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Celebrity Solstice Cruise Review by carofil: An excellent cruise on a beautiful ship


carofil
6 Reviews
Member Since 2009
105 Posts

Member Rating

Cabin 5.0
Dining 5.5
Embarkation 4.0
Enrichment Activities 5.0
Entertainment 5.5
Family & Children Not Rated
Fitness & Recreation Not Rated
Public Rooms 5.0
Rates 5.0
Service 5.5
Shore Excursions 4.0
Value for Money 5.0

Compare Prices on Celebrity Solstice South Pacific Cruises

An excellent cruise on a beautiful ship

Sail Date: April 2013
Destination: South Pacific
Embarkation: Sydney (Australia)

18 NIGHT FRENCH POLYNESIA CRUISE

This was to be the trip of a lifetime for my wife Carolyn and me. The anticipation had been building since we first booked on board the Celebrity Century, back in January 2012, while on a 12-night cruise from Auckland to Sydney. It is always worthwhile checking out the special future deals that are available while on a cruise! Sometimes there are real bargains to be found. Carolyn's brother Calvin and his wife Narelle had booked on this 8th of April cruise almost a year earlier and had been encouraging us to put it into our schedule as well. How glad we are that we did, as it certainly turned out to be a wonderful experience that will long be remembered...and hopefully repeated at some time in the future, too!

The 8th of April started with us making our way to the local railway station near our home, which is a little south of Newcastle, and overlooking Lake Macquarie, in NSW. We took the train to Sydney, with a change of trains at More Central Station to take us to Circular Quay. This exercise took a little over 2 3/4 hours. We were then able to admire the Solstice docked at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, shining beautifully in the sunshine, with the Harbour Bridge as a backdrop. What a wonderful sight to see…and to realise that the day of our dream holiday had finally arrived!

Boarding had been listed as 1430 for us, but we were there about 45 minutes early and were informed that the line of people had reduced considerably by this time. The exercise of processing over 2800 people can be quite lengthy, but for the most part all went smoothly. It took about 40 minutes for us to negotiate the embarkation procedure, after which we met up with Calvin and Narelle and dropped off our carry-on bags into our stateroom.

The rest of the afternoon was spent investigating the beautiful ship until muster and then preparing for our much anticipated sailaway!! This big event took place on time at 1830, just as the wonderful Solstice horn sounded and the city lights were showing off the Harbour night scene to its best advantage! What a great experience this was to have on Sydney Harbour!! Once underway towards the Heads the four of us moved to the Ocean View Cafe to have our evening meal. This was by choice as we would have missed the sailaway had we gone to the main dining room that evening. The first night we weren't up to getting ourselves ready for an early sitting after the rush and bustle of travelling and embarkation!

Now, at this point I could go into a lot of detail of our personal time spent on board throughout the cruise, and simply bore you, but instead I will talk about our experience of the ship and ports!

I have already said that this is a beautiful ship, and it is, but first impressions on seeing the atrium area left me just a little disappointed! This area is taken up by the main central lift (elevator) section comprised of two groups of lifts. I felt it didn't have the jaw-dropping effect and the 'bling' you see on many other cruise ships! The polished brass has been replaced with a lot of chrome and stainless steel that gives a cool feel to the ambience of the area…a little sterile in my opinion! Now, having said that, I still believe that the Solstice, overall, is indeed a beautiful and superbly maintained ship that leaves many in her wake!!

One area that should always impress is that of the main dining restaurant! The Grand Epernay is indeed a beautiful restaurant, with an interesting design including the unique wine storage racks at the rear of the restaurant. These stand out as a great feature with coloured backlight at night! Once again the warmth of polished brass is lacking here and replaced with stainless steel. The chairs in the restaurant do look modern and give an overall smartness to the room, but in practice they are very heavy and difficult to adjust into position, and also a little more difficult to extricate oneself from!! The Restaurant, however, is still a very desirable place to dine! The experience could be improved just a little by not turning the lighting down quite as much though!! I guess it is fine for young 20/20 vision eyes, but there seemed to be many more people there that didn't fit that category very well!! Carolyn, Narelle and I don't normally wear glasses, and if we arrived at the table with only one pair of reading glasses between us, it was a real problem trying to read the menu!! We will all remember the experience of using the battery operated table candles to shine on the menu in an effort to make a decision on the gastronomical choices for the evening. Our table wasn't the only one forced to use this practice either!!

As far as the food choices in the Grand Epernay restaurant were concerned, they could only be described as excellent!! Carolyn's first choice is vegetarian, and she never went hungry, always commenting on the delicious meals. I found the meals to be of a very high standard and beautifully presented! I didn't ever walk away from the restaurant feeling hungry either…but maybe I should have more often, and I wouldn't have had a clothes fitting problem at the end of the cruise! At this point, I would like to thank Ozan (waiter) and Nikola (assistant waiter) for a great experience!

The Ocean View Cafe is a restaurant that I was very impressed with. I know some have complained that the large number of island food stations caused a problem of congestion with people moving to and from the tables, that there are no trays provided and that they found a problem finding a table at main meal times. These are issues that can be overcome simply by adjusting the time of going to the restaurant. I found that having breakfast around 8am solved any issues of overcrowding and I could choose a table anywhere. I agree that trays would be a nice addition, but can also see the cost saving for Celebrity. What really impressed me with the Ocean View Cafe was the quality and healthy choice of the food! Excellent!

We took the opportunity to dine just once at the Tuscan Grille restaurant, seeing as my birthday coincided with one of the latter sea days…and it just happened to be a formal night, too. What we felt about this visit was that it was very pleasant and we thoroughly enjoyed it...but having said that I don't know that the experience and food quality for the two of us was $70 better than the Grand Epernay!! Anyway, top marks though! The lighting was equally difficult to deal with…but I must admit that one of the lights over our table was not operating.

The Cafe al Bacio proved to be a favourite! The coffee was excellent and the free small cake selection was always delicious, though we did end up passing on the cakes as the cruise progressed! I guess we should have started doing that a bit earlier!! TIP: If you wish to have a gelato from the Gelataria at the Cafe buy it between 4pm and 7pm and you will get two for the price of one!

On the other side of the ship from Cafe al Bacio was the Bistro on Five restaurant. It was a big hit with just a $5 cover charge for all you can eat! The crepes were delicious to say the least and the restaurant was always well patronised. Excellent!

In my opinion the Aqua Spa Cafe was poorly positioned in a main traffic area inside the Solarium and did not provide the relatively quiet dining experience of the same restaurant on the Century. Also, the selection did not seem quite as good as on the Century. Other than that, I guess the restaurant provided a service to the "groupies" who tended to commandeer the sun lounges and who frequented the Solarium.

The Mast Grill provided the usual burger and chip selections that I'm told were very nice. I didn't sample them myself, as they didn't have the Turkey Burger that they had on the Century and that I had found delicious!

The one thing that was a hit with our group was the nightly Theatre programme that we went to after the early dining session. Our show was the 9pm session. These shows were presented by quality artists and we only missed about three shows out of the 18 nights. The compere was cruise director John Grantham…and a better CD you will have difficulty finding!! {"Now let me say, if you intend to miss a show in the theatre, tomorrow night IS-NOT-THE-NIGHT-TO-DO-IT!!!!"} Look up John Grantham on IMDB.COM and you will get a view of his past life under Actor/Stuntman.

Unfortunately, due to an outbreak of the gastro bug that invoked the no self-service policy we didn't have the opportunity of enjoying the Brunch that Celebrity generally puts on towards the end of the cruise! This was not a crippling outbreak in numbers, but did affect enough people for Celebrity to bring in the high level sanitation policy! The cleanliness seen on the Solstice is top notch, and we saw the crew constantly cleaning including in the smallest, most unlikely places! This ship is CLEAN!!! (Note at end of review.)

As for the ports visited, we thoroughly enjoyed them. The first one was Noumea, and the expectation was that it would be a bit underwhelming. We took a cruiseline tour of the cultural centre of about 3 hours, and found it to be an excellent tour with a very informative tour guide. She happened to be a lady from San Francisco who had married a Frenchman from Noumea. She spoke beautifully and we understood her perfectly as opposed to some of the local tour guides we could have gotten! 8/10

The second port was Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia located on the island of Tahiti, and once again the tour was a cruiseline purchased one. There is no doubt that you will pay more for cruiseline tours than what you may be able to organise yourself, but if your tour is late back or the ship gets to the port late you have no concern and the money will be refunded if the tour can't go ahead for some reason. The ship will also always wait if you are back late or delayed for some reason. The same cannot be said if you are on a self-organised tour. I do realise that many cruisers still like to organise their own tours, and try to get reliable tour operators and by so doing have never had any real issues, and that is fine! The tour that we took when we docked at Papeete was a road circumnavigation of the island of about 4 hours duration. The islands in the French Polynesia group generally provide very rugged and spectacular scenery. This indicates that the islands are relatively young in their development and haven't had time to erode down to a flatter landscape. We had a very interesting tour here and arrived back at the ship after dark. 7.5/10

The next port of call was overnight to Moorea, an island nearby Tahiti. I think this was the most beautiful island of the three that we visited, and we took the Gump Research Station tour offered by Celebrity. This tour provided us with a fascinating insight into the development of the French Polynesian group of islands and some beautiful scenery. Our tour guide Jim, from the research centre, is a geologist who is very informative and able to hold your attention. This research station's centre of focus is on the coral reef around the island and is sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley. I rate this tour very highly! 9/10

Finally, the last of the French Polynesia ports of call was Bora Bora. This port has the reputation of the idyllic South Pacific Island, with beautiful beaches and palm trees, where you could spend the rest of your life!! There is no doubt that this concept has some truth, with the swimming in water temperatures in the high 20 degrees C, beautiful beaches, lots of overwater bungalows and a coral reef that completely surrounds the island. Unfortunately, the Island has taken some big hits from the tropical cyclones of the past few years and there are many local properties and overwater bungalows that are no longer usable. Sadly, I guess there is a lack of local money to attend to repairs. Apart from this we had a very enjoyable tour around the island and we were told by Calvin & Narelle that they absolutely loved their time spent on the jet boat and snorkelling in the beautiful warm waters around the island, too. The colours of the water here are truly spectacular! I would rate this port highly and recommend it. 8/10

Near the end of the cruise, the last port of call was Lahaina, on the island of Maui. This was after a number of sea days, and we didn't have any formal tours organised for this stop. We just went onshore and walked around the local shops and buildings, taking in the atmosphere of our first landing on US soil! We enjoyed Lahaina and did hear from a number of people who took tours who really enjoyed them, too. We would really like to pay another visit to this interesting island. 7/10

Sadly, the next morning was disembarkation time in Honolulu! This operation took a little longer than expected as the ship had not been into Honolulu before and the gangway at the dock didn't quite fit correctly. This issue was overcome in fairly short time though. It brings up a few problems that occurred where people may have missed tours due to delays on the Solstice, but none of which could be attributed to Celebrity! However, when you listened to people chewing the fat over their misfortune, it was always Celebrity's fault!! We sat next to a lady on the return tender in Lahaina, who was furious at missing her privately booked helicopter flight due to the slow immigration and customs clearance. Everyone had to wait here due to a bungle by US immigration in not sending nearly enough officers to the ship to care for the 2800 plus passengers and 1300 plus crew who had to be processed!! This was in no way Celebrity's fault, and they worked with immigration to get more officers on board to cope! Some people are very short-sighted and can't think of anyone else but the cruise company to blame in such circumstances.

Looking back over the cruise experience, it would have to rate as one of our best and we certainly wish to take another Celebrity cruisecnot least because it will take us into the next level of the Captains Club! What a wonderful holiday we experienced!! Celebrity, we will be back!!

SOME FINAL NOTES:

Sure we had gastro (norovirus) on board in the last half of the cruise, but why blame Celebrity for that? Believe me, we always had people outside the restaurants…and pretty much everywhere else…offering hand sanitiser. Gastro is introduced mainly by passengers not ensuring cleanliness with hand washing and sanitising before handling food. If you contracted gastro on this cruise, then really you only had yourself to blame. How many times did we hear the Captain telling us all that washing hands with warm soapy water for 20 seconds is the best way to control the spread? Answer: Every day and sometimes twice a day! Touching surfaces that others have touched on the way to a restaurant will cancel your hand wash, therefore use the sanitising agents offered by the cruise company before going into a food area.

Also, avoid touching your face or mouth unless you are sure you have sanitised your hands. Crew members rarely get the gastro virus because they are used to the sanitising process. You, as a passenger, now need to get used to it, too. The inconvenience was that crew members had to serve us… but what's the gripe with this? When serving myself I had lined up for extended periods while passengers decided what they would have…taking food, then putting it back! Small children who were allowed to get their own meals were the worst at this practice but I did see adults doing it as well!! By the way, I do like children, I just have a problem with parents who don't take control!! OF COURSE we are going to have the integrity of the food compromised with these practices!

Travelling from Sydney across the International Dateline proved to be a bonus! You see, this cruise was generally billed as a 17-night cruise, even by Celebrity. However, by gaining one day across the Dateline, we ended up by having two Saturday the thirteenths (Groundhog Day!) that gave us the extra night cruising! Who wouldn't want to get an extra free night on a cruise ship?!

BEWARE: Travelling in the other direction you will lose a day!!

Phil Less


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Cabin review: Celebrity Solstice Inside Stateroom Sunrise Deck (7) 7156

Cabin adequate with enough storage for us. Loved the bathroom and shower screen. We didn't need a more expensive cabin when we spent so little time in it. Would book one of these cabins again.

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