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5/23/12 1st time X/cruise, med. engagement, Paris; oh my! Solstice Med. Trip Report

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Post# 1: Bonjour CC! Sorry for the delay in typing this trip report; life has been busy since the return of our unforgettable European vacation.:o

This trip report will follow my family in detail from our May/June 2012 European Vacation. Our vacation included the 5/23 sailing of the 12-night Celebrity Solstice itinerary out of Barcelona, Spain. Following our cruise, we will spend 4 nights in Paris, France.

 

This first report will give you an idea of our traveling background, get to know us, and how this journal will be set up.

 

Background

 

  • Cruising Experience: 3 out of 5 family members have cruised before. Never on Celebrity and never in Europe. 1 out of 5 has cruised in the last 5 years; it has been 15 years since my parents cruised.
  • Europe Experience: 2 out of 5 family members have been to Europe before.

 

Meet us

 

  • Ashley (me!): Doctoral student living in Georgia. I went to Europe after high school for a mini study abroad experience. I became obsessed and intrigued with Europe and declared I would do whatever it took to get my family to Europe! I am the only one in my family who has been to Europe. I have cruised the past 5 years with college friends, never on X. I am most looking forward to seeing my families reactions to the places and monuments I love.
  • Mom: Lives in FL. Has cruised many years ago. Went to paris 26 years ago (she was pregnant with me at the time ;)) She is looking forward to Paris, the cruise ship itself, and everything.
  • Dad: Lives in FL. “had” no desire to go to Europe (explain later). He is most looking forward to seeing the Grand Prix of Monaco and the ship itself.
  • Brandon (brother): Lives in FL, recently graduated High School. Never been on a cruise. He is most looking forward to Rome.
  • Tyler (then boyfriend, now fiancé): Lives in GA. Police Officer. Has never been on a cruise or been to Europe. He is most looking forward to the food, Barcelona, and the new experiences of Europe.

Pictured below: my family from left to right- Brandon (brother), mom, dad, Ashley (me), and Tyler (then boyfriend)

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Accommodations all hotel/flight on points my dad has saved for years

 

  • Barcelona: Hotel Arts Barcelona, a Ritz Carlton

 

  • Paris: Marriott Champs-Elysees, a Marriott

 

  • Flights: Lufthansa and Air France, coach

 

  • Cruise: Celebrity Solstice, Concierge Class, Port Side, deck 10, C3

 

So how did this trip come about?

 

 

As stated above, my dad has had no desire to go to Europe. One day, out of the blue, my parents call me and ask me to “sit-down.” Uh-oh, I thought! Next they proceeded to give me the shock of a life-time. This is what my mom said “Well your father and I wanted to go somewhere nice for our 30th wedding anniversary so we booked a 12 night trip on a Mediterranean cruise… and we are not done yet, we will be following the cruise with 5 days in Paris.” “UMM WHAT? CAN YOU REPEAT THAT? I THOUGHT DAD DIDN’T WANT TO GO TO EUROPE?” next my mother proceeded to tell me “After we hung up with the trip planner we felt it would not be the same without the kids… so we called back the planner AND we are bringing you, Brandon, and Tyler!”… “Shut-up” I said in my best Mean Girls voice (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urDoL5ugiyc) ; well, not really; that's not polite! but that was what I felt like saying! :D

Needless to say, I was in shock. Apparently I need to be thanking Rick Steves; without my dad seeing his show this would all still be just a dream.

 

My parents left ALL the planning up to me! I had a year to plan the trip of a lifetime. My parents booked the cruise, and plane tickets, the rest was up to me! I came straight to the CC!

 

I created the “book” and had a “command center” for all my planning, tickets, maps, etc. The teacher side "came out" and I ran an “orientation” with the family the night before we left on what to expect since they left everything up to me. Throughout the year I sent my parents excel sheets and documents for packing and things to take care of before leaving since they were in FL and I was in GA.

 

 

Ok, moving on…

 

Trip Report Styling: This is my first trip report. I am a very detailed person therefore my reports will likely be lengthy and picture heavy. Please let me know if I am writing too little or too much as this is my first time doing this. I predict you will probably think this is too wordy already ;)

 

 

Final thoughts: I hope you enjoy this report. It may take me a couple days to post a new entry as I am in grad school and planning a wedding… although I find myself drifting to CC to procrastinate. Please let me know what I can do to improve future entries.

 

 

Sunday 5/20/2012

And so it begins. Mom, dad, and Brandon arrive at my place in Atlanta- where we will be flying out of in the morning. We have last minute packing and errands to run. I conduct an “orientation” or “briefing” as they called it on what to expect on the trip. I printed a packet for each family member. I talked about wake-up times for our touring days, cruising expectations (2 members have never been on a cruise), Europe etiquette, and the like. They think I am a little nuts, but hey, who isn’t? Ha! :cool: I just get so excited over Europe and I put a lot of time into planning our trip.

 

That’s all for now! Up next: Day 1 and 2 of traveling.

 

-Ashley

 

I just feel so lucky, grateful, thankful, blessed, and more that my family, TOGETHER, went to EUROPE! A REAL dream come true! Not a day goes by that I do not think or talk about this once-in-a-lifetime trip! I love my family.

Edited by CruisingGatorGirl

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Love it! Your enthusiasm for your wonderful trip and your love for your family shines through your writing... I am really looking forward to reading more. Thanks for your time in sharing! (And congratulations on your engagement! :D )

Edited by Cruiser Susie

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How wonderful you where able to cruise as a family. Memories to last a lifetime! Count it a great blessing that your parents where so generous to share such a special time!

 

Look foward to hearing about your trip.

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Thank you all for kind words; they really mean a lot to me! They also keep me going because this will take me a while to finish the whole trip. I have lots to tell! I kept a very detailed journal the entire trip and took over 3,000 pictures :eek:

 

I am so thankful and grateful that my parents were able to take us along and help pay for it. Being a grad student and police officer money is tight. I am very lucky.

 

Getting ready to post my next entry! Today I have the time to post but I will be flying back home to FL for a wedding and will be busy with that for a few days.

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Post# 2: Above the Clouds

5/21/2012-5/22/2012 (Monday-Tuesday)

p.s.

Everyone knew Tyler was going to propose at some point on the trip except me. You need to know this for my story half way down this entry.

 

Atlanta: late afternoon. The clouds decided to have a brawl as we arrived at the new ATL International Terminal. Stormy vs. Sunshine. They treated us to wind, tornado warnings, and lightening. For someone with a huge, huge fear of flying I almost backed out. Thank goodness for my flying anxiety prescription or else this would have been a short trip report! They did break up the fight before the flight took off, sunshine won!

 

Pictured below: My parents in the new ATL International Terminal. Happy 30th wedding anniversary mom and dad!

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The check in process was pretty easy. We did have to do the luggage shuffle to get the weights under. Although we weighed our bags at home, the airport scales were different and they were VERY strict at the ATL airport regarding weights. We did do something a little tricky that I hate to admit but I am being frank here. After our carry-on’s were given the OK, we loaded them up with more stuff… eeek, I am sorry, I know we were tricky.please don't be mad

 

 

Pictured below: Tyler and I checking in bags. We are ready to go!

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Not-so-neat-at-the-time story: Tyler is a police officer and I don’t know if he has that “look” but the guards at the ATL airport needed his assistance and we were unaware. Tyler was first to go through security and this is my account of what happened…

 

I see Tyler walking ahead of me with a black duffel bag I didn’t remember him having (but hey, I am on medicine so maybe he did? Hmm I thought, and then out of nowhere I see these 2 German shepherds attack the bag! I thought oh boy, crap, ahh, what the heck? What is going on? My dad thought “are you kidding me this guy is going to marry my daughter and he is smuggling drugs?" and my mom was confused and my brother was behind fiddling with his stuff on the security belt. My dad and I are thinking, is anyone else seeing this? We realized everyone was starring at us like we were bad people!

 

Turns out they were training the dogs for drugs and asked Tyler to help. Phew, that could have ended the trip real fast. We have seen one too many episodes of Locked up Abroad! So we continued on and my dad didn’t have to kill Tyler (that was a joke of course, my dad told me his story once we got home). Still don’t know why they picked him, anyone else seen this happen?

 

Pictured below: Our plane

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DSC00474 by dazzler511, on Flickr

 

We arrived to our seats with plenty of time, got settled, and prepared for the long flight. We took off at 6:20 pm ATL time. To be honest I do no remember that much of the flight because I was on a good amount of medication (I had anxiety the anti-anxiety medicine would not work). However my journal entries tell me it was smooth, and long. There were babies crying, but hey, I would too if I were not on my medicine! HA!

 

 

I actually look forward to meals on planes. I know it sounds weird but it takes my mind of the flight so I enjoyed the meal. Also one thing I liked about flying non-American lines, free wine in coach. I watered down my wine because I was scared of how it would interact with my medication. But I was ready to be “European” so I had watered-down wine with my Lufthansa specialty.

 

Pictured below: Coach Lufthansa dinner special

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DSC00457 by dazzler511, on Flickr

 

Frankfurt, Germany: After over 4,000 miles we arrive in Frankfurt at 8:20 am (FKFRT time). We had a 3 hour layover. We killed the time by eating pretzels, “frankurts,” shopping duty-free, and catching up on sleep. Well not so much sleep, we were too excited for that! I was starting to wake-up from my anxiety haze and the anticipation was grown strong! HOLY COW “I AM IN EUROPE!” -it hit us, we are in Frankfurt right now!

 

Pictured below: First "meal" in Europe

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DSC00462 by dazzler511, on Flickr

 

Post 2 continued below due to picture limitations...

Edited by CruisingGatorGirl

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Post #2, part 2: Above the Clouds

 

35,000 feet: Next we flew Air France to Barcelona. The ride was very bumpy. I don’t know if it was the leftover medicine or my excitement but I was not scared one bit…. We were flying over the freaking (I hate that word but seemed appropriate here!) ALPS! I could not believe my eyes! I looked back to notify my dad who was a few rows back, but he was sleeping! I thought about yelling to wake him up but I realized not everyone on the plane was as excited as I was. I kept popping my head up like a prairie dog checking to see if my parents were seeing what Tyler and I were seeing.

 

Pictured below: the French Alps

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DSC00480 by dazzler511, on Flickr

 

On this short flight we were served these baguette type bread pieces with butter in the inside, I liked it, no one else did. But then again I am the strange person who actually likes airplane food. I guess I should also tell you my other weird plane-phobia quirks that help me cope. I also find peace in the bathrooms. And walking up and down the aisles. I think it takes my mind off the flight and if I feel bumps I could blame it on my walking? I know it doesn’t sound rational but someone with a fear of flying does not think rationally on the plane!

 

Pictured below: Arriving into Barcelona!

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DSC00486 by dazzler511, on Flickr

 

Barcelona, Spain: Upon landing we easily gathered our luggage, counted the pieces, and headed for European soil! Well concrete. I did my research on the “yellow” cabs in Barcelona and their rates. I was always paranoid we would get ripped off or pick-pocketed on this trip, but that was never an issues.

 

pictured below: All smiles on European "soil"

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DSC00487 by dazzler511, on Flickr

 

The nice lady pointed us to the cab line and 2 cabs pulled right up! Tyler speaks some Spanish so he told the drivers what hotel we were at. We split up between the cabs and were on our way!

Our cab driver spoke little English. There were protests going on in the city so traffic was a little heavy. He tried to narrate the drive for us the best he could in English and Spanish to Tyler. My parents cab beat us to the hotel.

 

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DSC00489 by dazzler511, on Flickr

 

 

Next up: Hotel Arts Barcelona and our first night in Europe, Barcelona, Spain!

 

-Ashley

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Love your descriptions. Can't wait for more. I too am terrified of flying. We have a 12hour flight to Europe soon. Hurray for Ativan.

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I hope you're a grad student in something with writing since you are obviously so good at it. I can't wait to read more - I believe we will will stopping at several of the same ports on our cruise in October.

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This is going to be one of those reviews I never want to end, I can tell ;)

Looking forward to The Arts Hotel; I have had a drink there by the pool, but never stayed.

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How funny!

 

I'm also a Gator!, also terrified of flying, and I also LOVE airplane food. However, I NEVER EVER unbuckle my seatbelt in flight and it's a catastrophe for me if I have to go to the bathroom in flight. Two transatlantics a couple summers ago with no restroom trips!

 

Can't wait to read the rest.

 

B

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More please! I leave Wednesday for Barcelona and sail on Solstice Saturday:)

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Post #3, Rain, rain, go away!

5/22/2012, Tuesday

Barcelona, Spain

 

Pictured below: the first glimpse of our fancy hotel, Hotel Arts Barcelona

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Our hotel for the one night we are here is the Hotel Arts Barcelona. Lets be real, this is the nicest hotel I have ever stepped in… what did I do to deserve this? The staff is in abundance, speak English, and literally stand around waiting to help you. The staff take your luggage from the ground floor and you are escorted to an elevator to bring you to the lobby. The lobby was stunning. We were given our room keys (I forgot to record the room number but we were up high, maybe floor 17-20? I am not sure, maybe even higher?) and went to check them out.

 

Shortly after picking our jaws up off the floor we heard a ding-dong; our luggage arrived. I gave STRICT! Orders not to nap in order to avoid jet-lag… and honestly we can sleep when we are 6-feet under… we only have 24 hours in Barcelona! No jet-lag for us!

 

 

Pictured below: inside our standard hotel room and view of marina and city

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Unfortunately wait, let me fix that, fortunately (because I am so fortunate to be in Europe!) it was rainy and cold on this late May day. So we changed out of our wrinkled, smelly travel clothes into jeans and long sleeves to explore Barcelona.

 

 

After a quick tour of the hotel pool area we headed out to explore the city. I had planned for us to tour the city via foot today. We had a cab drop us off at Placa Catalunya and slowly strolled down la Ramblas taking in all the neat buildings with eyes and umbrellas artistically thrown on. Went into a few touristy type stores, trying to avoid the rain. Scam artist type people did not approach us at all. Maybe we were here before the main tourist season and that is why? We went into the famous market, pictured below, and took in all the smells and sights. By this point Tyler was plotting how we could move here already. He LOVES fresh food, and is liking the looks of this market that other people (like myself) find unappetizing… such as the hanging meats!

 

 

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We worked our way towards the Christopher Columbus statue. It was bigger than I imagined so we walked around it, taking in Barcelona, and the glory of Europe. If you can’t tell by my writing I was on the verge of tears the ENTIRE trip because I could not believe my family was in Europe together! Very much "pinch me now" feeling. I love, love, love Europe and to show my family the places I love meant EVERYTHING to me. These memories are engraved in my mind. I highly suggest families try their hardest to do this type of trip. So many memories were made!

 

 

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Ok, by now my family started to get annoyed with me and the walking. See, I LOVE to walk, that is one reason I love Europe, the walking. My family, not so much.. just wait until we get to Kotor, HA!. I wanted us to walk everywhere and the hotel people made it sound like it was easy… well they don’t know my family. I was holding the map up like a tourist should as we worked our way back along the water to the hotel and kept saying “almost there! Just look, see?” when in reality, I was thinking “man it is further than I thought and it is raining harder.” Still, I was determined to walk back. In hindsight we should have took a cab, my parents were right. But they were troopers and listened to me since I am Miss Europe.

 

 

After what seemed like hours, we were almost to the hotel and stopped into this little restaurant for dinner. No good. Well, it was so-so. We were so tired at this point from the traveling and walking that we were just happy to sit and eat. We all went to bed that night pretty early because Miss Europe had a tight schedule tomorrow! Up bright and early with the Spanish chickens!

 

 

We had a half-day of touring before heading to the MUCH ANTICIPATED CELEBRITY SOLSTICE! Oh just wait until we catch our first glimpse of the beauty! Ahh, I can’t wait! Almost like I am reliving it right now! Buenas Noches!

 

 

-Ashley

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Post# 4: Hotel Arts Barcelona

5/22/2012-5/23/2012, Tuesday-Wednesday

Barcelona, Spain

 

This purpose of this entry is to show my few, and bad pictures I took of the Hotel Arts Barcelona. I am accustomed to staying in typical Hilton and Marriott type hotels so this was a real treat! I have never seen a hotel so luxurious, modern, sleek, comfortable, everything! My pictures do not do justice! If you are considering this hotel I would check out other sites to see better pictures. I was still in a shock phase (that I was actually in Europe with my family) that my thousand pictures a day habit had not started yet! Oh, but don’t worry… I soon pick up this nasty habit! This picture-taking-addiction (lets call it PTA) will make my entries very hard to complete! I am sure I am not alone with PTA, I think I am in good company here at CC!

Let’s get on with the show…

 

Marina view from our room. My parents live on a marina back in FL so this was a real treat!

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We loved that you could see our hotel all over the city since it is so tall

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Pool deck, sorry I do not have a better picture that over looks the artistic gold fish that was built for the Olympics, I believe

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other side of the pool deck overlooking the board walk and marina

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Valet and taxi area, nice fountain, notice you can see the gold fish here too

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the downstairs lobby where they take your luggage. I did not get a pic of the real lobby. I did not have PTA yet (photo-taking-addiction).

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Hope to get one more entry in tonight... stay tuned

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Post #5: Barcelona in 4 hours

5/23/2012, Wednesday

 

Barcelona, Spain: We bought our hop-on/hop-off (hoho) tickets from the concierge for the tour bus. There are a couple different buses you can use, we picked the bus Turistic, I believe, because they had the best reviews, we were VERY happy with the service. To be succinct, after riding the bus for 4 hours we wanted to move to Barcelona. You can tell the narrators and company LOVE their city. But I am getting ahead of myself here…

 

First we had to eat! The hotel breakfast was very expensive and we knew we would be eating a lot once we got on the ship so we opted for a nice, charming, tasty, street-side little restaurant. I did not catch the name of it, again I was not PTA yet. We all ordered something small like muffins, fruit, and coffee. Very affordable! The weather was starting to warm up, the sun was making an appearance; the making of a great day was in the works! Oh, this was also all the Euro-Newbies (aka my whole family except moi) first time having sparkling/gas/bubble/gross/delicious/whatever-you-call-it water. Personally I love it because, well, it reminds me of Europe! Now Tyler has grown to love it too and we buy it from Sam’s in bulk here in the states and feel all faaaan-ceeee (you have to say it in that tone!) when we drink our water.

 

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After satisfying our bellies (side note: I gained 9 pounds on the cruise, we will get to that later) we were off to wait for the bus that picked us up nearly in front of our fancy hotel. We went straight to the top, not too crowded yet as we were on the first trip of the day (9am I think). As we would be boarding the Solstice later our time was limited. We figured this would be the best way to see as much of Barcelona as we can. This 4 hour tour teased us and the list of reasons to come back to Barcelona was growing. It is true, you need a few days to see Barcelona! Again, due to time constraints, we only got off at one location on the bus tour. We decided to ride the bus for 4 hours, putting us back at the hotel by 1 and arriving at port by 1:30. Our goal was to be boarding by 2pm.

 

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Tour highlights: all the Gaudi buildings, UN-freaking-believable (again there I go with the “freakin’”). Pictures do not do the buildings justice. We also enjoyed seeing the shopping/high end part of town, and the Olympic village. Overall the bus ride was a very pleasant, relaxing experience… I am sure the sunny 70 degree weather didn’t hurt. I do not have many pics because, well, we were on a moving bus!

 

 

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Look what we saw from a high location! This got us really excited and anxious to get on her ASAP!

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Final thoughts on Barcelona: We are coming back! There is just so much to see and do we plan on taking our honeymoon there (wishing to do the X Greek itinerary out of BCN) and secretly planning job opportunities while there. Shhh…. Don’t tell my mom, she reads the boards! Just kidding, not really, I would do anything to move to Barcelona! Being Floridians, we love the water, trees, active lifestyle, and old charm Barcelona brings. Also, I did not mention this but I am an art lover and have several Dali replicas in my townhome. Dali and I also share the same birthday, I look great for my age, huh? HAHA. Well we don't share the same year. We did not have time to make it to Dali’s home or the Picasso museum.

 

We were impressed with how clean Barcelona was. We think it was the cleanest city of all the places we went to. This is why I took this pic, not because of the big mac in Spain (really Tyler?) but look how clean the background is!

 

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Up next: Solstice, ready or not, here we come! Will the Solstice have the Noro? Will we make it by our goal of 2? Will I get the welcome mimosa I have been dreaming of?

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Post #6: Solstice, HERE WE COME!

 

5/23/2012, Wednesday

 

Barcelona, Spain: After the X glimpse we caught up high from the Olympic village of our waiting ship we were anxious to get back to the hotel, grab luggage, grab a cab and get to her! Our goal was to make it back to hotel by 1, and be boarded by 2. I forgot to mention I can be the time police. I have a thing with schedules and staying on time. I did enough research to know how long it should take to get from point a to point b on various legs of the trip. My research came though!

 

We were back to the hotel by 1, the fancy hotel got our cars quickly, and loaded and off we went! Because we arrived later to port than most, we were literally the only ones checking in so it was a breeze. We were handed a letter stating the previous cruise had the NoroVirus. This worried me a little as my dad and I get sick easily.

 

We bought some water and sodas at the port and off we went! The excitement and anticipation was running through my veins. I was practically running (this would become a theme of the trip, I was doing a run/walk everywhere because I was so excited… just wait for Pompeii!) up the gangplank… I was looking forward to the welcome Champagne or mimosa! It had my name written all over that flute! …but… there were no flutes! WHAT! In my head I had been talking about these mimosa but there were none to be found? Were we too late? Any one have an idea? Big bummer, but if that is the most I can complain about we are in good business!

 

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At sea: Since we boarded at exactly 2 our rooms were ready. And according to “the book” I made we should go to lunch at Bistro on 5 after seeing our rooms.

 

First we went to our rooms and met our room attendant, Rufina, who was spectacular by the way. I requested for a pitcher of water daily, as I read on here, and I needed a spoon. I have some dietary needs and mix my medicine in my morning drink, Rufina kindly had a new spoon for me every morning! Our rooms were 1255 and 1257. We had our welcome sparkling wine and fruits as we were concierge level.

Side note: we learned you can slip a piece of paper in the room number plaque, we did this for leaving notes as it is hard to slide paper under the doors.

 

One complaint before I forget: the shampoo and conditioner in the CC cabins is horrible. I know I could have brought my own but I wanted to save weight. I am not one to complain about something like that but it was so bad I couldn’t put a brush through my hair. Maybe just my hair didn’t like the product? But I would think CC would have nicer bath products. Lesson learned, next time… because there will be a next time right? I will bring my own!

 

 

Pictured below: Very first glimpse of our C3 room! I should put up the pic of my previous cruise cabins-I could touch wall-to-wall; this was a real treat! Thanks mom and dad!

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It was hard to leave our rooms. My past cruises were all inside cabins- cheap college style cruises so to have a balcony and couch and big bathroom and robe and and and oh my! It was hard to leave the room but little did we know the rest of the ship would be just as nice.

 

Pictured below: Dad is one happy guy!

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Tyler and I are not drinkers. However on vacation we do enjoy sparkling wine or Champagne.

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I instructed and suggested we all go eat at Bistro on 5 for lunch. Did that happen, of course not. I stuck to the plan, haha. Tyler and I, and my mom after her smoke, went to Bistro on 5. Like I read on here, NO ONE was there. We had a great server named, Ashlan, who waited on us hand and foot. Dad and Brandon wandered off to somewhere. Whatever happened I told everyone we will always meet for dinner, good plan.

 

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After eating lunch at Bistro on 5 the 3 of us went back to the rooms, our luggage had arrived. We unpacked and set out to go up top for sail-away. Oh my, I just smile thinking about seeing the Lawn and the beauty of the Spain coastline for the first time. It was a beautiful evening, slight wind from the sailing ship, temps in the mid 70’s, and excitement buzzing from all passengers about to embark on this journey together.

 

Pictured below: Our fist of many pictures on the Lawn Club

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Found dad, he was parked up against the back bar of the Lawn Club (don’t know the name) with a drink in his hand taking in the sights. The rest of us joined him to watch sail away. Tyler and I instantly fell in love with the Lawn Club. I know a lot of people on here do not like the Lawn Club. However Tyler and I, both 26, thought that area was our favorite part of the ship. Later on you will know more why, and no, it is not where he proposed, something else! We also set out to explore the classy, serene ship.

 

Continued below...

Edited by CruisingGatorGirl

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...Post 6 continued

 

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After sail-away, we headed down to our rooms to relax a little before dinner, we had the late seating. We had our first of many spectacular meals that first night. Our first thoughts of the Grand Epernay dining room was sleek and sophisticated- not tacky (like some of my cheap cruises). We were seated at a corner table with a nice window. Our server, Nehemias, was again, spectacular. I can hear his voice now telling us about the dinner. In fact I made pizza tonight and I can picture him explaining “the beautiful pizza the chef prepared tonight…” ahh the memories. We enjoyed the sun setting as we progressed through our dinner courses. I had the crème brulee that night, my first of about 30 desserts for the trip. No exaggeration, I have a huge sweet tooth as you will soon find out! We were all very satisfied with our meals. However, I did not care for the Caesar dressing. This was the only night we felt some motion. I did get a little sick, no one else did.

 

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We did some exploring and off to bed, we have not had much sleep thus far and will not really get a lot of sleep until a sea day. Good night Solstice!

 

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As Captain Yannis would say, “Outtt”

 

-Ashley

Edited by CruisingGatorGirl

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This is going to be one of those reviews I never want to end, I can tell ;)

Looking forward to The Arts Hotel; I have had a drink there by the pool, but never stayed.

 

It was very nice! I only have a few pictures, I posted them above. Hope one day I make it back there, I am sure you hope you do too!

 

How funny!

 

I'm also a Gator!, also terrified of flying, and I also LOVE airplane food. However, I NEVER EVER unbuckle my seatbelt in flight and it's a catastrophe for me if I have to go to the bathroom in flight. Two transatlantics a couple summers ago with no restroom trips!

 

Can't wait to read the rest.

 

B

 

Wow another person like me :) I don't know how you do it because I tend to drink more water on flights!

 

More please! I leave Wednesday for Barcelona and sail on Solstice Saturday:)

 

You lucky duck :D I work tomorrow, but I will try and get some posted as quickly as possible!

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Thank you everyone for the kind words! I thought everyone would think I write too much. i tend to be wordy :rolleyes: I guess that's what being a grad student does to ya :p

 

I hope you're a grad student in something with writing since you are obviously so good at it. I can't wait to read more - I believe we will will stopping at several of the same ports on our cruise in October.

 

Wow thank you, that is very nice of you to say. Writing has never been my strong area. It is something I constantly have to work and improve on. I am pursuing a Ph.D. in Education; I was a high school teacher back in FL. I actually have a few books I want to write one day- when I am done with school. Maybe I can become a travel author! Hmm, get inspiration from Celebrity... sounds like a good plan to me ;) dreaming

 

Love your descriptions. Can't wait for more. I too am terrified of flying. We have a 12hour flight to Europe soon. Hurray for Ativan.

 

I don't know what I would do without my medicine! Hope you have a smooth flight like we did :)

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Looking forward to your review. I will be on the Solstice in April'13 for 28 days .... keep the pictures coming and thanks for taking the time...

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Joining in! I love the reviews like this with all the pictures!

 

Congrats on the engagement! For our honeymoon last year we did Celebrity in the Mediterranean...our first on Celebrity and we fell in love. We actually planned our wedding date around our honeymoon!

 

I'm excited to read the rest!

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what a terrific review.......you and your fiancee are a lovely couple. i would love to cruise europe with my kids. will have to wait for the 6yo grson to get older!! looking forward to more.

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Well, how cute are you? Let me phrase it another way, how precious are you?

 

From one mom to another, please tell your mom congratulations for doing a great job tutoring and mothering you for 26 years! Yes, you were lucky to be experencing such a treat courtesy of your good parents, but they are also lucky to share you company.

 

Pssst. Don't tell them I said that.

 

Looking forward to the rest. Please don't take much of a break. ;)

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Appreciate your nice postings and lots of pictures. Your pictures in Barcelona, at the market there, the many interesting buildings, etc., bring back nice memories from when we were there departing on the Solstice from last June. Keep up the good postings and fun travel details. Look forward to seeing more.

 

THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio

 

Did a June 7-19, 2011, Solstice cruise from Barcelona that had stops in Villefranche, ports near Pisa and Rome, Naples, Kotor, Venice and Dubrovnik. Enjoyed great weather and a wonderful trip. Dozens of wonderful visuals with key highlights, tips, comments, etc., on these postings. We are now at 101,173 views for this live/blog re-cap on our first sailing with Celebrity and much on wonderful Barcelona. Check these postings and added info at:

http://www.boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1426474

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Loving your wonderful review and photographs! We will be on this exact cruise on 10-14 so am devouring all of your thoughts about Barcelona and now the Solstice.

Can't wait for the remainder of your trip!

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Post #7: Am I really on the Cote D’Azur?

 

5/24/2012, Thursday

 

Pictured below: The quaint, colorful, seaside town of Villefrance along the Cote D'Azur

 

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Solstice, South of France: I jumped out of bed as soon as the alarm went off (we used our cell phones for alarms, on airplane mode)… I wanted to get up super early, I am guessing maybe 5:30-6ish? I peaked my head through the heavy, darkening curtains slowly to try and let Tyler sleep. Ummm, holy cow, we were port side, sailing slowly along the Cote D’Azur approaching our port of Villefranche. Whattt! No Way! No time to be quiet, too excited for soft voices. I ripped those curtains open and turned to tell Tyler to tell him “you have got to see this!” but him and most of the rest of the ship decided to sleep some more. From leaning over the balcony and turning my head side to side and up and down I felt alone. How can everyone be sleeping through this??? Of course I know I was not the only one up, it just felt that way at the time because I was so excited! I just wanted someone to be witnessing this beauty with me! It was a very special moment for me, my first morning on the Solstice, seas as calm as a pool, temps in the high 60’s/low 70’s, looking into the eyes of the French coastline.

 

Pictured below: What I first saw when I went onto the balcony

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I took French for 3 years in high school and after visiting Paris in 2004 I fell in love with France, Europe, the culture everything. I had been waiting for this moment, to see the Cote D’Azur, something I study years ago in person. And we could not have asked for better weather! I was practically ready to jump off the boat and swim to shore!

 

Today the plan, according to “the book,” was room-service on the balcony, catch the first tender in, take the train to Monaco (complete dad’s dream to see the Grand Prix), take the train back to Eze, and if time permits, see Cannes too since the film festival was going on.

 

pictured below: Breakfast with a view

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Villefrance, France: We made the 2nd tender, no lines/waits nothing, got right on. We easily made our way to the train station. We waited in the short line to buy our train tickets for Monaco. The man selling the tickets did not speak English, “SWEET, I get to use my mad French skills” I thought to myself. Well they are not really mad… you know what I mean. I practiced in my head my numbers and conversations I would need anxiously awaiting my turn to step up and order tickets for my family. I felt like a proud 4 year old! I bought the tickets and we headed to the platform.

 

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At the platform the workers warned us that pick pocketing was bad now, especially with the Grand Prix and Film Festival happening in the same week. We also were told there was a train strike going on. The train came quickly and it was standing room only. I gave everyone strict orders to watch their watches and money. The man next to us, had his wallet taken right our of his pockets while we were standing next to him! But we came out just fine.

 

The train ride was a short 16 minute ride along the coast line. I loved this brief ride, wish it would have lasted longer!

 

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Monaco: We got off at our stop and immediately the hairs on our arms stood up, we all stopped and looked at each other and grinned… the race cars were roaring and ripping through the streets! We could hear and feel their wrath even in the station! It was going to be a good day! My dad has always dreamt of seeing the Grand Prix of Monaco but since until a year ago, had no desire to go to Europe he never thought this would happen. He specifically picked this cruise because it would be in Monaco during the race.

 

Pictured below: Vendors line the streets for the Grand Prix of Monaco

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We followed the crowd out of the station anxiously awaiting our first sight of the race track, and BAM, we were hit with a mean dose of reality. Fences everywhere! They have the race completely blocked off so those without tickets could not see it. I could feel my dads heart sinking, he did not even have to say a word, I knew it. How were we going to turn this around?

 

I tried to redirect the attention to the first goal of the day, getting to the top where the royal palace was, I knew that was a great viewing spot, just maybe we could see the race there? We started our way towards the top but due to the race many roads were closed and I was not sure how to get there. I timidly walked up to vendors to ask for help. I suddenly became very self conscious of my French; the vendors hardly spoke English. When I get nervous I have my “little girl voice” as Tyler calls it. It came out. They did not really know what I was trying to say. I just nodded my head and walked along. I got some confidence and asked again. Now we are talking.

 

continued below...

Edited by CruisingGatorGirl

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Post 7 continued from above...

 

 

Pictured below: View from the top

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Pictured below: Fences put up to block race views

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We started to climb up the ramps to the top…. But…. Even the ramp had double high fences so if you were on the next level up you still could not see it! Eek! Ok now to plan B. We got to the top and wanted to see the changing of the guards so we decided to wait. What happens next I am sworn to Monaco secrecy. It involved goat blood, handshakes, poker, DNA, and the like. No, just kidding, but really I am not suppose to say what happened per the Monaco race camera guys, hint hint. My dad did some smooth talking and we got a P R I M E viewing spot, thanks to some very nice cameramen. Unfortunately the pictures from this are few, and are on my dads phone. I will try to get them on here. But for now this little picture will have to do:

 

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Now that dads life was complete we could continue on with our regularly scheduled program. Next stop, trying to find THE Monte Carlo Casino. This proved to be quite the challenge. As I stated, the race had many streets closed and detours all over the place. But, we must continue on to find THE Casino! At every corner I had to keep asking for directions, usually police type people who were moreee than willing to help me, to make sure we were on the right track. At each corner they would say “ah, yes, just around that corner” hmm get to that corner, no casino, ask the next person “just after that turn” and so on and so forth. We knew that “just around the corner” really meant around 10 more corners. We could see the top of the casino but there was no direct path. In hindsight we should have got a cab. My mom and brother decided to wait for us at the train station.

 

Pictured below: taking a break from the walk to the Casino to pose for a picture with the city behind us. We dressed up because we thought that was required for Casino entry. That was not the case.

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The streets turned into a white marble looking material and the grass became greener. (see the picture in the collage below). We started seeing high-end, top designer stores and knew we were getting close. FINALLY, we see it! Ah ha! Yes! But, we were not allowed in until 2 because of race activities. So we waited and rested our feet on the nicest park bench I have ever seen. Finally the gates opened! Standing on the steps of THE Monte Carlo Casino overlooking THE Grand Prix of Monaco was surreal. Inside was even more amazing. They check everything in your possession when you walk in, phones, water, etc. so I have no pictures, sorry.

 

By the time we left the casino a moderate rainfall started. We decided to take a cab back to the station. Man, I tell you, that was the best cab ride ever! We had a nice, cold, plush Mercedes taxi with magazines, tinted windows, the works. We could have stayed in that cab for hours our feet were hurting so bad. We caught up with mom and Brandon.

 

Pictured below: Only in Monaco can you go to a "Plane Store"

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We worked our way to the platform and I asked the lady working there when the next train would arrive. We were told due to the strike it would be at least an hour, but probably longer! So we found an open area and made shop on the platform with other cruise passengers waiting to get back.

 

 

Solstice: We never made it to Eze or Cannes due to the strike; and to be honest, we were tired. So we headed back to the ship for our first formal night. It was not a true formal night, they called it cocktail or something like that. Tonight on the ship we saw the Solstice show, we thought it was spectacular. My only critique was the dancers were not completely in synch, but we ALL enjoyed the show. We also took advantage of room service and ordered cookies and milk. We ordered room service quite a bit- Tyler loves to eat. I blame him for the 9 pounds I gained! The food always arrived hot and promptly. Note, if you are ordering your breakfast for the next morning, when you pick a time slot, they always come at the beginning of that time slot.

 

Pictured below: town of Villefranche, cocktail night on Solstice, and the streets leading up to the casino.

 

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Next up: Florence! And our first Rome in Limo tour! Can’t wait!

 

Bon Soir CC!

 

-Ashley

Edited by CruisingGatorGirl

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Thank you everyone reading along! I put a lot of time into typing everything. I am already at 13 single-spaced pages in a Word doc. so I greatly appreciate every comment! I will be in a wedding this weekend so I will try to get a few more posts in.

 

Joining in! I love the reviews like this with all the pictures!

 

Congrats on the engagement! For our honeymoon last year we did Celebrity in the Mediterranean...our first on Celebrity and we fell in love. We actually planned our wedding date around our honeymoon!

 

I'm excited to read the rest!

 

Thank you! Did you do a review? Our dream is to do the Greek cruise for our Honeymoon :) Anything special I need to know about a honeymoon on X?

 

what a terrific review.......you and your fiancee are a lovely couple. i would love to cruise europe with my kids. will have to wait for the 6yo grson to get older!! looking forward to more.

 

Aww thank you :o We are looking forward to the day we can bring our future kids to Europe! That won't be for a while :rolleyes:

 

Well, how cute are you? Let me phrase it another way, how precious are you?

 

From one mom to another, please tell your mom congratulations for doing a great job tutoring and mothering you for 26 years! Yes, you were lucky to be experencing such a treat courtesy of your good parents, but they are also lucky to share you company.

 

Pssst. Don't tell them I said that.

 

Looking forward to the rest. Please don't take much of a break. ;)

 

Why thank you, that is so very kind of you to say! I feel so lucky to have the parents I have and to create memories together in Europe :D

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Appreciate your nice postings and lots of pictures. Your pictures in Barcelona, at the market there, the many interesting buildings, etc., bring back nice memories from when we were there departing on the Solstice from last June. Keep up the good postings and fun travel details. Look forward to seeing more.

 

THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio

 

Did a June 7-19, 2011, Solstice cruise from Barcelona that had stops in Villefranche, ports near Pisa and Rome, Naples, Kotor, Venice and Dubrovnik. Enjoyed great weather and a wonderful trip. Dozens of wonderful visuals with key highlights, tips, comments, etc., on these postings. We are now at 101,173 views for this live/blog re-cap on our first sailing with Celebrity and much on wonderful Barcelona. Check these postings and added info at:

www.boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1426474

 

Thank you SO much Terry! Your report was what really inspired me and got us excited! I would read excerpts of your report to my family. You have excellent journalism skills! Thank you for your comment!

 

Loving your wonderful review and photographs! We will be on this exact cruise on 10-14 so am devouring all of your thoughts about Barcelona and now the Solstice.

Can't wait for the remainder of your trip!

 

Well you are in for a real treat; you are going to L-O-VE your trip! I should have my report done by then ;)

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