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Solstice Western Mediterranean w/ Venice
Europe - Western Mediterranean
We've now cruised twice on Celebrity Solstice class ships (Eclipse and Solstice), and both believe we've found our ideal cruise line. Quite simply put, the most well designed ships afloat. Elegant, classy, easy to navigate etc. Kudos to the ship's designer and Celebrity.
Our embarkation was very quick and painless. We took a cab from the airport to the cruise port, and had our luggage taken by a local porter. The entire process didn't take more than 20 minutes and then we were on the ship. A word of caution on cabs though....they should cost roughly 30 - 35 Euros, but our driver (who was very nice) charged us 48. We didn't realize until after that she scammed us a bit, as there was NO traffic and a direct trip. On the return trip, we were in a rush hour traffic jam and it was only 31 Euros.
For once, the cruise line closed all the doors and did not allow passengers to go to their cabins until about 1:30 PM. This allowed a proper cleaning and all the old people More
didn't constantly wander the hallways checking on their room. I wish all cruise lines would do this!!!! Makes perfect sense.
We tried Silk Harvest specialty restaurant, and it was really good. That being said, not as good as Qsine on the Eclipse. Pretty good value at $25 pp (and better than $40 for Murano).
Overall we find the drink prices on Celebrity ships to be very reasonable. Cans of soda for $2? You pay that almost anywhere (or more in most hotels, arenas and convention facilities). Wonderful wine selection too. Some are very good at a reasonable price (under $30 a bottle!). If you pay mid 30's then you get a very good quality wine.
Disembarkation was not at all like embarkation. It was a clusterf*$k. They lost both our bags!!!! How do you lose bags on a cruise? It was so bad we had to go to the airport without ANY bags. They eventually found one and transferred it to the airport in time to have it checked. But the other was not found until later in the day. If it wasn't for the hard work of Aer Lingus, we doubt we would have ever seen it again. Thank you Aer Lingus. This process has to be improved by Celebrity.
The actual people process is great and well done by Celebrity. They provide a full serve breakfast in the main dining room, or an express breakfast in the other side of the dining room, or the full buffet upstairs. Wow! Great options. Even the express breakfast was eggs, bacon, sausage, toast and juice.
Overall....wonderful cruise. Celebrity is a first-class cruise line. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
It was our first time to Dubrovnik, Croatia, and it was nothing short of spectacular. What a wonderful port of call. The ship docked a relatively long way from the old town, but we simply bought local bus tickets just off the ship at the pier. The bus stop is only 100 yards away, and it's a simple ride right to the old town gate entrance. Do not bother taking the ship's transportation as it is a waste of money!
The old town is wonderful, with its marble streets (yes you read that right...polished, smooth marble). While many old, walled cities are very similar, this one is really tremendous. Decent shopping, but it's really about the views when you get outside the walls. You have to look for the openings, but when you find them, the views are great.
Other people on here have described the bar on the outside edge of the wall overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Wow! Great place for a break (although the red wine left something to be desired). Good luck finding it, but it's worth the effort.
Overall, great port that is cheap to do on your own.
The port here is Livorno. Many options....Pisa, Florence, Tuscany etc. Having been to Pisa and Florence last year, we rented a car from Hertz and drove around Tuscany.
To clarify, you can rent the car right on the pier. Very convenient, but not cheap (100 Euros for the day). A word of caution....BUY THE GPS!!!! (and have them explain the best way to use it. Well worth the 10 Euros. You will get lost otherwise as the signage in Italy is rather lacking.
We drove to Ceccina, then on to Voliterra (great town!) and then to San Gimignano. If you're looking for a day trip, this is a good option. Beautiful drive, with stunning views. Local wine is good too.
This has to be one of the most dramatic and beautiful "sail ins" to port of anywhere in the world. It rivals Stockhold, Sweden.
For those that have been to Lake Louise in Canada, it's like sailing a 15 story ship into Lake Louise, and anchoring. Very dramatic and beautiful.
The port itself is pretty nice (but not quite as nice as Dubrovnik). It has a walled area that is really nice, but the highlight is the walk up the old wall. When I say "up", I mean up. It's over 2,000 stairs to the top. I wish you the best of luck! Looks like the Great Wall of China, except more vertical (and if you've been on the Great Wall, it's pretty vertical).
If you're looking to use the internet...heads up that there are many cafes and bars with wireless internet inside the walled area. Just buy a cup of coffee or cheap local beer.
Due to high winds, we actually didn't dock in Marseille, but rather Toulon, France. Not a big deal, as it was the only poor weather day of the cruise. Rainy and windy (but not too cool). We toured the local town for an hour or so, then back on the ship to relax.
Naples as a port is not the nicest. If you choose to stay in Naples....best of luck, hope you enjoy graffiti. However, if you want other options there are many (and that makes this a good port of call).
We took a jet foil (just off the pier to the left) to the Isle of Capri. I would highly recommend this. What a beautiful island. When you get there, immediately buy the Funicular tickets to get to the top of the island (where the town really is). It's cheap and beats walking. From there you have lots of options, including taking local buses all over the island. Great island to just casually explore. We didn't go to the Agave Grotto, but it sounded great.
The port is not actually Rome, but it's Civitevecchia, which is a long way from the City of Rome. As it was All Saints Day when we were in port, we just stayed on the ship. Too many things closed, and we'd been to Rome a couple of times. The port city of Civitivecchia is not bad, but with everything closed it wasn't worth the time (other than to go for a walk).
You simply can't say enough about arriving in Venice aboard a 15 story cruise ship and sailing right past St. Marks Square. Magical.
We truly didn't think Venice would live up to its huge tourist hype. We were so wrong. It is a great place to visit, and deserves every accolade.
Once again we did not use the ship's transportation, but figured it out ourselves. We took a ship provided shuttle (for those with mobility challenges...make sure you register at the desk for this!) to Troccadero. From there we took a local ACTV boat to St. Marks Square. From there you can go anywhere. We also bought the 24 hour transit pass, which is well worth the money, as you can jump on and off the local boats, and simply ride around. Wonderful.
As the ship stayed overnight, we were able to sit at a canal-front cafe and share a pizza and a couple glasses of local red wine, as the sun set. I would highly recommend this (as you get farther from St. Marks Square, the prices decrease dramatically).
Add this port to your Mediterranean cruise!!