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SOLO ON SOLSTICE CLASS

Updated: Oct 28, 2023

JD SCHWARTZ / Author - Photographer

I'm a solo cruiser and love sharing my experiences - captured through the lens of my cameras. Three of Celebrity’s five Solstice Class ships which I have sailed on include Eclipse (two Caribbean cruises, one transatlantic voyage) - a transatlantic voyage on Silhouette, and a Southern Caribbean cruise on Equinox.

2022-BONAIRE | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

Fifteen years following the debut of Celebrity’s first Solstice Class ship, these refined and timeless ships continue to satisfy.

 

Celebrity launched its first of five Solstice Class ships in 2008: “Celebrity Solstice”. A new class of ships for the brand that would raise and redefine the product. At 122,000 tons, At the time "Solstice" was one of the largest ships ever built at German shipyard, Meyer-Werf. Four more Solstice class ships would follow “Solstice” including “Celebrity Equinox”, “Celebrity Eclipse”, “Celebrity Silhouette” and “Celebrity Reflection”. The “Reflection’s” increase in capacity and gross tonnage are based on the addition of a deck added primarily for staterooms - to accommodate more guests.

2016-BARBADOS | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

At the time of introduction ground-breaking innovations included The Lawn Club, glass blowing theater (Hot Glass Show), unique dining venues and eighty-percent of the staterooms which would feature verandas. Carry overs from Celebrity’s popular Millenium Class ships would include a wonderful solarium with padded loungers, pool and hot tubs; grand sweeping foyers and atriums and inviting outdoor spaces from the sunset bar to the topside forward facing sun deck now named “The Retreat” for suite guests only.

2019-BERMUDA | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

After sailing on over 50 ships and 150 cruises and crossings, my top pick for best designed cruise ship, to the day, is Celebrity's Solstice Class. More than the voluminous exterior deck space, the interiors of these ships reflect seamless navigation, timeless comfort, and interior design appeal. They offer an abundance of intimate and casually elegant venues, a vast array of eclectic and wonderful artwork, and culinary options that should satisfy anyone’s appetite.

"SMILE" - EQUINOX | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

The first of this trilogy of cruises was on "Eclipse". The cruise was a short five-day jaunt from Miami to Cozumel and Costa Maya Mexico. Boarding was organized and swift and within twenty minutes of the drop off I was in my veranda stateroom. First thoughts: WOW! Now, time to explore. Let's go to sea !


First stop: the SKY LOUNGE. These Solstice Class bow facing lounges above the bridge are flanked with an expanse of floor to ceiling windows which, until recently, boasted a 280-degree view. Celebrity’s “Revolutions” (refit program) modified the space with either suites or a meeting room on the port side, reducing the view and space. However, the Sky Lounge remains as one of my top picks for a lounge on any ship.

SKY LOUNGE | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

One is immediately taken back by the design and upscale furnishings of the Sky Lounge let alone the engineering aspect of the space. While somewhat minimalistic (which I prefer), the space is crisp and streamlined providing an atmosphere that lures me back to the Sky Lounge time and time again, day or night. At night, Sky Lounge is transformed into a busy and sometimes high-strung nightclub. Watch for the ever-popular ABBA event.



EQUINOX SKY LOUNGE | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

Heading outdoors you immediately sense the vastness of outdoor deck space, ease of navigation, and resort like atmosphere. The Solarium with its harmonious water and light feature flows seamlessly into the outdoor pool deck dominated by its pyramid shaped, two story massive awnings – a great feature and striking exercise in outdoor design. There is space for everyone in and out of the sun. Cozy loungers, Bali beds and circular shaped hammocks complement sofa style sitting areas for casual conversation, lounging, and people watching. The twin pools and four hot tubs are right sized for the ship’s capacity – a growing issue with some of the newbuilds. It never feels overcrowded or overwhelming except for the afternoon watersports and contests on sea days.

RESORT DECK | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

RESORT DECK | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

The SOLARIUM is clearly one of Solstice Class’s best features. A strategic takeaway from Celebrity’s Millennium Class ships. The structure itself is enormous Regardless of the weather, the pool is open unless the seas are too rough. In the mornings it’s water aerobics and lap swimmers. During the day, it’s off-and-on crowd-wise. A designated arena to cool down from the sun or warm up on those cool weather sailings. Late afternoons and evenings, it’s a respite for a visit to one of the hot tubs followed by a quick dip in the pool. The adjacent Spa Café. Is a nifty spot for a healthy light breakfast or afternoon snack.

SOLARIUM | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

At night, the light and water features of this amenity capture the imagination of anyone taking time to savor this special place. Time for some meditation...

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

From the pool deck heading aft up a twin level of a wide staircase there is a choice of either entering the Ocean View Café (the buffet) or continuing up another staircase to the Lawn Club and its’ outdoor features. Eclipse and Equinox feature a glass blowing theatre, reservation only cabanas, and THE LAWN CLUB. On Silhouette it was the Lawn Club Grill.

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

KEY TAKEAWAY - stroll through the Lawn Club at night - listen for the crickets!

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

Real grass on the deck of a ship? It’s a game changer. Landscapers tend to the fragile space like museum curators. Salt water and grass don’t mix well. Continuing aft are a flank of padded chairs on both starboard and port sides. Bocci ball anyone? At the stern you arrive at Sunset Bar. The ultimate design for the aft deck of a ship. In addition to the nautically designed bar, adjacent areas flank this venue and model an outdoor patio with mesmerizing views of the ship’s wake and the sunset or sunrise depending on the direction you are sailing.


SUNET BAR / AFT

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

ONWARD

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

Traveling down the staircases we head forward along rows of deck chairs and the jogging track passing the Mast Bar adjacent to The Mast Grill. Lunch favorites include grilled sandwiches, fries and a host of condiments and sides.

LIDO / SUN DECK | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

Heading up another set of stairs a forward wrap around deck with an atmospheric glass structure provides access to the tot, tween, and teen centers. Further forward you’ll pass the enclosed netted court area for deck sports and finally a fabulous view overlooking the bow of the ship. One more flight of stairs up will grant you access to today’s "The Retreat" - for suite guests only.

THE RETREAT | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

SUNRISE ARRIVAL: ARUBA, MY HOME.

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

A FESTIVAL OF FOOD OPTIONS

A True Food Court: Oceanview Cafe


OCEANVIEW CAFE offers the advent of separate seemingly endless islands of food where I first experienced and loved on Celebrity’s Mercury. The concept worked then and it’s splendid now. To be expected it does get crowded at peak mealtimes so pace yourself.

The remedy and trick to garnering a tasty hot breakfast? Line up for an omelette, a toasty waffle, or Celebrity’s fabulous eggs benedict bar (which I love.) The list of ancillary breakfast items is nearly endless.

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

Lunch at­ this voluminous dining venue yields fresh baked breads, salads, an Asian and Indian section including Sushi; a pasta station, daily specialties (from fish and chips, BBQ ribs, to paella), cheeses, to a desert and free ice cream bar and literally everything in between. No one should walk out hungry with options beyond. Head to the stern for the perfect al fresco dining affair. Finally, dinner at Ocean View is quiet. The lights are dimmed and much of the same fare from the main dining rooms is available – and warm! Late night snacks include pasta, pizza, salads, and an abbreviated selection of desserts.


THE SPECTACULAR MAIN DINING ROOM (S)

Eclipse – Moonlight Sonata

Silhouette – Grand Cuvee

Equinox – Silhouette Dining Room


Enter one of the most inspiring main dining rooms at sea...

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

World-class designer Adam Tihany defines his concept behind the design of the 1,400 seat two story dining room on board all of the Solstice class ships as simply “inspired by celebratory champagne and bubbles”. A rather modest statement in my opinion. The execution of Tihany’s design is beyond words. The scope of detail and imagination is simply mesmerizing.

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

On my first Eclipse cruise, I was seated at a table for eight on the first level next to the two-level chrome webbed wine racks giving me a broad view of the entire space. I felt as though I was on a different planet. The photos show the beauty of the space but not how one feels. The service and food, while more than acceptable, became secondary. Request a table on the first level if you can. It feels less crowded.


PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

Often, I opt for late seating. The service seems less rushed with meals than can last three hours, at which time the staff is folding napkins for the next day’s breakfast. Time to get some air, a late show or turn in. It’s after 11PM. Post COVID, I don’t hesitate to exploit the anytime dining option. Seated as a solo is speedy and there are always folks nearby happy to strike up a conversation.

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

Daylight dining in these restaurants shows off a different perspective of the MDR. Breakfast or lunch is well received, and the dining room shows off its splendor with the spectacle of sunlight. By day or night, this space is one for the archives !!!


AND FOR THE SUITES GUESTS ONLY

LUMINAE, the dedicated restaurant for the Suite Class. A refined space dressed in luminescent metallics and lacquered blacks. As it is reserved only for the top-paying passengers onboard, exclusivity is the first distinguishing factor of dining at Luminae. The decor is understated, but as the name suggests, very evocative of light and reflection.


Windows line one wall of the restaurant; if you're a fan of ocean views, be sure to request one of the few tables with a window. Staff at Luminae will pay extra attention to learning your preferences; if you're a regular, you can expect a customized experience each time.


LUMINAE | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

DINING BEYOND

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

BLU

On my second “Eclipse” cruise (2016 eight-day Caribbean), I opted to try Aqua class thanks to a generous upgrade offer as the ship was not quite full. The stateroom itself mirrors any other veranda stateroom except for a few extra amenities. Aqua class offers some spa specials and of course dining at BLU (Deck 5); a fine and healthy example of culinary dining in a cozy, elegant restaurant with great views of the sea. The highly attentive staff never misses a beat. I was greeted by name on day two and seated immediately.


The courses were well prepared and exquisitley presented. At times I may have preferred some of the offerings in the Main Dining Room but found dining at BLU refreshing, fresh and healthy. The couple I met on day one at an adjoining table were priceless. We dined together each night – me at a table for one and a wonderful British couple at the adjacent table. Since that cruise our friendship ensues with weekly chats, annual visits to one another’s homes and embarking together on two-week voyage to Norway and the Arctic in 2019.


I never sailed in a suite on a Solstice Class ship which would have qualified me access to Luminae, Deck Three aft. It’s a pretty space and from what I have heard and read, it’s topflight and delivers on the promise. Sweet dreams!


TUSCAN GRILL offers solid cuisine and specializes in Italian fare. There’s something for everyone. The menu is exhausting yet inviting. Expect to spend some time for dinner with great views of the sea and ship’s wash. As a side note, loyalty members gain access to Tuscan Grill’s breakfast.

TUSCAN GRILL | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

MURANO is the extra cost fine dining French affair which I’ve never experienced. It’s a gorgeous space. I could never justify the many hours spent dining, wine paring and its myriad of courses. One day perhaps.

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

QZINE is a quirky animated dining venue with overhead projectors projecting imagery on plates and tables. Yes, there is real food. It’s funky and delicious. If you have kids, bring them along. Otherwise, prepare yourself for a fantasy dining experience that will surely set the stage for a fun and fanciful night out.

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

SUSHI ON FIVE


A fine option for fresh SUSHI and creative beverage with a view. Open for lunch and dinner, walkins are invited. A very nice nearly intimate space with some great meu items - more than just sushi, a friendly and appeasing staff eager to satisfy your appetite...Freshly prepared items include the finest sashimi, hand-rolled sushi, and other Japanese favorites. Try the fresh wasabi. You can pair your fare with imported and artisanal beers, premium and specialty sakes, and innovative cocktails.

SUSHI ON FIVE | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

THE GRAND FOYER AND ATRIUM


I had to look twice when I first entered the Atrium and encountered its five-story tree. The sheer logistics of installing such an element had to be a massive undertaking. By day or night one can become highly entertained riding up and down the atrium's elevators witnessing the reality that there’s a huge tree in the middle of the ship.

THE ATRIUM | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

What makes this large space inviting is how orbital the design is. Off the charts. Story’s high art deco lit columns flanked and draped with white gauze curtains frame the atrium set the stage. With or without an event, Solstice class atriums are a spectacle. Talk about a glass ceiling - a great design feature floods the space with sunshine.


I love this photo: It really demonstrates the sensation of space and features of the Atrium.

"ELEVATED" | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

VARIATIONS ON A THEME:

Eclipse and Silhouette


The Grand Foyer and lobby on Deck Three is the intersection for Guest Relations, Shore Excursions, and a meeting place at the rather quiet Passport Bar. I like lounging in this foyer, people watching and admiring the quiet and casual elegance of the space. Design elements of the space are reminiscent of a by gone era...as this cascading staircase could be from the ocean liner Normandie, or Queen Mary.


"WATERFALL" | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

Strolling forward on Deck Four from the Atrium we arrive at of Celebrity’s most infamous watering holes: The Martini Bar. The entertainers are the bartenders stacking tin mixers and pouring out shots into stacked martini glasses from ten feet in the air. High fives and crowds keep this bar popping until whenever.

THE MARTINI BAR | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

Heading forward we enter another aspect of the ship innovated for Solstice class. The Shops on the Boulevard. The art deco theme continues in this two-story space with high end brand stores and the adjoining Casino on Deck Four. More shops on Deck Five offer jewelry, sundries, sportswear, logo gear, and watches. Deck Five also sports the Photo Gallery and a space for art auctions and exhibits.

BOULEVARD OF SHOPS | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

Forward to the boulevard of goodies we enter a smaller two-story atrium, The Entertainment Court where more events take place including game shows and small venue contests. It’s also a foyer for entry into Celebrity Central (used for lectures, a cooking theatre, and late-night shows), the Future Cruise Center and a meeting place for small events.

THE ENTERTAINMENT COURT | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

Port side from the Entertainment Court you'll find QUASAR, a unique spot for small gatherings offering a very intimate club night atmosphere. Its futuristic design should allow the space to remain unchanged for years to come.

QUASAR | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

Opposite QUASAR is CELEBRITY CENTRAL: A cozy 200-seat show lounge offering guests a range of lively and diverse entertainment from late night comedians to movies, cooking demonstrations, guest speakers and trivia contests.

CELEBRITY CENTRAL | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

Finally, the forward corridors lead into The Theatre. Another grandiose, showstopper.

THETHEATRE | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

Port and starboard on Deck Five venture outdoors to the Promenade decks. Port for smoking, starboard for nonsmoking each with lounging areas, outdoor furnishings, and tables. While not full length and interwoven with low hanging lifeboats and tenders, the lounge areas are wide with unobstructed views of the passing sea.


PROMENADE | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

CAFE AL BACIO


Back inside on Deck Five, one of the more noteworthy and appreciated destinations is Café Al Bacio and the Gelato Bar. Celebrity loyalists flock here at all times of the day for coffee, teas, and pastries. Celebrity does it right with a full staff of baristas and wait staff. Even at busy hours, the line moves swiftly. Best organized coffee bar at sea in my opinion.

CAFE AL BACIO | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

WORLD CLASS BAR


Conveniently and strategically located amid the shops and nearby art auctions you'll find Celebrity's “fine drinking” experience, where the "ritual of making cocktails is just as exciting as drinking them." The pitch is the "freshest ingredients and the finest spirits, our expert mixologists aim to satisfy the palates of both curious newcomers and connoisseurs alike." I'm not sure I've ever seen all of the chairs occupied but I do like the design.

WORLD CLASS BAR | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

ENSEMBLE LOUNGE


Another one of my favorite lounges is the Ensemble Lounge. This is clearly one of the more formal spaces onboard featuring live classical and contemporary entertainment. Certain areas of these ships are clear reminders that one is at sea, on a ship and Ensemble is one of those spaces. The bar is a favorite for pre and post dinner drinks as it sits conveniently next to Murano. Entrance to the Retreat Lounge (replacing Michael’s Club) and Murano are located on the starboard side of Ensemble.

ENSEMBLE LOUNGE | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

ENSEMBLE BAR | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

THE LIBRARY


I love this space. It may not be the most functional library at sea or anywhere but it's comfy and makes a statement. Guests wishing to delve into a favorite book or just lounge around have found their place. The Library is just one more bold design exercise and commitment by Celebrity to simply execute a theme that is slightly off the wall - funky yet striking.

THE LIBRARY | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ

DID YOU KNOW?

The "Relaxation Lounge" (below left), Deck Eleven...it's quiet. Nearly vacant most of the time with a choice of teas and flavored waters. Great spot for quiet time or napping. The "Spa Veranda" (below right) forward of the Fitness center...perfect for viewing the arrival into any port. Need some quiet time?


STATEROOMS - THOSE I HAVE STAYED IN


Veranda staterooms are 195 square feet plus a 55 square foot balcony. Larger than the industry average, very comfortable with a mini fridge and decent storage space although the closets positioned next to the bed are tight. The highly efficient bathroom with circular shower are the standard and well maintained. The sofa is great for napping and lounging and the desk area is sufficient for working at sea as I typically do. Ample power and USB ports never made charging my arsenal of cameras, phone, and computer a challenge. Bedding is upscale. Overall, I really like Celebrity’s staterooms as I have stayed in standard, Aqua and Concierge Class categories.



ELEMENTS OF DESIGN


Some of my favorite random shots - onward!


UNTIL NEXT TIME...


I’m always looking forward to that next cruise and hope to sail on any one of these great ships or any ship and hopefully meet one of you fine site2sea visitors. SMILE



In closing, one of my favorite captures:

BARBADOS - 2016 | PHOTO: JD SCHWARTZ


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