Written by Sherry Schultz.
We recently completed a twelve day cruise of the Mediterranean on the beautiful ship Celebrity Solstice. Wonderful ship, fantastic itinerary.
We flew into Barcelona two days ahead and spent the first day recovering and the next day wandering around the old town, this is called the Rambals area. It is great fun wandering the alleys finding antiques, clothing and gelato and then finding your way out to the main street again. The boulevard is alive with action during the day with many street vendors and street actors and then it slows down a little before firing up again around 11:00 PM to midnight for the rest of the evening. Be sure to stop at a local restaurant for Tapas, a meal not to be missed. Barcelona is a beautiful city with lots of areas to see so do a pre or post cruise visit if you can.
The first day out was at sea but no need to worry about something to do, there are many choices. You can perhaps play Bocce Ball at the lawn club, see a movie or a Broadway style show, play in the casino, shop, relax by the pool or of course eat and eat and eat. The food was great and there are many choices from the casual buffet to fine dining in one of the specialty restaurants. There is also an old world style wine bar, a very popular martini bar and of course a piano bar or disco for listening and dancing. The Solstice is the first of the Solstice class ships, which means bigger, better and more amenities. There are three more to follow and Celebrity is also updating their existing fleet with some of the Solstice class amenities.
Our first stop is Rome (Civitavecchia) and there are many tours to take from here. You can visit Rome by rail, bus or private tours, all take about 1 ½ hours to get there. You may want to be on your own or with a tour but I would definitely use one of the many tours the ship has available. There are tours for all levels of activity and price. You may also want to take a tour to one of the small villags nearby and have some pizza or ice cream. Whatever you do, I am sure you will enjoy.
Next stop Naples, said to have the best pizza there is. We walked from the ship and found a restaurant with the old tile ovens and very friendly people, the pizza only had tomatoes sauce and cheese (you can get some meat if you want) but it was just wonderful. Maybe it has something to do with the setting also. You can also do tours to the Amalfi coast, Sorrento, Pompeii, Capri, Herculaneum and of course Naples.
Now the Greek Island of Santorini. A short walk from the tender brings you to a cable car which takes you up to the village of Oia. A few people opted to take the donkey ride up or walk but unless you are in great physical condition, I wouldn’t recommend it. The village of Oia offers a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea while sipping one of the best cappuccinos I have ever tasted. There are also many interesting shops with local handicrafts and other items. You could also take a walk up there down the narrow cobblestone streets, enjoying the view all the way.
There were many tours offered from Kusadasi, Turkey. We did the exterior only visit as my husband cannot walk far and uses a scooter. This was a great option for us because we were able to view some of Ephesus and its two thousand year and older ruins along with the museum with artifacts and statues of marble of such quality they seem alive. Most tours end back in Kusadasi with many opportunities to shop the stores up and down the alleys or stop for a bite to eat.
On the Greek island of Mykonos you will see the beautiful white painted villages against the deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea and of course their unique windmills. You may want to just swim and sun yourself on one of the beaches or choose to do a car or boat excursion to see more of the island. Mykonos Town is a charming village of winding streets with interesting shops and great restaurants offering lots of seafood to choose from. Be careful when you get back there, you may never find your way out. Seriously though it is great fun to search them and see the brightly colored flowers hanging from the balconies of the homes hidden in with the shops. Be sure to look for the famous pelican, Petros II.
Athens is where the old meets the new. You are able to see many of the ruins surrounded by a very busy metropolitan city. The Parthenon sits high above the city atop the Acropolis looking over new buildings and apartments as well as Zeus’s temple, old libraries and churches Olympic sites old and new. Be sure to take advantage of one of the many tours available including museums, Cape Sounion or even the zoo. Again, be sure to qualify what tour is best for you, moderate to strenuous. Always ask questions.
The island of Malta was our last stop. As you come into the harbor it is as if the entire country is one large fortification. Everywhere you look were huge stone walls and defensive ramparts as the island went through many years of countries trying to invade it. This must have been a bone chilling sight for those invaders. A trip into the interior reveals a land of green fields neatly divided by small stone fences, lush orchards and vineyards. Malta also has some of the oldest ruins, some said to be much older than the great pyramids. A visit to a small fishing village revealed a first communion celebration with the young boys dressed in white suites and the girls in pretty white dresses and veils. What a treat that was. Just a short walk from the church was local artisans selling their wares, handmade silver jewelry, lace and a variety of other crafts. There were fruits and vegetables grown right on the island and a variety of fish unmatched in the states. We must say Malta was the highpoint of our trip.