Travelling with my elderly mother we booked an accessible Sky Suite nbr 2132 on deck 12.
We requested assistance at the pier for embarkation as I knew from previous experience that the gangway could be quite steep for a wheelchair at Fremantle.
Our allocated check-in time was anytime from 11:30am to around 5:30pm.
We chose to go to the pier early and avoid the crowds.
On arrival we were handed the necessary paperwork which consisted of a health declaration...(we had completed our Australian immigration departure cards at home)
Paperwork completed we headed off to join the check-in line. We were directed to check-in desks specifically for wheelchair guests this is where the pier assistance started and ended.
We joined the immigration queue and then made our way to the ship. It was a warm day around 36C. I was expected to find someone t the bottom of the gangway to assist us with the wheelchair up the gangway. Not so! With some huffing and puffing and considerable perspiration we made it up the gangway and were welcomed on board with a glass of bubbles.
My initial disappointment was somewhat dissolved and I was determined to enjoy the ship.
First impressions of Solstice....spotlessly clean and she looked brand new.
We made our way to the Oceanview Cafe for lunch then I wheeled mum around the ship to get our bearings. We were advised our stateroom would be ready by 1:30pm and on the dot of 1:30 an announcement was made advising staterooms were ready..
Wow! A cruises hip stateroom with space.....it was more like a hotel room than a ship stateroom.
We dropped our carry-on luggage and continued our exploration of the ship.....it was immaculate. We played a silly game called spot the rust...it was a challenge to find a speck of rust anywhere.
We returned to our stateroom to find 2 of 3 bags already there and third one followed shortly.
Our butler, Rudolph came and introduced himself and advised us of his services.
At 5:15pm the obligatory safety muster took place...I question it effectiveness we were herded into the ensemble lounge shown a video which from our position in the crowd was difficult to see..watched a demonstration of how to put on a life jacket which again was very difficult to see.
Celebrity cruises made a big fuss of how important guest safety was but this the most important briefing for the whole cruise was nothing short of chaos....with that behind us it was time to start enjoying our selves.
Our first dinner was in the Oceanview, It was ok the beef stroganoff was made from cast off work boots but the rest of the food was good.
We retired to our stateroom until show time....a sneak peek at what was in store for us.
It was ok but not great! I learned not to judge a book by its cover.
My mother preferred to have her meals on the stateroom balcony and Rudolph made it happen with no fuss. He presented breakfast, lunch and dinner on our balcony with style what a great experience.
I had read previous reports of how noisy the staterooms on deck 12 were due to the Oceanview Cafe being directly above yes there was some noise but not unbearable.
Our first 2 days at sea were relaxing and uneventful as we got into cruising mode. Our bathroom was a delight it was full-size with a roll-in shower . The beds were extremely comfortable.
Our first port of call was port Hedland, a port town through which most of our iron ore is exported a busy port attached to a small town. I did a short tour of the BHP Billiton operation organised by celebrity. I found the tour interesting the only let down was as we were not allowed off the bus they could have ensured the windows of the bus were clean most of the photographs I took are spoiled because of dirty bus windows. Not the fault of Celebrity.
Next port of call was Bali, The ship was cleared about 8:00am and tenders headed ashore only to be called back as the Authorities had "uncleared" the ship and it was to be another 3 hours before anyone could go ashore. It was wet season in the tropics and rain it did torrential rim for the 2 days we were there. Yes it took time to get off the ship tendering is never easy. But if you let the crowds go first then it is easy....I used our priority tender ticket which worked perfectly.
I guess the major issue is that celebrity used large vessels from ashore to ferry people from the ship it took ages to fill them and disembark them which tended to slow the process down. But it was far more comfortable than the ships tenders.
After2 days in Bali we headed off to. Darwin 2days at sea.the sport was within walking distance of the city and made easily accessible for wheelchairs by an elevator to avoid a steep hill between the port and the city what great planning.
Although hot and humid we enjoyed Darwin despite it being mainly closed (Shop s don't open on Sundays in the wet season) we then headed off to Cairns another 2 days at sea About 9:00am on the first morning after leaving Darwin the captain announced he needed to turn back towards land as a crew ember had had a heart attack and needed a medical evacuation by helicopter this put our schedule back by about 6 hours. There were lots of mutterings amongst the guests as parts of the forward are of the ship had to be. Closed off for safety reasons made sense to me!
The helicopter came and went and we were soon on our way again. It was certainly a bit of excitement. During our voyage from Darwin to cairns we had a Reef Pilot on board and gave a commentary about what we were seeing and we got to see the very top of the continent .
We were Bout 2 hours late arriving at Yorkey's Knob. (cairns). The captain delayed our departure from cairns so we could have our full time there. I did a shore excursion purchased on board for kuranda and the skyrail. I was very happy with the tour and though expensive I enjoyed it.
Next port was Brisbane. Again torrential rain we had private arrangements here meeting up with friends.
Overall opinion of the ship
Spotlessly clean and well maintained. The service I received from all crew members was as expected.. Our butler Rudolph went above and beyond in looking after us to the point of checking in on my mother when I went ashore.
Food breakfast and lunch were mainly from the room service menus and were good.
Dinner in our stateroom was from the Grand Epernay. (MDR) and were superb although some servings were enormous and impossible to to eat.
Entertainment: excellent! Highlights being Pulse and solstice production shows. The Aussie Boys were outstanding and I would cruise again just to see them again.
I went to several sessions of the hot glass show and enjoyed them
At all ports except Fremantle, where my mother went ashore we received assistance with the wheelchair.
Disembarkation in Sydney was a breeze and we were off the ship and on our way to the airport in about 30 Minutes.
Only 1 other disappointment was the glass panel on the balcony on our balcony was only cleaned once on the day before arriving into Sydney...on Radiance of the seas the previous year the balcony glass was cleaned daily....
This cruise met expectation sand in most cases exceeded our expectations.
A big thank you to Rudolph our butler.
Our cruise was a special time to be with my mother we intended to relax and we did just that.
Would I cruise on Solstice again...most definitely yes.