As Platinum level cruisers on Princess, my wife and I recently completed our first experience on Celebrity Cruise Lines on this two-week trip "Down Under." I would like to review this trip from the perspective of a head-to-head comparison of these two cruise lines. We chose Celebrity for this voyage because of the itinerary and the perks offered by Celebrity, which included free gratuities, their Classic beverage package, and $600 OBC. Note: Celebrity is no longer offering all three of these perks together. You can currently choose only 2 of the 3.
GENERAL SHIP LAYOUT: Solstice is an attractive, clean, well-appointed ship. I liked the novel arrangement of the main lifts, which run from deck 2 to deck 16 in a fore-and-aft alignment, rather than side by side. This leaves a dramatic 14-deck floor to ceiling atrium open space. Public spaces are attractive and tastefully decorated. Advantage Celebrity.
FOOD SERVICE: We found the main dining room food on Solstice to be good, but not great, compared to Princess. The service was excellent, but the menus were sometimes uninteresting. Celebrity combines soup and salad into one course, where Princess keeps them separate. The buffet in the Ocean View Café was very good, but the layout of the space was confusing and at times, chaotic. The Princess Horizon Court buffet is laid out as two mirror-image halves on each side of the ship, where the Solstice buffet is one large open space consisting of many different food stations. It was time-consuming to wander around seeing what was being offered, then going back to make selections. On sea days when it was busy, the traffic flow was chaotic, with many near-miss collisions with other diners. Specialty restaurants on Solstice ranged from $35 to $50 per visit, depending on the restaurant chosen, with special discounts being hawked on a daily basis if demand was low on a given day. This compared to a flat $25 per person for all restaurants on Princess. We ate at the Silk Harvest ($35) and the Tuscan Grille ($45). The food and service in both was excellent, but I'm not sure it was worth the rather high expense. Advantage Princess.
This cabin was 194 sq. ft., smaller than the comparable balcony on Princess at 232 sq. ft. The balcony itself was slightly larger than Princess (54 sq. ft. vs. 47 for Princess). The main difference between these ships is the space allocation within the cabin. The Celebrity bathroom is almost twice as roomie as Princess'. The shower is much more spacious and the sink area is much less cramped than on Princess, a major advantage to Celebrity. However, the large bathroom comes at the expense of much less closet space on Celebrity. Princess offers a true walk-in closet with easily twice the clothes-hanging space as the tiny reach-in wardrobe on Celebrity, which has annoying sliding double doors that limit access to only half the closet at a given time. A major advantage to Princess. The Concierge Class upgrade offered very little in real value. The daily afternoon appetizers were sparse and something we never used after the first day. Not worth the extra money.
Tour guide Matt was great!
Rainy day detracted from the experience. Mud everywhere.
Nice little hike to the falls.
Loved learning about the Albatrosses. ATV ride was thrilling.
Saw Hectors dolphins.
Cable car. and Te Papa museum.
Great tour with beautiful scenery.