We've just arrived home after a 2 month journey through Europe hence the delay in posting a review of our cruising experience!
The last time Mr A found himself cruising its was as a travel agent in the mid 90's on a 'famil' (a free trip) on board a dodgy ship between DRW and SIN. For Mrs R it was even earlier - migrating with family to the States as a three year old in the late 60's. Fair to say memories of what to expect were somewhat hazy!
Add to the mix we were travelling with Miss J, a three and half year old who had just been stimulated with 5 days at Disneyland Paris.
After considerable research on these and other forums we selected a Celebrity cruise out of BCN over others based on the premium experience it offered. However there was apprehension about what the cruise might offer a 3.5 y.o. as the forums were generally silent on the experience of families travelling with young children, particularly through the Mediterranean. Would the kids club meet expectations? On a cruise that geared towards the 40-60 y.o. empty nesters would there be enough kids on board for Miss J to befriend?
What a surprise. Whilst there were less than 100 kids onboard Miss J had a ball. Shy and very reluctant at first, a visit the kids club became a firm favourite. This was helped by the warm friendly greetings of the youth counsellors and the small number in her age group. The waiting staff in the grand dining room treated Miss J like a princess, engaging with her and bringing her out of her shell. The many, many friendly interactions with a host of the ship's staff made a firm impression on Miss J and she would excitedly recount the people she had engaged with during the day.
Speaking to another parent, an seasoned cruiser travelling with an 8 year old, we were surprised to learn their child enjoyed and preferred the Celebrity Solstice over the Disney cruises. The 8 year old like the Celebrity Solstice because there was less children on board, an uncrowded kids club and it was easier for the young one to make friends.
For us the dining experience, the pool, after dinner shows, a well appointed stateroom cleaned and serviced twice a day and the kids club all exceeded expectations.
On the issue of shore excursions a travel agent reminded me of the power of the internet. A little research before departure saw us book private tours (e.g bike tour through Rome, guide with car in Naples). These memorable tours better suited what we wanted to experience rather than large group generic offerings of the cruise company.
Post holiday we play this little game with Miss J, asking her 'from the following three travel experiences which one was your favourite?' The Celebrity Cruise is at the top narrowly pipping other highlights such as Disneyland Paris, climbing the Eiffel Tower, Legoland Germany, and sledding on snow in Switzerland. That says something about how much she really enjoyed her cruising experience!