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Today was a sea day and we spent it very lazily around the pool almost all day – very relaxing. Tonight is the second and last formal night, and tomorrow is the last full day of the cruise. Given that we’re approaching the end I’ve begun to collect my thoughts about the cruise overall. The most important thing to say is that we’ve had a wonderful time: for me it’s been one of the best two cruises we’ve done, more enjoyable than either of the Galaxy cruises and up there with the Ventura cruise. The itinerary has been great. We enjoyed Santorini & Mykonos, the 24 hours in Istanbul was amazing, and although we had some problems with what we did in Athens, it’s another extraordinary place. The weather, too, has been wonderful: apart from some grey skies and a few minutes of rain as we left Istanbul it’s been blue skies and sunshine all the way, with temperatures between the mid 70s on cooler days to the mid 80s on warmer ones. For sun-starved Brits this has been excellent: as Mark from Milton Keynes said during the Athens trip “this has been our summer….”. Tomorrow we plan to return to Capri from Naples, and hopefully that will be as memorable a day as the others.

As I mentioned in a previous post there are aspects of Solstice that I’m not completely happy with, but to be fair these are just about my preference. I’m quite confdent that Solstice meets her design brief perfectly. Let me run down a few points that I may not have mentioned.

First, we have really enjoyed the food on this cruise. As I’ve suggested I don’t think we’re especially ‘fine diners’ so it’s not surprising that what we’ve had in Grand Epernay this cruise has been just right for us. We’re both of the view that the food has been better this time than on the second Galaxy cruise, and possibly also better than on the first one. In fact Val’s view is that it’s been the best on any cruise. I think also that our opinion of Muranos is hardening a bit – the food there wasn’t that much better than in the MDR (or didn’t seem so to us), so it was probably something we needn’t (and shouldn’t) have bothered with. This is very much a personal thing, of course: if you’re someone who finds the MDR food underwhelming, you may well Muranos & Tuscan Grill worth the extra.

Second, there are design touches all over the ship that add to the feel of quality. Around the pool deck would be one area: the cabanas, couches and so on are a definite plus. Another area would be the Ensemble Lounge/Michael’s Club; these are both very elegant places. So too is Cafe al Bacio. We also thought the Oceanview cafe worked well; the choice of food here was wide, the quality was good, and it was good to get away from the traditional ‘buffet servery’ approach. I particularly noted the consistency of design of all the plates & dishes.

Today I walked round the ship looking at the art on the landings and lobbies. It’s easy to ignore what you’re seeing, and indeed much of it you won’t see unless you look for it: there are between 4 and 8 pieces on each floor by the main (aft) lifts, and if you never get out on any of the cabin floors except your own you’ll never see the artworks on those floors. As I said I went round this morning and looked for them, and liked what I found.

But I have to end with a question, and it’s about the Lawn Club. It’s cool concept, but it’s an awful lot of space; we’re sure that better use could be made of it. I’ll be surprised if it survives for too long, or even appears on Eclipse.

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