We had an overnight stay in the Hotel Regina situated in the heart of Barcelona just to the left of Las Ramblas. Just perfect and great value.
Embarkation was a breeze and we were soon greeted by our daughter who has been working on board for some 4 months. It was great to see her again.
She gave us a whistle stop tour of the ship before we stopped for lunch on the outside area of the Ocean view cafe. A glass of wine was immediately ordered as I was on a mission to max' out the premium alcohol package I had preordered a week earlier. This set the tone of the whole cruise!
We had visited all the ports before except Villefrance so it was a very pleasant surprise. It was great to return to Kotor again after a 40 year gap. I was last there as a 12 year old with my parents so it was nice to relive my time there. However I went a step further whilst there! Overlooking the pretty town was a fortress with a small church half way up. I only got as far as this church 40 years ago so I was determined to climb further. In all 1355 steps were taken in the mid day sun (temp' 88F). The view from the top was spectacular and pictures of the ship lying below look anasing.
Another highlight was in Dubrovnik where we kayaked 7 kms around an island past a nudist beach before returning to the beautiful walled town.
We had sailed on Constellation 8 months earlier and liked the "solsticised" interior but we were unprepared for what a proper Solstice ship looked like. It is probably the best looking both inside and out of any cruise ship we've been on. The attention to detail and the flow of the interior features and public areas was incredible.
My favourite haunts were the Molecular bar where Brian (the bartender) prepared for me all the coctails on his list. I also spent a lot of daytime in either the Sunset bar or the Mast bar enjoying a Peroni or three!! The bartenders soon know you have the drinks package and never let your bottle become empty before a refill is opened.
The main pool area was very busy in the daytime so we found a nice quiet spot on the Solstice deck just above the glass covered pool. This became our daily spot and was just perfect for the outside grill/bar. I was a little disappointed though with the burgers they served. They weren't cooked to order like those on Princess so were not fresh and certainly not hot enough for me.
The Ocean view cafe had a great atmosphere and seats were never too difficult to find. Food was OK but never hot enough for me unless you have pasta which they dip into hot water just before serving individual portions.
Food in the MDR was very good (particularly the steaks) but the desserts were a little disappointing (no soufflettes either). Wine was copious however followed by a Zambia. We were on Select dining which was ideal as our daughter had duties to attend so we timed our dining around her. It was great to eat as a family again. We even had diner with her boyfriend in Silk Harvest and what a feast we had there. We left it to our daughter to select the dishes and she didn't let us down. We also tried the Tuscan Grill and the view from the back watching Civitavecchia disappear into the distance was excellent. Well worth the supplement.
We saw most of the shows and enjoyed them all, particularly the finale show. Seeing captain Gerry perform was a surprise but he was great. One of the best captains I've had. Always visible around the ship and a great sport for joining in the water volleyball competition which was hilarious.
If I had to say one bad thing about the cruise it was the lack of ballroom/Latin dancing. The floor at the bottom of the main staircase was just too small. There were a few opportunities in the Sky lounge to dance but the floor soon got consumed by what appeared to be mostly Spanish kids once they had surfaced from the MDR sometime after 11 pm.
That aside it was a great cruise for me and my wife although our 20 year old son could have done with more company of his age. The night club didn't have the same energy compared with Princess. Celebrity just doesn't seem to attract the numbers in his age group like Princess do.
Needless to say the staff were all excellent particularly the Activities team, with special mention to Kirsten, Jason and Valentina.
Any one unsure about purchasing the drinks package should just give it a go. I can assure you, you wont be disappointed.