PROS: I have to disagree with many of the reviews that decried the quality of the dining. We found dinner to be quite pleasant, even if the menu did become a little repetitive. Our waiter and assistant waiter were outstanding, and we couldn't go wrong by following their suggestions. Dinner was served efficiently so that we usually could make it to the early show in time, and the cafeteria offered adequate seating and predictably good quality alternatives.
Also, the staff were invariably helpful and exceeded expectations. This included, notably, our cabin attendant, all members of the dining room and food service staff. At the end of the cruise, these staff members had to work especially hard because of the outbreak of illness aboard the ship.
CONS: We choose this cruise because of the itinerary. While it involved 11 days at sea, we usually enjoy the many shipboard activities and the opportunity to relax. Sadly, the main shipboard activity on the Solstice was fending off--sometimes physically--the constant upselling. Being accosted by animal characters outside the cafeteria accompanied by equally insistent photographers became worse than tiresome: It was practically assault. The pre-recorded upselling phone messages left in the cabin reminded me of why I had wanted a vacation. And the gauntlet of specialty restaurant barkers when entering lunch were like carnival workers. Added to this, at least half of the "enrichment" activities were actually enrichment for Celebrity and attempts to squeeze $$$ out of guests for overpriced services or terrible "artwork."
In fact, outside of some worthwhile lectures and trivia contests, there was little to do during sea days. Scant information was made available about the ship's daily position, about port layouts or getting into town. The daily newsletter was a reiteration of dining venues and times, a list of sales presentations, and a few repetitive activities.
Celebrity dedicated considerable space to upscale shops but only a pegboard of about 25 sq ft to sundries such as aspirin and seasick pills. With nearly two weeks at sea, I would have appreciated the usual supply of everday items being on hand.
Show quality varied from one extreme to another. A fantastic concert pianist on one night, then a disorganized and pointless production show the next; an on-the-mark female vocalist raised my expectations on the first night to be followed later by a lounge lizard male singer.
Considering that we paid a very low price for the cruise, it was a good value for the money. Had we paid anywhere near full price, I would have been sorely disappointed, but it was a comfortable way to travel to Sydney and arrive more rested than if we had flown.
See cabin review, below.
Our cabin was assigned upon payment as we booked the cruise just a few weeks before departure. An aft-facing balcony, I understand that it was a premium cabin. It was spacious by cruise-ship standards and had a well-designed bathroom with a very functional shower stall and plenty of storage. The bed was near the windows, and the space included a desk area, a large sofa, and a small closet. The balcony was small but usable. The only caveat I would offer has been mentioned by other cruisers: It was a very long walk from the nearest stairwell/elevator bank. This wasn't a problem for us, but if you are mobility compromised, you might want to consider a cabin closer to midship.
With two wonderful Australian friends we met onboard, we headed straight for the Aremiti Ferry to Moorea. With their rental car, we visited beautiful (and almost empty) coral-enclosed beaches. Also enjoyed wood-fired pizza at an outdoor pizzeria at the "back" of the island. Best day of the cruise!
Did the "hop on, hop off" bus. Owing to the ship(s) in port, the busses were overcrowded and we had to wait for over a half hour for a second bus more than once, so we didn't get to do as much as we had hoped. However, we highly recommend Eden Garden, tucked on a mountainside in a quiet area of Auckland. Being springtime, it was especially beautiful and unexpectedly peaceful considering the number of passengers on the busses. We also enjoyed the Auckland Museum and surrounding domain, greenhouses and gardens.