Celebrity Solstice Cruise Review by wolfganghowell
- Sail Date: December 2008
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
Info - We are DINK's in our 40s. Ok, one of us, the other one is lying. This was our 13th cruise - we cruise X and RCCL exclusively.
Pre Cruise - We spent 2 nights at the Hyatt Pier 66. Nice property with excellent service. We enjoyed sunset drinks at Pelican Bar. The pool was pretty crowded but this was the Saturday before NYE so that is to be expected. The workout room is quite small for a resort of this size but equipment was fine. I had a manicure for $50 (sigh, I can get one at home for $15 but it wouldn't have lasted the cruise) and had a shampoo/blowout for over $100 - way too much and she took over an hour and a half. I can get a shampoo/cut and dry for about an hour - I was climbing the walls towards the end and finally told her I HAD to leave. She was very nice but it just took too long! Gratuity is automatically added there. We were fortunate to have a Tower Room that faced the port so we could watch the ships leave and watch them come in - yep, we got up early enough to see several arrive although JUST missed Solstice. Checked out and took a cab (actually a nice SUV, lucky us) and arrived at the port around 11 am.
EMBARKATION: Very smooth. We arrived early on purpose so had to wait for about 30 minutes. Once they opened it up, we were checked in quite quickly. Definitely among the first onboard around 11:30.
THE SHIP: Visually stunning. I can really find nothing to complain about regarding the ship. The decor is tasteful, varied and soothing. It will be hard to find a way to fully experience the ship in 7 days. We didn't so darn it, we'll have to go back.
POOLS: Aquaspa is my favorite lounging place for sea days and quiet mornings. This was no different. From the various loungers, cabanas etc to the placement of the whirlpools to the pool (ideal temperature - never fear, it is NOT cold), it is a lovely place. Chair hogs ruled on this sailing (New Years, whattaya expect?) but we found chairs before 9 am quite easily. After 10 am, good luck. Being a ghost, the pool is not my scene although I like going in the afternoon to listen to the band and enjoy the sun. This was the most crowded pool deck I have ever seen - not a chair to be had. However, again, holiday sailing and a large percentage of passengers who were sungods and goddesses as well as MANY children. I was pleased to see that security was vigilant about enforcing the no children policy in the Aquaspa.
DINING: I found the Grand Epernay to be stunning. We had a lovely table (#241 - great location). Service was a bit slow the first 2 nights but they rallied later. The food was fine - not fine dining cuisine but very nice. Not a bad meal. We requested escargot and our maitre'd made sure we had it beginning Wednesday and again on Friday and Saturday. We ate in Tuscan Grille and Muranos. Both are very nice but I would return to Tuscan Grille over Muranos. I enjoyed the service in Tuscan provided by Slobadan and Luciana - if they are your servers, you are in for a treat. Muranos had a mistake on our charge - we had prepaid for specialty and he brought us the bill, not only for us but also for our tablemates who were in a suite so they were also supposed to be free. It took him 15 minutes to bring back the corrected ticket. Not the end of the world, but evidence that they are still working out some kinks. We had brunch at Bistro "For" 5 and had an excellent meal. It was virtually empty and our wait was brief - they do cook to order so our waiter told us it would take about 15 minutes. That was acceptable. Other cruisers we spoke with had mixed experiences - some had great service and food, others waited an hour for their food and finally left. Again, I think as the crew gets in sync things will be fine.
LOUNGES: Michael's seemed too sedate and boring for us but others enjoyed it. Ensemble Lounge - we tried twice. The first time it was busy and it took an hour to get a drink. The second time we went in around 11:30 and there were only 2 people at the bar. The bartender never came over to us so we left. I think it is a nice venue for pre dinner drinks when dining in the Specialty Restaurants but didn't feel compelled to seek it out. On the flip side, it was the favorite lounge of others we met. Martini Bar was usually hopping and great fun. It is centrally located and between the main dining room and the casino so it is easily crowded. There was a quite large Latin passenger base on our cruise and the Sky Lounge was mainly the Latin lounge most evenings so we did not venture there except for Captains Club and Cruise Critic functions. It is nice, your standard lounge similar to the ones on M class ships. Quasar was small and we just popped in to look at it - I think it was really packed late night but with a huge amount of young people on the sailing, we didn't have it on the To Do list.
LAWN CLUB AREA: We liked it. It's a lovely area with seating. This is where the cigar smokers went but with the wind it was never much of an issue. We liked to go grab a mid/late afternoon drink at the Sunset Bar and enjoyed it very much. We watched a small part of the Hot Glass show - it was interesting but 20 minutes was plenty for us. The complete show is listed as 2 hours.
SPA: Glad I was onboard early - I still stood in line for 40 minutes to make an appointment. I really wish X would provide Captains Club members the option to pre-book spa appts - even if its just Elite members. It is silly to stand in line and it's also so hard on the spa personnel since people can be so rude. It shouldn't be hard to make this easier. The spa is lovely - the Relaxation Room is nice and since I had a Captains Club coupon, I could access the Persian Garden once. It was peaceful since I was the only one in there but not worth paying for and I think the PG on M class is much nicer.
CONCIERGE CLASS ROOM: The room is efficient. The bathroom is greatness. My husband is 6'5 and could maneuver in there quite well and was very pleased with the shower. The shampoo conditioner body wash lotion are of good quality and lemongrass (mmhm) We found closet space to be fine but I'm an efficient packer. Our safe froze up twice but they fixed it in a timely manner. The interactive tv was great and got the seal of approval from the IT professional husband. It was great to access the photos and keep track of our account - the music channels were great and we enjoyed the bridge cam. Husband prefers M class CC rooms because they are more square and it was a tight fit for him to walk around the bed. Our balcony was quite deep (probably 15 feet) since we were on the hump - with the couch by the window so it was harder to see the actual ocean from the bed than we are used to. We had room service breakfast one day and it was pretty blah.
CASUAL DINING: Food at the Pool Bar was always good. Aquaspa food was good. The sushi in Oceanview was excellent both times we tried it. Pizza was good. We eat breakfast early to avoid the crowd and never had problems. Waffles, omelettes fresh! Silverware is now at all the stations so no issues there. We never had table issues. The only flaw I saw was in the afternoon after the lunch is closed and before tea is open, the pizza/pasta station is combined in one line and it was long. We came back onboard one day and stood in line for well over 30 minutes. If you wanted pizza, you still had to stand behind all the pasta people. If you wanted pasta, vice versa. They should separate it and make it 2 lines.
SERVICE: With very few exceptions, we had outstanding service. Most of the staff was friendly and eager to please. Our cabin attendant and assistant were mainly invisible but appeared whenever we needed them and did a great job.
CAPTAINS CLUB: Our Elite party was a bit of a bust. It was at 11 am pre arrival in san Juan. Due to a medical emergency, we got into San Juan at 11:30 instead of 2 pm so all the senior officers were on the bridge. Perfectly understandable. Our disappointment was that since we did not know we would be arriving so early, we completely missed the approach and watching from the deck as we approach the Fort had been something we looked forward to. We missed it since we were in the lounge and unaware of how early we would be arriving. The regular party was fine, albeit a bit stuffy and too long.
GALA BRUNCH: No more midnight buffet which to me is not a bad thing. They had a brunch which was outstanding. We enjoyed it very much - look for the chicken pot pies, they were fresh and hot.
ENTERTAINMENT: I very much enjoyed Solstice. I have seen several Cirque du Soleil shows and this was quite on par. I recognized many of the "acts" but felt the performers were very strong. I should also admit that I work in entertainment so I am pretty hard to please. We also saw the late night comedy show of Louis Johnson and I enjoyed his act very much.
CASINO: This was our only real "disappointment" and had nothing to do with Celebrity. There were 2 gambling groups on board, as well as a large group of passengers who apparently did not go to dinner. We could never get a table past 7 pm to play AT ALL EVER. The slot machines were the tightest I have ever seen on 13 cruises - I don't always ask to win (ok that's a lie) but I would like to at least play for a while on my donation. I would put $100 in and never hit a thing. No thanks - I prefer to donate more slowly than that! :) Had I been able to play at the tables, I might have recouped some slot money but it was impossible.
DISEMBARKATION: We were at 8:45 and were off within 5 minutes. The easiest I've seen.
SOLSTICE IN GENERAL: Will we cruise Solstice again? Yes. Will we choose her OVER M class? Not really. We will probably forgo holiday cruises again. Although we had a great time, there were issues with unruly children and out of control partying by the 16-25 age group. Since there were so many large family groups on board, it seemed like security was challenged by many things but overall did as well as they could. There was a diversity of cultures onboard and sometimes it appeared to negatively impact others enjoyment. I heard more passengers complaining than ever before - while some may have been warranted, sometimes it seemed to be nitpicking.
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