I read the reviews about Solstice religiously before we left. Also, my parents who are Elite members on Celebrity sailed the Solstice in December and were extremely disappointed. So my husband and I boarded the ship with great anticipation-would we be disappointed as well?The answer is NO! We absolutely loved the ship. Yes, it has a more modern flair to it than other Celebrity ships but we didn't mind. We loved the layout of the ship, it was so easy to get around. We could tell that Celebrity is definitely attempting to attract a younger passenger demographic and it looks like it is working. Also, even though the ship was full (we overheard when we checked in), we rarely if ever founded crowded places. The Martini bar was very busy and we do wish they'd open the martini bar earlier in the day as it is a fun stop when walking around the ship.The Martini Bar and Quasar lounge were new and different and very enjoyable. We loved the lawn and spent a lot of time there after we'd return to the ship from port. It was a very relaxing place to be. We were concerned about a little Italian bird that seemed to have found its way to the grass. It kept looking for worms but it wasn't that kind of lawn! We think the bird found its way off the ship in Greece and found real food.We also watched the glass blowing show which was very interesting. They truly have professionals blowing and crafting the glass. One of the guys used to work for Waterford in Ireland! Great talent abound at this show and it's not to be missed!Our cabin was bigger than Millennium class ships by about 3 ft and boy, the 3 ft made the room seem so much bigger! Our cabin was 7161 and our balcony was at an angle and maybe a tad larger than others because of the angle. Our bed was closer to the balcony instead of closer to the door which I didn't think I'd like but both my husband and I loved it. It was wonderful to be able to just turn our heads and see the ocean. There was plenty of storage space for a 10 day cruise and I mean it when I say that. No matter how hard we try, we always seem to pack too much but we found a place for everything. Don't forget about the storage above the bed! Our only complaint about our cabin was the safe. Only a 2 year old would find it at the right height. It was very low to the ground and we had to get on our hands and knees and really stick our heads in the safe to find what we needed. I did forward this feedback to Celebrity that they should really raise the safe height to accommodate that of an average size adult on future Solstice class ships.The shows were very modern in the Solstice Theater and we enjoyed all of them. Forgive me as I already forgot her name, but the female impersonator was excellent in her impersonations and the comedian (first name Troy) was absolutely hilarious and clean. Our main complaint and we echo the sentiment of many others is the food. In the Grand Epernay, the food was just pathetic and so unlike the other Celebrity ships we've sailed. Dining on other Celebrity ships was an event that we always looked forward to every evening and it was not to be missed. We opted out of eating in the MDR several nights and had no regrets. We checked the menu and there wasn't anything on it what we wanted so missing dinner in the MDR was not a problem. New menu options: meatloaf and spaghetti. PLEASE! We are cruising to try new and different food that is a luxury to eat; NOT something we can easily make at home. Our waiter did tell us that due to the larger size of Solstice, it just wouldn't be possible to have the same process in the galley. I understand his point but the waiters are still delivering some sort of food and the quality in the MDR on the Solstice really, really needs to improve. Being CC members, we toured the galley and it is definitely the biggest galley we've toured. I think if Solstice makes it a priority, they can improve the quality of their food options with just a little effort.Speaking of food, the buffet food was delicious. We ate there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at various times during our cruise. We always felt there were enough options that we didn't even repeat our choices. Maybe our expectations were less for the buffet but we were always satisfied with the food we chose. It was tasty and the right temperature. We also fell in love with their sushi which they begin to serve at 6 p.m. every night. If you love sushi, don't miss it!We also ate at the burger/nacho/taco bar near by the pool deck and their food was also good.We tried all 3 of the specialty restaurants and here are our thoughts:Silk Harvest-every bite was delicious. We misunderstood our sushi order though. We chose 2 different kinds of sushi and our waiter asked if we wanted 4, 6, or 8. We chose 8 because we thought that meant we'd get 4 of each kind but we received 8 of each kind. We also ordered 3 large entrees but a smaller portion. Our waiter kept saying he could bring us more but the portions were so big, we couldn't possibly finish any of them. The food there was decadent and the "Asian fusion" Solstice is attempting works well. My only complaint are the ants painted on the floor as you walk towards all of the specialty restaurants. It always gave me the willies as I despise bugs and it wasn't appetizing to walk through EVER. Please get rid of those ants Solstice. Tuscan Grille-exceptional steaks. I had the filet mignon, my husband had a ribeye. Every bite was mouth watering and we savored every moment of our meal there. From salad to dessert, each morsel was perfectly prepared. If we sail a Solstice ship again, we will make sure we have reservations here!Murano-things didn't start off great here. I called CC to make reservations here before we boarded. They said due to system issues, look for confirmation in our cabin once we board. We received that confirmation for an 8 p.m. dinner time. The night before our dinner in Murano, we received a confirmation card for 7:30 p.m. We really wanted to see the comedian Troy whom I mentioned earlier and thought we could catch most of his act beginning at 7:15. So I called to see why our reservation changed and there wasn't an explanation and the 8 p.m. time was full. So we went at 7:30 and asked our waiter to rush the service because we wanted to catch Troy at 9 p.m. then. Our waiter did his best to serve us quickly and I imagine we would have enjoyed our experience more if we gave the experience the time it deserved. However, since they messed up our reservation, we didn't have much choice. Every menu item in Murano is very rich. We both enjoyed a salad and then a Cappucino Mushroom soup which really was to die for. They say have a soup or salad because of how rich every course is but the choices looked so good, we had both. We ordered filet mignon and it was prepared table side. However, the gravy/sauce they used gave the filet a beef stew flavor and texture. Don't mess with filet mignon Murano, it's the best piece of beef one can have all on its own. I personally preferred the filet mignon in Tuscan Grille much more. I think our waiter overhead me making the same comment to my husband and he offered me another entree but time was of the essence and I couldn't possibly have eaten another entree. The service and attentiveness of the staff in all of the specialty restaurants was outstanding. Our waiter in MDR was extraordinary as well. He didn't prepare food, just delivered it.Shore excursions: they have a new process to have you meet in a common area, usually the Solstice theater. You are given a number for your bus that you are to wear and you wait for the staff to call the number and then proceed off the ship to meet your bus. We really liked this process as it seems less congested then getting off the ship and they trying to find your shore excursion guide.Lastly, I want to add a note about embarkation and disembarkation. Embarkation was chaotic. We were on one of several buses that came directly from the airport to Solstice. We were told we had to sit down and not stand anywhere (who wants to sit after being on a plane for 9 + hours?) and wait for our number to be called. Meanwhile, the staff that checks you in would hold up all sorts of numbers that meant they were available not that they could help the number you were given and told to wait for. It also didn't matter if you were CC or AQ, you had to sit and wait for your number. It was a really irritating experience. Let folks just stand in line, at least we know we're on our way. Disembarkation went perfectly. We were again told where to meet on the ship and what time. We were then ushered off the ship and luggage was easy to find.
Warning! Warning! If you think you have the stamina in 90 degree plus temps and have great balance and wear hiking boots, feel free to walk down the 580 steps instead of taking the cable car. However, please know that these steps are made of very slippery cobblestones and you will also be battling many donkeys and donkey doo. It was a terrifying and horrid experience. I chastised Celebrity in my feedback and said it was negligent to not warn passengers about these steps. There were 3 ships tendered off Santorini the day we were there so that's approximately. 6000 people that need to take the cable car back to the tenders. We booked a shore excursion that took us to Oia and ended at 3:45 p.m. The last tender was at 5:45 p.m. When we found the cable car, we could not find an end to the line and some other folks said they'll just take the steps. We decided to do the same as it didn't look like we'd ever get on the cable car but we didn't realize what we were in for. The donkeys are there to take you down the steps (for a fee from the locals) but even they are not sturdy/stable on those steps. I saw one donkey's back leg slip on a step. Plus, I am allergic to animals so riding a donkey wasn't an option. Since I wasn't prepared and wearing my hiking boots but sandals, it took us an hour to safely walk down those stairs. Others were not so lucky and fell to the point they could not walk. Celebrity had to send help back up the steps. My response from Celebrity on this: shore excursions are independently owned and operated. This is a sorry excuse if I ever heard one. Many of the crew on the Solstice knew about and took those steps themselves when in port. Celebrity knows about those steps. Both Celebrity and the tour guide on all shore excursions should alert you to this option. A warning should be printed on the shore excursion tickets. When we left the ship, we were tendered over to a different area where we met buses that took us around the island. For those folks that are not capable of standing in extreme heat for a cable car or endangering their lives by taking the steps, an option should be available to go back to the bus area and take a tender back from there.Before the steps, Santorini was like walking through a postcard and very beautiful. Their public restrooms need great improvement as well though.Overall, between the bathrooms and horrid steps, I will not be going back to Santorini in my lifetime.
We booked an all day tour that took us to Ephesus, Miletus, Magnesia, and Didyma. We were most nervous about going to Turkey due to some of the stories we've heard. All of our preconceptions were blown out the window. Turkey is a very clean place. The mountains were gorgeous and the environment was very lush. Our tour guide was the best we had. He was extremely knowledgeable and always asked our group if we were OK throughout the day. Turkey was also the only port where we were given a survey to rate our experience. It is obvious that they want to give their tourists a positive experience.Our tour ended in an upstairs room for a Turkish rug demonstration. There were 2 salespeople to every one person after the demonstration. Since a rug wasn't a souvenir we wanted, we managed to escape. However, we had to take the elevator which landed us in the jewelry area of this shop. I kept saying I wasn't in the market for anything: No Thank You, No Thank You but my husband finally caved as they kept lowering the price on a ring and bought it for me. Our only assurance is that it is a Celebrity sponsored store so if the ring isn't appraised at a value that meets or exceed what we paid, Celebrity guarantees they'll take care of it. The sales guy told me that when a customer says No, it means "Never give up" to him. High pressure sales is a really turn off for me and folks should be allowed to leave the tour before the Turkish rug demonstration or stay if they want.
We booked an excursion that took us up the Amalfi Coast to Positano and Sorrento where we had lunch. The ride was breath taking and pictures just can't capture the depth or the beauty of how the mountains reach the sea. Beware, anything you buy in Positano or Sorrento is overpriced. We ended at Pompeii on our way back to the ship and Pompeii was amazing to see. It is hard to understand how much of this city remained intact after being buried by 60 ft of ash. The cost of this tour was about $345 per person if memory serves me correctly and I still don't see why it cost so much. Instead of a big bus, we were in a small van- a total of 16 people in our group. Lunch in Sorrento was at an expensive hotel with champagne as well as red and white wine. Although we treasured every stop on this tour, the price just didn't seem to be appropriate.
We went to the Acropolis here via a shore excursion. It was so crowded there, it was difficult to take in much. We managed to take a few pics of the Parthenon and surrounding ruins. Athens has so much history but the city itself appeared very dirty and there was a ton of graffiti everywhere.
Here we booked a wine tasting excursion. However, we were taken around to some very pretty areas of Rhodes and ended at lunch with red or white Greek wine out of a box. I though the shore excursion was not represented accurately at all. Rhodes was an island that I believe would be a nice getaway if you lived in Europe. However, to fly there from the U.S. doesn't seem to make much sense as there wasn't much to do there but enjoy the beaches.
After our cruise, we stayed at the top of the Spanish Steps at Intercontinental De La Ville. This was a magnificent hotel. The staff here went out of their way to help you and they always greeted us with a smile. If you ever stay here, take the elevator which is to the right of where you'd go to catch the Metro. It will save your legs from walking up the steps after walking around Rome all day. We bought a map of Rome before we left and it served us well. We found our way to the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon on our own. I was worried about pickpockets in Rome but we never had any issues. During our one full day in Rome, we booked a tour of the Vatican and another to the Colosseum and Forum through Gray Line tours. Both tours were fantastic.