First cruise with Celebrity, had previously done 2 Alaskan cruises with HAL. We prefer a more sedate and classy vibe, but the reviews for the analogous HAL cruise ship were poor in comparison.
In general I think this cruise is targeted towards the livelier of the older crowd.
Itinerary was fine. I would've preferred fewer cities and more nature. It's a bit of a tradeoff, though, since it'd be difficult to get rental cars. Didn't do any excursions, just went touring independently.
* Crew is excellent. They work so hard and really aim to please. My impression is that they're asked to do a lot.
* Handicap accessibility and assistance. My dad is in a wheelchair, and we found no issues getting around or sitting anywhere. The crew were very accommodating. In particular, they were very helpful whenever we tendered. It can be tricky helping someone who can't really walk to step on and off a rocking tender boat, but the crew kept my dad safe at all times and just did a really commendable job.
* Food overall. We didn't do any specialty dining. We did Oceanview Cafe buffet for breakfast and lunch. Excellent variety. Quality was good but I can see room for improvement there (some items were verging on stale). We usually did Grand Epernay for dinner, where the meals were higher quality than the buffet, as expected. We did Grand Epernay for lunch once, and it was quite good.
* Entertainment overall.
* Live music overall.
* Gym was well-maintained. Equipment was abundant and clean.
* The library. Maybe we've been spoiled by HAL, but on the Solstice it's just an extra space that was made into a library. Furnished decently enough, but it's small, and exposed to the atrium, meaning it's potentially noisy and with no outside views. Not a single ottoman here (or anywhere on the ship, for that matter, I don't think). No happily falling asleep on accident as you lean back in a comfy chair, reading a book, with the ocean in the background.
* There are no quiet and unexposed public spaces on the ship with a view.
* Two of the smoking areas are indoor-ish, on the 12th floor by the pools.
* Music is constantly pumped everywhere, so you feel like you're always in a shopping mall. I found this to be less than classy. There are likely some areas where there is no music, but I remember far more places where music seemed inappropriate. For example, I remember being in the Sky Lounge (a confusing space in itself - more on that later) on the morning of entering Milford Sound, before sunrise, and for some reason Eye of the Tiger and some other song with "sex pot" in the lyrics were playing loudly. Just really conflicted with the mood you would expect so early in the morning, which should be serene, peaceful, to be gently introduced to the splendor of nature.
* Or maybe it was just the choice of music. In general the music aesthetic was as if you put "Lisa Loeb - Stay" into Pandora. Why not some classical instead?
* There are way too many bars on this ship, especially in the nicer parts of the ship. I wonder how the friends of Bill W feel about that. Anyway, if there's a nice space, there's a high probability that there's a bar in it to take it down a few notches. Examples: Sky Lounge and the Lawn Club. This ties back to confusing spaces. Sky Lounge is a potentially relaxing part of the ship, yet there's a bar and dance floor in it, effectively removing the relaxation potential.
* Lots of up-selling. It's easy to decline but I found this to be tacky, and felt bad for the crew who have to do it.
* Port information is not given along with the daily infosheet. You have to visit Guest Relations to get the port's infosheet. It's too easy to take a cynical view of why this is done.
* Very expensive laundry service, whereas it's a non-issue on HAL. What we ended up doing was dropping off our laundry at Mall Drycleaning in Wellington (day 8 or 9 of cruise - we had another destination after the end of the cruise) on Johnston St, then picking it up at the end of the day before boarding. It was about 30 NZD for straight wash-dry-fold of about 4 large reusable shopping bags' worth of clothes. That's compared to 50 USD for one small bag on the Solstice only about 4 or 5 days into the cruise.
* Not enough turnover on the pizza in Oceanview Cafe led to oftentimes surprising staleness.
* Guest Relations crew should feel more OK to say when they don't know something but that they'll try to find the answer we're looking for.
* I think it would be OK to call "music trivia" what it really is, which is "name that tune".
* There were oftentimes typos and grammatical errors in the daily infosheet. There were also a lot of fluff sales-y phrases, where simple, accurate descriptions would be better.
* There was some issue with linking expense accounts to each person in our party. Online, I had assigned everyone in my family to my credit card, but I still had to go to Guest Relations to swipe my card to associate it to each person.
Very clean. Spacious for our needs, which was just a place to sleep. Analog temperature control was good. Adequate power outlets (3 outside, 1 in bathroom - 3 are US, 1 is European). Good size shower stall. The only downside is that it's easy to hear people outside in the hall, which I suppose is very dependent on your neighbors.
Free public wifi by the octagon. Otago Settlers Museum was really interesting, and surprisingly free. Port Chalmers itself is very nice and I would recommend taking a walk along the water there.
Visited the library and Shrine of Remembrance, both nice. Getting around on public transit was easy.
Went on a driving tour that took us up to the Duvauchelle area and the Hilltop Hotel. Amazing views.
Did laundry here at Mall Drycleaning on Johnston St, which is about a 5-10 min walk from where the shuttle drops you off. Then took cable car up to the top of the botonical gardens. There we found a free shuttle to Zealandia, which we took. Zealandia was awesome, lots of birds. Botanical gardens were OK. Old Church of St. Paul was nice as well - it was cool seeing the old wood structure.
Too tired, didn't do much, just looked at the opera house from the ship.
Rented a car and drove to Wai-o-tapu and Waimongu, both of which had interesting thermal features. If pressed for time, just do Wai-o-tapu.
the one-hour driving tour we took wasn't great. It's nicer to just walk along the water after tendering - no need to take the shuttle into town. Took a short swim at the beach near the tender spot - pretty nice.