Celebrity Solstice Cruise Review by Ned Flanders
- Sail Date: December 2018
- Destination: Australia & New Zealand
- Cabin Type: Concierge Class
Initially it was just the 2 of us, but a few months' later a friend signed up & we changed our standard balcony cabin to a concierge class balcony room for 3.
As it eventuated, 2 more friends from USA wanted to do the trip & they booked a sky class suite. So all up, 5 of us, but in fairness, this review is based on my wife's & my experiences.
We arrived at the terminal at 11.45am & dropped off our luggage - very easy. Consistent with our previous experiences on other ships, it took about 35 minutes all up from the time we entered the terminal until boarding. Mind you, without concierge class, it would definitely have been longer. I must comment on the vast number of helpful & pleasant service officers standing by, pointing us in the right direction as we progressed through the terminal. They helped set the tone for our cruise & it was a perfect start when we were offered a glass of bubbly on boarding.
Near the ship's entry point as we boarded, we were greeted by our concierge, Javier, who introduced himself & told us that we should contact him if we have any questions or concerns. He gave us his card. Excellent start from Celebrity!
Daily & most times, twice daily, there were recorded messages sent by Javier to our cabin 'phone with updates. These were especially helpful with info re excursion tendering & disembarking during port visits & also, for our final disembarkation in Sydney. Javier's message always gave particulars of the hours he would be available daily at his desk on deck 7. He also facilitated a helipad visit for concierge class passengers when the ship was arriving in Picton. He was exceptional.
We enjoyed our first lunch in the Main Dining Room as part of the concierge deal.
Our bottle of bubbly was waiting for us on ice in our room. Daily canapés were provided & initially, we ordered 3 plates of 4 canapés each, but we stopped these after a few days as we truly had enough food at meal times to more than satisfy our hunger.
A small set of binoculars were in our cabin, as per the concierge service.
Concierge also promises preferred dining options in the MDR. We invariably were seated at our desired table there at night.
Would we pay the extra $$$ again for concierge? Probably not now that we're retired & every $ really counts; however, if you can afford it, I'd recommend you seriously consider it.
We ate most of our meals in the MDR, although we went to the buffet for lunch on port days & also enjoyed Murano & Tuscan.
MDR provided us with an adequate variety of courses, although perhaps an over concentration on cold soups which weren't our thing. But still plenty of appealing & tasty dishes to choose from. We thoroughly enjoyed each & every meal we had here & we were fortunate enough to be seated at Table 561 (seats 6) for our group of 5. Our servers, Head Waiter Clamelle, Assistant Marija, Drinks Waiter Mark & Sommelier Nelson, were all outstanding. They truly spoilt us.
Mind you, all the staff at each meal time in the MDR, whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner, were wonderful.
Lunch on 4 occasions in the buffet provided us with an amazing array of food from which to choose. Quality & flavour weren't missing. We had no issue getting a table each time as we only ate there on port days. Loved the ice cream bar & the dessert & cake selections were staggeringly good!
Our evening in Murano was very special & was definitely a 5 star event. Such attentive staff & perfectly professionally friendly. Food was exceptionally good & the whole experience, as a one-off for us, was worth the US$65 per head.
We dined the 1 night in Tuscan & whilst we preferred the menu in Murano, Tuscan's location at the ship's aft provided a tremendous setting. We did enjoy our night here; cost was US$60 per head.
Café: Inevitably stopped for a liqueur coffee & tea here at night & I can't believe how quick & efficient service was. Also a stop over point for a mid morning coffee. Most times, but not always, seats were available, but there was a quick turn over of tables. A most pleasant venue to relax.
We ordered pre-breakfast tea, coffee, smoothies & juice each morning & this is a wonderful free service.
Bars & Lounges:
Mainly had our drinks at lunch & dinner times so didn't frequent the bars in the main. However, did enjoy an occasional beer or wine in the Ensemble and Passport bars. Both were nicely furnished & relaxing & service was no issue.
Paid about USA$30 for a "world wide" wine tasting of 6 reds & 6 whites from different international wine regions, hosted in Cellar Masters. Enjoyed this, a pleasant couple of hours & no shortage of drinks.
I can understand why they were rated number 1 by Cruise Critic readers. Cloth or paper towels, constant cleaning (there was always a cleaner there ) & fresh smelling. The standard is at the highest level.
Activities & Entertainment:
We only participated in a number of the trivia games & the bingo. The latter was expensive at USA $39 - $59 & we only played on one day of the 3.
Trivia was as you'd expect, but don't have high expectations when it comes to prizes (not that it mattered to us as we rarely won anyway!). It's there for the fun & that's okay. But one trivia host was excruciating. It was all about him & his Sicilian heritage. He was over - indulgent, infantile, went on & on & it got to the point of narcissism. Just not at all funny after a few minutes.
Went to most stage shows which included a rock/dance show, 2 individual performers/singers, a comedian & 4 singers, The Other Lads. Enjoyed them all, although nothing sensational , but an entertaining way to spend an hour. Plenty of seats available at the late shows.
We think this is a wonderful ship with a great variety of public rooms. It was beautifully decorated throughout the public areas for the festive season & Santa was on hand on Christmas Day for the kids & families.
Especially loved the solarium area, just to chill & look at the beautiful view from there. Not that we tried them, but they serve healthy meals there too.
There were 3 to 4 metre swells crossing the Tasman going over & the Solstice handled them admirably. Smoother than all previous cruises I've been on.
As mentioned, Santa came on board, in the morning & all kids were given a gift. All diners in the MDR had a bon-bon at their table setting.
We dined in the MDR on NYE & all diners were given headwear & hooters for the evening. A nice touch.
Unfortunately, NYE celebrations on Lido Deck were rained out & as it eventuated, boring old us were sound asleep when the NY rolled over.
Of course, this takes place but noting that we couldn't quickly put an end to. Not a concern to us, just be firm.
With no kids of our own on board, this didn't interest us but after a discussion with Mum with a teenage daughter, if your kids are thinking of going, get them to go from day & try it out.
This Mum's daughter didn't go in the first few days & by the time she did, groups or cliques had already been formed & she felt shut out & somewhat unwelcome.
Ports: Enjoyed visiting all ports but Akaroa is the most beautiful we've ever seen. An absolute standout & a credit to the townsfolk.
As you'd be aware, there is no self- service laundry on board. This is definitely a negative with Celebrity & undoubtedly an opportunity for them to extract $$$. They even had the temerity to offer a "special" during the cruise: fill up your room PAPER laundry bag with as much as you can cram in for US$49.95!
In summary, we had a fabulous & relaxing holiday on Solstice & would recommend it to anyone.
Would we sail on her again? In a heartbeat, but cost wise it's a bit dearer than some others. Hopefully we will, but in the meantime, we've snapped up a bargain on Carnival Splendor for 2020. Perhaps the beautiful Solstice once more in 2020 if we save our pennies!
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The cabin was as expected for it's class. Clean, reasonably spacious & so well maintained by our cabin steward Joaquim.