My traveling companion and I are university professors looking for a relaxing, yet stimulating way to recover from a hectic and stressful academic year. We had cruised together several times before on the Solstice, and the Holland America and Princess lines. We've traveled to the Caribbean and the Baltic and I have cruised Alaska.
We have been interested in the Mediterranean but we also wanted the experience of numerous lazy days at sea. The Celebrity Solstice's 13 day voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona with port days in the Azores, Lisbon, Cadiz and Malaga was a perfect blend of both.
We rented a car and drove to Fort Lauderdale from our homes in Jacksonville the day before the sailing. Spent the night nearby and dropped the car off in mid-morning and took cab to the ship. Check-in was rapid and easy and in a very short time were were on deck with our champagne. This was our second time on the Solstice, so it was like coming home. We wandered about, had something to eat and checked out our stateroom.
Here is where we encountered a huge disappointment. We had chosen 1551 on the Penthouse Deck in the Aqua Class area on the port side. We wanted the same cabin, 1533, that we enjoyed last summer in the Western Caribbean, but it was unavailable when I booked. Looking at the deck plan, I thought 1551 would be fine. Little did I know that the view from our veranda was partially blocked by a large structure that is used for cleaning boat, or so I was told. Also there is a wide overhang from the deck above that renders the cabin in this section dark.
We didn't really like the cabin, but figured we would make the best of it. After talking about it for awhile, we decided I would call guest relations to see if anything could be done about it. I was politely told that the cruise was fully booked and nothing comparable was available for us, but to check back once the ship sailed to see if anyone failed to board. We thought the chance of us getting to move was not likely, so we decided to put it out of our minds and headed for one our favorite spots, the Martini Bar.
There we reunited with some of our favorite bartenders from last summer's cruise and started meeting fellow shipmates. The Martini Bar is the perfect place to people watch. In no time, we were caught up with the excitement of leaving on a transatlantic voyage.
Off we went to the lifeboat drill. In an elevator, we happened to strike up with an officer of the ship who was job was to be an international host. We asked what that entailed and he told us it involved public relations. Since I teach public relations courses, we chatted about that a bit. He asked us how everything was so far, we said it was wonderful and we were excited, but the cabin in Aqua was a disappointment. We briefly told him about our problem. He said he would look into it and then we parted.
After the ship sailed, we made our way to the guest relations desk that was packed with people who had issues. We waited our turn, but overheard people upset about this or that or with questions. There was a sign that said no upgrades were available. We were in good spirits, so we greeted the representative with a smile and repeated our story that we initially told a representative when we called earlier. Much to our surprise one of the other representatives overheard us and said she was working on something. She asked us to wait to the side.
In just a few moments she came up with a couple of alternatives. One was to move us to another cabin on the Penthouse Deck, but that fell through when it was learned that the guests missed the ship and would be meeting it in the Azores. The other was to give us a veranda cabin on the Panorama Deck with all of the Aqua Class amenities (except the spa shower) included. She showed us the cabin; the view was unobstructed and we agreed. In minutes our bags were brought to us plus the champagne, the foot stools from the deck the flowers and the bath amenities.
We were impressed how eager the staff was to make us happy. I am not sure if the serendipitous meeting with the international host or the fact we were on our second cruise with Celebrity had anything to do with it, but we were surprised we were accommodated so quickly and pleasantly. Now I know how the ship is designed and will do more research on this site to find our which cabins to avoid.
The rest of the cruise was exactly what we hoped: relaxing yet stimulating. We made use of the Celebrity Life programs, taking painting and computer courses. The level of instruction from the painting teacher and the computer instructor was excellent.
We loved the ports. The excursions in the Azores, Portugal and to Seville and Granada were well organized and informative. We saw a good amount of Spain and Portugal and the guides were top-notched. A back up do to a labor demonstration at the port in Malaga, put some cruisers in a foul mood. Bus tours from several ships all seemed to arrive at once and created a huge line of passengers at port security. People were grumbling and some even tried to cut in line. A few people were a bit hostile to line jumpers. We took it all in stride and after less than an hour were were on ship. It wasn't a big deal to us.
It is always amazing to me how much some people who are supposed to be on vacation complain. I am sure they create a challenge for the staff, who seem very well trained to deal with troublesome guests. We certainly don't think of ourselves as troublesome guests, but we did have one issue that marred the experience a bit. The maitre d of Murano lost his temper with us one evening over a rather minor situation. It was very out of character with the restaurant. We were going to let it go, until some of the people we met on the ship told us that someone in authority needed to know what happened. I was going to put it on the comment card, but decided to tell guest services directly because it was a rather involved story.
The guest services representative said I should tell the ship's restaurant manager. I was reluctant because I didn't want it to be blown out of proportion. It was the end of the evening when the event occurred and perhaps the maitre d d was just having a bad day. She insisted and set up a meeting and I told my story. He listened attentively and said the maitre d was incorrect to lose his temper. He thanked me for my comments and said the employee would need additional coaching. I still felt bad for complaining. The entire experience on the ship was so wonderful, I didn't want this one issue to take greater precedent than it deserved.
Overall, I was very impressed how the issue was treated. I believe the Celebrity Solstice staff does what it can to make the shipboard experience has pleasant and memorable as humanly possible.
It was nearing 9