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Solstice -Australia-New Zealand
Australia & New Zealand
This was our first Celebrity - we love Royal Caribbean but decided to check out Celebrity.
The ship was very tastefully decorated and was stunningly beautiful.My husband loved it so much that we changed our next sailing to a sister ship. The ship does not have the promenade of RCI but smaller public areas. To me, the ship felt empty a lot of the time,but that was great for this itinerary which was less about the ship and more about the ports.For this itinerary the ship was perfect.
Dining: We were in aqua class so we ate at Blu the majority of the time. Disappointed at first because the wait staff was terrible - but a different waiter made all the difference and we requested him the rest of the time. We ate at all 3 specialty restaurants and enjoyed them. I think 150 Central on RCI has them beat, but a personal opinion.I enjoyed Silk Harvest a lot, maybe because we didn't have a high expectation, but the food was wonderful and the service was top notch. I think we ate More
at the buffet once and it was okay. Two formal nights for this sailing -not quite as dressy as RCI Oasis class
Tip - try the chocolate cake on the daily dinner menu - yum.
Spa: The Persian Garden area and aqua experience didn't really live up to expectations. The steam room didn't work very well and the relaxation area was often full. Just so-so. Massages and other on-board services priced comparable to other lines.
Entertainment: We were up early each morning and went to bed early most nights so we only took in a few shows. They were nothing showstopping but entertaining. They have quite a bit of entertainers around the ship. Good not great. This itinerary has on-board "educational" seminars that were quite good. In Tauranga the Maori come aboard for a dance demonstration.
Lawn - neat idea. We enjoyed the hot glass show, but if it isn't your thing it would be boring.
Room: what you would expect. Nicer mattresses and pillows than RCI.
Smoking- no smoking on your balcony or in the casino - very limited smoking areas.
Tip- when you are cruising the fjords try to get a spot on the front or back of the boat for the best views. Two bottles of wine can be brought on board when you arrive only.
Travel Advisory - be sure to check with the airlines before you leave home regarding luggage. We saw several people ditching items rather than pay Air New Zealand's baggage fees. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
We had arranged a tour so we did the self departure off the ship at 6:30am. They got us off very quickly. No cabs at the port that time of the morning so there was a wait. I wish I had done a little more research since we could have walked to our hotel, but the cab ride was $20 and he was rude.
Since we were one of the first off they had a room ready for us at the hotel. We stayed at the Siebel Suites which is a great location. We walked down to a local cafe for coffee and free wifi and waited for our tour.
We had arranged a wine and waterfall tour with Auckland Wine Trail before we left home. You never know what to expect, but it exceeded our expectations. John was 5 minutes early to pick us up (I love people to be on-time). He was so knowledgeable and pleasant. He kept apologizing for the weather but it really didn't matter.
Here is a blurb from his site, "Spend the morning soaking up views of our lush sub tropical Waitakere rainforest with Tasman Sea and city panoramas. Experience the isolated beauty and splendour of KareKare's, magnetic, black iron sand surf beach pounded by the Tasman Sea (location for The Piano, TV's Zena & Hercules). Take a short walk to a beautiful waterfall. See native Kauri, Rimu & Pohutokawa trees, Nikau palms and Punga 'Silver Fern' trees. Visit the Arataki Heritage Centre and see the stunning 360 degree Tasman to Pacific views from the Waitakere ranges summit." AND WE DID ALL OF THAT BEFORE LUNCH OR WINE!!!
**The beach (KareKare)was rated by Outdoor Magazine as NZ#1 beach.
The tour was first rate and the wine was excellent. Wish I could have brought more home.
Our last day in NZ was rainy. Sad for us but great for the locals since they needed it so badly. We had a late morning, spent the day at the art museum and shuttled to the airport.
You dock in Akaroa. I think a lot of people go to Christchurch, but we like the outdoors and wanted to hike (tramp.
Akaroa (pop 800)had two ships docked that day but were still amazingly friendly. They have an excellent web site http://www.akaroa.com that will help you with your visit.
We loved the explore on foot area. We stopped by the info desk to check on a hiking trail but the nice lady told us dogs had been chasing people on that trail and showed us another option.
With 6000 people visiting we managed to have an entire hillside to ourselves! An absolutely beautiful charming village.
We had pre-booked a tour with Eden Wildlife Cruises.
Our plan was to explore the city for a few hours then go sea kayaking. But it took almost 2 hours to get off the ship.
Eden had emailed us the night before regarding weather conditions and pick up info so by the time we got off the ship it was almost time to be picked up. We walked out of the pier area, turned left and walked about 5 minutes down the road to the jetty where we would be picked up.
He was right on time, picked us up and ferried us across the harbor to the kayaking area.
I was a little nervous about sea kayaking. I'm not a kayaking person, nor do I have any sea experience - but it said on the website that I could do it so I gave it a try and LOVED IT. You are in the water with the sea lions and birds are flying all around you. It was amazing. Gordon, the kayak tour guide was VERY knowledgeable about the wildlife and you can tell it is a passion with this family.
We mentioned that we hadn't been to town because getting off the ship took too long, so instead of taking us back across the water, they drove us to town. Actually stopped at the steepest street in the world and let us climb it before taking us all the way into town.
Just a great experience. Take a look at their website. The pictures are how it really looks.
Melbourne - When you arrive in Melbourne you can take an easy 10 minute walk to the rail line. Go inside the 7/11 to purchase your ticket. I think it was $13 for an all day pass. They accept Visa. We took the rail into the city and used the city walks app to explore.We explored Federation Square (free WiFi), the train station, St Patricks, St. Paul's, and Victoria Market. The Old Treasury House was a hidden gem (free). They have a wonderful exhibit about gold in the basement.There is also a free city rail that does a loop around the area - do it before it gets hot. We did a huge amount of walking. Had the BEST lamb kabobs in the Greek section (2nd largest Greek population outside of Athens). Beautiful city.
We arrived a day early into Sydney with the hopes of putting some of the jet lag behind us before the cruise. Our flight arrived at 8:30 and we went straight to our hotel, dropped our bags off and hit the sunshine. We used an app called City Walks to help us navigate. We toured the historic Rocks area,pursued their weekend market,spent hours in the botanical garden (not a garden as much as a park),went into the art museum and walked the high dollar shopping area. My personal favorite was the gardens. The mission fig trees are massive and the views of the harbor are spectacular.
The next morning, we did the Sydney Bridge Climb. Very expensive but very well done. Quite amazing.If you are debating if you can do it or not the answer is yes.It isn't physically that difficult and the height wasn't an issue for my husband.After the bridge we collected our bags and headed to the ship. It is docked at the Quay across from the Opera House. Getting on was quick and easy. We explored the ship,had a massage (needed from the flight, walking 7 miles and climbing a bridge)ate dinner and settled in for the evening.
The ship overnights in Sydney so we were up the next morning bright and early and at it again. We walked up to the front of the pier area and caught the city bus out to Bondi Beach. We purchased round trip tickets - but just purchase one way in case you get on at a different area. You have to purchase from the ticket area to go out but can purchase from drivers to come back.
We walked Bondi Beach and the cliff walk over to Bronte Beach area (about an hour walk with lots of picture stops), then decided to head back to town for our Opera House tour. Grabbed a quick bite at the take away fish and chips at the pier area (good but pricey like everything in Sydney). We had debated if we wanted to do an actual tour of the opera house, but was very glad we did.
We sailed away with a beautiful view of the bridge and Opera House.
You dock in Mount Maunganui - but I think most people get off and go to Tauranga or Rotorua. I don't understand why since it is beautiful there. This might have been the prettiest port. I have a hard time picking a favorite, but this place is stunning.
We hiked up the Mount's backside through sheep pastures. Locals are running up and down but I was huffing and puffing. Take your time, but get to the top. The views are worth it. We went down the front side along the beach. The beach is a whopping 90 miles (or so I read somewhere)-it was longer than I cared to walk. Wildlife can be seen along the rocks by the Mount.
Here is a link to their website http://www.mountmaunganui.co.nz/
Excellent pub in town to cool off after all your walking.
Wellington is a beautiful charming city. We wanted to visit Weta Cave, so instead of using the cruise ship excursions we got off and took the city bus (about a 15 minute ride). We got to see more of the city and talk to a couple locals.
Weta Cave is the company that create the special effects for Lord of the Rings, District 9, etc. They have a small gift shop, a 15 minute movie about the company (both free)and a small tour called Windows into the World that gives more information about what they do. My husband LOVED it. I loved my husband grinning like a kid. We had the place almost to ourselves until the cruise tour bus showed up.
After Weta we went to the Te Pappa Museum. We could have stayed all day. Great exhibits. We loved the Game Master exhibit which explored the history of video games. It is very well done and interactive. We got to play video games from our youth.
We strolled the waterfront, shopped a little and called it a day.
We heard from several people that the cruise excursion that went to the cable car ride was a nightmare.