Embarkation - we steeled ourselves for a long wait as per our previous experiences with large ship embarkations at Sydney OPT.However, it was only a 45minute timeframe this time - we were in Concierge, so went to the top of the Q, but once inside the terminal, the usual schmozzle took over - the 'normal' line moved much quicker than the 'priority' line.We were aboard by 12.15 and headed to the Oceanview Cafe to wait for the cabin to be available.
Cabin - fabulous! A Concierge Class on deck 12 with an angled balcony - just loved it and spent a lot of time out there. cabin was very clean and everything was in tip top condition. Baggage arrived very quickly. The afternoon canapes are very tiny but we enjoyed them. cabin steward was very attentive and all stewards on this corridor were very friendly and would always greet you.
Public rooms and bars - so many to choose from and we didn't manage to have a drink in all of them - needed a few extra nights.we particularly liked the Molecular Bar- mmm, Ginger Mojito!There was never a problem finding somewhere to sit in any of the areas, except perhaps cafe Bacio at times which was extremely popular with 1500 Australians onboard who LOVE their coffee.Entertainment - shows were varied and interesting - we loved the violinist Jane Cho in particular - production shows were of excellent quality and the theatre itself is fabulous.
Activities - Zumba! loved, loved, loved it! The instructor, Patricia from Portugal, was an absolute delight and soo enthusiastic and friendly. She also took some dance classes that we enjoyed. We did not participate in any other organised activities, but there were plenty. I purchased an all cruise pass for the Persian Garden (US119 plus tax)and got my money's worth on that as if not in Aqua Class, it is USD20 per day.It was never crowded, but it was irritating to have the door constantly opened by crew members as there was a laundry/towel storage area just inside there and also access to some other crew area also.
Food - no complaints at all.Oceanview Cafe variety and quality were great - I loved the curries - reminiscent of the old P&O curries!We went to Tuscan Grill US35pp and Murano US45pp and enjoyed both meals and the servcie greatly. Food in the MDR was consistantly good, and I usually had the fish and no issues at all there. We had Select Dining and we do prefer a table for 2, as personally, I can't stand the endless repeated conversations of 'how many cruises have you been on' night after night. The first night, we were given a table for 2 that barely had breathing space between the adjacent table of 2 and another of 4.By teh end of the meal, my head was thumping and I was stressed by not being able to converse with my husband due to the overpoweringly loud conversations on either side. From then on, we weer able to reserve a seperate table for 2 in a quieter area of the MDR each night.
Ports - Cairns, usual tendering issues from Yorkey's Knob - we just went into the city and ha a bit of a walk arund then back to the ship. Tip - do NOT book a private tour and expect to be ashore within 1 hour of the ships arrival at the anchorage. YOU WILL MISS YOUR TOUR. Cairns is one port where the ship's tour is the only way to go. PORT DOUGLAS - great -we line up for the tener tickets and were on the first boat ashore.
Port Douglas is a lovely place and we went to the Wildlife Habitat on our own and had a fish and chip lunch at the pub.
Airlie Beach - don't bother with Airlie - it's for back packers!Go on one of the ship's tours - we went to Daydream Island (we had a holiday there 20 years ago). Loved the pools - the buffet lunch provided looked good but the BBQ steak was RAW!
Brisbane - just don't bother when the ship is at Fisherman's Island - 40 minutes into the city?No thanks, we stayed onboard and enjoyed the solitude.
Sydney -we had an overnight in Sydney at the end of the cruise and stayed onboard because we live there!
only real complaints on the cruise was the large group of teenagers (a majority of boys) being allowed to roam the ship late at night unattended - I personally witnessed under age drinking late at night on the Lawn and could not find the security to alert them to this. The teenagers were also allowed into the nightclub until 11pm, which was unfortunate as adults also wanted to dance after dinner, but were mocked by the teenage boys when trying to do so and the DJ on the ship seemed to be trying to cater to these teenagers more than the adults and continued to play unsuitable music even after the teenagers had left the nightclub. On 70's and 80's nights, he played the appropriate music for the ship's main demographic for the allotted hour, then went back to the same club music again. We had come across this same DJ and the same problem on Century last year - why does nobody tell him to cease and desist?Overall - a great cruise and we will be cruising Solstice again next year