I just wanted to drop a few notes on our recent cruise on the Celebrity Solstice. This was an 11 night Mediterranean Cruise departing and returning through Rome. Most of what I want to mention are the private tours and transportation but also a few comments on the Solstice. Previously we have cruised 4 times on Princess. Overally I would say we enjoyed Celebrity as much as Princess although there were a few differences. On Princess we really enjoy the anytime dining which is not available on Celebrity. Overall though it was not a big deal as we enjoyed visiting with the same servers night after night. The one thing we did miss was not having any laundry facilities on board. It would be nice to be able to do some laundry on board with Celebrity but alas there are no washer/dryers. However, all in all if you plan right it is not that big of an issue. We had 2 cabins, 7237 and 7239 which are both balcony. Our teenagers were in one room and we were in the other. Overall the cabins were fine. We only had 1 "issue" which was closet size and positioning. My wife thought the closets were a bit smaller than expected and a little difficult to maneuver around. Overall though we were very happy with our cabins.
We had hear quite a bit about the grass area on top of the ship. From our perspective we really liked the grass area. There were activities such as Bocce and Croquet. When you are at home you can play those games, but who really does? We had a lot of fun on the sea days playing a few games like these. By the way, our kids are 17/19 and they too had a lot of fun with these. Alos on top was the Corning Glass Show where they created glass bowls, figures etc. My wife and daughter must have seen about 7 shows, I saw 2. They are very interesting to see. The food was good, service was great, layout of the cruise was spectacular! A mention too about our ship captai,. All I know is he was Greek and named Demetrious. He was the most personable and engaging Captain I have ever heard speak and could probably be a comedian if he wanted. All I can say is if you sail on a ship and he is the Captain dont miss any announcements - they were a gem!
A few comments on private tours and transportations.
Rome - we used Italy Cab. http://www.italycab.com/ We had a special need in Rome which was going from our hotel in town to the aiport to pick up our son who flew in a couple days after us. In addition to that we used them to pick us up at the port and get us back to the airport. Overall they were excellent. They were on time, professional, courteous and the pricing was very fair.
Istanbul - we used Ekol Travel for our private tour. http://www.ekoltravel.com/ We were very happy with their guide, service, delivery, etc. The price included a driver and a guide. I would recommend them.
Ephesus (Kusadasi) - again we used Ekol Travel. Once again, excellent. This time I would specifically mention our guides name is Mustafa Orkan Kulak. His direct e mail is email@example.com All I can say is he was the best guide we had during our trip. Intelligent, Courtous, speaks very good English, Considerate of the time and our needs and just an overall nice person who wants you to enjoy their tour.
Athens - we used http://www.athenstaxi.com/ You will see much written about them and the principals name is Paul. They too were excellent. We had on of his sons and orur friends had one of his other sons. Our driver was very professional, courteous, excellent English and just an overall nice person. We enjoyed him very much. You may need a guide at the Acropolis because Athens Taxi is not a licensed guide. If you do get a guide I recommend you ask the guide to give you a 5 minute overview. I say this so you can decide before you pay whether you will like the guide or not and whether their delivery is what you expect. Our guide was not very good. She spoke too fast, felt like she was preaching to us and her delivery left much to be improved on. So, if I do it again, try the guide on before buying.
Naples - we used http://www.tourofitaly.com/. Again, these are drivers and not tour guides. We had the father Giovanni. Overall our experience was good. I would use them again. He reommened a guide for us at Pompeii - actually he called him in advance. I dont recall the guides name but we were very happy with him. We did the Pompeii tour early in the morning in jus under 2 hours. If you use Giovanni I would say to ask him to set up a guide for you because he will want to make sure you are happy. The other thing he did which was kind of nice ( we had 6 on the tour) was to provide us 6 bottles of red wine. There was a lot of his advertising on it but we found it was kind of a nice touch.
We also visited Santorini and Mykonos. We did not plan anything special there although we did do the Donkey ride to the to the top of the hill to get to town. It is an interesting experience!
Overall we had a really nice time on thise cruise and we woudl cruise on Celebrity again.