A few weeks ago, we had the fortune to sail on Celebrity’s brand new ship, Solstice. We were invited by the cruise line to a 2-night pre-inaugural cruise, where they showcased the ship to travel agents and some top customers. This was a very exciting event because this is Celebrity’s first new ship since the Constellation was launched in 2002. It is also now the largest ship in Celebrity’s fleet, and is the first in a class of at least 3 more ships, starting with the Equinox, to debut later this year.
Some of the ship’s main points are:
- It carries more than 2850 passengers
- It has 1425 staterooms. 85% of them have balconies, and 90% have ocean views
- It is over 1000 ft. long and 121 ft. wide
- It cruises at 24 knots
Here are my impressions of the ship…
The ship is very nicely decorated; the different common areas seem to blend with each other, and it just looks like a very elegant hotel. Everything was in working order, and as you’d expect on a new ship, very clean and well cared for. These pictures of the main atrium and the ship’s solarium will give you an idea of what I’m talking about:
The ship was fairly easy to navigate, with most restaurants and bars on decks 4 and 5, and the rest on the Lido deck by the pool. There were several spaces where you could just take a book and “hide”, both indoors and out.
We boarded the ship around noon and headed straight to our stateroom, which was ready for us. We stayed in stateroom 9106, a Balcony stateroom on the Panorama deck, forward. We also toured different types of staterooms, from Inside cabins, all the way to the largest and most expensive suites.
The cabins on Solstice have been designed with passenger comfort in mind. Of course, they use the latest technology, like flat screen TVs and WiFi (WiFi is actually available throughout the ship, and has an additional fee). Storage space was sufficient, and it included space under the beds. As usual in cruise ships, beds can be configured as 2 twins or 1 queen.
Perhaps the biggest improvement was in the bathroom. It was larger than in most cruise ships and more ergonomically designed. The shower was rounded, with sliding doors.
One very cool thing Celebrity did when designing the staterooms is to invite 5 women to participate in the design process. The women were an experienced cruiser, a hotelier, a travel agent, a travel writer, and a potential cruiser. Their insights resulted in redesigned layouts for better ocean views, improvements to storage, softer colors, and a more efficient use of space overall.
The ship has the typical range of accommodations, from Inside and Oceanview cabins to Balcony staterooms and Suites. It also has 2 categories unique to Celebrity:
- Concierge Class cabins are Balcony Staterooms that offer additional amenities, such as early embarkation and debarkation, priority for shore excursions, express luggage delivery, dining and seating preference, and a host of in-cabin goodies.
- Aqua Class cabins, new on the Solstice, adds to the Concierge Class by offering a more relaxed atmosphere through unlimited access to the ship’s AquaSpa relaxation room and Persian Garden, programming and wellness classes, and exclusive access to Blu Restaurant.
Without a doubt, one of the more anticipated aspects of any cruise, is dining. Food aboard Solstice was certainly plentiful. We had breakfast and lunch at the Oceanview Cafe on the Lido deck. Breakfast had your usual assortment of cold cuts and cheeses, plus several other selections, and an egg station. Lunch was also varied, with stations for pizza and pasta, sandwiches, and a very popular (and very good) Asian grill, in addition to salads and other hot food options. The quality of the food was OK to good. Nothing terrible, but nothing to write home about either. The low point, as I’ve found to be true of most buffets, was dessert. One other negative point is that food was not always labeled, so you had to keep asking if a dish was chicken or pork, or what kind of fish was used.
We had dinner at the main restaurant, the Grand Epperny, which spans 2 decks. Food here was actually very good to excellent. I had fish both nights, and they were very well prepared and presented. The salads and soups I had were also very good. Even the creme brulee was excellent!
We also tried the gelato at Cafe al Bacio, which was very good, and the crepes at Bistro On Five. The crepes were good, but our Nutella crepe came with chocolate instead of Nutella (I think that was a misunderstanding with the waiter, though).
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try the specialty restaurants, of which Solstice has 4.
As you get to know me through this blog, you’ll realize that I’m a very tough customer when it comes to service. I know things don’t always go as expected, but well trained service providers should be ready to anticipate and respond to those situations. That is certainly how I run my agency.
In any case, service on Solstice was very good. We didn’t have any problems, and service was unobtrusive and efficient. This includes the stateroom attendants, restaurants, pool area, bars, etc.
I did hear a report of room service taking up to 2 hours, but I couldn’t verify it, and I find that hard to believe. In any case, if that were true, I can’t believe Celebrity would ignore the problem.
Always one of the busiest areas on a ship, this is no exception on Solstice. There are loungers all around the Lido and part of the Lawn Club Deck, as well as in the Solstice Deck, the highest deck. The Solstice deck was actually one of my favorite places. It has a very relaxed atmosphere, perfect for taking in the sun and reading on one of the extra large loungers.
Other Common Areas
The ship has plenty of spaces to pass the time, day and night. I won’t describe them all here, but will tell you the more popular ones were the Martini Club, the Entertainment Court, with access to Quasar and Celebrity Central, and where an a capella quartet performed nightly, and the shopping arcade.
We saw 2 of the nightly shows that will be performed on Solstice’s 7-night sailings. Solstice is a Cirque du Soleil style show which was very impressive for something being performed on a moving ship. The downside was that sometimes it felt too long or too slow.
The other show we saw was Ghostlight, a review of Broadway songs. This one was very good, very lively, and well executed.
There were other venues with comedians, bands, etc., but I can’t comment on those.
The other big entertainment outlet is the casino. It is big, as you’d expect, and has a variety of slot machines, plus the usual blackjack and poker tables, roulette, and craps.
Celebrity waited 6 years to introduce a new ship, so you’d expect a few new things. Granted, this is not a ship that will have a surfing pool or bowling lanes. The more visible innovations are:
- The Lawn Club, an area on the top deck with real grass. The area is supposed to be used for putting, croquet, and just strolling. Most of the time we were aboard, the lawn “was resting”, so you couldn’t walk on it.
- The Glass Show, right next to the Lawn Club, features a glass blowing show presented by the Corning Museum of Glass. The show was very interesting and well presented. Pieces from the show are exhibited, but not sold, on board, and are auctioned for charity.
The other improvements have to do more with efficiency and “greening” the cruise ship. A synthetic paint is used to reduce drag and fuel consumption; LED lighting has been implemented; and solar panels have been installed to generate electricity. They don’t supply power to all the ship, but every little thing helps.
I can’t cover all aspects of the ship in this review. There are parts of the ship I barely had time to see, like the spa and the gym. Others may not be representative of what you’d see on a regular 7-day cruise. Still others may continue to improve as the crew gets used to the ship and fine tunes the service, quality of food, etc.
However, all in all, I think the experience was very positive. I’ve never had a complaint from a Celebrity passenger, and I think most will be happy with Solstice. As with Celebrity in general, this ship is not best suited to people who want to party 24×7, and there are lines that are more oriented towards children’s needs.
I do recommend Celebrity, and Solstice in particular, to couples who enjoy a more sophisticated atmosphere, to cruisers who enjoy Celebrity’s other ships and want to try something a little bigger, and to multi-generational families, who will find something for everyone aboard her.
The Solstice is currently sailing from Fort Lauderdale to the Eastern Caribbean, and will move to the Mediterranean in April, from where she’ll sail 10 to 12 night itineraries. Space is also still available on the repositioning Transatlantic cruises (in April and November).
If you’ve already sailed aboard Solstice, or are planning to, I’d love to hear your impressions or expectations, so please enter your comments below.Enrique Brener KC Travel N. Miami Beach, FL www.kctravel.jurni.net firstname.lastname@example.org 305-792-0618 FL Seller of Travel Reg. TI-35171