Celebrity Solstice Cruise Review by derekt75
- Sail Date: August 2018
- Destination: Alaska
- Cabin Type: Concierge Class
I’ve traveled several times on DCL without kids and then with kids. I’ve been on the Wonder and the Dream.
I recently sailed on the Celebrity Solstice to Alaska with a 6 and 3 yr old.
Here are my thoughts on some of the differences.
I feel that both DCL and Celebrity offer luxurious cruises with good food. I’ve enjoyed each cruise I’ve taken. Celebrity has a much lower price tag than DCL. If you have kids, DCL seems to me to be clearly worth the price difference. If you don’t have kids, I still think the whole DCL experience is better, but the price difference might not be worth it.
I’m not a foodie. Very expensive food or wine is wasted on me. In general, I would say the food on Celebrity and DCL was routinely excellent. On the whole I would say I had a general preference for the Disney menu, because I think Disney tended to have a bigger selection of “boring” items which I tend to prefer more than “adventurous” menu items. Celebrity did have a number of “boring” items, though, to keep me happy. :-)
Twice on Celebrity I ordered the salmon, and they asked me how I wanted it cooked. Both times, I answered “medium-rare”. The first time the fish was opaque for the outer 1 mm or so, and translucent/raw for the entire middle. It was delicious. The second time, the fish was completely cooked throughout even though the server presented it as “medium-rare” when handing it to me. It was delicious. Why am I writing a paragraph about how I enjoyed the delicious fish? Well, when you order the exact same thing and the result is so different, even if it’s good either way, I have to wonder about Celebrity’s quality control measures.
Regardless, the food on either cruise line is good.
I don’t eat at the upcharge specialty restaurants. I have kids and the food quality in the main restaurants exceeds my requirements, so I don’t see the need.
DCL was always great. Kids could always find something they wanted.
Chocolate milk is a standard option.
Kids’ drinks always come with a lid on them and a straw.
Entrees, Veggies, and desserts are kid-friendly.
The cruise line explicitly plans to make things work for kids.
Celebrity was not great.
No chicken nuggets the whole week we were on the boat?
The Mac&Cheese wasn’t sufficiently cheesy for my 6 yr old.
Each dinner choice came with fries and no vegetables. So we always asked for vegetables, and they brought us broccoli and carrots. But the carrots were long cuts with pretty parsley flakes on them. Good if you’re a grown up. If you’re 3 and there’s something green on your carrots, your carrots are ruined.
My 6 yr old really enjoyed my prime rib one night, and there was a filet mignon on the kids’ menu, so we asked for that the next night. The filet came covered in black pepper. Fine for an adult, but my daughter was crying, unable to get her tongue to calm down after biting into a peppercorn.
On DCL, we’d often ask for fruit with the kids’ meals, and they could bring fresh sweet blueberries or strawberries. The Celebrity berries were tart.
My 3 yr old subsisted on bread and fries for the week. She was happy about this until she needed to poop.
Maybe hire an American Mom as a consultant for the kids’ menu?
DCL servers are friendly, but they sometimes seem a bit overworked. One time on DCL, we had 15 at our table, some with food allergies. DCL adhered to a strict division of labor, where the assistant server did drinks while the main server did food. This took a long time for our table of 15, and it would have been far better to have two people taking drink orders when we sat down and two people taking food orders after we had read the menu. For smaller tables, however, the division seems to work pretty well.
Celebrity had a server and assistant server, and they were not constrained by the specific DCL roles, which I thought was good. The Celebrity servers were more overworked than Disney's. They were nice enough, but the DCL ones seemed nicer. But the real problem was the alcoholic drinks, which the server and assistant server don’t do. One day we got to our 6:00 seating at 6:10. The bartender got to our table at 6:45, and the sommelier arrived at 6:50, and that’s after I had asked our waiter and then the maître d’ for help. I can’t even blame the sommelier, though. She was literally running from table to table and to the rack of wine bottles. Another day we arrived at 5:55, and the bartender and sommelier were there as soon as we sat down, and before we had menus. And that could be fine if you’re not trying to see if you want the drink of the day, or trying to match your wine to your dinner. Anyway, I would have preferred service from people that weren’t as overworked.
I like DCL’s rotation of going to a different restaurant each night.
Disney has one “Pirate Night”. This is neat in that the kids enjoy watching people dressed up as pirates. It can be a little annoying to take a set of pirate themed clothes with you.
Celebrity has a couple dressier-than-normal nights. I like that idea.
DCL is more explicit on tips:
You get automatically charged near the end of your trip, and cards and envelopes are printed where you can present folks with the card plus extra cash if you want. Frankly, presenting the envelope is a little awkward, but you feel like you’re doing something for someone that’s been working hard for you. The sudden $300 bill is a bit jarring.
Celebrity is more hidden on tips.
Each day, we were charged $15 per person, and Celebrity charged my credit card every day. I don’t know where that money went. Who got what? On the plus side, the quiet $45 per day makes it easier to ignore than Disney’s.
On the whole, I prefer the DCL system, but I can see how many would prefer the more subtle Celebrity system.
I also wonder if the DCL system is partly responsible for me perceiving the staff as more “friendly”. On DCL, I regularly tip some people more than the “standard” amount. On Celebrity, I didn’t think of doing this, and I wouldn’t have, anyway, even given an opportunity.
I thought the DCL app was mediocre. Passenger to passenger texts were sometimes flaky. The onboard “Wave phone” was more reliable, if more difficult to use.
Celebrity didn’t even have an app, as far as I could tell. Well, they have one for some ships, but not the Solstice. And it’s not clear what their app does. The DCL app lets you see the daily schedule, deck plans, and text your family. That seems like a straightforward thing to do, so do it.
No Wave phone, and no app, so we wound up communicating with each other via email.
And for seeing what my personal itinerary was? Paper only, I think. On the first day I was able to login to my Celebrity account and see what was planned, but by the 2nd day, it was a past cruise, and I could no longer see it.
The DCL pools have long lines for any water slides, and the pools are crowded. They’re heated as much as you might expect a pool to be heated (low 80s). The Disney Dream’s sprayground is pretty fun for toddlers.
Solstice has no waterslides, and the sprayground was closed our whole trip. But the pools are very much not crowded, and one pool was heated to a heavenly temperature (90°?) This had a huge positive impact on our trip as my girls loved playing in the warm, uncrowded pool.
Celebrity has an indoor pool, but it’s usually reserved for adults, so we never used it.
Anyway, even without the waterslides or sprayground, Celebrity was a huge win here due to water temperature and lack of crowds.
Both ships used desalinized water.
The kids’ club is a highlight for my kids on DCL. 3-12 yr olds can all be in the same room. They have independent imaginative play areas, they have Disney movies playing, they have computer games, and they have activities led by a staff member. My girls love it.
The Celebrity Solstice kids club disappointed my kids. Much of this is their own fault, I think. My 6 yr old looks at the lack of toys and claims, “this area is no fun”, without even giving the staff members a chance to help her have fun. The Solstice had board games and Xbox games, but my kids aren’t into that. The other issue for my kids is that there’s a 3-5 age group, a 6-9 age group, and a 10-12 age group. My 6 yr old was not allowed to join the 3-5 kids, so there were times where my two girls were not allowed to be together and they refused to enter the kids club. There were other times where 3-9 were all together.
Unsurprisingly, Disney is a big win here.
DCL has full on nightly Disney stage productions with large casts.
The theater is huge, and you need to get there early to get a number of adjacent seats with a reasonable view.
DCL starts their shows at the same times as the dinner seatings. If you have the first dinner seating, you need to see the second show, and vice versa.
The Celebrity Solstice had some good shows with generally smaller casts. I really don’t know how someone can do a one armed handstand, nevermind various acrobatic poses on one arm on a rocking ship. Of course, this defiance of physics is somewhat lost on kids, and we skipped the show over half the time.
The sound system on the Solstice was very good.
We could show up after the show started and find 5 seats together with a good view of the stage.
Celebrity starts their shows 1 hour after the dinner seating times. That allowed us on several occasions to rush through our 6 pm dinner and still get to the 7 pm show. On the other hand, we never had a leisurely dinner to attend the 9 pm show.
If you like Rock’n’Roll and acrobatics, the Solstice shows are better, while if you prefer seeing Disney characters act like Disney characters, DCL is better. In other words, adults should prefer the Celebrity shows while kids should prefer the Disney shows.
Both cruise lines have beautiful ships.
All DCL ships feel luxurious.
The Celebrity Solstice feels luxurious, too. Its glass elevators looking out over a living tree in the middle of the boat is pretty darned cool.
Both cruise lines seemed to keep the ship in good repair.
One time on DCL, there was a drawer in our stateroom that wasn’t working well, and it was quickly fixed.
This time on Celebrity, there was a drawer in our stateroom that was broken (same drawer manufacturer as DCL?), and it was quickly fixed. Some dinner napkins were noticeably worn. Several of our bedsheets had tiny holes in them. Things felt clean, but that they could spend more time inspecting and discarding worn out fabrics.
The DCL staterooms are bigger, and there are more drawers and cabinets.
Celebrity has some storage over the bed which is quite welcome, but otherwise lacking in space to put stuff. I like that they hid the life jackets under the bed instead of in the closet.
DCL separates the toilet from the bath/shower, which is nice.
The Solstice doesn’t have a bathtub.
On both ships, the cabin steward can open a balcony partition to connect adjacent rooms via balcony.
Both cruise lines have a mandatory muster drill that doesn’t take long. Intriguingly, DCL opens crew staircases for the drill, while Celebrity reserves those for only real emergencies. Celebrity gave our kids plastic bracelets labeled “A2” to wear the whole trip so that they could bring my kids to station “A2” in case of an emergency. DCL gives kids RFID bracelets while in the kids’ club, but you can take them off after you leave the club.
Celebrity took the opportunity to show a handwashing video and a ship safety video. Both were very well done and entertaining for the whole family.
DCL shows Disney movies and Disney stations (including ESPN and ABC) in the stateroom.
Celebrity’s TV lineup is quite anemic. Without anything better on, my kids literally kept watching the above hand washing video over and freakin over again.
Stuff to do:
DCL has mini golf on the Dream. Midship Detective Agency on the Dream. Disney’s jogging track is on a middle deck (e.g., deck 5), and is 1/3rd of a mile long. The gym is lovely, but requires a fee.
Celebrity has a casino, which I guess is good if that’s what you like. It’s not something I used.
The Solstice’s jogging track is at the top (Deck 14), is 1/8th of a mile long, and gets too crowded to use after about 7 am. The gym is lovely, and is free.
The Solstice has living grass on the top deck, and glass art that you can watch or participate in.
The stuff to do situation on DCL is clearly better if you have kids. Without kids, Solstice is probably slightly better.
Celebrity consistently had the worst pier at every location. I don’t know how piers are assigned, but Celebrity should look into fixing this. In several locations (e.g., Juneau), the “good” piers allow you to walk right from your ship to downtown, while the Solstice’s pier required you to pay $5 for a 1-mile shuttle bus ride.
This sounds like a stupid thing to whine about, but it makes a big difference to the vacation experience when you can walk 5 minutes to get back on the boat for lunch vs. walking 20 minutes in the rain each way to get lunch.
I thought DCL did better with their pool deck options (self-serve cones)
They also have more pool deck seating, and I don’t remember smokers on DCL.
The Solstice has a grill on the port side with limited seating. The starboard side is for smokers.
DCL’s “When You Wish Upon a Star” tune when sailing away is pretty cool, but it’s a single pitch at a time.
Celebrity’s horn doesn’t play a tune, but it’s two pitches at once, an A5 chord, I believe. Nicer listening to that as a foghorn than a single pitch foghorn.
Either way, cooler than just a single pitch.
DCL in San Diego has been a bit of a disaster for me.
Breakfast is over before they let people anyone off the boat, and there’s a 1000 person long line to get off the boat, many people carrying luggage. There aren’t any queuing guides and people are cutting the line everywhere because it’s unclear how the line works.
DCL in Port Canaveral is better, but the line to get off the ship is still too long and too poorly managed.
The Celebrity experience wasn’t great, but it was much better. People were getting off the ship long before breakfast ended. They had over 20 groups that they were calling one by one to try to avoid having a 200 person group suddenly get into a long line.
Unfortunately, the port of Seattle was a mess after we got out of the cruise ship terminal. The taxi line was about an hour long. Taxis were queued up to come in, but due to a crosswalk struggled to get to the passengers. The Uber waiting area was a 15 minute walk away, where you had to walk across the roadway the taxis were using (thereby causing the taxi line to get unreasonably long, causing more people to use Uber, …). And then there were 200 people at the small Uber waiting area, making that its own disaster.
The concierge level rooms on DCL are a huge upcharge. They have multiple concierges nearby, so you can walk out your stateroom and ask for help within seconds. If one concierge is on break, another is there to help you. It’s a large fee for something that’s modestly helpful.
The concierge level rooms on Celebrity are a small upcharge. There is one concierge, and he might be nowhere near your room. If he’s busy or out at the moment, there’s nobody to cover for him. That makes his position somewhat useless. It’s a small fee for something that’s hardly helpful.
In either case, the concierge level is only for those not pinching pennies.
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