The Cruise started very well when, arriving at London Gatwick at 04:30 to catch a 06:40 flight, we were welcomed at the BA check-in by a Celebrity rep who directed us to the right desk. The ticketing was very quick and we were in the lounge in 15 minutes. Good flight to Barcelona, met at the airport and coach to the ship all pretty seamless. On board by 11:45 and in the cabin when they opened at 1pm you cant ask for more.
This is the second time we have been on this ship this year. Our balcony stateroom was on deck 8, by the front stair/lift core, and it gave us our preferred layout of the couch nearest the window. We like this class of ship, it has a more contemporary feel to its interior design and the public areas are very spacious. We particularly like the Sky Lounge in the early evening.
We always do Select Dining, and make sure we book in advance although, in fairness the queues were not that bad. However it would be good if Celebrity could make booking select dining times on its website a bit easier we normally have to ring up head office! We prefer a table for two, ideally by the balcony edge overlooking the main dining area below, and managed to secure it most evenings through the hostesses at the front desk. The waiters were efficient and the sommelier friendly the food in the dining room was fine, better on some days than others, but no problem in finding something acceptable.
We are not buffet fans but if you have to have one, the Solstice Class ships have the best - it's well signposted and very roomy, and there is a great place to eat in the open air on the deck at the rear. We didn't do any specialty restaurants as we find them over the top on terms of cost, service and portion size, but others we talked to seemed happy enough.
The ship was a mix of passengers, US, Brits, Spanish and French, not forgetting a large contingent of Chinese who were certainly keeping the shops busy. Entertainment in the theatre was OK, the shows were fine and a couple of the guest entertainers were good. We also liked the quizzes but our main complaint was the lack of dance music at reasonable times (ie not in mid-afternoon or very late at night)and, while there were two specialist lecturers, their talks were at odd times and not really relevant to the cruise - where were the talks on Greek and Roman mythology? The one talk on the Acropolis was scheduled for the day after we had been there!
We were also not impressed with the cruise directors morning television show which consisted of a series of bland pre-recorded interviews repeated ad infinitum through the cruise. Most other cruise directors record something late the night before which is more appropriate for the day ahead.
The Captain's Club hostess was excellent, very friendly and very well organised and the programme was one of the best we have had, especially the sail-away party for Elite members on the helicopter landing pad out of Malta.
This was a port intensive cruise and we took the ships tours in most of them. First stop was Civitavecchia, we have been to Rome before so we went to Lake Brassiano followed by wine tasting - all good. Next day in Naples we took the Amalfi Drive and Pompeii - we had done this when we were last on a cruise here nearly 15 years ago and it was pretty much as we remembered, a great drive with fabulous views - the lunch hotel was not so good but Pompeii was better than we remembered, if very hot.
Then Santorini, again very hot, and an island tour - all OK except for the cable car back down to the ship perhaps this would work if there was one ship in port at the time but not with five we queued for half an hour, it would have been quicker to walk down. Kusadasi we had been to several times - our planned trip in the countryside was cancelled for a lack of interest, so we went into town for about an hour - when will the shopkeepers learn to leave you alone? It was hassle all the way. In Athens we went to the Corinth Canal and the nearby ruins - well worth it as a change from Athens itself. Then on to Mykonos, an island tour and lunch in the town - but very hot again. Then to Valetta, this was the worst in terms of temperature, our tour took us to Mdina and Valetta to look at the cathedrals and the palace. All interesting stuff, but the tour was too long, and everyone was seriously flagging by the end.
Disembarkation was good and we were in Barcelona airport in plenty of time though we were lucky to be at the front of the queue BA could have done with a few more check-in desks.
Overall, an interesting and enjoyable cruise. Celebritys overall standards of service remain high and the ship has definite class.