Thursday, May 28, 2009

Celebrity Solstice 11 night Mediterranean cruise

My travel-agent husband has decided to be fabulous and take me on my first cruise to Europe! We are going to Greece, Turkey, and Italy. We’ve decided to update our blog from the ship with our impressions of the trip. FYI - For complete photo updates from our trip, please check out Direct Line Cruises Facebook fan page.

First thing’s first: The Flight.
I suggest getting a direct flight. Now, in truth, the seven-and-a-half hours went by pretty quickly, especially since we slept most of the way. But really, who wants to be airborne for longer than you need to be? Plus, our overnight seven-and-a-half hour flight fed us both dinner and breakfast. I thought in-flight meals were a thing of the past.

Next up: First impressions of the Celebrity Solstice.
Now, truth be told, we’ve seen this ship before. We created our first impressions during the inaugural, which we stayed 2 nights. Our impressions then were that the ship was just beautiful; there are many cool things about the ship that you just haven’t seen elsewhere. The library is at least 2 floors high, the pool deck has this ‘dancing waters’ display (think The Bellagio in Las Vegas), it also has these very posche ‘white party’ kind of look with huge beds and cabanas. The Solarium (the adult pool area) has its own smaller ‘dancing waters’ display, and the lounge chairs are the beautiful wooden-with-cushions kind that you (okay, I) would never expect to have a patio nice enough to own to put them on. The staterooms are also very modern, very minimalist in its design with flat screen tvs that seconds as a computer. When we got our picture taken upon embarkation they asked us our cabin number, lo and behold when we got to our room, our photo was displayed as the screen saver…very impressive if you like that sort of thing. There are some really cool pieces of art everywhere on the ship, not to mention an actual ‘art gallery’ from which I think you can buy artwork (I don’t see why not). I also like how the specialty restaurants are all in one little corridor. I just think it gives it a different feel than other cruise ships.

The Ugly: The cabins have no storage space.
So, I’m a truthful person. And this is an 11-night cruise. I just think that for two people on an 11-night cruise, finding places to put all your ‘stuff’ was tough. My hubby unpacked before I did, and when I started unpacking I realized that he had taken up most of the drawers! I did manage though, although in the end I think that the minimalist style of décor leaves the storage capacity to suffer. Let me say this: I couldn’t imagine having another person in this stateroom just for the storage room alone. Well, not on an 11-night cruise, for a shorter cruise yes, but probably not on an 11-nighter.

The Exceptional: The service.
So far I have been ridiculously impressed with everyone’s service onboard this Celebrity Cruise. Our first night at dinner we ate at the French restaurant, Murano, we could not believe the service. Everyone kept saying how they were delighted we could join them, how they wanted us to enjoy our stay, etc. I will admit my foolishness; I (wanting to experience my Francais) ordered the lamb, although I didn’t really think about how it would be prepared. When it came out it was nothing like I had envisioned, and it seems that as soon as I took my first bite the waiter flew over and asked how the meal was. (Perhaps he would have come over just as quickly if I did like the meal, but either way I was impressed how quickly he wanted to address the issue). They were quick to exchange my dish and apologized profusely for something that was purely a matter of taste (and my own doing). My husband ordered the filet mignon, which they cook right in front of you! Not only was it quite entertaining to watch them cook, but the steak was excellent. For dessert they cooked this strawberry crepe with ice cream, and flambéed the strawberries in a caramel sauce right before our eyes. It was yet another feast for the eyes, and for the tummy. I would go back for this dessert alone, and of course the goat cheese appetizer. Both were delicious!

Our first port: Santorini, Greece.
We took a Celebrity Shore Excursion to the Village of Ia. Let me say this about doing a shore excursion through the cruise line: someone is always looking for you. If you are at all paranoid about missing the ship, (newsflash: the ship will leave if you don’t return by a certain time) or about sending your kids (um, adult kids) on a cruise to Europe without your watchful eye (hi Moms!) then suggesting them to go on shore excursions sponsored by the cruise ship might be the way to go. It was/is our first time in Europe and we wouldn’t know where to go anyway, so the suggested tours from Celebrity were more than good picks for us. The tour was broken up into three parts: First, we visited a winery. This was ok, it was very pretty, yes, but I felt it was a clever tactic to spend money in their gift store. The tour guide was really great at explaining things to us: did you know that because Santorini is so windy that the grapes for wine are grown on bushes? But anyway, the second part of the tour was The Village of Ia. This was an adorable little village that was as picturesque as they say, however; I found it a little too….created just for tourists. I felt although adorable, it lacked that ‘local’ feel that made me believe it was actually a place that Greeks…live. The third and favorite spot on the tour was town of Fira. Although clearly the tourist trap, I felt like this town had genuine life to it, I felt as though the people who were eating in the shops could be locals. The streets in both towns were narrow and cobbled-stoned. Both picturesque, how could it not be with the domed white buildings and the cobalt blue doors overlook the water? I thought this port was such a great first stop on our trip.

More updates to come. In the meantime, check out all of our first set of photos on the Direct Line Cruises Facebook page.

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