My husband and I decided to take a cruise on the Celebrity Solstice to escape winter a couple of years ago and I wanted to share our experience with Celebrity Cruises. At the time we had only said with RCCL, Carnival and Princess.
Spoiler Alert – We loved Celebrity and can’t wait to sail with them again!
Boarding The Solstice was a breeze. We took the free shuttle from our hotel (Courtyard Marriott Cruise Port in Ft. Lauderdale—free shuttle to/from airport and/or cruise port—nice hotel) and arrived around 10:30. We got rid of our bags and went through check in very quickly—no problems. We had to wait for a little while to board the ship – but it wasn’t too long of a wait – we were on the ship by 11:30.
On embarkation they said rooms would be ready at 2, but we were done eating at 1 and decided to go check out our room. It was ready and right after we went in, they made the announcement that everyone could go to their cabins. The room was really nice—-leather couch and small coffee table, with a big, flat screen TV; small desk area; 2 twin beds with a small table between (we had requested beds together which our cabin steward fixed immediately); bathroom was pretty large–all tiled, nice exposed bowl sink, large shower, etc. We were very happy with the room. Balcony was fine, large enough for two, with 2 reclining chairs and a table. We had a Sunset Veranda on the back of the ship. I really love the view – but there is a soot problem back there. We like to leave clothes out there to dry – but this should really only be done when the ship is in port….my stuff came in dirtier than it was before I had handwashed it? We cruised during playoffs time and Russell is an avid football fan, hence as soon as we walked in the door he was searching for football! On that note they set up various lounges for the playoff games, and even served good football food.
We were pleased that Muster Drill was without lifevests but found it odd that it was held on Day 2 at 10 AM. I read in another review that this was due to some passengers arriving late to the ship…Who knows the reason…but it was quick and painless…much better than the days of standing on the deck in the hot sun with a Life-Vest on. But I do have to say – we commented several times that those drills don’t really teach us what to do in an emergency. I mean if there truly was an emergency we wouldn’t be going to our muster station! I did get a kick out of the Captain Demetrius though – saying he was the only person who could give the Abandon Ship Command. He then said – if for some reason he is incapacitated, so and so could give the Abandon Ship Command, and if he for some reason was incapacitated, so and so could give the Abandon Ship Command,.and if he for some reason was incapacitated – we have had better days ? He really had a great sense of humor – and would also say “This is your Captain Speaking OUT!!” at the end of every announcement.
All the public spaces were very nice—very understated and elegant looking—nothing gaudy or over the top. Lots of art all over the ship that was nice. Everything looked very clean. Lots of live music all over the ship—-the A Capella group was really good and entertaining and the string quartet was nice.
We didn’t take advantage of the entertainment until the last night. The table next to us sort of became our table mates. We each had tables for two but were really 6 inches away from each other – so we communicated as if we were all sitting together. They mentioned everynight how great the show was the night before…so we joined them on the last night. Seeing that show made me wish I had gone to the other shows! Karen Grainger, the musical impressionist (she did Cher, Celine, Barbra Streisand, etc.) she was FANTASTIC! The magician, Adam Trent, was very sincere and entertaining. He was fun to watch and quite endearing.
We took advantage of the On Demand in our rooms – and watched 7 movies! They had an extensive list of Free On Demand Movies and a list of ones you had to pay for. We didn’t get through all of the free ones….but it was a nice addition. When we would come back all full from dinner – we would change our clothes and camp out on the bed and watch a movie. It was kind of nice! The Gym is really nice. We did visit a few times (not enough). I didn’t like the 20 minute limit on the cardio equipment – I would have preferred to stay on longer. I did not get wowed by the Gym staff like on my last cruise – and didn’t work out with them…which I sort of missed.
The Spa was nice. We only went on the last day. I had stubbed my toe and needed a pedicure and so did that on the last sea day, and ended up getting my hair done. That was a waste of money – but fun to sit in the chair. I wanted a facial but had severe sticker shock when was quoted the price. My husband got his head shaved – which was a treat for him.
Buffet – On Embarkation day it was very crowded, but people were willing to share tables and the food was really good! We were very impressed with the variety of food available at the buffett everyday. There was an Indian station, Pasta station, Mexican (best fajitas!), grilled station, lots of fruit and veggies. We didn’t have a problem with no trays as the stations are set up in such a way that it’s easy to go get your drink, then your food. Lots of choices of food—something for everyone. We did notice on this cruise the staff did not peddle drinks as much as we have experienced on past cruises. We have had it before where you had to beat the wait staff off with a stick asking you to buy alcohol…but not on this ship. It is sort of a positive thing – but kind of a negative thing. When you actually wanted a drink – sometimes you really had to search for one. Again – not that big of a deal. But something we noticed.
Specialty restaurants looked OK, but we decided to wait and see how the food in the MDR was before we booked. We chose to eat in Tuscan Grille one evening…and it was really good. We have been more impressed on previous cruises with the Specialty Restaurants though (on Princess or RCCL). We did take the opportunity to eat in the Bistro on 5 – and it was divine!! Well worth the extra charge of $5/person. In fact the evening we went – my husband and I shared a Panini (YUMMM) and each ordered a dessert crepe…and the server only charged us $5. She said we ordered only enough for one person? (now we are big eaters but there is no way one of us could have eaten all of that food!) We left her an extra $5 tip!
We ate in the MDR for most dinners. The food was pretty good! I didn’t have a bad meal but I have had better meals. We ate breakfast and lunch at the buffett – and always had lots of choices. We did find the nachos at the grill on the last day of the cruise (probably a good thing that we didn’t find these earlier!) The Crème Brulee was yummy in the dining room (I didn’t care for it at Tuscan Grille – though the pop rocks were a neat surprise! – the Fondue at Tuscan Grille was amazing!) My only problem was that I would get so full that I didn’t fully appreciate the food in the later courses! The servings were generous!! Especially the entrees.
We ate breakfast in the buffet and I loved the Eggs Benedict and the roasted potatoes and the little Belgium waffles! There was carved roast beef and ham too which was nice.
The service was fantastic from everyone and they were eager to make sure that everything was to our liking. The girls in the Coffee shop were great.
The ports were all fun. We had been to San Juan previously, so just got off the ship and roamed around Old San Juan and then went to Senor Frogs.
In St. Maarten we went shopping. We ran into Marty (the onboard shopping concierge) and he took us into Diamonds International and asked him to show us the watches we had heard him talk about with metal from the Titanic and Real moon dust….The store owner tossed Marty the keys and Marty took them out for us…my husband enjoyed holding a $20,000 watch – doubt he will ever hold it again! We ended up getting sucked into a talk about a Timeshare company – which felt really shady at times…but we were really sold on the idea. They got mad that we wouldn’t purchase and didn’t understand that we wanted to do some research on our own. I still can’t find any information about the company on the Internet! So odd.
I loved Tortola and Labadee (Check our other posts on these ports). We had never been to Tortola and had been in Labadee several times. We really didn’t spend much time at all on Tortola as we had booked a ship’s excursion to the baths on Virgin Gorda. It took about 45-50 minutes to boat over to The Baths and then we had to swim to the beach from the boat, so it was pretty strenuous, but that was written in the excursion description, so shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone. I am a good swimmer and it was fine…but for someone who wasn’t comfortable it might be too much. Once on the beach, we thought we went the right way and were actually following someone from the crew and ended we weren’t going the right way to the baths. We were a bit annoyed. The other comment I will make – is it seemed odd that we were going to have to go through the baths barefoot and carrying our snorkeling gear….My husband was able to carry both of our snorkeling gear – but it was cumbersome. There were times that I had wished that I would have had shoes on…but we dealt with it and went on. We entered the baths which was very cool—–a narrow, windy, cramped (at times) path through huge boulders right along the ocean. It was something I’d never experienced before, so quite worth it. Once you got out of the Baths, you came to another beach and we were able to snorkel through the boulders, etc. back to the ship (again, quite far away and pretty strenuous, but good snorkeling). I did see a few jellyfish in the water I believe one stung me. But it was odd. I had pain in the water. Stayed in the water for at least an hour after the “stinging sensation”. Once on the boat – I saw read bumps all up and down my arm – but there was no pain? So something did something to me – but not sure what. I did not need vinegar, or urine or anything poured on me. The water was just gorgeous – I really really hope to go back there someday!
Now on to Haiti….as you can imagine, we all had mixed feelings about stopping at Labadee (this was after the earthquake). A few days before we were to go there, we got a letter saying all net proceeds from our stop were being given to the Haitians, plus we could give a personal donation. The peninsula that is Labadee (It’s attached to Haiti proper) is very nice and tropical and the beaches were nice. We had been here before – and wow have they added a lot and it is really so nice! We got to the island and had lunch – which was fine. Nothing that great – but it was fine. We then decided we wanted to enjoy the beach. The first beach we came to was on our left and looked rough. My husband decided he wanted to find the calm water that he saw from our balcony. So we kept walking. We came to a beach on our right – and they told us only Gold Card passengers could go there. Well there was NOBODY THERE. We were never told about this prior to stopping and felt that was something that should have been mentioned before – that there was a Gold Card passengers only beach…So we kept walking and came to another beach on our right…and found a porter (not sure that is the right term) who brought us to some shade (our request) and gave us some chairs. We spent a lot of time in the water (maybe 2 hours?) and laying on the beach. We then decided to go shopping with the local Artisans. The Haitians seemed friendly and happy that we were there. In fact, we asked one of them what their thoughts were on us coming still (so soon after the earthquake), and they said they wanted us to come! The ship unloaded 40 pallets of supplies (food, water, plus clothing—a lot donated by Solstice staff members we found out later). The Haitians were eager for us to buy their wares and we spent all the money we brought : ) I really liked Labadee!
This was a wonderful trip and we hope to sail on Celebrity (and hopefully the Solstice) again. If you take a cruise on this ship, you will not be sorry!!!!!!