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Cruise Ship Information

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Celebrity Solstice is a Solstice-class cruise ship owned and operated by Celebrity Cruises.

Celebrity Solstice in Melbourne

Celebrity Solstice is the first ship in the Solstice class, her sister ships being Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Solstice and Celebrity Reflection. Equinox and Eclipse entered service in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Solstice was launched in 2011, and Reflection in 2012.

Atmosphere on board 

Celebrity Solstice is one of our more decorated ships at sea. So it's no wonder that it's full of "firsts." Like the first Lawn Club at sea. The first Hot Glass Show. The first cruise line to have 5 women, also known as "the Leading Ladies redesign, and redecorate the staterooms. Some other things that set the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship apart are its specialty restaurants. Our passion for outstanding cuisine has taken the restaurants, the food and the overall dining experience to a whole new level in the cruising world. But staterooms and specialty restaurants are only part of this ship's charm. Celebrity Solstice also has the Canyon Ranch SpaClub and fitness center, where you can pamper yourself with spa treatments or push yourself in a workout with one of our train

Family with Kids/Teens

The forward area including the basketball court on Deck 15 is ground zero for kids aboard Solstice. The court is sandwiched between the two dedicated kids' areas: X-Club (for kids ages 12 - 17) on the port side and Fun Factory (for 3- to 11-year-olds) on the starboard side. The rooms are of about equal dimensions and are stocked to the rafters with age-appropriate gear. The teen area also features a soft drink "bar" with a popcorn machine. Also clustered with the kids' clubs is the video arcade. In addition to that room's complement of the latest bleep, beep and zap machines, kids also have access to Wii consoles and foosball and air hockey tables.

The well-staffed youth program includes organized activities for five age groups, as follows:

Shipmates, ages 3 - 5, and Cadets, ages 6 - 8, offer dinosaur hunts, Sponge Bob trivia, face painting and water games. Ensigns (9 - 11) are engaged in scavenger hunts, pool games, bingo, basketball and game shows. Teens are split up into two groups. Those in the 12 - 14 sector participate in "tweens" activities like pool Olympics, game shows and karaoke, and those in the 15 - 17 group, which have less structured schedules, have a prom party and a "Dancing with the Stars" event.

In lieu of group babysitting, Solstice provides lunch, dinner and slumber parties for kids ages 3 to 11, so parents can lunch, sup and party at night sans kids. These "parties" go for $6 per child per hour. Individual in-cabin babysitting is available for one or two children 12 months or older for $8 per hour per child.

Family accommodations include four family cabins and 121 connecting cabins, as mentioned above.

Past Passenger Programs

The Program: Captain's Club, a three-tiered system

Perks: "Classic" members (those who have earned one to four credits for cruising with Celebrity) get perks including access to the loyalty desk and loyalty host, a premium onboard discount booklet, a one-category upgrade (when available), pre-sailing dining reservations at alternative eateries on applicable vessels, and little freebies like wine tasting and golf clinics. "Select" cruisers (five to nine credits) receive all of the above as well as a complimentary wine seminar, priority status to shore excursion waitlist, an invitation to the senior officers' cocktail party, 25 percent off any Internet package, complimentary pressing of two clothing items, and discounted laundry on cruises of 12 nights or more.

Added perks for "Elite" members (10 or more credits) include a private shipboard departure lounge with continental breakfast, priority tender service, priority waitlist for dining room seating, elegant tea service, complimentary use of Thalassotherapy pool use on Celebrity Mercury, complimentary access to the Persian Garden (port days only), access to the new Captain's Club Lounge at Michael's Club (certain hours of the day), 90 free Internet minutes, one free item of dry cleaning, a complimentary bag of laundry (wash, dry and fold), discounted laundry on cruises of 12 nights or more, and the ability to join Royal Caribbean's Crown and Anchor Society at the Diamond level.

All members get the traditional invite to the captain's cocktail party, newsletter and chance to cruise on reunion voyages.

Incentive to Belong: As Celebrity's ships get larger, preferential boarding and disembarkation is a nice benefit. Also, because the tier system is based on credits -- not just the number of cruises taken -- there are ways to move up the ranks faster. For example, you'll earn an extra credit for booking a Concierge-level stateroom or higher, or for sailing for 12 nights or more, for a possible total of three credits for one voyage.

Members-Only Deals: Captain's Club members are offered several special discounted sailings per year, some of which can be a good deal compared to retail rates, especially if it also includes an onboard credit or discount certificate. Compare prices to verify the savings.

For More Info: Visit the Captain's Club section on Celebrity's Web site or call

Fitness And Spa

Run by the famed destination spa Canyon Ranch, services in the SpaClub include a dizzying array of treatments including a variety of massage offerings from sports to New Age and everything in between. A standard 50-minute massage is $110, excluding bells, whistles and hot stones. It also offers teeth whitening and acupuncture.

The Persian Garden, a Millennium-Class idea expanded to Solstice and its siblings, is central physically and conceptually to Celebrity's AquaSpa concept. The area includes a coed sauna and steam room, tropical rain shower and heated ocean-view relaxation chairs. The facility is available for free to AquaClass passengers and for $99 to all other passengers (based on a one-week cruise.)

AquaSpa pools include a lap pool and two whirlpools in the Solarium and are the most elegant indoor pools at sea (the dancing water fountain is a lovely, restoring touch).

Though the AquaSpa pools are closed to children, the main pool area does include a family pool (shallow for youngsters), separated narrowly from the "Sports Pool" on one side and the "Wet Zone" on the other. The Wet Zone is a flat area with vertical fountain jets that fire at random; it's great fun for kids to play in, or for anyone wishing for a quick cool down. Together these three form Solstice's main pool area, accompanied by four hot tubs.

A fully-stocked and staffed gym sports all the newest fitness machines, as well as a serpentine jogging track (eight laps to the mile). The nicest recreational area is the Lawn Club, and though Celebrity is careful to avoid excess wear and tear on the living grass, the ship's own backyard does feature a bocce court and a three-hole putting course. At the forward end of the ship, on Deck 15, is a basketball court.

Food & Dining

Dining choices abound aboard Solstice. Besides the main dining room, passengers can dine in three specialty dinner restaurants, a restaurant reserved exclusively for passengers in Aqua Class staterooms, a crepe and panini bistro, a lido buffet with specialty stations, a poolside grill, a spa cuisine buffet and grill, and a coffee bar and gelateria. Of the 10 restaurants, six are open for breakfast, five for lunch (though its main restaurant is only open at midday on sea days) and seven for dinner.

The towering, airy Grand Epernay is the ship's main dining room, spanning two decks at the aft end of the ship. The room is bright, and light in tones with ample use of the ship's signature design element, glass. In fact, instead of a wine cellar, one end of the dining room is accented with a two-story glass wine tower, replete with tall ladders to reach bottles at the highest levels.

Surprisingly for a ship with 2,800-plus passengers, this single restaurant feels spacious and uncrowded. There is ample room to navigate between tables, and the room's openness, combined with extensive carpeting on the floors, results in a tolerable noise level.

Dinner is served in two conventional sittings (typically 6 and 8:30 p.m.) with assigned tables and tablemates. Lunch and breakfast are open seating. The Celebrity Select flex-dining option is available from 6 – 9:30 p.m. (you can choose this option after booking or while onboard). With Celebrity Select, passengers have the option to decide whether they want to eat with their own party or on a mixed table with other guests. They can also make specific dinner reservations for each day of their cruise online in advance, make reservations onboard or simply show up when ready to eat.

It's important to note that dining room times may vary slightly, depending on itinerary.

Service is prompt, attentive, helpful and friendly. The dinner menu is not overloaded with choices, offering a total of seven entrees including a salad entree. Although no separate spa, vegetarian, heart-healthy or tasting menus are added on, at least one choice per course qualifies for each category (spa, vegetarian, etc.). In addition, the chef suggests his favorite from the available options, and several "classic favorite" options are available nightly, including Caesar salad, salmon, New York strip steak and creme brulee.

We found the cuisine to be a mix of French, Italian and "New American" styles, with contemporary popular ingredients -- phyllo, Yukon Gold potatoes, feta cheese, fresh fennel, etc. -- conspicuously present. To our taste buds the ship did a particularly noteworthy job with poultry. My trio of Cornish hen, duck and pheasant wrapped in bacon was a real standout, while my wife -- who is usually the family poultry-eater -- was fond of the beef choices.

We'd also like to give kudos to the entree salads. I'm generally not a fan of main course salads at dinner, but these are really hearty concoctions, such as an arugula salad with sliced grilled "Gaucho" steak, fresh marjoram and bacon ranch dressing. Lunch salads in Grand Epernay also shined, and were one of the only midday menu items that could lure us away from Oceanview or Bistro on Five. The other temptation was a hamburger served in the dining room because the Lido Deck grill was absolutely insistent on serving all burgers very well done. The chefs were more flexible in Grand Epernay, even if medium rare to rare was a Quixotic quest.

Nine decks directly above Grand Epernay is the Oceanview Cafe, a multi-station buffet for breakfast and lunch and an open-seating casual alternative venue for dinner. Other offerings include ice cream, pizza and pasta, sushi, afternoon tea and late night snacks (from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.), all without additional charge. One of the most appealing buffet venues at sea, the Oceanview's layout is excellent, with many serving and prep stations situated as islands in the middle of the room rather than stretched along the walls. The result is a dependably uncrowded, spacious operation offering an extensive number of choices.

Besides the conventional choices, British (bangers, English bacon, baked beans) and Asian (miso soup with mix-ins, tofu, rice, etc.) stations, as well as vegetarian and carved meat stations round out the mix. The standard breakfast selections don't change (omelet station, Canadian and American bacon, turkey and pork sausage, potatoes, fruit, pastries and breads). As on past Celebrity ships, we found the breads superb, especially the house-made English muffins.

Lunch features one changing "Chef's Choice" station (primarily a carving station for ham, leg of lamb, beef, etc.) in addition to taco, pasta, stir-fry, sandwich, soup, salad and other specialty stops (these vary by day). Sandwich choices include hot (corned beef) or cold (turkey, chicken salad). Diners can customize their pasta choices with sauce selection (marinara, alfredo, garlic/butter) or select meats, spices and veggie mix-ins for their stir fries. The salad bar offers a tremendous array of choices.

There is plenty of elbow room between tables and attentive waiters available for assistance for those who require it.

Other casual options during the day include the Mast Grill, on the same level as Oceanview, but forward of the main swimming pool. It serves burgers, hot dogs, fries and the like. One deck down, the AquaSpa Cafe serves healthy, spa cuisine breakfast and lunch by the spa pool. We found it a great choice for lunch, especially for the salads (though interestingly, the salad bar at the Oceanview offered far more choice) and simple grilled or poached seafood choices.

At dinner, Oceanview was a lovely, laidback spot for those in the mood for simpler foods. It's buffet all the way – you fill your own plate and there's a bar for drinks service. Evenings, one speciality is the sushi bar.

Deck 5 is the epicenter for specialty dining. We were particularly fond of "Bistro on Five," a cheery little casual eatery hugging one side of the atrium. Bistro's main fare is crepes, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert crepes. Don't miss the dulce de leche or banana, nutella and pistachio crepes, and ask for either of these with a scoop of vanilla gelato from the gelateria next door. Bistro on Five also features panini sandwiches (steak, chicken or vegetable), soups and salads. Since Bistro on Five opens early in the morning we found it a delightful choice for a quiet, almost private, breakfast, especially in the early days of the cruise, before many passengers had discovered it. We liked the "Build Your Own" crepe option, which consisted of a palate-pleasing palette of scrambled eggs and omelet-type ingredients. Our favorite sandwich was the marinated flank steak with lettuce, mushrooms, bacon, caramelized onions and cheddar.

Bistro on Five is open 'til a half hour past midnight, and requires no reservations, though there is a $7 per person service charge.

Aft from the atrium on Deck 5, the Ensemble Vestibule -- an edgy, black, box-like room reminiscent of the offbeat art and decor of Celebrity's early days -- is the entryway into the Ensemble Lounge, an energetic, convivial watering hole ideal for pre-dinner drinks. In one of the best pieces of interior architecture we've seen on any ship, Ensemble forms a nexus from which Celebrity's signature Michael's Club and four specialty restaurants -- Blu, Murano, Silk Harvest and Tuscan Grille -- fan out like spokes of a wheel. Because of this architecture, not only does this section of the ship have the feeling of a sophisticated city's "Restaurant Row," but it also places the four specialty restaurants such that they all have beautiful picture window views of the sea.

Blu, technically not a specialty restaurant as much as it is a private dining room reserved for passengers booked in Celebrity's new AquaSpa category, has a menu similar in course structure to that of Grand Epernay (appetizers, soups & salads, salad entree, main entrees, Everyday Classics and Sommelier Recommendations). It differs in both the number of offerings (one or two fewer per most categories) and the style of cuisine, relying less on rich sauces and sauteing and more on natural reductions, ragouts and herbs. AquaSpa passengers do not have to pay extra to dine here, but suite passengers may book tables on a space available basis, for which they are charged a $5 per person gratuity.

The ambiance of Tuscan Grille, Solstice's Italian steakhouse restaurant is described by Celebrity as "Napa-meets-Old-World-Italy," an impression that we concurred with as we entered through a "wine cave"-like archway into a genteel room with ornate furniture and place settings. Tuscan Grille also has the best view of any restaurant aboard the ship, being situated all the way aft. A meal in Tuscan Grille, in our estimation, is best enjoyed on the early side, while there are still seats right up against the wall of glass facing the trailing wake of the ship, and before the sun has gone down. The grilled meats and seafood can't be beat, although we were mildly disappointed in the pasta choices -- only four, and the sauces are conventional: Alfredo, Bolognese, Toscana (meatballs and tomato sauce), and Parmiggiana. Other signature touches are an antipasti bar and Caesar salad prepared tableside. I enjoyed a perfectly grilled veal chop, preceded by the excellent preparation and presentation of a Caesar salad for two. Per person charge is $35.

Our favorite was Murano, with a name carried forward from Celebrity Century and a menu with roots on the Millennium-Class ships. The theme is Continental with a tilt toward new French. The centerpiece is a six-course tasting menu, featuring appetizer, soup & salad, fish course, palate cleanser (sorbet), meat course and dessert; all of the dishes except the sorbet come from the a la carte menu. There are two choices for each course on the tasting menu, and the option of a wine paired with each. It may be heresy, but I chose to order a mere two-course meal, feeling I would be spending a month on the treadmill just to make up for six courses of caloric intake.

The a la carte menu choices are bold -- caviar, escargots, sweetbreads, foie gras, venison and the like -- but familiar faves abound: filet mignon, duck breast, lobster tail, surf and turf. I chose seared sweetbreads, which came out delicate, light and crispy, followed by Dover Sole Veronique, a favorite of mine, sauteed with white wine and grapes. My wife thoroughly enjoyed her duck breast served with duck leg confit. Cover charge for Murano is $45 per person, or $89 per person to pair wines with a five-course tasting menu, and a "Market Price" surcharge for a caviar option.

We found Silk Harvest (reservations required, $30 per person surcharge) the least satisfying of the group. The cuisine is pan-Asian, and like most menus built on a melange of related, but not necessarily complementary, styles, everything may be well executed, but nothing is a knockout. For example, sushi is offered, but the only options are commonplace tuna, salmon, shrimp and eel, as well as rolls easily tolerated even by non-sushi-eaters. Typically spicy dishes such as Pad Thai or Kung Pao Chicken were mild.

Editor's note: Keep an eye out for discounts -- on a sailing when the restaurants were not fully booked (formal nights in particular), we were able to enjoy deals like a 20 percent off your bill (which includes the service charge and wine purchases). Dining packages, which offer about a 20 percent savings, are also available.

Room service is available 24 hours a day from a limited menu of sandwiches, pizzas, salads and desserts. There is no charge but it's considered sporting to tip for delivery.

Entertainment

Celebrity's enrichment program, offered day and night, it is called Celebrity Life. Activities are divided into four categories: Culinary, enrichment, wellness and trivia & games.

During the day Celebrity offers a number of choices for enrichment and entertainment. Those who can't bear the thought of disembarking without winning just one more luggage tag can compete in multiple games of trivia and game shows.

Passengers who would like to disembark with a bit more brain power than they came aboard with can attend lectures in Celebrity's Beyond the Podium talk series, where topics have included a self-improvement specialist, an expert on Atlantis, and a real-life crime scene investigator discussing forensic science.

Culinary-oriented options include wine tastings and a Riedel glass tasting (a fascinating and experiential look at how the shape and feel of a wine glass impacts its taste), galley tours and cooking and cocktail-making demos in the atrium. Arguably, the most unique enrichment experience is the "Hot Glass Show," where passengers can sit surrounded by the grass of the Lawn Club and watch a master from the Corning Museum of Glass practicing his or her art, with a second artist providing commentary. This goes light years beyond the demonstrations we're all used to seeing at the Murano glass factories.

Then there are the standbys we all expect: bingo, dance lessons and the like.

One disappointment -- and this comes from someone who doesn't spend a lot of time in casinos -- is that the casino on Solstice is entirely too small for a 2,850-passenger ship and could use more gaming tables. At most, four blackjack tables would be open at any given time, and only one of those had a five-dollar minimum.

A decent variety of musical performances -- on deck, in lounges or in the main showroom -- cover a variety of musical styles. These included a solo steel pan player, a classical string quartet, solo pianists, a jazz combo and big band stylings from the main show band.

Solstice Theatre, the ship's main show lounge is an extremely well designed room with excellent sightlines and semicircular rows of comfortable theater seats, all with good views of the stage. There are no tables, but drink holders have been added to the armrests. Normally three production shows take place on a seven-night cruise; one of the shows is a Cirque du Soleil-inspired circus show, while the other two are standard revues with the star aerialists used like featured dancers. Other main show lounge performances included a singer, and welcome aboard and farewell shows.

Shore excursions were handled efficiently and smoothly. We didn't find anything new or unique on our sailing, but we were, after all, on an Eastern Caribbean itinerary. Our offerings may not reflect the choices available on Solstice's European cruises.

Staterooms

Celebrity Solstice features a variety of cabin categories to suit any passenger's needs, from tiny insides to lavish 1,500-square-foot suites, and 60 percent of all accommodations feature verandahs.

Solstice standard cabins -- insides, outsides and balconies (called "Deluxe Oceanview") -- average a paltry 170 square feet (38-square-foot balconies), about 15 to 20 feet below the industry average.

Decor features hotel-style white bedding with light brown accents, rust carpeting and striking red love seats thrown in for a shock of color, all of which replaced the flamboyant turquoise-and-yellow Caribbean decor of the old abodes. (For a before and after, check out part three of our refurb slideshow.)

Insides, outsides and balconies feature two twin beds that convert to queens, safes, small desks, stocked mini-fridges, flat-screen TV's and bathrobes. The mini-fridges are locked; have your room steward open yours and clear out the for-fee booze if you want to store your wine or water. Shower-only bathrooms have hair dryers, shampoo, moisturizer and bar soap. There is no shower gel.

Drawers might be some issue for because they were a little stressed for space -- especially with having to pack for a 12-night cruise. There are drawers hidden in a secondary closet in each room, which also houses the safe. There's another drawer above the flat-screen TV, which is also where extra bedding is stored.

For those looking for a little more space and a few more amenities, the ConciergeClass cabins are 191 square feet with 42-square-foot-balconies. Added touches for concierge passengers include welcome bubbly, a pillow menu, nightly canapes, a 32-inch TV and nicer balcony furniture. In 2012, Celebrity expanded the ConciergeClass services to include an exclusive pre-departure lounge with free coffee and juices. Sky Suites come in at 251 square feet with 57-square-foot balconies.

Continuing up in size, Family Oceanview cabins are 271 square feet with enormous 242-square-foot verandahs that feature pairs of loungers and tables with two chairs each. Inside, there's a partition separating the "master bedroom" from the lounge/extra bed area.

Eight 467-square-foot Celebrity Suites feature lovely floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows (but no balconies), a jetted tub and a pair of entertainment centers. The eight 538-square-foot Royal Suites (195-square-foot balconies) add more space and feature whirlpool tubs on the verandahs. On the top of the list are a pair of 1,432-square-foot Penthouse Suites with massive, 1,098-square-foot balconies. These suites also feature a baby grand piano, should you wish for a private concert or to tinkle the ivories on your own.

All suite passengers enjoy the service of a butler, who can help pack and unpack, set up in-cabin meals and help make onboard arrangements. Other suite extras include complimentary dinner at a specialty restaurant (one dinner for cruises of seven nights or less, two for cruises of eight nights or more); priority check-in; in-suite breakfast, lunch and dinner; complimentary espresso and evening hors d'oeuvres.

There are 26 wheelchair-accessible cabins, including insides, oceanviews, balconies, concierge class cabins and Sky Suites.

Tipping

Celebrity suggests a per-person per-day gratuity of $3.50 for the waiter, butler (Suites only) and stateroom attendant; $4.00 for Concierge Class stateroom attendant; $2.00 for the Assistant Waiter; and $.75 for the Assistant Maitre d' and the Assistant Chief Housekeeper.

All guests are given a form to sign if they wish to have these gratuities charged to their shipboard account. Children under 12 who are the third or fourth person in the stateroom pay only half these amounts. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Gratuities for room service, spa, casino and other staff are at your discretion. Note: Passengers who choose "Celebrity Select Dining" before their cruises are required to prepay gratuities (prior to boarding).

Alternatives: If you wish to adjust the amount you pay, this can be done onboard at guest relations.

Extra Charges: An automatic 15 percent gratuity is added to all bar bills.

Fellow Passengers

The typical Celebrity passenger is mid-50's, traveling as a couple, sophisticated and appreciative of the better things in life. The majority are from the United States, but that balance, as well as the ratio of couples to families with kids may shift between the Caribbean and European seasons.

Our recommendation

The stylish ships of Celebrity Cruises feature high-end decor, modern technology, excellent enrichment programs, superior dining options and outstanding spas.

Celebrity Cruises is best for: Adult couples, cruise line also attract families with teen-agers, family reunions, multi-generational; Young adults looking for soft adventure and sports activities; Boomers looking for a cruise with lots of enrichment at sea; Spa lovers and Travelers who want a taste of luxury at a premium cruise price.