Heading off to Rome from the USA on Thanksgiving was a bittersweet time as missing a great holiday at home was in exchange for a great time in the ancient European city of Rome. I spent three incredible days touring this fine city with one of my favorite guides, Dr. Enza Fratella, who is a noted historian and guide in this great city. Even though I know Rome well, it is a long story that is complicated, exciting, and can never disappoint. My pre-Rome stay included 3 nights at the ultra luxurious St. Regis Grand Hotel built-in 1895 and designed by the great Belle-Epoque architect Ceasar Ritz. It is one of the finest hotels in the World with grand rooms, superb European Butler service, and a gracious style of Old World service that is quickly disappearing in most service establishments today. Other hotels and service industries should learn from the St. Regis Grand.
The highlight was short drive to the Port of Civitavecchia where the massive Celebrity Solstice met us on a blustery rainy day welcoming some 2600 fellow travelers joining this 13-day Transatlantic cruise heading to a handful of Mediterranean ports before heading across the “pond” for 6 days at sea and arriving in Fort Lauderdale on the 13th of December. Just in time to go home and get ready for Christmas! Our ports of call on this cruise were Civitavechia (from Rome), La Spezia (for Florence), Villefranche (for Nice and Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Cartagena, and Maderia… The weather has been pleasant in port except for a storm in La Spezia/Florence where it actually hailed. All other ports were quite pleasant with temperatures in the upper 50’s to 70’s… Traveling to Southern Europe in the Fall or Winter can be quite rewarding for travelers looking for cooler climates and milder temperatures and most importantly the lack of Summer crowds…It s a great time to travel and also more affordable.
As those of you who have seen my pictures of the ship on www.CruiseCenter.Smugmug.com, you know I think this is one of the finest ships (along with her twin sister Equinox introduced in late July of 2009, the Eclipse coming in May 2010, and two more coming in 2011, and 2012). WOW! Celebrity Cruises has raised the bar for the cruise industry with these spacious 122,000 ton, 1033 foot long, 16 Deck high ship that caters to 2850 passengers in great style and offers a high premium cruise experience.
Having been onboard the Solstice for nearly a week, I am amazed at its variety entertainment and dining options. By the way, other ships in this class can be up to a third smaller in size and carry the same number of guests! This means that Celebrity Solstice offers a lot more space per guest than almost all other ships in the contemporary and premium cruise market. This is evidenced by the multiple grand spaces offered onboard and maritime architecture that is absolutely amazing to say the least!
I love this ship and its high style décor, very professional service staff, and very good food. For such a large ship, there are many details that one might think would just go unnoticed-here they don’t. The staff take time to care for all the details and try very hard to keep its multi-national clientelle happy. I am really impressed so far!
As I am really going to specialize in talking about these ships, I am going to break this series of blogs into segments.
So, read on over the next days as I give you the personal story of Celebrity Solstice. Today, I am off to a day in the gorgeous Atlantic island of Maderia (Portugal). It is a great place that reminds me of Hawaii meeting old Portuguese Europe!!!!