This was our second Celebrity cruise - we sailed on Eclipse last year.
Initial impressions of Solstice were very good. Although a few years older than Eclipse she is in good shape and communal areas and cabins were clean and well looked after.
Boarding was relatively quick. We got the Celebrity transfer from the airport but the lady on the check in desk was less than helpful and was more concerned with moving onto the next customer than answering our questions. She was also hard to understand.
Once on board it felt like coming home! Because the layout of the ship is the same as Eclipse we knew our way round and were some of the first in the Sunset bar for the long-awaited CC sail-away party.
Cabins: We had adjoining cabins at the stern and they were amazing. We asked the steward to open up the entrance so we had one front door and also to swing back the balcony divider. This took him a day (and a few reminders) to arrange. Same with emptying the mini-bars and hosing the soot off the balconies. He did the ones either side but not ours until we asked.. No complaints with cabin cleanliness or layout and I spent a lot of time on the balcony sunbathing, reading or just watching the wake.
Buffet was very similar to the Eclipse last year - plenty of choice albeit the same food every day. The ice cream was fantastic.
Loved the coffee, pastries, sandwiches and cakes from Cafe Al Bacio.
MDR - Food better than Eclipse and on the whole very good. Only one occasion of 'pink' cooked pork which I gave up on when it came back the same second time. Our service here was exceptional and our waiter, Cyrel and sommelier Ivan were just great. They gave the best service we have ever had. Although we were on select dining we booked a table at the time we wanted in advance each day so that we could go to their area.
Murano - service way OTT and uncomfortable. Husband felt very unwell after the lobster. Wouldn't go back
Tuscan Grill - again service a bit too attentive but food excellent - our favourite speciality restaurant.
Silk Harvest - food and service good but experience spoilt for us by being next to a table of very young children who ran amok. We were offered a free booking a few days later but the menu is very limited and our experience of the MDR was so good that we preferred to be there.
Leisure faciitities and entertainment:
Pool deck way too small for the number of passengers and we avoided it at all costs preferring the privacy of the balcony.
Lawn - a great facility and location but unfortunately the vast majority of it was 'resting' and not open for use most of the cruise!! What a waste. Also the lawn games weren't left out for use most of the time which again was a shame as there is little else for families to do together, Maybe they should look at artificial grass if they can't maintain it in the heat?
Hot Glass Show was awesome. Very entertaining and informative. Three great guys who are passionate about their craft and were actually interested in meeting and talking to the passengers.
The shows were variable in quality. We really enjoyed the Illusionist, the Cirque de Soleil type show and the final show where Captain Gerry sang and played the guitar (rather well!). One-man show was dire.
Shops were the usual range and we bought a few watches. Service was average and they succeeded in charging us twice for something. This meant a trip to Guest Relations to rectify.
Service overall very good with the exception of the Sunset Bar where the bar staff looked really miserable. This was the same on the Eclipse last year!
My husband was dismayed to find no decent bottled English beers (apparently the Spanish don't like them!). They were plentiful on Eclipse.
Martini bar was fun and the place to be!
We only did two Celebrity excursions. The gelato trip from Civi which was hilarious, although it wasn't meant to be and the family cable car tour in Dubrovnik which was good as it included a brief walking tour. Beware if you have very young children though as there are a lot of steep stone steps to climb down. Go inside the museum at the fortress at the top cable car station - it is very interesting.
It does annoy me how Celebrity seem to be deliberately evasive about the alternatives to their own shuttles and tours. More information about the public transport options would be appreciated - we got most of our info in advance from the CC forums and our fellow roll-callers. At La Spezia the Guest Relations lady was very unhelpful but the Concierge was the opposite and printed me off a map to show how we could easily walk to the train station.
Tender arrangements need looking at - huge delays in Kotor both getting off and getting on. Standing in a long queue in the blazing sun to get back to the ship not much fun. Long queues also for tender getting off at Villefranche. This meant that we missed the train we wanted to get to Monte Carlo and had to get the later 'train from hell' which was absolutely packed.
A great cruise. It must have been because we have booked another one for next year! We met some lovely people (old friends and new) and the Solstice didn't disappoint. It is very easy to criticise and there were things that could undoubtedly be improved but overall a fantastic time.
I must mention here the ship's Captain Gerry Larsson-Fedde whose announcements ('Hello, it's me again') amused us at 12 noon each day. A great sport he participated in guest/officer events, was available for photos on formal nights and performed on stage during the final show. The staff said what a great guy he is and I'm sure that under his leadership Solstice will only get better.