Just recently returned from a 12-day Eastern Mediterranean trip, over all we had a great time. The Solstice staff were engaging and happy to make the stay on the ship as enjoyable as they can. We did not partake in the specialty restaurants but we heard that food there was great. We thoroughly enjoyed the food at the Grand - our dinner seating was at 6:15 pm, we were the fortunate ones as some people that were at the late seating were not happy at all. The staff at the restaurant was attentive and interested in how the food was - they were happy to get you a new entree if we were not satisfied with the dinner. The maitre de was great as we had to move tables third day in as we not satisfied with the location.
There are plenty to do if you so chose, I loved the 'Glass Show' - gives you a better appreciation for glass making. The staff there was to demonstrate and educate - they had a lot of adversity to overcome - wind, rain, and since it was electric heating system they were frequently putting the glass they were making into the ovens in order to keep the glass at a steady temperature. The entertainment was first class; the live music was great especially Top Notch. The DJ; however, had a bit of a problem as he mixed up his British Invasion with his 80's. Our suite had a bit of a problem regulating its room temperature, found that the temperature dipped to cold in the middle of the night (the housekeeping staff was nice enough to bring me two blankets - really helped). Also, credo goes to the steward for coming to the room when I couldn't open the safe in the middle of the night and the purser, Nadine for her due diligence for getting us our onboard credit.
We took advantage of express debarkation: it was a bit disorganized at first because everyone that wanted to leave early was all gathered in one area just outside the elevators where the theatre was located (front of the ship). The staff did not know what deck we were supposed to leave - until he had word from the captain. There was about a 15 minute wait and then we had to lug our luggage to the back end of the ship. That was the only glitch. Loads of taxis waiting at Barcelona, Spain.
A nice gesture: whenever arriving from outing there was staff from Solsitce greeting you on the dock area and a place to sit if you wanted as well as beverages like hot chocolate, water, and juice were offered before going back onto the ship.
Recommendations for this trip: I would like to have all informations regarding shore excursions including shuttles be on the website. Also, how far the dock yard is from the place of visit. All tour guides on excursions should have their patrons write their names and suite down, this helps identify who is missing. There were a couple times where there was a miscount and people that won't supposed to be on the excursion were counted thus accidentally leaving the people that were on that particular excursion out without a paddle so to speak.
Overall, the cruise was great. I know it would have been nice to have had two days at sea at the end to rest up before heading home but one always have to keep in mind, learning to pace one self is a good thing. I didn't mind being exhausted as we had a 14 hour plane trip home - gave me plenty of time to catch up on my sleep.
We stayed inside cabin on deck 7 - aft; I had requesting mid ship (not granted) as I get motion sickness quite easily - not a good place to be the last night at aft. Very noisy whenever the ship docks, I can tell you the exact time when they docked. The room was nice but design space is not well thought out. There is a large couch which takes up a lot of space, I had difficulty fitting my medium size luggage into the closet as the couch was next to the closet. Unable to move the couch - heavy may have been bolted. The closet itself is small. My husband's large size luggage was placed underneath the bed. It could not accommodate mine as lifejackets were also stored there. Not enough shelving units, and inside two of the shelves were warm. I do not know why. Since our tv was wall anchored we had to watch tv on the couch and not in bed. As mentioned before, the room temperature dropped in the middle of the night.
1. Dubronik, Croatia - docked; Excursion: Tram and walked around the walled town. FYI, if you don't want to take an excursion - you can walk from the ship to the walled town, I would say it's about 1/2 hour to an hour depending what kind of condition you are in. It's not a difficult walk.
2. Venice, Italy - docked. Fortunately for us, I had gone to the Excursion desk on the 1st day and found out that they offered water shuttle service for 22.00 US per person, one day unlimited use. This is not advertised on their excursion website. There is a metro (rail) service for 1 Euro but then you need to use the water taxis. Venice is beautiful, be prepared for water level rising. If you're wondering why there's tables at St. Mark Square and elsewhere around Venice - it's for walking on when the area is flooded.
Make sure you have a good map, it's a maze and remember, the name of the streets are on the buildings (like most European cities).
The second day at Venice, we were on an excursion to Murano - glass blowing factory, it was also informative. George, the master glass maker of horse was brilliant. Next was S. George Island - very brief visit to a church then gondola ride with 2 other couples. I think we had the grumpest gondelier - didn't want to talk or joke with us. He didn't even tell us that he was going to tip the boat a bit in order to go through the canal - we were panicking thinking we were going to tip over. Poor Blake - a nice gentleman that placed in front of the boat, guess he was our anchor - we kept telling him to stop moving and sit still!
The ride is nice - gives you a different perspective of Venice. This excursion was of good value as just the gondola ride is usually over 100 US and we had 3 things to do for under 100 US per person.
3. Kotor, Montenegro - tendered. We were shuttled by the Solstice Crew - use of Solstice lifeboat - no charge for this service. We had to line up in the morning to get a ticket that were handed out on deck 3.
Walked around the walled area as well as outside the walled area - very clean and quiet. We did not purchase an excursion; paid 3 Euros per person to go up the Old Fort - it's worth the hike up the hill as the view of Kotor was spectacular. The hike (upward climb) is approximately 45 + minutes - depending on your physical condition, going down may take a bit more time - knees will hurt. FYI, wear a good pair of shoes as it's rocky going up and down the hill.
4. Rome, Italy - docked. "Roam on your own excursion' - our tour guide, "Mama Maria" was great as she had us write down our names and room number - so she wouldn't lose us. She informed us that Nov 1 was All Saints Day and most of the places were closed but would re-open around 1 p.m except the Chapel. There was also a marathon the time that we arrived, it was chaos - packed with people. Maria escorted us out of the mayhem to a quieter place and then left us. We enjoyed out time in Rome - since it was our 2nd visit we basically roamed around, avoiding the touristy places.
5. Naples, Italy - docked. We went to on an excursion to Pompeii. Enjoyed the historic site. We also received a bottle of water. Take advantage of the toilets inside the Pompeii - I did. The tour guide never said anything to anyone, I just happened to find it as I wandered from the group as I was taking photos. The washrooms are just inside the first area that the guide takes you. If you don't want to purchase an excursion and roam around Naples you can as the ship is docked right at Naples. I found Naples a little noisy - drivers are honking their horns every few seconds.
6. Florence, Italy - docked. We bought the excursion onboard the ship - we wanted to 'Roam on your own' but we were happy with a tour guide as she gave us plenty of time to roam on our own. She was very good, like Maria - she had us write down our names and suite number. The old part of Florence is beautiful. Loads of shops - leather goods - boots, coats, purses.
7. Toulon, France - docked. This was unscheduled visit as there was a storm brewing at Marseilles, so the captain for safety reasons decided to go to Toulon. We took advantage of the last day since it rained the morning of our arrival, we slept in, did some light packing, and then went for walk at Toulon. There is shuttle service from the ship to the centre of town - I think the cost was $8 US per person. There is a better deal just outside the dock area, you can't miss it - a blue train and the cost is 3.50 Euros per person round trip and drops you off at the centre of town, runs every 30 minutes. The walk is nice. FYI, shops closes at 12 and reopen at 3 p.m. (We had shuttle tickets for Marseilles but we cancelled them the night before when we found out that we were not docking at Toulon. Glad we did as we heard that the traffic was horrible and so was the weather.)