After cruising 350 days nearly half of them on Celebrity, I embraces the notion that this cruise line has gracefully been lifted above others. In 2004-2005 we had the fortune to travel most of Europe onboard Celebrity's beloved Millennium and Constellation over three months which had clearly etched incredibly memorable experiences until this day. Hence, we were poised to book two back to back segments onboard the new Solstice.
Clearly, Celebrity has raised the bar while keeping most of what the company has been famous for. From the moment you enter the ship, you are greeted with a grand foyer which can put most five star hotels into the twilight. All materials are first rate, polished in class, while being modernly hip unlike stuffy luxury liners. From the public areas, lounges and staterooms which now offer an interactive 32 inch flatscreen television the Solstice manages to impress all senses something better felt than said. I can list all the attributes this ship has which can be better viewed on Celebrity's website than my words. The true value of this vessel lies in the overall execution of details ranging from style, design flow. Asthe ship docked in port (as in all Celebrity ships) tents are raised covering leather sofas for guests who are served punch, cold water and ice towels upon entering the ship. The entire ship is designed to bond guests with the sea not insulate them.
Dining is first rate in any venue from the finest designed Lido buffet at sea, the classy grand dining room to the many alternative venues ranging from Italian to Asian. You cannot go astray by any of these dining venues which are better than most at sea with tasteful dishes and polished service.
The aqua spa could have used the thalassotherapy pool (salt water warm jet pool) found in smaller Celebrity ships. Nevertheless, an half acre of real grass in the lawn club was a treat to all senses namely to my 3 1/2 year old daughter who loved to stroll barefoot. All shows are better than anything else I had seen on other ships except the ones on Celebrity's beloved Millennium.
As they say, value lies in the details, details which can often be overlooked. It is the sum of all these small elements coupled with balanced execution which adds up to a truly rewarding experience. This is exactly the realm nearly perfected by Celebrity not easily matched by other cruise lines regardless of price.
This was our seventh cruise overall and our second time with Celebrity. We cruised previously with Princess, Royal Caribbean, NCL, Carnival, and Holland America. Our first experience with Celebrity was beyond expectations, so we embarked on the Solstice with even higher expectations.
Because we live in South Florida, getting to Fort Lauderdale was no big deal. We arrived at the Port Everglades around 2:00 p.m. and we were on board the Solstice within 20 minutes
Once on board, we were greeted with a glass of champagne and then went directly to our room. Our room was very clean and well maintained. Our room was a verandah cabin on the Vista deck. While in our room, we met our room steward, Bernardo. While many aspects of this cruise did not live up to our expectations, Bernardo was well above our expectations and continued to impress us throughout our vacation.
The ship itself was very well maintained. However, my wife and I noticed some of the bathrooms were dirty. There was oxidation on the wood, probably due to sea spray. While this is common, it is something we did not observe on our previous ships.
Service- Service was very slow in the MDR. On our first night, they served a desert with crème puffs filled with praline ice cream. My wife asked for just praline ice cream and she was told by our server that he did not know if that was possible and needed to consult the chef. As far as I am concerned, they had praline ice cream, so it did not seem like a drastic request. On previous cruises, we were escorted to our table and my wife’s chair was pulled out for her. This did not happen on the Solstice the first several nights. We spoke with the maître d’ and were moved to a smaller table with a new server, Luis. Luis was amazing. He did everything right and made up for some of the shortfalls we experienced and witnessed. One evening, we showed up twenty minutes late for dinner due to a family issue at home. When we entered the MDR, we noticed our table was gone. It was discovered later that the table was used by other passengers. After several minutes of confusion, we were escorted to a different table away from Luis. Other than water, our drinks were not refilled. The majority of the time our drinks sat empty. If was obvious the staff was spread very thin. The same night, we were given petit fours along with our main desserts. When our dessert arrived, I noticed the chocolate covered strawberry had been partially eaten. My wife brought this to the attention of the assistant server. His reaction was to inform her that there were no more chocolate-covered strawberries. He did not take away the dessert or try to replace it. When we brought it to the attention of the lead server (again, not Luis), he said that they often sample foods and make sure the samples they eat are taken away to avoid this type of problem. The next day, we spoke to the restaurant manager and maître d’ who offered to comp a night in one of the specialty restaurants. Although they addressed the issue, the stigma was still there. We received complementary chocolate covered strawberries and a bottle of champagne in our room. While standing in line at the Mast Grill , my wife was passed over four times for service.
Stateroom – The stateroom was beautiful and the bathroom was exquisite. However, the closet space is minimal, perhaps the smallest on any cruise we’ve experienced. When we unpacked, we noticed there were only ten hangers. For a 7 day cruise, this is not enough and we had to request more. Bernardo brought us extra hangers within minutes. The bed was not as comfortable as on previous cruises but it was nothing to snub our noses at. Although we did not hear many noises from the hall, we could hear the conversations and T.V.’s from the adjoining staterooms.
Murano – Great service and great food. The steak was not really any better than the MDR. Plus, we really preferred to sit with Luis as he was just as attentive as the server in Murano.
Silk Harvest – Awesome experience, great food and amazing service. I have shell fish allergies and the chef went out of way to make springs rolls leaving out the fish sauce. I did not ask anyone to make this accommodation; they just did it for their guest.
MDR – Appetizers and entrées were awesome and Luis was exceptional. Neither of us cared for most of the desserts, but I was able to have ice cream each evening to satisfy my sweet tooth. Service for breakfast and lunch was very slow and spotty. We overheard one waiter tell a guest that they were very understaffed.
Room Service – I am sure they are very busy, because they took a long time to deliver the food. Often, the order was incorrect. My wife ordered a bottle of champagne and was informed it would be in our stateroom in approximately twenty minutes. After three days, we gave up on ever receiving it. At least we were not charged for it.
Buffet – The food was delicious and there was a large selection. However, it was the same selection each day and after several days, the redundancy became unappetizing.
Pools - The pools were nice and the hot tubs were very relaxing. The pool decks were busy on sea days but we always managed to find a place to settle down. The solarium was beautiful and a nice reprieve from the main pool area.
Entertainment - The entertainment ranged from fantastic to amateurish. The dancers for the production shows were pretty good. The acrobats were outstanding and talented. The comedian, James Stephens III was really funny and the best entertainment on the ship. In addition to being funny, Mr. Stephens was a genuine and good person. He sets aside profits to assist struggling children with education. The juggler was awful and it was almost painful to sit through his show. We would have left early but this was the one show we decided to sit close to the stage. We felt sorry enough for him that we didn’t want to embarrass him by leaving. On our previous Celebrity there was always something to do. On this cruise, we found ourselves very bored. There was a lack of activities during the day and very few venues for entertainment. Celebrity could take advice from Princess where there is always something to do. This trip certainly lacked fun activities.
Fellow Passengers - While the vast majority of guests adhered to the rules and regulations, there were some that lacked any class. Our first day, we saw a girl walking around in her bra (not a bathing suit top). We saw guest swearing jean shorts to dinner and, on more than one occasion, guests were admitted to the MDR in swimwear and bikinis. We heard of one passenger being thrown off the ship in Puerto Rico due to a fist fight the night before. I understand Celebrity cannot control everything but certainly dress code is one thing they can enforce. If I wanted to dress as wish, I would go back on NCL, but Celebrity clearly outlines their dress code in their brochure.
San Juan – We spent the day touring historic San Juan. San Juan was a blast and our only complaint is we did not have more time here.
St. Thomas – I did the SCUBA excursion through the cruise line. The trip was chartered through Underwater Safaris out of St. Thomas. These guys were great and the trip was a blast. The water was calm with great visibility and good company. I would highly recommend this excursion if you are a SCUBA diver.
St Maarten - My wife and I went shopping for gifts then spent the remainder of the day laying on the beach. I rented a jet ski and for an hour and had a blast. It was a very relaxing day.
Announcements - The only announcements were the imperative ones. My wife and I like to sleep late and it was nice not being woken up to redundant announcements.
Unfortunately our Celebrity experience this time was not up to par with our previous cruise experiences. We will likely cruise on Celebrity again; however, it’s not on the top of our list for near future cruises. We relaxed, ate plenty of great food, and spent time with friends. Any day at sea is better than a day home.
Last January we cruised on the Solstice with Capt. Dimitrios Kafetzis and had a memorable cruise. We booked the Solstice again in order to experience the new Aqua Class cruising. Since we published a review on the Solstice in January, we will refer readers to that review on this web site for a deck-by-deck description of this gorgeous ship and focus this review on the delights of cruising in Aqua Class. We had a warm welcome aboard and the week proved to be equally enjoyable.
EMBARKATION On Sunday morning, with light traffic on I-95, it took us less than half an hour to travel from our home in Boca Raton to the ship in Ft. Lauderdale, where the embarkation process was so smooth that we were on board in 15 minutes. Alas, the staterooms were not yet ready, so we proceeded to the Ocean View Cafe` for lunch. At 1:00 pm, while we were eating, the announcement was made that our cabins were ready.
SHIP OVERVIEW Under the supervision of Hotel Director Sue Richardson, the ship is kept in excellent condition: Solstice is less than two years old and looks just asnew and sparkling as the day she left the Meyer Werft shipyard – just celestial as she was on our first cruise.
The Solstice (2008) is the first of a class, the ship's dimension are 122,000 gross tons; 1,033 ft. long; beam is 121 ft. and a draft of only 27 ft. Celebrity's next two ships in this class are the Equinox (2009) and the Eclipse (2010), in cookie cutter fashion, and the Silhouette (2011) is in the works. Guest capacity is 2,850 and her crew numbers 1,200.
There are 130 staterooms in the Aqua Class which are identical to the deluxe ocean view cabins with veranda (194 sq. ft. with an 54 sq. ft. veranda and 299 sq. ft. with 80 sq. ft. veranda for the wheelchair accessible cabins). Some of the features in the Aqua Class cabin are queen size beds, 32"LCD TV, wireless internet access and a table with two reclining chairs on the balcony. Special amenities in these rooms include the following: Complimentary dining in the Blu Restaurant (clean cuisine, spa style food); upgraded bathroom amenities; plush robes and slippers; oversized towels and contour pillows; sound and aromatics for relaxing: complimentary Italian Spring Water; Carafes of infused teas daily; daily canapes; available full breakfast in room service; daily breakfast in the Blu restaurant from 7 to 9 am and finally Concierge Services! Waiting in our stateroom were a bottle of French Brut Champagne, chilling in an ice bucket, and fresh flowers.
SERVICE & FOOD Service on board any vessel takes its cue from the Captain and Dimitrios is a friendly and outgoing Greek! All week we had marvelous service and were aware that he made passenger and crew safety a priority on the ship.
Aqua Class is aimed toward a healthy life style and dining in Blu was always interesting. For years we have been grumbling that ship portions were always too large --- Blu has achieved perfection in portion sizes. We always felt satisfied after dining, but not bloated. The décor of Blu is lovely: windows to the sea provide a terrific backdrop, overhead a gorgeous chandelier, in crystal and cobalt blue, evokes thoughts of Santorini and the Greek Isles. The chargers and plates were uniquely shaped and in whites glass and cobalt blue as were the water tumblers. The whole effect is understated beauty.
We asked the Maitre d' Dariusz Chowaniec if we could have the same waiters each evening -- Wilmer Castillo and Santos Ramirez because they were so wonderful. They were prompt and remembered all our likes (i.e., lemon wedges for Mary). We had an excellent sommelier, appropriately named Napa, and every evening assistant Maitre d' Marjan welcomed us. Dinner at Blu Restaurant was always a pleasant and relaxing event.
Appetizers: Seafood ceviche, empanadas, baked goat's cheese, soft shelled crabs, beef carpaccio, lump crab martini, etc.
Soups: Chilled sweet pea with crab and toasted almonds, tortilla soup, spicy roasted plantain and corn soup, etc.
Salads: Endive, Blu Caesar salad, Boston bibb and arugula, Shaved fennel and blood orange emulsion, etc.
Entrees: Broiled Atlantic salmon, roasted chicken breast, NY strip, braised lamb shank with couscous and glazed carrots, etc.
Desserts were tiny and light and included crème brulee, a variety of fresh sorbets like mangoes and ginger, etc. Many desserts were mysterious and surprising.
We also highly recommend the upscale Tuscan Grill restaurant, where we ate and were very happy with the gorgeous veal chop and the delightful ginger snap tulip cup filled with wild berries and mascarpone cream for dessert. Vincent noted that wherever he ordered meat entrees (fillet Mignon, New York strip, veal chop or prime rib) from the Grand Epernay to the Tuscan Grill and the Ocean View Cafe, they were the best at sea.
Perhaps our loveliest meal was with Captain Dimitrios on the first formal night in the Grand Epernay dining room. He is a wonderful story teller and he regaled the table with parenthood tales. The very democratic captain used the dining room menu as his table menu. Excellent! Yet, we did notice a difference between this cuisine under Executive Chef Mischa Graafman and that of Executive Chef Mikael Tochetto on our last Solstice cruise. Chef Tochetto used a superb mix of French and Italian cuisine, while Chef Graafman's cuisine has overtones of Holland America and Indonesian spices. As the Latin maxim says: "De gustibus non est disputandum (no disputing about taste)". We met many officers who were always courteous and friendly, especially the Food and Beverage Manager Michael Bramlett, who was everywhere and his work was evident.
CABIN Wheelchair accessible cabin #1538 is spacious and just like the one we described in the January Solstice review. The nicest thing about it is the automatic door opener and the huge bathroom. Mary had a fall in the bathroom and four stewards including John our steward and Roman and two others plus Medical Assistant Alistair all rushed to help and still the bathroom was not crowded. Alistair took us to the Hospital Facility on Deck 2 where Dr. Cosmopoulos(?) was wonderful and caring; he took x-rays and wrapped the knee. All gratis! The facility and the Doctor were terrific.
ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Paul Baya has an excellent voice. He did a rousing rendition of "Stand by Me" at the Elite Cocktail Party. We especially enjoyed the Sipra Band and the two girl singers: Janisa and Maricel, and the male vocalist Bryan Allan. The Tony Viviano Quartet in the Ensemble Lounge did a lovely job on our favorite "Green Sleeves". The Solstice singers and dancers produced peppy shows and the Solstice Band provided excellent entertainment.
There is plenty to do on board and even educational courses, one can play Bocce on the lawn on Deck 15. Get out there!
PORTS OF CALL
Day 1: Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale FL Depart: 4:30pm.
Day 2: At Sea.
Day 3: Georgetown, Grand Cayman Arrive: 9:00am Depart: 4:00pm
Day 4: Cozumel, Mexico Arrive: 9:00am Depart: 6:00pm
Day 5: Costa Maya, Mexico Arrive : 8:00am Depart: 6:00pm
Day 6: Roatan, Honduras Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 5:00pm
Day 7: At Sea.
Day 8: Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale Arrive 7:00am.
DEBARKATION The debarkation process went very smoothly. After our breakfast in the restaurant Blu, we returned to our cabin and waited for a crew member that the Associate Hotel Director Sheldon Thompson had arranged to help us. We are both disabled and need assistance, even though Mary has a motorized wheelchair and Vincent has a scooter, we also use a walker for short distances. This time Vincent's scooter broke down on one of the ramps exiting the ship and, fortunately, the attendant that was accompanying us helped to bring the scooter down. Thanks again to the crew for being always helpful and courteous. By 10 am we were back home in Boca Raton.
CONCLUSION Even though we have done many Caribbean cruises, this was our first done in August. We usually prefer to cruise the Caribbean during the fall and winter months, when the chances for tropical storms and tempestuous seas are low, but to our surprise the weather this time was great. Vincent enjoyed the view from our starboard balcony, especially the colorful sunsets and the sighting of Venus, as bright as ever, during the evening in the western skies. The only evidence of storms during this trip were the lightning seen from our balcony in the distant cloudy horizon, so distant that no thundering sound followed the flash of lightning. Captain Dimitrios Kafetzis must have kept us away from the storms. We had the pleasure of seeing again this friendly captain who remembered us from the previous cruise and invited us for dinner at the Captain's table. Thank you, Captain!
We are getting ready for another cruise on Emerald Princess, Aug. 15th, only a week away, then on Liberty of the Seas, Sept. 6th, on Norwegian Epic, Oct. 2nd and on Crown Princess, Nov. 6th. We have not booked one for December yet. Happy Cruising!
My Mom, Sisters Deb and Kel and I just got home from a 7 day cruise on the Solstice. This is our second cruise together.
We stayed in inside cabins. The cabins were spacious and very clean.
The food in the dining room was not very appetizing. The waiters were polite but too busy, with the many assigned tables, to get to know. The food in the Oceanview Cafe lacked variety. It offered the same type of food every day.
The activities were slim. The crew refuses to announce what is going on around the ship.
The entertainment was okay.
If you want a relaxing, do nothing, type of cruise, this cruise is for you.
Overall I would not book another cruise with Celebrity.
- WHAT'S HOT - Solstice Public Areas Solstice Staterooms Exceptional service (Uger, Caetano, Paulo, Rosa, Gusti, Igor, Mariana) Solstice art collection Hot Glass Show The Martini Bar Murano Tuscan Grille Galleria Tastings aka The Molecular Bar Ports - San Juan, St Maarten, Tortola, Labadee
- WHAT'S NOT SO HOT- Entertainment: Seriously lacking Activities: Snooze-A-Palooza
What's HOT on Solstice:
Public Areas - This is a beautiful ship. The Lawn Club is a great place to relax and provides the perfect spot to enjoy a cool drink or a game of Bocce ball. The Barefoot Sail Away party in Tortola is a must! Sky is a beautiful bar that looks like many trendy bars one would find in SoBe.
Staterooms - Caetano and Paulo were outstanding attendants. The room was well appointed and we enjoyed the in-room entertainment system.
Service - service on the Solstice is very good. Ugar, our MDR waiter was fantastic! He appeared to be very rushed at times but he was attentive and never missed a beat the entire week.
Solstice art collection - The art on this ship is absolutely incredible. Seek out the original Matisse and Picasso. The art on display alonewould be worth taking this cruise for.
Hot Glass Show - This was pretty amazing and no two shows were alike. I recommend you see this at night, the colors are more vibrant.
The Martini Bar - Our favorite watering hole on the Solstice. Rosa, Gusti, and Igor are the heart and soul of the coolest bar (literally) on the ship. Thanks again guys, you're the best in the business!
Murano and Tuscan Grille - The food on Solstice will not disappoint. It is one of the main reasons we selected this ship. The specialty restaurants are well worth the upcharge and should not to be missed if you cruise on the Solstice.
Galleria Tastings - the Molecular Bar has the most healthy and unusual drink menu you will find, ANYWHERE! We discovered this bar late in the cruise and quite honestly wished we would have spent more time here. The drinks are deliciously unreal. Have Mariana whip up a Dragon Fly or South Of The Rio. The most unforgettable drinks you'll ever have!
Ports - San Juan is fun, riding the trolleys in old San Juan is highly recommended. St Maarten has great beaches and good duty free shopping. Although Tortola is only a 1/2 day, the ride out of the BVI is spectacular up on the Lawn Club. If Tortola were a full day you would miss all of the views and scenery departing BVI. Labadee is beautiful and the beaches are very nice.
Entertainment - We found the Solstice entertainment to be inconsistent. The wife and I are in our mid 40's and we enjoy dancing and live music, especially (preferably) TOP 50 current hits. The Solstice simply doesn't deliver at all in this area. Overall most performances, live music, and dancing (even in Quasar) will appeal to the older crowd. Music impressionist Greg London, think Vegas and Danny Gans, was very funny. Cirque de Sole inspired 'Solstice: The Show' was also very good but that is where it ended for us. If you're in the 65+ demographic you will enjoy the lounge acts of Dan Hodge, Epithani: Party Band, and the Brian Elwood trio. If you like Joan Rivers and find her brand of humor funny, you'll love comedian Brad Zimmerman. Cruise Director John Grantham does a fine job at hosting the 70's, 60's, and 50's trivia and parties. Considering the average age of PAX on this cruise, they might want to consider hosting a 40's trivia night and party with sounds from the big band era. My parents and Grandparents would've enjoyed most Solstice entertainment.
Activities - the Lawn Club is very cool. I learned how to play Bocce and enjoyed it. Other than that, much like the entertainment, onboard activities were designed for the older PAX. If you're in the 65+ demographic you'll enjoy Solstice days at sea. Napkin folding, bingo, Magic with Stuart, scrap booking, perfume sampling, and endless trivia should provide hours of excitement.
** A word of caution to BINGO fans on the Solstice, beware of the $5000 BINGO JACKPOT game, this is very misleading! Save your money and spend it elsewhere. You'll hear the hype and announcement for the big jackpot. They won't tell you the rules to winning until after you've bought your BINGO card (and started the actual game), you have to have ALL of the numbers for the entire card, AND (here's the kicker)…they're only going to draw 46 numbers for the big prize. Needless to say, 46 numbers were called, nobody won. They kept playing and the winning card won about $200. Whatta rip off, they should disclose games rules upfront. They didn't and there was a feeling by many that we had been flim-flammed because this wasn't disclosed until after cards were purchased. **
What's NOT HOT on the Solstice:
- Entertainment - If you're in the 30 - 60 yr demographic, you may struggle with much of what the Solstice offers. As mentioned earlier, impressionist Greg London and the Solstice circus show are very good...but that's it.
Talent How do you describe someone as 'unfunny' especially when they're a comedian? I will try my best here without being too hard on the guy. Comedian Brad Zimmerman is not funny. How's that? He opens for Joan Rivers. Joan Rivers is almost 80 years old.
Music Unless you transport to the Solstice from another dimension in time, say 1981, you won't find any current music played live on this ship. The only rock band you'll find on the Solstice is ‘Epithani: Party Band'. The Epithani: Party Band is in dire need of an epiphany. Bluntly stated, they play the same tired songs (covers from the 60's & 70's) that you can find any band playing in any bar, anywhere, on any given night. If you like your music current, you probably will not like this band. We saw Epithini: Party Band play one set and then we left. Live entertainment on this ship is seriously anemic for the young to middle age demographic. There wasn't any entertainment onboard that I or the DW would ever seek out on land or sea. If you're scheduled to sail on this boat and own an i-Pod, bring it!
Celebrity, please get a good cover band that plays the TOP 50 current songs. Put them poolside for a few nights and in Sky Lounge a few nights. RCCL has these bands, you can too…only better!
- Activities - If Celebrity Life is about REMs and sleep patterns, they've hit a grand slam. Like the entertainment, Solstice is seriously lacking in this area as well. What happened to the Tequila tasting that was advertised in Celebrity Life on your website? It was there before the cruise, now its gone!?! You have a 55 Million dollar art collection, you should have guided tours no less than 2-3X per day. Scheduled activities, especially sea days were actually Snooze-A-Palooza Daze at Sea.
Dancing They did a nice job with Latin dancing by the pool on one night. A huge crowd participated and this activity was a hit! With such a positive turn out, why would they do this only one night on a one week cruise!?!
Poolside Was the decision to have Metro Park: A Cappella perform Doo Wop sounds by the pool suppose to create party atmosphere or put everyone to sleep? Is this Celebrity Life? At least ½ the folks around the pool and solarium were napping. The pool deck's general vibe was flatlining, they need to have more activities by the pool during the day and night.
Celebrity, you can take this cruise from Good to Great. Offer more Latin dance lessons, you should know that nobody does the Cha Cha and Waltz anymore. Host more events poolside. Have adult oriented events and games like RCCL so that your guests will have a good time. You're in the Caribbean for a week fer cripes sake, get a Caribbean band out there and make a party and have some fun.
We enjoyed most aspects of this cruise. We would've preferred current music and better activities. I did briefly express these concerns with Cruise Director John Grantham and he did say Celebrity was slowly targeting a ‘younger' crowd. I'm glad we went but I don't think we would do the Solstice again. Maybe this cruise is better in the summer. We're considering a cruise to Bermuda on Summit next year but I'm not sure after last week. I'll read the Summit cruise reviews this summer before making a final decision.
There are many travel options on the market and Celebrity will need to score better on entertainment and activities. If not, I guess we can try Celebrity again in about 25 years when we're old enough. If this is Celebrity Life, it was really designed for my grandparents. Not that there is anything wrong with that, maybe Celebrity is NOT ‘designed for me' after all.
Celebrity Solstice Class
My wife and I have made 10 cruises with Celebrity Cruise Lines, The latest was in Celebrity Solstice. We have sailed in 5 different Celebrity ships including the Century, Millennium and Solstice classes. While the technical and engineering advances are indisputable, if you have cruised in a Millennium class ship, the passenger amenities in the Solstice class are a classic example of progress being change, but change not necessarily being progress. In comparison to the Century and Millennium classes Solstice was too crowded and all chrome and glitz. Although cabin locker and drawer space the Millennium and Solstice classes MAY be the same, storage space is much better laid out and more accessible in the Century and Millennium classes. Celebrity is currently "Solsticing" the Millennium class; I hope they don't go too far because in my opinion they have definitely "Carnivalized" Solstice.
For openers, there are only two banks of elevators, forward and midships. The 8 midships elevators are glass; your elevator choices are between acrophobia or claustrophobia. If you are acrophobic there are three ways to get to Oceanview Cafe aft on deck 14. In all three you would haveto use the forward elevators. On deck 11, you would have go aft and up several flights of stairs; on deck 12 or 14, you would have to cross a weather deck. Not a pleasant task in bad weather. The only way get to the main or specialty dining rooms without using the midships elevators or stairs is use the forward elevators and walk aft. The Library, Card Room and other public spaces overlooking the Grand Foyer also are unusable by passengers who have a problem with heights.
Additionally, the pool in the Solarium in the Solstice class in not a therapy pool as in the Millennium class, nor is it heated; you usually find more people around it than in it. You could hardly call the hot tubs heated either. The sign for the spa says to limit use to 15 minutes; good advice, any longer could result in a severe case of frost bite.
Trays are not used in the Oceanview Cafe. Bring one with you; we sure wished we had. There also are no food service lines; just food service stations, about 10. Consequently there is no traffic flow, resulting in a lot of people milling about. One group is checking out what's available at the food stations while the other is trying to get back to their table while balancing plates or bowls of food.
Here is how you would have to manage a breakfast of juice, coffee, milk and/or yogurt, and a plate of hot food. You put your silverware in your pocket, get your coffee and juice, then find a table; put those items there. Go get your plate of hot items and milk; if you also want yogurt you put either the milk or yogurt in your pocket. Then go back to your table and hope it hasn't been cleared or usurped by another passenger; by this time your coffee is cold. Your could reverse the fetching order; your choice is cold coffee and hot food or hot coffee and cold food. Unlike revenge, meals are not better served cold. You can be of good cheer though in the knowledge that the ship doesn't have to be bothered with policing or washing the trays.
After many attempts I finally decided the definition of insanity was, indeed, repeating the same behavior and expecting a different result. Alas, I eventually gave up on the 400 yard poached eggs. I call them 400 yard poached eggs because that is the distance I estimate the average golfer could drive one off the tee. You can get them either hardened or case hardened. If you want a drink before the show in the Solstice Theatre, take it to your seat with you and hope the other passengers do likewise because the leg room between rows of seating is restricted making drink service a challenge. Also sitting any length of time if you have leg issues can be painful. The Ensemble Lounge, Michael's Club and the specialty restaurants on the 5th deck are the only spaces in the ship up to Celebrity's past standard of elegance.
With the exception of the poached eggs, the food in Solstice was on a par with other Celebrity ships we have sailed in; and the service provided by the crew was up to Celebrity Cruise Lines' high standards. It is not my objective to discourage people from cruising in Celebrity, far from it. We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise, just hated the ship. We even booked our next two cruises onboard... in Celebrity Infinity. Celebrity will continue to be our first choice; however, we will NEVER cruise in another Solstice class ship. If the only choices were between a Solstice class ship and another cruise line we would not go or seriously consider the other cruise line!
Cannot say enough about the Solstice. It is a ship built with understated elegance. The service and the food are excellent. Certainly a best deal.
We were in a balcony stateroom with just the right amount of closet space and drawer space for clothes & accessories. The beds were first rate. Loved the enclosed shower- no more water on the floor.
The entertainment was wonderful- especially the special dance reviews. Also, the bar staff were there only when you needed them- they did not intrude.
The only downsides were:
Not enough activities Older passengers Disembarkation ( too long a wait)
CELEBRITY SOLTICE EQUALS CLASS, SERVICE, EXCELLENCE AND A WHOOPS OR TWO
April 25, 2010 to May 2, 2010
Aqua Class 1524-Handicapped AccessPROLOGUE
Mid February while looking for a vacation between our New England winter and our Celebrity cruise of the Equinox in October 2010 and to gather enough information and prices to take to a travel show here in Boston as informed traveler I searched the web looking for "something" to a warmer climate. Celebrity Soltice for 4/25 was having an incredible sale for their first Western Caribbean and in the Concierge level that we needed to be upgraded from Select to Elite for our upcoming October cruise. Rather than wait for the travel show (big mistake), I called Celebrity directly and not only was I able to upgrade to Aqua class for $29.00 more (yes, you read that right) I was able to book a mid-ship and handicapped cabin to boot. Parrot Pop when I told him said to "book it" and I did. If I had waited for the travel show, I would have the same price I found out later plus an OBC. Go figure!!
We were picked up bythe van from the Comfort Inn in Hollywood,, Florida where we found a motel full of cruisers, all various cruise lines and two other couples for the Soltice.ARRIVAL AT THE PORT
From the second we set foot at approx 11:30 a.m. at Terminal 18, a wheelchair was made available for Parrot Pop and the porter stayed with us throughout the signing in taking us upstairs where a steward took over. We were offered punch or water before we had our pictures taken and a given big welcome. The steward brought us to the Oceanview Cafe to await our cabin being readied and to have lunch with the welcoming champagne and mimosa in hand.
A thoughtful touch was the abbreviated Welcome "Celebrity Today" as you boarded the ship (a full issue was in the cabin).
Upon embarking the Soltice I was taken delighted by the magnificent modern use of the wood, glass and art throughout the ship, especially the glass. It would take guests more than a week to check out all the artwork. A catalog in our cabin showed the location of all of the artwork. We even found a famous photograph by Bert Stern of Marilyn Monroe hidden away in the casino. My favorite was an area by Nancy Friedman called Night Soltice that you walked through.LIFE BOAT DRILL
The "mandatory lifeboat drill" was a first for us on Celebrity. We proceeded to our Assembly Area in the Soltice Theatre without our jackets as instructed.
DINING AREAS –we experiencedAQUASPA CAFÉ
In the "adults only solarium" we discovered the AquaSpa Café for lunch and breakfast. It helped me several days to get over the guilty feeling of overeating in the Oceanview Café. I loved the idea of the containers of flavored waters, healthy desserts and for those with dietary problems gluten free bread, a cook willing to prepare fresh chicken breasts and fresh salmon. Overheard one of the guests with a special dietary request which the cook would solve. The only problem was there weren't enough tables in the area.BLU
As Aqua class we spent several evenings in the beautifully designed restaurant with a blue and white theme and roses in mind. Special attention is paid to presentation of the food with the most gorgeous glass dishes for appetizers and desserts. The food was a mixture of healthy options and regular food I thought.GRAND EPERNAY RESTAURANT
We decided to try the restaurant for breakfast one morning and I ordered Belgium waffles and they arrived with little containers of whipped cream, blueberry and cherry sauces were on the side of the plate, presentation, presentation.
For a few evening we went to the restaurant for supper and I must tell you that the choices on the menu have been cut down from previous Celebrity cruises and quite limited. One evening after looking at the menu and nothing was appealing we raced across the ship to Blu must to the consternation of the Maitre D wondering why.
There is no doubt in my mind that they are very short of staff and service whether it was breakfast or supper and service was very slow. Tables are set very close together. We found that the food although presented beautifully lacked taste. Yes, I said "taste"! Somebody in the kitchen doesn't seem to know how to make the food "sparkle" or maybe there are too many people to cook for. Presentation does not make up for "the "wow" factor that used to accompany arrival in any the MDR of Celebrity.
The Grand Epernay Restaurant is on one end of the ship and the specialty restaurants on the other end. The room is spectacular no doubt. We were assigned Table #100 and at each supper we dined there the table next to the window remained empty, we sat in the middle next to the serving station and weren't allowed to change our table.OCEANVIEW CAFE
Most cruise ships have done away with trays in hopes that it cuts down waste and the Soltice is no exception. There is a modern attractive set of dishes and if you use the largest plate (they are square), it can work as a tray, but don't tell them. At first view the various stations are overwhelming and one Maitre D offered to give me a tour. Except for hamburgers and hot dogs I can't imagine your not finding something for your every desire...a sandwich station, salad station, fruits, pizza, carving stations, stir fry, grilling station as well as all sorts of ethic food. Even two separate stations with ice cream, sorbets, desserts and at one soft serve ice cream, they were very popular. With all these stations it didn't take much to loose your direction back to your table.
The same area was popular for breakfast with the design your own omelets, waffles, yogurts, hot cereals, pancakes, french toast, carving stations, danish, croissants, breads, and eggs poached, boiled, scambled, cereal stations with a zillion toppings and dried fruit. For the European guests there was a station with many of their favorites. What we enjoyed were the waiters walking around with carts pitchers of coffee which we have not found on other cruise lines.
The café tables were always cleaned, although busy and dirty dishes taken away immediately. The staff was very friendly and helpful.MURANO
What a beautiful and romantic atmosphere and our very favorite meal on the ship. From the most fabulous bread basket, to the mushroom soup with dollop of cappuccino ice cream, to the rack of lamb and the little sorbets to cleanse your palette in-between courses. I can't stop raving about our experience. Special attention was even paid to the presentation of the veggies. I'd love to have a course in how they do it or at least be a fly on the wall as they do. It was an evening to remember and well worth the extra charge.TUSCAN GRILLE
Here was the most disappointing and overated meal in the specialty restaurants. Ordered my favorite Cioppiono and it tasted like a weak tomato flavored broth. The few chunks of seafood were presented around a bowl and the waiter arrived with a kettle of broth. It was extremely tasteless and a major disappointment not the rich broth we have had other times and should have been. After two tries at the Black Angus steak the Maitre D showed me with a tiny flashlight that the meat was indeed pink, but because of the lighting didn't show, it was soft as butter. My husband ordered a veal chop and I'm not sure if it's supposed to be fatty but returned it and ordered the steak.
DINING COMMENTS—When I talk about presentation one of the items that I noticed was that the butter in each dining room was presented. i.e- the butter pat in Blu was in the shape of a rose, in Murano in the shape of a triangle.. The décor in each dining room was lovely and glass played an important part of the décor of the rooms.
Something new has been added to your dining experience. The Chef, whether in the Grand Epernay or anywhere else introduced around to each table. Better he should be tasting the food and overseeing the chefs.
Special attention seems to be the order of the day in which every single dish, whether appetizer or dessert is to be presented and it shows. It almost appears that for each dining room especially designed dishes are utilized whether for a sorbet or relish. Sadly, I would rather have them pay attention to the "taste" factor and the lack of seasoning.
Where the main dishes lacked "taste", the bread basket has a wonderful assortment of breads, all I assumed baked in the same area. Sorry, if I keep repeating "taste" but we were underwhelmed by the food in the main areas, especially the MDR.OUTDOOR POOL AREA
Lots of padded chaises, areas in the shade and the usual early morning chair hogs. One a.m. a coveted covered double chair near a Jacuzzi was adorned for more than three hours with snorkeling equipment the entire time we were there. A "gentleman" came over and checked it out and then re-arranged the two regular lounge chairs across from that with a sneaker and towel on each and then had the audacity to go back to the pool bar to sit and smoke a cigar (he was not in bathing attire. As a matter of fact many of the hammock or covered chairs/slings remained unused for several hours. Since I'm an early a.m. sunning person I had no problem finding a lounge.
Away from the pool and Jacuzzis was an area of lounges for sitting "away" from the area and reading, napping or playing cards. Noticed children playing in an area where the waters coming up reminded me of "dancing waters".
Pool Butlers--give me a break! just call them "towel boys". They did nothing, zilch. Never saw them cleaning off the wet and used towels from the chaises at all, not even once during the entire morning.
One of the nicer touches I remember from I think the Galaxy is that at 2:00 p.m. one day around the pool waiters came around with little cups of sorbet.INDOOR POOL/SOLARIUM
A lovely spot to unstress, no childen under 16 allowed and each lounge in the a.m. had a rolled towel on it. Chaises were chaise to chaise without space inbetween. Again, covered lounges "toweled" from early a.m.
AQUA CLASS CABIN 1524--ACCESSIBLE How we managed to get one of these cabins was pure dumb luck and and I understand now why they are grabbed even by the non-handicapped. The cabin was huge as was the balcony. Pull strings by the bed and in the bathroom.. The bathroom is accessible by wheel chair and the shower area has a fold down seat with two shower heads. The bathroom and front door (after inserting your key into a lower opening) to the cabin c ould b e opened by hitting a large white button. Don't want to say the bathroom was large, but we could of had a party or put two beds in there. The balcony also accessible was large with two lounge chairs and a tall round wooden table with more than enough extra space.. Parrot Pop with his rollator thoroughly enjoyed the seat in the shower and says he could easily get used to cabins such as these. Unfortunately, they are booked it seems as soon as an itinerary is announced.
We do not travel lightly and I can understand why people complain of lack of drawer space. Because we were Aqua Class we found a white net bag for the spa with two sets of slippers and various creams, two umbrellas in the closet and the biggest surprise instead of cold water we had herbal tea, wish they had left non-sugar sweeteners.
The bathroom design definetely was a plus (thank you ladies), much storage area on either side of the mirror closed off by glass doors. Below a large drawer and several other smaller ones.. On the vanity all sorts of spa products from shampoos, conditioners, body wash, nail file and shower cap and they were replenished freely during the cruise. The towels were the softest and most plush we have ever encountered. The closet had enough space to hang clothes and for the handicapped a way to pull down the closet rod. Women will love the little folded up makeup mirror in the desk drawer.
Our Stateroom Attendant, Wilfred, was always available and kept our cabin straightened which was not an easy job. Interesting note. I wonder if the cabins are vacuumed every day.PORTS-
Grand Caymen-same old, same old
It was hot and brutally humid and since I did not want to shop or go to the beach we opted for the Trolley Ride that Celebrity offered for $19.00-It was an open trolley tour of Grand Caymens and the homes and well worth the $19.00 each.. There were five cruise ships in port that day so you can just imagine the chaos in the terminal or to a getting to a tour.
COZUMEL-just isn't the same old sleepy spot from years ago.
Spent a week here many years ago and only wanted to go to one shop and discovered Cinco Soles now had a small shop in the terminal. Shopped around for a while until it rained and went back to the ship.COSTA MAYA
As many of the guests did we stayed on the ship for the day.ROTAN
Now, this was a place we had never been and we decided to do a Victor Rotan tour of the island and at the end visit his home with monkeys and parrots.
To others Rotan is "nothing", but it is now with cruise ships starting to berth there on the verge of a huge tourist explosion. It is lush, clean and tourism is their only industry. Hidden away are a few resorts and the beaches we noticed were just gorgeous and gleaming. Along the roadside we stopped and bought two handbags made with wood from Honduras from some pleasant women. They had many wooden products with some lovely wooden salad bowls for sale.
In a brochure on line it was suggested that you wanted to bring school supplies it would be greatly appreciated. It's a long story, but Old Navy in Kittery, Maine, gave me several dozen childrens books about cats and dogs, which I distributed to many children and then gave a mother walking her children to school the rest to be taken to the school and shared.
At the end of many of the Victor Rotan tours you were offered a chance to visit him at his home and his collection of monkeys, parrots and deer for an additional $5.00. Now you just know for Parrot Mom this was going to be a highlight and it was. Not only that I am very aware of "roadside zoos" and am very critical the way the animals are kept (btw I made a $$ donation in Cozumel to protect the dolphins who are cruely used for entertainment for tourists).
This zoo is part of his home. There are little children playing on the porch. Guides take y ou through and introduce you to the monkeys and the birds and the facility is clean, the monkeys and parrots I saw were housed humanely and the guides seem to genuinely love these animals. I just wish they had other items for enrichment.
I fell in love with the monkeys and since I have almost no fear and a have a healthy respect I absolutely loved hanging out with them in their cages and talking to the parrots that I knew would be friendly. The poor young man acting as our guide didn't know exactly what to make of Parrot Mom who talked and handled the birds and monkeys and had brought from the ship grapes.
There is a little gift shop and they had some unique beaded items that I bought to give as gifts, very affordable.
The Victor Rotan tour covered the entire island and the only negative note and this I have discussed personally with him. I asked the driver to take us to a local restaurant for lunch. He took us to a restaurant called Half Moon Resort overlooking a gorgeous bay and here I was taken aback when the menu was presented to us in English at what I assume are "tourist prices", especially after our guide told us that shrimp and fish were plentiful, but the coconut shrimp and fried conch balls were delicious. Oh yes. another guide showed up with a couple on a Victor Rotan tour.SPA
Although I am not a "spa" person I booked two procedures one afternoon and was quite disappointed that they did not have the coloring for the second procedure which seemed odd. The spa appeared to be very active.ENTERTAINMENT
From Michaels Club where Lloyd Baskin played wonderful listenng music to the Will Foraker Trio, to Martin Andales a guitarist there was always a reason to want to sit and listen.
This was the week NOT to be on the Celebrity Soltice..E.D. John Grantham announced that there was a serious problem in the theatre and a crew was being flown in to Grand Caymens to remedy the problem. When that problem was solved there was another minor problem and no show that night either. This probably went on for at least three to four nights.
Entertainment by the Soltice singers was provided in the Atrium where most people were hanging over the balconies to hear and they are a talented group with beautiful voices.
One night finally the show went on and I vividly remember a ventriloquist, Ken Grove, and in order to fill the bill the E.D. added Adam..a mime, a very bad mime. The second night the ventriloquist came back with his back up show, awful, awful, people were walking out of the theatre.
At that point a phone call was made to the E.D. expressing our disappointment the quality of the shows and that we felt rather than put on a second rate performance the main theatre show should have been cancelled..in the end he agreed.
Once the theatre was up and running an impressionist from Las Vegas, Greg London, performed, same old, same old, until he sang in his own voice which was delightful.
The Soltice dance troupe did Pulse, some great dancing and we enjoyed the Cirque de Soleil- passing over head gracefully.. now that was a fun show.
All in all the entertainment, except for the little venues was a major disappointment and not live up to the Celebrity standards we have experienced on their other ships. If this is the type of entertainment offered on their seven day cruises compared to their trans-atlantic they must be trying to appeal to a different type cruiser and that is an insult to Celebrity cruisers.
Luckily for Parrot Pop I saw little that I wanted to buy. In the "logo" shop we did make the acquaintance of Kate and Michelle, two delightful young women who helped us out when buying a glass wind chime.
THE FAMOUS GRASS LAWN
When I first heard about grass lawns on the top deck of the Soltice Class ships I was dubious. WHY!! Well, I am here to say it is a very active area with lawn games of croquet, bocci, people lying and sunning on the grass and for some a place to chill. The "lawn" furniture is welcoming and very attractive.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE SHIP-Corning Hot Glass Workshop
As a glass afficianado from way, way back.. I was anxious to attend the Corning Glass Show and watch it I did. I missed only one performance. There was always standing room only to watch these talented artists, Eric Meek, who works for Corning and both of the independent and talented artists (whose names I have forgotten, sadly). After watching them for just about every performance I noticed their personalities and artistries/talent coming out in their individual work. Each took turns explaining the art of glass blowing and what the other blower was doing. In one week more people I'm sure were able to watch and understand the intricisies, artistries and dangers (one piece broke while we were there) of glass blowing. Pieces were not for sale and towards the end of the week an occasional piece was raffled off. Considering two to three pieces were made during a session it really would have been nicer that more than a few raffles be held and most of the pieces given away.
WHAT MADE THE CELEBRITY SOLTICE STAND OUT AMONG ALL OUR 24 PLUS CRUISES WE HAVE TAKEN, INCLUDING OUR 4 TRANSATLANTICS WITH CELEBRITY, PLUS THIS WESTERN CARIBBEAN CRUISE
In no other cruise did the word "service" or "excellence" stand out more than this cruise.. There was no such word in the vocabulary of this staff that includes "no" or "not possible" Never, never, never-.
Two days before disembarking we discovered our paper plane tickets which we purchased independently were missing, panic set in.. A call to the Concierge where we explained the situation, gave her certain information and within 24 hours a copy of our e-mail ticket and confirmation were at our cabin.
The night before departure as Parrot Pop was trying to pass a service cart with his rollator at approx. 11:00 p.m. at night a bolt sheared off. A call was made to our Room Steward and within a few minutes an engineer came up with a tool box and fixed the rollator.. Now that is what I call service above and beyond.
One evening I asked for whipped cream for my dessert and the waiter said (Blu Dining Room) he wasn't sure it was available but he would check downstairs.. Moments later he came up with a large bowl that was shared at the table, but it just wasn't dumped in, it was piped in the bowl-nice touch.
Celebrity continues with the a daily newspaper in several languages that the other lines have dropped quietly.
Very few advertising inserts for sales and instead seem to use private messages on your phone to remind you of the special events your invited to. Yes, there still is a chocolate on the pillow at night something other lines have stopped. Best of all few loud public announcements during the day.
Whatever faults we found on the ship with the food or entertainment it was more than made up by the attitude of the Soltice staff throughout the ship. My only regret is that this was a seven day cruise and in retrospect should have done a back to back. Next time. Oh yes, our Celebrity Equinox Holyland cruise in October..and I so look forward to it now.
Celebrity continues to stand for Excellence and Class-
EXTEMELY DISAPPOINTED. We had cabin 6233 and the creaking in the walls was so loud we couldn't sleep at night. Crew was sent up 3 times to repair and they finally told us it has been an ongoing problem in that room for over a year. Asked to move to another room, told it was booked, on the fifth day at 11:30 pm, yes, PM we were offered a different room. Offered a $200 certificate with restrictions towards a future cruise. Turned it down as I will NEVER CRUISE CELEBRITY or Royal Caribbean again.
The food was not good, requested an 8 top, seated at a 2 top and they never moved us, ate at the $30 a night restaurant, entrees were not good however, the appetzers were, bartender broke a glass which flew in my eye. I never complained as my eye was fine later that day. Husband is in extreme pain from a back massage from the spa, has to have an MRI tomorrow to see what is going on. This was a first for him as he gets at least 2 massages on each cruise. Overall extemelydisappointing!
Last spring we booked a transatlantic cruise on the Solstice, but due to health problems we did not make it. The Solstice is now 14 months old, her naming ceremony was Nov. 14, 2008; her Godmother is Prof. Sharon L. Smith a renown marine and atmospheric scientist from the University of Miami: very a propos! The Solstice's name conjures up thoughts of our sun star and heavenly worlds beyond Earth. Her Godmother grounds those ideas and brings to our life on Earth more meaning.
The softness of the many delicate draperies on board evokes feelings of clouds. The highly polished aluminum columns in the Grand Epernay Dining Rooms and the Champagne bubble like lights on the ceiling, combined with the beauty of the décor presents an ethereal aura. Even the night club on Deck 4 is named Quasar and calls up space images. Suffice it to say, the Solstice is unique --- and so is her Captain Dimitrios Kafetzis. He is a fine Master with a welcoming sense of humor: ”He is Greek!” with all the connotations and beautiful manners of a Greek ship's host.
EMBARKATION On a Sunday morning I-95 traffic islight and from Boca Raton to Ft. Lauderdale takes only 25 minutes. We had curbside assistance with our baggage, wheelchair, and scooter. A crew member helped us through check-in and we were in our stateroom in twenty minutes. Excellent! Guests were greeted with Mimosa drinks, very refreshing.
SHIP OVERVIEW The Solstice weighs 122,000 gross tons; she is 1,033 feet long and has a beam of 121 feet. Her draft is 27 feet and she has a cruising speed of 24 knots. She carries 2,850 guests and has 16 passenger decks. What follows is a deck by deck description of her layout.
Deck 1 is for crew only.
Deck 2 holds the Medical Facility (which we did not visit)!
Deck 3 aft has the Grand Epernay Restaurant, a glorious combination of spaciousness and modern design with crystal and chrome fitting in beautifully, with the three deck tall white draperies. There is an old saying that drinking Champagne in Epernay (the heart of French Champagne country) is like listening to Mozart in Salzburg...” (Eperzine Web magazine). So also are diners in this stunning dining room treated to bubbles in the ceiling lighting. On Deck 3 are the Guest Relations Desk, the Shore Excursions Desk and the Passport Bar.
Deck 4 has Celebrity Central entertainment locale, Cellars Masters (wine, whiskey, or bourbon tastings, etc.). Then, there is the Fortunes Casino (the Slots are loose, and the give out is published daily.) Next is the Quasar Nightclub with its polished metal dance floor, suspended capsule chairs and twinkling lights, there is lots of atmosphere. Midship are the shops on board and forward the Solstice Theatre with excellent acoustics, but there are a few poles obstructing the view of the stage, so choose seats carefully. The red velvet stage curtain is flanked by two 3 deck tall draperies composed of tucked white and off white fabrics making a collage of billows. Very unique.
Deck 5 has the “Bistro on Five” which specializes in crepes, both sweet and savory. This is a great place for brunch or late night dessert ($5) the “Cafe` al Bacio” serves exquisite coffee and desserts. There is also a Gelato ice cream shop, and the Captain's Club for repeat cruisers. Since Celebrity is part of RCI and we are Diamond Plus members in the Crown & Anchor Society, we have been given elite status with great perks. There are the boutique shops and Michael's Club where cocktail parties and high teas are held. Aft on Deck 5 are the specialty restaurants: Murano (excellent French cuisine) Silk Harvest (Asian) and the Tuscan Grille (Italian), cover charges apply.
Deck 6 through 11 are all staterooms in addition to the Online@Celebrity (the internet room) on Deck 6, the Library on Deck 10 (open stacks and reading areas, no need to sign in or out --- the honor policy is in operation) and the Relaxation Lounge on Deck 11.
Deck 12 has the Health & Fitness center, the Aqua Spa, the Beauty Salon, the Solarium, Swimming Pools and Whirlpools. Vincent uses the sauna and the whirlpool daily and he had wonderful advice and help from Natasha.
Deck 14 has the jogging track, the Mast Bar & Grill (hot dogs, hamburgers and fries), the Ocean Bar & Cafe` and the Sky Observation Lounge. There are sky lectures with an on board astronomer at night.
Deck 15 has basket ball courts, a hot blown glass show (Corning) and the Lawn Club with extensive grass lawn where Bocce Tournaments between passengers and crew are played.
Deck 16 is the Sun Deck.
Throughout the ship is a huge eclectic art collection, some of it commissioned for the Solstice and others works are from both famous cubists like Picasso and Matisse or from photographers like Martin Liebscher where repeated photographs of himself in different poses make up a crowd. Very Interesting. The “Full Moon Briars” by Susan Derges is certainly in keeping with the Solstice theme. Different staircases have been given themes like “Stair of Light” and “Stair of Water.”
CABIN Stateroom #6141 is a wheelchair accessible cabin with a large automatic door. When entering on the left there is a full length mirror and a double armoire in maple wood; a vanity/desk with lighted mirror, seven drawers, a private safe, and refrigerator. There is a marble counter top and one chair.
When entering, on the right is a huge tiled bathroom with a tilt mirror flanked by two large medicine cabinets with glass doors. There are safety rails all around and a huge shower with a fold away seat. There is a king size bed with very nice linens of gold white and maroon. The two reading lamps are close enough to turn on and off from the bed. The final pieces of furniture are a love seat and a small coffee table.
The balcony is large and deep: it contains two recliners and a teak table and chair. The carpet is in Burberry colors: gold, beige and maroon and the draperies are beige with bands of rose patterns. The stateroom attendant, Mahmodi is excellent. The cabin is large and comfortable.
SERVICE & FOOD Hotel Director Damien O'Connor displays the perfect temperament to control the Solstice. He is kind, affable and likes to hear just how the passengers are getting along. He doesn't just ask questions for conversation's sake, rather he is truly interested in the passengers' satisfaction. He has a well trained crew, who make the passengers comfortable and provide for their every need. We always say that the mood on board filters down from above--- with such friendly leaders as Captain Dimitrios, H.D. Damien and Restaurant Manager FabioScaglione, it's only natural that the crew are also friendly and sincere.
Food & Beverage Manager Robert Flack has the daunting task of overseeing 600 crew members who produce and serve more than 12,000 meals daily, yet everything goes off beautifully. Exec. Chef Mickael Tochetto combines the best of culinary traditions: born of Italian parents, raised in France! The food on board is excellent, based on menus by world renown Chef Jacques Van Staden and implemented perfectly by Chef Mickael. The menu is one of the most diverse at sea and most ample. No one could possibly go away unsatisfied.
We enjoyed every meal on board, especially the one at Captain Dimitrios' table on formal night. The Escargot was perfect, Vincent's Caesar salad and filet Mignon were just the way he liked them. The Captain was jovial and complimentary; at the end of the meal he gave each lady at the table a beautiful long stem American Beauty rose. Our waiter at table #110 in Epernay was Jose` Altamirano, both he and his assistant Yvonne Williams were very pleasant and served at a nice pace. Celebrity is probably the only line still providing a finely trained Sommelier: Ferhat Ebret was cordial and Vincent was appreciative of his service and knowledge. Bravo.
Some samples from the appetizer menu are as follows: Tropical Fruit Medley with Lychee nuts; San Francisco Crab Louis; Goat cheese tart served with red roasted peppers and Balsamic syrup. Soups included Wild Mushroom Cappuccino with Porcini mushroom dust, and chilled Gazpacho. Salads were fresh and varied: Belgium Endive and arugala with red delicious apple and candied pecans. Some of their homemade dressings included Roquefort, Citrus, Pinot Noir Vinaigrette, Champagne and lite raspberry.
Entrees include pastas like Spaghetti Carbonara, fish such as Herb crusted Merluzzo (white fish) and fowl like Grandmother's Coq Au Vin and Veal Cordon Bleu. Chef Mickael's Ossobuco (excellent) Mary felt it was a triumph! The aged Prime Rib of Beef was mouth watering. Vegetarians had a large assortment of dishes including grilled Kebabs. For dessert there was always a selection of imported cheeses, fruits and traditional desserts like Crème Brulee`, NY cheesecake, Profiteroles, apple pie, fresh sorbets and homemade ice creams.
There are several Speciality Restaurants. We highly recommend Murano, and its contemporary French Cuisine: try the sweet breads and the fois gras and the wonderful Cheese Cart. We are happy to report the food on board is excellent.
ENTERTAINMENT The Solstice has three very nice shows: Adam Trent a young magician, singer Karen Grainger, and Celebrity Show time presented Solstice: the Show, which was very nice with aerial acrobatics. A very interesting offering was Astronomer Vic Stryker, who lead nightly sky watching. This ship has many things for cruisers including Casino games, Bingo, Fitness, Bocce, etc.
PORTS OF CALL Sunday: Ft. Lauderdale, FL Depart: 4:30pm Monday: At Sea Tuesday: San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive: 2:00pm Depart: 8:00pm Wednesday: Philipsburg, St. Maarten Arrive: 8:00am Depart: 7:00pm Thursday: Tortola, B.V.I. Arrive:7:00am Depart: 1:00pm Friday: Labadee, Haiti Arrive: 10:00am Depart: 6:30pm Saturday: At Sea Sunday: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida Arrive: 7:00am
CONCLUSION This was another great cruise! We have not had a bad cruise in a long time, since we have learned what to expect from the various cruise lines and direct our attention to the things they do best. We are addicted to cruising, because we know how to get the best out of every cruise in regard to food, service, itinerary, ship's environment, repeater's benefits and personal attention. Some readers of our reviews have accused us of being too soft with our criticism. We disagree with them since we always include in the reviews any points which are not perfect and may need improvement. It is hard to write a negative review when we have enjoyed the overall aspect of a cruise, which up to now we have always done. We'll be cruising in search of the perfect cruise or an unpleasant one; neither of which we have yet experienced.
Our next cruise is in February on the Liberty of the Seas together with our son Marcello, his wife Paige and their eight year old son Marcellino. We have also booked a relocation cruise on the Star Princess, on March 16th, from Rio De Janeiro to Ft. Lauderdale. Happy Cruising!