Eastern Mediterranean Cruise
Friday June 12 to Friday June 26, 2009

Our thoughts on the different elements of this vacation

With this being our second cruise, the inevitable comparison to the first cruise came up throughout this vacation. Both cruises were with Celebrity, both with the then current flag ship of their fleet. So, overall, how’d this one stack up? Well, the best way to look at it is by looking at some of the specifics of this cruise vacation and comparing it to the previous cruise where appropriate.

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  • 1.   Cruise Consultant

    For our second cruise, we went directly back to Elisabeth Anniehs at Expedia CruiseShipCenters in Brampton to make the arrangements. Elisabeth had done a great job for our first cruise, so it was very easy to go back to her for this one. In addition to the actual cruise, Elisabeth provided some excellent options for our days in Rome prior to the cruise. Our two experiences with Elisabeth have been very positive and we know that she took the effort to provide personal service to us in booking our cruise vacations.

  • 2.   The Air Arrangements

    Our biggest complaint about our first cruise was easy to fix for our second - we did not take the air arrangements from Celebrity this time around. Booking flights separately gave us the opportunity to select direct flights between Toronto and Rome, and purchasing the Celebrity transfers to and from the ship made the total travel package easy. We’d for sure do it this way again. Big plus this trip over the last one.

  • 3.   Rome, Italy

    If you had read the pages from Rome you might have picked up that we loved Rome. Well, more accurately, we LOVE Rome! Starting this cruise vacation with a mini vacation in Rome was perfect. It was one of the main motivating factors in selecting this particular cruise itinerary. The only thing that might have made it better would have been a little longer in the eternal city! All elements of our time in Rome was truly memorable (you’ll have to read the Rome pages to get the details!). We can easily find ourselves heading back to Rome.

  • 4.   Cruise Itinerary
    2009 Med Cruise Itinerary

    The ports of call on this 11-night cruise were:

    Civitavecchia (Rome), Santorini, Mykonos, Istanbul (two days), Kusadasi, Piraeus (Athens), Naples, Civitavecchia (Rome).

    As we mentioned above, the starting point of Civitavecchia was important to us and a big reason for us selecting this itinerary to be able to spend some pre-cruise time in Rome. Also, the scheduled two days in Istanbul appealed to us as well.

    There were some overlaps with our previous cruise, but the itinerary was also different enough to make the whole experience feel unique. Returning to some places we had been before also gave us a great opportunities to try some different things while at those locations. This trip was more focused on history than the our previous Western Mediterranean cruise in 2006. We could probably do all of our future cruising in the Mediterranean and not get tired of it!

    The original information about this cruise had one additional port of call - the Greek island of Rhodes on the day after Kusadasi, Turkey. It was removed from the itinerary because it would have fallen on Monday, June 22 and almost everything is closed in Rhodes on Mondays. That was too bad; one less day as sea and one more port of call would have been nice.

  • 5.   Celebrity Solstice

    For this cruise we were on a ship that had been launched on November 23, 2008, so it was very new. It was truly a beautiful ship with so many wonderful amenities. Celebrity Solstice, with its passenger capacity of 2850, was quite a bit bigger than Celebrity Millennium that we had sailed on in 2006. The newness of the ship was a big plus and the design of this ship was wonderful. This larger ship also had more specialty restaurants, which we also found to be a plus. The down side was the main dining room - and it is possible that the size difference is partially the reason: more passengers to feed in the same amount of time. More about service below.

    The design of modern cruise ships is amazing, with the keel being very shallow relative to the size and displacement of the ship. To keep stable in the water, they utilize stabilizer arms that extend out either side of the ship while sailing. We found that this system on Celebrity Millennium provided a more stable cruise than did on Celebrity Solstice. Why? Good question. Could be the size difference between the ships or could be that the kinks hadn’t quite been ironed out of the stabilizer system on Celebrity Solstice at the time we were on it. The ocean conditions seemed similar to us between the two cruises, but there may have just been enough difference to also have an impact on what we felt. The cruise industry looks to be pushing the envelope with “bigger and better” ships launched and planned. There probably is a perfect size for stability/features/amenities/service onboard a ship - and from our limited cruise experience we’d say that mark is closer to the size of Celebrity Millennium over Celebrity Solstice.

  • 6.   Cruise Service

    The overall service on the ship was good, but it didn't stand out to us like it had on our previous Celebrity cruise. Was that because it was our second time and our level of expectation was higher? That is certainly possible. Did the economic downturn play a part? Possible, as well. We had a overall good experience with those on the ship serving us, so there are no complaints - just a sense of it not being quite the same service as we had experienced on Celebrity Millennium in 2006. Even on the same ship in the same year, a crew change must make a big difference on one's overall impression of a ship. As we had done on our previous cruise we had booked the slightly higher level of service called Concierge Class, and on balance we still think that the additional cost was worth it. We did find that the cabin attendants on this cruise were not as good as on the previous one, but that is probably the luck of the draw. We had the sense on this cruise that our main room attendant did the bare minimum possible. His assistant did the vast majority of the work that we witnessed.

    Our experiences at the specialty restaurants onboard Celebrity Solstice were certainly highlights for us. We dined at Silk Harvest, Murano and Tuscan Grille. The service at all three of these restaurants was very good, and the food was lovely. The only specialty restaurant we didn't go to was Blu because it was for the use of people booked in a class of service called Aqua Class. That service didn't interest us in the least, with perhaps the exception of trying Blu for dinner. Our experiences at the main restaurant, the Grand Epernay Dining Room, wasn’t as good as we had found 3 years before on Celebrity Millennium. It is possible that the size difference plays a part in that - more people to serve in the same time. Our main table server was not really of the calibre or style that we would have liked. That had a part in our overall main dining room feel for us. We were very glad that we had meals planned throughout the cruise in the specialty restaurants. If we were to cruise again on a ship like Celebrity Solstice, we’d be surely tempted to book most or all of our onboard dinners in the speciality restaurants.

    The Cruise Director Gary Walker was very good, and now having experienced two vastly different styles in that job we'd say the person in the role does make a difference on a cruise.

  • 7.   Cruise Entertainment

    Similar to our previous cruise, the entertainment on the ship was good but not great. We went to a only few of the shows at the Solstice Theatre. The signature show - “Solstice: The Show” was good, and clearly where they put most of their effort. Some of the other musical/entertainment acts they had booked for the main theatre just didn’t appeal to us. We did enjoy the musical acts that performed around the ship throughout the cruise. Our favourite was the Four Seasons Quartet - a group of 4 women: 3 on violin and 1 on cello. We had many a coffee at Cafe al Bacio while enjoying their music. Next best would be an a cappella foursome named SoulD Out. They were very entertaining. The remaining performers were all enjoyable, and that part of the onboard entertainment was much better this cruise over our previous one.

  • 8.   Shore Excursions

    We booked shore excursions in all the ports of call. In places we had been before we were able to try different tours to the one we had done previously, and that was nice. There were a couple of standout tour guides, and most were good. We think we had a better bunch of guides on the excursions for this cruise. The excursions were also more history-based this time around, which suited us well. We also did take advantage of returning to the ship separately from tours whenever possible.

Wrapping Up . . .

Just like after the first cruise - the test of any experience - would we do it again? We’d say absolutely yes. There were things that were better on this cruise over the first one and things that weren’t as good - but we enjoyed them both. Will be interesting to see what size/sort of ship and what kind of itinerary we select for the next cruise, but vacationing on the sea is something we would like to do again.

Time to start looking at brochures, we think...

About WHITEonline

WHITEonline is the digital home of Gary & Linda White. We’ve been married since 1980 and live just outside Toronto in Ontario, Canada. Linda was born and raised in Toronto while Gary was born in London, England and moved to Canada at the age of 11. We enjoy travelling and taking photos while we travel. WHITEonline provides the opportunity to share some of our photos & experiences.

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