This was our second Eastern Mediterranean cruise, and we picked this one because we had never been to Greece, Turkey or Malta before, and we now try to find itineraries with ports which are new to us. We love to explore new places and a 13 night cruise with only 2 sea days seemed ideal.
While we had a great time, we learned that such a heavy itinerary takes a toll, and next time we will look for a cruise with more sea days to recharge our batteries. We had arrived in Rome a day earlier and took that day to walk the streets of Rome, so we were already somewhat tired when we embarked on the ship.
We started in Rome, and thanks to Cruise Critic, we were able to join a group who organized a great deal on transportation from the airport to the port. Getting there early we found the embarkation extremely efficient and pleasant, and by 1:00 p.m. were exploring this beautiful new ship.
Having sailed on the other Solstice class ships, we made straight for the Lawn Club to see what they had done to replace the glass show. The new restaurants and cabanas, though interesting to look at , did not appeal to us much. The cabanas were expensive and we had no desire to have to pay for an opportunity to bar-b-que our own dinners after a hot summer like this one. We did not go up to that level for the rest of the trip.
This was our first experience with Aqua Class, and we did enjoy the few perks. The service was excellent, though we had found this on all of our Celebrity cruises. My wife drinks lots of water, especially on hot days, so we found the free water bottles to be especially useful. We did try the relaxation room, and the Persian Garden, but with only 2 sea days, found we did not use them at all after that first look.
As for Blu, we generally enjoyed to service and the food, though that too has always been a strong point for Celebrity. I understand that Blu started as a place where they focussed on healthy food items, but now seems to offer only a few healthier options. We ended up trying the Tuscan Grill one night and the main dining room on 2 others, just because the more limited menu choices at Blu suggested to us it would be a good idea to compare it with the others, and honestly, we found there was little, if any difference in the quality of the food, i.e. it was great everywhere.
The entertainment was, as usual. quite good. The Cruise Director, Lori, not only injected a healthy dose of enthusiasm, but showed her own talent by singing a few songs herself at some of the shows. She would make a good headliner anywhere. The house orchestra and this ship was probably the best we have ever seen and heard. The band leader was clearly an accomplished musician, singer and entertainer, and gave the group its own personality. The rest of the cast of singers, dancers and acrobats were also quite good and knew how to put out to entertain.
One activity worth mentioning was something we had not seen before. Lori arranged to a "talk with captain" in the theatre on one of the sea day mornings. This young Captain (just 39 years old) was absolutely the most confidence inspiring person we have met in our years at sea. He has a wonderful personality, combining a sense of humour with clear self-assurance, expertise and a way with words to convince us that we are in very good hands with him, and hopefully others like him at all levels, at Celebrity.
As for the excursions, while some find them pricey, we did do about half our exploring with the ships tours, and found them to be quite well done. We tend to take only those where we worry about getting back to the ship on time. Overall it was a very ambitions itinerary, and perhaps only two sea days on a 13 night cruise was a bit much for us. It has taken longer than ever to get our energy back. Perhaps part of that was because we were caught in that Lufthansa strike, and ended up coming home a day and a half late after a long, trying morning in the airport, having to sleep over in Venice and getting re-routed to an 18 hour, multi-stop trip home.
However, nothing takes away from the fact that this was a great cruise, on a great ship ship with absolutely fabulous people, from the Captain on down to the cleaning staff. Thanks, again, Celebrity. See you soon.