CELEBRITY SOLSTICE SEPT 29 2011 BARCELONA TO VENICE WE LOVED THE ADVENTURE!! Captain Yannis Berdos, Master of the Vessel
I flew in to Barcelona from Florida. The departure from the airport to the ship was not complicated at all. . If you paid Celebrity to collect your luggage, they will wait until they fill a bus, and then transport you to the ship. If you are an independent traveler, You get your luggage, and hail a cab. I prefer not to wait. You can also team up with other shipmates you may meet in the terminal building and split the price of a van or cab. The cabs are lined up out front; ready to whisk you away to either downtown or straight to the ship, and the trip takes approximately 20 minutes. I came the day before to relax from the international trip, staying at the Hilton del Mar Diagnonal, close to the water, and to be more accustomed to the time zone of our ship. It was well worth the extra day, as I was not exhausted, fully rested, and ready to start a well anticipated adventure of a lifetime.
At 11:15, I checked in, receiving my Sea Pass card, and at 11:45, I had been through Duty Free for wine and pictures (predeparture). I am Elite on Celebrity, which means there are plenty of add on activities complimentary from Celebrity that will keep even the easily bored occupied! But the true BONUS was that we booked through Costco Travel, and were on a wine cruise as well, so we had plenty of wine tastings, wine tours ashore, and culinary experiences as part of our package.
Shortly after setting sail, we had a private wine tasting from Chateau St. Michelle, private delicious wines, and then off to a Senior Officers party for the suites. We bought tickets early for the shore excursions to Venice, and then went immediately to a Cruise Critic's party in Michael's club, where about 70 of us gathered. We met Princess, the events coordinator and also Giorgio De Pietro, who was very funny. He was the Food and Beverage Manager aboard from Napoli, Italy. We organized a room crawl for later on that week with the cruise critic group, after our initial Meet and Greet in Michaels Club, arranged by the ship.
Our trip went from Barcelona, to Nice, Florence/Pisa Rome, Naples, Dubrovnik, Venice, Kotor, and back to Barcelona. Old town Dubrovnik was beautiful and we had a guided walk through Old Town, including a walk from Ploce Gate to the Market Place. You can walk the city wall up above, if you are feeling adventurous.
Nice: We took the train to Nice, which is easy from the ship and takes about 10 minutes on the train. We bought beautiful flowers at the flower market, only open until noon, so you need to hurry a little in the morning. The market is down by the water, and about a 10 minute walk through town to the water's edge.
Livorno: Went wine tasting at Varramista Winery (owners of Fiat). Then on to a beautiful dinner for formal night hosted by the master of the vessel, Captain Berdos. He is lots of fun, and entertained all the guests. It is so nice to have a personable captain who really takes such an interest in all the passengers and makes us feel so comfortable. He speaks very good English, and is a Greek captain.
The Solarium Pool: A beautiful swimming pool which is indoors, and heated, yet offers peeks of sunlight thru the glass ceiling and rafters. They have Wii bowling on board which was really fun to play, and line dancing in the afternoon.
Naples Italy: A must to get off the ship, and I took the tour to Pompeii, one of the most remarkable experiences of my life, and to see the ancient city, just imagining how life must have been before the volcano erupted at Mount Vesuvius. On board the ship, the Oceanview Cafe has a fabulous Mediterrean stir fry. Captains Club was at the sky Observation Lounge and Dinner in the specialty restaurant of Morano's
Murano's Restaurant Maitre d' Hotel: Angei Dimitrov. Both very friendly and attentive to the needs of all the guests. Their goat cheese soufflÃ© is not to be missed, nor the Hazelnut Rack of lamb, scallops wellington, Murano lobster and chocolate soufflÃ©. Murano's menu is incredible. The chef de rang will also do tableside cooking and includes filleting the Dover Sole, or making a fabulous cognac flambÃ©ed warm lobster tail dish made with a fabulous Dijon-cream.
At sea day: Had our wine tasting at Tuscan Grill paired with cheese and prosciutto. We participated in a cruise critic room crawl in where we visited other cruise critics rooms, and saw inside rooms, outside rooms, family veranda suites, sky suites, concierge, and handicapped rooms. I found this to be one of the most information adventures with cruise critic, because for future cruises, we knew exactly what type of room we really wanted to book.
Croatia: A wonderful country to explore. We took the bus and went up into the mountains of Croatia to go wine tasting, and have first hand tastes of homemade cheeses and prosciutto, followed by incredible homemade wines. The wines of Croatia are excellent! Our maitre'd is Czaka, and Asst is Emil. The sommelier was named Serjan in the Tuscan grill that is very knowledgeable and friendly.
Dubrovnik: A world Heritage site preserved by Unisco. After the 1991 war which Serbia bombed the ancient town, much restoration had to occur. We found the city fascinating, and were able to do some nice shopping as well as getting involved in the history of the town.
Venice, Italy: We took a ferry shuttle at 2:00 pm, shortly after docking. Venice was very hot (85F). You could buy Murano glass, jewelry made from the same, have fabulous gelatos, shop to your heart's content, or simple ride the gondola. We found the town to be less crowded in the evening, as many shipmates return in the late afternoon. I believe really the time to see Venice is in the evening, without the crowds of people. Next time I will know more. The ship had hosted a fabulous party on the heliport, featuring music of AndrÃ©a Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. It was awesome. The food in Blu restaurant if you are in Aqua class or a suite is simply the best. I highly recommend booking this class on the solstice ships for the most rewarding experience while cruising.
Kotor, Montenegro: Took a tour by bus over large mountains to a beautiful home with homemade wines and food. An incredible experience. Many homes were damaged or abandoned from recent earthquakes, and there was a lot of remodeling and building taking place. Since we were tendered at port, it was nice to take the small boats back to the ship. We saw a large clipper ship in a small cove while we were there. Captains Club was great as usual.
Our internet cafÃ© was run by officer randy Palamis. I was impressed with his complete and total interest in each and every passenger.
Tuscan Grille: Maitre de' Hotel: Marius Borcila. On the menu is slow braised ground beef veal, Kobe meatballs, pan friend veal cutlet, Colorado lamb chops, veal chops, fietto Mignon, rib eye, salmon and other dishes. Yummy!
Each of the ports was special, but it was really the crew that made our trip so memorable. We were really impressed with the service on board, from guest relations to the Ocean View Cafe, to the spa. A special friendly crew. My thanks for all their hard work, as it will last in my memories for years to come.
By Tikigal: Check out my slide show of the Solstice coming up soon of Crew and Passengers for Sept 2011.