Having wanted to try the solstice class ships and take a westbound transatlantic and sail a new ship - November 2012 offered us all three of our wishes in one trip. We used the Celebrity Choice Air services which was great and quite reasonable. We saved almost $1000 per person doing this. We booked in July of 2011 taking advantage of a $250 discount offered to past passengers. Then in the summer of 2012 , the line offered reduced rates to veterans so we able to upgrade and get an additional $300 off our fare. From July of 2011 until the cruise we had a very active and large CC thread and booked many activities, transportation and excursions with folks on the site. It was great!
We flew into Barcelona the day before the cruise and stayed at a lovely 4 star hotel we have stayed in before. Unfortunately, while waiting in our hotel lobby for transport to the ship, a thief made off with my husband's carry on bag. He got nothing of real value but sure inconvenienced my husband as his meds were in the bag. Fortunately, he had packed spare in his large bag. So beware as pickpockets and thieves are the main occupation in this city.we talked to people who fared far worse than us losing jewelry, passports, credit cards, etc. They are really slick and good over there.
Check in at the port was horrendous with long lines that took forever before we reached the counter - and they had plenty of agents. Not sure what the solution is. Once on board, we stepped into a gorgeous ship. Our veranda stateroom was really nice - very large, lots of storage, oh so comfortable bed, and a shower to die for in the very roomy bathroom. I mean curved shower doors and a shower you could actually move around in with room to spare. The balcony was nice and large with lovely comfy chairs and a table. And of course, everything was new!
We had assigned seating for dinner and requested a table for four - and got it. The service was wonderful and the food outstanding. The "available any time" menu was one of the best I've experienced. The buffet area knocked our socks off. Oh my gosh - it was one of the largest I have ever seen. There were so many stations with so many great selections to choose from and the food was excellent - and you never felt crowded or crushed by a sea of other passengers shoving their way into a line. So nice! One day I asked the head chef up there for mashed potatoes - next day there they were.
The ship was so beautiful with many nice public areas to hang out in - one more interesting than the next. There was a lovely promenade deck we could walk every morning, lots of seating on the pool deck so never a problem to find a spot to light for the day. Of course, this was late fall in Europe and the Atlantic so the pool wasn't as big a draw as if we were in the Caribbean. The covered pool was always in use and was a really comfortable and pretty spot. Lots of funky seating!
One of our favorite spots was the Sunset Bar up top at the back of the ship. The view was great and this afforded our smoking friends a beautiful place to sit and smoke - and drink. The waiters up there were terrific. We were on first name basis after one day. Every afternoon the ship had beer and specialty drinks at discounted rates. This is also the area where the lawns are located and actually it was nice having some grass on the ship. It was very well maintained and quite green and interesting to watch how they watered and mowed it. They had different lawn activities every day which were a lot of fun.
The specialty restaurants were numerous and offered a great selection although we did not eat in them as we were very happy with our main dining room food. We've done it before on other ships and it is just too much food for us. Other folks who did eat in them said the food was magnificent.
The entertainment was top notch and one show was better than the next. I thought the theater was laid out very nicely with easy viewing from most spots. The casino was a nice, typical ship casino that enjoyed taking your money rather than you winning any. I didn't notice the smoke being a problem there.
Because there were so many repeat cruisers on this trip, they didn't have a captain's cocktail party but gave us drink vouchers - which was really nice because we could go to any bar and get what we wanted with actual alcohol in the drinks.
Also, they offered a fill the laundry bag for $20 which was nice since they don't offer passenger laundromats on their ships. That helps with lighter packing on a two week trip.
The only real negative was the fact that one of the pods that helped drive the ship appeared to be in nonworking order and despite many attempts to fix it, it would have to wait until Miami. This caused the ship to be able to go at only 17 knots so the Canary Islands were eliminated from our itinerary (of course, this is the one we wanted to see the most). We were given a very generous shipboard credit for this. The crossing was smooth as silk and we had a wonderful time despite the extra sea days. All in all, it was a wonderful cruise on a beautiful ship with a great staff and we would sail on this ship or one of her sister ships again with no hesitation.
Cabin 9240. Huge room, plenty of space, great bed, fabulous shower in a very spacious bathroom, midship location starboard side so very convenient to elevators and stairs. Nice and quiet and easy hop down to the Hideaway for morning coffee.