We’re back from this cruise – they made us get off the ship! I blogged while we were on it, and this page is the best way into the blog entries.
- On embarkation day I did this post;
- the next day was a sea day;
- then came the first formal dinner;
- then we were at Santorini! – always beautiful, and after that was Mykonos;
- next was the highlight of the cruise: Istanbul, for two days: 1st day here, and 2nd day here;
- by now we were more than half way through the cruise, and called at Kusadasi;
- another sea day was followed by the call at Athens;
- the final port of call was Naples;
- the cruise ended with disembarkation.
I also did three posts about the ship and some non-port aspects:
- My first thoughts about Solstice were posted here;
- I posted an account of a meal in Muranos;
- then I posted some further thoughts about the ship;
- Finally, I reported about my photography, and since then I’ve uploaded a number of scanned images to this site.
Summary & Review
Let me sum up my impressions of Solstice and this cruise. The first thing to say is that we had a really great time. We really enjoyed the ship and the itinerary was wonderful. We did a lot of research before the cruise, and it all paid off: we knew how to use the trams in Istanbul, we knew that we needed to get tender tickets for Santorini early, at Mykonos we knew (from previous visits) where we wanted to go, and so on. With the sole exception of an hour or so at Athens, nothing in the itinerary disappointed us. We think there’s something really special about the eastern Mediterranean, and this itinerary gave us a more than a glimpse of it.
We really liked Solstice, as a ship, as well. I know I raised a few issues in the blog posts, but please don’t think that we were going round with long faces saying “if only…if only…”; we weren’t. We’re people who definitely aim to see the glass as half full, so we just concentrated on Solstice’s many, many excellent points, many of which I mentioned in the blog. But to summarise: that 13-deck atrium is stunning, especially the way the space has been used, with the several open locations and the glass elevators. Then there’s the Grand Epernay dining room – another stunning location, both in basic design and in decoration. We liked the Ensemble Lounge, and the Passport Bar also. But we didn’t spend too much time indoors: with such good weather we were on deck as much as possible, enjoying the sun. We were regulars at the Sunset Bar, with one or two visits to the Mast Bar; we thought both were excellent.
The MDR food was great. I don’t know if it’s the result of Jacques van What’is’name’s new menus or just because we’re easy to please, but we enjoyed pretty much all the meals (me slightly more than Val perhaps – she thinks she made a couple of poor choices). Once we’d worked out the best way to use it, we enjoyed the Oceanview cafe as well; light breakfasts, light lunches. We also had a slice of pizza several times in the lat afternoon, and these were delicious. Not many varieties of toppings, but it so happened that two they provided (pepperoni & vegetable) tickled our tastebuds to perfection, so we were happy. Quite often we took hot drinks (cups of tea – we’re Brits…) out onto the OceanView Bar area, aft of the cafe, which is an open deck area with tables and chairs and good views over the stern, and we enjoyed those times a lot – very relaxing.
The cabin was fine. Val still prefers the Ventura layout with the open hanging space, but I wasn’t too bothered. There was plenty of drawer space for us: underwear, etc, went in the drawers under the TV table, and we used the locker space over the bed for storing folded-up things: light shirts, pyjamas, etc. There was plenty of space in the bathroom, and I’d probably rate the shower as the best I’ve experienced on a cruise.
So the truth is – it was great. Would we cruise on a Solstice-class ship again? – well, quite possibly. One thing I must say is that we have come away from this cruise quite reluctant to do another fly-cruise anytime soon, so that rules out Celebrity’s Mediterranean-based cruises (until we change our minds about fly-cruises). Also, as I think I’ve mentioned in the blog posts we’ve already made bookings with P&O for next summer, for cruises out of Southampton. But Eclipse will be based there next year, and if Celebrity maintain that policy (either with Eclipse or another of the class) then we’d definitely consider it for 2011 or 2012.