This was one of our favorite cruises! The May transatlantic was very relaxing, intellectually stimulating and entertaining. Seas were mostly smooth, perhaps one day of moderate rolling. The crew was outstanding in all aspects, from the Guest Relations Desk, especially Galyna and Marie, the Documentation Officer to the wait staff in Blu. I don't think we have encountered a better staff at sea.
Aquaclass and Stateroom 1640: We were on the starboard side and received morning sun. However, I think next time I might book Port side to get the sunset instead. We had a large overhang so had to go out on deck if we wanted any sun during the day. Our stateroom attendant Clifton from Goa did a fine job and really made an effort to keep us happy. We had some problems with the pillows and he found some that were more acceptable. He even brought the cheese plate without requesting it which was appreciated. Loved the shower with the jets. I also liked the ice tea that was brought everyday. This was the first time we had the bed by the balcony. Prior to that we always had the bed near the bath. I like both configurations but with the bed by the balcony you can see the ocean without having to get out of bed.
Blu: The food was very good. The best part for us was the smaller, elegant dining room. The wait staff was excellent but made recommendations that I was not sure if they told to make or they actually liked those specific dishes. Probably the former. The vegetable dishes and risotto were yummy. I also had a great duck salad. Some of the misses were the crispy beef tartar (nothing crispy about the beef and it looked like catfood) and the salty sea bass. However, if you don't like something it is very easy to order another dish. The head maitre'd, Czyna (sp?) and Stan the assistant could not have been more professional and personable. They knew we liked sitting next to the window and most of the time made an effort to seat us at table there. We only had breakfast at Blu once and it was good but we liked the Oceanview for more variety.
Entertainment: It was surprisingly very good on this cruise. Nicola Loud, Paul Baker and Diane Cousins were all terrific performers. The Captain even did an impromptu surprise performance one night before we reached the Azores. He has a great voice and also can cook as he participated in the cooking challenge. The speaker series was well done. Nigel West was a delight to listen to on espionage and counter intelligence. His sessions were packed and it was always great to see him sashay on stage in his white trousers and navy jacket. He was also an excellent speaker and is a wealth of information.
Wifi: The Internet worked very well on both our Ipod Touch and Ipad. However, the Ipad had a looping problem that needed to be resolved to get the Internet to work correctly. The Internet speed was very fast and probably the best of any cruise I have taken. We took advantage of the Captains Club discount and probably used more minutes than I would normally because of all the sea days.
Fitness Center: This was our second Solstice cruise but I used the gym much more on this cruise. In the morning most of the treadmills were taken. I brought my own headphones and liked using the personal TV to get me thru my workout. I think this is one of my favorite gyms at sea.
Spa: I had 3 treatments and also used the thermal loungers in the Persian Garden. Stacie who did the facials was very good. I also had a leg treatment that was ok but would not do it again. I booked one treatment in advance online but it was apparent they had a lot of openings so it was not necessary. I thought on a Transatlantic the spa would be busier.
Ports: We did the 4X4 Drive Safari in Ponta Delgada, Azores. It was a lot of fun. We had great weather. Sun and some clouds and could appreciate the beauty of the island. We went to Sete Ciudades and saw the two lakes. We also stopped in town and got to walk around for 20 minutes or so. Then we took some back roads and went up very high and could see for miles. It was a shear drop on one side so quite the adventure! Had a nice lunch at Talisman Hotel. Walked back to port and around the Sol del Mar shopping center. Lots of stores open even on a Sunday.
Next stop was Lisbon and as we had not been here before did a city tour on our own. Took a taxi to Liberdade for shopping. Saw the San Justa elevator and then walked to Rua de Carmo for a few other shops. Bought a few things at the Muji store and then had delicious gelato at Santini. Took a taxi to Jeronimos Monastery which was very beautiful and easy to walk around. We then made our way to the Discoveries Monument and the Torre del Belem. Managed to get a taxi at Torre Belem with a pit stop at the Antiga Confecteria for the tarts. Worth the stop.
Cadiz: We had been to Malaga and Barcelona before so decided in advance to disembark the ship in Cadiz and spent 2 nights in Seville. The disembarkation was delayed as they needed some extra time docking. They finished docking around 12:30 pm and we proceeded off the ship and took a quick taxi ride to the train station. It was 1 hr 45 min to Seville but the trains are slower and adequate. It was a 20 minute taxi ride Hotel Casa 1800. Went that afternoon to the Alcazar and I was so glad we did! It was cooler in the later afternoon and also not crowded. The Alcazar was amazing. I think I was more impressed with it than the Alhambra in Granada. We spent the rest of our time shopping and eating. The Robles restaurants were excellent.
Palma de Mallorca: Although this port was not on the ship's itinerary, thought I would mention that we enjoyed our time (3 nights) here. We flew Air Berlin from Seville to Palma. A short and pleasant flight. Palma is large but we also made our way out to Soller and Porto Portals.
Absolutely loved the entire cruise and look forward to future Celebrity cruises. The combination of a beautiful ship, fantastic staff, excellent food, interesting lectures and good ports made this one of our favorite cruises.