Celebrity Solstice Cruise Review by Sydneyberlin
- Sail Date: March 2018
- Destination: Australia & New Zealand
- Cabin Type: Concierge Class
To put our trip report into context, this was our third cruise and the first one on Celebrity. Our previous cruises had both been with Royal Caribbean which we understand owns Celebrity as well. The RCC ships were all a bit too gimmicky for us and we hardly ever used all the facilities and rather got annoyed by all the screaming little kids and multi-generational families you encounter everywhere. So this time, we thought we go a bit classier and give Celebrity a go.
We are a gay couple in our mid 30ies and traveled together with one of our best friends who stayed by himself in a separate stateroom of the ship. We had a really good deal so we all stayed in Concierge class which turned out to be totally not worth the money had we paid in full instead of getting a discount, but more on that later. For our friend, it was his first ever cruise so we were very keen to ensure he has a great trip. As always, we did extensive research on forums like this beforehand but many little quirks had to be found out directly on the ship, as we soon realized. But let’s start from the beginning: We had learnt on previous cruises that the “recommended boarding time” is a simple measure of crowd control which can be completely ignored, as was the case on this ship. Actually, had we followed the cruise lines advice, we would have missed the lovely welcome lunch for Concierge class guests which turned out to be one of the few real benefits of this cabin class. This lunch is not very widely published and only runs from 12 to 1:30pm on embarkation day. Luckily, we arrived just shortly before 12 and the boarding process in Sydney was very fast and efficient. About half an hour after arriving all up we had cleared check in and emigration and got onto the ship. There we headed straight to the main dining room for our welcome lunch which turned out to be lovely. Great to avoid the usual zoo up at the buffet on your first day and the lunch consisted of about 5 different choices for main, plenty for everyone to find something for their taste. We had ordered and paid for both the Premium Alcohol package as well as a Dining Package for the specialty restaurants online before the cruise which helped us to brush off the constant and often borderline aggressive attempts to upsell us at every possible occasion. This is one of those many things that just don’t fit well with the so-called “Modern luxury” image that celebrity portraits in their advertising. The other big thing that is totally removed from all the happy mid 40ies couples in their ad material is the average age on this ship, which is decades older that what Celebrity shows in their advertising collateral. I actually didn’t mind it quite so much as I find most of those oldies to be very friendly and polite but my slightly younger partner and our friend found the old age rather depressing. One bad side effect of this which turned out to be the biggest issue with this entire cruise was the music played on the ship. Wherever you go, nothing but music for our parents’ generation or even older. And regardless of this rather old average age, we still had dozens of the usual screaming babies on board, I seem to attract them like a magnet wherever I go. After the lunch, we went to see the one guy who has access to the table bookings in the main dining room and had to queue up for about half an hour because the guests from hell were in front of us trying to sort out their dinner bookings for a party of 20. Once we finally got to see the guy, we were lucky that we did, as the Celebrity online systems had failed us as ever so often: We had linked our two bookings ages ago online but no trace of this was to be found once on board. We had specialty dining booked for this first night anyway which gave staff a chance to move people around and were promised to sit together (as requested all along) from night 2. Unlike some other requests, this one actually worked and we got assigned a lovely table in the middle of the MDR from the second night onwards.
When we got to our stateroom shortly past 1pm, there was no trace of our room attendant which turned out to be the regular thing with her and we were disappointed to find none of the promised Concierge class amenities in the room. No trace of “Plush bathrobes” or a welcome sparkling on arrival. Once our attendant, Marion, finally showed up, we had a whole list of things to ask her. Besides the amenities, my partner uses a CPAP machine at night for his sleep apnea and we had requested an extension cord and some water beforehand but nothing was there so we asked her for these as well as all the other little things that were missing. We wanted to do the right thing and specifically took some US Dollar notes with us for tipping which is a highly unusual thing to do here in Australia so a 10$ note indeed did wonders with her. Unfortunately, we were about to learn that we had the slackest room attendant ever on this cruise which was very disappointing. She was always the last one in our hallway to start servicing the rooms compared with the otgher super efficient attendant on our floor who we saw constantly working and if you didn’t tell her every single thing, she wouldn’t do it (and even then she sometimes ignored it!). Our friend at the other end of the ship had a much better experience so I am certain it was just her specifically. Most of the time, if she would show up at all, you’d find her at the end of the hallway having endless chitty chats with other crew members and overall we had the feeling that she didn’t like working. Somehow, the cruise line managed to knock off the name tag from my partners luggage and stuffed it into an incorrect bag, missing the fact that that other bag actually had someone else’s name on it too. The missing bag was found by the late evening but it was still an inconvenience that could have easily been avoided.
Let’s talk a bit about Concierge class as some of you might wonder if it is worthwhile. If you were to pay extra for it, let me assure you it is not (unless you are after the additional Captain’s club points, that is). We got our bathrobes and the free welcome sparkling later on the first day but both were nothing to write home about. The “Plush bath towels” were a total lie as they were thin and ripped and crappy on most days- if they were any worse in the normal cabins, you’d dry yourself in paper! Speaking of it, Celebrity uses the cheapest possible toilet paper which you usually only find on the lower shelves of US supermarkets, so prepare yourself to wipe your bum with sandpaper. Top tip: We found the facial tissue in the bathroom to be the much better option so do your behind a favor and use these instead! Aside this, neither the pillow menu nor the apparently upgraded bedding was anything special. As always with these “Twin bed converts to a King” configurations, we could always feel the gap between the two single matrasses- a bit like the princess and the pea. In general, we found the room to be exactly the same size and, unfortunately, also the same décor as the RCC ships we’ve been on before. The upgraded massage showerhead offered in Concierge class was also one big joke as it’s still one of those old-fashioned showerheads that are attached on the wall of the shower. I couldn’t really care less whether it’s a Grohe showerhead or whatever brand it might be, as long as I can’t remove the damn thing to properly clean my body. You really have to wonder why Celebrity can’t install a proper showerhead if every decent 4 or 5 star hotel can do it and Emirates even has one on their airplanes which is better than that! As for the “Evening canapés”, this was a typical case of on Celebrity, the only consistency being nothing being consistent: On the first night, we asked our hopeless room attendant how we order these. She, truly herself, told us incorrectly that there is no need to order and they “simply show up every night”. Only to two hours later leave an order form for the canapés on our bed (imagine an eye rolling emoji here). And then, over the 9 nights of the cruise, we experienced every single possible combination: Filled in the form, got the canapés. Filled in the form and didn’t get them. Were in the room at the scheduled time of delivery (the form tells you that you only get them when you are present at that time) and still didn’t get them. Were not in the room and got them anyway. Then one night, we didn’t get any form but canapés showed up anyway. Another night, again no form so we left a Post-it note instead asking for our canapés but guess what, nothing arrived. Writing all this, I realize that it was quite futile anyway as these canapés were always TRULY awful. And I am not exaggerating here, not only were they “nothing special” but they were always soggy and had clearly stood there for hours which (especially with the always included seafood) was nothing too appealing. Our friend never touched them at all and we tried a few but really, get some crackers with cream cheese and olives at ALDI and you’ll have (way!) better quality canapés than what Celebrity offers.
Besides those canapés, the food turned out to be one of the highlights on this ship and in our eyes, the biggest difference to Royal Caribbean main line. The specialty dining in Murano was out of this world and we decided to come back a second time towards the end of the cruise (they pretty much flambé everything at your table from the lobster to the desert which is pretty amazing) and Tuscan Grill was also very nice. We were told that the Sushi place is excellent also but Silk Harvest, the Asian specialty restaurant sounds to be really awful as we are really spoilt for good Asian cuisine here in Australia (we haven’t been ourselves but our friend ate there and didn’t rate it at all). The biggest surprise, however, was the MDR. We opted for fixed seating this time as the flexible seating in our experience always ended up with being shoved to some side table and waiting in line forever and indeed we did not regret: The flexible dining always had endless lines on deck 4 while the fixed seating on deck 3 was lovely. We can only recommend to anyone to choose the fixed seating and we will definitely continue to do so from now on. Staff was always very friendly and attentive throughout even though a little bit scripted as always on these ships. This became particularly clear when our waiter raddled of the his “Tips of the day” which he had clearly learnt by heart from some prepared script and probably never eaten himself. Our favorite each night was the freshly baked super-crispy “French” style baguette which we remembered had been exactly the same on Royal Caribbean. One important point worth nothing: A lot of things on this ship are making it very obvious that it’s an American ship. We actually LOVE the US so for us it wasn’t a big deal but the food, for example, is VERY American- from whipped butter to the salad dressings and calling the main an “entrée”, it’s all clearly US-influenced. Again, we actually liked this but many Aussies would probably not agree (they even had “proper” American deep fried cheese sticks which is a rarity outside the US, yumm!). The same was true for many of the wines but unfortunately not for the beer selection on this ship- we had looked at many menus posted online but in reality, they turned out to be useless on an Aussie cruise as most of the beers had been swapped with delicious Bogan-delights like VB or XXXX, yikes. While all the menu cards still told you there nice beers like Blue Moon or Sam Adams available, unfortunately this was a lie- I tried every single bar and the only thing I could find was some rather odd leftover Sam Adams ale which I didn’t like. Luckily, you could get Heineken and Beck’s at most bars so I was happy with these. But again, no complaints at all with any of the staff at the restaurants and bars with the sole exception of two Bartenders, both Indonesian to no big surprise, who clearly displayed a whiff of Homophobia towards us- one of them at the Passport bar which was shockingly bad anyway and another one at the Casino bar which we didn’t really enjoy very much either. Not sure where they were during the Diversity training sessions that Celebrity apparently does but luckily, they were the absolute exception. Other than that, we were treated with respect everywhere in the ship and the staff was a delight throughout. We particularly loved the bartenders at the Martini Bar and the Worldclass Bar on deck 5, Alin at Martini and Janathan & Dimitri up at the World Class bar were our favorites as was our sommelier in the main dining room, Fatma.
Finally, a few general observations: We found both the captain and the cruise director highly annoying when they came on the intercom which they did far too often and always when we wanted to have a sleep in- the Greek captain didn’t speak English too well and had a super annoying way of speaking and “sing-sanging” his sentences which was usually followed by the equally annoying Canadian accent of the cruise director who was strangely upbeat even on grim days with constant rain. I must leave him that though- he did a great job moderating the “Newly wed not so newly wed” game show one night which was absolutely hilarious. Similar to those announcements, there were of course the usual sales messages on the phone EVERY SINGLE DAY trying to peddle some shore excursions or worse, overpriced handbags and jewelry in the rip-off shops on the ship. And to top it off, they had nothing better to do on land days than announcing every single damn tender boat throughout the entire ship- because the weather was pretty bad on most days we opted to sleep in instead rather than heading to a deserted rainy Island and were furiously annoyed by these announcements and didn’t understand why they couldn’t have been limited to the lower floors of the ship were guests would wait for their tender boat to be announced. Regardless of the older crowd, we still had some families with small children on this cruise and while some of them were very well behaved, others were not so creating a total nuisance for everyone else on board. The highlight was that Bogan couple (“Bogan” in Australian is similar to “Rednecks” in the US or “Chavs” in the UK so uneducated, noisy, small-minded people from the country or outer suburbia) who took their little one into the Adult only Solarium to change its dipers (!). Before I could complain, some others had done so already and it took only about 5 minutes until they were told to leave the area. The smell was still lingering for a while but I did appreciate the staff to react so quickly to the complaints. What else, hygiene is a big thing on this ship, they are obviously dead scared of these Nuro viruses and hence there are cleaners everywhere. I wondered what would happen if Airlines had to worry about the same thing- would they suddenly bother to clean their planes properly? No issues on this ship at least. All the entertainment on the ship was made for an older generation and even on the Silent Disco night you had the choice between Motown (what the heck…), 80ies and “Top 40”. The two latter styles were were US-focused, no trace of some modern dance music, house, techno, trance, anything like that- nope. As a result, the Nightclub, Qasar, was always dead empty unless there was Karaoke on which was certainly not our thing. On the pool deck, they often played American country rock which was just deadly and some of the live musicians playing… I won’t go into more details but the music on ship was just absolute horror for us but I am sure the older folks would have liked it. Despite some of the criticism, we still had a good time, met some lovely people and great staff, enjoyed the food and all the alcohol that we definitely indulged in too much and all in all had a great time. So good actually that regardless of all the complaints, we went into the “Book your next cruise” office on the ship to put the deposit down for a cruise through the Greek Islands next year on Celebrity’s new Edge ship.
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