We (two mid-fifties Aussie couples) sailed on Celebrity Solstice for 12 nights, out of Sydney on 23rd October. Embarkation was pretty smooth, wouldn't have taken more than an hour or so. The ship looked very impressive from the dock, and from on board it is even more so. Plenty to see and do, which was necessary as we had three days at sea before our first port.
Speaking of ports, we didn't really think much of them, with the exception of the Isle of Pines, which was beautiful. I should preface my review of the ports by saying that we didn't book any shore excursions, so certainly we didn't see all there was to see at each destination. That said, we didn't think that any of the excursions looked that interesting, and some were ridiculously expensive to boot.
Our first port was Lifou, in New Caledonia, and I'm not really sure why we stopped there. Apart from a small beach which was good for snorkelling (at a charge of $15), and a walk to a church on a hill, there is not much there. The highlight of Lifou for us was two small children displaying their crab on the end of a piece of string (for a small donation!). Next day we were at Isle of Pines, which as I said was nice. We spent the morning swimming and sunbaking, as did about 2000 of our fellow passengers. Both of these ports were tendered.
Our next stop was Noumea, which we found on the whole underwhelming. We took the shuttle from the dock to the information centre, from where we did a one hour hop on hop off bus tour of the city and outskirts. Unfortunately there was no audio guide so we didn't really know what we were looking at or where we were going, but I suppose we got our $10 worth. Visited a couple of the local markets but didn't make a purchase. Unfortunately we were there on a Sunday so nothing downtown was open and we were back on the ship by lunchtime.
Our next port was Suva, which was crowded, noisy, smelly and hot. Again we walked around, made it as far as the museum. Visited a few duty-free shops but thought everything was way over-priced. We spent about half a day ashore before heading back to the ship.
Our final port was Lautoka, which was probably the most disappointing stop. The city itself seems to consist of a myriad of shops selling overpriced second-hand goods whilst playing extremely loud Indian music. We were back on board well before lunch.
Having said all that, we chose this cruise because we wanted to experience a Celebrity ship, and on that front we were not disappointed. We had very nice balcony cabins on deck 10, and we found them to be big enough with ample storage. Our cabin attendants (Blasido and Green) did a fantastic job and nothing was ever any trouble. All the waiters, attendants, activities and bar staff were amazing, always helpful and smiling. The food was better than any cruise ship we've been on, and the three specialty restaurants were out of this world - well worth the extra $85pp. We also purchased the premium alcohol package which we found to be pretty good value - especially for a cruise on which you spend a lot of time on board. There are plenty of venues around the ship to relax - from the library, to the café, to the bars. We particularly liked the Molecular Bar which made the most amazing cocktails (thankyou Sladjana and Andrian). The three pools were always well populated, especially on sea days. The glass blowers were fantastic, something not to be missed. The casino was like every other casino and always seemed to have plenty of people willing to make donations. The lawn up on deck 15, whilst a novel and bold idea, had seen better days and was often roped off 'resting'. It seemed to be very under utilised and a bit of a wasted area. We didn't use the gym but it was quite large with very modern equipment. Nor did our wives visit the spa - they felt that it was a bit too expensive.
Probably the only thing that disappointed was the entertainment from the Solstice Theatre. We thought the production shows were a bit ho-hum, and whilst the headline acts were okay we've seen far better on other ships. Ian the cruise director did his best but he fell short of some of the really entertaining and talented guys we've seen perform his role on other cruises. The activites staff did a great job, especially Mike and Chris who tirelessly ran most of the trivia competitions.
Until the last day the seas were quite calm, but it was certainly a rough ride down the NSW coast. Overall we had a fantastic time, and would recommend Celebrity Solstice to anyone looking for a cruise which is a level or two above.