Our family of 6 (2 grandparents, 2 parents and 2 teen age kids) had a fabulous time on Solstice while traveling the Mediterranean. We were worried about what all of us could do together and separate on this cruise and Solstice was the answer. While my in-laws are seasoned cruisers, we had never thought about taking a cruise...ever. This was truly a vacation to remember that met all of our needs plus some. If you are looking for a vacation that could be a great balance for varying age ranges, this itinerary and ship are it!We won't duplicate what others have written positively or negatively. Things we found in addition to share are as follows:1. Our kids really enjoyed the teen programming and friends that they met from all over the world. I am sure some adults on the cruise were not as happy to see the larger number of kids on this cruise, but we did not find the kids to be rude or disrespectful when we "accidentally" ran into them (other teens) on deck. It was great to see the kids all interacting and learning how to find their sealegs of proper socializing. Too boot, Solstice is also great to find privacy almost at any turn.....it is an amazingly designed ship.2. We found the sea days rather perplexing as with most cruisers for the lack of consideration by seat hogs but in addition thought people who left their used towels on the chairs without intention of returning even more rude. You did not know if chairs were open or not without bothering the people relaxing next to them. 3. We really enjoyed the Solarium for adult lounging, the hot tub a little cooler than US standards..but you could stay in longer! We really loved the clam shell round lounger chairs too! Most of the time the security assisted the under 16 youth away from the area after the first day. 4. We greatly enjoyed meeting back up before dinner each night on our veranda for cocktails/mocktails when we could. We brought over 2 chairs from my in-laws room and sat on the veranda each night to talk about our daily excursion experiences.5. We loved our veranda room and found it not as bad as everyone said with 4 people sharing the room. I guess since we're newbies to cruising we did not notice the difficulty in sharing sleeping arrangements. Plus we have a sailboat and are very efficient in our space usage in general! The pullman and couch made a great bunkbed situation for our kids to share at night and stored nicely each morning per the room attendants. After all, how much room do you really need at night? I must say it did force our kids to keep their stuff organized and neat daily! 6. We took advantage of the $29.00 coupon for laundry and that probably saved us some space issues by reducing our clothing needs for 10 days on a cruise and 6 days post cruise in Rome.7. We did a mixture of on our own, private and Celebrity tours. When used the public and taxi transportation at the ports we found them to be easy to use. By using a taxi and metro in Athens, we saved a bunch in time and saw the Acropolis with virtually 100 people max in the morning! Can't say that about my in-laws and their Celebrity tour who were there about 10am. The best for us to recommend is to do your research and plan your excursions based on your personal needs. My in-laws were more likely to take the Celebrity tours. They did the Taoromina in Sicily, Athens bus tour, Santorni wine tour, Delos tour in Mykonos...all were 4 hour tours and they raved about them with the exception of Athens. We talked them into 2 private tours in Naples and Kusadasi that were absolutely unforgetable. They were actually better for my father in-law who struggles to keep up due to his knees and "pre-cruise" unplanned hernia surgery! The private tour bus was great for easily picking him up at the entrance of a site and sometimes half the price at the cruise tour. The tour guides were informative and locals to the area. Again, absolutely incredible excursions all around.8. If you are in a large traveling group, don't be afraid to do separate port excursions. It made for great conversations to hear what different options we experienced upon meeting up post excursion. The lawn area became another of our favorite areas to watch Solstice leave port when all 6 of us wanted to chat and share! 9. We had an early dinner seating per my in-laws request. I found it to be a little too early for me as that the pools were closed each night before we finished dinner (8pm). If we had a longer day in the port, we rushed to get to dinner at 6:15, especially for the formal nights where we wanted to look our best. I guess both dinner seatings have their pros and cons. If you like to swim and relax....it does make it hard to get it all in on a port intensive cruise like the Mediterranean. I think the only time we enjoyed a louging pre-dinner dinner was when we skipped our 6:15 dinner and ate at the buffet, which BTW was really good option each time we ate there. The kids loved the waffles for breakfast and the ice cream any time of course!10. Our last point to share, if you are going all this way to see the sites..don't hold back. Plan to spend a little money on this trip to do it right. Document it with pictures, notes, nice souvenirs and great conversations. This was a trip we won't easily forget and it will be difficult to top in future vacations. Celebrity did a great job keeping us happy. They were not perfect, but then again none of us are. I have to say that when we did have a concern, they addressed it quickly and if needed, corrected within minutes of being brought to their attention. All staff seemed eager to please and helpful.
Great balcony; could hear your neighbors at night if you were soundly asleep without tv on; exterior door would not secure shut. A few times, we woke up to having our door slightly ajar when we swore our door was shut at night! Wish we had more hangers for our closet as we had 4 people in our room to hang our formal and dining attire in. Not a lot of room for shoes either.....TV with in room movies was great for an early night in room. I liked seeing the interactive shop for our cruise photos. Made the last night at sea easier to pick photos from the cruise to buy.
Because we left the ship as soon as we could on our own, I felt our visit was a 5. Not sure how we would have felt had we slept in or waited for a tour. The taxi driver was not excited to take us one way, but he did. We arrived at the Acropolis area at 8am when it opened. We are 4 healthy travelers, so we visited everything else in Athens on foot. We enjoyed a great lunch in the Plaka, watched the changing of the guard at the Parliament Building and strolled the botanical gardens . A little touristy, but then again that is what we were! The gyros, greek salad and mythos were awesome and refreshing to our palate! We hopped onto the metro back to Piraes. The ship docked pretty far down from the metro stop, so we luckily asked a local what bus we needed to catch to travel down the port road. We met two very nice families traveling the same way around Athens for the day. We kept running into them throughout the day. We stuck together in the Metro station in Piraes and all caught the same bus back to the ship. In the little walk to the ship we shared our Athens adventures and our backgrounds. Great day!!!!
Lovely day...another day on our own. We got up early and accidentally picked up 4 priority tender tickets and left the ship at 8am with the first tender. We opted for the cable car. We found it easy to use, but we were the only cruise ship in the port for the day. We brought the wrong travel card to port, so we only had 90Euros for the day for all 4 of us. We easily traveled by bus to the black pebble beach area of Kamari. We arrived early before the beach rental opened and left at after lunch. They only charged us 5 euros for the lounge rental, which was lucky for us. They wanted 14euros for all day for 4 lounge chairs. Glad we bartered it down to save us money for the day. We ate at a local eatery...fabulously fresh greek salads and grilled pita bread with tsatsiki sauce...and of course a Mythos and cokes for the kids! We easily returned on the bus that ran every 30 minutes to and from Fira. My husband bravely "ran" back to the ship on the tender for the right credit card in under an hour. We "window" shopped in Fira and upon his return we shopped and happily found what we wanted for us and our friends at home. The line for the cable car was a bit long, so we went to the taverna Zafora overlooking the caldera and our ship....Alpha bira for us and sodas for the kids. We had enough water for the day. The line died down after one round of drinks and we made it on the cable car in 10 minutes. Awesome do nothing but relax day in Santorini
We went on Hello Ephesus, which was a newly authorized tour company. We had a snafu with the company in communication because my father-in-law had a medical emergency before our trip. They thought we canceled....we thought we confirmed. Lucky for us, their other tour guide at the ship arranged with his two confirmed guests and added the 6 of us on his tour. It was for a 7 hour tour compared to our expected 4 hour Ephesus only tour, but it was totally worth it. Can't explain it all, but we did not think we would love the House of the Virgin Mary. We were so wrong and so moved by being there. Great addition to our trip. Ephesus was absolutely worth the trip as well. Our guide was a younger Ephesian and knew a lot about the area and history in general. His English was strong and it was fun to ask questions and easily understand his answers and local thoughts about the history and local events. We did go to a rug factory....it was very interesting to learn about the process. Unfortunately a little out of our price range to purchase the rug of our dreams. If you have the money to spend.....do it at the right local rug making venue. The port of Kusadasi was clean, friendly and the beach was nice for a quick swim. We returned to the ship port with tired kids and parents, so we quickly dropped them off and ventured back out for a little over an hour. We shopped and had a quick moment to share at a taverna near the port overlooking the ship and the local scenery on the dock. Not that we are big drinkers, but a local trip to a taverna seems appropriate when visiting a new country. It was relaxing and fun to people watch. Lovely day in refreshing Kusadasi and Ephesus.
We did a private tour with AP tours with Carmine as our guide. We went to Pompeii, Positano and Sorrento for the day. Absolutely one of our favorite tours and site seeing, which is hard for us to say since all of our day trips were fantastic. Standing out was our luncheon visit to a local family ristorante in Positano. We ended up paying 25Euros for an all you can eat family style table luncheon buffet, but I have to stay it was hands down one of the best meals on our entire trip...and we did 6 additional days in Rome! The views found on the Amalfi coast only made me wish we had more time. We wanted to all go to Pompeii which was also unforgettable. We were limited due to our desire to see it all in the day as well as my in-laws ability to walk it all at Pompeii. We did see the highlights recommended...the bath house, the victims saved as plaster mummies and the lovely frescoes and mosaics. Another visit is in our future...I can tell.
My in laws went under Taormina and went to a lovely villa with the Celebrity Cruises. I could not find the exact name of the trip they took on this port listing. They loved the food and wine pairing offered at the villa and their guide was simply awesome.
We went on the Peloritani trail tour with Celebrity. Since it was our first day in a port on our first ever cruise, we decided to play it safe with the cruise ship tour option. Our guides were great and we really enjoyed the trek through the trails in the Peloritani. Many on the tour with us were not thrilled with the tour as it was simply a nice easy hike on a trail that you could probably take in the US....us on the other hand really enjoyed speaking with our guides, learning about the history and the culture in Messina and Sicily. One of our guides actually picked up locally made sandwiches for our lunch and we ate at a "boy scouting" camp picnic area that he grew up going to. They had some of the local kids camping there and they really enjoyed chatting and practicing their English with us. We all shared a common love of the outdoors and the beautiful game of "Football". My husband taped the interaction with the kids unannounced to me. Some of the other tour people were rude to Lily, our main guide. The guides made every effort to show us "their Messina/Sicily". Unfortunately they showed poorly upon us as Americans. I think they expected mountainous treks through lovely trails that exceeded all known to mankind. The behaved like ungrateful Americans.....their behavior towards the tour guides was appalling.
We decided to do the Celebrity in the morning. It was very hot during our tour, so I could not imagine doing it right away in the morning......Our tour guide, George, was absolutely amazing. We often thought later that he was a modern version of Homer. His ability to make Delos, an archeological ruinous outdoor museum, into a lively, modern metropolis in his tour participants minds was clearly genius in an educational way. He was knowledgeable, but not in a condescending way. Everything came to life and one could actually relate your life now as to how it came to be here in Delos...like the first Apollo Theatre! :) We climbed to the top of the temple after the tour and the view was well worth how tired and hot we were at the bottom. Can't say enough about our visit to Delos. The town of Mykonos was breath taking. We had a lovely traditional greek lunch with my in laws at Nikos taverna. It was the first we saw....it was shaded, had outdoor seating and my father in-law, who is Greek conversed with the owners. Again, everything was very fresh. The Mostra was highly recommended by our tour guide, George. My in-laws loved it, but my husband thought it would have been better with feta cheese on it instead of the Kopanisti cheese, which was very stong in flavor like a blue cheese. The kids enjoyed their grilled fresh shrimp, pasta and cokes! I enjoyed another very fresh greek salad and funny as it sounds a bowl of lentil soup (it was fantastic). The kids had to jump in the water at the public beach. It was rather "full" of floating trash in some places, but we found a spot and they jumped in. We took the Celebrity shuttle bus back to the ship. It was quite easy. Another day we wished we had more time and energy in.