My husband and I are 40ish and have done cruises on various Celebrity, Cunard, Star and NCL ships. We flew into Rome 2 days early and stayed at the Sheraton. Not a new hotel, but with very warm service, great breakfast and with a good shuttle service into town. Transfer to and from the port was no problem. We had booked a "Rome Taxi" transfer at EUR130 each way. They were punctual, very helpful and cars were well maintained and new. We reached the dock at around 12 and boarding was extremely quick. We were on the ship in less than 5 minutes.
The Ship: If you like rich wood paneling, lush carpeting, thick table clothes and fine China, you should cruise on the Millennium series of ships. If you like white plastic, aircraft cabin like mood lighting, sterile China and tiled flooring, you would like Solstice. The little wood on board, or actually "faux wood paneling", at the Sky Observation Lounge entrance was already severely blistering and falling off the walls. Negotiating the long walk from the front cabins to the aft Blu dining room was also treacherous, since much of it is through tiled areas. Very unlike Millie where a girl can safely walk her high heels through lush carpet on the way to the dining room. The ship only has 2 elevator banks, again unlike Millie class that has 3. The waits for the lifts were incredible long and very annoying. The Lawn Club was nice, but all of it had been declared a smoking zone. Also, the outside area of the buffet was much smaller. We had next to no chance to sit outside, which was one of our favorite spots on the Millie ships. None of the pools appeared significantly bigger either, yet you have 1,000 more passengers on board. On sea days, it was very, very difficult to secure seats on deck, let alone a recliner. There were babies in the pool and Jacuzzi (even in the Aqua Spa). One promptly emptied its gut into the Jacuzzi, right next to us. Kids were jumping into the pools from the Jacuzzis above with no regard what or whom they would hit at the bottom. We were disappointed that dozens of staff were hawking drinks, yet none were assigned to ensure basic pool safety, let alone enforce Celebrity rules such as "nobody under 16 in the Aqua Spa pool or Jacuzzis".
In short, Solstice feels a lot more crammed than Millie class ships. Although Solstice has a few more gimmicks, such as its Lawn Club, none of the facilities that really matter are missing from Millie. Solstice is a very generic looking ship, with little character of its own. It is undoubtedly designed to be easily sold to another line in a couple of years.
The Cabin : - Great storage spaces. Wardrobe access a little awkward next to the bed. - Don't expect more space. We could not detect any size difference versus Millie CC cabins. - Solstice has only fabric covered balcony furniture. These are not steady and we tipped over backwards twice when we were in the reclined position. Quite dangerous. Millie class has much better, padded balcony furniture. - Sound proving on Solstice is bad. Could hear music from deck above and every word of our neighbors. - A lot of kids in AQ class on this sailing. Very noisy!! - Also several chain smokers who smoked inside their AQ cabins. Staff were unable to get them under control. - In short, AQ may not give you the Zen like Spa peace and quiet you anticipated
The Dining Rooms: Since we were booked in AQ class, we enjoyed meals at Blu. Service at the Blu was very personalized and friendly. The breakfast was outstanding and is not to be missed. However, we felt that dinners were hit and miss. Many days, dishes were simply bland. For example, a pork cutlet was served with no sauce, a piece of broccoli and no seasoning on the meat either. Yet, a couple of nights later, we enjoyed the most delicious Filet Mignon ever. The only constant in this inconsistency were the deserts, which were disappointing. Ice creams dominated the desert menu every evening. Why are there not more baked deserts on the menu?
Murano was a beautiful space, with great food. Certainly worth the extra USD30. Great meal, which was just a little rushed. If was full most evenings and staff had to get their table politely but firmly ready for later seatings.
MDR was our choice for a couple of lunches. The food never disappointed. In fact, the pastas were very good and we felt that food was better than Blu after a couple of meals. We do miss the panorama windows that were the main feature of Celebrity's other ships. The MDR on these is always located at the back. In terms of decor, the MDR was the most underwhelming of any ship we have been on. The wine tower is simply not much to stare at.
The Buffet cannot be recommended. Layout is poor and passenger flow even worse. There is no pattern to what stations repeat what foods (and believe me, there is a lot of repetition) and no intuitive way of navigating the many cooking islands. At most meal times, it's a zoo and a chaotic gridlock. To make matter worse, we really were annoyed with the "no tray" policy. Try balancing a plate of food, your napkin with cutlery (no spoons, so you have to pick these up separately as well) and a drink through a hungry crowd. Absolutely disappointing compared with the lovely buffets we have enjoyed on other ships. Food was unimaginative, only the Pizza and mid-afternoon Ice Cream can be recommended. Drink machines were frequently out of order and/or flooding the floors and tables were not cleaned in a timely manner. Many items ran out, with long periods of no replacement (plates, salad sauces etc.) Avoid this venue altogether if you can!
The Entertainment Another area of disappointment. We saw iBroadway on Millennium recently. Much better than anything on offer on Solstice. Its Broadway show featured songs none of us had ever heard. The "Stars Of Solstice" were not as talented as their Millennium counterparts and there seemed to be an emphasis on screaming with vibrato rather than singing. There was a good Celtic Duet and also a very enjoyable celebrity impersonator on board. Both of these outclassed the Stars of Solstice completely. The Cirque De Soleil type show featured some great acrobatic work. However, the Stars of Solstice were once again woven into the storyline of this performance - it would have been better without them.
Lastly, we have to echo the comment made in other review on music. There was simply no quiet place on the boat. Every public space had various types of music doodling away at volumes that were far too high and unpleasant. We have never been fans of pool bands, and the Solstice one was not something we enjoyed. Problem is there is really nowhere to get away from the noise on this ship. Coupled with the bad sound proofing, we could even hear the gym music from the gym's balcony above our cabin blaring all day. Solstice, tone down the volume in all your public areas please. We are not deaf!!
Verdict : this cruise offered a great itinerary, which we enjoyed. However, the ship is sterile and too crowded. It does not feel as lush or luxurious as its Millennium class sisters. Passenger movement, especially waiting for the lifts, was a major nuisance and we would not choose Solstice class again. Back to Millennium class for our next cruise.