hotel and resort. Although the ship was full, the ship was always clean and there was never a feeling that we had just shared a space with thousands of people. All of the food was great and we highly recommend Murano, the French inspired restaurant, for a date night without the kids. The was food was fantastic and the service was out of this world. We've had some great meals in Seattle (Campagne, the Metropolitan Grill, etc) but even they could learn a thing about service compared to Murano. For kids, our son liked being able to check himself in and out of the kids club and didn't feel as restricted as his did on Royal. I had a chance to talk to one of the kids club staff and she was very patient. Most of the kids were well behaved but there were a few that needed some discipline for their over the top behaviors. Still, the staff handled them kindly and my son managed to stay clear of them. He also made some friends from the UK, which I thought was cool. Some of the things we all really appreciated compared to our other cruises were: 1. The pool scene was civilized- no fighting over chairs. And unlike Royal, you didn't need to check out a towel and be threatened with a fine if you didn't return it. 2. When returning to the ship from a day in port, they had cool drinks and iced towels waiting for quests. The Carnival Cruise crowd actually had people reaching across a fence to get a drink and towel from the Celebrity staff. Since it was so hot, some of the Celebrity workers helped out a Carnival family who had a kid that seemed to really be uncomfortable with the heat. 3. The stateroom had better storage than our last ship, the Freedom of the Seas. The room rivals what we had on the Disney Wonder. 4. We loved stopping in Roatan and Costa Maya. Be careful if you use your credit card on Roatan- our number was used after we left the island. The fraud dept. at Visa caught it but it was suprising to find out that someone has used our card # for thousands of dollars at a resort on the island. Still, Roatan was a great place and we hated to leave it. A little criticism... 1. While the guest entertainers were pretty good, the Stars of Celebrity and Espiranza the Cruise Director were a little corny. It must be hard to stay fresh given the rigorous performance schedule they must have. We enjoyed the shows but felt that the traditional evening shows were better on our other cruises. 2. Drinks for grown ups were expensive. Maggie, our wine steward, helped steer us to a good selection each night but it wasn't cheap. The martini bar and drinks at the Molecular bar were great and we probably should have opted for the premium drink package instead of paying ala carte. We didn't over indulge but when you add up a $5 beer at the pool with wine and an evening cocktail for $11 a pop, it did add up. 3. Our ship is leaving the Caribbean... The Soltice has been re-located and won't be in the Caribbean anymore:( Overall, Celebrity gets an A for overall quality.   Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
My family of 6 cruises frequently to Caribbean and more recently European ports. After achieving Diamond status last year, we decided to try Celebrity again after 14 years of focusing on our (at the time) small children. We loved Royal ... Read More
My family of 6 cruises frequently to Caribbean and more recently European ports. After achieving Diamond status last year, we decided to try Celebrity again after 14 years of focusing on our (at the time) small children. We loved Royal Caribbean but were tiring of the same menu year after year; and we had enough bruises from the Flowrider for awhile :) Embarkation in Fort Lauderdale was easy, though we were not directed to the Elite line like we should have been and I jumped on it myself. This saved us a lot of time. Being Diamond members on Royal, Celebrity gives us the Elite status which is nice. After a delicious lunch in the Oceanview cafe we waited for a short while until the cabin announcement was made. We waited for the attendant to open up our balconies so we three could walk up and down (but beware, you can't lock your balcony door so your companions can come in and take your chocolate!). The connecting door is actually a foyer. The good thing is that all 4 of our cards open a common front door into a foyer, then 3 feet in are the two separate doors that are now unlocked and can be propped open. Anyone who books connecting cabins with children on Celebrity will know that even if you plan on keeping one cabin for the adults/parents and one for the children, an adult must be on the booking with a child in each cabin. This caused severe issues, I believe, for my husband's on board account, which was never properly linked to our Credit Card. After responding to multiple letters left on my stateroom door, and attempts to correct this by bringing my Credit Card to Guest Services, and phoning the number to the Purser's office; this failure on Celebrity's part to complete this transaction was very intrusive on our vacation time. The food was a welcome delicious change from the menu we had become accustomed to on the Royal Caribbean ships. Many of us appreciated the nightly steaks, filet mignon, chateaubriand, lobster, souffle, baked alaska, crepes, and other fine offerings not found on other lines lately. One night in the Tuscan Grill was an amazing treat of pasta and steaks enjoyed by all. The first sea day we booked the Champagne High Tea, a white glove service in the Murano dining room featuring dainty sandwiches and pastries, scones, and we were entertained by a trio of string players. The service was excellent and we were truly pampered. My children (ages 12&14) tell me they miss the pool deck of the Allure and the Freedom class ships. I agree, the pool deck is smaller, the pool is reminiscent of the tiny Disney boat pools, and the hot tubs are small as well. The Allure with its large cantilevered hot tubs cannot be beat. My son also couldn't find a sports bar on this ship, I did not either, as March Madness was winding to a close this sailing. They both enjoyed the teen club, Club X, and the other 115 children in their age group (Junior Teens, 12-15). The other issue is that when you have a soda package, you sometimes have to wait 5 or 10 minutes to get the actual soda, as the bars seem understaffed and busy making fancy umbrella drinks, of course. Couldn't there be an easier way to get a can of Coke from the fridge rather than wait for a bartender to make 2 daiquiris, 3 pina coladas, and chat up another customer? Seems to me a way to conserve soda. Our Dining room staff, Nebo and Sally was amazing, our sommelier Aneesh was awesome. He always had a great selection by the glass or bottle for us, and was not put out by requests from the bar either. We miss the sommelier on Royal, they have given that role to the assistant waiter and it is not the same. Aneesh would get us anything from anywhere, not just the wine cellar. The Elite club members have a nice cocktail hour 5-7 pm with passed hot canapes. Also appreciated by my mom was the espresso drinks available from 8-10 am at Michaels, and the priority tender tickets at Grand Cayman. We probably didn't need them anyway, but were good to have since we had a private boat tour booked for the day. Also 45 minutes of free internet per cabin. As others have noted, the sun loungers are in short supply on sea days. The adult only solarium was air conditioned and usually had some chaises opening up during the day. Maybe its the kids hogging the sun loungers on the pool deck then? I had 2 very nice massages in the Spa, and my husband and I used the gym 3 times to keep up our running for an upcoming half marathon. Even at 7 am, the gym is very hot along the windows with the treadmills. These are the first treadmills I have used with no personal fans built into the console. There are no staff that early to prop open doors or place a floor fan, either, so you are just very sweaty at 7 am. They had the usual selection of spinning and yoga classes, and a boot camp for additional fees. One night we stayed up for the comedy show and the night club, which was very nice. The Molecular Martini bar served creative beverages at 12 dollars a pop, allegedly nutritious, too! If you want a snack at 2 am you must use room service. No food in the buffets. Good things, food, wait staff service, elite features, connecting balconies, free in room movies, relaxing spa services Not so good, wait at the bar for soda, on board account screw up with accompanying harassment by the finance staff ruining my relaxed state of mind on the last day. And we did book another Celebrity cruise for next year whilst on board, taking advantage of a great On board booking credit deal of $400 per cabin on a 12 night Greece/Turkey cruise. Port updates; Grand Cayman, booked Captain Nick rib boat tour of Stingray City, starfish beach, lunch at Rum Point, snorkel on reef near Rum Point, and real estate tour of fancy seaside homes. Awesome and so nice to have our own boat tour! Cozumel, beach day at Naachi Cocum, super fun crowd there from the Carnival boat that entertained us, and kids drove jet skis and had a blast. Food was great as were drinks and swim up pool bar. Hot tub says adults only , but was visited by happy kids/teens too. Very crunchy beach with many shells that can pinch your feet, and some rumors of sand fleas but I didn't notice any. Costa Maya, we booked Mini Boat Blast through Shore Excursions, was a bus ride away at a private beach club, very friendly, the swim snorkeling was too vigorous for my parents, but they could have just snorkeled off the boats, the swim didn't really add much to the fish sightings. The boats are fun to drive and the water is beautiful. All you could drink from the beach bar, limited to Dos Equis beer, margaritas etc. This area is very secluded and quiet. Honduras, we booked a Viktor Bodden private tour and driver, he took us to the Bodden monkey zoo where we played with monkeys and other animals, then the West Bay beaches, which are a crowded hopping beach party all day long. The food here was good, fresh catch grilled, calamari, nachos, chicken wings, and local beer. Again, nice to have the private van for us so we could leave when ready. There was free internet, but we didn't bring our ipad. The beach has the warmest water of the trip and the softest sand, no sharp stones or shells to step on. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
After two satisfying cruises with Princess, I was looking to try a different cruise-line. Our experience on Celebrity Solstice was very comparable to Princess. Parking and boarding in Ft Lauderdale is simple and went smoothly. I parked at ... Read More
After two satisfying cruises with Princess, I was looking to try a different cruise-line. Our experience on Celebrity Solstice was very comparable to Princess. Parking and boarding in Ft Lauderdale is simple and went smoothly. I parked at Park n Go and was on the ship within 40 minutes or so. Our 2 pieces of luggage arrived at our room before late dining. With some effort, I was able to get a spot at early dining. It was full when I booked a week before departure. The shows were better than I ever expected...The "Cirque" type show is amazing.The magician/comedian was hilarious. Song and dance was better than average. I went to a show every night and was never bored. The glass blowing demonstrations are also great, and can be sat in on at any time they are going on. I thought the pools were well configured and not too noisy. My wife and I mostly used the solarium indoor pool. It has very comfy lounges, air conditioning, and elevator type music playing. I did lay by the outside pools to get suntan for about an hour 4 or 5 days. I had no problem finding lounges available. I will occasionally move towels from empty lounges so I can use them. For the most part, no problem with "chair savers". This was spring break and Easter week and I still always found a place to lie down. The ship itself is clean and new feeling. Easy to get around. I will cruise on any solstice class ship any time. My interior room was large enough and the bathroom and shower were very well laid out. The closet is a little awkward. We ate all dinners in the main dining room. Some entrees were less than inspiring, others were nearly perfect. Desserts were outstanding as I expect. The breakfast and lunch buffet had good variety and the food was fresh. I will cruise with either Celebrity or Princess again without hesitation. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
My partner and I, both in our early 40's, cruised on the Celebrity Solstice from April 1-8, 2012 (and as a gift to them we brought our mother's with us). This was our second cruise with Celebrity, having cruised in January of ... Read More
My partner and I, both in our early 40's, cruised on the Celebrity Solstice from April 1-8, 2012 (and as a gift to them we brought our mother's with us). This was our second cruise with Celebrity, having cruised in January of this year on the Celebrity Eclipse. We were won over when we cruised on the Eclipse and were equally impressed with the Solstice. Celebrity gets it right - from the beauty of the ship, the quality of food, the attention to detail, and their commitment to exceptional customer service. We loved our Aqua Class room and it was kept spotless for our entire stay. Dining in Blu each day was a treat - the food was outstanding. I am a vegan and each night was provided with a special vegan meal. A huge shout out to our waiter, Joseph, and assistant waiter, Dusica, who went above and beyond every day to make sure our dining experience was memorable. Being spring break week for some and the week leading in to the Easter weekend the ship was at capacity however we never found it too crowded. Yes, on sea days the pool deck was busy, however we were always able to find loungers to sit in (and no, we didn't have to be up at the crack of dawn to get them). Our favourite port was Roatan, Honduras where we visited Little French Key - a secluded island that was paradise. HIGHLY recommend going there if you want a beautiful beach, crystal clear water, amazing snorkeling, and no crowds. http://littlefrenchkey.com/frechys44.htm We would highly recommend Celebrity as both times we have cruised with them our experience has been nothing but positive. Read Less
Sail Date April 2012
Ventured into the Western Caribbean last week aboard Solstice. Beautiful ship. Only minor hangup (and it was very minor) was lack of deck chairs for days at sea. But will over 2000 passengers it was not to be unexpected. Ports ... Read More
Ventured into the Western Caribbean last week aboard Solstice. Beautiful ship. Only minor hangup (and it was very minor) was lack of deck chairs for days at sea. But will over 2000 passengers it was not to be unexpected. Ports (Georgetown, Grand Cayman;Cozumel;Roatan;Costa Maya) were all great. Lots to do in each. One thing....if you have never been, the ship docks in Cozumel but everything that happens off ship other than local shopping takes place across the water on the mainland in and around Playa Del Carmen. Highly recommend the Ruins at Tulum excusion at the Cozumel stop. Although not a culinery officianado, we will pass on poor quality food. that was never the case on Solstice! wherever you ate, be it the buffet or the Epernay dining room, the food was very good. Excellent variety and prepared very well. Best food at sea we have had to date! So good in fact we found no reason to put down extra dollars to use the speciality restaurants. Staff was the most pleasant, cordial, and responsive we have found at sea to date. Accommodations were adequate although a bit tight. Excursions were handled extremely well and an excellent number to choose from. Onboard entertainment was good as well. Note: This is not a cruise for the under 21 group. Saw maybe 20 or 30 teens/tweens/kids the entire cruise. I would venture a guess that passenger average age was mid forties or older. Two formal nights brought forth more long gowns and tuxedos that I have seen outside of a night at the Metropolitan Opera!! And if you are doing a Western Carib be prepared for the heat on shore! Embark and debark in Lauderdale a breeze! was onboard within 35 minutes of landing, and outboard in less than an hour of debark! best ever. One final note...if you want to take advantage of the excursions, expect to lay out 100 or so per person per excursion on average! All in all, in my humble opinion, would rate the cruise 9.0 of 10. Definitely five stars. Enjoy!!! Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
We travelled to Miami with Virgin booked via Celebrity and managed to get seats on the Upper Deck by amending/confirming our booking online 24 hours prior to departure. The flight passed without incident and we passed through Customs ... Read More
We travelled to Miami with Virgin booked via Celebrity and managed to get seats on the Upper Deck by amending/confirming our booking online 24 hours prior to departure. The flight passed without incident and we passed through Customs within 15 minutes of arrival as by chance they opened a few more Customs booths as we walked into the hall, however we then waited over 45 minutes for our bags, we were the last to get on the bus heading towards Fort Lauderdale...not good. We stayed at the Hilton Marina. The room was fine, although perhaps not as clean as one would expect, a room service tray from the previous customer remained outside our door for the whole time we were there. The view of the bridge was fine but we could not see the Cruise Ships so clearly from the 4th floor. The luxury boats around the Hotel were fantastic and excited the senses as we anticipated our week on the Solstice. During the evening we took a walk along 17th Street and had a $9.99 Saturday Special at the Quarterdeck Seafood Bar, the atmosphere was excellent, as an added benefit they were showing British football on a few of the screens... Next morning following an enjoyable breakfast at the Hotel, we took a walk along the bridge and took several photos of the Solstice and other ships in dock pending our embarkation. The wind was a little lively but the view was excellent. At the time advised we went downstairs in readiness for collection and transit to the ship.....let the mayhem begin ! There were many, many people awaiting the appropriate time to be called forward for their respective bus/Cruise ship....it was nuts. Thankfully we had sorted our account from our room but we did not realise we had to get a ticket for our bus/ship, our tip is to sort your hotel account in the room get your bus ticket and go downstairs as early as possible for the 1st bus to the ship. Once we got to the dock, we experienced no further delay as for the first time we had booked Aqua and fortunately there was no line for embarkation. The Ship....the ship is exceptional !!! It maybe the oldest in the Solstice class but it was in very good condition, brilliant white and so clean. We took the lift to the buffet, which was full due to the high winds outside. We decided to eat at Bistro on 5, the food and service was very good and eventually we headed off to our room on level 11 and then down to sort out our internet requirements, their organisation was not so good and they should share the process once or twice to many rather than try to communicate individually and get 20 questions all at once. Muster Drill for Us was in the theatre, everybody was courteous and listened intently, a few chuckles at the various languages, but Celebrity made the point succinctly, things can and do happen...but our safety was paramount. Once muster drill was finished, off we headed to the Sailaway Bar on deck 14, the sun was fighting to come out albeit the wind was still lively, we positioned ourselves with our Welsh Flag in readiness to pass the Port Everglades webcam for our Family to see our departure out into the open seas....fortunately, we were picked up by the webcam and phones calls, texts from home ensued....we were there "live on the webcam" waving to invisible Family and tightly holding onto our blustery flag) but hey we were on our way...a fantastic sailaway experience ! First night in Blu was relaxing and following a few drinks and a little walk we were off to bed, unfortunately the wind was up and the sea lively, our stateroom, 1540 at the front of the Ship on the 11th level was "dancing around" to say the least...we struggled through the night with motion sickness and simply couldn`t face the sea (or breakfast) in the morning, so we headed off to mid ship, level 3 to get our balance and stop our heads from spinning...3 hours later ! We created our own schedule for each evening...a drink on level 3 or coffee at Al Bacio, off to the theatre for the entertainment and then onto Blu for our evening meal. The entertainment was excellent. We did not really bother on the Equinox but made the effort each evening this time and were glad we did. The US Comedian was good, the Juggler was excellent, the Neptunes an A Capello quartet were very good and the Solstice Team of singers and dancers were lively and very enthusiastic. The UK singer, Lindsay Hamilton was OK with a powerful voice although parts of her show were a little cheesy for Us.....sorry, no British loyalty here. The Captain also played his part.... Aqua Class and Blu were interesting. It is all about personal taste. Overall the food, quality and service in Blu was very, very good, however from our previous experience on the Equinox we found the MDR, coupled with the option of the Speciality restaurants, as good and in truth the variety broke up the monotony of Blu....our humble opinion. The Cruise was arranged as a means of relaxation with the intention of using the Ship more than the port intensive trip around of the Med last August. Our excursions were limited but our port visits were as follows : Grand Cayman - Quick walk around the town and a $5 pp shared Mini Bus onto Seven Mile Beach with fellow cruisers from Solstice, we sat together and had a relaxing few hours in the sun and sea with a beautiful view across to the 4 ships in Port that day, back to the ship and a few drinks on Solstice deck. Cozumel - the highlight of this day was arriving at Port docking next to Equinox, a memorable experience. The Port was kind of disappointing, quite small and the usual tourist items and jewellery shops, no character at all....we walked a mile or so down to a local bar for a drink and chill out watching the snorkelers, marvelling at the 2 imposing ships in Port. Roatan - Our experience of Roatan was most not what the majority of people would recognise and, in hindsight, we should have organised an excursion, many people said how beautiful the island was. However Coxen Hole was THE most intimidating tourist spot we have experienced in years of travelling. Period. Out of the Port to the right and onto the street with a yards, a number of men stood across the path/walkway, no effort to move and to pass them we had to walk out onto the busy road...we continued walking to shouts of "taxi, taxi, you wanna taxi" and onto "happy hour, come for happy hour drinks" drinks at 9.30 in the morning !? On we walked, when, as ridiculous as this sounds we were approached from behind by a boy who we "thought" was trying to get into our rucksack, we were spooked....he walked alongside us for a distance...he was not the issue, our concern was the others and the feeling in the town in general...a quick photo of the ship and we quickly turned around back to the Port area, down came the rain and back we go to the Ship, sad but true, but it was not a pleasant experience. We spent the rest of the day back on the ship and experienced Persian Gardens, the Spa area and enjoyed the freedom of the pool and the Lawn Club. This was our experience and we share it for others to be aware of the town. Costa Maya -- We pre-booked Maya Chan on feedback from CC and Tripadvisor. The bus trip was interesting, avoiding where possible, the pot holes in the track/roads, with a beautiful view of the Ship in port and the coastline and wildlife of Mexico. On arrival at Maya Chan we were given a welcome drink and located at the beachfront. The seagrass makes it a little messy, they work hard to clean it but they are fighting nature, it is what it is, natural beauty. In reality, for every 101 white sandy beaches you can visit around the world, there are only a handful of Maya Chan`s. We can only describe it as a quaint, rustic, beach front, chill out zone, with friendly Staff providing ample food & drink and fun, if you want it....Zach took us for a bike ride down the track and onto the beach where a local was using traditional techniques netfishing for sardines in the wine coloured water (where the fresh water from the cenote meets the sea water), a very natural, humbling experience...the point is, You will not get this at the 101 white sandy beaches around the world.... Back to the Ship and a sea day homeward bound for Fort Lauderdale. Arrival at FL and off the ship was pretty straightforward, queuing for Customs clearance was a struggle as was the 45 minute wait on the bus for the last passengers and transfer to the Sheraton Miami Airport and use of the day room organised by Celebrity. An enjoyable, albeit a little pricey few hours sat at the pool/bar area but still cheaper and better than sat at the airport !! Finally the Virgin flight back to Heathrow, amongst our fellow passengers.........only Richard Branson himself! He walked among us and at the end of the flight, thanked us (over the pa system) all for flying Virgin, a nice touch and what a finish to a wonderful week. Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
PERSONAL-- I am mid-50s and traveled alone on this cruise. I have cruised quite a bit, and appreciate Celebrity's style. EMBARCATION-- The lines moved, the staff was courteous, and I was on board in matter of minutes. Since I ... Read More
PERSONAL-- I am mid-50s and traveled alone on this cruise. I have cruised quite a bit, and appreciate Celebrity's style. EMBARCATION-- The lines moved, the staff was courteous, and I was on board in matter of minutes. Since I arrived around 1:30 PM, I was able to drop my carry-on in my cabin and head up for a buffet lunch. Flawless! SHIP OVERALL-- I had sailed on the Solstice before, and have also sailed on the Eclipse. This is a beautiful class of ships, with gracious public spaces, thoughtful artwork, and nice cabins. She is maintained perfectly, and I noticed that spaces were constantly being cleaned. CABIN-- I had an oceanview cabin on Deck Three. The bedding is very nice, and the storage quite adequate. I appreciated the variety of music available through the TV. While I never watched a film, there are plenty of them available for free. My cabin steward was attentive. I never heard a sound from either adjacent cabin. I had room service breakfast every morning, and it came promptly as ordered. DINING-- I singed up for "anytime" dining, and requested to be put at a six-top or eight-top. I generally got to the dining room close to 7 PM. The two couples with whom I dined the first night invited me to join them again two other nights. Service was excellent, and the food was delicious every night. I'm not always keen on cruise ship lobster, but it was very tasty on this cruise. I didn't use any specialty restaurants. The Oceanview Cafe offers quite a variety of foods for the buffet options. Don't miss the brunch in the main dining room on the last sea day-- spectacular! ENTERTAINMENT-- I love the evening shows, and they were terrific on this cruise. The troupe offers three big shows during a 7-day cruise. One is like a Cirque du Soleil show, another has a Broadway theme and the last is "Pulse", focused on various dance styles. Considering we had some active oceans this week, the dancers did an amazing job staying on their feet! The comedian/juggler was hilarious and talented. Lindsey Hamilton, of London's West End, offered a lovely performance one night. Even our captain got in the act, playing the guitar and singing a couple of times. There were a variety of music soloists or groups playing throughout the ship, day and night. FITNESS/SPA-- I used the gym every day, and was satisfied with the equipment. I didn't sign up for any fitness class, nor did I have a spa treatment. I used the Persian Garden once; it was OK. PORTS-- I booked this itinerary for the scuba diving. I've been quite happy with Celebrity's dive excursions, as they are reasonably priced and the sites are incredible. I had done a day of diving in FLL before the cruise, and went diving in Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Roatan. If I didn't dive, I think that the ports would be less appealing. As others have noted, the town on Roatan where the ship docks is not at all attractive for wandering. In Costa Maya, I took a cab to the beach, got a lounge chair, rented a jet ski for a half hour ($30), chatted with other passengers, got a 45 minute beach massage ($20) and hopped back to the ship by cab. A very relaxing day. SUMMARY-- I wish I were still on the Solstice! Read Less
Sail Date March 2012
My wife and I and 4 other couples cruised on Solstice February 5-12, 2012. We are all seasoned cruisers; each couple having cruised at least 8 times primarily on Carnival and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. We are all in our mid to late ... Read More
My wife and I and 4 other couples cruised on Solstice February 5-12, 2012. We are all seasoned cruisers; each couple having cruised at least 8 times primarily on Carnival and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. We are all in our mid to late 50's. We began our trip by departing ORD on Saturday, February 4. No flight problems and we arrived on time at FLL. We took a cab to our hotel, the Marriott's Beach Place Towers in Fort Lauderdale. The hotel location was excellent with great (walking) access to restaurants, bars, shops, liquor stores, etc. The hotel itself was satisfactory in most respects. However, on Sunday morning we attempted to leave our 11th floor room at 10 am and waited over 35 minutes for an elevator. Obviously, cruisers and vacationers all had the same intent- get an early start. One of 4 elevators was out of service which exacerbated a bad situation. However, the most complicating factor of all was the use of the elevators by hotel housekeeping staff during the peak check-out/departure time. We witnessed one housekeeping employee with a large laundry cart occupy 95% of an elevator cab- totally absurd. Other hotel staff also displaced guests from elevator use during this time. If you stay at this hotel be advised of this issue. We finally reached the parking garage and met our GO Shuttle driver, Dorina. She was very patient while waiting for us tardy travelers and loaded 9 large suitcases into her full size van. We left the hotel and Dorina had us dockside in less than 15 minutes. Dorina gave our bags to the porters and we entered the line that was quickly forming at the terminal doors. We entered the terminal building just after 11 am. Upon entering the terminal building we were given a printed sheet that advised guests of norovirus potential and asked guests to consider possible travel risks. We never hesitated to proceed to the ship. Security screening was very efficient and we entered the registration line serpentine. We had all of our documents properly executed and were on Solstice 45 minutes after Dorina dropped us off. We boarded Solstice and were greeted with champagne and mimosa cocktails and we each grabbed one. We were also greeted by Solstice employees who held what I would describe as bota bags filled with hand sanitizer. These employees were also deployed at all times at the entrances of the Epernay dining room as well as at the entrances to the Oceanview Cafe. They would give you a squeeze of sanitizer gel from their bags as you entered these dining venues. Most dining patrons availed themselves of this service. There were also Purell disinfectant stations deployed throughout the public areas of the ship. Periodically, during the cruise,there were public service announcements made about the importance of hand washing and the importance of practicing good hygiene. There was also a constant cadre of workers wiping, mopping, spraying, and/or disinfecting virtually every surface on the ship. My personal opinion is that Celebrity is very dedicated to the health and safety of the guests and crew. We headed to the Oceanview Cafe on Deck 14 and had a great lunch. Another example of the illness preventation measures taken on Celebrity Solstice was the temperature of the plateware in the buffet area. Most of the time they were too hot to hold with your bare hand. We finished lunch and toured the ship while waiting for access to our cabins. Cabin access was granted at approximately 1:30 pm. Three couples in our group had adjacent balcony cabins on the starboard hump. Our cabin size was satisfactory and was typical of the class. The balcony was perfect for reading, eating, napping, etc. The bathrooms were spacious and had real shower doors and plenty of vertical storage and some drawer storage. Vanity surface room was minimal but the vertical shelves made up for the deficiency. The complimentary toiletries were disappointing and consisted of shampoo and lotion. Eventhough I bring my own toiletries, it is always nice to obtain samples of new and different products. No big deal. Our cabin had adequate drawer and closet space. There were also large storage cabinets above the bed. These cabinets provided somewhat inconvenient storage due to their location but all storage space is valuable. We had plenty of hangers in the closet. A safe was located in the closet on top of the shoe rack. The drawers in the cabin were adequate for our needs. Be advised that my wife and I always overpack so the previous statement is noteworthy. Our cabin steward, Elder, was super. Most of the time he was invisible. By that I mean he serviced our cabin 2 or 3 times per day and we rarely saw him. If our schedule conflicted with his duties he always acquiesced. He always had a spray bottle of disinfectant in-hand or nearby. He met special requests with speed and cheerfulness. The only negative comment about our cabin is that the balcony dividers do not project far enough to prevent adjacent cabin guests from peering into your balcony and cabin. It was no big deal for us since we had close acquaintenances on each side of our cabin but I can envision privacy issues with strangers. Balcony Club members beware! The bed was very comfortable as were the pillows. We used the in-cabin couch mostly for storage. The flat screen television is wall mounted opposite the couch and not opposite the bed. The television pivots to facilitate viewing while you are in bed. Solstice has a good selection of television stations: MSNBC,CNN, ESPN, BBC,SEATV,TBS, CNBC, and a few others. There is an impressive free on-demand collection featuring movies, programs and a great set of documentaries related to the operation of Solstice. Our television viewing was minimal but it was nice to have options. We ate all dinner meals in the Epernay dining room each evening. We had a table for 10 and had a great window view location. Our waiter was Petre and his assistant was Elisha. Both of them were excellent servers. Petre and Elisha always served the ladies first. Petre constantly asked if everything was satisfactory and encouraged us to try multiple menu items. The ten of us agreed that the food was very good. Our group has very diverse palates and the Solstice menu never left anyone disappointed. There are recurrent items on the left side of the menu which give people basic options for each course in the event the evening specialities do not appeal to them. These recurrent items include escargot, shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, lettuce salad, French onion soup, steak, chicken, cheeses cake, apple pie and similar basic menu items. On a personal note, I was most pleased with the escargot, the rack of lamb, and the osso bucco. Desserts, while not overly impressive, were satisfying, especially when consumed in multiples. We ate breakfast and most lunches in the Oceanview Cafe. Celebrity Solstice has reinvented the cruiseship buffet by employing food stations rather than forcing people into the typical long buffet line. Simply stated, there are numerous individual food stations which offer foods by type. There are bread stations, fruit stations, meat carving stations, cheese stations, salad stations, pizza stations and cooked- to-order stations. The result is that you only go to stations that appeal to you. You are not trapped behind hundreds of other people in a continuous line. The concept is simple yet brilliant and efficacious. I thought the food quality was very good in the Oceanview Cafe. As others have mentioned, the variety is somewhat limited on a daily basis but I always found good things to eat. The hamburgers/cheeseburgers at the Mast Grill were great. We had them for main lunch courses and for afternoon snacks. They also served Pabst Blue Ribbon beer at the Mast Grill which is a favorite of the males in our group. The french fries were also very good. I purchased the Classic Beverage Package and I can state without equivocation that I saved money. I obtained juices and bottled waters in the morning, beer and pop in the afternoon, pre-dinner cocktails, and wine with my dinner. There were also a few nightcaps consumed strictly for medicinal purposes(wink wink). We found all staff members to be very accommodating, proficient, and courteous. I never experienced the bartender issues that previous posters have alluded to. In fact, I found all bar staff throughout the ship to be excellent servers. And believe me, I visited every bar on this beautiful ship. The employees were very engaging and would talk to guests at every opportunity. We enjoyed talking to the staff about their jobs and about their homelands. My wife and I have a proclivity for saying please and thank you so maybe staff attitude was reflective of our attitude. The onboard evening entertainment was ok. I truly enjoyed the first night show which was a Solstice equivalent of a Cirque du Soleil show. The next evening was an illusionist who was entertaining. The third nght was a female impressionist who,IMHO, spent more time changing wigs and talking than she did performing. The next nights shows were music oriented and I did not attend. Incidentally, we were on the ship during the Superbowl. The Solstice Theatre was outfitted with bars and food stations. There were 2 large screen televisions and a huge screen for television projection. Viewing the game in the theater was outstanding. It was exciting to watch the game with hundreds of other cruisers. The theatre was the perfect Superbowl party venue. My wife and I had been to 3 of the 4 scheduled ports at least twice before so we decided to do self-guided excursions: We went to Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman via taxi. We rented chairs and enjoyed the sun and surf, the water was heavenly. In Cozumel, we did some shopping and then stopped for $1 Coronas at our favorite seaside cantina. We foolishly walked around the Roatan shopping area. I won't leave the ship if I ever return to Roatan. We had a great beach day at the Green Iguana in Costa Maya/Manahual. Cheap beers, free chairs and umbrellas and a 7 minute $5 roundtrip perfectly safe cab ride- can't be beat. The water temp was 82 degrees. Most of the restaurants and bars in the Costa Maya/Mahahual beach area have free wi-fi. Strangely, the big joints at the pier do not. We returned to Fort Lauderdale at 6 am Sunday morning. The windchill was 38 degrees. Sad reality after our 6 days in 80+degrees. We followed the disembarkation rules and only had to spend 30 minutes in the theater after having had a nice leisurely breakfast. We were off the ship at approximately 9 am. We got a cab for 6 and went to FLL for our return flight to ORD at 3 pm. FLL was a hassle. You can not check in with bags more than 4 hours prior to flight time. Once you check in and clear security at Terminal 3 it is obvious that FLL is processing more passengers than the airport terminal infrastructure can support. There are not enough seats for the cleared passengers. There are people laying and sitting on the floor everywhere. Bathroom facilities are grossly insufficient. Simply stated, FLL is a victim of their own popularity. We took off 20 minutes late but landed on time. In closing, I want to state that my wife and I were thoroughly impressed with the Celebrity Solstice. Celebrity is now our preferred cruise line. We are looking forward to our next cruise on "x". I know this review was lengthy and verbose but I could not help myself. in vino vertae Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
February 5, 2012 sailing out of Port Everglades (Ft. Lauderdale). I always like sailing out of this port because of the proximity to the airport. Transfers are easy and inexpensive. We stayed in Aqua Class stateroom, #1606 on the ... Read More
February 5, 2012 sailing out of Port Everglades (Ft. Lauderdale). I always like sailing out of this port because of the proximity to the airport. Transfers are easy and inexpensive. We stayed in Aqua Class stateroom, #1606 on the bump out section of the ship. This cabin has a huge balcony and was not windy even though it is slightly forward facing. We previously sailed on the Eclipse and the ships are essentially identical with the exception of art and the Silk Harvest restaurant in place of Quisine. We chose Aqua class again because we were so impressed with Blu and we were not disappointed this sailing. Both breakfast and dinner were consistently excellent. The first night we had Ahi Tuna for dinner that was as good as any that I have had in the past. We were again impressed with the ship. Very clean and well maintained. Service was consistently very good. Many have written that the bartender service was sub-par. I never noticed any poor service at all and I did have the drink package, which I thought was well worth the money. We dined at Tuscan Grill one night and I thought it was better than the same restaurant on Eclipse. The service and food were excellent. We did not try Quisine or Murano on this trip although we have dined at Murano before and thought it was quite good. They have now raised the price to $40 pp which I thought was expensive. We have been on most of the major cruise lines and find Celebrity fits our requirements best. They have, in my opinion, the best food of the major lines. The cabins are well designed, bathrooms are very spacious (for a cruise ship) and especially well laid out. They have good bar service especially as compared to Princess which measures each and every shot)-: There are lots of dining choice, most for fee, but that is the norm now. They also have beautiful pool and solarium areas with comfortable padded lounge chairs. In short, we liked the ship so much we booked for next year on Reflection. We did, however, not like the itinerary with the exception of Roatan. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Embarkation We flew down the morning of the cruise. We decided to take a taxi to the cruise ship which we never do. What an experience. The driver had one phone in his ear and he was texting on a phone in his right hand! We did not ... Read More
Embarkation We flew down the morning of the cruise. We decided to take a taxi to the cruise ship which we never do. What an experience. The driver had one phone in his ear and he was texting on a phone in his right hand! We did not know what to do as he did not talk to us over the entire short trip. We got there safely but that is no way to start a vacation! We were on the ship after a short wait in the Aqua Class line and had our welcome champagne and mimosa in no time. Stateroom Room was clean and the bed was near the veranda. We like that set up as we can see the water from our bed. Everything was in working order but I got occasional error messages on the room safe. But it worked just fine. There was plenty of storage for our clothes. The water pressure in the bathroom was strong and it had a body massaging function. Quality bath products were included. We received a bowl of fruit and bottle of champagne upon arrival. We had daily canapes which were a big improvement from previous cruises. The daily iced tea was very good as well. Our stewards were very efficient and professional. Fellow Passengers There was a large group of Canadians, both English-speaking and French. Also, there were a good number of cruisers from Germany. A wide range in ages were represented but most were in their 60's. Of note, there may have been a record for the number of passengers who weighed over 275 pounds. Food The food in the Oceanview Cafe-which is served cafeteria style with stations- was consistently outstanding. Breakfast and lunch were well attended but never crowded. There was a wide variety of well-prepared foods to suit anyone's taste. The Aqua Spa Cafe had healthy alternatives and we ate lunch there daily. Being in Aqua Class, we ate breakfast and dinner in Blu. Smaller portions but very good quality food. Service was excellent by the wait staff. They earn their money! Especially having to put up with one of the rude managers there. I felt bad for some of the staff. We ate at two of the Specialty Restaurants. Tuscan Grill was outstanding in all respects. The filet mignon was the best I had on the ship. The French onion soup was the best I have ever had. The servers, Iresh and his assistant, were top notch. The dark chocolate fondue with fruit and brownies was outstanding. One of the best Tuscan Grills in the fleet! Murano was somewhat disappointing. Very small portions and the food did not compare favorably with Muranos from past cruises. Service was outstanding. Norovirus The Captain announced that there had been a problem on the cruise the week before. He did ask all of us to take precautions. I did not hear of anyone getting sick on our cruise. Entertainment The party band, Top Notch, was really top notch! They really made a difference in the cruise and are accomplished singers and musicians. One of the best. There was a very good classical music trio that played in different venues along with a Steel Drum band, solo guitarist, Big Band, and A Cappella quartett. A magician (Adam Trent) and a comedian were also on our cruise. The major shows in the theater were well attended and the young group were very entertaining. The cruise director, Stewart Turnbull, did an efficient and commendable job. The Corning Hot Glass Show was outstanding. The three young ladies did a great job engaging the audience and explaining how they made their products. I cannot say enough about them. The Captain, Gerry Larsson-Fedde, is active and involved with passengers. A surprise awaits you! He is surrounded by an enthusiastic staff. A real friendly and professional group on this ship! Excursions We took an excursion via Celebrity. Over-priced and over-crowded. We were told by the tour operator that Celebrity had told them the day before to expect 40 passengers on the Jolly Roger Catamaran in Roatan. 67 tickets were sold and there was a shortage of food and beverages. Not acceptable. We still had a fun time as I knew the crew from a previous cruise. I had arranged private tours in advance at other ports. Leaving the Ship Disaster. There is no other word to describe it. We knew there had been problems in the past so we waited on the ship until they threw us off. Still, we were in line along the dock winding through a stuffy warehouse. Luckily, it was a cool day. We waited in a chaotic line for over an hour to clear customs. Celebrity could have monitored the lines and allowed passengers to remain in the theater in comfort. No, they wanted everyone off the ship. I have never experienced anything like this on previous cruises. Celebrity was blaming the Customs Agents but they are also responsible. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
This was my 19th cruise and first time on any Celebrity Cruise ship. It is important to note that many comments here may seem "picky" in nature. They are meant only to reveal what a new passenger to Celebrity's Solstice ... Read More
This was my 19th cruise and first time on any Celebrity Cruise ship. It is important to note that many comments here may seem "picky" in nature. They are meant only to reveal what a new passenger to Celebrity's Solstice might expect. EMBARKATON Over the years, embarkation on any ship leaving from Ft Lauderdale has become an easy process. With so many retirees living in South Florida, staffing is not a problem and they are always cheery and helpful! Lines are long because ships are huge, but they move quickly. Expect to do some serious walking, mostly because of the size of the ship. From the outside, the first views of the Solstice are a bit intimidating. It is big. Really big. I know that entering the ship on the enclosed walkways depends on the tide, but I found the extra long uphill trek a bit arduous after a long day. STATEROOM Veranda forward Starboard- Deck 8 What a surprise! Roomy beyond my expectations, yet the same square foot area as on other ships- other cruise lines. Clever use of every square inch. I was finding cabinets and drawers on the second day of the cruise. Flat screen TV was great especially because it would pan to sleeping or lounging area. Sound kept going out because of an easily fixed loose connection on the back. TV at sea sucks- know that in advance and don't expect what you get at home. There is no Ellen or GMA or NCIS . . . but there is lots of CNN, MSNBC, Fox, BBC, ESPN, etc. The saving grace is the number of free movies you can get. The bathroom is large and helped by a shower that has an enclosure that is curved and full length that was easy to use with no fancy dials. All the expected amenities and lots of fresh soft towels. Could not find fault or ask for more. Lighting was a challenge, but that's something I've become used to on all new ships. Maybe they should label them. One interesting thing- this was the first ship that had a low level light adjustment in the bathroom that could be set to use as a night light. Really clever and very much appreciated! Ice buckets are shrinking and you may have to ask your room steward for more than the standard two daily refills, or a large plastic bucket like I did. I did stay away from the mini bar realizing that Celebrity probably makes a cruise profitable on people using it. The balcony was spacious and quiet and a great place to read on a lazy afternoon when there was nothing of interest going on (not often). Special notice: on my last cruise, I elected an ocean view room thinking I would be happy with just seeing what the weather was like. Big mistake. There is nothing like having the freedom of stepping outside and watching the ship dock or the dolphins swimming alongside the hull. THE STAFF The Captain was Norwegian and the balance of the officers were mostly Greek. Professional at all times and they made me feel safe. Service staff was different than most ships. They were a total mish-mash of Croatian, Italian, Indian, Hungarian, and just about every other European and Asian country. The diversity was good. but I remain unconvinced that it worked well "behind the scenes". Service, especially in the bars was often uneven, slow, and confused. Language was often a problem. I enjoy the Trivia Games and in every instance when they were hosted by a German, Italian or Greek, there was a serious problem in not understanding or hearing the question properly. Very annoying. When Assistant Cruise Director (Greg) was told of problem, he shrugged it off by saying, "Just ask them to spell any word you don't understand". Not the right answer there, big Greg. THE SHIP In the months before my cruise, I read and heard, "It's a big ship, but you won't notice it. It is cozier than it looks." Those people must live in Texas. This ship is over a thousand feet long, making it one of the largest ships afloat. The dining room was about an eighth of a mile away from my stateroom! That is not "cozy". No question that the ship is elegant and extremely well appointed, but I have always been a big fan of signage and the last ship that had decent signage was the Norway, with different color carpeting forward and aft. Why can't modern ships have more signs that say Forward and Aft? And clocks? Forget about them. The only clocks I saw were on the back wall of the forward elevator banks. As in casinos, maybe they just don't want you to know the time. Speaking of elevators, the Solstice claims a new high. Not only are they fast, smooth and clean but when they arrive, a light above them changes from blue to pink . . . but be sure to look at the arrows to know if it's going up or down. I rarely waited more than a minute, if that. The decor is muted with browns and grays repeating on all decks and corridors. No fresh flowers, but that's an expensive extra on a ship this large. Even the theater is bland with lots of brown and only red seats and curtains to wake you up. When they rehab the ship in a few years, perhaps a dip into the box of Crayolas and add a color or two. Sound in the Solstice Theater is poor. It is much too tinny and heavy on treble. For a ship this elegant, that sound system should be top notch, not third grade. The dining room is impressive . . . visually. I was told that there was music playing but I never heard it. If you cruise this ship, expect this elegant room to be deafening with conversations from every corner. There are two pool areas. One is for the masses with kids and games and noise and no available lounge chairs- a big problem on this ship that they can't seem to do anything about. The other (adults only) Spa pool is quiet, shaded with some chairs available. The deck lounge chairs on the balcony deck above appear occupied with pool towels on them even earlier. Could all 2,850 passengers be using pool lounge chairs at the same time? There are enough cocktail lounges to cater to every taste on almost every deck, forward, midships and aft. I'm sure that I didn't see them all, so I know I didn't visit them all. One, the Sky Observation Lounge high on deck 14 is special with a great look and view forward, but too large for the client profile of Celebrity. It was almost always empty, and the disco style lounge had at least 20 passengers almost every night. I'm sure you get the point. The casino was perfect- located at midships, with about half the tables and slots in use on any night. Even Bingo was downplayed and difficult to find on the daily schedule. Getting off the ship is easy. Show your SeaPass card and it's steps to the little shops (see "Disappointments"). Returning to the ship, especially on Grand Cayman is not pleasant. There are long lines for the tenders and they move slowly in the hot sun (I'm glad it wasn't raining). Since every newly built ship needs a gimmick, the Solstice class of ships feature a half acre of lawn on one of the highest decks. Play bocce ball, mini golf, or walk barefoot on thick healthy grass tended to by two full-time keepers. It was certainly different, but the Corning hot glass demonstration mini theater off to one side was the real attraction on Deck 15. I'm still not sure what the attraction of real grass on the top of a cruise ship really is. The collection of specialty restaurants we all neatly arranged at the stern of Deck 5 with the main dining room directly below on decks 4 and 3. An easy way to remember where to go is "dining-aft, casino-middle, and entertainment-forward". The passageways and rooms are decorated with large photographs by Espen Tollefson, a European artist-photographer I have never heard of. His images are uninspired, usually boring and difficult to understand. Most have no color and I wonder why Celebrity doesn't highlight images of other ports cruised by the Solstice during the year. This additional subliminal advertising might just convince one passenger to try another cruise. THE FOOD In what has to be the greatest bargain afloat, the food in the Epernay (Main) Dining Room far exceeded my expectations. Not only a daily page of changing appetizers, soups, salads, and entrees but a good old stand by page of shrimp cocktail, onion soup, NY Sirloin and other popular standards . . . just in case nothing struck your fancy on the daily special. A very smart idea, indeed. It's impossible to talk about the food without mentioning the servers. Every table has its own Maitr'd, Waiter, Assistant Waiter and Wine Steward. Aboard the Solstice, they are among the best, and make the dining experience such a joy. I never felt rushed and I thought the service perfectly paced. The creativity, taste, and presentation deserve awards. As a current published food critic, it takes a lot to make me gush about food and service in any restaurant. Except for the super strong coffee found all over the ship, there were absolutely no complaints and nothing but praise. On one night, I made the bold decision to try one of the specialty restaurants. Tuscany Grille was tagged as an Italian gourmet jewel with exceptional food and service. I found it slightly better that my local Olive Garden. It was a disappointment from start to finish. My traveling companion and I were seated at a small table for two in the furthest corner of the room, close to the kitchen entry-exit. Aside from taking the order, our waiter left us in the hands of the assistant waiter, an overly 'chatty Kathy' from some Slavic country. I expected white tablecloths, not rubber placemats. I expected salt and pepper, not two peppers. When I asked for a mild red wine, I didn't expect a screaming strong Chianti. Note: The staff was good about replacing it. My veal Parmesan was extra thick and tough and I could only eat half. I was offered a replacement, but my appetite dissipated. The pasta was good. The starters and the side dishes were forgettable. For an extra $25 per person I missed 'lobster night' in the main dining room. A-r-g-h-h-h. When you get a recommendation to try the Tuscan Grille, my opinion is that you think twice and perhaps ask some passengers who have already been there. I cannot comment on the other added charge restaurants because I never tried them. I was too happy with the main dining experience. The Oceanview Cafe on Deck 14 is a winner. It offers a huge buffet for breakfast. lunch and dinner. The spotlessly clean buffet tables are not always well marked, but strolling them is a lot like grazing. You're bound to find something you really like sooner or later. I did suggest that they consider enlarging the one ice cream station, or adding staff and posting what flavors were available . . . just to speed things up a little. The line was always long. At breakfast, expect to fetch your own coffee and juice unless you want something special like I did. I asked a wandering female staff member for a glass of tomato juice with ice. She asked me for my SeaPass card so she could charge me for a Virgin Mary cocktail. Of course, I explained why that was inappropriate. It's called "training". The pizza station was open long hours and the pizza was excellent! It was a great place for a mid-afternoon or a late-night snack. DRESS CODE Ignore everything you read or are told. On the first formal night, I saw a total of 4 men in tuxedos. Most men wore a dark blazer and slacks with collared shirt- some ties, most not. A few were in suits. Only the most extreme violators were not permitted in the dining room. One young man had the audacity to wear shorts, a T-shirt and flip flop shoes. He was told to leave. The ladies were not much better and tried to push every rule as far as it could go. Things just are not like they once were. ENTERTAINMENT Here is another area where Celebrity and other lines are cutting back. The young men and women did appear as if they were contestants from 'American Idol'. They are good (not great) and barely pull off the two production shows. Solo entertainment (magician, singer, etc.) fill the rest of the nights. The acrobats and jugglers are fun but inexpensive entertainment for a theater that seats over a thousand. DISAPPOINTMENTS (? significant) - Overly crowded main pool area with no lounge chairs available I even fell, tripping over a lounge chair placed directly in the walking path by a lady of great girth who anchored the chair in place. Perhaps I should have been more careful. - Bar service uneven and often unfriendly - Language barrier with many of the staff whose job was to interact with passengers - Quality of food and service in Tuscan Grille - Overly noisy main dining room - Cruises visit many ports that are really centers of third world nations. Chickens and horses walking through villages and ramshackle houses may be the norm, but not what cruise ship visitors want to see, so the cruise lines have created Disney-esque villages with clean and neat little shops and shopping centers where passengers disembark. In most cases, to escape this charade, a walk past the guard gate is necessary to find land tour service or a 'real' taxi Not only is this common today. But when the U.S. allows cruise Vessels start visiting Havana, expect to see it on a much grander scale. No daily room delivery of USA News flyer, drink specials for the week, daily crossword puzzles, other items available at Guest Relations only Post cards of destination ports and appropriate stamps not available How does one of the largest ships afloat have one of the smallest pools? The shops (not owned or managed by Celebrity) offer attractive specials during the week, but don't try to purchase them on the last day. Specials are only good until day 5 Crowded screening area aboard ship when returning from port excursions Placement of pool lounge chairs- Celebrity ships appear to follow another leader when it comes to the arrangement of all loun chairs on upper decks, They all face inward, blocking any possibility of looking over the rail. Most ships in other fleets arrange them to face forward appearing making the deck look less crowded and still allowing a wide enough aisle for easy walking. I also wondered about the extra glass mounted securely on top of the railings. Why are they there? Wind protection? Safety? They block any view alongside the ship, PLEASANT SURPRISES Friendly attitude of staff at exit-boarding stations Layout of buffet tables in Oceanview Cafe Absolute cleanliness of ship in all areas Roominess of stateroom and bathroom High quality of food in main dining room Quiet late nights enjoying a cocktail at the Sunset Bar at the very aft end, looking out at the churning wake of the ship SHORE EXCURSIONS It is important to point out that once you have purchased your cruise, there are very few ways a cruise line can make more money on you. Cruise lines usually make little or no money on the shops, casinos, and photography department. So, aside from extra charges in the boutique restaurants, and expensive drinks (especially wine), shore excursions remain a major profit center. A negotiated $25 shore excursion is marked up by the cruise line to $50 or $75 before it appears in print and available for sale. I have not purchased a shore excursion from any cruise line in more than ten years. Passengers have an innate fear of arranging anything on shore not sanctioned by the cruise. Perhaps it is a fear of being ripped off or the concern that if they leave the herd, they will be subject to "wolves". The internet is a wonderful tool to find out what exists OFF the ship at prices half as much. I like to recommend finding an older taxi driver after the crowds have gone and asking him or her to take you on a slow driving tour that will avoid all the crowds. You will get to see the real destination (good and bad) with the personal commentary of a local to whom you may ask questions at any time. The freedom of a private tour allows you to stop at any roadside stand with your own interpreter and negotiator and stay as long as you want. In Grand Cayman, the 3.5 hour Stingray City tour (GC88) sold on the ship for $75 per adult. It is a good tour. The professional, identical 3.5 hour tour with Moby Dick Tours is $45.00 (www.mobydicktours.com). The tour I reserved with Moby Dick was wonderful in every way. They have an experienced, safety-conscious staff with a sense of humor and a desire to show every passenger a good time. Not counting tip, I saved $30 . . . and that is only one example. Going on your own does have some inherent risk and you need to do your homework and get some testimonials and reviews before making a reservation. Some tour operators are so small, they rely on a "clearing house" to handle all of their reservations. When a ship docks at a different-than-scheduled pier, or the weather turns nasty, there can be crazy Caribbean confusion- never a good thing. The reservation coordinator, often some small office in Florida, is out of the loop and unable to help. Often, you're on your own. Traveling in the Caribbean is an adventure and I have never felt nervous or unsafe. Over the years, I have learned the trick of throwing some inexpensive kids toys from Target, and dog cookies in the big beach bag. They don't weight much and you can never tell when they might come in handy. DO NOT be afraid of renting a car (always under $100) in the Caribbean. Once you are out of the main port city, the landscape often turns into what is truly a third world nation and then into winding bumpy roads past great scenery and into tiny villages where local markets offer up a bounty of low priced souvenirs, fresh produce and hot sauces and spices to take home. Waterside and beach restaurants always feature freshly caught fish and shellfish that will make you want to stay late and miss the ship. Don't. Do remember to drive on the correct side of the road and if you are nervous and a slow-poke, the resident truck drivers will let you know right away. Expect to use your credit card as a guarantee against damages to the rental, but you will be paying cash for the deal. Try to make certain that you ask for your credit card copy or receipt back . . . just to be on the safe side. They will want the car filled with gas, which is always expensive. The rental car companies are always fairly close to the spot where the ship lands, but there is some walking, and don't expect a Hertz or Avis in every port. Do expect an adventure. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Having just come iff the Eclipse, our second week aboard the Celebrity fleet was spontaneous, unexpected and unplanned thanks to a fortunate turn of events. this time aboard the Eclipse's older sister the Solstice. Very much her twin, ... Read More
Having just come iff the Eclipse, our second week aboard the Celebrity fleet was spontaneous, unexpected and unplanned thanks to a fortunate turn of events. this time aboard the Eclipse's older sister the Solstice. Very much her twin, the only significant differences were in minor details such as the color of the chair pads by the pool, however, her layout and feel is identical and every bit as elegant and refined. We hopped off the Eclipse in Miami and grabbed a car for the short trek up to Lauderdale. Because we had not planned on being gone two weeks, we found ourselves out of clean clothes, so we found a little coin operated laundry and did a load of underwear... images of the guy in the commercial standing in front of a washer in just his boxers flashed in my head, although in reality I don't have six pack abs, and the lady at the end of the row of driers was a short round cuban grandma, rather than a coed. It's a good thing no one uses my life as a basis for marketing as it would not sell much. Once aboard, exploring was not necessary, however we did keep trying to get off the elevator where our old room was - and it took a solid day to settle into the orientation of our new spot on the ship and not zig when we should have zagged. Again, as with the Eclipse, our favorite part of the ship without a doubt is the lawn club up on deck 15. The perfect place to relax in either sun or shade, with your barefoot toes curled up in some real grass, and just a stone's throw from the bar. Our drink of choice, the Summer Solstice, a refreshing blend of fresh basil and blueberries, mortared mojito style with some simple syrup, lemon infused rum and white cranberry juice. The only real problem is that it is very easy to down three before you know it. The lauderdale port was busy, with five ships, including the massive Allure of the seas. Only slightly taller than the Solstice, it is easily twice as wide, and gives the impression that someone welded two ships side by side resulting in a cruise ship guppy with a catamaran top side. We'll have to give her a try sometime. Budget has a car rental place directly outside the port entrance, with a free shuttle so logistics were smooth and easy, and embarkation was without issue. The one notable observation was a veritable army of staff with disinfectant spray and rags. We had learned that the Princess ship in port had an outbreak of intestinal virus and was delayed in sailing. Celebrity was taking no chances and had staff wiping down counters, cue line ropes, turnstile handles, and even pens between each patron. Our itinerary this week was Western Caribbean, to include Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and two new ports for us, Roatan, Honduras and Costa Maya, Mexico. Although we had been to Cayman several times previously and initially planed on some new exploration, we found ourselves doing the quintessential tour to stingray city. This sandbar sits approximately a mile from shore where fisherman of old used to clean their catches and you can stand in waist deep water along with a couple hundred stingray and feed them squid. Followed by a trip to seven mile beach, and a comfy umbrella chair with a bucket of ice cold local beer. After all, some days you just need to let the Caribbean blow you where the trade winds may. Cozumel was an experience this trip. We chose to take a culinary class at a mexican resort. Most cultures express themselves best through their food, and who am I to argue with a three course lunch and open bar! We donned chefs hats, aprons and stood at our own cooking stations where we made fools of ourselves as we prepared and fabulous meal of chili shrimp on a hand sculpted tortilla cake, some of the freshest grouper I have ever had with sauted vegetables in a tamerin fruit reduction and cinnamon caramelized plantains with a chocolate tequila sauce. Luis or chef instructor was exceptional as he managed to maintain composure while he attempted to herd thirty somewhat inebriated stray cats, across the finish line. As he stated, however, when we sat to eat at the end, if your lunch sucks, feel free to blame the chef that cooked it! We had never been to Roatan previously and were not sure what we were going to do when we got there. The port is small, and not at all touristy like many. There is no Diamonds Intl every block. Directly outside the port gates is the Honduras you would expect with dirt floor single story buildings, stray dogs playing in the street, corner stores with an gold guy standing in the doorway and a peeling Coca Cola logo emblazoned on their wall by some sales rep back in the 60's. We ended up spontaneously renting a vespa scooter and took off through the village for parts unknown. The rental guy said it had a full tank of gas, although the gauges did not work, and gave us his cell number in case we got stuck somewhere it would not start... Off we went, first through the village to the east side of the island, traveling through several little village townships, and past a few nice gated resorts. Then, much to our surprise, on the left a shopping center, with an Applebee's, Wendy's and Grocery store. It was very out of place but a welcome stop with a clean restroom! A funny thing happened there. The parking lot was virtually empty, with only two or three cars in the Wendy's lot. We Vespa'ed in and took a space in the front row next to the building. As we dismounted our sturdy steed, an security guard in body armor and holding an intimidating looking rifle approached us and indicated that these spaces were for cars only. We needed to move the scooter over to the official 'scooter' parking on the other side of the lot. Several skinny painted spaces with a half dozen other small motorcycles in them. Far be it of me to argue with a man holding a gun - but the lot was empty - sheesh! Good thing I didn't have a hummer and try to take two spaces! Our travels took us to a spot on the less developed East side where you could see both the North and South shores from one overlook. Trinket salespeople had set up little stands in front of what was obviously once a overlook bar and cantina, but was now abandoned. Down the hill was a closed down empty beach resort in disrepair. We then traveled all the way back to the West side beaches, where we had a nice lunch at a little hotel and open air cafe owned by an american couple that relocated to the island about five years ago and had built the hotel, one cabana at a time. Our outing was uneventful save one unexpected pothole that was almost problematic for us, however we heard another older couple had dumped their scooter on the horrible roads and ended up in the hospital. We did see them the next day re-joining the ship in Mexico, both with arms in a sling.... Out adventure was a blast. We got rained on, blow dried, and puttered over hills where one moment we had the scooter floored just to make it up the hill then had the brakes mashed so hard your hands hurt to slow down the other side, but In hindsight, the next time we are there, we will probably rent a jeep - The last stop of our trip was Costa Maya, Mexico. This port is relatively new, built in 2001 specifically to bring some cruise ships to that part of the coast. It was then wiped out in 2004 by a hurricane, and re-opened again in 2006. It consists of just a small shopping village, and the obligatory Senior Frogs and Carlos & Charlie's. along with a pool, and dolphin swim area. Here we took a bus tour to the Chacchoben ruins, since we had never done ruins before, and it was very interesting. This particular set of Mayan ruins was built from 300 to 600 AD were also partially restored and opened as a park in just in 2001 to coincide with the port. Other than that, there is really nothing here for an hour in any direction other than swamp land and mangrove. As a result the stop is not really worth it. We saw the ruins in about an hour, and spent the rest of the day at the little port. Because it is so remote, there are really no local vendors, only the officially sanctioned ones within the port area walls, and the only beers available are $4.50 for a Dos XX at Senior Frogs... As a result, this stop was my least favorite of the whole trip. The ship itself has some very nice features and good policies. for example, at the pools, there is no towel nazi dispensing only 1 towel per person, just a huge bin where you can grab two or three good sized towels and make yourself comfortable in padded chairs or one of several climb shell love seats that have pull over canopies. There are also good pool attendants that place a card on empty chairs saying you have 30 minutes to return, otherwise they remove your stuff and release the chair. - That way you don't have the problem of the 0800 ladies that put a book on a prime chair and never returns until 1pm, The other really interesting thing on board is that the technology for the TV's and photo studio is all driven by Apple. When you first get on board, they swipe your sea pass card and take your photo. Then all the rest of the photo's you take the rest of the cruise are processed through face recognition and appear on your stateroom TV automatically. No searching for your stuff in little photo studio with 1000 other people. Very cool, but also kind of creepy in a big brother way. The internet lounge is actually an iLounge set up very much like an Apple store with the same look and feel. Once again the food was exemplary, with great menu choices, specialty restaurants, Good sushi at 5:30 every evening to tide us over until dinner at 830 and an ice bar martini lounge that featured a showy six-drink martini sampler for just $15. (see video below) Although we have never sailed Celebrity before, their solstice class ships now have two new fans, and we have already booked a 14 day Southern Caribbean for January next year. Kudos to the staff and crew of both the Eclipse and Solstice. We were impressed and will most definitely be back. A photo tour can bee seen here http://theamsteinblog.squarespace.com/journal/2012/2/12/celebrity-solstice-week-2.html Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
CELEBRITY SOLSTICE REVIEW -- February 5-12, 2012 Ft. Lauderdale -- Western Caribbean This was my 23rd cruise and first time on any Celebrity Cruise ship. It is important to note that many comments here may seem "picky" in ... Read More
CELEBRITY SOLSTICE REVIEW -- February 5-12, 2012 Ft. Lauderdale -- Western Caribbean This was my 23rd cruise and first time on any Celebrity Cruise ship. It is important to note that many comments here may seem "picky" in nature. They are meant only to reveal what a new passenger to Celebrity's Solstice might expect. EMBARKATON Over the years, embarkation on any ship leaving from Ft Lauderdale has become an easy process. With so many retirees living in South Florida, staffing is not a problem and they are always cheery and helpful! Lines are long because ships are huge, but they move quickly. Expect to do some serious walking, mostly because of the size of the ship. From the outside, the first views of the Solstice are a bit intimidating. It is big. Really big. I know that entering the ship on the enclosed walkways depends on the tide, but I found the extra long uphill trek a bit arduous after a long day. STATEROOM Veranda forward Starboard- Deck 8 What a surprise! Roomy beyond my expectations, yet the same square foot area as on other ships- other cruise lines. Clever use of every square inch. I was finding cabinets and drawers on the second day of the cruise. Flat screen TV was great especially because it would pan to sleeping or lounging area. Sound kept going out because of an easily fixed loose connection on the back. TV at sea sucks- know that in advance and don't expect what you get at home. There is no Ellen or GMA or NCIS . . . but there is lots of CNN, MSNBC, Fox, BBC, ESPN, etc. The saving grace is the number of free movies you can get. The bathroom is large and helped by a shower that has an enclosure that is curved and full length that was easy to use with no fancy dials. All the expected amenities and lots of fresh soft towels. Could not find fault or ask for more. Lighting was a challenge, but that's something I've become used to on all new ships. Maybe they should label them. One interesting thing- this was the first ship that had a low level light adjustment in the bathroom that could be set to use as a night light. Really clever and very much appreciated! Ice buckets are shrinking and you may have to ask your room steward for more than the standard two daily refills, or a large plastic bucket like I did. I did stay away from the mini bar realizing that Celebrity probably makes a cruise profitable on people using it. The balcony was spacious and quiet and a great place to read on a lazy afternoon when there was nothing of interest going on (not often). Special notice: on my last cruise, I elected an ocean view room thinking I would be happy with just seeing what the weather was like. Big mistake. There is nothing like having the freedom of stepping outside and watching the ship dock or the dolphins swimming alongside the hull. THE STAFF The Captain was Norwegian and the balance of the officers were mostly Greek. Professional at all times and they made me feel safe. Service staff was different than most ships. They were a total mish-mash of Croatian, Italian, Indian, Hungarian, and just about every other European and Asian country. The diversity was good. but I remain unconvinced that it worked well "behind the scenes". Service, especially in the bars was often uneven, slow, and confused. Language was often a problem. I enjoy the Trivia Games and in every instance when they were hosted by a German, Italian or Greek, there was a serious problem in not understanding or hearing the question properly. Very annoying. When Assistant Cruise Director (Greg) was told of problem, he shrugged it off by saying, "Just ask them to spell any word you don't understand". Not the right answer there, big Greg. THE SHIP In the months before my cruise, I read and heard, "It's a big ship, but you won't notice it. It is cozier than it looks." Those people must live in Texas. This ship is over a thousand feet long, making it one of the largest ships afloat. The dining room was about an eighth of a mile away from my stateroom! That is not "cozy". No question that the ship is elegant and extremely well appointed, but I have always been a big fan of signage and the last ship that had decent signage was the Norway, with different color carpeting forward and aft. Why can't modern ships have more signs that say Forward and Aft? And clocks? Forget about them. The only clocks I saw were on the back wall of the forward elevator banks. As in casinos, maybe they just don't want you to know the time. Speaking of elevators, the Solstice claims a new high. Not only are they fast, smooth and clean but when they arrive, a light above them changes from blue to pink . . . but be sure to look at the arrows to know if it's going up or down. I rarely waited more than a minute, if that. The decor is muted with browns and grays repeating on all decks and corridors. No fresh flowers, but that's an expensive extra on a ship this large. Even the theater is bland with lots of brown and only red seats and curtains to wake you up. When they rehab the ship in a few years, perhaps a dip into the box of Crayolas and add a color or two. Sound in the Solstice Theater is poor. It is much too tinny and heavy on treble. For a ship this elegant, that sound system should be top notch, not third grade. The dining room is impressive . . . visually. I was told that there was music playing but I never heard it. If you cruise this ship, expect this elegant room to be deafening with conversations from every corner. There are two pool areas. One is for the masses with kids and games and noise and no available lounge chairs- a big problem on this ship that they can't seem to do anything about. The other (adults only) Spa pool is quiet, shaded with some chairs available. The deck lounge chairs on the balcony deck above appear occupied with pool towels on them even earlier. Could all 2,850 passengers be using pool lounge chairs at the same time? There are enough cocktail lounges to cater to every taste on almost every deck, forward, midships and aft. I'm sure that I didn't see them all, so I know I didn't visit them all. One, the Sky Observation Lounge high on deck 14 is special with a great look and view forward, but too large for the client profile of Celebrity. It was almost always empty, and the disco style lounge had at least 20 passengers almost every night. I'm sure you get the point. The casino was perfect- located at midships, with about half the tables and slots in use on any night. Even Bingo was downplayed and difficult to find on the daily schedule. Getting off the ship is easy. Show your SeaPass card and it's steps to the little shops (see "Disappointments"). Returning to the ship, especially on Grand Cayman is not pleasant. There are long lines for the tenders and they move slowly in the hot sun (I'm glad it wasn't raining). Since every newly built ship needs a gimmick, the Solstice class of ships feature a half acre of lawn on one of the highest decks. Play bocce ball, mini golf, or walk barefoot on thick healthy grass tended to by two full-time keepers. It was certainly different, but the Corning hot glass demonstration mini theater off to one side was the real attraction on Deck 15. I'm still not sure what the attraction of real grass on the top of a cruise ship really is. The collection of specialty restaurants we all neatly arranged at the stern of Deck 5 with the main dining room directly below on decks 4 and 3. An easy way to remember where to go is "dining-aft, casino-middle, and entertainment-forward". The passageways and rooms are decorated with large photographs by Espen Tollefson, a European artist-photographer I have never heard of. His images are uninspired, usually boring and difficult to understand. Most have no color and I wonder why Celebrity doesn't highlight images of other ports cruised by the Solstice during the year. This additional subliminal advertising might just convince one passenger to try another cruise. THE FOOD In what has to be the greatest bargain afloat, the food in the Epernay (Main) Dining Room far exceeded my expectations. Not only a daily page of changing appetizers, soups, salads, and entrees but a good old stand by page of shrimp cocktail, onion soup, NY Sirloin and other popular standards . . . just in case nothing struck your fancy on the daily special. A very smart idea, indeed. It's impossible to talk about the food without mentioning the servers. Every table has its own Maitr'd, Waiter, Assistant Waiter and Wine Steward. Aboard the Solstice, they are among the best, and make the dining experience such a joy. I never felt rushed and I thought the service perfectly paced. The creativity, taste, and presentation deserve awards. As a current published food critic, it takes a lot to make me gush about food and service in any restaurant. Except for the super strong coffee found all over the ship, there were absolutely no complaints and nothing but praise. On one night, I made the bold decision to try one of the specialty restaurants. Tuscany Grille was tagged as an Italian gourmet jewel with exceptional food and service. I found it slightly better that my local Olive Garden. It was a disappointment from start to finish. My traveling companion and I were seated at a small table for two in the furthest corner of the room, close to the kitchen entry-exit. Aside from taking the order, our waiter left us in the hands of the assistant waiter, an overly 'chatty Kathy' from some Slavic country. I expected white tablecloths, not rubber placemats. I expected salt and pepper, not two peppers. When I asked for a mild red wine, I didn't expect a screaming strong Chianti. Note: The staff was good about replacing it. My veal Parmesan was extra thick and tough and I could only eat half. I was offered a replacement, but my appetite dissipated. The pasta was good. The starters and the side dishes were forgettable. For an extra $25 per person I missed 'lobster night' in the main dining room. A-r-g-h-h-h. When you get a recommendation to try the Tuscan Grille, my opinion is that you think twice and perhaps ask some passengers who have already been there. I cannot comment on the other added charge restaurants because I never tried them. I was too happy with the main dining experience. The Oceanview Cafe on Deck 14 is a winner. It offers a huge buffet for breakfast. lunch and dinner. The spotlessly clean buffet tables are not always well marked, but strolling them is a lot like grazing. You're bound to find something you really like sooner or later. I did suggest that they consider enlarging the one ice cream station, or adding staff and posting what flavors were available . . . just to speed things up a little. The line was always long. At breakfast, expect to fetch your own coffee and juice unless you want something special like I did. I asked a wandering female staff member for a glass of tomato juice with ice. She asked me for my SeaPass card so she could charge me for a Virgin Mary cocktail. Of course, I explained why that was inappropriate. It's called "training". The pizza station was open long hours and the pizza was excellent! It was a great place for a mid-afternoon or a late-night snack. DRESS CODE Ignore everything you read or are told. On the first formal night, I saw a total of 4 men in tuxedos. Most men wore a dark blazer and slacks with collared shirt- some ties, most not. A few were in suits. Only the most extreme violators were not permitted in the dining room. One young man had the audacity to wear shorts, a T-shirt and flip flop shoes. He was told to leave. The ladies were not much better and tried to push every rule as far as it could go. Things just are not like they once were. ENTERTAINMENT Here is another area where Celebrity and other lines are cutting back. The young men and women did appear as if they were contestants from 'American Idol'. They are good (not great) and barely pull off the two production shows. Solo entertainment (magician, singer, etc.) fill the rest of the nights. The acrobats and jugglers are fun but inexpensive entertainment for a theater that seats over a thousand. DISAPPOINTMENTS (? significant) - Overly crowded main pool area with no lounge chairs available I even fell, tripping over a lounge chair placed directly in the walking path by a lady of great girth who anchored the chair in place. Perhaps I should have been more careful. - Bar service uneven and often unfriendly - Language barrier with many of the staff whose job was to interact with passengers - Quality of food and service in Tuscan Grille - Overly noisy main dining room - Cruises visit many ports that are really centers of third world nations. Chickens and horses walking through villages and ramshackle houses may be the norm, but not what cruise ship visitors want to see, so the cruise lines have created Disney-esque villages with clean and neat little shops and shopping centers where passengers disembark. In most cases, to escape this charade, a walk past the guard gate is necessary to find land tour service or a 'real' taxx. Not only is this common today. But when the U.S. allows cruise ships to start visiting Havana, expect to see it on a much grander scale. No daily room delivery of USA News flyer, drink specials for the week, daily crossword puzzles, other items available at Guest Relations only Post cards of destination ports and appropriate stamps not available How does one of the largest ships afloat have one of the smallest pools? The shops (not owned or managed by Celebrity) offer attractive specials during the week, but don't try to purchase them on the last day. Specials are only good until day 5 Crowded screening area aboard ship when returning from port excursions Placement of pool lounge chairs- Celebrity ships appear to follow another leader when it comes to the arrangement of all lounge chairs on upper decks, They all face inward, blocking any possibility of looking over the rail. Most ships in other fleets arrange them to face forward appearing making the deck look less crowded and still allowing a wide enough aisle for easy walking. I also wondered about the extra glass mounted securely on top of the railings. Why are they there? Wind protection? Safety? They block any view alongside the ship . . . PLEASANT SURPRISES Friendly attitude of staff at exit-boarding stations Layout of buffet tables in Oceanview Cafe Absolute cleanliness of ship in all areas Roominess of stateroom and bathroom High quality of food in main dining room Quiet late nights enjoying a cocktail at the Sunset Bar at the very aft end, looking out at the churning wake of the ship SHORE EXCURSIONS It is important to point out that once you have purchased your cruise, there are very few ways a cruise line can make more money on you. Cruise lines usually make little or no money on the shops, casinos, and photography department. So, aside from extra charges in the boutique restaurants, and expensive drinks (especially wine), shore excursions remain a major profit center. A negotiated $25 shore excursion is marked up by the cruise line to $50 or $75 before it appears in print and available for sale. I have not purchased a shore excursion from any cruise line in more than ten years. Passengers have an innate fear of arranging anything on shore not sanctioned by the cruise. Perhaps it is a fear of being ripped off or the concern that if they leave the herd, they will be subject to "wolves". The internet is a wonderful tool to find out what exists OFF the ship at prices half as much. I like to recommend finding an older taxi driver after the crowds have gone and asking him or her to take you on a slow driving tour that will avoid all the crowds. You will get to see the real destination (good and bad) with the personal commentary of a local to whom you may ask questions at any time. The freedom of a private tour allows you to stop at any roadside stand with your own interpreter and negotiator and stay as long as you want. In Grand Cayman, the 3.5 hour Stingray City tour (GC88) sold on the ship for $75 per adult. It is a good tour. The professional, identical 3.5 hour tour with Moby Dick Tours is $45.00 (www.mobydicktours.com). The tour I reserved with Moby Dick was wonderful in every way. They have an experienced, safety-conscious staff with a sense of humor and a desire to show every passenger a good time. Not counting tip, I saved $30 . . . and that is only one example. Going on your own does have some inherent risk and you need to do your homework and get some testimonials and reviews before making a reservation. Some tour operators are so small, they rely on a "clearing house" to handle all of their reservations. When a ship docks at a different-than-scheduled pier, or the weather turns nasty, there can be crazy Caribbean confusion- never a good thing. The reservation coordinator, often some small office in Florida, is out of the loop and unable to help. Often, you're on your own. Traveling in the Caribbean is an adventure and I have never felt nervous or unsafe. Over the years, I have learned the trick of throwing some inexpensive kids toys from Target, and dog cookies in the big beach bag. They don't weight much and you can never tell when they might come in handy. DO NOT be afraid of renting a car (always under $100) in the Caribbean. Once you are out of the main port city, the landscape often turns into what is truly a third world nation and then into winding bumpy roads past great scenery and into tiny villages where local markets offer up a bounty of low priced souvenirs, fresh produce and hot sauces and spices to take home. Waterside and beach restaurants always feature freshly caught fish and shellfish that will make you want to stay late and miss the ship. Don't. Do remember to drive on the correct side of the road and if you are nervous and a slow-poke, the resident truck drivers will let you know right away. Expect to use your credit card as a guarantee against damages to the rental, but you will be paying cash for the deal. Try to make certain that you ask for your credit card copy or receipt back . . . just to be on the safe side. They will want the car filled with gas, which is always expensive. The rental car companies are always fairly close to the spot where the ship lands, but there is some walking, and don't expect a Hertz or Avis in every port. Do expect an adventure. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
We were traveling with a group of 47 public safety professionals, many of whom we travel with annually. I've been on multiple cruises before, but this was my girlfriend Jodi's first one! She certainly wasn't disappointed ... Read More
We were traveling with a group of 47 public safety professionals, many of whom we travel with annually. I've been on multiple cruises before, but this was my girlfriend Jodi's first one! She certainly wasn't disappointed --but I may have set the bar a little high with Celebrity! We arrived in Fort Lauderdale via JetBlue the day prior to the ship's departure. First time flying with them, and will definitely do it again. The built in entertainment on every seatback make the flight go by quickly! We stayed at the Cambria Suites, which were very nice & reasonably priced. For dinner, we walked over to Islamorada Fish Company in the Bass Pro Shops store for a really great dinner! The hotel had an $8 breakfast buffet ($10 after tax/tip) in the lobby the next morning that was decent. At breakfast I talked with a guy who was going out that day on the Ruby Princess -& he heard that they had some norovirus issues on the previous sailing... more on that later. The Ship: Our first experience on the Solstice was disappointing --a stop at the pool bar for a Bud Light & a Captain/Diet --neither of which they had! It's difficult to believe that they don't have the ability to stock 2 of the most popular (& revenue generating) beverages for their guests until the next day in their bars --but it's true. Our stateroom was a balcony cabin # 6125 (port side just above "Solstice" logo.) It was clean, spacious, comfortable, & very well maintained by Lucas & Ezekiel -our fine cabin stewards. There were plenty of drawers & closet space & the bed was comfortable, & the bathroom size was just right. Unfortunately though, our balcony cabin had an obstructed view when you wanted to look straight down at the water (it was the bumpout of Deck 5 where the "Solstice" lettering is.) That was a tad disappointing & it should be listed as an obstructed view because that's part of what you pay for on a balcony. The Lawn Club on Deck 15 was awesome! There were plenty of setups for Bocci & for putting, and that's also where the Hot Glass Show is held. I'd be careful shopping onboard. Liquor prices changed mid-cruise for some reason & they blamed it on "Headquarters." The best liquor deals were in Roatan, Honduras & not on the ship anyway. The layout of the Solstice is terrific. Very easy to learn your way around & also to navigate the buffet. Dining: The food was exactly what I expected after sailing the Summit last year --outstanding! The buffet's were fabulous, and the only disappointment was dinner. We opted for the Celebrity Select Dining, which is their "flexible" dining option (where you can dine anytime between 6-930p.) However, it was anything but "select." It was very difficult to get a reservation at a time other than after 830p. I don't think that I'd do that again. If I did, I'd book my preferred time days in advance like many seemed to do. Of course, that isn't much different than the traditional "Main" & "Late" seatings --you have to be at dinner at a specific time! One night they moved a group that just came in (from Bleu) & took over a table. They were going to leave the same soiled tablecloth, napkins & dinnerware there for us! Are you kidding? A ship that easily went through 1,000 gallons of Purrell that week trying to prevent Norovirus! We ate in one of the up charge restaurants one evening - the Tuscan Grille ...& it was just exemplarily! Also of note: there were Eggs Benedict at the breakfast buffet each morning & sushi every day at 530p! Entertainment: Kudos to the Celebrity Solstice for hosting a terrific Superbowl Party in the Solstice Theatre on our first night. Lots of fun & food (& drink available for purchase.) I wasn't impressed with the Cruise Director Stewart, who seemed a little stiff & didn't have the onboard presence that I've seen with past cruise directors. I once again noted, and really enjoyed the involvement of the ships officers' with the guests (& not like on Carnival where the officers are cruising the bars at night seeking out the female guests.) There were several events that many of the ships officers were involved in. "The Liars Club" in a lounge one night, "Dancing with the Stripes" their onboard version of Dancing with the Stars! Ships officers (male & female) would team-up with guests for a dance contest that was judged by an American Idol like panel of judges. Captain Gerry (pronounced "Gary") from Norway, who could often be seen walking about the ship & also mingling with guest's, held a very informative talk on navigation in one of the lounges on the first sea day. He also performed twice in the Solstice Theater --both are surprises not to be missed! (You can YouTube search "captain gerry larsson fedde" if you can't wait!) Then there was the Officer's vs. Guests pool volleyball game. I was disappointed there that I had signed up for that very early, but was omitted from the team. That is the kind of detail that they need to be more attentive too. Celebrity has this "Behind the Podium" series & there were a few interesting talks, one from a woman that was the Whitehouse Travel Office Director for President Clinton. (She never mentioned Travelgate though!) The Staff Captain (Taso) also did one on the building of Solstice, but I missed that one. The production shows were just horrible! They only had one comedian on board the entire trip, although he did appear on 4 different nights doing the same exact show (which they do tell you about in advance.) He was so unimpressive I don't even recall his name. Too much one sided political stuff for my liking. The entertainment highlights of the week clearly were: a Circ de Soleil show, Jason Bishop --a phenomenal illusionist from Pennsylvania, and Canadian Karen Grainger --a female impressionist (Cher, Celine Dion, Tina Turner, Alanis Morissette & Whitney Houston among others,) an Acapella Quartet and of course Captain Gerry! Oh yeah, and a casino! Oddly enough I don't remember a solo guitarist on board--but there would have been a great place for one at the Sunset Bar on the stern. Probably a good place to mention the aggressive photographers. In what appears to be a new twist there are a series of photographers that you have to go through when getting off the ship in port! A polite "no thanks" suffices, but it does get old having to say it 3 times. Excursions: Our Travel Agent, Russ Schrader of King Travel here in CT put together some private excursions for our group. Russ & his wife Nancy are very well traveled themselves, and always do a great job. Each excursion was priced very reasonably, and all offered much more than the ship did ...for less $$! In Grand Cayman we did a catamaran/snorkeling sail. After a short walk to the buses that transported us to the catamaran, we motored (no wind) out to Stingray City, which is always a fun place. Then we made another snorkeling stop before going to a the Kaibo Beach Bar on Rum Point for lunch & drinks (not included.) We had a liquor store stop on the bus built in, but they don't open until 10a. In Cozumel we took a taxi to Cozumel Beach Break. A very nice facility that included open bar & excellent food! Jodi did parasailing & we both enjoyed a beach massage! The staff here were excellent! Taxi fare was $15 each way for 4 people. After that we took a taxi to downtown for some shopping. I had forgotten about the free liquor/beer in the jewelry stores! Of course, what visit to Cozumel wouldn't be complete without a visit to Senor Frogs (or Carlos & Charlies!) In Roatan, Honduras we did another catamaran/snorkeling tour on the 51' Stray Cat. It was an excellent tour thanks to Captain Dave & his crew. Plenty of beverages & a nice lunch after some great snorkeling. (However, another windless day so we motored.) In Costa Maya we did a nice tour of Chacchoben Mayan Ruins in the morning with The Native Choice, and a really fun ATV tour in the afternoon. There really isn't much in Costa Maya outside of the port other than swamps & mangroves. It's a port that was developed by the cruise industry in 2001 --and was hit hard by Hurricane Dean in 2004. They've rebuilt it all though! When we returned to Fort Lauderdale we had several hours to kill before our 330p flight back to CT, so our travel agent worked out a private excursion with the ships Group Coordinator at 10% off! It was a really nice tour of Fort Lauderdale first by bus, then by boat on the Carrie B. While the bus showed us the homes of the rich -The Carrie B took us by the homes on the canals of the filthy rich! Where their docked yachts were worth more than their multimillion dollar homes! A really nice tour indeed. This is where we learned that the Ruby Princess had a significant norovirus outbreak & ported 2 days early because of it. Also, that she was staying ported for 2 weeks for a thorough disinfecting. I'll bet there a lot of disappointed people that had cruises booked on those 2 weeks... One more thing: my brother doesn't use a credit card, but instead always puts cash on his account & gets a check delivered to his stateroom for the remaining balance the last night of the cruise. He stopped at the Purser desk to check his balance & they told him that he needed to come to the desk the final night of the cruise to retrieve his balance. If he didn't, he didn't get the balance back!!! Hard to believe they'd just keep it, but that's what they said. So, just be aware of that if you use cash. I know it's a long review, but I hope that you find it helpful!!! The Solstice & her crew were terrific overall. Highly recommended! Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
We have cruised on Norwegian Cruise Lines once and on the Celebrity Millenium,twice in Concierge Class Staterooms. We have enjoyed all of our cruises but our experience on Solstice was one of the best Embarkation/Debarkation: All went ... Read More
We have cruised on Norwegian Cruise Lines once and on the Celebrity Millenium,twice in Concierge Class Staterooms. We have enjoyed all of our cruises but our experience on Solstice was one of the best Embarkation/Debarkation: All went very smoothly. We arrived for our cruise and our first embarkation was a breeze. We were on the ship before noon and found a nice place on Deck 12 to relax and wait for our cabin. This was the only day that we ate lunch at the Oceanview Cafe and it was fine. Public Areas: The Solstice is elegantly contemporary. I like the open area in the middle where you could listen to the band below from all floors. Yet, with the glass sliding doors encasing that area with the elevators, the cabins near the elevators were very quiet. The tree hanging from midair was impressive and we enjoyed the lawn area very much. We watched the glass blowing a couple of times. They did very informative presentations. The best time to watch this is when it's dark out! I liked the distinct differences in the pool areas. If you were more in the party mood there were plenty of lounge chairs in the outside pool area and you could choose between sun & shade. There were many hours filled with live music or interactive games. You could hear the music on either the 12 or 14th deck. The track was on the 14th deck. While there are plenty of lounge chairs for everyone, having them on both sides of the track caused many traffic jams while people were exercising. In the long run, I would rather not fight for a lounge chair. After the first couple of days, I used stairs, or did more walking in port and forgot about the track. My preference for the pool most days was in the Solarium. There is a more relaxing spa mood there and there were always plenty of seats. We enjoyed the hot tubs, both inside and out. The Stateroom: Part of the reason we enjoyed our trip is that we splurged for a Celebrity Suite. We had a separate bedroom from the living room and more closet space that you can imagine! I also loved the shower in the tub! We had Cabin 1110 which has an awesome veranda which we used a lot! We will definitely get a suite again occasionally, but I think we will try the Aqua Class Stateroom next time. One of the best things about being in a suite is taking advantage of Elite Captain's Club benefits. It will be awhile before we earn that status. Food: Actually the food was excellent! The Ocean View Cafe was much more open than the "cafeteria style" dining that we have experienced on other cruises. No matter where you eat, this is not going to be the best food by our standards, so we only ate here for lunch the first day and for one morning with our friends. Grand Epernay main dining room was a mix. The food was very good, but the menu was not terribly inventive. I hope that others had better service than our table. Our head waiter never learned our names. My husband & I typically have sparkling water for dinner and every night that we ate there we had to ask. By the second night they should bring it automatically. We had a table of 10 at a table that would have been better suited for 8 however we enjoyed all of our tablemates. We had to move to this table because even though our reservations said that we were paired with some friends when we got on ship we realized they had put us at different tables. Murano Fabulous!!! We ate here with our free dinner reservation from our suite. Our friends ate with us for her birthday. Everything was excellent and the service was exquisite! Blu Aqua Class passengers have priority, but suites passengers can eat here with availability. We had no problem getting in. We used room service for breakfast at the beginning of the week which was good, but we really enjoyed breakfast here the last 3 mornings. We decided to try it for Friday (2nd formal night and our friends were comfortable with other tablemates). It was so excellent that we went back the last night. This is why I think we could downgrade, but only to Aqua Class. Entertainment: It must be difficult to come up with entertainment to make everyone happy! We went to a backstage tour and learned that the visiting acts are planned by the demographics of the passengers that have booked each week. That makes since. The three main shows are Solstice (an amazing Cirque du Soleil type show), Ghostlight (a variety of Broadway tunes) and Pulse (??? I'm sorry, but I just didn't get it. The clapping part in the middle killed the show.) Make sure you get there early enough to sit in the balcony for Solstice. You can see amazing talent. As far as the bands and other acts, they were hit and miss. Some people loved acts that we weren't crazy about, but we enjoyed others that I'm sure they didn't like. We loved Tony Daro like a lot of people (Celebrity Central was standing room only most nights.) We liked Neil Austin, our friends didn't. We sought out Anton Marlokov in different lounges, but were not crazy about Voyage Strings, even though we like classical music. Actually, Voyage Stings was the only act that we were disappointed with. Ports: There are certain times that we would still use the ship to reserve excursions but this time we did not. Grand Cayman: We stayed on ship. Blissful! Cozumel: For $10 less than Ship Tee time, we got Tee Time, Rental Clubs, a 6 Titleist balls each and Course book at Cozumel Country Club. $15 cab fee, $9 back to Los Cinco Soles. We ate at Ponchos Backyard, then shopped our way back to ship. Roatan Kevin from Christophers Tours took us around the island. We ended with THE BEST SNORKELING EVER!. Just 4 of us went out with a guide in a row boat with motor. Our snorkeling experience was like in pictures! Amazing! Costa Maya: We went to Maya Chan. My husband doesn't like beaches and he wants to go on a cruise to Costa Maya next year just so we can go back. It was that good! Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
The following is a review of the Celebrity Solstice, which I took on its Western Caribbean voyage from January 22-29 from Ft Lauderdale. I don't post much on CC but I'd been reading it religiously for so many months and remember ... Read More
The following is a review of the Celebrity Solstice, which I took on its Western Caribbean voyage from January 22-29 from Ft Lauderdale. I don't post much on CC but I'd been reading it religiously for so many months and remember how much I looked forward to these detailed reviews, so I wanted to take the opportunity to give back. In particular I think a few parts of my experience will be different than most so thought I'd take a chance to post about it! Prior to the cruise: We had originally booked into Concierge Class, stateroom 2109, on a hump with an oversized balcony. However, a few weeks before sailing, I noticed a significant price drop on a Royal Suite. For some reason paying a lot extra for a Sky Suite or a Celebrity Suite didn't seem worth it to us, as we figured the main thing we'd want to use the butler for is to have dinner in our stateroom and you only get a dining table in a RS or a PH. I decided to splurge for the RS and see if I could make this more of a trip-of-a-lifetime type experience. Boy was it ever! I've seen reviews in the past broken down into category and some by day; I was going to do day by day but I don't remember exactly what we did each day so I'm going with a mix of both. About us My BF and I are 28 and 33, so not necessarily your typical demographic for Celebrity. I had taken only 2 cruises prior, once with RCCL in S. Carib. and once with Celebrity in Alaska. This was my BF's first cruise ever. We live in Chicago. Embarkation We chose to stay 2 days prior to embarkation at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66, which we got cheap online for about a $100/day. It's an OK hotel in a really great location. The rooms are dated and worn but the grounds and lobby are gorgeous, and since we knew we had the RS to look forward to we didn't mind the room being a bit off and didn't spend that much time there anyway. We hopped in a cab at 11am and were to the ship about 10 minutes later. The switching of staterooms had caused some confusion with the boarding passes but it was quickly cleared up at the suite checkin. They were letting people on the ship already (by this point it was about 11:20) so it was time for security. We had brought 2 bottles of wine per person, knowing the policy is 2 per stateroom but reading on here that you can sometimes get away with 2 per person, especially if you go through security separately. Well, being unfamiliar with the process we were quickly flustered and went through together (since we had only one printout of the cruise docs) and they caught us. We played dumb and said we didn't know it was 2 per person, but we'd already determined which bottles we were going to send away for post-cruise pickup in case they were confiscated and they were. We then proceeded up the escalators to board, but right as we were about to scan in the security guard from downstairs came running after us and said that they had decided to let us keep all four bottles! She said they're "changing the rules all the time" and she can't keep track, but we wondered if maybe someone decided that maybe withholding 2 bottles of wine was a petty thing to do for those staying in a Royal Suite? Honestly we didn't care either way, and you'll have to remember that we were almost feeling out of place being treated so well since we've never done anything like this before, so we certainly weren't pulling any DYKWIA-business on this trip. In our Embarkation package, they had placed a card inviting us to hang out in Michael's Club until our Stateroom was to be ready. It said this was a benefit for suite guests (RS and PH only). In fact a couple of elites tried to get in there and the Captain's Club hostess stated it was a private function - turned out we were the only suite guests who showed up that entire time! But it was really nice for us to be able to drop our bags where they would be watched by the CC hostess, and they had some extra champagne in there for us as well as some small sandwiches and cookies. After dropping our bags we decided to explore the ship. I had never done Solstice class so this was all new for me too. We went straight to Oceanview Cafe with the intent of going to Bistro on Five if it was too busy; it was extremely packed already but we found a small table on the back deck so we plopped down there and grabbed a plate. This would be our last trip to the buffet the entire trip, other than to go to the bar and to grab some ice cream once. After exploring the ship for awhile we headed back to Michael's club around 1:00 to see if we could get into our stateroom (they had told us 1:30pm). Our butler, Rikki, actually came down to Michael's club to get us! Stateroom I know this is going to sound like a really strange sentiment, but the RS was actually smaller than we thought it would be. I had looked at lots of pictures and youtube video tours and for some reason it just always looked bigger in those pictures. I'm sure you're feeling bad for me at this point, and really it turned out to be PLENTY of space for us, but this was just our observation. Anyway, aside from that, the room is absolutely gorgeous. Other than doors being somewhat awkward to open and close, it's well appointed and exactly our style. We also really liked having two bathrooms! The balcony is also very big but we asked for a footstool so that both of us could put our feet up; Rikki brought us one of the white tables from the pool to use as a footstool (it looks like an hourglass shape and was perfectly fine). We didn't exactly know how we were going to utilize Rikki, but to increase the chances of getting attention when we wanted it we handed over an envelope with a tip. I'm not going to disclose exactly how much but let's just say throughout the cruise we treated Rikki extremely well and he did the same for us. We had chosen select dining but quickly determined making 8:30pm reservations every night was going to be too late, as we were getting hungry every day that early, so we decided to have dinner in our stateroom on the first night. Rikki brought us the menu, we wrote out our orders, and he delivered it course by course just like we had read about on these boards. It was great! We had one of our bottles of wine with dinner. Also, a tip for those wanting to play music in any rooms that are equipped with a Bose Speaker system (RS and PH?). There is a standard headphone-type connector that the speakers plug into, on the left side of the TV. We were able to disconnect this cord and plug it into our iPod so we could play our own music. There is a lot of music in the VOD system, but the songs seem strange and not always fitting with the category and also not so modern. After Dinner: One of the reasons for wanting to eat earlier was that each night there was a Friends of Dorothy event held in the Martini Bar at 8pm. As we are FOD, we wanted to stop by and see if we could meet some new friends. On my past cruise I had stopped at an FOD event and couldn't find anybody, so I didn't have high hopes. As it turns out there was a great group of people there, and by the end of the cruise I think the group had grown to about 12. They were even somewhat around our age, and some of them had relatives and friends in the crew, a few of which were able to join us on some of the nights when they had off. We had some drinks with them for awhile and then met up with them later at Quasar for a rockin' dance party. We had heard that the ship goes to sleep pretty early but this party was going strong well past midnight! Unfortunately this was the only night it did so, and Quasar was pretty empty the rest of the nights. Day 2: At Sea Beverage Package: We had not gotten an alcoholic drink package, but did get the premium non-alcoholic one (with the 10% discount). Our logic was that we would have at least 3 bottles of wine (including our welcome sparkling wine), the Captain's Club event every night from 5-7, and we didn't want to feel like we had to force ourselves to drink when we didn't want to to get our value out of it. We like Red Bull a lot and figured we'd only need a coffee from bacio each day, a couple red bulls, and a bottle of water or two to reach the $16, and we could always upgrade if we were drinking more. Well as it turns out, we drank almost $110 on just the first day between the two of us, which was well more than the difference in price between the alcoholic and non-alcoholic one. The late night Quasar partying probably put us over, and I was still hemming and hawing over it (what if I get sick and don't want to drink? Will we really keep up this level of drinking?), but I decided to take the plunge. I went to guest relations to upgrade and was very disappointed to find out that they were NOT honoring the 10% discount we had seen before the trip. I tried arguing with them to no avail, and this means I didn't even get credit for the 10% off I got on the non-alcoholic package. I said I wasn't able to upgrade online within the 4 day window so why even say that they offer it on our sailing when it would have been impossible, etc etc. Regardless I still decided to go ahead with it and we definitely got our value out of it. The Pool We got to the pool pretty early (around 8:30) knowing it would be a busy day at sea, and boy were the pool hogs out in full force. I never saw ANY items being removed from the chairs, and all sorts of interesting things were used to hog the chairs for hours without use. I wanted to say something at several points but just couldn't bring myself to raise a stink. This has been debated ad nauseum here but I really wish Celebrity would do more about it. I have to imagine the staff simply doesn't do it unless someone complains because they know every pool hog is going to get angry when they come back. What's worse, there's really not any signs up that are very noticeable about not doing this. They should have signs EVERYWHERE for this, and I think they should hand out special cards that fall out of the Celebrity Today to remind people that their stuff will be removed. I saw one note printed there on I think day 5 but you wouldn't notice it if you weren't looking hard. Wine Tasting As part of the elite benefits extended to our stateroom we were invited to a free wine tasting seminar in the Tuscan Grill. After a couple hours at the pool (didn't want to stay too long even with a prime spot as we didn't want to come away with a terrible burn on the first day!) we decided to head there (after changing to smart casual, something others decided to ignore, and it wasn't enforced despite warnings in the elite welcome letter that they would). It was fine, nothing special but the sommelier was informative and we got a couple glasses each. Bistro on Five After the tasting and to avoid the buffet crowds we headed to Bistro on Five. We were surprised at how empty this place remains the entire cruise, as it's delicious food and the $5 is almost nothing in comparison to everything else. Unfortunately we didn't make it back here. After lunch we went to the Solarium. I don't have much to add here but it was nice and relaxing. We had planned to try out Blu that night, but we had a message from the Captain's Club hostess asking if we wanted to dine that night with the Hotel Director at the Captain's Table. We certainly didn't want to turn that down, so we scrapped plans for Blu. Fitness Center I actually managed to work out here 4 times during the cruise. It was often busy but we went at times it wasn't TOO busy. I can only imagine how much weight I'd have gained if I hadn't gone, because what I did gain was bad enough!! The BF took a spin class and I decided to lift weights. They have signs up telling everyone to limit usage of cardio equipment to 20 minutes if there are others waiting. The problem is even if people AREN'T waiting, the equipment times out after 20 minutes so if you want to keep working out (and I never did this if there wasn't at least one other piece of equipment free, meaning no wait) you have to punch everything in again. I get why they do it, it's just annoying. If only they had similar timers on the chairs at the pool - if no weight is detected for 30 minutes and it catapults the stuff off the chair perhaps? One can dream. Captain's Table After dressing up for formal night, we were told to meet in Cellar Master's at 8:15. We met the other guests (I think all 4 couples were in Royal Suites) and the CC hostess, and then the Hotel Director (Jan Willem Kuipers) met us as well. They said we could order any drink we wanted and it was on Mr. Kuipers. We were about halfway through our drinks when they came to escort us to our table (I found it strange that we showed up late for the seating, but I think it was to ensure the rest of the guests were seated already) and they had several people to carry our drinks to the table. They had preprinted name cards set out. Mr. Kuipers was very engaging and took his time to engage each of the couples at the table. He also ordered bottles of red and a white wine and this was free flowing throughout the All of the guests were very nice and helped us feel a bit LESS out of place. I don't want to name names for their privacy sake but one of them is a partner for a major accounting firm and another when googling him you may find the word "mogul" attached to him. As I said before this was a "splurge" vacation for us whereas I got the sense these folks travel this way often, but it's nice every once in awhile to see how the other half lives. I should note that if you book the Royal Suite you might not necessarily be invited to Captain's Table, but I could be wrong. It was a bit hard to understand the explanation given by Rikki, but he said something about sometimes people who are invited to the Captain's Table decide to take it as an opportunity to get some face time for complaints direct to the top, when this is really not the time or the place for that, and so they try to invite people who they get a sense for will appreciate this generous invitation for what it is. I don't know how they do that and don't quote me on that at all, I just wanted to include it as a disclaimer as I had not read anything about this before. They took our picture at the captain's table, and gave us two printed copies delivered to our stateroom the next day. I don't remember exactly what we did after this but it was a very full day and we had to be up early for our first excursion so we weren't out late. Day 3: Grand Cayman Excursions: Grand Cayman was a tender port and I'm glad it was the only one as it was very bumpy that day and took a long time and I liked the other ports for the ability to come and go as we pleased with no waits. We had booked two shore excursions for Grand Cayman. The first was the Dolphin Kiss Encounter. After about a 15 minute bus ride we were led through a little bird sanctuary thing and then had to sign waivers and told not to put on any sunscreen (to protect the Dolphins). The Dolphin Kiss encounter involved lots of swimming by while we petted her, then having her splashing us, then kissing her, and finally each person dancing with her. I had actually read before going that you really shouldn't swim with dolphins in the caribbean because they withhold food from the animals so that they'll do their tricks and that it simply isn't very humane. Each of us must have touched the dolphin like 20 times, and even though they warn you to take off jewelry and to keep your fingernails away I imagined all dozens of people all day every day doing this to the poor animals and also it looked like their backs had been scratched. And to top it all off one of the dolphins kept nudging the food container. I really don't want to judge them unfairly because I don't see what goes on behind the scenes but it had the appearances of not being very pleasant for the animals and so I won't be doing something like that again. We were then given way too much time to ponder whether to buy their overpriced pictures (we didn't) and then driven back to the port. This would turn out to probably be my least favorite excursion. We had time to grab a brief lunch (there were really not many options for dining near the tender port, and since we couldn't get back on the ship easily we just had a sandwich at the bar). Then it was time for our first ever helicopter ride! Now, mostly I would say I was glad to book excursions through the ship, but in the case of Grand Cayman I think doing the helicopter ride, which is advertising right near the port, on your own, would be just fine and you'd save like $40-50 per person. It's all the same company. Regardless, the helicopter ride was amazing! It's a six person helicopter plus the pilot, and we did things I didn't think you could even do in a helicopter. We flew over stingray city and even circled our ship a few times and got some great pictures. We said after we felt like Superman, with all the dives and spins and hovering. It was very cool and the island is beautiful. I'm became a private pilot last year but in Cessnas, and I almost regret getting that type of license! (though helicopters I assume are far more expensive). We headed immediately back to the ship after the ride and I think hung out at the pool or solarium or lawn club, can't remember. Molecular Bar Though I think by this time we'd already tried the molecular bar, I really must agree with other reviewers when I say this was by far our favorite bar on the ship and really a MUST if you get the premium liquor package. At $12 a pop you really get your value out of the premium liquor package quickly. Between the two of us we easily had every drink on the menu, and we must have gotten the Avocado Mezcal about 4-5 times each. We also got the recipe so we could try making it at home, and kept pushing the drink on other people. It was like a margarita but much smoother, tastier, less sweet, and absolutely delicious! We met a woman at the bar who we looked forward to seeing every day at around 5-5:30, and I don't understand why the bar is not more popular. Major Kudos to Celebrity for keeping this bar around - the drinks take longer but they're worth it, and this bar could be a deciding factor on whether I would choose Celebrity again over another cruise line. Goksel, the bartender, was one of only two staff members that we gave extra tips to (the other being Rikki) and also wrote special comment cards out for. Murano Since we were celebrating a special occasion this day, we used our complimentary specialty reservation to eat at Murano this night. To be honest we didn't really care for it. While the food was tasty, the service seemed unnecessarily slow, and by that I mean the delivery of the food. It seemed like they were pacing it out for the sake of pacing it out, because I can't imagine the food was taking that long to make. The dinner must have taken 2-2 1/2 hours, and we have eaten in restaurants with 9-course meals in shorter time. There may have been other stuff we'd have liked to try but we didn't want to spend that much time at dinner even if it was a special occasion. I know that some on here have speculated that the declining quality in the MDR is a ploy to get people to eat more in the specialty restaurants. I really don't understand this thought as the specialty restaurants are actually quite small and I can't imagine they would sacrifice quality in the MDR to fill a few more seats in the specialties. Yes, the food was not ALL good (we only ate in MDR at the captain's table, but had it delivered to our stateroom 3X so effectively we had this food 4 times) but generally we really liked it and appreciate the difficulty in keeping things at a high quality for thousands of people every day of the year. I will say one thing that I found disappointing was the supposed elimination of any sort of grand buffet. We asked Rikki about it and as best we were able to discern, they have now replaced this with a "showcase" where they put out some samples of dishes from the specialty restaurants I think on deck 3 or 4 on one of the days. This seemed kinda lame and I hope we didn't just misunderstand Rikki due to a language barrier. Entertainment I haven't mentioned any specific shows, but I think this was the night we went to the Broadway-style show. I thought the entertainment in general was just average (with the Cirque-style show being the best), but we didn't feel like we needed to make a point to go see the show every night. We only saw opening night, cirque, and broadway. I do want to say that the entertainment crew works extremely hard (a couple of them were part of the FOD group that we hung out with most nights) and one must also remember that many of the crew do multiple duties on the ship - one of our new friends, a dancer in the shows, was working disembarkation on the last day! It's not the staff but rather the lack of investment Celebrity has decided to make, and honestly I don't care too much because the best shows on the ship are in the bars anyway :) Day 4: Cozumel It was pretty cool to see the sister ship to the Solstice, Equinox, in port the same day. We got plenty of pictures of the two ships side by side and it was amusing to us that we could look out and see essentially a mirror image of our stateroom right across. Excursion: Mexican Cooking Class This was the excursion we were most looking forward to, and judging by the responses from our fellow cruisers afterwards we were in resounding agreement that this is one of the best excursions offered anywhere!! It was absolutely fantastic. I guess I didn't pay too close attention when we booked it, and I didn't realize until the day before that it's held at an all-inclusive resort type place called Playa Mia. I highly recommend Playa Mia even if you AREN'T doing the class. I think it's something like $50 and includes a buffet, unlimited drinks, full use of the beach, chairs, and umbrellas, as well as a ton of different water toys like paddle boats, kayaks, etc. All included. Our excursion with the class included access to all of this except the buffet, but the food we made ourselves was better and sufficient. The excursion was a bit more than the $50 but totally worth it. We made three dishes; some caramelized plantains for dessert which we made first so it could be chilled for later, a piece of grouper with some grilled vegetables, and a shrimp sopa. It was all REALLY good, and very easy to make. The head chef (don't remember his name unfortunately) was really funny and charming and made the class. Everyone had so much fun. After the class we had about an hour to enjoy some swimming and the beach before heading back to the ship. We didn't do much else here. Something I hadn't noticed in the reviews I'd read was a really nice touch by Celebrity which is a cold towel offered every time you re-board the ship, along with water and fruit punch. They also have cold towels in the gym. I also was impressed that the Solstice had real towels in most of the bathrooms, as opposed to paper ones. There are definitely touches like these that show they are still a bit more upscale than some of the other lines. Daily canapés and shrimp cocktail, and other butler services I figure now is as good a time as any to mention that we had canapés, daily tea service with cookies/desserts, and shrimp cocktail delivered by Rikki every day to our room. Everyone had ripped the canapés for being terrible and I really didn't understand this. Maybe we're easily impressed but I thought they were for the most part delicious and I don't understand why everyone knocked them. It was something nice to look forward to every day, and Rikki brought the shrimp cocktail every day at 5pm. (I should note that the shrimp cocktail was 4-5 shrimps each; my impression was a full plate of shrimp but I guess it would have been greedy as 4 each was enough anyway). Along with the desserts was also afternoon tea which we definitely took advantage of, as I had lost my voice in Ft Lauderdale and was trying tea with honey to get it back (it didn't help). I think it was day 3 or 4 that Rikki, without asking, had our shoes shined for us. He also was sort of a concierge of sorts as he would each day inform us about various goings on on the ship. He also of course delivered breakfast every day (well, 5 of them) and was always concerned that we drank our cappuccino quickly every day before it got cold. He took care of the complimentary laundry and dry cleaning we had, and he also brought us chocolate covered strawberries a couple times. He was great and he got 2 more envelopes from us during the trip and was extremely appreciative. Dinner with guests in our room We had a really good time in the cooking class with two girls who were part of a 200+ singles group on the ship. Apparently the singles group wasn't really what they expected (it skewed much older) and we asked if they wanted to join us in our room for dinner that night. We figured we had this big table and were planning on doing that anyway, so why not share it with someone else. Rikki really stepped up the service for this dinner and impressed our guests. It was a great time. Day 5: Roatan It was a pretty windy day and we weren't able to have breakfast on our balcony. Strangely, we saw two ships sailing AWAY from the port as we approached, and we started to wonder if we'd even be able to dock as the seas were quite rough and it seems these ships might have decided to cancel. We noticed that the ship had stopped and we didn't see anything off our side (we were starboard) or on the bridge cam and they hadn't made any announcements yet. We started wondering if we too were going to be canceling. In case that is what happened we grabbed our stuff to run up to the pool figuring it would quickly become crowded, only to find out that we had ALREADY docked, it's just that the whole side of the ship faces the dock so we couldn't see it! The captain then came on to tell us that indeed two other ships had canceled due to the winds, but because RCCL owns the dock in Roatan and the others had to tender, we were the only ship that could make it. These ports and the locals really depend on the cruise ships so we felt really bad for all involved that the situation was as such. Our excursion guide told us that there had already been 6 cancellations that week! Also, he had worked on a cruise ship for 7 years, and said he felt really bad for what he knew the crew of those ships would be going through right now. Rikki confirmed this: he said that 99% of the passengers on the ship will get angry when they cancel a port, and 90% of them will be lined up at guest relations. People get extremely upset and take it out on the staff when this happens, and Celebrity ends up giving 20% OBC or future cruise credit when this happens automatically. It really disheartens us to know that people act this way for something that is clearly out of their control, and I guess we can expect this more often as a result of the Costa Concordia tragedy. Excursion: West Bay Kayak and Snorkel I had really low expectations for Roatan as people said it was a boring port. It turns out it was our favorite one! The island is beautiful and hilly and luscious and many others agreed with us that it was the best port of the journey. After a short bus ride to the West Bay, where I guess the geography was such that the winds were almost nonexistent, we did orientation and some snorkeling. I'd only snorkeled once or twice before and never in such a beautiful place. It made me want to become scuba certified. I had read reviews of this excursion that indicated it was way too strenuous, and I have to agree that the guide swam a bit fast. Even I struggled to keep up a couple times, and we lost about half our crew who had to be brought later with a few brought back by the safety kayak. After a delicious lunch we then did some kayaking, which turned out to be quite lame as it was about a 15 minute trip over to another beach area, a 45 minute stop at the beach, and then a 15 minute kayak back. I'd have appreciated this more if I knew this is what we were going to do as I had left my wallet back in a locker and thus didn't have any money for beer or sunscreen to lay out. Regardless it was nice to have a more active excursion and we overall enjoyed it. Dinner: Blu We finally had a chance to make it to Blu. We knew it was subject to availability for suite guests but it was only about half full so there was no issue. We didn't particularly care for it and I don't think I'd book Aqua Class just to get access to this. Day 6: Costa Maya This was a stark contrast to the beauty of Roatan. The area around the port is actually quite nice in terms of shopping and restaurants and a great pool, but the natural scenery isn't that great. Costa Maya was devastated by a hurricane a few years ago which might explain some of this. Excursion: Mini Jeep Adventure After wandering the port a bit, we met up with our guide for the 15 minute bus ride in this open-air vehicle that was extremely bumpy, we were given a brief orientation to a 2-person vehicle called an Club Cart XRT 550 4 Wheel ATV. There would be a stop halfway through for us to switch off and I was the first to drive. I actually had a lot of fun on this one, but the ride through a "jungle" was more like a ride through a bumpy trail among 7-foot tall trees. Again, not sure if this was hurricane devastation or not, but there wasn't much to see. The ride was so bumpy however and the driver behind us a bit too aggressive that my BF didn't feel comfortable driving back so I just drove the whole way. The BF ranked this as his least favorite excursion; I'd say second to last (ahead of the dolphins) but that's mainly because the other excursions were so great, as I still rather enjoyed the ride. After that we were dropped off at the beach for about 45 minutes of relaxation (the beach here is actually quite nice), some free chips and salsa, and then back in the bumpy truck to get to the ship. We wanted to spend more time in the port since the weather was so amazing so we ate at an extremely overpriced restaurant next to the pool (I'm talking $16 for a quesadilla). Regardless it was a nice view of the ship and pool and afterwards we took the long walk back to get on the boat. Dinner: Silk Harvest I don't have much to say about this restaurant other than the service was much faster than Murano, we agree with those who say you should go in a group, we enjoyed the experience overall better than Murano, and for $25 it's definitely worth it. I think I can get better asian food back home but I still enjoyed something different. Evening party After yet another trip to the Molecular Bar, we met up with some of the FOD group at Martini Bar. As tonight was the night before our last at sea day we figured we'd party a little harder, but everyone else I guess was tired on the ship and Quasar's was quickly emptied. One of the crew hanging with us said she was bored and the BF suggested that we take the party back to our room, cause, well, we had the space for it. Everyone had the beverage package so we all grabbed some mixers and drinks, and one of the crew had some alcohol, so we had an impromptu party in our room. We were careful not to make too much noise, it was more like hanging out with drinks and some music, but it was really fun and I think the party went till 3 or 4 am. We were glad to get to know the others a bit more and glad to be able to share our space again. Day 7: At Sea Despite being up till 4am we were determined to make it to the pool in time to secure some spots and indeed we were there by 8:30, and we were. Once again half the spots were taken by books and once again we didn't say anything as we were able to get spots ourselves. We sunned by the pool for about 4 hours and got a couple burgers at Mast Grill for lunch. After that we decided we needed a nap so did so for about an hour and a half before changing to get ready for a Molecular Bar Tasting. Molecular Bar tasting At 4pm they had an event where they were going to teach you how to make the drinks. Goksel had convinced us to sign up for this earlier in the week - they don't advertise it in Celebrity Today because the drinks are so handcrafted that they need to keep it small. There were about 8-10 of us who showed up. We didn't realize there was a fee for it ($24 each) which when you consider that we could get all the same exact drinks for free with the package is a bit pricey, but we didn't mind too much as the class was really interesting, learning just how much work goes into infusing all the drinks and such. I'd say I'd recommend it if you don't mind paying for what you can already get for free. You learn how to make I think 5 or 6 of the drinks, and we also asked for the recipe for the Avocado Mezcal. Also, there is an off-menu drink that they used to have on there called South of the Rio - it's a spicy drink made with jalapeo infused Cachaa, and I think it is delicious and different. They'll still make it for you if you ask, and I'm guessing this would be available on any of the Solstice Class ships. Dinner in the room We decided to enjoy a private dinner in our room one last night, although we found the food this time to be probably the most disappointing. Still acceptable though and nice to finish off our remaining bottle of wine and enjoy a private end to the cruise. Rikki asked if we had had a "red bull party" the night before due to all the empty cans :) We gave Rikki one last envelope and he said he was hopeful he'd see us before we left on Sunday. Day 8: Disembarkation We had chosen to do express disembarkation, not because we had to make our flight or anything (it wasn't until 12:30) but because we had read the horror stories about long waits for the customs agents and didn't want to deal with that. Unfortunately we didn't see Rikki before we left :( I can't believe how disorganized express departure is, and it's sad because they could tweak just a couple things to make it much easier. They have you line up in the MDR, but they only use one door for entering which means all the people entering have to weave their way past all the people lined up to leave. After awhile the line wraps around the back of the MDR, and they eventually opened up the other door for better flow, but they should really do that in the beginning. Yes it means more walking with luggage but they should have people entering in one door and lining up to leave from the other. They tell you to arrive at 7:20 but we arrived more like 7:05 and were glad we did as we were among the first 50 in line. After that, the ship was cleared at about 7:40. We were off the ship by 7:50, through customs by about 8:00, in a cab and to the airport by about 8:20, and through security by 8:35 or so. We were from stateroom to airplane gate in an hour and a half, which is really quite amazing. All in all I can see where it could end up being a bottleneck eventually but I found none of the issues Miscellaneous - I mentioned we were not in the typical celebrity demographic and that is certainly true. The age skews very old but there were actually a surprising number of young couples (not too many families though; we saw very few kids). I think it is a complete fluke that we found a group of 12 similar age people to hang out with, and the crew confirmed this was highly unusual and partly a result of them bringing 6 or so that were already friends. I would say though if you are a young couple you should not at all be afraid to try Celebrity as long as you are looking for a more private vacation and not looking to party hard at Quasar every night. - The leather-trimmed tote bag was very nice and Rikki arranged for us to get 2 of them - Our welcome letter in the stateroom addressed us as "Mr and Ms" which I teased the BF about endlessly. - We were extended elite benefits, but did not once make it to one of the evening cocktail hours. I think we might have had we not had the drink package, but it was nice to have more flexibility and not worry about making it there to get a lot of drinks. - We inquired about a bridge tour via Rikki, who referred us to guest relations, who offered us the $75/pp tour. We declined, as I've done one before and found it boring - We actually found the ship's internet to be plenty fast, and we used it exclusively via wireless on our iPhones or iPads. 90 minutes each isn't a lot, but it was actually plenty for us since we could usually find free wi-fi in a port (everywhere except Costa Maya) and it allowed us to be a bit more unplugged for the vacation - When we got our bill midway, we discovered that we had been given a $200 OBC. This was completely unexpected and most welcome - I guess maybe I got this for booking online through some promotion I didn't know about, but it was cool. - The VOD on the TV didn't seem to work at all for finding the ship's location or for viewing our bill. It did work for music and also worked for ordering room service, which we only did once at 2am to provide some snacks for our party. Note: If you order pizza's through Room Service, don't expect a whole pizza. They're personal sized. - The only place we tried to get smoothies was at the Aqua Spa Cafe, and they don't even have the ability to make them there despite having it right on the menu. The crew member had to walk all the way back to some other room to make the smoothie and it took almost 15 minutes so I would recommend against doing this. They really need a smoothie machine at this location. - I witnessed numerous occasions of people mistreating crew, including overhearing someone (I won't say where or who) mistreating Rikki. Having spent a week hanging and asking questions of the crew and hearing about the Roatan-type events, this really disappoints me because the crew clearly works very hard. One person said it's like groundhog day for those on the ship. Every week it's the same thing with different people, and they many of them work 12 hour days 7 days a week. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
This was the first Solstice sailing after a one week dry dock. It was just what was needed after the problems shown in previous reviews with NoroVirus. Thankfully, we did not see or hear of any of those issues on the ship this cruise. ... Read More
This was the first Solstice sailing after a one week dry dock. It was just what was needed after the problems shown in previous reviews with NoroVirus. Thankfully, we did not see or hear of any of those issues on the ship this cruise. The cruise overall was excellent. Because the ship came out of drydock, there was no delay boarding, and, the cabins were ready as soon as you came on-board. We were on the ship before noon and were able to proceed directly to the cabin. We had an extended balcony on the hump.. very nice. Steward was very nice. Hardy saw him, did his job well. Ship was in great shape. This is my second time on Celebrity, last year was on Equinox so the ship layout was exactly the same and getting around was simple. People tend to moan and grown about the stupidest things and although previous reviews with those that had the virus get some latitude, the rest of you just need to relax... wah wah wah... "my steak was overdone" ... get over it. Even though we ourselves tend to be critical of food, we go in knowing they are serving thousands of meals and if you are looking for perfection then stay home where you belong. We were impressed with all of the Celebrity options. We used the buffet for most breakfasts and lunches. Bistro on 5 a few times, 5 nights at the main dining room and 1 night in Silk Harvest and the last night in Tuscan Grille. I can honestly say it was hard to find fault with anything. Buffet was good. Again, I see reviews saying how breakfast is the same every day... DUH! How many options do you want for breakfast?? They have EVERYTHING. Fruits were always plentiful,always easy to get around as the layout is far superior to the Princess layout where people cause traffic jams everywhere. The main dining room was as good as I've seen. Escargot every night, always had yummy options to try. Lobster on 2nd formal night was really good. Steaks were excellent. In fact, we had steaks in the main dining room that all four of us commented how excellent they were.. cooked perfectly, seasoned to perfection... so good we, and the two tables around us said it was some of the best steaks we've had. Our waiter Putu and his assistant Ronald were one of the best waiter teams I've seen in 14 cruises. Putu was fantastic...classy, efficient, and very personable. Ronald always had a big smile on his face and was eager to serve. Putu was headed back home this week but he'll be back in October when we return to Solstice... we'll be looking for him again on that trip!! Specialty dining was top notch. Silk Harvest is fabulous... way too much food!! Tuscan Grille was excellent too with the great view off the stern. Sure, there might have been a few items that were not "fantastic"... pizza was okay... Princess has that one down much better. But really.. Celebrity did a great job, 5 stars all around for dining! Our favorite bars were the Martini Bar (although we missed Hector from Equinox), and the Molecular bar. We did purchase the premium drink package and it was a great bargain. With all the waters, wines, martini's, bottle waters, coffees, etc. etc... we easily saved hundreds of dollars each. Princess... you need to start doing this finally! Comedy show was great. Did not do any of the other shows. Football games were shown in Celebrity Theater on the big screens. Bar setup was available, although no snacks like we had on Equinox. Used the gym, Persian Spa daily. Very nice. Decently equipped gym. Casino.. not much for gambling. Tried a few slots, terrible. For the 26 or so pulls for each $20, not a single credit. Way too tight Celebrity. So, you got nothing more from any of us. Dangle the carrot a LITTLE.. we might have played a bit more. Excursions, like on all cruises are way overpriced. We only did one, in Roatan, and for $62 was just not worth it. Beautiful place.. but just a quick boat ride to get there and a small buffet. Best part was all the wildlife on the island, especially the monkeys! Overall, a great 7-night getaway on a wonderful ship with terrific service. Celebrity has become my favorite over Princess. Looking forward to the Med in October! Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
For those who want a brief review: This ship is beautiful. It was tastefully decorated and as an artist, I appreciated the use of Modern and Contemporary art to decorate the stairwells. I've also traveled on Princess and I found ... Read More
For those who want a brief review: This ship is beautiful. It was tastefully decorated and as an artist, I appreciated the use of Modern and Contemporary art to decorate the stairwells. I've also traveled on Princess and I found Celebrity to be very similar. There are some things that one line does better than the other, but it was a similar experience. Now the more detailed review: Embarkation: Very easy and relatively speedy. The room was ready as soon as we got on the ship and we met our room steward right away. Our room smelled a bit musty and he took care of them right away. We were always happy with the service we got from both the main room attendant and his assistant. The Stateroom We had an inside cabin. There's not a lot of them on board. The room was well organized. Tons of storage and the bathroom was the biggest I've had on a cruise ship. The room, on the third deck, was also great when it came to getting off the ship at port. No waiting for the elevators! Dining The MDR was slooooooow. This was my main complaint about the ship. Two plus hours for dinner and over an hour for breakfast. We couldn't go on the days we were in port for breakfast because we wouldn't get off the ship in time. We also had issues with our seating assignment and it took two days and several phone calls to get it fixed. The food was good, tasty, but rarely amazing. Ocean View, the buffet, had good food and was rarely crowded. Guest Relations The concierge was very informative, but we did have some issues getting problems solved (like our seating arrangement). Another small complaint was that they didn't sell stamps (other than for the US). We bought postcards and tried to send them in every port but were never able to find a post office. Princess offered that service on board and it was a huge help. Public Spaces We loved the public spaces on the ship. As I said before, I loved the art around the ship. Even on at sea days there was always a lounge chair to be had. The solarium was great. A nice place to read and relax and it was amazing how the sound was blocked from the main deck. The library had some great books it in, no reason to fill up your suitcase with reading material. Entertainment We found there to be the same amount of big shows, but fewer little things. We were glass groupies and spent most of our time at the Hot Glass Show which we loved. The glass blowers were entertaining and educational and the glass was amazing. The big shows in the theater were pretty good. There seemed to be fewer little activities on the ship and it was hard to get to some of the activities with our long dinners. The scheduling just seemed to be off, but something that would be easy to fix. One thing we did love was the interaction with the crew and ship's officers. They presented informative lectures, the Captain performed in one of the shows, and they were the entertainment in the "Liars Club." The Captain was actually quite funny and very personable. Disembarkation This went really smoothly for us, but apparently not for other people. We must have gotten off at just the right time. The issue seemed to be not the ship, but the lack of customs agents. We spent more time waiting for the shuttle than in customs. So overall, would I cruise on Solstice again? Yes. Were there little things that could be done to make the journey more enjoyable? Sure, but overall it was a great vacation! Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
Celebrity Solstice was a great ship to sail on.The service on the ship was very good but not overly smothering. when we required something from the stateroom attendant it was done quickly and cheerfully. My wife needed ice for a knee ... Read More
Celebrity Solstice was a great ship to sail on.The service on the ship was very good but not overly smothering. when we required something from the stateroom attendant it was done quickly and cheerfully. My wife needed ice for a knee problem, not only was it there when we asked for it,but he made sure the ice bucket was always full.The room was clean and well appointed which made it a pleasant home away from home. The balcony was larger than I expected so it did not feel confining. The food was surprisingly good,as I expected less. The food at the Ocean view Buffet was decent for buffet fare. Breakfast had items from British cuisine as well as more traditional foods. It was good and satisfying,however the coffee was very strong, which was a standing joke between the waiters and the passengers. The baked items were better than expected and plentiful. The dessert items were very tasty and always had good items that were sugar free or no sugar added. Pizza was also very good. The Epernay Restaurant was the main dining room. The food was varied and tasty. I felt there was something for every taste. The wait staff was attentive,except as one night when the kitchen featured a special staff program. Other than that the only criticism was that the wine was overpriced for the quality. The wait staff was generally friendly, caring and efficient. They really aimed to please. By the way,does anyone want to get rid of those phony formal nights? The entertainment was where the quality was mediocre. They had a Cirque de Soleil type show that was too long and boring for my taste. You needed to be in the balcony to enjoy it without getting a neck strain. There was a magician/comedian who was pretty good,and a stand up comic who was hilarious without being too suggestive.He was the best The rest of the production shows were corny and boring. The singer had a wonderful voice but could not connect with the audience. The Ship's Captain performed for us,playing a guitar and singing. he was quite good. The main disappointing aspect of the cruise was the number of senior citizens on the trip. They were actually amusing trying to get on the elevators first because they passed their bedtime watching the late(9:00)show. Because of that it seems as if the late night life was lacking.We really needed more young people to liven up the trip. The Crew, including the Captain, participated in activities at night and in the pool,which I found to be very refreshing. It personalised them to the guests Also the shill who promotes particular shopping sites w\did her thing but it wasn't anywhere as bad ads on a previous cruise. All said, I was very satisfied with this vacation and would sail Celebrity and the Solstice again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
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Let me start off by saying a little something about myself. I'm a solo traveler. This was my very first cruise with Celebrity, since I am a Platinum member with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity recognizes me as a Select member so I got to ... Read More
Let me start off by saying a little something about myself. I'm a solo traveler. This was my very first cruise with Celebrity, since I am a Platinum member with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity recognizes me as a Select member so I got to enjoy all the perks that the Captains Club had to offer Select Members. I have been on quit of few cruises before. Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean and now I can add Celebrity to the list. I'm 29 years old about to be 30. I will say that this was the best cruise I have ever been on. There were some good and some bad but I always tend to find some good in the bad. A bit of warning for the young cruisers, this ship is predominantly 60 and over. It didn't bother me any, actually I prefer an older crowd. I live in Aventura, FL which is about a 15 min drive from Port Everglades, so getting to the port was a breeze for me. Embarkation: Security took a little bit long, not dreadfully long but once we got past security it was about 5 mins for check-in and got on the ship right away. They had said that the rooms would be ready at 2:30pm so I went up to my Deck on 11 and I saw some people going in through the hallway to the cabins so I followed them and stop by my room and dropped off my luggage and came back out. The Stateroom: I booked an Aqua Class room which in my opinion is well worth the money. The room was lovely, great location near the Aqua Spa. They bring you a pitcher of tea. Everyday a different flavor, and they'll re-fill as much as you want. They put bottled water in the rooms, some toiletries that were very nice. They also put a set of Binoculars, an over sized umbrella, and a very nice bath robe in your room for you to use during your cruise and if you wanted to keep any of these items you can purchase then through your CS. The room itself was very nice and nice size. Lots of storage area. Public Areas: My favorite part of the ship was the Lawn club. The funny thing is they have a lawn mower on board. The theatre is a nice size very basic, nicely decorated. Other venues include Celebrity central which is the small the theatre they use for Comedy shows, entertainment court, very nice casino, lots of shops on the boulevard. Dining venues were plentiful. All the specialty restaurants were all in one location. Didn't spent too much time by the pool but it was a very nice pool area as is the Solarium. Entertainment: Here's where the cruise lacked. Some of the production shows were not all that great. The signature show "Solstice" which is a French circus (cirque du soleil style) the stunts were excellent. Some of the stunts were hard to do on a cruise ship rocking back and forth so I'll give the crew credit on this, the acrobats were very impressive however the singers were not. They always sang off key and they sang like they didn't want to be there. I even met one of the singers during a back stage tour later in the cruise and just by the way he spoke and his attitude it seemed like he didn't want to be there. Maybe it's time for Celebrity to consider using another production company. The best entertainment on the ship in my opinion was the Hot glass Show. I was a Glass Blowing groupie. Went to all the Shows. At first it was just Zack and Lori and then when we met with the Equinox in Cozumel, Helen came on and three were just superb. Very entertaining and instructive. The three seemed to work very well together, knew exactly what the other was doing and able to narrate and explain perfectly. Hot glass show gets a 12 out of 10. Sucks that the newer ships don't have this show anymore. I got to meet the glass blowers on the last day, super nice people I got to talk to them for a while and they told me how they started out in glass blowing and they even showed me some pictures of some of there works. Also, on the very last show the captain comes out and does something I would never expect a cruise captain to do. I wont say what it is cause I don't want to ruin the surprise for people about to go on the Solstice but Captian Gerry was the best. I also, did a tour of the bridge one afternoon and Captain Gerry was a very good host. We got to sit in on the officers meeting before we left Roatan and we got to watch the First Officer pull the ship of port. The Captain and his crew were very information and accommodating to our group. The tour is $75 but it's really a once in a lifetime experience not allot of cruise ships/lines offer this tour. If they offer it on your cruise do it. Dining: I did not have a single bad meal on this ship and I am a very picky eater. Didn't eat at the dining room at all since I was in Aqua Class I had access to eat a Blu breakfast and dinner. Ate at Silk Harvest twice, Blu twice, and once at Murano and Tuscan Grill and one night I ordered room service which was excellent. Murano and Tuscan girill were very good, however I believe those two restaurants are a bit over priced. $40 for Murano and $35 for Tuscan Grill I believe. Both very good restaurants just not worth the price in my opinion but if you're willing to spend the money give it a try it is very good. At Murano get the Goat Cheese Soufflé it is to die for. Ports / Shore Excursions: (Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Roatan and Costa Maya) This was my first time in Roatan and Costa Maya Grand Cayman -- I love grand Cayman however tendering is such a pain. Lots of waiting around to get off and on the ship. I did the Turtle Farm tour which was excellent. You get plenty of time to interact with the sea turtles. There's a lagoon that you can swim and snorkel in. Cozueml -- Did the Cozumel Island tour. First stop was to a tequila farm where you get to sample all different flavors of tequila and then naturally they hound you to buy something. Then to El Mirado which is beautiful then we stop in this town which I cannot remember the name which was a complete waste of time. Then the final stop was to Playa Mia which was another waste of time, nothing special there. Just a crowded beach and pool. Roatan- this by far was my favorite port to visit. We were the only ship out of 4 there were able to dock due to rough seas and high winds.. I did the Gumbalimba Park excursion which was excellent. Bit of warning, don't bring expensive sunglasses with you. The monkeys will take them. Lol. Lots of fun that day. Costa Maya -- I had a town tour scheduled this day but got cancelled the night before so I ended up just walking around town and having lunch at Carlos n Charlie right there in town. If you love to shop this is the town for you. As I said before this was probably the best cruise I've ever been on. Is there room for improvement? Always. Especially in the entertainment department. The crew was excellent everyone was very polite and helpful. The restaurant staff all knew me by name which is a big plus. I would definitely do this ship again and all the other Solstice ships. Celebrity Cruise Lines is now my favorite cruise line. Cheers ! Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
My wife and I truly enjoyed sailing to the Western Caribbean with the Solstice. The service and attention to detail made this trip all the worthwhile. From the food, activities and great customer service all contributed to a most enjoyable ... Read More
My wife and I truly enjoyed sailing to the Western Caribbean with the Solstice. The service and attention to detail made this trip all the worthwhile. From the food, activities and great customer service all contributed to a most enjoyable time. From the time we boarded the ship we could tell the staff of the Celebrity were very organized and well trained in handling the crowds. We stayed in Aqua Class on deck 11. Our room had easy access to the Aqua Spa facilities and the Persian Garden area as well (which we used every day). Staying with Aqua Class also gave us access to the restaurant Blu. This was our choice for evening dinner sitting between 6:00 - 7:00pm. We enjoyed the food there as it was all well cooked and the perfect temperature each serving. You must try their salmon - excellent. I also booked an evening with Silk Harvest restaurant - a specialty restaurant. This was a very filling dining experience - a little too much salt added, but all in all, very good food. It's a mixture of several Asian styles of cooking. We also ate at the buffet most mornings before our land excursions. They were opened early and offered plenty of variety enough to satisfy even the most pickiest of people. The sushi (afternoons) was plentiful and fresh daily. They even had my favorite morning dish - Nova Lox! Yum! Very good! Most of the activities were geared toward our senior travelers, but that didn't bother us in the least. The shows at the theater were all very entertaining and well enjoyed by all who attended. We chose this cruise ship because of the low key traveling experience. There were no loud partying crowds to deal with - this was a plus for us. If you're looking for this type of cruise then be sure to book on the Solstice - you won't be disappointed in the least. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
A little about "us": We've been cruising for 30 years on Cunard, Regent (long gone), Royal Viking (long gone), Seawind (long gone), NCL, Windstar, HAL and Celebrity. This was our 5th Celebrity cruise and the line remains our ... Read More
A little about "us": We've been cruising for 30 years on Cunard, Regent (long gone), Royal Viking (long gone), Seawind (long gone), NCL, Windstar, HAL and Celebrity. This was our 5th Celebrity cruise and the line remains our favorite. In October 2010 we cruised on Solstice and believing it to be the most beautiful ship we have ever sailed, I came home and booked this cruise to celebrate what I laughingly and lovingly call my Birthday of Many Decades. Early in our cruise we received extremely sad family news so of course a pall came over the cruise for us and made it difficult to have a good time. Still, all in all this was another wonderful experience about which I have few complaints. I'll get those out of the way first. I booked the 2010 cruise through a travel agent and this cruise directly with Celebrity. I thought booking directly and having hands on control over my booking might provide even better attention to my requests if that's possible. It made no difference and by booking with Celebrity we gave up the OBC we would have enjoyed. We sailed in Concierge Class cabin 2105 each time. This is a terrific cabin location on the hump on Deck 12. We enjoyed the deep balcony which is great in every respect ... in the sun if you like, away from bad weather if it rains and harbored from the winds on a bad day. It's a quick one flight up to the Ocean View and easy access to all venues except the Solstice Theatre. I highly recommend this cabin because the ship never feels too large or too difficult to navigate. TRADITIONAL DINING: In 2010, with the diagram in front of me, I requested a specific table and was thrilled when my request was honored. This time I requested a table in the same area, noting about 5 tables that would be perfect. So I was extremely disappointed to board ship and find us assigned to a table tucked away in a corner, under the stairs by a service entrance. I spoke with the Maitre D' who saw no problem moving us since so many in 2nd sitting wanted 1st sitting. We were assigned the next day to an 8-top round table I was very happy about. In 30 years of cruising we've been fortunate to meet the most incredible people at dinner and some have become friends for life. So we choose a large table and we've never been disappointed. We have never changed our table. But with the introduction of specialty restaurants,there is never a guarantee that anyone will show up even after they have requested a table for 8 or 10. Why anyone who intends to spend 3 or 4 nights at alternative restaurants would request a large table unless traveling as a group I just don't understand. It spoils the fun for those who like to socialize at dinner. We arrived at our table the 2nd night only to find we were dining alone. The others had gone to Murano Restaurant that night. For reasons explained to me by one of the Asst. Maitre D's, we were moved again because a large group sailing together wanted each table to be exclusively for their group. The 3rd night we arrived at our new table for 10 and there was just one person. He was a wonderful gentleman who we really enjoyed, but there's something about 3 people at a table for 10 that feels lonely. On the 4th night we were joined by another couple and we all had a great time the rest of the cruise. We were still only 5, but we had a good time together. And so ends the negative part of the cruise until disembarkation which was the absolute worst we have ever encountered so I'll get it out of the way now. It was night and day between this year's cruise and last year's cruise. We smoothly took our leave from the Solstice about 9:20. But instead of descending the gangway, we exited from Deck 2 out into a frigid Ft. Lauderdale morning, wind whipping off the water. We were funneled through the equivalent of at least 2 football fields to another building where we were corralled like cattle toward our exit through Customs. I'm not sure why we were unable to exit the building through which we had embarked (as we did last year), but after going through this endless line and finally being freed into the sunlight, it only added insult to injury to be directed to "follow the green line" if being met by private car. Pulling 3 suitcases on my own, with my best years for such an activity well behind me, it turned out we had to walk all the way back to where our cruise began the week before (another 2 football fields). The fault rests with the government cutbacks of U.S. Customs Officials; there can't have been more than 4 or 5 agents for 3000 people. I applaud them for their work (not to mention their cool calm in the storm of people) in trying to filter through thousands of people for the one person who may pose a threat to the security of our country or who decide to deviously sneak in something undeclared. It's an extremely difficult job and to leave it to 4 or 5 agents is just not realistic. So it took everyone down a peg or two after being treated like royalty all week to be herded together like so much chattel with no explanation as to why we were thrown off the ship only to have to wait endlessly in line and for many of us another walk all the way back to where we should have been in the first place ... A sad and exhausting end to an otherwise wonderful cruise. We questionned one security guard who passed our line and his response was "This is nothing; you should have seen it yesterday with 6000 coming through". Somehow it was small solace that someone else had suffered more. If that tactic worked we'd all be thanking our lucky stars we weren't on Costa in the Mediterranean last week ... but knowing someone had it much worse than you did doesn't help when you're going through it ... later, definitely, but not at the time. If this is the new normal for disembarkation maybe the cruise lines have to have a later time for embarkation so that people can disembark more slowly. So now the high points. First, in my opinion Celebrity's Guest Relations still soars above the others. I have never had a bad experience no matter how small the request. And when our personal crisis arose back home, they were quick to offer assistance in every possible way they could. I applaud them. If you're a Captain's Club Member do not overlook the "premium offers" in your stateroom. Most were completely useless to me, but there is a coupon for 25% off your first booked internet package. There are a few other offers that might be nice for you so be sure to check it out first thing. OFFICERS & CREW: Everyone who served us from Silk Harvest (our first night), to our waiters in the Epernay Dining Room, to the Ocean View Cafe, was always there with a smile. No matter where we went, within moments of sitting, we would be offered something from the bar and if we declined we felt no discomfort in staying right where we were. In fact throughout the ship I cannot think of any member of the crew who didn't greet me warmly wherever I went. The same can't really be said of the Officers who I felt were a disappointment this time, but that's not ever a big issue for me as long as the ship stays on top of the water I'm good. An added bonus came during the show on our last night. Captain Gerry Larsson-Fedde proved to be skilled in more than one department. I won't spoil the surprise if you're going soon, but don't miss it if he's mastering the ship when you sail. Our CD was Stewart Turnbull. I have little to say about him; he could have been on board or not and it would have made no difference to me. I was happy with the few activities we took part in but beyond that, for me, his personality left a lot to be desired. On a positive note, he was in pretty good humor about his mistake in giving us the wrong showtimes one night, but that was the only hint I saw of a real person inside the mask. We had a fantastic CD on our cruise last year so this was a sharp contrast to that experience. Despite reports of declining entertainment, we disagree. Antonio Salci at the piano is an amazing talent. Neal Austin's "magic" (or lack thereof) and comedy was a delight and uproariously funny (although I did hear the usual whiners saying if this was the best Celebrity could do they were in trouble ... some people have no child in them and need to find it). David Burleigh's comedy had me almost weeping with laughter at times plus he was adorable which never hurts. We thought the Celebrity Entertainers, without exception, were particularly good this time. I was sorry to see such a poor showing at the shows for the 8:30 diners; it was very sparse which makes it hard for the entertainers. We did not go to all the shows because they were the same as our last Solstice cruise and with the 8:30 dinner seating this time, some nights the show wasn't until 10:30 or 11:00 and we just weren't in the mood. We're not getting any younger and we've noticed we fizzle out a little earlier than we used to . We're going back to 6:00 dinner seating. TOURS: We booked two tours through Celebrity and both were outstanding. If we did the Western itinerary again, I would rebook both tours. On Cozumel we did the Dolphin Encounter and Sea Lion Show at Chankanaab. Both my husband and I fell in love with "our" dolphin, Rachel, who was 24 years old and recently had a baby who wasn't ready to interact yet, but swam near her mother and brought many smiles. Actually I don't think any of us stopped smiling the entire time we were in the water with Rachel. They rip you off terribly with the pictures, but I'll never regret the $110 we spent for 80 photos of our time with Rachel. I went in saying I wouldn't purchase them, but how many dolphins will I kiss in this lifetime? This was without question the high point of our cruise. The 2nd tour was a day at Maya Key Private Island Retreat in Roatan, Honduras, just a stone's throw across the water from the dock. I should mention that I love the port of Roatan. Sure I know it's manufactured just for us cruise passengers, but I don't care. I loved the music playing below our balcony all day long and the quaint looking buildings with bougainvillea cascading over the 2nd floor walkway. Maya Key is a wonderful private island which has been beautifully designed. It has wonderful walkways, a perfect quiet beach, wonderful snorkeling (we were told) off the long pier, a very nice pool, a delicious buffet luncheon and clean rest rooms. There are rescued and endangered animals, I saw a Jaguar, a Margay, and I was most drawn to the Black Howler Monkeys who enthralled me for so long that my husband was ready to send out a posse from the beach. It was a relaxing, wonderful day at a time we really needed it. The ferry ran back to the ship every 30 minutes so you could return to the ship at leisure. Back on board, I fell asleep on our balcony to the sounds of the island's music. We had to cancel our plans for Friday in Costa Maya which was a big disappointment because we had looked forward to our private tour to Maya Chan Beach Resort. If you have read or heard about this private tour, I was very impressed with Mark when I emailed the day before our tour explaining our situation. He was quick to respond and refund our payment for the tour. For that reason alone I would choose this tour again and I'm only sorry we didn't get to meet Mark and enjoy their small piece of paradise at Costa Maya. In the end, it rained a lot that day so we didn't even go ashore. To be honest the port didn't look very inviting and had the longest pier I've ever seen. There was, however, a tram you could take a good part of the way. Our last day at sea was very windy and quite cold as we made our way across the Gulf of Mexico so most people kept to the inside rooms. It was the only time it felt crowded. If we were people who enjoyed lying on the pool deck, it would not be something we could have done on sea days ... way too many people. I couldn't understand why the spa room was kept so unbelievable cold; people were huddled under towels which seemed to detract from the relaxation of the room, but what do I know? I was extremely grateful to the Spa when my nails chipped the first day after my manicure and they completely redid the chipped nails and applied a new coat of polish on all of them. They refused to take anything for this and I was grateful and impressed ... she even threw in an eye treatment for my puffy eyes. FOOD: This is always a major topic on all cruises. Who can really say if the food is good or bad? It's very subjective and we all have our own tastes. I read all kinds of stories about how the food had declined on Celebrity, but you could fool me. With rare exception, the food was delicious in all the venues we ate (we did not dine in Murano or Tuscan Grille). One caveat, and this provided many laughs at our table, was Day 5 when Pea Soup with Mint appeared on the menu. A few of us at the table love chilled soups and after 2 nights of delicious blackberry and strawberry soup, we took a chance with the pea. It was the the most abhorrent, disgusting soup I have ever tasted. I took one sip and quietly pushed the bowl away. If I post any picture here it may be that. I thought it might only be me but as each person at our table sampled their soup the reactions were priceless. Order this soup at your own peril. But I enjoyed rack of lamb which was out of this world and on lobster night our waiter recommended the beef tenderloin. I learned early on to always listen to him; he never led me down the wrong path. Even on pea soup night he had suggested something else. Those ordering the lobster were disappointed; people forget this isn't Maine lobster ... it's Caribbean lobster which is a whole different story. It was ½ lobster with crabmeat stuffing. It didn't come out of the shell well at all and it was very messy to eat. I don't remember everything I ate over the week, but I know it was way too much. Everything was delicious ... poached eggs and smoked salmon on a muffin, cheesecake, shrimp cocktail, escargot, all the Danish, the donuts that appeared far too rarely, the spaghetti tossed with your choice of a gazillion ingredients, the afore mentioned lamb chops all come quickly to mind. And everyday a new and wonderful ice cream; the blueberry was one of my favorites. One more word about food: I keep remembering the words "If we build it they will come". That's also true when creating buffet style dining. If you put food out, people will help themselves to more than they should ever eat. Breakfast is the most amazing meal on a cruise ship. People walk from station to station helping themselves to every imaginable morsel of food and then have the nerve to come home and complain about the decline in food ... just a little pet peeve of mine. The waffles were so popular (and yummy) there was a line. True story: One plucky woman stood waiting for the waffles while a line of about 8 people formed. Only 4 waffles come off the griddle at a time. Yet this woman grabbed 2, added a couple slices of stuffed French toast and a few banana pancakes. She then pushed in front of me and helped herself to toppings and, of course, whipped cream. I was dying to follow her to see if she actually ate it all. None of my business if people want to devour every morsel in sight ... just don't complain that the food just isn't up to par on cruise ships anymore. And finally ... to the young man who'd enjoyed a few too many at the Pool Bar on our last day at sea who wouldn't believe my age because his mother was a few years younger, I salute you. Tipsy or not, you made my day. Maybe Celebrity placed you there just to make me feel good as I make my way into the next decade, maybe there was money involved but who cares. The cruise really was a nice way to 'celebrate' a banner year and having just a few things go wrong didn't even cast a shadow. Celebrity still shines brightly and wears the crown for me. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
Celebrity Solstice Back-to-Back 1/8/12 (Western Caribbean) and 1/15/12 (Eastern) ABOUT US Married couple, 35/47, with a 2.5 year old son. Week 1 we cruised with 8 adult relatives; week 2 was just the two of us. I have to admit I was ... Read More
Celebrity Solstice Back-to-Back 1/8/12 (Western Caribbean) and 1/15/12 (Eastern) ABOUT US Married couple, 35/47, with a 2.5 year old son. Week 1 we cruised with 8 adult relatives; week 2 was just the two of us. I have to admit I was nervous about this cruise, even though I've been on so many great Celebrity cruises in the past. The ship had several recent outbreaks of noro virus, and there were a number of negative reviews posted in the weeks before our sailing. The good news is that I had nothing to worry about -- it was one of the best cruises ever, and 14 days was just right. EMBARKATION Best ever! Since the ship was in dry dock the week before our cruise, the ship was ready for boarding very early and there were no lines at all. Plus, we were able to get right to our cabins. CABIN We were in a S1 Sky Suite on the 7th deck. Previously we had sailed in a Celebrity Suite, which is considerably larger and has a separate bedroom area. So I was afraid that the SS might be a letdown. Wrong! I actually preferred the SS, because it is so much more open and airy than the CS. I loved having 2 exposures and the panoramic views from the balcony. Storage space, while lacking a walk-in closet, was more than adequate for the 3 of us. The only downside to the suite didn't become apparent until about day 10. That's when they seemed to have turned on the engine below our suite, and the vibration and humming were pretty bad. I believe that they have 4 engines, 2 aft and 2 fore, but they only need to run 1 at a time. So we were lucky the first 10 days, not so much the last 4 days. FOOD We all thought that the food in the buffet was much better and more varied than our recent RCL cruise. In fact, I thought it seemed better than our cruise on Equinox last year. The first week, we had dinner in the main dining room on 5 nights. We were given a great table, right in the middle of the main floor of the dining room. The service was as good as or better than ever. The food was mostly great, always the right temperature, and generally quite enjoyable. There was only 1 dish I regretted ordering, a pasta dish, and to be fair the waiter warned me not to get it. On one night we ate as a group in Silk Harvest, which was a lot of fun. The food is pretty average Asian fare, but we enjoyed the non-stop family style service (we just asked them to bring us a little of everything) and the cold sake was nice and intoxicating. We also ate as a group in the Tuscan Grille. For some reason I remember the food being a little better in the Grille on Equinox, but the service was terrific and everyone enjoyed their meals. I thought my steak was a little too salty, and the appetizers were not too inspiring. The second week, we didn't eat in the main dining room at all. We bought the 3 specialty restaurant package, plus we had 1 free dinner for being in a suite, we ate twice at Blu, and had one dinner on shore in San Juan. Murano was hands down our favorite; as good as anything I've had on land or sea. We also loved Blu, and would consider booking Aqua Class in the future to eat all my meals there. We had breakfast in Bistro on 5 one morning. They served crepes stuffed with eggs, cheese, etc., and we also indulged in a Nutella and banana crepe. Yum! It was a nice alternative to the hustle and bustle of the buffet. DRINKS We had the drink package on the first week, and liked it so much we got it on the 2nd week. I won't go into all the details, but I'm pretty sure we got our money's worth! We particularly enjoyed being able to pair different glasses of wine with each course at dinner, and we must have tried each brand of premium vodka that they had on the ship! We also enjoyed the coffee at Cafe Biaco. I don't usually have espresso drinks at home, but these were irresistible. SERVICE Our cabin service was just great. No complaints at all. The butler really came through for me when he was able to press my tuxedo shirt one hour after the laundry officially closed, on formal night. He delivered breakfast on time in the morning, and always asked throughout the day if we needed anything. Okay, here's one complaint: The breakfast served in the room was always cold. Always. I think it just takes too long for the food to get from the kitchen all the way up and back to our room. It was always right on time, so it's not as though it was being picked up late. Another complaint: I found the bar tenders to be a pretty unfriendly bunch of guys. We frequented the martini and pool bars, and none of them seemed to be happy to be there. In the martini bar, we noticed some conflict among the bartenders. They seemed to be more focused on their juggling and pouring skills (which were amazing) than their people skills. The pool bartenders just seemed grumpy most of the time. Could this be due to the drink packages we had? Meanwhile, most of the cocktail servers that roamed the floor were pretty friendly. But in the past we used to LOVE our bartenders, really got to know them, and thought they were the nicest people on the ship. Not anymore. On the other hand, the Guest Relations staff was the friendliest and most helpful I have ever experienced on a Celebrity cruise. I got to know them well over 14 days, and they were always cheerful and willing to help solve problems. ENTERTAINMENT Only saw part of one show, so I won't comment on the productions. However, I will say that I really enjoyed the addition of a live DJ on the pool deck and the generally more contemporary music that was played. It was much more fitting with the W Hotel style that the ship is known for than the music I remember that was played on prior cruises. PORTS We visited 4 ports the first week, and 3 the second. GRAND CAYMAN. We booked a private snorkeling and stingray city tour with Native Way water sports. The tour was a lot of fun, even though our captain wasn't terribly personable. COZUMEL. We went to one of the all-inclusive day resorts (Nochi Cocom). The food and drinks were good and the beach was nice and clean. Our group tried Mr. Soncho's on our last cruise, and the verdict was that Soncho's was better for food (all you can eat) and the drinks better ant Nochi (not watered down). ROATAN. We booked a private island tour through Bodden tours. The driver took us to the iguana and monkey zoos, and to a small seaside restaurant for lunch. The tour was okay, but next time I'd probably I'd probably just head to the beach. COSTA MAYA. This ended up being our favorite excursion. We booked a private tour to the nearby Mayan ruins with Native Way. The guide was excellent, and the tour included an authentic Mayan lunch in a small village. The food was great, and overall we found the tour to be very educational. SAN JUAN. The ship arrives in San Juan at 2:00 PM ship time, 3:00 PM SJ time, so it can get a little confusing since you stay on ship time. We did a Segway tour through Celebrity. First time on a Segway, and I would definitely do it again. At first it feels so awkward, but in a few minutes it is like something you were born doing. It's that intuitive. And really fun. ST MARTIN. We booked a mountain hike through Celebrity. Unfortunately due to rain it was cancelled, and they suggested the Tree Top Zip-line adventure at Loterie Farm. We agreed to give it a try -- big mistake! Unless you are a real dare devil with excellent balance and coordination, I would not recommend this excursion. Very little time is spent on zips; most of the time is spent maneuvering across a series of cables and slippery bridges from tree to tree. Instructions are minimal, and it really didn't feel safe at all. Many in our group loved it, but I found it pretty scary (I don't have great balance, although I'm in decent shape). Did I mention it was pouring rain, and that everything was very slippery when wet? ST THOMAS. We had booked a private sailing tour with Captain Pat, but cancelled since we had both come down with colds so we decided to take it easy. The sun came out around noon, so we made our way to Megan's Bay and had a nice afternoon at the beach. INSIDE ACCESS TOUR On the next to the last sea day, I took the Inside Access tour. It's a 3-hour behind the scenes tour of the ship, and it ends with a lovely lunch at Blu. We toured the bridge, the theater, the crew quarters, the storage facility, and (of course) the galley. I highly recommend it. They charge $150, most likely to keep the group small (just 5 of us participated). I justified the expense by not doing any spa treatments this cruise. And it was much more enjoyable than any of the spa treatments I've gotten, and they didn't try to sell me $100 worth of creams at the end. DEBARKATION #1 At the end of the first week, we were given the option of staying on the ship or spending some time in Fort Lauderdale. The information packet recommended the latter. They had no way of knowing that there would be a 1-hour wait to clear customs on that particular Sunday, but there we were stuck in the worst line I've ever been in. When we finally made it out, we jumped in a cab, did some shopping, and came back. Later we spoke with other B2B passengers who stayed on board, and they had a much better experience. Prior to leaving the ship, I went up to the buffet for a bite to eat, and it was really chaotic. By about 7:30 they started running out of plates and silverware. The orange just dispenser was empty. It's pretty obvious that they use a skeleton back-up crew in the café on debark/embark day. It's too bad, since it is the last impression many people will have. I remember they used to serve in-stateroom continental breakfast on debarkation day. That was much more civilized. DEBARKATION #2 Here's where it gets interesting. We participated in the luggage valet program, paying $20 per person to have up to 4 bags picked up from us at night and delivered directly to our airline. You don't see your bags again until you arrive in your destination airport. They also check you in, so you get your boarding pass the night before. It can't be any more convenient. I went up to the café extra early. This time there was orange juice and utensils, but they ran out of coffee! At 7 AM! Oh well, at least I was prepared for it this time. We were told to meet in Cellar Masters at 8:00 AM. At about 8:40, they announced that passengers participating in the luggage valet program could depart. So we made our way down to the gangway, excited to be on our way home to see our son. But when we dipped our sea passes into the machine, we didn't get the standard "thung!" sound. Instead, it went "ding ding ding!" like you would hear if you make it all the way to the top of the $20,000 Pyramid. We thought, did we win something? The guard asked us to step aside and told us we'd have to wait to be escorted off of the ship. He couldn't, or wouldn't, tell us why. Five minutes later another guard steps up, they whisper to each other, and the second guard says, "follow me, you need to have a discussion." Uh-oh. He leads us through the line, allowing us to cut in front of everyone. When we got to the terminal, we were led to a customs agent seated at a table. We look over to the side, and there are our bags along with a few other suit cases. What about the whole you-won't-see-your-bags-again thing? The agent asked us to pick out our bags and move them aside. He takes out some form, checks a box or something, and says, "Okay, you can go." Me: "Do you want our blue customs form?" Him: "Oh, yeah, thanks." Then we walked out of the building, having skipped all of the lines. We hopped in a cab, and I kid you not, we were at our terminal at 9:00 AM. Twenty minutes door-to-door. How's that for a great way to end a fantastic 14- day cruise? Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
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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