Happy summer solstice to my friends in the northern hemisphere! And what better way to celebrate this longest day of the year than on a cruise onboard one of my favorite ships, aptly named, the Celebrity Solstice! What? You’re not onboard today justifying three extra dinners because the sun stays out until 9pm? That sucks (sorry, but there’s no way to sugarcoat not being on a cruise)! Instead, I suppose you could spend today doing the second most enjoyable thing in life: booking and planning a cruise. Perhaps over the winter solstice on December 21!
Which brings us to today’s topic: my review of my most recent cruise onboard the Celebrity Solstice. Find out what I loved about it, what I didn’t love, and if I’d cruise on her again. But first, some ship facts and my complete ship tour.
Celebrity Solstice Facts
The first of the solstice-class ships, the Celebrity Solstice, was launched in late 2008, making her approximately 95 in human years. But you’d never know it by looking at her, thanks to a major refurbishment in 2021 and a daily beauty routine to rival Jennifer Aniston’s. She’s 1,041 feet long and 122,000 gross tons, can accommodate 2,850 passengers, and sometimes feels insecure next to modern-day mega-ships before visiting her therapist who reminds her that bigger isn’t always better and points out her unique features like real grass and a tree floating in a 12-story atrium.
Here’s a tour (be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel for more Celebrity cruise content):
Celebrity Solstice Ship Tour
Things I LOVED About the Celebrity Solstice
Design and Decor
Huge Inside Cabin
My inside cabin on the Solstice was huge! But that’s not the thing I loved most about it. The thing I loved most about it was…the garbage can. Find out why HERE:
Sky Observation Lounge
If I were in charge of a marketing campaign for the Sky Observation Lounge on the Celebrity Solstice, the tagline would go something like, “The Sky Observation Lounge: Offering Million Dollar Views for Cheapies who Booked Inside Cabins!”
Like me! The comfortable seating and sweeping views drew me to this massive, gorgeous venue on deck 14 for hours each day where I would curl up with a book or listen to music. You’ll want to avoid this area if you’re superstitious (it’s actually “technically” on deck 13), don’t like the smell of feet (honestly, try keeping your shoes on in one of those comfy white loungers), or are good at trivia (I say that so no one will show up at trivia and I’ll have a shot at winning with my usual score between 0-2).
If you don’t have kids or ESPECIALLY if you HAVE kids, hit the adults-only indoor solarium with comfy loungers, a heated pool, and two quiet hot tubs. There are sometimes family swim times in the late afternoon, depending on the itinerary, so check the daily schedule so you don’t accidentally end up as Marco to your six-year-old’s Polo when you came in for a peaceful afternoon nap. MARCO! POLO!
The Lawn Club, located on deck 15, is one of the most unique areas I’ve ever seen on a cruise ship. Why? Because it features real grass! And because dogs aren’t allowed on cruise ships (except for service dogs who have a designated potty area on the outdoor promenade deck), you can sit right down on it and say with confidence when you stand up with a wet butt that it’s “just water!” (Do feel it before sitting down, because it’s watered with sprinklers daily.) Quite a few different activities take place at the Lawn Club, including outdoor movie screenings, bocce ball, and lawn bowling. Heeled shoes: not allowed. Bare piggies: encouraged!
Speaking of areas that often contain unwanted pee, there are two hot tubs located in the Solarium that, due to being adults only, have a much lower probability of having been peed in, at least before the late-night bar crowd arrives.
Comfortable Seating and Towels Provided on Loungers
Several of the ships I’ve sailed on recently have suffered from a lack of comfortable seating areas. But not the Solstice. Be warned though, I sacrificed three meals (absolutely unheard of for me) to the hammock pictured above. Not because it was so comfortable (although it was), but because every time I thought, “my God, I haven’t eaten all day” my aging back, hips, and knees reminded me why I should have heeded the warning sign: “Those over 40, use at your own risk!”
24 Hour Gym with Peloton Bikes
I’m not going to spend a lot of time writing about the gym as I know 99% of you won’t read it (no judgement – you’re on vacation and are totally justified in walking past the gym holding some garlic cloves to protect you). But for the 1% who basically live on cruise ships like me and are at high risk of death due to excessive cruise ship desserts, you should know that the gym is huge, extremely well equipped, open 24/7 (except for on debarkation morning when it is closed for deep cleaning), and features towels and fruit-infused water. There are even Peloton bikes you can reserve for free. Find out more about how to use them here:
Wide Jogging Track
I appreciated the wide jogging track because it made it easier to pass those exercising as I sprinted from the Sky Observation Lounge to the buffet five minutes before it opened for lunch, so I’d get first dibs on the tray of baked pasta allowing for a scoop of almost pure cheese before a second scoop that included a few veggies and noodles.
See if you can solve this riddle:
It’s not a roller coaster or a go kart track or laser tag. It’s not a revenue producing cruise ship gimmick featured in 2 million Instagram videos. But it sort of feels like a ride. And is mildly terrifying for those with an aversion to heights. And you can go on it as many times as you want for free! What is it?
A glass elevator on the Celebrity Solstice! It’s not very exciting if you ride it during popular eating times when it has to stop at every. freaking. floor. to collect people (me) who should really be taking the stairs in anticipation of the argentinosaurus-sized lunch portion they are about to consume. But if you ride it at 5am, you’ll ascend and then descend 12 floors at somewhere between the speed of a depressed sloth and a caffeinated cheetah. And along the way, you’ll pass by this really cool floating tree…
You’re probably curious if it’s real. And I was too. So I tied a bedsheet to the railing in the library on deck 10 with a bowline knot (I knew that sailing class I flunked out of over a decade ago would come in handy) and used it to brachiate like a monkey from the railing to the tree, several decks down. Unfortunately my weight was too much for the tree and it snapped like a toothpick under a car tire. Also unfortunate, was the speed at which security reached me. If you’re wondering why it’s taken me so long to post this review, you have your answer. But I’m out of jail and happy to (finally) report, the tree is REAL!
You didn’t hear anything of that crazy, 100% true, story I just told, did you? Because the minute you heard, “library” you stopped reading in order to unpack the six weighty books you jammed in your carry-on bag while sharing the good news with your elderly back:”Good news! You’re spared! There’s a library!” I always love a ship with a library and the one on the Solstice was gorgeous. Just be sure to get there early on embarkation day for the best selection of books.
Wide Stateroom Hallways
These super wide stateroom hallways with little bump outs in front of the cabin doors made me happy, then mad, then happy again. Let me explain. I’ve suffered past trauma relating to the super narrow stateroom hallways on some ships (cough, NCL). In fact, one time when my son was a toddler I managed to get his jogger stroller wedged between the wall and a cleaning cart and had to abandon him for two hours while I sought help after calming my nerves with a few martinis and some buffet desserts. So I was really happy to see the wide hallways on the Solstice.
That was until I returned to my cabin one afternoon to see that my cabin steward had left me a giant box of extra toilet paper and paper towels in the bump out. Yes, I do eat a LOT on a cruise leading to many hours in the bathroom and the occasional call to my steward for extra T.P. And yes, I do frequently bring food back to my cabin to eat in bed. But was this really necessary:
After I got over being offended, I actually reframed it as a bit of a windfall. Ya’ll know how cheap I am and that I always take home the miniature toiletry bottles and extra T.P. from hotel rooms. So I dragged these babies inside, slapped a couple of luggage tags on them, and set them out on the evening before debarkation with the rest of my luggage to collect inside the terminal the next day. Free toilet paper and paper towels for a year!
Seriously though, I really did appreciate the wide hallways and wish all ships had them.
Fast Starlink Internet
Good news for those planning on working from “home” on the Solstice. The Solstice was equipped with SpaceX’s Starlink in early 2023 which brought high-speed satellite internet to sea. And I can vouch for it. I happened to be on a different cruise line (I won’t name the line to protect the guilty) without Starlink the week prior to my cruise on the Solstice on a very similar itinerary and the internet on the Solstice was much, MUCH faster and more reliable. That being the case, I offer the following tips for working from “home” on a cruise ship:
- If you’ve been working from home in a t-shirt for the past two years, don’t accidentally appear on video in your formal night tux: “Awfully nice duds for a Wednesday afternoon department meeting, Stan. You headed to prom later?”
- On a related note, dress appropriately for the weather back home. It might be cold and drizzly on your cruise to Alaska, but stash the hat and raincoat out of view when it’s 110 degrees in Arizona.
- Start blurring the background for all your video calls now. Blame it on your new boyfriend: “He’s such a pig. Feel me ladies?”
- A few days before your cruise, start complaining about car trouble, so the boss doesn’t ask you to come into the office to drop something off: “Oh man, wish I could, my car is still on the fritz. But it should be fixed by the time I disembark on Friday. I mean, um…”
- Don’t take a meeting from your balcony: “Whale! Wait, no, I didn’t mean you Janet!” And finally…
- Pack your usual work day coffee mug. I once made the mistake of calling into a meeting drinking from my “Ship Faced” travel mug:
Hot Glass Demonstrations and Classes
This is one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever seen at sea! You can take a class and make your own piece of art or, if you don’t trust the ship’s medical center to properly treat the 1st degree burns your clumsiness practically guarantees, you can watch a demonstration from behind a safety barrier. Here’s a sneak preview:
There are two seeming miracles in life that I learned this year aren’t actually miracles. First, I thought my mother-in-law possessed the ability to conjure up spreads of food, equal parts extensive and delicious, for every family gathering. But when I decided to track her movements this past Easter in an attempt to steal her spell in case she drops dead and someone expects me to serve up 53 different kinds of cookies at Christmas, it turns out it ain’t magic – a TON of work goes into those meals.
And I also learned that unlimited cruise ship food doesn’t just appear before us via a portal from heaven. A galley tour, available as a complimentary activity to anyone who wanted to participate, offered enlightening insights into how thousands of meals are prepared multiple times a day on a cruise ship. It was so interesting! Plus it included a free glass of champagne! Definitely take part in this if it’s offered on your Solstice sailing.
Seven Piece Orchestra
While many lines have cut live musicians, there was still a seven piece orchestra on the Solstice. And they were fabulous in all the main stage performances I saw.
Guest Performer Heather Sullivan and Broken Strings
Speaking of performances on the main stage, my two favorites were guest performer Heather Sullivan, who channeled Carole King with her slightly raspy alto and a production show I didn’t expect to like, but ended up loving: Broken Strings (I’m not generally a huge fan of country music).
I appreciated the option to catch a flick either indoors in Celebrity Central or outdoors on the giant screen positioned above the Lawn Club and spent several afternoons and evenings getting caught up on anything rated PG-13 or R (hashtag, momproblems).
Martinis are my cruise beverage of choice because you get a lot of buzz for your buck and they aren’t as filling as a massive frozen cocktail. But I tend to get into a bit of a rut, rotating between lemon drops, cosmos, and chocolate variations. So I always appreciate a ship with a dedicated martini bar like the one on the Solstice. But I found myself with the opposite problem this time around. Instead of too few choices, there were way to many delicious sounding options. So, what to do? Order them all! Well maybe not all – I’m 110 pounds at my pre-cruise weight and even after my standard 10-15 pounds of cruise gain, I start singing Whitney on tabletops two in. So I compromised and went for the martini flight:
The lychee was my favorite and the bartender was kind enough to swap out the classic martini for a chocolate one when I accidentally made a barfing gesture as he placed the olive garnish (honestly, who would eat an olive, let alone ruin a perfectly good cocktail with one!). He also put on a bit of a show as he prepared the flight, but because I started drinking as soon as the bar opened at 4pm, I was the only one there to observe it, so it was a little awkward. LOL.
I don’t say this lightly, as I take buffet dining more serious than a letter from the IRS, but I do declare that the buffet on the Celebrity Solstice is the best I’ve ever experienced on any ship on any line! Variety? 5 stars! Quality? 5 stars! Options for special diets? 5 stars! International offerings? 5 stars! Desserts? 5 stars! Here were some of my favorite offerings. Let’s start with breakfast:
Breakfast Rice with Toppings and Sauces
Whipped Flavored and Plain Butter and Fresh Cream
Moving onto lunch and desserts (the buffet was much smaller at dinner and I usually elected to eat my main meal in the dining room with a smaller second dinner at the buffet latter in the evening):
Vegan Buffet Selections
Baked Pasta and Pizza
Remember the baked pasta I mentioned when I was supposed to be talking about the jogging track? This is it! And it’s so delicious, I had a giant helping every single day. There’s a meat version and a veggie version and it’s served with crispy garlic bread. The buffet pizza was also surprisingly good. I’ve never heard of Celebrity being known for particularly great pizza, but honestly I liked the buffet pizza more than anything offered on Princess (which has excellent pizza, so much so that the line is often touted as having the best pizza at sea).
Sometimes the baked pastas featured peas, which my dog and I happen to love. Me, because they are delicious and my dog because my son donates all of his to him and he ain’t about to be picky when there’s food on offer that isn’t the same dry kibble he’s been subjected to for the past 14 years. Anyway if, like my son, you’re not a fan, there was a make-your-own-pasta bar with a variety of noodle, sauce, and topping choices. HEAVY ON THE CHEESE, HOLD THE PEAS (that would be my son’s order).
The lunch desserts on the Solstice were, by far, the best buffet desserts I’ve experienced on a cruise. Maybe the best desserts period. On land or at sea. And they were unlimited. Which is why I arrived back home wearing a towel skirt (grew out of all my pants in 7 days, oops).
In addition to the vast selection of non-frozen desserts offered on the buffet, there were also nine different flavors of hard ice cream offered each day. NINE! All complimentary. There were also a few toppings to choose from. My favorite combo was pistachio with chocolate sprinkles.
Moving onto the main dining room…
MDR Bread Service
While the appetizers and entrees in the MDR were fine, I’d even say above average for cruise food, after the first few nights I skipped them altogether to dedicate my stomach space to bread and chocolate cake. Cruise ship servers have HEARD IT ALL! But mine looked legit perplexed when I said: “I’ll just have three bread baskets with the whipped butters and three orders of chocolate cake.”
The bread selection varies daily and is served with rotating flavors of whipped butters (three different ones each night) and, let me tell you, if I’d died of a carb overdose, I’d have died extremely bloated. But also happy. You’ll want to hang on for the chocolate cake though…
MDR Chocolate Cake
The chocolate cake, available on the menu every night, is possibly the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had on land or at sea. You might be tempted to order something more “exotic” and you absolutely should…in addition to the chocolate cake! Trust me on this. I wouldn’t kill for it. Or would I? Maybe keep your distance from me in the MDR if you order it just to be on the safe side.
Sushi on Five
I dined at two speciality restaurants on the Solstice – one I loved and one was the weirdest cruise dining experience I’ve ever had (which I’ll get to next). Here’s my complete review of the non-weird one (unless you automatically consider a vegetarian solo dining at a sushi restaurant weird):
Things I DIDN’T LOVE About the Celebrity Solstice
Tuscan Grill: Well that was Weird!
You can read about my WEIRD dinner at the Tuscan Grill here:
No Wraparound Promenade Deck
No one likes going for a peaceful afternoon walk on the outdoor promenade deck only to slam into a wall mid way around because they were distracted by a whale that turned out to be a log (true story). While the outdoor promenade deck on the Solstice does have some nice areas to sit and gaze out at the water, it does not wrap all the way around the ship. I guess you can use that as another excuse not to exercise though. *shrug*
Despite there being no hypnotist on our sailing, I kept seeing people walking around with glazed eyes and flapping and clucking like chickens. I can only assume the carpet patterns had something to do with it. They are circular and awful, particularly in the gym, which seams a particular dangerous place for people to be zoned out and stumbling about. I hope these don’t survive the next refurbishment.
Would I Sail on the Celebrity Solstice Again?
I can sum up that question in two words. Well one full word and one highly censured word (so this review doesn’t get banned in Florida): H** YES!!! I’d cruise again for the buffet alone!