This was our first cruise and we had a fabulous time. Celebrity Solstice was a wonderful ship. From the captain [Captain Tasos Kafetzis!!!] to the staff: everyone wanted to make sure that our time on board the shiop met our expectations. The weather, which can sometimes not cooperate, was awesome - no rain and no rough seas.
We are in our 50's and active, so we took advantage of the excursions that allowed us to physically get out and experience Alaska. In Ketchikan, we went on THE ALASKA'S BOATMAN TOUR offered by Southeast Exposures (www.southeastexposure.com). There were only 4 of us, so it felt like a private tour. Drove a Zodiac inflatable boat around some islands north of Ketchikan. Great fun - my husband loved driving his own boat as fast as he wanted (or I wanted.... LOL)! Didn't see much wildlife (a few bald eagles, seals), but there wasn't a lot of wildlife to see anywhere on our cruise. (sorry).
In Juneau, we opted for the MENDENHALL GLACIER PADDLE & TREK TOUR. This is a must tour if you are looking for something WAY out of the ordinary and are ready for some physical fun. It was offered by Alaska Tours. It was pricey - $311 per person, but was worth the money. You begin the journey by paddling approx. 2/5 miles across Mendenhall Lake in an 8-person canoe. From there (after a snack), you hike up to the glacier - not that far (maybe 15-30 min.) and then put on your crampons in order to trek up and onto the glacier. It was an amazing adventure and our guides were awesome! They put safety first, but allowed us to explore the glacier - even going as far as taking us into an ice cave (unbelievably gorgeous). This was by far the favorite thing we did - a huge shout out to Elliot and Yuki - our tour guides.
In Skagway, we chose the GRISLEY FALLS ZIPLINING EXPEDITION. Celebrity offered this as one of their excursions that you could book directly thru them; we opted to book it on our own and saved about $20. It was the exact same excursion. I had never ziplined before and had a great time. They were very safety oriented and allowed you to be as daring or conservative as you wanted. A fun afternoon. Victoria, BC, was the least favorite of all our stops. It's a pretty town, but we found it to mostly be typical tourist shops. Having said that, we did pick up some Canadian hockey items for a family member who loves hockey.
ON THE SOLSTICE:
The ship had a top-notch workout facility - plenty of exercise equipment and classes (extra charge) to choose from.
The entertainment was okay - I wasn't expecting Broadway musicals. The programs were about 45 minutes each night and I enjoyed attending. We would go to the 7 PM showing and then to dinner. At that time, the theater was not crowded. I heard that the 9 PM showing had a bigger audience.
We stayed in Aqua Class and that allowed us to eat in The Blu restaurant. If for no other reason, I would up grade to Aqua Class. We never felt the need to try any of the "upgraded" restaurants - The Blu was fabulous. Great service and food. No need for reservations. I got the itch for fast food and we did eat at the Ocean View Café (buffet) a couple of times for lunch: pizza, ice cream. It was okay. It was never crowded and the service was excellent there as well.
Getting on and off the ship was incredibly easy. Not sure what I expected, but they have it down to a science. Don't forget to bring a small bag in which to put your items that you don't pack the night before you disembark. We didn't think to bring one and ended up buying one on the ship - it wasn't too expensive ($25) and we'll be using it again for our next cruise.
The dress attire is casual. Most people wore jeans. My husband wore jeans and a nice shirt with a jacket to dinner. I wore leggings and a top. There are 2 nights of "evening chic" - I did not feel under-dressed although we did see couples in suits, tuxes, and evening attire. As I said before, we did not go to the upgraded restaurants - the attire might have been different there. During the day,I was comfortable in a turtleneck with a light dry-fit sweatshirt over that (along with a rain jacket). We brought rain pants but never had to wear them. I also wore a hat and gloves on most days.
A FEW CONS:
** The shopping on board the ship. I hated to walk down the main corridors because the store employees were always hawking something and I felt it was a bit much and awkward. I did find a watch I liked - $20 - but for the most part I found the items over priced even when those items went on sale towards the end of the cruise. On a positive note: I wear Estee Lauder perfume and the prices on board were cheaper than where I normally shop.
** if you really, really want to see the whales, book an excursion that will take you to where the whales are located - they are not swimming up to The Solstice. I believe our ship saw exactly 1 whale and that was during dinner one night.
** The Solstice does not go to the end of the Tracy Arm Fjord; it's my understanding the ship is too big. I wish we had known that because we would have taken the excursion offered by Celebrity to see the Fjord.
All-in-all, Celebrity offers a great Alaskan Cruise. No hesitation to recommend this cruise, this ship, or the excursions to anyone. The scenery is stunning - I wasn't ready to come home. Sadly, my laundry and budget were! LOL
The rooms were bigger than what I thought they would be - lots of places to put your things as you unpack. (The suitcases fit under your bed) We brought an extension cord with us and it was a life saver. There are not many plugs, so it helped with all our electronics. I also brought a mesh shoe holder (got it from Wal-Mart) that could hang on the back of the bathroom door - it held things like medicine, brushes, make-up, etc. I brought a can of air freshener for the bathroom. Enough said.
Alaskan Boatman's Tour - www.southeastexposure.com
Fun, fast, interesting
We arrived in Seattle a day early. Walked around the Market Place - interesting and fun.
Mednenhall Glacier Paddle & Trek Tour. www.alaskatours.com
A must if you like physical fun!
Grisley Falls Ziplining Expedition. 11 ziplines - fun.