4.5

Celebrity Cruises

Review Summary

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Pros

  • Intimate, upscale ship that's still large enough for big-ticket features
  • Ship's size allows it to dock in more vibrant ports
  • Fantastic dining in both the free and specialty restaurants
  • Energetic pool area with loads of loungers and water jets
  • Lawn Club allows for lounging and playing on real grass  
  • Solarium pool and hot tubs reserved for adults only
  • Broadway-style performances and interesting Hot Glass Show
  • Outstanding Persian Garden in spa with rainforest showers
  • Wide range of cabins for various budgets, most with balconies
  • Lectures, games, classes, karaoke, and tons of other activities
  • Fun -- and free -- kids’ club divided by age, plus paid babysitting
  • Exquisite art collection, many pieces made exclusively for Solstice

Cons

  • The upselling can be a bit much for drinks, meals, internet, etc.
  • Access to The Persian Garden thermal suite costs extra (for most)
  • The casino is a bit tight for a ship of this size
  • No theme park-style features like giant waterslides (a pro for some)
  • Kids' clubs and entertainment lacks branded characters

Bottom Line

The upscale Celebrity Solstice is a ship of “firsts.” It was the first ship in the line’s Solstice class, the first to introduce the Lawn Club feature, adding a real grass lawn on its top deck, and the first to host the popular Hot Glass Show, showcasing the art of glasswork. But other features are mainstays of the Celebrity brand, such as a roster of excellent restaurants, a chic main pool with a playful water jet area, and an indulgent spa that includes ceramic heated loungers. The ships intimate size also means it can pull up to smaller, more vivid ports that gigantic ships can't manage. Cabins come in a variety of categories, but most have balconies. The ship also has several stellar kids' and teens' clubs, however it is missing the theme park-level attractions of other kid-centric ships, such as waterslides or bumper cars.

What's Included (and What's Not)

Passengers that just pay the base cruise fare -- avoiding all of the upsells for beverages, specialty restaurant meals, internet, etc. -- can have a perfectly fun cruise aboard Celebrity Solstice. The fare you pay includes your cabin (with twice-daily housekeeping); meals in a few different free restaurants including the main dining room, buffet, pool grill, and Spa Café; beverages like tap water, lemonade or fruit punch, coffee and tea; onboard activities and entertainment; and a really good supervised kids’ club.

Extra fees are tacked on for things like additional beverages (both alcoholic and nonalcoholic), premium coffee, ice cream, specialty restaurant meals, internet access, spa treatments (including access to the spa’s thermal suite), and shore excursions.

Passengers can save money by purchasing various drink packages that can cover wine, soda, cocktails, or a combination of all of the above (see Drinks below for details). Likewise, dining packages can bundle together the expense of dining out at various extra-fee restaurants (see Food below). Internet packages to stay connected via Wi-Fi are also available for purchase (which includes an unlimited option or a package of minutes).

Despite the fact that Solstice sometimes sails overseas, the U.S. dollar is the onboard currency. Gratuities are not included in your base fare. Celebrity will charge your onboard account on a set per person per day basis. Lower category cabins have one gratuity rate while passengers in Concierge Class, AquaClass, and suites pay higher gratuities. You can adjust those tips up or down by visiting the Guest Relations desk. However, the 18 percent service charge that’s automatically added to your bar bill, minibar purchases, and spa treatments cannot be decreased -- although you can, of course, tip extra if you feel the service was outstanding.

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Oyster Ship Review

Scene

4.0

Compelling itineraries, top-tier features, and an intimate size draw a broad range of travelers

This relatively small ship offers top-tier features in handsome spaces like the atrium, which has a grand staircase and two-story library

Celebrity Solstice is the type of ship cruisers return to again and again. Its super friendly crew, small size (accommodating 2,850 passengers), and schedule of itineraries spanning some of the globe’s most interesting places creates loyal fans, though that group can change depending on the sailing. You’ll find many more families and younger couples in their thirties or forties on Alaska voyages during the spring and summer. Though, plenty of active seniors hop aboard to visit the 49th state as well. When the ship tours Australia and New Zealand, the crowd is distinctly older, and in addition to Americans, you’ll sail with Brits and those from Down Under. Hawaii sailings draw everything from honeymooners to retirees. And across all sailings, it's an oasis for LGBTQ travelers, as Celebrity is considered by some to be the most gay-friendly cruise line.

Another demographic that's well represented is cruising newbies. In many ways, this ship epitomizes the best aspects of a cruise vacation, so it’s a good introduction to all that cruising can offer. For example, compared to ships from other brands that seem to get larger and larger, packing in 4,000 to 5,000 passengers, Celebrity Solstice is wonderfully intimate. The ship is large enough to provide multiple excellent restaurants, theater shows, a casino, and a world-class spa, yet it’s also small enough to visit some of the world’s most compelling ports -- ports that the giant mega-ships can’t even think about getting close to. Of course, there are a few spots -- like the main pool deck, casino, and Martini Bar -- that can feel crowded, but you’ll rarely wait long to embark or debark, or to get your table at dinnertime.

Solstice sails to some pretty spectacular destinations like Alaska, Hawaii, and Australia/New Zealand. To that end, most passengers spend a lot of time off the ship and, in some ways, that’s a shame because Solstice is such a gorgeous ship. But those that take the time to explore the ship properly will be amazed at its grand staircase in the atrium, its two-story library, and all the artwork on every single deck. The line actually owns thousands of works of art and 15 percent of what you’ll see on Solstice, like the living tree sculpture, was commissioned specifically for the ship.

Of course, even if you take advantage of all the shore excursions, you’ll still have to eat onboard at times, and Solstice offers a bevy of options. The free venues are spectacular but if you want to dine like royalty, try one of the for-fee specialty restaurants like Murano, Silk Harvest, and Tuscan Grille. The service and cuisine set a high bar. 

There is a dress code aboard Celebrity Solstice but it’s quite modern. On a seven-night cruise you’ll have two “Evening Chic” nights. Men are asked to wear dress pants or designer jeans with a button-down shirt or sweater (sport coat optional) and women are asked to wear a cocktail dress, pantsuit, skirt and blouse, or jeans with an “elegant top.” Plenty of cruisers wear even fancier clothing, like tuxedos and evening gowns. Guests are required to adhere to the dress code at the theater, bars, and most restaurants on Evening Chic nights. But, you can dress casually the rest of the cruise and always in the buffet (just steer clear of bathing suits and flip-flops). Travelers tend to dress more casually on Alaska and Hawaii voyages and a bit more upscale on the longer itineraries (eight to 18 nights) Down Under.

Cabins

4.0

A wide array of cabin categories that aims for broad appeal

The Deluxe Oceanview Stateroom Veranda sports soothing decor reminiscent of an upscale chain hotel

Given its broad range of passengers, it makes sense that Celebrity Solstice would offer so many types of accommodations with the aim of providing the right one for each guest. Entry-level Inside Staterooms give a chic but windowless space, Ocean Views add picture windows, and Verandas offer private balconies. From there, the categories rise up through suites and specialty classes.

No matter the category, cabins are relatively spacious on the whole; Solstice-class cabins are 15 percent larger than comparable cabins on Celebrity’s other ships. Cabin layouts have also been thoughtfully put together to maximize floor space and offer plenty of storage. Also, more than eighty percent of the staterooms aboard Solstice have a balcony, so those looking to book a cabin with outdoor space will have plenty of inventory to choose from.

All cabins are tastefully decorated in an "upscale chain hotel" style: Soothing tones of beige, brown, gold, and cream can be found throughout. Robes, minibars, hairdryers, safes, travel totes, and flat-screen TVs with on-demand movies come standard. Through the TV, guests can also book restaurant reservations, spa services, and even shore excursions. Bathrooms come stocked with individual toiletries, including conditioner and body lotion. Most bathrooms are compact offering shower stalls with glass enclosures (versus the clingy shower curtains used on other ships). A nice footrest makes it easy for women to shave their legs.

Families can select either connecting cabins or spring for a two-bedroom Family Veranda Stateroom, which is 574 square feet inside. This can also be a good option for friends traveling together that want just a bit more personal space. 

Travelers with mobility issues appreciate that there's wheelchair-accessible options in several categories, including Interior, Ocean View, Concierge Class, AquaClass, and even Sky Suites. (It’s refreshing to have multiple choices instead of being forced into one option.) Accessible accommodations have wider doors, roll-in showers, and grab bars.

Higher categories pile on the perks and pampering, and add more space: Concierge Class (204 square feet plus a 42-square-foot balcony), AquaClass (194 square feet plus a 54-square-foot balcony), or Suite Class (square footage varies).

Passengers that book Concierge Class will get extras like a concierge to assist with your plans on ship and ashore. Standard perks include access to a VIP pre-departure lounge before boarding as well as priority check-in, luggage handling, an embarkation day luncheon, and special attention at embarkation and debarkation. Concierge Class guests also get “welcome aboard” Champagne, a more robust room service breakfast menu, evening canapes, oversized Egyptian cotton bath towels, robes by Frette, free shoeshine service, and bathrooms with Hansgrohe massaging showerheads.

The AquaClass caters to passengers that love a spa atmosphere. These accommodations have been tweaked to include things like a pillow menu, upgraded linens, an aromatherapy diffuser, Reverie Dream Lite mattresses, and spa-style bath amenities. Bathrooms also have Hansgrohe showerheads. Cabins come stocked with a different flavored tea each day, and room service menus showcase healthy choices. But, the two biggest perks of AquaClass include unlimited access to The Persian Garden thermal suite at the spa and entrance for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to VIP restaurant, Blu. Reserved just for AquaClass passengers (and some limited availability for suite guests), the restaurant features delicious but wholesome meals. (See the Food section below for more details.)

If the idea of VIP treatment is alluring, consider booking a suite aboard Solstice. Suite guests get priority embarkation and debarkation, rush luggage delivery, priority tender service, butler service, plush robes and Bulgari bath products, free room service 24 hours a day, ensuite espresso and cappuccino, reserved theater seating on Evening Chic Nights, and access to two VIP-only venues: Michael’s Club lounge and Luminae restaurant, which is open to suite guests for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Certain suites, Royal or higher, garner even more perks. For one thing, the welcome Champagne is quite fancy: Perrier Jouet. Free bottled water is also offered daily as well as access to unlimited Xcelerate high-speed internet, complimentary laundry twice per cruise, a free Premium Beverage Package, afternoon canapes, unlimited reservations for lunch and dinner in all the specialty restaurants, two complimentary bottles of premium spirits for your cabin as well as minibars filled with beer, soda, and water that’s stocked once daily. 

Food

4.0

Excellent included dining venues plus several amazing specialty dining options

Onboard dining options include excellent specialty restaurants like Murano, which serves high-end French-Continental fare

Celebrity puts great emphasis on the cuisine it serves, and passengers could visit only the free venues aboard Solstice and be quite happy with all their meals. That would include the two-story Grand Epernay Dining Room, Oceanview Café buffet, the Spa Café, and Mast Grill by the pool.

Yet, foodies know that the real culinary pleasure can be found at Solstice’s specialty restaurants. Those include Murano for French-Continental menus, Silk Harvest for Asian dishes, the Italian steakhouse Tuscan Grille, and Sushi on Five.

Silk Harvest is a particularly great choice for groups. It’s only open for dinner and the menu features an array of small and large plates. The best approach is to order a bunch and share family-style. Popular small plates include tom yum gai soup, spicy rock shrimp, tempura, and vegetarian spring rolls. For large plates, we recommend the roast duck with a ginger-honey-soy glaze, the char siu BBQ pork, and the vegetarian stir-fried noodles with tofu, broccoli, snow peas, and mushrooms.

Those looking to celebrate a special occasion could consider Murano, with entrees like chateaubriand for two, lobster flambéed with cognac, Five-Spice-crusted venison, or Dover sole. For dessert, don’t miss the Valrhona cocoa cake caramel with white coffee ice cream or Grand Mariner soufflé with crème anglaise.

Passengers looking to eat three or more meals at any of the for-fee restaurants should consider purchasing the Specialty Dining Package. Book it prior to sailing or on days one or two of your voyage. Select the number of specialty meals you wish to pre-purchase, from three to eight. Celebrity maintains guests can save between 19 and 33 percent in comparison to paying onboard surcharges. The more meals you pre-purchase, the higher your savings.

There are two other restaurants aboard Solstice and they are reserved for VIPs. Blu is reserved specifically for AquaClass passengers (and suite passengers when there is availability). This beautiful restaurant delivers delicious and healthful dishes at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfasts include everything from traditional pancakes and French toast, frittatas and egg whites, sausages and bacon, to tofu and roasted tomatoes. Fresh-squeezed juices and fruit smoothies are also available. Lunch and dinner focus on more hearty fare like burgers, New York strip steaks, roast chicken, or salmon. Even though Blu emphasizes clean food and healthy living, it still offers dessert. Specially made frozen yogurts and low-fat, no-sugar-added options are available in addition to more traditional offerings.

The other VIP space is the 92-seat Luminae, and it’s strictly for suite guests. While this restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it’s really the evening meal that shines. Appetizers can range from tuna tartar, crabcakes, or truffle risotto while main dishes can be as unique as guinea hen with spaghetti squash, sunflower seeds, and sherry vinegar or more traditional like braised short ribs with cannellini beans and steward tomatoes. Desserts -- like bittersweet chocolate tart, baked Alaska, and coconut tapioca -- are sinfully good. 

Room service is available around the clock, but orders during late night or early morning hours incur an additional fee, except for those staying in suites. Higher categories of rooms also have extended room service menus.

Drinks

4.0

A fine wine list, craft cocktails, and artisanal beers are a hallmark of Celebrity Solstice.

Onboard drinking venues include Sky Lounge, a classic cruise ship observation lounge

You can make merry at any of Solstice’s eight bars and lounges plus Quasar nightclub. A classic cruise ship observation lounge can be found on Deck 14, and there's a bar attached to Oceanview Café buffet, another by the pool, and the fantastic Sunset Bar on Deck 15 aft where you can watch the ship’s wake as Solstice sails to its next port of call. However, the lower decks are where a lot of the action happens with bars like Cellar Masters for wine lovers and the Martini Bar with its icy bar-top to keep drinks chilly on Deck 4. Passport Bar is one deck below the Martini Bar, and the Ensemble Lounge, often with live music, is one deck above.

Since Celebrity doesn’t offer an all-inclusive cruise fare, you’ll pay extra for most beverages. That’s why some travelers prefer to buy a beverage package. It removes the annoyance of paying for every single drink, and it gives you access to a larger menu of options.

Wine drinkers can buy one of three packages: the Classic, Premium, or Build Your Own. Each package comes in a three, five, or seven-bottle version. If you build your own package, you’ll have access to a list of custom wines that include Italian Super Tuscans as well as French Grand Cru and California varietals.

Additionally, there are three alcohol packages: Standard, Classic, and Premium. The least expensive option is the Standard, and it includes fountain soda, bottled water, select beers, house spirits and wines, and cocktails. The Classic option includes soda and bottled water, wine by the glass, beers, spirits, cocktails, and frozen drinks. The highest-priced option, the Premium package, includes Evian water, Lavazza specialty coffee and assorted teas, plus premium spirits, craft cocktails and fine liquors plus craft and artisanal beers, and wines by the glass.

Even teetotalers can buy one of two packages devoted to nonalcoholic beverages. The Classic Nonalcoholic package gets you unlimited fountain sodas (Coke products) plus bottled juices, coffee and tea, and bottled water. The Premium Nonalcoholic package includes all canned and fountain sodas plus premium bottled water like Evian, San Pellegrino, and Vitamin Water. Juices, nonalcoholic frozen drinks, and smoothies are included as is Lavazza coffee and specialty teas. Even Red Bull Energy Drinks are included with this package.

An 18 percent gratuity is added to beverage packages as well as a la carte bar bills.

Live music, dancing, and Cirque de Soleil-style shows

High-quality performances are put on nightly in the massive onboard theater

Celebrity Solstice is packed with entertainment options. Study the daily program each night when it’s brought to your cabin. These list out the next day’s activities and list all of your entertainment options -- and there will be plenty. 

Solstice is a ship for music lovers, and live and recorded music can be found throughout: especially right before dinner when just about everyone heads to a bar for a pre-meal tipple. Celebrity is incredibly picky with the musicians it brings onboard, and that’s why the caliber of musicians is superb. Performers range from solo guitarists and pianists to jazz ensembles and classical string quartets.

After dinner, stage shows are held in the two-story Solstice Theater. On embarkation day, it kicks things off with a “welcome” show, and the night before debarkation it closes with a “farewell” performance. Sandwiches in between are three different types of shows that are presented on the average seven-night voyage. The most popular show is a takeoff of Cirque du Soleil and the other options feature Broadway-style revues with dancers and aerialists. Guest performers also visit the ship and may include comics, musicians, or magicians. Check your daily program for details.

Other entertainment offerings are a bit more participatory, like the nightly karaoke sessions at Quasar nightclub. Or, you can try your hand at a gaming table or slot machine in the casino. Avid shoppers might want to browse the shops selling upscale goods like Tag Heuer watches and Michael Kors handbags. Presentations and lectures are also big draws (see Pools and Activities below).

A fantastic pool complex and lawn club give various spots for relaxation

The stunning Lawn Club, the ship’s most memorable feature, provides a real grass lawn for lounging

One of the coolest aspects of Solstice is its pool deck. Single and double cushioned loungers encircle Deck 12, and this midship pool area tends to draw all the action. This area also holds a shallow Family Pool for kids, the “Wet Zone” of randomly firing fountain jets (tons of fun for all ages), and the Sports Pool for swimming and games like volleyball. There are also four large hot tubs, a bar, sundries shop, and restrooms.

Be warned: depending on your itinerary and the weather, the pool deck can get crowded and loud. We much preferred the adults-only Solarium, which is forward on Deck 12 and has its own water feature, tons of loungers, and two large whirlpools. The Spa Café is conveniently located in this area too, and passengers can access the spa from this point as well.

Despite their appeal, the pools aren't necessarily the most memorable feature of Solstice. That honor belongs to The Lawn Club on Deck 15 aft. Solstice was the first ship to put a real grass lawn on a cruise ship and it’s a fun place to lounge. There’s a half-acre of grass that you can use for sunbathing, picnics, or games like golf putting, lawn bowling, and bocce. Beers and frozen drinks are also at the ready, as passengers can hop on a barstool at the Sunset Bar at the back of the ship. It’s on this lawn that you’ll also find the rather unusual Hot Glass Show from the Corning Museum of Glass. Benches are set out for guests so they can watch a craftsman create amazing works of art out of glass. 

Of course, there are plenty of activities that don’t involve pools and lawn games on Solstice. Consult your daily planner for a list of daytime activities like trivia, bingo, or a game show-esque Battle of the Sexes. You can also sign up for dance classes, cooking demos, art shows and auctions, and even wine tastings. Enrichment lectures and foreign language classes taught by Rosetta Stone are also offered.

Spa fanatics will find serenity at Canyon Ranch SpaClub.

The Canyon Ranch SpaClub, loved by spa fanatics, includes an ocean-view thermal suite dubbed The Persian Garden

Solstice's Canyon Ranch SpaClub is a favorite among cruisers, largely due to The Persian Garden: a thermal suite complete with a rainforest shower, coed sauna and steam rooms, and marvelous ceramic heated loungers with perfect views of the ocean. It's a spot built for total de-stressing. Passengers that booked an AquaClass cabin have free unlimited access to The Persian Garden; everyone else must buy a pass.

As far as actual spa treatments go, passengers will find the same array of options as you would at a resort spa on land with similar pricing. Facials, body scrubs, or couples massages are standard fare, although teeth whitening, acupuncture, or reflexology sessions are a bit less expected. There’s also a beauty salon offering haircuts and blowouts, beard trims, and manicures.

The connected fitness center is outfitted with banks of treadmills, stationery bikes, ellipticals, and other up-to-date machines. It's usually most busy in the early morning and afternoons and empty at dinnertime. There’s also a jogging track on Deck 14; eight laps equal a mile). You can pay for fitness classes like yoga or aerobics, or schedule a personal training session.

Family

4.0

Surprisingly good -- and free -- kids’ clubs, plus paid babysitting.

The onboard kids’ program extends to teens, with X Club catering to kids aged 12 to 17

Most travelers think of Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, or Carnival when it comes to family cruises. But Solstice proves Celebrity can hold its own compared to these family-oriented options. The line has an excellent free kids’ club as well as paid babysitting options. Yes, it’s true that the ship doesn’t have any partnerships with kids’ brands so there are no character meet-and-greets (unlike Carnival's Dr. Seuss themed parades). But there are plenty of structured activities that will keep kiddos happy -- no matter what their age. Note, depending on the itinerary selected, children will need to be at least 6 to 12 months old.

Celebrity breaks up its program into four age ranges: Shipmates, including 3- to 5-year-olds, are treated to treasure hunts and arts and crafts sessions, movies and dancing, and ice cream and pizza parties. Cadets, ages 6 to 8, enjoy many of those same activities plus things like trivia, relay races, and fitness activities. Ensigns, 9- to 11-year-olds, focus on things like team challenges, talent shows, karaoke, and pool time, while the Admiral T’s, ages 12 to 17, are treated to late-night dancing, theme parties, scavenger hunts, sports tournaments, and more. In addition, Xbox games are readily available. All activities in the clubs are free.

All clubs are located on Deck 15; on one side of the ship is the X Club for older kids aged 12 to 17 and on the other side is the Fun Factory for those 3 to 11. A video arcade is also tucked into this area of the ship, and there is a basketball court far forward.

Celebrity also offers a slumber party from 10 pm to 1 am, so parents can enjoy nightlife on the ship. There is usually a per child fee to participate in this event. Paid babysitting services, at the kids’ clubs or in cabin, are also available.

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