September 2016 - Celebrity Solstice to Alaska - Inside Passage
As an experienced cruiser with RCCL and Norwegian Cruise Lines, but a newcomer to Celebrity, I had high hopes for the Celebrity Solstice based on other cruisers reviews.
First off, let me begin by saying that the Ship and its crew are second to none. Our veranda cabin was pleasantly spacious as compared to our prior veranda cabins on RCCL and NCL's similar accommodations. Absolutely superb service, excellent food in the main dining room and the Oceanview Cafe\, the only two venues we experienced. My room attendant and her assistance were unobtrusive, efficient, and always greeted us by our names and with a smile. Out head waiter, assistant HW, and our sommelier were all first class both in their knowledge and service. I would have no hesitation booking another cruise on the Solstice.
Unfortunately, not everything went as well as one might have hoped for, even when eliminating those situations beyond the control of the Captain and the crew as follows:
1. Itinerary: The Alaskan itinerary of Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway were all excellent as were the tours, even during a 24 hours period of inclement weather. Upon leaving Skagway, we had almost two full days at sea before we reached our 4th stop in Victoria Canada at 5pm on 8 September. As our itinerary only allowed for 5 hours ashore, we chose one of Celebrity's tours "Butterflies and Butchart Gardens". Due to the limited time before sundown, we only had 30 minutes of daylight at Butchart Gardens to view the impressive gardens before we lost sight of the massive gardens due to darkness. As we returned to the ship shortly after 10pm, we didn't have time to shop from local artisans. I believe that Celebrity could have done better in organizing an itinerary that allowed passengers more time to view the highlights of Victoria, BC, Canada. As the Solstice had only a short 50 mile cruise to its terminus in Vancouver, Celebrity had the requisite time to reorganize the onshore time such that there was more time during the daylight hours.
3. Skyview Cafe: During day 6, as we continued sailing from Skagway to Victoria, the crew's priorities changed as they readied for our final ports of call at Victoria and Vancouver, B.C., Canada. We were warned that the all the ships duty free shops, the casino, and the portrait gallery would be closing at 4pm, one hour prior to our scheduled arrival at Victoria, B.C., Canada, and would not reopen again for the remainder of the cruise. Although a half hearted attempt was made to accommodate those of us who were taking Celebrity cruise excursions, we were ultimately left with a 45 minute window to inhale our dinner prior to the tour departure, or to delay dinner until after returning to the Solstice at 10pm. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived at the Cafe at 10:20pm, we discovered that the Cafe's crew and local managers were in their typical close-out mode that they did every day beginning about 30-45 minutes before the scheduled closing time and was characterized by allowing food items to run out while not replacing them. The net result for those of us who took advantage of the tours were lost when we left picking-up our dinner from the remaining limited choice food items. Besides a lighter than normal diet, I was left feeling like we had booked a 6 night cruise rather than a 7 night cruise.
RECOMMENDATION: Let me take this opportunity to emphasize that not withstanding the issues on day 6 of our cruise, we thoroughly enjoyed myself aboard the Solstice and look forward to a future cruise onboard.