Exceeded expectations, great service on Solstice
Europe - Western Mediterranean
We flew from NYC to Barcelona and got right on the ship. Our flight landed at 8:00 am and we were on the ship by 11:30. We were the first ones checked in and had to wait a half hour to board.
The Solstice is a beautiful ship and we were greeted by very friendly crew. In fact, I can honestly say we never passed a single crew member on the entire cruise that didn't greet us. Service was exceptional in every way and we appreciated the warm welcome.
Our room was in the very front of the ship with an oceanview window that looked out on the heliport. The angle of the window was a bit awkward, but our view was still decent. One of the advantages to being in front was that our room was oversized compared to even verandah rooms. We enjoyed the extra breathing space and I would recommend asking for one of these rooms if you don't mind the extra walking. One disadvantage was that the anchor was very loud on a couple of ports where we tendered in. Also, the bow thruster More
shook the entire cabin and the first time we thought it might be an earthquake!
The food in the main dining room was average. Heavy emphasis was placed on presentation rather than portions or quality. Most nights I had trouble finding an entree I really wanted rather than having difficulty deciding between a few options. We did not try the specialty restaurants, but heard the food was plentiful and excellent. Wine packages were pushed ad nauseum and they boast the most extensive wine offerings on the high seas.
We did eat the first meal on the ship in the Bistro on Deck 5. There is a $5 cover charge per person and I highly recommend it. We had intended to go back again but never did. It was nice to get on the ship and not have to fight at the buffet for elbow room. This was a much more relaxed atmosphere and it was not crowded at all. Less
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Cabin review: 088102
Our cabin (8102) was all the way in the front of the ship. We enjoyed the oversized space, but the noise of the anchor was annoying and it was a hike to get to our room. The window was at an extreme angle and the "cubby" this created would often get very hot in the day time. A hazard for anyone with small children.
Port and Shore Excursions
Since we knew the following three days we had tours lined up, we chose to just walk around in Cannes. We ended up taking the trolley that runs through the city, which was perfect and did make one sightseeing stop. The Film Festival had just started, so it was quite crowded walking around. We enjoyed all the yachts in the harbor and took lots of pictures. Didn't see any celebrities :( The affluence is very apparent and it's great for people watching.
Dubrovnik was a quaint city, but by this time in the cruise we were running out of steam. We shared a taxi with another couple we ran into at the pier and it was only 10 Euros for all of us. I recommend this rather than the Celebrity bus which is more expensive and probably a waste of time. Do NOT walk it unless you have a lot of energy!
We only spent about 1.5 hours in the town because it was so crowded. The shops were redundant and we probably should have done a tour. We were back on the ship by 1:00, which wasn't all bad because we had the buffet almost to ourselves!
We chose to use RomeInLimo for a Florence/Tuscany tour (7 people total). Our driver was Gian and he was excellent. His English was fluent and easy to understand and he really knew the area. After making a couple of stops in the city of Florence, he then took us to a winery that included a wine tasting and 3 course lunch. The cost was only 20 Euros per person and well worth it. We tasted about 9 or 10 wines and this was one of our favorite parts of the entire cruise. We also stopped in San Gimignano, a small town with lots of charm.
Our third and final Romeinlimo tour with 8 of us. We did Amalfi Coast, Amalfi, Positano and Ravello. One thing I will mention in regard to the Romeinlimo tour guides - they definitely push certain restaurants for lunch. I'm sure they have deals with them and get a kickback. We didn't want a 7 course lunch and made that clear to our driver. He respected it and suggested alternatives. Amalfi coast was amazing and breathtaking. The roads are quite curvy and I was glad we were in a small mini-van. I would not have enjoyed being in a large motorcoach. Positano was gorgeous and had the best shopping of the entire day. Amalfi was also beautiful and Ravello was so scenic. Many of the shops are redundant in each town with similar merchandise.
Another Romeinlimo tour with 8 of us. Rome was very interesting and the history was apparent everywhere. I was disappointed by the vast number of people and difficulty navigating through the crowds. We saw the Coliseum and Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel. Definitely buy your tickets ahead online so you can avoid the long lines. Coliseum was interesting but we weren't there very long. Vatican Museum took forever to walk through to get to the Sistine Chapel. So many people that we couldn't really pause and enjoy much of it. The line for St. Peter's Basilica was around the perimeter of St. Peter's square so obviously we didn't have time to see it. I did enjoy the history and the energy of the city. Be careful if you are walking through the city streets. Vehicles come within inches of pedestrians and don't slow down!
Venice was one of my favorite ports for the beauty of this city. However, we found out later that it was the first time Solstice docked here and that was very apparent. There were several other ships in port and we had one of the worst locations. It was a long walk just to get to the outskirts of the city. Celebrity was offering a water bus directly to St. Mark's Square, but we wanted to see more of the city so we didn't take advantage of it. Unfortunately there was very little signage or direction from staff to help figure out where to go. It was hot and we probably walked 3 miles just trying to get into town. The waterbus system is the way to go, but we found it very confusing and no English signage. Locals were not helpful, so we relied on other tourists who had been there a few days.
As far as the city itself, I can't begin to explain how beautiful it is. Scenery everywhere and amazing shopping. Unfortunately, we were so exhausted and had trouble getting back to the ship after missing our stop, so we didn't get off the ship the second day. My advice would be to plan your transportation carefully so you don't waste a lot of time and energy. Several other people also complained and I plan to call Celebrity about this as well.