We picked the Celebrity Solstice sailing from Auckland to Sydney so that we could visit my husband's family in New Zealand. We were pleasantly surprised, having done multiple sailings around the world with Princess, this was our first with the Celebrity line - we were not disappointed. I will try & summarize as best as I can.
I had read mixed reviews about how there were far too many passengers which made for extremely long wait times. There was 2871 passengers onboard our cruise. We never waited more than 15 minutes. We were on the ship on day 1 within minutes of receiving our room keys and even on tender days things went very smoothly. Coming back the longest wait we had was 10 minutes and that's because all of the shore excursions were returning at the same time.
We had cabin 8253 which was a midship, deck 8, category A1 cabin. We could not have been more pleased. We were located in a fantastic position close enough to the lifts, but not close enough for any noise. Our cabin was fantastically appointed with all the modern amenities and we found everything we needed. At one stage, we noticed some small holes in the curtains, but as soon as we bought it to our room attendants attention they were replaced within 2 hours. Our shower was great (sometimes water pressure can be a bit basic on cruise ships - but we weren't disappointed). The one weird find I thought, was a mini bar that had 2 cans of coke & 2 cans of diet coke in it. We were told that the mini bar was not free, however we had the premium beverage package as part of our promotion & we could get cans of coke anywhere on the ship. The room attendant said if we wanted to drink them we would need to replace them - I found that odd, but it didn't affect my journey.
This was probably the only let down of the cruise. We were spoilt on night 1 dining at Tuscan Grille, it was so delicious that we walked away in a food coma. That night we visited the Grand Epernay to advise of my husbands allergies, where we got told a few lies about how the chef hadn't yet prepared the next nights menu. After taking a stand they finally bought us the menu and we pre-ordered. However the food was terrible the next night and we left after the starter. The Maitre'd tracked us down in the buffet and we told him of our experience. That night waiting in our room was the entire dining menu for the remainder of the cruise for my husband to pre-order. We went back multiple times after that and it was ok, never great, just ok. The food was always just warm. On lobster night, the butter was warmer than the lobster leaving for a cold clarified solution which was a let down. In the buffet, the pizza was soggy through, the ice cream, no matter which flavor you had tasted bland. On some of the desserts the icing wasn't dissolved. But, you could have your own stir-fry's made from scratch and they were fantastic. We also ate in Silk Harvest. The starters were exciting but when the main dishes came out we found them very underwhelming and not very asian. All in all though, we were always able to find something to eat that suited us, even if it was luke warm. My husband was particular fond of the burgers & hot dogs in the Mast Grill they were definitely yummo. With all that being said, we aren't the kind of people who come of cruise ships as cargo rather than passengers so we weren't too affected.
Bars & Public Areas
We spent alot of time in the main areas. Our favourite bar was the World Class Bar, however we found the staff weren't always happy to be there. In particular one gentlemen who we talked to every day, seemed very depressed about being onboard & particularly home sick. It made us feel incredibly sad for him, but he still made great cocktails so we kept returning. More so than Princess, sometimes the staff struggled to understand our orders - ie we would have to repeat a drinks order 4 to 5 times. But again, it's a nitpick not a major issue. Cafe El Bacio did a wonderful hot chocolate and fresh cinammon donuts each morning were a treat. Also, when we travelled with Princess, once we became a regular they would always remember our drinks order but this didn't really happen on Celebrity - nobody ever remembered our orders.
We spent a lot of time in the Solarium which was lovely and relaxing. If I was being really picky I would say that it would have been nice if they had staff wandering to take drink orders, but that didn't happen at all and they are missing an opportunity there. We also loved the shopping areas which are vast and beautiful, the main atrium which was decorated for Christmas & all of the different public areas including the library and most of all the way the lifts face inwards towards that magical tree (which happened to reach it's peak on Deck 8 so we spent a lot of time loving it from our cabin's deck).
Crew & Captain
Captain Tasos. Wow! That man is absolute comedy gold & perfectly suited to be on cruise ships. His demeanor, sense of humor, ability to calm the masses - it was a masterpiece and I will follow him and sail with him wherever possible. His crew were always warm & welcoming everyone was polite and friendly. Yes, sometimes there were language barriers but in the grand scheme of things we were swept up in the beauty of this wonderful cruise line and it's amazing experiences.
As a final note, I would rate Princess 7/10 and Celebrity 8/10. They are almost on par, and where one lacks the other picks up. But when we got off in Sydney we really felt like we were leaving home as opposed to returning to it. If you are thinking about doing a cruise, Celebrity Solstice will not disappoint. It's too beautiful to do anything other than amaze you!
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