Our family of 6 (2 grandparents, 2 parents and 2 teen age kids) had a fabulous time on Solstice while traveling the Mediterranean. We were worried about what all of us could do together and separate on this cruise and Solstice was the answer. While my in-laws are seasoned cruisers, we had never thought about taking a cruise...ever. This was truly a vacation to remember that met all of our needs plus some. If you are looking for a vacation that could be a great balance for varying age ranges, this itinerary and ship are it!
We won't duplicate what others have written positively or negatively. Things we found in addition to share are as follows:
1. Our kids really enjoyed the teen programming and friends that they met from all over the world. I am sure some adults on the cruise were not as happy to see the larger number of kids on this cruise, but we did not find the kids to be rude or disrespectful when we "accidentally" ran into them (other teens) on deck. It was great to see the kids all interacting and learning how to find their sealegs of proper socializing. Too boot, Solstice is also great to find privacy almost at any turn.....it is an amazingly designed ship.
2. We found the sea days rather perplexing as with most cruisers for the lack of consideration by seat hogs but in addition thought people who left their used towels on the chairs without intention of returning even more rude. You did not know if chairs were open or not without bothering the people relaxing next to them.
3. We really enjoyed the Solarium for adult lounging, the hot tub a little cooler than US standards..but you could stay in longer! We really loved the clam shell round lounger chairs too! Most of the time the security assisted the under 16 youth away from the area after the first day.
4. We greatly enjoyed meeting back up before dinner each night on our veranda for cocktails/mocktails when we could. We brought over 2 chairs from my in-laws room and sat on the veranda each night to talk about our daily excursion experiences.
5. We loved our veranda room and found it not as bad as everyone said with 4 people sharing the room. I guess since we're newbies to cruising we did not notice the difficulty in sharing sleeping arrangements. Plus we have a sailboat and are very efficient in our space usage in general! The pullman and couch made a great bunkbed situation for our kids to share at night and stored nicely each morning per the room attendants. After all, how much room do you really need at night? I must say it did force our kids to keep their stuff organized and neat daily!
6. We took advantage of the $29.00 coupon for laundry and that probably saved us some space issues by reducing our clothing needs for 10 days on a cruise and 6 days post cruise in Rome.
7. We did a mixture of on our own, private and Celebrity tours. When used the public and taxi transportation at the ports we found them to be easy to use. By using a taxi and metro in Athens, we saved a bunch in time and saw the Acropolis with virtually 100 people max in the morning! Can't say that about my in-laws and their Celebrity tour who were there about 10am. The best for us to recommend is to do your research and plan your excursions based on your personal needs. My in-laws were more likely to take the Celebrity tours. They did the Taoromina in Sicily, Athens bus tour, Santorni wine tour, Delos tour in Mykonos...all were 4 hour tours and they raved about them with the exception of Athens. We talked them into 2 private tours in Naples and Kusadasi that were absolutely unforgetable. They were actually better for my father in-law who struggles to keep up due to his knees and "pre-cruise" unplanned hernia surgery! The private tour bus was great for easily picking him up at the entrance of a site and sometimes half the price at the cruise tour. The tour guides were informative and locals to the area. Again, absolutely incredible excursions all around.
8. If you are in a large traveling group, don't be afraid to do separate port excursions. It made for great conversations to hear what different options we experienced upon meeting up post excursion. The lawn area became another of our favorite areas to watch Solstice leave port when all 6 of us wanted to chat and share!
9. We had an early dinner seating per my in-laws request. I found it to be a little too early for me as that the pools were closed each night before we finished dinner (8pm). If we had a longer day in the port, we rushed to get to dinner at 6:15, especially for the formal nights where we wanted to look our best. I guess both dinner seatings have their pros and cons. If you like to swim and relax....it does make it hard to get it all in on a port intensive cruise like the Mediterranean. I think the only time we enjoyed a louging pre-dinner dinner was when we skipped our 6:15 dinner and ate at the buffet, which BTW was really good option each time we ate there. The kids loved the waffles for breakfast and the ice cream any time of course!
10. Our last point to share, if you are going all this way to see the sites..don't hold back. Plan to spend a little money on this trip to do it right. Document it with pictures, notes, nice souvenirs and great conversations.
This was a trip we won't easily forget and it will be difficult to top in future vacations. Celebrity did a great job keeping us happy. They were not perfect, but then again none of us are. I have to say that when we did have a concern, they addressed it quickly and if needed, corrected within minutes of being brought to their attention. All staff seemed eager to please and helpful.