Smooth sailing across the pond while we encountered 90mph winds and 30 foot seas in the Western Mediterranean Sea while transiting to Barcelona. Thanks to some pre-planning and pre-emptive navigation, we were spared much worse conditions and spent only one evening tossing and rolling in heavy seas. Sea sick patches did their job and we actually sort of enjoyed the rough weather, even though a rogue wave managed to do some damage to the glass balconies on the ship.
This was our fifth cruise on a Solstice Class ship. We love the modern facilities and the good food we always find on Celebrity. The first week of the itinerary was port intensive with visits to Italy, France, Spain and a final call on the beautiful Portuguese Island of Madeira. While the weather in Europe was chilly and wet, things rapidly improved as we headed across the Atlantic. Temperatures gently rose into the mid-70s and the seas were calm and inviting. My wife and I especially enjoyed the tranquility of not having to be anywhere to do anything. We read, sunned, pampered ourselves with seven massages and totally relaxed.
We are an active couple. My wife is in her early sixties and retired and I'm a hard working travel industry executive about to turn sixty. While we found the majority of the passengers' considerable older than us, we enjoyed their company and found the crowd to be somewhat upscale and very friendly.
We LOVED our complimentary upgrade from a Sky Suite to a Celebrity Suite. Positioned mid ship, the spacious Celebrity Suite provided us the stable ride we were seeking when the seas turned nasty. We especially liked the oversized veranda, two large flat screen TVs and a bathroom connected with two doors and connecting to a private bedroom. WE LOVED THIS CABIN and the attention we received from our Butler.
We ate four times at Silk Harvest, the Asian fusion specialty restaurant we have grown to love. Try the cream cheese filled wontons and the Asian Chicken salad. Magnificent! We found Morano very good and the main dining rooms far better than Princess, Royal Caribbean and NCL. They could not however come close to the quality of cuisine on Paul Gauguin. We never had to wait for a table for two with anytime dining. I still wish the cruise line chefs would create more basic American fare menus without so much fancy influence. Heck, I would love to see a Tex-Mex specialty restaurant on board with fajitas, but that's just our preference. We are not "foodies".
Staff was very accommodating and we thought the Captain was frequently available and provided ample updates on our progress. We LIKE the fact that ship wide announcements are discreet and seldom, making it possible to truly relax on the sea days.
We also enjoyed the Spa, despite outrageous pricing for a simple Swedish massage. We negotiated a package of spa services which brought the bill down to a more manageable but arguably still ridiculously overpriced.
The itinerary across the Med for a week was nice. We stayed at a fantastic Airport Hilton in Rome and hired a private sedan service to the port. We have been to Rome before so we simply needed a place to chill before boarding the ship. We most enjoyed Barcelona and the Portuguese Island of Madeira. Don't let all of the paranoid warnings about pick pockets and wide spread crime scare you off. We found Barcelona, Cartagena and Madeira to all be clean and very safe destinations. Use the same degree of caution and common sense you would use in New York or London and you'll be just fine. Save yourself some money and purchase the HOP ON- HOP OFF tour bus tickets to get the best overviews of what each city has to offer.
One more feature we really like is the Interactive flat screen TVs. We enjoy the option of ordering FREE or PAY movies on demand at reasonable prices. This service makes up for deplorable choice of television programming. It's also convenient and a good idea to keep an eye on your ever growing shipboard charge account via the ship's interactive television system. We would like to see Celebrity add nightly Main Dining Room menus to the Interactive service. (Hey, there's an idea!)
THE NOT SO GOOD:
The same old complaint we have had for years. The Entertainment is just not very good. Having said this, keep in mind that Celebrity is ahead of the pack when it comes to their live venues. Celebrity is about the only major cruise line remaining with a live orchestra for their shows and they deserve props for this. BUT: Why does the live entertainment have to be aimed at those born in the 1930s and 1940s? With a massive baby boomer audience, would it really hurt the cruise directors to bring on some classic Rock bands or entertainment which is even a slight bit edgy or contemporary? For God sakes, the Rolling Stones are in their late sixties. Why can't the cruise lines bring on musical shows that appeal to those in their fifties and sixties? No offense to the "Lemon Squeezies" acapella group, but how many time to we have to listen to that type of music during a 14 night cruise? And are Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons still relevant? A guy can only take so much BAD BROADWAY in one week.
There is an abundance of talent shows invading television including The Voice, America's Got Talent, X-Factor and Idol. In light of their huge popularity, surely the cruise lines have an entire new stable of acts to employ. Imagine performing music for other than the "nearly dead". Not every act can win first place. Plenty of talented kids would fit right into the showrooms at sea.
And those my friends are the only complaints we have. Overall, it was another amazing cruise on Celebrity. Now that we know not fear long ocean crossings, we are booked on a 15 night Celebrity cruise to Hawaii from San Diego on the Century. Yes we know it's not a Solstice Class ship but we enjoy smaller, classy vessels. After all, we better book them while they are still around, right?
Thanks Celebrity for another relaxing experience aboard our home away from home at sea!