An overall wonderful experience...: Celebrity Solstice Cruise Review by kansaskid

Celebrity Solstice 5
Member Since 2008
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An overall wonderful experience...

Sail Date: May 2011
Destination: Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
Embarkation: Barcelona
For our first Mediterranean cruise (and our honeymoon!), we could not have asked for anything to be better. The food all across Europe was amazing. The wine was fabulous. Celebrity does a fabulous job, from the service we received in our suite to the welcoming atmosphere we felt by the captain and senior staff. As a ship the Solstice is beautiful. We found it to be clean, warm, elegant and well-laid out.

We had booked this cruise early (at least 9 months in advance). I don't know that we got a very good rate then, but since it was our honeymoon we were ok with it. One month before the cruise, I happened to see a Celebrity sale offering a Guarantee Suite for about $250 more/pp. Our travel agent thought this would be a good value for us and a nice touch. She couldn't have been more right!!! Our room was gorgeous. Service was first-rate. We even had a doorbell! The last night of the cruise, we invited some friends up to share some wine and our butler hooked us up with a platter More of shrimp cocktail and another of meat/cheese/crackers. We had breakfast each day in our cabin, the food was great. The itinerary was perfect, as we had a nice blend of ports and things to do, but also a few days at sea to enjoy the ship.

Am I gushing yet?? :)

So there were a couple things I would do to improve. First, we had Select dining. Love the option of eating when we want to. And we made some great friends by sitting with other people on a couple nights and the others by ourselves. However, the service was somewhat lacking or slow. It simply looked like too many people dining and not enough staff, as it took almost 15 minutes for us to even see the Somelier most nights. Everyone was friendly, just wasn't prompt or attentive as it could have been. Also was disappointed to see that shrimp, crab & lobster were hardly ever served and a sirloin steak was a regular entree rather than a NY Strip or Ribeye, something with a little flavor.

This is not the cruise to take if you are looking for significant nightlife. We didn't stay out most nights, but the few we did we found bars closing down at 11:30pm with tons of people still there and bands stopping when people were just starting going. The venues were all very nice, just the programming schedule was a little off. They certainly would have made a lot more money had they stayed open, so I'm not sure why they would close up that early.

That's it for the improvements needed - back to the good stuff. Having a suite afforded us Elite level Captain's Club benefits. What a great way to celebrate your honeymoon. I'm sure we looked out of place, in our mid 30s, walking into the daily happy hour with everyone 60+ that had most likely cruised their way into that level. We enjoyed free cappucinos in Michael's Club several mornings and took full advantage of free laundry, etc. The biggest perk though - an invitation to the Captain's table one night for dinner. We ate with the Staff Captain and Chief Safety Officer, along with 3 other couples. What a fine evening, finished off with a nice photo of our table and group. Later in the week we were priveleged to visit the bridge as well.

Other things we like - the gym was well appointed and not overly crowded. My wife enjoyed the solarium area, though the hot tubs need to be hotter than 96 degrees. The casino was nice and big, never too crowded, and the staff were great.

As this is my first review, I will leave it at that. We had never cruised with Celebrity before (Carnival, Norwegian & Holland America) and they have made two new fans for life. I can't say we'll never cruise another line again, but overall we were very impressed with the ship and the cruise line and will certainly be on it again! Less

Published 06/14/11

Cabin review: RS1620 Royal Suite

Room 1620 was just perfect. The cabin was quiet, we never heard commotion from the floor above, nor any of the rooms around us. While it's the first cabin after the backside of hte hump, the view was still good and we could see at an angle of about one o'clock. The room is huge. There is a nice size entryway/foyer with a closet. The bedroom was to the right, with doors to both the foyer and the bathroom (which also had a door to the foyer). The bedroom had a relatively nice sized walk-in closet with safe and another closet. The main living space had an L-shaped couch (pullout) and coffetable. The verandah was large - big enough to accommodate a table and chairs as well as two lounge chairs. Butler service was first-rate, only wish we'd utilized it more. It was enjoyable having breakfast on the balcony every morning though except two, when it was too cold. Only annoyance with the room was the phone in the bathroom, which was to the left of the toilet and inevitably I bumped off the wall 1/2 dozen times.

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Port and Shore Excursions

We tendered in Cannes, but only spent an hour or so in port. It was the weekend of the Cannes Film Festival. We took an excursion with a private guide and two other couples to Monaco, Monte Carlo, Eze & St. Paul de Vence. It rained briefly in Monaco, so we spent little time there and instead "chased the sun". We found it in all three other locations which made for a wonderful day of exploring. We had ample time in each place to simply wander the streets. Both Eze and St. Paul...made for excellent photography, with great angles and subjects to capture. We had a nice afternoon snack - more of like an early dessert - at La Cocarde, Bistro Gourmand. The food was delicious and we took home a unique bottle of orange apertif.
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Sea kayaking with Huck Finn Adventures. We did a 1/2 day trip in Zaton Bay, as our original plan to kayak around Kolocep Island fell through since the ship was late getting into Dubrovnik. Our guide, Pave, did a nice job of explaining everything she could about Croatia and its development. We kayaked about 5 miles total, as certain rules prohibit crossing the channel, so we went up and down the coast. We booked this on our own, directly with Huck Finn, and it only cost us 1/2 of what the ship was charging for it. From there, the driver took us back to Old Town and we had lunch at a place he recommended outside Old Town (Restaurant Orhan), down the hill about 100 meters to the water. It was a great view, definitely lacking the tourist vibe. Food was delicious and we drank some of the Croatian wine, which was quite nice. We then wandered through Old Town. We chose not to spend the money to walk the walls, which I'm sure had a nice view, but there was plenty to see and photograph without doing so.

This was the one day we took a chance, having nothing pre-planned. Prior to our trip I tried booking a car rental for a day, price was 300 euros. ouch! We decided to make a decision when we got there, either to take a chance at renting a car off the ship or taking the train to Cinque Terre. Sure enough there were 2 or 3 car rental agencies right off the ship. We went with Hertz. For 100 euros we got the car, GPS, insurance and an automatic. They helped program the GPS to San Gimignano, Volterra and Bolgheri and we were on our way. We deviated a little from the GPS, as we wanted to take as many country and town roads as possible. It was a beautiful drive the whole way and the towns were a delight. We had lunch in Volterra at a restaurant named Il Poggio and it was delicious. Go with the Rabbit in Red Sauce! Bolgheri was a cute little town, but we were getting pressed for time so we had to move a little quickly at that point. The drive back from Bolgheri was nothing spectacular, but easy to get back to port. I highly recommend this option of renting a car and driving in the Tuscan countryside to going to the standard places.

We took a private tour with Marianno with two other couples to Amalfi Coast and Pompeii. We told Mariano (Pleasant Travel) up front that we wanted to spend a little time in a few towns rather than hurry through them all, so we modified the day to give us more time in the 3 places we visited. The Amalfi coast is beautiful. On the way, Marianno stopped by his house and let us tour his garden eating fava beans, lemons and oranges straight off the trees. Then we met his mother and wife and sampled some of the family's homemade limoncello. Leaving there we headed to Poisitano and Amalfi. The views were magnificent along the way and we had some time to explore both towns. Marianno asked us where we'd like to eat lunch and ended up taking us to a place that he claimed "where momma cooks". It was up on the side of some mountain, no one there, but well known by the locals and those in Naples. The food was fabulous, brought by platters full including wine, grappa and limoncello. After lunch, we could have collapsed from a food coma, but instead made our way to Pompeii. Marianno had arranged for a private guide of Pompeii. Cost was 100 euros, split 3 ways, well worth it. Another guide quipped while there that we had the best English speaking guide available. She showed us parts of Pompeii that we probably wouldn't have seen otherwise and often other people were seen listening in on her stories of the history of Pompeii and the similarities to society today. Mariano was a top-notch guide and I would highly recommend him to anyone needing a private guide in Italy.
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Hands down our best day...and we didn't even go to Rome!! Check out Fontana del Papa cooking school for an amazing day of cooking, drinking and eating in Tuscany. It's located east of Tolfa, about 30 minutes inland from Civitivecchia. We found the place online but then realized it's also in a recent National Geographic book we have as well. Assuntina (owner) took us to the bakery first, where we sampled some goodies and checked out their hundreds of years old oven and picked up bread for the day. Then we made another stop for a cappucino in a little town.

Fontana del Papa is an old Tuscan Farm House with an olive grove and everything you'd hope it would be. We made 5 total dishes including Puttanesca sauce, Spaghetti (guitar-style), meatballs, chicken cutlets and tiramasu. While that all sounds so simple, it was nothing like what we eat or make here in the U.S. Everything was delicious. We cooked and ate with 7 other people who were staying at the school for some amount of time. We all worked in the kitchen on various aspects and sat down family style for an amazing meal. Afterwards, Claudio (owner) did a wine-tasting seminar that was wonderful and very educational. We left full and in awe of everything we experienced that day, knowing we made the right decision to skip Rome. It wasn't cheap - about 200 euros each for the day, but worth every cent!!

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