Smooth Sailing aboard the Celebrity Solstice: Celebrity Solstice Cruise Review by Travel Writing Mary

Celebrity Solstice 5
Travel Writing Mary
Member Since 2011
405 Forum Posts

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Smooth Sailing aboard the Celebrity Solstice

Sail Date: October 2011
Destination: Europe - Eastern Mediterranean
Embarkation: Barcelona
Celebrity Solstice
We sailed on the Solstice Oct. 11 out of Barcelona. She is a lovely ship. Having sailed on the Millenium this past January, we were looking forward to the same high quality Celebrity is known for. In most ways, the Solstice stood up to our consequently high expectations.

Boarding was smooth and efficient in spite of the fact that half the passengers seemed to be boarding at this time. From the moment we handed over our luggage until we were on the ship, it only took about 20 minutes.

We boarded around 12:30 and took the advice of another Cruise Critic member, and we proceeded to the 'Bistro on Five' for lunch. This way we avoided the craziness at the buffet upstairs, where everyone was trying to gather food from the various stations with their wheeled carryons, etc. (Note: when packing, put a smaller bag inside your carry-on bag so you can take your breakables like cameras on board in it and check your carry-on with your regular bag at the More embarkation point.) The Bistro On Five is great and only $5 per person. This includes a salad, sandwich or crepe, and dessert. Our rooms were available at 1:30 so we were able to finish lunch and go immediately to our stateroom.

We had a balcony stateroom and it was great. Narrow, of course, but very spacious and lots of places to stow stuff. The bathroom was terrific; large and a great shower. We didn't even use all the drawers in the bathroom. The only thing that was strange was the closet; it runs parallel to the bed and it's a tight fit if two of you are trying to get clothes out of there at once. However it allows more space for the bathroom, I believe, so it's worth the inconvenience. We brought a bunch of thin wire hangers in our suitcase, and there was plenty of room for our clothes for a 12-night cruise. The bed was plenty large and my husband and I both found it really comfortable. It was quiet except when the doors to the staterooms on either side of us slammed shut, and you could hear someone below when they coughed really loudly, but luckily that didn't happen too much! On deck 8 the staterooms are all on one side of the hallway, so you don't have to deal with other passengers across the hall from you.

There are two big shelves over the bed, but it's hard to reach the parts of them furthest from the edge of the bed without standing on the bed (I am 5'5" tall). The covers for these compartments are hinged from the top so you have to hold it up with one hand and fish out your clothing item with the other. The balcony was more spacious than I thought it would be and you can recline the chairs to make them into 'chaise lounges'. We really enjoyed several sunsets as we sailed out of port, from our balcony. (We were on the port side, deck 8).

We ate breakfast in the main dining room twice. Both times we were led to a table with several people already there. The service was extremely slow. The second time, the others at our table ordered 'courses' of fruit etc. and then the main meal, so even though we just ordered the eggs & sausage, we had to wait and wait until others at the table were served the 'preliminaries'.
On days in port, the Ocean Cafe upstairs is very crowded for breakfast and lunch. Fortunately everyone was very social and friendly on this cruise (you must be to join 2800 others on your vacation!) and no one minded sharing their breakfast and lunch tables. We had a wonderful conversation with a couple from Columbia one morning. The number of items available at breakfast is truly staggering. I am glad we were on a 12-night cruise because it takes at least 7 days/nights to figure out all the offerings in the Ocean Cafe. The coffee stations are very congested, and they definitely need a few more of them.

I thought the various offerings of things to do on board were good and varied. We never got time to do the 'ipad' tour of the art. You get an ipad at the desk and use it to take a tour of all the art works on the ship. Speaker Linda Seidel was very good. She lectured about Caravaggio and Gaudi/Picasso on two separate lectures. Glenn Olsen, a professor, also lectured. His style is very 'old school' with old art slides and a slow delivery of information. If you attend his lectures sit in front. After a few minutes a lot of people rudely left, causing others to have to stand up so they could pass down the aisle.

I did a Reidel glass activity ($15) that was really fun. The idea is, you taste wines in the glasses designed to complement the type of wine, then taste it out of a 'regular' wine glass. There really was a difference. I also did the tour of the kitchen and that was fun too.

The other entertainment was o.k. The magician was good; Claire Maiden was a piano player/country western-style singer from England (!) with a beautiful voice. The violinist was probably good too, but the sound system was SO LOUD I had to keep my fingers in my ears the entire performance. I loved the next-to-last night 'Circ de'Soliel' style performance and thought it was excellent.

The internet on Solstice is faster than on the Millenium. However the Solstice uses Apple laptops which, if you are a P.C. user, causes some challenges because the format is somewhat different. It's very expensive.

Everyone should have one martini at the martini bar. Go when Sheldon and Petar are there. They put on quite a show for us; if four people order martinis they will do a fancy juggling/pouring act that was as fun and entertaining as anything we saw on the main stage in the theater onboard.

The itinerary was great. We loved all the ports of call except Athens. When we were in Athens, the workers were on strike so we couldn't visit the Acropolis or the National Museum. (Also it was raining pretty hard). However, we did walk all the way around the bottom of the Acropolis, and spent two hours fascinated by the new Acropolis museum. I highly recommend it. We did a couple ship tours, did Rome, Athens, and Santorini on our own, and Turkey with an independent tour company. They are pretty efficient getting everyone off the ship and onto their tour busses, but it is a much larger crowd to manage than aboard the Millenium. If you take a ship shore excursion, get to the theater a few minutes early so you can get on a bus sooner. We were amazed at how crowded the Mediterranean is in October. In Santorini to take the funicular back to the tender we had to wait in line 45 minutes. Others waited over an hour.

Overall it is a good cruise product but we didn't feel it was quite as great as the Millenium. I think the cabin attendants have too many cabins to clean. On other cruise ships, the room would be clean by the time you got back from breakfast. Sometimes ours wasn't cleaned until early afternoon. Also on the Millenium the cabin attendants were often in the hallways and would stop and talk to you if they saw you coming down the hall.

The specialty restaurant aboard the Millenium, the Olympic Restaurant, was fabulous. We ate in the Tuscan Grill aboard the Solstice, and it was good, but not $80-for-two better than the regular menu.The Tuscan Grill lacks the atmosphere and ambiance of the Olympic aboard the Millenium, and I felt the service in the Tuscan Grill was rushed. If I had it to do over I'd eat all dinners in the main dining room but eat several times at Bistro on Five for lunch. The food in the main dining rooms was terrific. My husband had one piece of very dry fish, and over 400 people complained about the lobster on the last night, (I bet they change vendors or the way they cook it in the future) but other than that, everything tasted terrific. The dining room service was fast if you were at a table for two, and much slower at a large table, but still very good.

The Solstice is the smoothest-sailing and quietest ship I have ever been on, though. You had to look outside to see that you were moving. We had one night with some bouncy waves (I don't get seasick so I thought it was fun). Overall I think Celebrity has an excellent product and it is a good value. Less

Published 10/28/11

Cabin review: 1C8287 Deluxe Veranda

Cabin 8287. Closet parallels the bed which is weird and awkward but it allows more room for the big bathroom which is a plus. Very good location; but it is the first cabin next to the 'bump' so you can't look to the right and see the front of the ship. However since the ship has two bumps on each side like that, few cabins will have the full view to the right and left. Nice sized balcony. I would book this same cabin again!

Read All Deluxe Veranda (1C) Reviews >>

Port and Shore Excursions

Athens was my least favorite port. The state workers were on strike, so the Acropolis and the National Museum were closed. However we walked around the base of the Acropolis and then we spent two hours enjoying the New Acropolis Museum. Highly recommended. The parts of Athens we saw were very dreary; boring apartment buildings, lots of trash and graffiti. We were going to ride the subway in, but with the heavy rain and all the strikes we were worried we'd get soaked going to & from the metro stations and perhaps have trouble getting back to the ship. So we took the very expensive shuttle into town and back.

We loved Barcelona. It is packed with fantastic things to see & do. We visited the Barri Gotec (Old city) the first day after flying all night from Detroit by way of Philadelphia. It is pedestrain-only, so you don't have to get run over on your first day. We visited the Cathedral there and took the elevator to the roof. That was worthwhile. I wish now we'd allowed two days instead of one there before the cruise. We did it all on our own; we stayed at Hotel Jazz which is an excellent location from which to walk nearly everywhere. On our last day, we got off the ship and went back to the Jazz, dumped our luggage, and caught a bus (right at the end of the street) which took us to the entrance of Park Guell (Gaudi's 'subdivision' that never was completed). Then we took the bus partway to La Sagrada Familia. I wish now we had gone inside. However, the Gaudi attractions are very expensive (about $22 per person) so we just picked one to go inside. We visited La Pedrera, an apartment building Gaudi designed. We found Barcelona amazingly clean. The food is pretty expensive, but it was good. The Barcelonians are very friendly. Heard so much about pickpockets but I think they must go to the Riviera in the fall/winter and live off their takings from the summer because we saw no signs anywhere. I took a Pacsafe purse and kept my husband's wallet in it. We didn't spend a lot of time walking La Rambla because it is just big fancy stores and we were more interested in exploring the art and architecture. Would LOVE to go back here.
Read 1749 Barcelona Reviews

We loved Turkey. It was the favorite of most of the other passengers too. We went on a tour (not through the cruise ship) that took us to Ephesus. It was crazy-crowded there...when we finished there were about 40 tour busses lined up...but so worthwhile. The best part was touring the terrace houses. After that we went to a state-run place where young girls are taught to weave Turkish rugs (I don't think it's possible to avoid a rug gauntlet in Turkey, but this ended up being very interesting, because we got to watch them making the rugs). After that we enjoyed lunch in the garden where the rug place was, and it was very good. Then we visited St. John's Cathedral and the house of Mary Magdalen. A really fun day!
Read 614 Kusadasi Reviews

LOVED Malta. I could spend about 3 days there. Very clean. Lovely architecture. Went on the ship's walking tour of Malta/Mdina. Highly recommend. Note: keep your eye on your tour guide. She gave us a little 'free time' in Mdina, told us to meet at 1:45 p.m., and we were there a few minutes early. We got on the bus, which was a little ways away from the actual meeting point, and were short two passengers. She left them there. They had to get a cab back to the ship! However the sights in Malta and Mdina are amazing.

We took the ship excursion to Delos. We had an excellent guide for that and we enjoyed it very much. The seas were rough so the ferry from our boat to the island and then from the island of Delos to the main town in Mykonos was quite thrilling. Not good if you are prone to seasickness when there are whitecaps. After touring Delos we were dropped off in town. It was really fun wandering up the twisting narrow streets of Mykonos and getting lost. You can work your way around the crescent of beach to where a shuttle takes you back to the ship. A couple minutes from where you catch the shuttle there is an internet cafe where you can catch up on emails for one euro per 20 minutes.
Read 837 Mykonos Reviews

Went on an AP Tours tour of Pompeii. LOVED Pompeii. Our guide made sure we were the first ones there; so no line to get our tickets and go in. I could easily have spent the day there. Then we went to Positano (very nice) and on to Sorrento. Unfortunately it was raining all afternoon, so we were thrilled we went to Pompeii first. All the others aboard the ship had to see it in the afternoon when it was extremely crowded and it was raining hard. The vistas of Sorrento and the Amalfi drive that you see were wasted on the day we visited because we couldn't see anything much. On a clear day it would have been spectacular.
Read 1171 Naples Reviews

We have been to Rome twice before. You can just walk from the ship to the train station (there are signs) and get a ticket (no lines; but we got there really early) and ride the train to Termini station. From there we walked to the Colosseum and the Forum. There were several trains returning to Civitiavecchia in the afternoon; we went back on the 3:30 one. WAY cheaper than shore excursions etc. if it isn't your first time there. Rome is getting rather scruffy but you can still have a nice luncheon at a little cafe and be serenaded by guitar (which we did).

Santorini's Fira (main) town is pretty much wrecked by all the cruise ship passengers. We were off the boat at 7:30 a.m. and so there was no line for the tender and no line for the finicular to the top of the island. We had hooked up with two other couples and decided to hike to Oia. It took us 3 1/2 hours, but it was basically an easy hike and we stopped to take a lot of pictures. Oia isn't ruined yet. The scenery en route and in Oia is wonderful. We had a nice lunch in a restaurant that looked out on the water. We had to take the bus back (allow a LOT of time to get back on your ship) because the taxi drivers were all on strike. (If you hike from the ship to Oia see if the concierge on board can find out about taxis and busses before you head out). One couple we met on the ship had taken a taxi to Oia but right after being dropped off the taxi drivers all went on strike. We were glad/lucky the busses were running.It's very easy to take the bus back to Fira although it was really crowded (no doubt due to the taxi strike). Fira at 3:30 was insane; we waited 45 minutes to get the finicular back to the tender. Others waited over an hour. We much preferred the peace and quiet of our hike to the chaos of cruise ship passengers milling in the streets. The shops seem pretty much the same wherever we went.

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Travel Writing Mary
Member Since 2011
405 Forum Posts
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