First Time Cruiser- Celebrity Solstice after Norovirus: Celebrity Solstice Cruise Review by hersheysmom78

Celebrity Solstice 4
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First Time Cruiser- Celebrity Solstice after Norovirus

Sail Date: December 2011
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
My husband and I are both in our 30's (30 and 33)This was my first cruise experience ever so I don't have anything to compare it to. Although some things definitely did not go according to plan I was not as upset as those who knew better. But let me start from the begining:

A few days before we were to set sail, I received an email from Celebrity Cruise line that the ship had an outbreak of the norovirus and that they were taking extra precautions to clean and disinfect the ship so boarding on sail date would be later than usual. That's fine, I didn't mind. They gave the option of rescheduling but I didn't want to cancel my vacation plans as this was my one and only big vacation for the year.

So we fly in to Ft. Lauderdale the night before and stay at the Hyatt Place South near the airport. It had a free shuttle that picked us up and dropped us to the hotel. The hotel was a perfectly fine 3 star hotel- no complaints. Perfect for short stay the night before the cruise. More In short walking distance were a couple of fast food places, KMart, BJ's Wholesale, etc.

The morning of our sail date, the hotel offered a shuttle to the port for $8/person. I thought that was an okay deal. We arrived to a big snaking line coming out of the cruiseport building where our check-in was to take place. Again, not knowing any better I wasn't terribly upset about the wait- but after 1 hr and 45 minutes of slowly inching our way through the line I felt flush and my knees were hurting from the carry on bags I was holding. We finally made it through security then check in- Then we had to wait for access to the gangway. After making it through the gangway we had to wait until 6pm to get to our rooms. So our timeline was something like this: Check out of hotel at 12pm, shuttle picked us up at 1pm, the late check in was to begin at 2pm- so yes maybe a little our fault for being there too early but we really didn't have a choice, 1.45hrs in line, 20 minutes wait for gangway, then wait til 6pm to collapse on bed!. . .But before that! I was famished so we headed to the Oceanview Cafe for lunch. It was a MADHOUSE! People everywhere, no places to sit, I even saw one guy eating his food ON the buffet! We finally asked for help and a waiter found us two spots at a table full of people. So because of the previous norovirus buffets and drink stations at all times were on total lockdown and serving was done by the staff. I didn't mind that actually. It was a little like I read in another review- a lot of "Can I have some of that?. . .A little more please." etc., There was also no access to condiments, not even salt and pepper so I would ask for salt, this one server gave me one teeny tiny packet of salt. I asked for more, she gave me one more. I finally asked for several. You could also not touch the utensils- they were rolled in napkins and behind the buffet. This one server got mad at a guy for reaching and taking his own. I could see as the cruise went on that it was getting kind of taxing for the dining service crew. They would get short or frustrated with people wanting more of stuff or stuff that was not there. On the 2nd to last day, there was a line for waffles. They have two waffle irons that make 4 at a time and some people were asking for 4 total- so it was taking time. The lady serving that station was visibly upset when someone asked for more than 1 waffle. I think because it looked like her station was backing up and maybe she wasn't being efficient enough? So although I actually thought it added to the service to actually be served, I definitely witnessed 'attitudes' from the wait staff. But on some level I can understand I guess, the stress they were probably under was hard to always cover up. So you know- whatever.

So other than the first day- there was always a little bit of a hectic feeling in the buffet area- a little disorganized, uncomfortable waiting in line for even just water, dirty dishes and empty tables not cleaned and ready for more people (several times we bussed our own tables to make room). It was all okay to me. I just didn't let it get to me- in the grand scheme of things it didn't seem like a big deal. . .As far as the food, I've always heard Celebrity has the best food- but my husband and I just found it to be- you know- good. Like any buffet in a nice hotel. Even the seated dining- just okay. We preferred not to dine in the specialty restaurants since we didn't care to spend any more money on food. We kept hearing they were fantastic though.

Our stateroom was near the front of the ship on the left side- so each time we pulled in to port we had a prime view from our veranda. Absolutely unobstructed. My husband's first impression was he expected the room to be bigger but I thought it was perfect. The bathroom was actually nicer than I expected- with thoughtful cabinets and shelves for your toiletries. I liked the location of our room. I liked the fact I had to walk across the ship for food- a little bit extra "exercise".

The overall feel was very relaxed. I would say it was probably 45% senior crowd, 40% 40's-50's, and 15% families or our age group and under. Not a lot of kids but I did see more than I expected- so I would imagine there would be more on the Xmas sailings. . .I wouldn't say there isn't a lot to do- maybe it was just hard to get our timings right. We missed a lot of the shows- they would mostly be at 7pm or 9pm. So after excursions all day at ports, coming back, taking showers, getting ready, having a cocktail, and having the 8:30 seating for dinner- we would miss both timings for the shows. We caught part of the comedian once and enjoyed his performance.

All of our service staff- state room attendants, wait staff in dining room were really nice and friendly.

I think I hit on mostly everything we did on the ship- I did not spend anytime in the pools- the one on deck was quite small and got kind of crowded. I did prefer to be in the climate controlled solarium area. More quiet spa feel.

Overall we would definitely use Celebrity again. We really enjoyed our first experience. Mistakes or events happen and you have to adapt. I washed my hands frequently with warm water and soap and never got sick. (Used my elbows for elevator buttons and didn't use banisters anywhere). We might try Royal Caribbean as we've heard it has a younger feel. But we felt we made a good decision- the dress codes and the older crowd made it feel more "classy" if that makes sense.

So I would definitely reccommend Celebrity and if you get on after (or even during) a virus outbreak- try to take everything with a grain of salt because it's all being done for your safety. I was careful and patient and had a great time! Less

Published 12/23/11

Cabin review: 1B9123 Deluxe Veranda

We had room 9123. When first walking in to the room I was very pleased but my husband (tall guy) thought the room was small. Maybe all in the perception of things but I thought it was perfect. Bathroom: Right when you walk in there's a bathroom to the right which was more spacious then I thought it would be. Nice cabinets and shelves for toiletries. Nice shower with good water pressure and the water gets super hot!. . .Shampoo, soap, etc are provided just like in a hotel but I like to bring my own. Room: We had two twin beds pushed together that made a queen sized bed. It was perfectly adequate. The bed was firm but soft (I don't know how else to describe it!). There was a tv we didn't turn on until probably the 2nd day. You can order room service 24hr items and breakfast items during certain evening hours for the next day. Room service was very slow- I'd give it over an hour. Most items were included/free. There was a minibar in the room (we did not use)-a long couch that could probably double as a bed for a small teenager. Vanity and small drawers. Lots of storage under the beds for suitcases. Closets average size with a few shelves and lots of hangers. These rooms are not big enough for 3 people in my opinion. Balcony: Perfect! Absolutely unobstructed views- I think each port but one we pulled up on our side, the left side so we had a great views of each port as we were docked. We could also see part of the captain's bridge. Great room- I would definitely want to stay in it or similar room again. We did feel some rough waters- but it seemed that way in different parts of the ship at different times. It wasn't like that at all times.

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Port and Shore Excursions

I liked the experience of doing something different and not just something at the port. History is always interesting to me and our guide Joel was very informative and told great stories and explanations of the site. I would definitely recommend if you like this sort of thing. It's not super easy- you do have to stand a lot and you're kind of walking through rustic areas- uneven ground etc. I would recommend sunscreen and bugspray. . .Also the guide mentioned it can get up to 110 degrees during the summer so be careful!

Overall, Cozumel was not really one of my favorite stops. It seemed overly touristy with a lot of hard selling going on at the port and downtown. We booked a scoot-coupe tour through the ship. The meeting place seemed right at the pier but then we had to walk a ways to the actual place the scooters were parked. It is a 3 wheeled (two in front) scooter with two seats side by side. $165 + taxes for two people. The vehicle itself wobbled and swayed a lot and the guide lead a group of the 3 of us through proper city traffic which could get a bit intimidating. He seemed super nice and promised us a margarita at the end of the trip (didn't happen). I didn't really like the fact that we were sort of pushed into buying a picture of ourselves- along the way we stopped all of the sudden and this guy took pics of all of us- not stalker like but he had the same tshirt as the other guy and was like 'Smile!' so we smiled. Then he ended up meeting us at a stop and offering up the pic for $10. We drove up the coast stopping a few times on the way- once at a pretend mayan village, once at a beach "resort" where he offered us a "deal" on a $15 buffet. It was probably a 2 star place and the buffet was half a steam table with some day old looking food. He gave us drink tickets- 1 each good for water or soda. After an hour there we took off again to a look out point. The trip itself was exhausting in the little car, hot sunny day, some rough terrain. Overall- the trip was close to 4 hours. All was fine and good and I kept thinking about this margarita he promised. We got back to the meeting place and parked the cars- he went into some thank you speech and literally tipped his hat (for tips). I didn't appreciate that after spending so much on the tour and I didn't think he deserved a tip but I felt awkard so we gave him a couple dollars. And he took off. We were left to walk back to the pier ourselves. Apparently we figured out some sticker he gave us was supposed to get us a free drink at Carlos and Charlies. But when we got there they said it was only if you buy one. We just gave up and went back to the ship. So it was good because we saw parts of Cozumel we may not have normally seen. . .But i don't think it was worth the price.

This was 110% the BEST experience I had on our entire cruise and actually probably my whole life. I went snorkeling for the first time and got in the water with stingrays. I wish I could remember our guide's name- he was awesome! And the two younger boys who helped out were super nice too. The guide got into the water and would catch (gently) a stingray and hold it in his arms and let others pet it and hold it. I was scared and he brought it to me and encouraged me to pet it. He really took an interest in trying to help get you in to the experience which I totally appreciated. He was always keeping an eye out and seemed to know when to ask if someone was okay- (A wave went over my head and I swallowed some water- he immediately asked if i was okay.) So as scared as I was when it started- The guide and his assistants really helped make me feel secure and I got more out of the experience than I really expected. I would definitely recommend them or use them again if I ever went back to Grand Cayman.

The port itself was just a shopping area. But my husband and I did zipline through a company we booked through Orbitz. I'm giving it a 5 based on how much my husband (and others there) enjoyed it. I was terrified and thought I was going to die the whole time. If you are scared of heights and scared of doing it then this might not be the thing for you- unless you just want to prove you can do it. I ended up going with a guide who rode attached to me and helped me along the way. I tipped him a couple bucks since I lived through it. He didn't talk or smile much but he was nice enough to make sure I opened my eyes to take in nice views when they happened.
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