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The Solstice is still a great ship, but........
Europe - Western Mediterranean
We sailed her 3 years ago to the Eastern Mediterranean, and every aspect of our cruise was 5 star and excellent. So, when this Western Mediterranean itinerary came up, we jumped forward and booked this cruise. There were 2 main problems that were both quality related and very disappointing to us.
First, the quality of the food served in the main dining room was declined, and was salty and sometimes tasteless, even the steaks. The lobster night was a chewy and unappetizing mess. Even when the servers brought out new orders, these were chewy as well. At least 1/3 of the time the orders at our table came out wrong, and were often cold by that point.The second problem was the quality of the entertainment, the Las Vegas acrobatic and dancing shows, that were amazing to see, were no longer offered and replaced with boring sets and simple dance routines from the resident entertainers. The entertainment that came on a different ports were just OK, nothing further to say More
On a positive note, the ship is still and maintained to perfection. The Veranda room we had was very clean, and the room attendants very friendly and helpful. The best quality, fresh, and tasty food was found in the Ocean View cafe. The speciality restaurants were good too, but then that is an extra expense that everyone might not want. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Stayed here 2 night before the cruise and loved it. We were at Hotel Denit in the Gothic area. We were 1 block off Las Rambles, and walking distance to everything. The city offers so much to see and do, and 2 days was not nearly enough time to explore!
Our favorite port stop for the natural beauty and friendly people! We started with walking the wall before it was too hot, small fee can be paid by credit card. This was so worth it for the views of the sea and city! It is over 2 miles, with some steps involved, but mainly flat and easy to walk. Then we went to the city and found Mea Culpa for some of the best pizza we have ever had and some Croatia draft beer! The town is so clean, and there are many charming shops to explore!
Our tour guide Paolo from Unforgettable Tuscany. He was wonderful to listen to and learn about where he grew up. We went to Florence (all the main stops), then a quick ride to the leaning tower of Pisa, and onto San Gimignano for the remainder of the day. We were able to go on back country dirt roads, through wine and olive trees areas for a good view! Again, with just 8 in our tour van, we could make many stops during the day for a reasonable fee.
What a wonderful walled city, that is surrounded by mountains on both sides! If you can get up early, the ship coming into this port is amazing to see! We walked the city wall for a small fee, and it was truly worth the view when we got to the top of the fortress! Beware that it is a steep climb up (1350 steps taking around 90 minutes) so good health and closed walking shoes are a must! This should be done in the morning because it gets quite hot after that. The town is very clean and the shops get more unique and interesting as the streets get more narrow!
We spent a day here, wandering through the many towns along the coast with Nicloa at Amalfi Car Service. He has grown up in this area and was filled with a lot of info and fun facts! Our favorite and last stop was Ravello, that was charming and had many nice restaurants to choose from! Since we were in the minivan, we could drive down many streets that that large coach buses could not even get near. This tour was extremely reasonable and an enjoyable 9 hours in the amazing area!
We meet other cruisers on roll call and book all our own tours for the rest of these port reviews. This tour was great with Michel at French Riviera Sightseeing. As we toured we saw Eze, Monaco/Monte-Carlo, Antibes, and St. Paul De Vence. We had a tour van of 8, and the price was reasonable (less that half of the cruise line charge for same tour route), and we could stop anywhere we wanted to on the way! It did rain all day, but the sights were still amazing!
The tour guide was good and got us in and around all the sites of this busy city! We saw the Colosseum in the morning, and it was a great stop but should be done in the morning before it heats up! The highlight was the Vatican, and we hired a Vatican guide for this stop. If you don't have a guide, it will be very difficult to get through the long lines outside, and then very crowded city inside. Since making it back to the ship was a proirity, this guide was a good option. We purchased our tickets in advance for the time we were told, and it was a very enjoyable and informative tour!
I guess I can say that I have been here, but I have no desire to return. The city was quite dirty and the many lagoons were dirty and smelly as well. The gondola rides were all on top of each other in the main tourist areas, so we did not pay the high fee to ride one. The many shops by the Rialto Bridge were the best vendors, and had competitive prices for that special piece of Murano glass to bring home!