Celebrity Solstice, the first of the Solstice-class ships, offers one of the most elegant mainstream cruising experiences at sea. Its style blossoms from the root of its name, "sol," meaning "sun," and the sun plays an important role on the ship, from powering the 216 solar panels that contribute to the ship's electrical grid, to nurturing what is perhaps the most unusual feature of this, or any other, ship: a full half-acre of lush living grass. Called the Lawn Club, this area features the Hot Glass Show, where passengers can delight in seeing the creation of complex works of glass art from raw materials to the finished objects. There are also six private cabanas, available for rent for those who want shade and a little privacy but don't wish to be near the pool area. The Lawn Club is a delightful spot to relax, play a game of boules or catch a movie on the ship's new outdoor movie screen.
Cool sophistication is the unmistakable vibe onboard, from the chic shopping boulevard lined with attractive boutiques to the Martini Bar, famous for its entertaining bar staff and elegant cocktails. Passenger flow is excellent, creating a leisurely feel throughout and a refreshing absence of long lines. On our completely sold out sailing the ship felt half-empty, except for an occasional lack of seating at the elegant Café al Bacio.
Solstice is an extremely easy ship to navigate, even for first-time cruisers. Everything is clustered: all the entertainment is forward, the food is aft and -- insiders are quick to point out -- the money (casino, reception, shops) is in the middle. Between the main atrium and the Solstice Theater on Deck 4 is an attractive mini-atrium, dubbed "Entertainment Court." It is the nexus for night-time entertainment. Midship, in between the dining and entertainment venues, are the casino, reception and boutiques and shops, covering every genre and price point. Even the speciality restaurants are all clustered on a single deck (Deck 5).
Whether they are enjoying a meal or walking around the ship, passengers should brace themselves for the widespread upselling of drink packages and speciality dining, particularly during the first 48 hours of the cruise. While a polite 'no thank you' is usually (but, unfortunately, not always) sufficient to curtail the sales pitch, this can be rather off-putting for those seeking a relaxing cruise holiday.
Celebrity espouses the virtues of "modern luxury," and there are touches of that throughout Solstice -- from the chaise lounges with their oversized cushions on the pool deck to the glass-enclosed Solarium and individually rolled cloth hand towels in public bathrooms. Entertainment is a hit, from engaging "edutainment" lectures on a diverse range of topics to big production shows and more low-key options, such as a guitar and vocal duo. Service is also a highlight, with cheerful, professional staff who frequently go above and beyond to not only meet, but exceed, passengers' expectations. With the addition of an outdoor movie screen and private alcoves, a Japanese sushi restaurant and "A Taste of Film," the line's new film and food experience, this elegant ship is more attractive than ever before.
Daytime: During the day, dress is casual and you'll see plenty of shorts, jeans, capris and T-shirts.
Evening: Celebrity passengers tend to dress up for dinner -- typically button-down short- or long-sleeved shirts and slacks for men and dresses or smart-casual pants and blouses for women. Formal night on Celebrity has been replaced by "evening chic" in the main dining room. This means that men can ditch the full suit and tie in favour of a sport coat and collared shirt, with designer jeans. Women can wear cocktail dresses, sundresses or designer jeans or nice pants. In the buffet, almost any form of dress is allowed except swimwear, spa robes and bare feet.
Not permitted: T-shirts, swimsuits, robes, tank tops, caps and pool wear are not allowed in the main or speciality restaurants at any time. Shorts and flip-flops are not allowed during evening hours.
Solstice Theater, the ship's main show lounge is a well-designed room with semi-circular rows of comfortable theatre seats, all with good views of the stage. There are no tables, but armrests have drink holders. Normally three big-production stage shows take place on a seven-night cruise; one is a stadium-style concert featuring iconic rock anthems while the other two are production shows showcasing the ship's star aerialists. Other main show performances included a comedian, juggler and welcome aboard and farewell shows.
Celebrity's enrichment program, offered day and night, is called Celebrity Life and features activities divided into four categories: culinary, enrichment, wellness, and trivia and games.
Culinary-oriented options include bourbon tastings, galley tours, cooking and cocktail-making demos, and Blendtique, a wine blending class -- the majority of which are free.
Arguably, a unique enrichment experience is the "Hot Glass Show," where passengers sit surrounded by the grass of the Lawn Club and watch a master from the Corning Museum of Glass practising his or her art, with a second artist providing assistance and a third providing commentary. Passengers can also attend lectures at Celebrity's Beyond the Podium talk series, where topics range from astronomy to Australian native bush foods, and forensic science.
Then there are the standbys all cruisers expect: bingo, trivia, dance lessons and the like as well as digital camera and computer seminars at the iLounge on Deck 6. Deck 10 has a pleasant, relaxing and open library with a fairly typical cruise-ship book selection. The card room on Deck 9 sees quite a bit of action, although it's not much more than a vestibule between elevator bays. Deck 7's Team Earth is essentially an advertisement for Celebrity's non-profit partner, Conservation International. The interactive displays are slick, and there's quite a bit of information on offer for those interested. A video arcade appeals as much to adults as it does children, and the Lawn Club regularly hosts bocce games. Musical performances -- on deck, in lounges or in the main showroom -- cover a variety of musical styles from a classical string quartet to a jazz combo and big band stylings from the main show band.
Most nights, you'll find live music in several spots throughout the ship -- guitars and vocals or jazz in the Ensemble Lounge midship, as well as a DJ spinning dance music poolside.
Passengers can dance the night away at Quasar, the futuristic-themed nightclub on Deck 4, or at the Sky Lounge bar, which has a large dance floor. Both venues are restricted to passengers aged over 18 after 11 p.m. The Grand Foyer also hosts a live band each evening, with a rotating selection of musical styles so everyone is catered for.
Don't miss the Silent Disco which takes place once or twice each cruise. Chairs and tables surrounding the Martini Bar are cleared to create an impromptu dance floor. Get there early to score a pair of glowing headphones with a switch so you can swap between three different music channels: old-time favourites like the Monkees, contemporary pop and a live mix from the ship's DJ. Don't worry if you have two left feet; no one knows if you aren't in time with the music. Even if you don't feel like dancing, this unique disco is a lot of fun to watch.
Movie buffs can catch feature films most nights in Celebrity Central, a secondary theatre venue located on Deck 4. Films tend to be of the new-to-DVD variety. Celebrity Central also hosts events like game shows and bingo.
Solstice uses its Lawn Club to host Concerts on the Lawn and daily movies on the new outdoor movie screen on Deck 15. A food and film experience, "A Taste of Film," which pairs a foodie-themed movie with delicious culinary bites, is held in this attractive outdoor space a number of times during each cruise at a cost of $20 per person.
On Deck 4 there is also Fortune's Casino, which offers games such as slots, blackjack and video poker. Free table gaming lessons are offered in the casino on sea days.
There is no shortage of spots to raise a glass on Celebrity Solstice with a choice of almost a dozen bars ranging from cosy, clubby spaces to light-filled lounges with ocean views.
Passport Bar (Deck 3): This bar located on the same deck as the guest relations and shore excursions desks is the perfect spot for people watching and catching the nightly entertainment in the Grand Foyer.
Cellar Masters (Deck 4): Rather than having to wait for a bartender, wine lovers can access an impressive array of wines from around the globe via automatic dispensers using a "wine card" that can be inserted to obtain a measured portion of one, two or 4 ounces. If you prefer buying your drinks the traditional way, Cellar Masters is staffed from 5 p.m. to midnight. The Old World Euro atmosphere makes this an attractive spot for a late-night drink.
Martini Bar (Deck 4): The Martini Bar, with its ice-covered surface and charismatic bartenders, is popular from early evening until late at night, with the vibe changing from quiet sophistication to party time, depending on the mood of the crowd. It's one of the most popular onboard drinking venues. Order a couple of "flights" and you might see a spectacular show involving bottle-flipping, glass-stacking and the pouring of a dozen drinks at once.
Ensemble (Deck 5): With sultry lighting and comfortable seats, this bar located near the speciality restaurants on Deck 5 is a popular choice for pre-dinner drinks. It can be lively or quiet and romantic, depending on the time of day and the musical entertainment on offer.
Michael's Club (Deck 5): This clubby bar decked out in dark woods and plush seats is only available to Zenith members of the Captain's Club (Celebrity's loyalty club) and suite guests. A continental buffet breakfast is available each morning and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are available throughout the day on request. There is also a dedicated concierge to help arrange speciality dining, shore excursions and the like. The vibe depends largely on the type of passengers onboard with an atmosphere that could be anything from (almost too) quiet to loud and lively. Michael's Club is available 24 hours a day but desk hours vary depending on the itinerary.
World Class Bar (Deck 6): Serving classic cocktails with a contemporary twist, this bar became more popular as our cruise progressed. It's a nice bar for socializing with other passengers if you want a quiet place to chat.
Pool Bar (Deck 12): This bar serves wine, beer and cocktails, as well as soft drinks in a poolside setting, weather permitting.
Mast Bar (Deck 14): Overlooking the Pool Deck, this bar serves the same drinks as the Pool Bar below. Smoking is allowed at this bar.
Sky Lounge (Deck 14): Whether the bar is open or closed, this lounge area with floor-to-ceiling windows and panoramic ocean views is the place to be. During the day it is a blissfully quiet spot to curl up in a comfy seat and read; after the bar opens it takes on a more lively vibe, especially after 10 p.m. when the dance floor attracts a good crowd.
Oceanview Bar (Deck 14): This space at the aft of the ship also serves as an overflow seating area for the Oceanview Café, which means it can get busy during the lunchtime rush. However, outside these times there are plenty of tables where you can enjoy a relaxing drink accompanied by sea air and ocean views.
Sunset Bar (Deck 15): With its prime aft location, this bar is a favourite at night, when you can settle in for some cocktails and an unparalleled view of the sun setting over the sea. You'll also fight for a seat there during sail-aways.
Two plunge pools and an interactive water feature made up of numerous dancing fountains make up the Deck 12 pool deck's well-designed outside space. The two-pool layout, with raised hot tubs and showers on deck in tucked-away spots make for a cosy but adequate setup for swimmers and sun-worshippers, although it can get busy on sea days. The walkways of the deck above provide shaded spots underneath to relax. On sea days, you will often find live music or a DJ spinning tunes here in the afternoon. Passengers vs. ship officers water polo competitions also liven up the atmosphere occasionally. However, this area is predominantly a place to relax, soak up the sun and chat with fellow passengers.
The adults-only Solarium on Deck 12 houses within its blissfully quiet enclosure two hot tubs and a lovely pool bookended by a living wall of ferns and flowers, as well as a soothing water and light display. If you have a late seating in the main dining room, the early evening hours are a fantastic time for a swim. You'll likely have the place to yourself.
Most of the outdoor recreation can be found around The Lawn Club located on Deck 15. While still a public space, it also has six extra-fee alcoves available ($99 on port days, $249 on sea days). Each alcove accommodates up to six people and bookings run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and include an array of extras throughout the day such as a large fruit plate, a cheese platter, bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, Evian water and room service delivered to the alcove on demand. Book on the same night as "A Taste of Film" and you can watch the movie in style.
Back on the same deck near the Sunset Bar on Deck 15 you will find a bocce court and forward on the same deck, a basketball court. There's also a jogging track on Deck 14. Eight laps equals 1 mile.
Around the pool you will find the two-person poolside beds that are a signature of all Solstice-class ships as well as loungers spaced around the same area. These cannot be reserved so you need to grab one early. For additional sunbathing space, the sun deck at the front of Deck 16 rarely gets crowded, even on sea days. You can also grab a towel and relax on the Lawn Club's lawn although it can feel like you have an audience if people are in the alcoves.
The guest relations and shore excursions desks are located on Deck 3, with Future Cruise Sales located one level up in the Entertainment Court. Most of the action takes place on decks 4 and 5, where you'll find the main dining room, a number of bars and alternative restaurants, the theatre, casino, shops, art gallery, photo gallery, coffee shop and gelateria.
Solstice's iLounge, where passengers can access the internet, take classes and purchase shiny new Apple products, is located on Deck 6. It acts as an internet café but you can also log in to personal devices via Wi-Fi.
Internet packages are available: one hour of continuous browsing for $19.99; 24 hours for $49; two to three days for $69 pre-purchased or $79 onboard; four to six days for $145 pre-purchased or $159 onboard; seven to nine days for $224 pre-purchased or $249 onboard; 10 to 13 days for $269 pre-purchased or $299 onboard; and 14+ days for $285 pre-purchased or $319 onboard. While some computer classes are complimentary, others attract a fee, so check the daily program or ask the iLounge staff if there is a charge before attending.
There is a card room on Deck 9, although it is rather small, and a library on Deck 10 with a selection of romance novels, action thrillers and other cruise-ship favourites. Solstice doesn't offer a self-service laundry facility, but you can pay to have ship crew do laundry for you.
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 $145, excluding bells, whistles and hot stones. Other treatments include facials to suit all ages and skin types (from $140 for 50 minutes), scrubs ($140), wraps ($160) and pedicures ($115). The spa also offers teeth whitening and acupuncture.
Teens aged from 13 to 15 have their own "Bliss" menu with hair treatments such as "new you" ($109), "set the tone" spray tans ($99) and "clean and clear" facials ($145). Spa prices do not include a mandatory 18 percent service charge.
The Persian Garden thermal area has an aromatic steam room, herbal sauna, traditional Finnish sauna and various therapeutic showers. Heated tile loungers facing a wall of windows provide scenic views and are a pleasant place to read or relax. There is also a relaxation lounge with padded loungers and complimentary refreshments such as lemon infused water and herbal tea. Aqua Class stateroom passengers automatically receive access to the Persian Garden. Others may purchase a Persian Garden pass at the spa, starting at a cost of $25 per day.
Solstice's fitness centre and spa occupy the forward section of Deck 12. The fitness centre features modern equipment, including the standard treadmills, stationary bikes and elliptical trainers, as well as resistance equipment and a solid selection of dumbbells. Classes, which include yoga, Zumba, boot camp, and spin, cost $12 a piece. Solstice's serpentine jogging track is on Deck 14; eight laps equal 1 mile.
Dining takes centre stage on Celebrity Solstice, with an impressive array of free and for-fee dining options. Of the 10 restaurants, six are open for breakfast, seven for lunch (though its main restaurant is only open at midday on sea days) and eight for dinner. From the ever-changing, tempting array of dishes at the main dining room to tasty, healthy fare at AquaSpa Café and the silver-service, flambé and sense of theatre at French-inspired Murano, dining on this ship is a delight. If you want to experience the latter, reserve a table online or on embarkation day as this exceptional culinary experience is deservedly popular.
Grand Epernay (Decks 3 and 4): 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 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, even when the restaurant is busy. Breakfast, lunch (sea days only) and dinner is served at Grand Epernay, with a wait of no more than five minutes for a table, even at peak times.
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 also available from 5:30 to 9 p.m. With Celebrity Select, passengers have the option to decide whether they want to eat with their own party or at a mixed table with other people. They can also make specific dinner reservations for each day of their cruise online in advance, make reservations onboard or simply show up when they are ready to eat.
Service is prompt, attentive, helpful and friendly and the food is consistently good. The breakfast menu offers similar dishes to those available at the buffet-style Oceanview Café, such as eggs Benedict, fresh fruit and pancakes, but the dining experience is more upmarket thanks to the elegant surroundings. It's a particularly lovely option on sea days when there is time to relax over breakfast instead of rushing off to an excursion.
Lunch consists of lighter, café fare such as burgers and fish and chips plus hearty dishes such as beef short ribs, with crowd-pleasing desserts such as New York cheesecake, decadent chocolate cake or a selection of ice cream and sorbet.
The dinner menu is divided into two sections: "always available" favourites such as Caesar salad, salmon, New York strip steak and crème brûlée, which are available every night and a daily changing menu where the likes of rack of lamb and seafood fettuccini sit comfortably alongside more adventurous dishes like frog legs. If you are unsure what to order, ask the waiters as their suggestions are usually spot on.
Vegetarian and healthier options are identified on the menu, but if you have specific dietary needs (vegan or gluten-free), discuss them with the maître d' before your first meal, or ask specific questions about the menu items you select. Requests are handled with aplomb according to several diners we spoke to who required special meals. With an appealing mix of French, Italian and "New American" styles featuring contemporary ingredients and cooking styles, you are sure to find something to tempt you on the menu.
Luminae (Deck 3): Only cruisers staying in suite accommodations can dine at Luminae, an intimate restaurant that is open for breakfast, lunch (sea days only) and dinner. The space is elegant yet contemporary with décor that ties in with the onboard "sun" theme. Large picture windows lend an appealing shimmer to the restaurant's gold and chrome design accents, and two separate rooms create a refined atmosphere. Dishes are several steps above the main dining room visually, with a focus on modern, stylish plating, but not quite equal to what is on offer in the ship's excellent speciality restaurants. Service is superb and Luminae never feels busy, even when it is full.
Breakfast includes staples such as omelettes and pancakes along with a few surprises like huevos rancheros, a tasty Mexican breakfast dish and a creamy yoghurt granola parfait. Espresso style coffee is complimentary but not comparable to what is on offer at the for-fee coffee lounge on Deck 5. Lunch is served from noon until 1:30 p.m. on sea days and includes a choice of appetizers, sandwiches and entrees and a couple of desserts.
Dinner includes a changing daily menu plus the option to order from the main dining room menu. Meals begin with an amuse-bouche compliments of the chef followed by appetizers including roasted squab, beef tartar and lobster salad with hearts of palm. Mains consist of pappardelle with venison ragout, ricotta cavatelli with duck Bolognese and Thai green vegetable curry. Serving sizes are sensible to allow room for desserts such as mascarpone cheesecake with pistachio nougatine and rich dark chocolate mousse.
While the food is delicious, it is the excellent service and feeling of exclusivity that lifts Luminae to new heights. With a team of attentive wait staff and an attractive dining room that offers a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, Luminae delivers on its promise of a "deliciously exclusive dining experience."
Luminae is open is open from 8 to 9.30 a.m. for breakfast, noon to 1.30 p.m. for lunch and 5.45 to 9:30 p.m. for dinner.
Blu (Deck 5): Passengers who have booked AquaClass cabins can eat at Blu, a private restaurant serving lighter "spa-inspired" fare, which relies less on rich sauces and sautéing and more on natural reductions, ragouts and herbs. Breakfast includes a variety of healthy starters such as a low-fat yoghurt parfait with blueberry compote or bowl of crunchy muesli. Hot dishes range from berry pecan pancakes and French toast to a smoked salmon and asparagus frittata.
Blu features a similar dinner menu to Grand Epernay with a choice of three appetizers, four soups and salads, a salad entrée, four main entrees and three classic grilled meat dishes. While some meals are similar to those served in the main dining room, the plating tends to be more refined and service is more personal. Tables for two are very close together and therefore best suited to couples who enjoy socialising more than romantic tête-à-têtes. AquaClass passengers do not have to pay extra to dine here and suite passengers may book tables on a space-available basis, for free. The restaurant is off limits to all other passengers. It is open for breakfast from 8 to 9.30 a.m. and dinner from 5:30 to 9 p.m.
Oceanview Café (Deck 14): Oceanview Café is a multi-station buffet for breakfast and lunch, and an open-seating casual alternative venue for dinner. One of the most appealing buffet venues we've seen 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.
There are conventional choices such as British (bangers, English bacon, baked beans) and Asian (miso soup with mix-ins, tofu, rice, etc.) stations, as well as vegetarian options, an epic salad bar, freshly tossed pasta dishes with carved meat stations rounding out the mix. While the main area of Oceanview Café does close for (very) short periods throughout the day so staff can set up the next meal service, you are unlikely to go hungry. Pizza, pasta and ice cream are available from noon to 1 a.m., and breakfast is served until 11 a.m. Coffee, tea and juices are available 24/7 from self-serve dispensers.
The standard breakfast selections don't change (omelette station, Canadian and American bacon, turkey and pork sausage, potatoes, fruit, pastries and breads) but there is more than enough variety to satisfy even the most demanding diner.
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 speciality options that change from day to day. Sandwich choices include hot (corned beef) or cold (turkey, chicken salad) with a selection of breads, condiments and sides such as fries. Live cooking stations featuring customised pasta choices with a selection of sauces (Bolognese, marinara, Alfredo) and made-to-order stir-fries featuring meat, seafood, spices and sliced vegetables are also on offer. The salad bar is available daily and offers a tremendous array of choices.
Drink service is speedy and tables are generously spaced, which -- combined with floor-to-ceiling windows -- give a relaxed, open feel to this popular dining area.
Oceanview Café is open 6:30 to 10 a.m. for breakfast (10 to 11 a.m. for late breakfast), noon to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. for afternoon tea and 6 to 9:30 p.m. for dinner.
Mast Grill (Deck 14): The Mast Grill, located on the same deck as Oceanview Café, but forward of the main swimming pool, serves burgers, hot dogs, fries and the like. It's open from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
AquaSpa Café (Deck 15): The AquaSpa Café, located in the Solarium, provides healthy and convenient breakfast options -- such as granola and fruit - and salads and made-to-order dishes like grilled salmon for lunch. The café also serves complimentary tea, coffee and juices. Open 7.30 a.m. to 9 a.m. for breakfast and noon to 2 p.m. for lunch.
Room Service: Room service is available 24 hours a day with a choice of sandwiches, pizza, salads and desserts. Room service is complimentary unless you order one of the few for-fee premium options such as an artisanal French cheese platter ($15). Full or continental breakfast is also available. Suites and Concierge Class cabins have a more extensive breakfast menu to choose from, with delicious premium options such as freshly squeezed juices and creamy smoothies included at no extra charge. Room service is complimentary for all passengers, except when ordered between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., when there is a $4.95 per room service fee. Suite guests are entitled to complimentary room service 24 hours a day.
Whether you fancy a bowl of noodles or elegant haute cuisine, there is something to satisfy your taste buds at one of Celebrity Solstice's many speciality dining venues. Enjoying a meal at one of the half-dozen for-fee restaurants is a real treat with innovative cuisine, well-spaced tables and attentive service. It is well worth allowing a little extra in your vacation budget for at least one speciality dining experience.
Deck 5 is the epicentre for speciality dining on Celebrity Solstice. The Ensemble Vestibule -- an edgy, black, box-like room with an innovative audio-visual art installation -- 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 four speciality restaurants -- Blu, Murano, Silk Harvest and Tuscan Grille -- fan out like spokes of a wheel. Keep an eye out for discounts on embarkation day when specialities tend to be quiet; otherwise, bookings are essential for most venues. Murano, in particular, tends to fill up very early during each cruise. Dinner is served from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at each venue. Speciality restaurants open for lunch occasionally on sea days, depending on the itinerary.
Murano (Deck 5); $50: Food at Murano is rich and decadent, with traditional French dishes such as foie gras, creamy bisques and a cheese course sitting alongside contemporary interpretations of classic meals. The centrepiece is a six-course tasting menu, featuring appetizer, soup and salad, fish course, palate cleanser (sorbet), meat course and dessert; all of the dishes except the sorbet are also available on an à la carte menu. There are two choices for each course on the tasting menu, and the option of a wine paired with each. Wine pairing raises the charge to $89 rather than the standard $50, however, pours are generous. Consummate service and dishes such as cognac flambéed lobster tail with basil, smoked bacon and Dijon-cream add a hint of theatre to this exceptional dining experience.
Silk Harvest (Deck 5); $35: Silk Harvest is pan-Asian, with a menu offering a melange of related, but not necessarily complementary, dishes. Dine on Japanese favourites such as sushi, beef and chicken sate, green chicken curry or Chinese-style roasted duck, all served family style in the centre of the table. While some passengers may find it difficult to justify the $35 cover charge for fairly pedestrian Asian cuisine, Silk Harvest offers a pleasant change of scene for those on longer cruises.
Tuscan Grille (Deck 5); $45: A prime aft location ensures this stylish yet charmingly rustic restaurant is a popular choice, especially when the ship is at sea or anchored in picturesque South Pacific ports. Steaks are the star at Tuscan Grill, though pasta-lovers have plenty of options, too, including ravioli, lasagne, spaghetti Bolognese and lobster linguine Alfredo. It is best to dine early so you can enjoy the view before the sun goes down.
Café al Bacio (Deck 5); à la carte: Coffee lovers can get their caffeine fix at Café al Bacio & Gelateria, which also offers gelato and Italian ices at an adjoining stand, all for à la carte pricing. Cakes and other goodies in the refrigerated cabinet change throughout the day and are free. With its comfy seats, elegant décor and some of the best coffee on the high seas, patrons must be prepared to pounce on empty seats at this popular café, particularly during peak times. Open daily from 6:30 to 12.30 a.m.
Sushi on 5 (Deck 5); à la carte: Passengers can choose from a variety of rolls, sashimi and other entrées, all priced per item, at this cheery Japanese café-style venue. Selections include a bowl of edamame to snack on ($4), lobster ramen ($12), spicy tuna roll ($10) and chicken ginger gyoza ($7). Open noon to 2.30 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Solstice juxtaposes bright sunlit colours, windows and skylights above with warm browns, tans, golds and reds in the carpets, furniture and wood trim below to warm up what might have otherwise been a stark décor. This stylistic stamp is most evident in the ship's cabins. Bathrooms are large by cruise ship standards and feature a glass shower door instead of a shower curtain, along with bath products that include individual tubes of shampoo, conditioner and lotion, which are replaced every day. Other amenities are typical: robes, safes and mini-bars. Standard cabins have plenty of storage space when you add up cubbies, drawers, closets and space beneath the beds. Flat-screen TVs are interactive -- order room service, check your onboard account or book an excursion using your remote.
The centrepiece of each room is the large, LCD flat-screen television interfaced with a Mac mini computer, through which passengers can book reservations, services and excursions; examine their accounts; check menus; and watch on-demand entertainment. The channel line-up includes everything from cartoons to classic TV to movies; cable travel, sports and news channels; ship information channels; and music channels. For those who left their laptops at home and still wish to access the internet en-suite, they can do so using their stateroom's combination full keyboard and remote control.
Interior: Standard inside cabins are a comfortable 174 square feet. They feature two beds that can be converted to a queen. You'll also find a sofa bed, cupboard, desk with chair and wardrobe.
Oceanview: Outside cabins feature the same furniture as the inside cabins and have a large picture window. They are a tiny bit larger than the inside cabins at 175 square feet.
Balcony: Of the 1,279 cabins with ocean views (including suites), 1,205 have balconies -- this is 85 percent of total inventory. At 194 square feet, these cabins are similar in size to those inside but come with a 54-square-foot balcony with a table and two chairs. A partition on the balcony can be opened to create a larger shared space for those travelling with family or friends in adjoining cabins.
Passengers booking one of Solstice's 277 Concierge Class rooms will get balcony cabins -- with some sweeteners, including more premium locations on the ship (higher up and aft-facing), fresh fruit, flowers, sparkling wine (as a welcome gift), nightly canapes, an expanded room service menu, restaurant seating time preferences and priority check-in and disembarkation. Other benefits include an exclusive welcome aboard lunch in the main dining room, dedicated concierge desk, pre-departure lounge with free coffee and juices and in-room enhancements such as Egyptian cotton oversized bath towels, Hansgrohe massaging showerhead and Frette robes. Shoeshine service is complimentary, as is use of a golf umbrella and binoculars.
AquaClass: These 130 cabins are essentially standard balcony cabins with prime locations and additional spa-themed perks, including access to Blu, the ship's "spa cuisine" restaurant. In the cabin, you'll have an aromatherapy diffuser, which subtly adds scent throughout the room, and a super five-head Hansgrohe shower panel in the bathroom, which makes showering on a cruise ship a surprising joy. You'll also get daily teas, bottled water on embarkation day, a personal concierge to arrange spa treatments and free access to the Persian Garden and Relaxation Room.
Suite: All suites include personal butlers; breakfast, lunch and dinner service; afternoon tea; daily evening hors d'œuvres; and espresso and cappuccino -- all en-suite -- plus a range of other perks including use of the exclusive suite-only restaurant, Luminae. Celebrity Suite passengers also enjoy exclusive use of Michael's Club, a clubby bar and lounge that includes perks such as complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages throughout the day, a personal concierge and a daily breakfast.
The 44 Sky Suites represent the bulk of the suite inventory on Celebrity Solstice. They measure 300 square feet with 79-square-foot verandas accessed through floor-to-ceiling sliding-glass doors, and have two beds convertible to queen-size and bathrooms with a shower/tub combination and sink. The living room has a queen sleeper sofa, vanity and 40-inch LCD TV. Significantly larger are the two Penthouse Suites, measuring 1,291 square feet with 389-square-foot balconies. These cabins offer floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, separate living room/dining room, baby grand piano, full bar, queen sleeper sofa, two 52-inch LCD TVs (the one in the living room has surround sound) and a master bath with a whirlpool tub, shower stall with dual shower heads, double sinks and even a 26-inch LCD TV. The veranda has a second whirlpool and lounge seating.
Other suite offerings are 12 Celebrity Suites (394 square feet, 105-square-foot balcony) and eight Royal Suites (590 square feet, 158-square-foot balcony). Each Celebrity Suite has a walk-in closet and separate living and sleeping areas, with flat-screen TVs in both the bedroom and living areas. Royal Suites also provide separate living and sleeping areas, and they have separate tubs and showers in the bathrooms, full wet bars and glass-topped dining room tables. Each Royal Suite has a whirlpool on its balcony.
Penthouse Suite and Royal Suite cruisers receive unlimited dining in all speciality restaurants, a complimentary Premium Beverage Package for all, complimentary unlimited internet access and a stateroom setup of one bottle of vodka and one bottle of scotch or gin with mixers, a choice of spirits and wine.
Family: Families can take advantage of 121 connecting staterooms and four Family Ocean View Staterooms with verandas. These rooms measure a generous 575 square feet with one master bedroom plus a second bedroom (with a single twin bed) and sitting area with a sofa (convertible to trundle bed).
Accessible: Solstice has 30 state-of-the-art wheelchair-accessible staterooms, covering a wide range of categories from Inside to Sky Suite. Eighty percent (24) are outside, and 20 of the 30 accessible cabins have accessible balconies. All accessible staterooms have additional square footage over their non-accessible counterparts and have 32-inch-wide automatic doors with sitting-level key card slots. Most accessible staterooms feature 5-foot turning radiuses. Bathrooms have roll-in showers, ramped thresholds and lowered fixtures. Suites feature the services of a butler, who will, among other chores, assist in the moving of heavy luggage as well as packing and unpacking. Facilities are also available for passengers with visual or hearing disabilities. A service animal relief box is available on request.
*Prices correct at time of publish and maybe subject to change