My husband and I are in our early 60's both retired. We have done 5 cruises in the past. The last was our second time on Celebrity, we chose that time to go on a Mediterranean cruise, and it just so happened it was also on the Solstice. It was our best cruise every, we loved the ports, we loved the ship, so Celebrity was an easy choice for us to go and visit Australia and New Zealand.
Our friends actually asked us to join them on this cruise, with their help we started planning and putting it all together. We actually got into Auckland 1 1/2 days before the cruise left, we stayed at the Grand Chancellor Hotel on Hobson St., dated place, but location was decent, staff was very accommodating. Ate at Danny Doolans Irish pub one night, what a fun place, dinner special was great, so was the price! We'd recommend taking the ferry over to Devonport, cute little town, had fun walking around shops, restaurants and hiking up the mountain there, great view!
The embarkation in Auckland we all thought was one great big mess! We didn't see any signs on the docks directing us where to go, and where we dumped our luggage, was another big mess, no direction from anyone on Celebrity, even a sign would have helped! This is one of my biggest gripes, I wish they could get it together, a little more organized. The lines were very long.
This time we had a concierge class room, cabin #1021, it had a balcony, once you get a balcony, you never go back, that's our motto! The room was nicely appointed, the shower area big, modern, plenty of drawers to put all our things, room under the bed to store our suitcases. We didn't think the amenities you get for concierge class are worth it though, so we won't be doing this again in the future.
In addressing the topic of food on the ship, we both had very mixed feelings. We ate most of our dinners in the main dining room, and the food was hit or miss. Two of us, sent the lobster back one night, one was mushy, the other was flavorless and kind of tough. Steaks got sent back because they were way too rare,or too tough. They were always on top of things and very accommodating, to make sure we'd get it cooked the right way, or something else if we wanted. I had Salmon alot, and it was always wonderful! We ate at the ocean view cafe, the food there was fine, very nice selection. Twice we did eat at the Tuscan Grille, and really that's where the steaks were outstanding, along with all the food there, and the service and the atmosphere, nice to be away from the hustle and bustle of the main dining room! We had lunch one day at Bistro on Five, also good service, quiet and enjoyed the food there quite a bit, so did our friends who had never tried the Bistro.
Entertainment on the ship, for the most part, very good. Some different entertainment in the musical department, so that was interesting. We didn't like the magician at all, more talk than magic, and the comedian, well he was okay. The dancers on the ship, did a 60's theme and a 70's theme night right in the middle of the ship, they really made that ship come alive, lots of people got out there to dance, it was fun to watch or be in the middle of that event!
Also in the entertainment, we went to so many fun shows; family feud, not so newlywed game, Liars Club was hilarious! Some of the chefs shows were great, some of the lecturers were wonderful, and as always on Celebrity, I especially enjoy the fact that the passengers can take on the officers in games, as my husband did in the Texas Holdum tournament. Keep it up Celebrity, mix and mingle with the passengers, that's what I enjoy most about this cruise line.
We had alot of Ports, thankfully we were over night in Sydney, where you really do need alot of time.
We tried to get on the excursion through Celebrity for the Blue Mountain tour, but they had sold out.
So instead we booked with Blue Diamond Tours which we found on the internet. Honestly, we couldn't have been more pleased with them! Rob was our tour guide, he was so knowledgeable, and always his main concern was beating the crowds, so we could enjoy the experience! He was a fountain of knowledge, happy to answer all our questions. This excursion with Rob was the high light of my trip!
Also in Sydney, we took the hop on hop off bus. That ran $40.00 each. We hopped off to see Hyde Park Barracks, what a fascinating 3 story museum! I could have spent a day there, but we didn't have much time. Really where the ship docks is right in the heart of Sydney, the opera house is right there beside you, the rocks area is too. We did a tremendous amount of walking, and the weather was beautiful, short drizzle and then sunny skies. The entire trip we hit great weather, bring a windbreaker jacket as it gets windy on the trip, most days it was 75 to 80 degrees out.
In Tauranga we booked when we got off the ship, that worked out just fine. In Esperance, we hired a local taxi driver which cost $115.00 for the 4 of us, he drove us around the beach loop, some 40 miles, and then dropped us in town, the town had nothing there, go see the beaches, they were quite beautiful, not to be missed really! Hobart we booked an excursion through Celebrity, it brought us to Port Arthur, which was a beautiful setting, and interesting history and then a quick bus ride through Hobart, which was a shame, we were upset we didn't get to walk around, looked like a great city.
Christchurch excursion through Celebrity, was a waste. Overpriced, and alot of driving on the bus. Adelaide we took an excursion and went to the German town of Hahndorf, it was okay. Lots of shops, lots of restaurants.
My husband did not like Dunedin, I did. The town of Port Chalmers where we docked was beautiful scenery from the ship. We booked this excursion through Celebrity. Got to see the yellow eyed penguins out in the wild, the bus ride through the hills of Dunedin was beautiful, the ocean on one side way below us, rolling green hills. Then onto the railway station and the botanical gardens. All was okay except the A/C on the bus broke down, everyone was hot, and then we got back to very, very long lines to get back on the ship; once again, Celebrity get it together please! This happened more than once on this cruise.
Albany was our last stop. It had a great Old Gaol museum, take the time to walk through all the artifacts there. Some victorian buildings in Albany that gave the town some charm. We stumbled upon a flea market, they had lots of wonderful womens jewelry that I bought to bring home for gifts. And speaking of gifts. I also bought on this trip, marino wool/possum gloves that we saw in several shops at each port. They are very soft, and I found them for as little as $20.99 a pair, so hunt around as the prices went as high as $36.00 pair!
Our biggest predicament on this trip was once the cruise ended, in Freemantle, we had to be off the ship at 8:30 am, but our plane didn't leave Perth till 11:30pm that night. What we ended up doing was we walked the 3 blocks from the dock to the train station and for $4.00 per person, went to Perth. There we had booked a room at the Holiday Inn. We walked about 4 blocks to the Holiday Inn, what a fantastic location, right in the midst of downtown Perth. Checked into our room that morning, showered, left our bags, and walked around Perth, it was a fun city! Tons of shopping, a band playing blues music in the park, we went to Durty Nellys Irish pub for lunch, great food, huge portions! Ate dinner at the Holiday Inn, then left at 9pm that night for the airport!
So that's our trip! We've already booked another cruise with Celebrity, going to the Baltics this coming July! Never been there before, looking forward to that trip too!