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Not much has happened since the last blog, so here are a few thoughts about Solstice itself, now that we’ve been on her for a few days. This takes the form of a comparison with Ventura, the only other ship of approximately the same size that we ‘ve been on, and which we’ve booked again.

Solstice is an imposing ship alongside the quay – the many decks of cabins rise up above you. Inside, also, there are a number of very impressive spaces. Chief among these must be the main atrium, which rises through 11 decks, I think – from 3 to 15 (there’s no deck 13). It’s the heart of the ship, with two banks of glass lifts, port & starboard, offering panoramic views of the whole atrium. Several of the smaller spaces alongside it offer views into it – the library and the card room are among these. In the middle of the atrium, suspended at about deck 6 level, is the tree – I gather that this is in fact an art exhibit. The top of the atrium is glassed, so during the daytime the space is sun-lit. This is a hugely impressive space, and Ventura has nothing to begin to equal it. My only problem with it is that it draws the eye inwards, to the heart of the ship, and not outwards to where the ship meets the sea. More on this concept later.

The main dining room, le Grand Epernay, is also very impressive. There’s a tradition of dramatic multi-level dining rooms on Celebrity – I remember the equivalent room on Galaxy. If you have a table out in the middle of the room then you get the full benefit of the whole room, with a dramatic silver lighting feature on the ceiling and the two-level metallic wine store. The decor is excellent, too – the ‘white & chrome’ combination looks very stark when the room is empty, but it’s different when it’s full of diners. This was especially true on formal nights, when the gentlemen’s dark dinner suits provided a simple contrast with the decor, and the ladies’ gowns providing splashes of colour. An excellent effect, and again far better than anything P&O has to offer with the three small dining rooms on Ventura. That said, there are a few truly awful tables – there’s one on each side right in the middle of the two entrances, so diners sat there will have every other diner walking past them, and there were several close to the waiting stations. As others have noted, there’s very little space between the two-top tables; and if you have a table on the lower level under the upper level you don’t get the full effect of the room at all – you might as well be in a small dining room, because that’s the effect you’re getting.

We have slightly different views of the cabin. I like it a lot, and I’d rank it as at least as good as the Ventura balcony cabin. Val prefers the Ventura cabin – in particular she preferred the long, open full-length hanging space on Ventura. Val also thinks that it’s narrower, and that as a result we get in each other’s way more than we did on Ventura. Neither of has any problems with drawer space – underwear, sock & small items have all gone in the drawer unit, and I’ve used the ‘over-the-bed’ locker space for a stack of day-shirts. I simply remove tomorrow’s shirt from the pile and hang it in the wardrobe over night, and this works for me.

We’re disappointed at the lack of a real promenaingde deck, and the opportunities to walk around it. This brings me back to the ‘divorced from the sea’ point: one of the things we’ve enjoyed in the past is the closeness to the sea that the promenade deck has given us. I remember times spent on Ventura’s aft promenade hanging over the rail savouring the sound and smell and experience of the ship’s wake – look at the chaos in the water and even, occasionally, getting some spray in our faces. Not on Solstice – there’s nowhere you can see the wake actually emerge from underneath the ship, and in fact the first point at which you can even see the wake is deck 14, from the Oceanview Bar terrace. Which is very good as far as it goes, but not the same. The other thing we’ve noticed is that the position of the lifeboats & tenders, which are not nested, obstructs our view downwards from our cabin to the sea. Again, a small point I suppose, but there have been occasions when we enjoyed standing on our balcony on Ventura looking straight down at the water. We can’t do this on Solstice. All in all, the effect is to separate passengers from the sea, and we rather dislike that.

Now it’s 11:30 and in 90 minutes we will be arriving at Istanbul, so we must get ready for that – probably by eating again….

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