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TLCOhio

Solstice Live/First-Timer Reports/Pix’s: Italy/Croatian June 7-19

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At the top of these boards, it says “write a review”, so here goes, in live, blogging style. Last July we did our third cruise. Lots of great visuals to share along that Norway coast and fjords routing going up to the North Cape. That posting is now over 43,000 views. Appreciate those who tuned in.

 

This year, it was Tuesday, June 8, for our boarding of the Celebrity Solstice from Barcelona. We enjoyed time getting to know the ship, its offerings, lunch on the back Oceanview area, dinner in the main dining room, etc.

 

Today, we just completed tendering in Villefranche, seeing this area and to the east, including Menton and Monaco.

 

There are lots of details, pictures and first-impressions for the ship to share, but first a little background and pictures on Barcelona. It’s a super great city and port that has gotten even better since our first visit there in 1998. There is so much charming history and architecture, both classical and contemporary, in this city that is in Spain, but really its own region and special world. You will see that in some of the pictures below. During our afternoon and evening there, we did two different hop-on, hop-off bus tours of the city. From that top-level view on a wonderfully-nice, super-perfect weather day, I took over 400 pictures. Those have been narrowed-down to just twelve below. More Barcelona pictures will come later from breakfast and touring their super special market located along the famed la Rambla before going to board our ship mid-day.

 

Our party and experiences?: We are traveling with another couple from Central Ohio, Amy and Milt, who have done many, many Celebrity cruises, including two previously on the Solstice. We have connected with many others on this trip previously “connected” through these Cruise Critic boards. On our first day on the ship, we met and talk with a number of these CC board members through a 5 pm sail-away at the Sunset Bar, plus an 8:15 pm private party at the Michael’s Club. The Cruise Director was there playing piano, plus the Hotel Director and some other top ship officials attending.

 

Our past cruising?: We have done just three cruises. Late June 2006 on 204-passenger Seabourn Spirit, Athens to Istanbul, enjoying the Greek Isles over seven days. Then late July 2008 on the 940-passenger Crystal Symphony, Dover to Stockholm, enjoying the Baltics and Russia. And last year’s July 1-16 adventure on the 296-passenger Silver Cloud from Copenhagen seeing the dramatic Norway coast, above the Arctic Circle, Land of the Midnight Sun, etc. All three lines were excellent with great service, fellow passengers, staff, etc. What’s best? The honest answer is . . . “It depends!!!”. Ports, schedules, timing and prices vary much, especially right now with this economy, high airlines costs, challenged dollar values, etc. You need to seek what best fits your exact personal needs, budget and interests. That’s why we are sampling a larger ship, being with good friends, seeing previously-visited places in France, Spain and Italy, plus two highly-desired, first-time stops along the Croatian Coast.

 

OVERALL SCHEDULE/PLAN:

 

June 5, Sunday, depart Columbus, Ohio, through New York’s JFK airport; arrive Barcelona, Monday, June 6 early afternoon. Overnight at Hotel Regencia Colon near the historic Cathedral.

 

June 7, Tuesday, 5 pm, Celebrity Solstice departure from Barcelona.

 

June 8, Wednesday, 10 am to 8 pm, Villefranche, east of Nice, tendered. With private tour guide, visiting Monaco & Menton along the coast to the east.

 

June 9, Thursday, 7 am-7 pm, Laspezia port near Pisa and Florence, personal tour to the terraced coastal villages of Cinque Terre with private guide.

 

June 10,*Friday, 7 am-7 pm, Civitavecchia port near Rome, train into Rome; special Scavi/Necropolis tour under the Papal Basilica of St. Peter, options for other churches and nearby sights.

 

June 11, Saturday, 7 am-7 pm, Naples, private tour for scenic Ravello village overlooking the sea, Amalfi coast drive, historic remains at Herculaneum and Naples’ famed Archeological Museum with Pompeii relics.

 

June 12, Sunday, at sea.

 

June 13, Monday, Kotor, Montenegro, sail-in through fjord-like settings; 7 am-4 pm, tendered; ship tour to Old Royal Capital of Cetinje, various mountain overview areas, coastal walled city, etc.

 

June 14, Tuesday, arrive 2 pm in Venice, over-night there in port, various Venice options, special dinner there at canal-side at Restorante da Raffaele.

 

June 15, Wednesday, depart 2 pm from Venice after early morning sunrise walking in this historic city with its architectural treasures.

 

June 16, Thursday, 8:30 am-6 pm, Dubrovnik, Croatia, on-our-own-walking of walled areas, touring older/historic city areas, lunch at scenic coastal restaurant overlooking historic harbor, cable car ride to the mountain top.

 

June 17, Friday, at sea, sailing back to Barcelona. 39th wedding anniversary dinner at evening speciality Murano dining spot.

 

June 18, Saturday, at sea, sailing back to Barcelona.

 

June 19, Sunday, arrive Barcelona, 6 am; overnight at Hotel Onix Liceo, just off of the la Rambla. depart Monday, June 20 air flight to Columbus.

 

Many more details, ship impressions and pictures to come. There is so much to see and do on the ship, plus an initial, very intense first four port days, that it will take a little time to catch up.

 

THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio

 

For lots of interesting details, great visuals, etc., from our last July 1-16 Norway Coast/Fjords/Arctic Circle cruise experience from Copenhagen on the Silver Cloud, check out this posting. Don’t be shy and feel free to ask any questions of interest. This posting is now at 43,080 views. Appreciate those who have “tuned in”.

http://www.boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1227923

 

 

For Barcelona, one of the most famous sites is its main and historic Cathedral that is over 700-years old and right around the corner from our hotel.:

 

BarcelMainCathedGreatSky.jpg

 

Overlooking the harbor is this statue/column to Christopher Columbus, plus a couple of government buildings.:

 

BarcelColStatueGovBldg.jpg

 

 

Overlooking the Barcelona harbor is this old warehouse building that is now a museum for this area with many water-front dining places.:

 

BarcelWaterOldWarehouseMus.jpg

 

 

Barcelona has many apartment building with interesting architecture details. Here the iron railings are wonderful with a local lady taking a look as we pass below.:

 

BarcelBalconyIronworkLady.jpg

 

 

Near one of famed architect Gaudi’s most famous building, here is a unique street light design along one of Barcelona’s major boulevards.:

 

BarcelGaudiStreetLight.jpg

 

 

This is a closer look at the top of one of Gaudi’s most famous buildings in Barcelona.:

 

BarcelTightGaudiBldgDetails.jpg

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Here’s more on Barcelona and why it is so interesting, historic and fun! Lots more details on the Solstice, southern France, Italy, etc., to come.

 

Let me know any questions or reactions.

 

THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio

 

 

For Barcelona’s 1929 World Exposition, many buildings were constructed, including this museum with its classical design touches.:

 

BarcelDomedMuseum1929.jpg

 

 

Our first night in Barcelona, included wonderful tapas and a spectacular paella in a small dining place near our hotel. Here is the lady preparing some of the food.:

 

BarcelFoodPrepTapas.jpg

 

 

Here is one of Barcelona’s many unique architectural treats.:

 

BarcelDomeBuildingTopTrees.jpg

 

 

Gaudi’s new Cathedral is still under construction, making progress toward a potential 2026 completion. The Pope was here last fall for a dedication. This design is “unique”, innovative and in some ways strange. Here is one small sampling what has been done, so far.:

 

BarcelGaudiCathedralCrains.jpg

 

 

Barcelona just won the championship in soccer or football. Here are some of the banners now up in the area next to the stadium where they play their home games.:

 

BarcelSoccerChamps.jpg

 

 

At night, this is one of the famous squares in Barcelona with a welcoming and interesting water fountain.:

 

BarcelNightFountainSquare.jpg

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Thank you for the excellent report on the first days of your cruise. We look forward to hearing - and seeing - more!

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Thank you so much for doing this! We have several sets of friends on this cruise and it will be great fun to follow along as you share your adventures. Barcelona has been one of my favorite cities for years, loved seeing the pictures of so many great spots. Thank you and I will really look forward to your posts! Hope your weather is lovely and the seas smooth... have a marvelous trip.

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Hi TLCOhio !

 

Thanks for the your report, and the beautiful photos. I look foward to your next update. Enjoy your Cruise !

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Hi Terry,

Great photo's. Looking forward to the rest of your report.We join the Ship on the 19th. Have a wonderful time. Getting really excited now. :D

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Hey Terry.. don't know how you find the time to write up sooo much, AND take all the photos... good job:). Whilst you are on board can you report back about average drinks cost (pay as you go).. beer ? average wine ? cocktails etc... do they still do the bucket of beer promo ? how much ?

 

Can't wait for your next update ! Have fun :D

 

Fig.

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TLC this is so great to take us along on your journey! Can't wait to read your impressions of the Solstice and all the ports!

I am sure every one appreciates all your efforts! Can't wait to read more!

Have a wonderful holiday and don't spend all your free time on the puter!!!

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Beautiful photos TLC. I particularly like the tapas bar one with the sun shining on the oranges. Look forward to more. Have a great cruise :D

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Thanks, Terry. What great photos! We are on this cruise in September, and your live report is making me even more excited!

 

I do have a question for you. How did the tenders for Villefranche work? Do you need a ticket, if so when did you get them? Did you have any trouble getting off the ship right away? Thanks!

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Hi Terry,

We are honeymooning on the Solstice Western Med cruise on 5th September and will be following your review.

Hope you enjoy every minute :D

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TLC, thank you so much for the report and pictures. We will be on this same cruise Sept. 29! Can't wait to see/read the next chapter of your voyage.

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Terry, as usual wonderful pictures and also equally wonderful descriptions.

 

Bon Voyage!

 

Keith

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Arrived early Wednesday am in the very industrial port town near Pisa. Kind of cloudy, but with some sun breaking through. Going to Cinque Terre on a private tour today. More picture opportunities if it doesn’t rain too much. Appreciate so much all of the nice comments on my reports, so far, and the PICTURES!!! Yes, people do like the visuals and they are fun doing.

 

Wireless Internet service on ship is fairly mixed in quality, but I will keep working away. Beautiful ship!!! The beer, on draft, was $6.15, with tax while in the Barcelona harbor. More later!!!

 

THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio

 

 

The Solstice is positioned in the port with this beautiful harbor surrounding the area.:

 

VillefrancheSolsticeInHarbor.jpg

 

The charm and beauty of Villefranche is clear in this picture of its harbor area greeting visitors.:

 

VillefranchePortMountains.jpg

 

 

We went through the old areas of Villefranche, seeing the narrow steps, flowers, etc.:

 

VillefrancheFlowersNarrowSteps.jpg

 

 

Villefranche’s walled fortress is the “real thing”. It makes the point of how this town’s history was based in the 1500’s, etc.:

 

VillefrancheFortressWalls.jpg

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With the super wonderful Brigitte as our host, we went east via the local bus, learning lots about the area, seeing her Monaco, then to Menton. We super enjoyed her help and fun adventure for our group of four from Central Ohio.

 

THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio

 

 

In Monaco, which has been building and booming big time, they just completed the Grand Prix race here and we went by the scenic Casino with the gardens and fountains in front over top of a large parking garage. They are getting ready for the big wedding event with their ruling Prince.:

 

MonacoCasinoWaterFountains.jpg

 

 

Menton is to the east of Monaco and right next to the Italy border. It is a charming seaside town without the crowds and congestion.:

 

MentonStatueBldgsDowntown.jpg

 

 

Menton is known for its citrus products and here’s a example of those wonderful products.:

 

MentonCitrusDisplay.jpg

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What an excellent insight to your cruise. We'll be doing the same cruise in August and can't wait.

 

Does the cruise director have a good supporting activities team?

 

Thanks

Peter

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TLC~

 

Thanks for the great review so far. Amazing photos. We board the ship after you disembark. When is your dining time, and would be curious to know your menu selections each night and how well you liked it!

 

Also, is there a piano bar onboard?

 

Thanks!

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Traveller94: Thanks' date=' Terry. What great photos! We are on this cruise in September, and your live report is making me even more excited! I do have a question for you. How did the tenders for Villefranche work? Do you need a ticket, if so when did you get them? Did you have any trouble getting off the ship right away? Thanks! [/quote']

 

StormyWeatherAtSea: Terry thanks for great review - we will be sailing next few months' date=' would like to know cruise director, hotel director, capt. club host, Capt. thanks [/quote']

 

Torybruno: Thanks for the great review so far. Amazing photos. We board the ship after you disembark. When is your dining time' date=' and would be curious to know your menu selections each night and how well you liked it! [/quote']

 

Espirit: Does the cruise director have a good supporting activities team? Also' date=' is there a piano bar onboard? [/quote']

 

Appreciate the continue interest and nice comments. Plus, questions, too. Great! Here’s some added info, so far, only on the second day into our cruise.

 

1. The tenders worked fine in Villefranche. They had ship tenders being used, plus two large ones from a shore service. Things moved and worked well. No big back-ups. You need a ticket that you get from the fourth floor area near where they do wine demo’s and presentations.

 

2. Paul Baya is our Cruise Director on the Solstice June 7-19. He had been on the Eclipse earlier this year and has been with Celebrity since last year. I understand he spent approximately 14 years with NCL and gets super high marks. Comments from others on these boards include: “interacts so well, is an active participant in activities, sings super well and conducts a very funny Newly Wed game.” CC Celebrity Board Host Andy has said: “He was excellent. He's very personable, visible, and quite talented, too.” So far, we have watch him several times and have been very, very impressed. The Hotel Director is Susan Henderson, as i re-call. She’s from the UK and is extremely sharp from a couple meetings with her. Her assistant is from Chicago and he also seems very focused and skilled. The Captain is Yannis Berdos. As understand, he’s from Greece and his wife just had a young baby. This Captain just took over the ship May 26.

 

3. Our dining time is 8:45 pm. We did that our first night in the main dining room, but did the Oceanview Cafe Wednesday night (to improve our schedule for the early schedule this morning) and did the Tuscan Grille tonight. That Tuscan experience was super wonderful. More on that later.

 

4. The cruise director seems to have a good supporting group. There is a piano bar right outside of the Murano and Michael’s Club. BUT, I’m not sure it is exactly what you might seek in a regular piano bar. There is a piano there, but they seems to rotate around different people playing and performing there.

 

TODAY’S TRAVELS/ADVENTURE:

 

The plan was for Cinque Terre, but we knew the weather might be marginal today. It was in that location of Italy today. For our private tour we have been working RomeinLimo for this tour, plus one in Naples. They have been super wonderful, getting high marks from others. Today that was also the case as they knew that the boats would not be operating along that Cinque Terre coast line and that the weather would be too bad to try and to see that type of great site. Then, our challenge was coming up with other options. We focused on a plan that included the historic walled city of Lucca, then doing a brief stop in Pisa for you know what, then going to San Gimignano. That worked very well, including lots of mostly sunny skies, but not too hot. Below are some visuals from today. Lucca is the town of Puccini, has an interesting Roman outdoor theater, offering lots of great shops and other buildings, etc. Great day in Tuscany!!!

 

THANKS! Keep the good questions and comments rolling. In might take a day or two, but I will try to follow-up and answer, plus any special photo requests. Finally, Sunday, we will have a sea day and I can catch up better. Enjoy! Terry in Ohio

 

 

In Lucca, this is the San Michele church, built in the 11th-14th centuries. It is in the heart of this walled town.:

 

LuccaCentralChurchFront.jpg

 

 

This photo angle for the San Michele church shows its tower.:

 

LuccaChurchTower.jpg

 

 

It was a big “WOW” for our first visit to Pisa. This tower is much taller than I expected. They just completed a major cleaning of it in the past few weeks, making things perfect, except for that little foundation problem with one tower. Also impressive here are the Pisa Baptistry and Duomo (main) church. Pisa has a couple of major universities here. There is another church here that also also a learning (and shorter) tower. We drove by that site. Two leaning towers in Pisa! How many knew that?:

 

PisaLeaningTower.jpg

 

 

PisaTowerChurch.jpg

 

 

We had visited San Gimignano in 1999 with our son, but it is a town that is always impressive in history and architectural styles. We had lunch here. Below is a long-shot of the hill town with its tower from the wonderful countryside below and nearby.

 

SanGimiLongShot.jpg

 

 

Within San Gimignano, here is a view of the main Cathedral Square, etc.:

 

SanGimiMainCathedralSquare-1.jpg

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Thanks for the excellent photos - awakening many happy memories of places visited long ago! Keep up the good work - and do continue to enjoy your trip!

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I was at Pisa less than a month ago. I didn't expect to be impressed but when I saw the tower and other buildings it was pretty amazing. It is seriously wonky isn't it? I thought it all looked clean and fresh. I didn't know it had just been cleaned.

 

Loving your pictures. Thank you :)

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Terry, your photos (and descriptions) of Europe, both here and on other threads, continue to take my breath away. They consistently are the best I've seen, giving us a true sense of "being there." I can't wait for more! Thank you in advance for your continued postings. Hope you enjoy the rest of your cruise

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