We took the free car parking option and were delighted at how easy it all was. The car park is right next to where the ship docks and our bags were unloaded and taken away before we parked our car. We expected to have to hand over the keys but this was not neccessary, as once all the cars have arrived the car park is locked and not reopened until the morning of the ships return - brilliant!
We arrived at 11.30am and only had a short wait to get on board with no queues. This gives you time to find a place to sit or have lunch before the cabins are ready at 13.30. We already knew the layout of the ship having cruised on the Celebrity Solstice last summer and we noticed just a few changes in decor. This time there was a kettle and mugs in the cabin to make tea or coffee, a welcome addition. The cabins are spacious and well set out but are lacking shelf space,so all folded tops had to be put in the lockers above the bed which is not ideal. There is plenty of space under the bed for suitcases. The balcony was spacious with recliner chairs and a table.The shower rooms are an excellent size with roomy shower with glass doors and lots of little cupboards, shelves and drawers to store toiletries. One glaring ommission - no shower gel is provided!
Celebrity staff throughout the ship are the most friendly and efficient we have ever come across, nothing is too much trouble and they really want to please.Our room was kept spotless and our waiters at dinner gave us excellent service.
The food is good with lots of variety. We dined in the Moonlight Sonata restaurant each evening at second sitting [8.30pm]. The Oceanview cafe can be a bit of a bun fight at popular times but there is such an excellent selection of food that it is worth the small amount of hassle waiting to get a table sometimes.We never had to wait more than a couple of minutes for a table to become vacant. There is always the option to eat breakfast and lunch in the main restaurant if you like a calmer atmosphere!
The shows were wonderful with so many talented performers and we also enjoyed the many bands and groups performing around the ship at various times. The Frontliners party band were so popular and versatile that there was always a crowd whenever and wherever they were playing.
It can be crowded around the pool especially on sea days, but there are plenty of quiet places if you look, Solstice deck on 15 with lovely beds, chairs and loungers and small groups of chairs near the lifeboats on deck 5. We didn't notice a smell of smoke during the day in the Sky Lounge but it was very noticeable in the evening.
We took some organised trips, a must in St Petersburg where we took 2 whole day excursions to see as much as possible as without a visa you cannot go alone. Tallin and Helsinki being small were easy to explore on our own and on reflection we felt that Stockholm and Copenhagen would be easy too. Don't miss a trip to the 'Vasa Museum' in Stockholm, it is amazing. Warnemunde was a disapointment as we decided not to go on the long trip to Berlin and instead took the local train to Roscoff which we found to be a rather boring town with little of interest to see. We should have gone to the local beach instead. With all the sightseeing, a trip to the Baltic is not a restful holiday ,so make the most of the sea days to recharge your batteries!
We were lucky with the weather and had calm seas but these Solstice class ships are so quiet, no vibration or engine noise and very stable so that you hardly know that you are at sea.
Back in Southampton, disembarkation was quick and easy, suitcases lined up in number order and plenty of trollys to transport them to the carpark. We were driving out just 30 minutes after leaving our cabin.