11-day cruise, December 2018, Sydney to Auckland
It wasn't that Celebrity was awful. It was that for every positive, there seemed to be a corresponding negative. At the end of the day, there wasn't anything compelling that would make me think I'm better off giving Celebrity my business when considering future cruises.
The ship: The Solstice looks nice and Celebrity does a good job keeping it looking good.
Anyone who's cruised knows the hallways on the stateroom decks are usually pretty narrow. This was a nice bonus on the Solstice. Hallways are a bit wider and the entrances to cabins are recessed. This allows a person to step out of the hallway while they're unlocking the door to their stateroom, thereby permitting another person to pass without crowding or bumping into one another.
I think most people, though, would prefer to have some of this extra room IN the cabin and not in the hallway.
The design of the Solstice features an atrium near the back of the ship. It's a dramatic feature, allowing a person to have an unobstructed view from the 14th floor down to the third. This, however, also creates the ship biggest and most annoying logistical nightmare: noise.
While waiting for an elevator on the 12th floor, the noise from a band playing on the third floor is such that you'd swear the musicians were 25 feet away.
Sometimes, you just want to find a quiet place to read a good book, work on a puzzle or maybe even take a nap. On the Solstice, you're best off doing any of these things in your cabin. Quiet does not exist anywhere else on the ship.
Service: Passable. Room attendant was usually timely with his daily cleaning.
On previous cruises with other companies, the one thing I've liked is getting drink service while poolside. Isn't this the epitome of the cruising lifestyle, soaking up the sun and sipping on a cool umbrella drink?
There was no poolside drink service on the Solstice, and in a number of other locations a customer was better off going up to the bar themselves and placing an order as opposed to waiting for a server to appear.
Food: It was OK. Near the end of the cruise, one of the people at our regular dining room table remarked, "I was hoping there would be something that would make me say to myself, 'I can't wait to have that again.' "
Worst problem with the food was constantly being served dishes that weren't hot or otherwise showed signs of sitting around too long before they were served. It's nice to order a fillet wrapped in phyllo, but we all know what happens if the timing of the dish is off. The pastry soaks up any and all available moisture and the part of the dish that should be crisp turns out wet, soggy and disappointing.
Wine service was below average. Two wines on the menu were unavailable throughout the entire cruise.
The buffet dining area was OK for breakfast, then progressively substandard as the day went along. Of course, this is not a problem confined to Celebrity. I don't care who makes it, no dish of mashed potatoes can taste good after it sits in a warming dish for an hour.
We tried one specialty restaurant. Food was better but not worth the extra charge.
Activities: A disaster. You'll be bored out of your mind.
One evening at dinner, the wine sommelier asked if we'd be interested in attending a wine function the next afternoon. It sounded like a nice chance to learn about wines we'd never tried, from various points around the world.
Unfortunately, they sold way more tickets than the room could comfortably hold. As a result, they extended the function into an outer hallway. The staff pouring the wines knew absolutely nothing about the vintages they were pouring other than if they were red or white. Ten minutes into the function, a dance class began on the floor right below the part of the hallway where people were trying to enjoy their wine. You could not possibly ask for a worse atmosphere, trying to enjoy a nice wine while someone else is trying to learn line-dancing to god-awful music that could be heard throughout every inch of the ship. I suggested to no one in particular that the people who scheduled these two functions at the same time, at virtually the same location, be thrown overboard immediately.
The sell: While researching this cruise and Celebrity, I think the one constant I read about concerned a never-ending barrage of trying to be sold on drink packages or dining upgrades. This was far worse than I ever imagined possible. It's nonstop and it doesn't stop after a few days. It started when we were no more than 15 feet onto the ship during the boarding process and lasted up to the final full day.
What saved the day? The ports were great and the excursions we booked (through vendors other than Celebrity) were excellent and pulled off without the slightest hitch.
Would I try Celebrity again? Not without the best deal in the history of crusing.
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