Cruise Review of Solstice


Name: BSeabob Date Submitted: 04/05/2009
Age: 63 Cruise Line: Celebrity Cruises
Number of Cruises: 15 Cruise Ship: Solstice
Overall Rating: Date Sailed: 03/15/2009
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale - Port Everglades, FL Destination: Caribbean - Eastern

Solstice 15 MAR

7 DAYS East Caribbean.

Ft. Lauderdale/ San Juan/ St. Martin /Tortolla/ (St. Thomas med evac) Labadee. Ft. Lauderdale.

Well it’s all about the ship this time. Celebrity’s new Solstice. I won’t bother much with the ports cause there are lots of better reports around than mine and we did limited things ashore this trip. It has been a long time since we have been to these places and things have changed quite a bit. I will remark on those changes. First time for us at Labadee.

Fort Lauderdale. The ship is waiting for us all White and clean. Shining in the morning sun. Why is it all white? Where did the Celebrity Colours go.??? Looks grreat regardless. ...... and it’s big.

We arrived with a group in several vehicles with us driving a van full of mixed luggage. Dropped the luggage and most of the group while one parked his vehicle and we attempted to return our rental to Thrifty. Using an on line map to Thrifty got us going out the wrong gate at the port and onto a freeway and way around the airport before we surfaced at the correct drop off. It was a zoo there with people getting cars. I don’t recommend Thrifty at the Port for a pick up. Drop off was smooth however. The shuttle back to the port took all of 5 minutes.

All luggage and bodies going the right way, we started the process. Quickly into the building where the lines had just opened. Got sea passes using CC status line very quickly. We then had a seat for about 5 minutes as the ship had not started to board and when they did, others ahead went in order quite quickly. Up off the floor level. Through picture taking process and the ships photogs and into another moving line to two gangways. On board in no time. They have it down pretty smart.

Welcome drinks available to those that wished them. Directed to the top decks to await room being ready and lunch. Slipped off to our room and dropped some of our stuff with our attendants permission (he wasn’t too sure about this but we got the ok.) Some dork from the week before had locked the safe in the open position and it was unusable so we still had to carry a few things. A techie had to be called and he showed up later in the day.

Lunch in the Buffet was our first look at this process. Missing the normal trays and lines the stations worked remarkably well and although it was really crowded around the decks with everyone up there it was no problem getting food. It was a problem finding a place to settle though. Ship packs 2850 and more with all bunks filled. It was also spring break for a lot of States.

All in all a pretty good get on. Sail away went well with crowded decks after a Life boat drill in public rooms with TV’s used to show you how to do everything. We did not go out on decks. Room we were in was quite crowded and hot and no one paid much attention. We just wanted to get out of there. Younger folks talked over the directions. Captain’s speach was heavy Greek and with noise we were unable to understand very little.


The Cabin:
Just great thank you very much. We had a room with the bed closer to the balcony window. Sweet. Balcony door rolled and stayed where you wanted it. Balcony was 6 croc’s (croc=1 foot ) and a bit by 8 croc’s and a bit. Just as big as the aft cabins in Concierge class and the same size as all cabins pretty well other than the larger upscale suite’s. There is one cabin on the aft middle that has a larger balcony on all decks. It is bigger but not all that much but if you are an aft dweller take the time to check it out further and get the middle one. Concierge class also had a foot stool, not us. We had two comfortable chairs and a small table on the balcony. We were a 2B on deck Seven aft half way towards the back from the Aft elevators. 7275 to be exact.
Lots of storage for us. Closet is difficult in either configuration but there is a little more operating room with bed closer to the Bathroom. Bed was a great size and comfortable. Up higher so you can get lots of stuff under including those suitcase. Don’t miss the storage over the bed. Taller folks only need to apply though. BR. is a nice size and usable. Shower IS NOT as big as the Old Zenith but even for me at 6’6” and a little bit oversized it was still ok. Configuration of the BR made it much more usable and comfortable than other ships. Shower only for us.
Room itself felt more roomy than other =X= ships. BTW All rooms that we were in were about the same size as were the balconies like I said. The rooms on the jut out contrary to the M class are not any bigger balcony wise. Except the Royal Suite of course and it was huge. Grand Piano and all. We saw an inside cabin and cabins with bed’s apart. =X= has done it right. Nice rooms. TV is great and the system even works. Must be those little mini Mac’s that power the stuff :). TV comes away from the wall and is a great size. There are free movies along with all the other usual stuff. Phone worked well for wake up... it uses a 4 digit non military wake up number in the system and then you punch in AM or PM. I could not however find a volume control for the ringer. Our Room guys were wonderful. Thanks Joselito and “Slave” :)

Here I will mention that this is a big ship. There are only two elevator banks and I am not a fan. Seemed to me that I spent a lot of time waiting compared to other ships I have been on. It really is a long hike from the Aft bank to the Aft of the ship. Did I mention that it’s a big ship. Hardly ever had occasion to use the Fore bank of elevators and there was not as many there.

Public rooms. Wow. Martini bar is huge and active. Wine bar is fairly big and not so active. Quiet. Nice big chairs. Gone is the Rendezvous lounge. Replaced by a lounge and seating near the Guest relations desk (Passport bar) and the Martini bar level in front of the MDR. The Specialty restaurants have their own comfortable and much quieter area for pre dining. Michael’s club is there also. Very nice. I didn’t see pre dinner dancing but this is a BIG ship and there well could have been. :) somewhere.

Dining. I think the MDR was just fine. However we ate twice away. Once in the Tuscan grill and once in Murano. I think that we are now paying for the food in the specialty restaurants that we used to get in the MDR. Times have changed. Michael Roux has departed for sure.

We shared two tables for 6 Upper floor on the rail with one of the best waiter’s we have ever had. Very accomodating and reliable. He had as much fun as we did (or so seemed) Wilmar from the Phillipines I miss you. All 4 feet of you :)

Shows. Saw them all (or most of them all) which is a first for us in a long time. The one show with the Cirque like performance was really great. The other broadway type show Ghost light was interesting. Singers were under matched for some of the songs they were asked to perform. The guy with the vibes has been doing his show on =X= for too long but first timers loved him. The acts around the ship all seemed first class. The acapella group was much better than the younger guys we had last cruise. Maturity does help in some places. Four young ladies in a string quartet were brilliant. Late night stuff I missed..ZZZzzz.. sorry.

The Corning glass show was to put it simply, AMAZING. Would watch it over and over if nothing else was going on. Really cool.

The grass..... Simply unbelievable. Why is it there? I guess it’s cause they can. Walking around in bare feet on the grass on top of a ship....wow. Putting was a little tough but fun. Bocce a hoot. They have replaced most of the grass once and working on some smaller area’s that have taken a beating from people and weather. The guys work every morning on it and it’s quite the operation itself.

Pool’s.... Two fair size outside with two hot tubs. Very easy access and there is a “Special needs assist chair” for thoe that need it. Thmbs up to =X=. Indoors is larger. Quite a bit of space for lounges and swings and secluded spots to hide.... but did I mention that this is a BIG ship. 2900 folks on a nice sunny sea day take up a lot of pool space. One day you literally could not get into the water. Upper decks have lots of space for walking, jogging and lying out though. There always was somewhere to go hide and lay in the sun.

Well I think I have covered most everything if not e-mail me.

Now to cover some of the Ports.

San Juan you dock right in old town as is normal. One other ship there with us. HALS brand new Eurodam. Saw the Galaxy depart for new owners and places unknown. Some of her crew came aboard and we recognized a few from the Zenith’s last trip.

St. Maarten . Docked with three other ships when we were there. Figured they dumped about 10 Thousand people onto the island. The shuttles (small pax ferries) to main town dock worked well and there is more expansion for ships coming. Nice clean tourist shop area. The beach is quite remarkable now. A board walk (paved) is well in front of the rows of business and there is a lot of beach compared to when we were there last. Our favorite tree seemed to have bit the dust in a Hurricane but the bar was still there. The water used to be right there, now it’s about a 70 yard dash over hot sand to the water. St. Maarten has the easiest and best beach close to the ships for sure now.

Tortola. Dock at 7AM couldn’t get off ship as other ship was docking also.
Tour through=X=
All tours were behind because of not being able to disembark and our tour to the “Baths” turned into a “Never do again” adventure. We do not as a rule use tours but because of the limited time in port, (ship leaves at 1 PM) this time we did. 150 of us got put into buses for a short trip to ferry (boats not ferry boats) and then off to Virgin Gorda. 25 + long minutes for some enclosed and sitting in old airplane seats. Smelly and hot. No noticeable life jackets in our boat at all. Larger craft had rafts on top of cabin. On Virgin Gorda we went first to a beach with no facilities. There was however a tree marked as being the most poisonous tree in the Caribbean. Sign was pretty old and most missed this info I think. The beach was gorgeous but little shade and we had signed up to see the Baths, right? Finally got there after another short ride. Enjoyed it, but if you a larger person or with any physical limitations or carrying valuable camera equipment you will be limited in the area that you can get to. Washrooms at the beach are fine. Back to the ferry for the ride back to the ship. Here it gets more interesting. We were a party of nine and we all fit on one vehicle so we were able to get our driver to leave the loading area of the Baths as soon as we were ready. OTHERS HAD TO WAIT UNTIL EVERYONE SHOWED UP. It apparently took some time as we waited for about 45 minutes at the dock for the main party to show. There was a sign on the boat advising not to board unless there was an attendant present and when we showed up early after a short wait we were allowed on.

45 minutes later the crowd showed up and the first passenger back walked onto the boat and with most of us yelling at him to stop.... walked right into an open hatch and fell to/through the deck . Yes the sign was still there. I had visions of him killing himself.
I advised others outside of the problem but I may have just as well been speaking Klingon so I just stood in front of the gaping hole in the deck and pushed people around it until the crewman that was below decks came up.
The passenger was able to get himself up and out with some help and he did walk later back on the dock to the ship. We then loaded everyone onto the one boat (yes just one boat this time it was packed to the gunnels) and returned to Tortola just in time to have the ship leave while we made our way to the elevator enroute to our room. Glad we had a ship excursion only for that moment.
This tour on a very time constricted morning is not a pleasant experience and the ferry’s although I’m sure very serviceable don’t meet with my standards at all. The cost $$$$$. Take a cab and visit a close beach on Tortola as we had done in the past if you have this short a time there.

St. Thomas. We pulled in here for an emergency evac. of a chap we later learned had contracted meningitis. It was not the contagious kind. The harbour looks the same. :)

Labadee... Just a great beach stop. With tenders but soon will have a dock for two ships. (Well it may be soon, they are building on Caribbean time remember) If two ships the size of Solstice are there ......mmmm I’d stay on board. Tip here is to make sure you have beach/water shoes. Lots of sharp uncomfortable rocks on the beach and in the water out of sight. They are expanding the facilities for larger numbers. Due to our unscheduled stop in St. Thomas for a med evac we were later getting here and didn’t have time for the crew to get the usual BBQ to shore.
Ribs were available in the MDR for lunch. (no sand either) scrummy.

Disembarkation: Just as smooth as the get on if not smoother. Our CC status got us a room with coffee and goodies after lots of time for breakfast and advice to get off exactly when they said we would be getting off. Rows of well coded luggage on main floor of terminal and a short line for immigration and customs.

We picked up a rental car at the airport (cabbed it) rather than the Port terminal and since we were early did that in a timely fashion. A friend who did not get off the ship until we were actually back with our rental had to wait over an hour in Thrifty’s line at the airport for a car. Not good. Only 3 staff was the problem.

Last rental tip. We had to return the car to Orlando. The gas station near the rental car return depots in Orlando charges DOUBLE the going price for gas. So if you are returning a vehicle there use the Agencies rates when you pick the car up. I kid you not. Gas on our trip was about $2.00 throughout Florida even down in the Keys.... at Orlando’s station it was over $4.00. Captive audience eh?

Overall........ I liked this big ship. Did I mention it was big :) Spring break may have played a part in it being busier than normal. BUT.... this ship does not feel like any =X= ship that I have traveled on before. It feels like an upscale RCL ship. It looks like an upscale RCL ship and I think that it’s being marketed like an upscale RCL ship. Beautiful, clean, new, great cabins and public rooms you really can’t go wrong. But it’s not like it used to be on =X=. My greatest negative for the cruise was the canned music. It was playing almost everywhere. It was to loud and not to my tatste on top of that. Two examples: The Buffet ..Blasting at lunch and the Martini Bar. The later blasting away in some type of techno crap. We eventually pleaded with out great Martini Bar waiter Florin to have it turned down. (Maybe money changed hands ? :) ) Music from other artists filtering down from other decks above was just fine thank you very much.

However I suspect that if one went Aqua Class and ate in Blu all the time and only used the “Ensemble Lounge” you would have a completely different cruise than us. Shades of Class cruising returning... ?

We are in our mid 60’s slowing down a bit but still not really quiet if you know what I mean. We travel with a great bunch of adult people who enjoy fun and games and we all did on this trip. Martini mates forever.

We did a road trip to Key West prior to our cruise. Left from Boynton Beach where we camped out temperaily with crusin’ friends. We rented a van and four of us tootled down the “Over Sea’s” Highway. Found some neat places but a little diasappointed in the “Key’s” that are visible from the highway. Just doesn’t stack up to the movies and descriptions in the books that one reads. It’s the real Key’s. Interesting but very workman like. Found a great restaurant in Key Largo. Now it did look just like my minds eye. :) It was called “Snappers”. Right over the water with pelicans, boats and everything. Food was great too. Key West was a blast and we stayed at the Santa Maria Suites. First class place, very nice. Spring break in Key West brought a few issues :)

Again please e-mail me if you have any comments, suggestion or even questions. Love to pass on what I feel is good advice and if you insist.... I’ll pass on bad also.

For Pictures check out our good friends web site. They both do all the work for me. I in turn let them use I think maybe one of my pics on their sites. You can see if you take the time to read their reviews that we were indeed on the same cruise.

Jim’s

Mike’s Click on the East Caribbean at the top of his List.

BSeabob@shaw.ca

PS. Being from Canada we requested that =X= on the online form we all use now, to have all our ONboard charges go directly to our credit card in US funds so that our Bank could do the exchange. For the first time in all our cruises with them for some reason they failed to do this. If this is worrisome to you none US folks keep on them about the issue and check while aboard at guest relations.