We had a wonderful cruise experience and the vacation of a lifetime on Celebrity Solstice. We traveled to Barcelona 3 days prior to departure and were very glad for the opportunity to overcome jet lag. I would strongly recommend against flying in on the day of the departure- especially traveling East across 7 time zones. In Barcelona, we stayed at Casa de Marcelo, a very small, quaint hotel (probably off the books, considering the cash only requirement) where we had a large room by European standards, but had to share a bathroom. The location in the Barri Gotic, the breakfast and service and the price all made it a good value. I rented a road bike+ GPS from TerraDiversions and rode up the mountain to Tibidabo- a short, tough climb which was vey much worth the work. We were shown around Barcelona by our friends who live there (and came on the cruise with us), also visiting the beautiful beach town of Sitges. The superlatives: Embarkation and disembarkation were both quick and painless. Solstice is a beautiful boat. the food was outstanding- a true banquet every night in the main dining room meant that we never tried the specialty dining. Our waiter and his assistant, Shubert and Branson, were exceptionally friendly, quick, and helpful. There was a wide variety of good food available for breakfast and lunch- all hours, at the Ocaeanview Cafe. Our room was spacious and very well planned. Our room service was thorough but unobtrusive. The exercise area was large and complete- plenty of treadmills, cycles, machines and free weights.
The few negatives:
The coffee was atrocious, unless you want to pay $5 a cup for it. Amazing that an otherwise outstanding product could get something as easy as coffee so wrong! If not for the coffee, I would have rated the dining 5+. The entertainment was mediocre- except for the comedian-magician Rawlings, and the acrobats, both very good. The singers couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.
We thoroughly enjoyed all our excursions, which we booked privately. All our guides were prompt, waiting for us when we left the boat in the morning, and returning in plenty of time in the afternoon. In Rome and Naples we used RomeInLimo, which lived up to the superlative reviews of other travelers. Alberto was our driver in Rome, and Carmine in Naples. Mauro was our extraordinary guide for the Vatican Museum. In Kusadasi, we were met by Sedat from Melitours- the agency recommended by Rick Steves. In Santorini, we took a catamaran cruise with Santorini sailing, which was very good. In Athens, Nikos Loukas was a driver-guide for a very good city tour. Guzi took us on a great tour of Malta.
Maybe the most memorable evening was sitting on the lawn listening to 70's music and singing along with our friends.