Celebrity Solstice Auckland to Perth 18 Nights February 3-21, 2014
Hi. I am a regular cruiser, principally on Princess and Celebrity Lines, this cruise being our 17th.
Celebrity Solstice launched 2008, is the best and most elegant of the cruise ships sailing around New Zealand. Rated No 6 in the world of the large resort ships by Douglas Ward, Berlitz Cruising and Cruise ships rating manual (2013) We sailed on her only last year (March 2013), and returned principally because we like big resort ship cruising, and with the cruise ending in Perth, I was able to stay a few days longer with my sister Kathryn
*Keep in mind being regular cruisers we are looking for small points of difference, and some of the comments are very specific. Overall this ship provides a quality experience, excellent dining, excellent entertainment, very nice cabins across the range and also offers lots of personal space, and enormous variety of options.
This cruise was excellent, assisted by lovely weather, the only downside for us, was the dreadful and intrusive Gym music and the inability of staff or unwillingness to lower the music level. As regular Gym users on a cruise (1 hour in the early morning and 1 hour late afternoon or evening) to lower the sound to reasonable levels was important, and the same music tape with its incessant bass pounded us into near submission.
The surcharge Restaurant the French style Murano, while expensive at $45 per head was a superb experience, the standard of food at all the restaurants was good, and the entertainment range outstanding.
A problem for us is a trend of contacting about 10 days into some cruises, a viral infection, which begins with a tickle in the throat, and slowly builds into a cough and light fever? In my case it was with me the whole trip, manageable with throat lozenges and a reduced appetite etc. and on my return to NZ was diagnosed as a viral bacterial infection, with antibiotics prescribed. Worse cough I have had in my adult life. It has occurred to us nearly half a dozen times on our cruises, and I will shortly commence research as to how we can reduce the risk. There are a lot of people in one big space, and with full on air conditioning, I seem vulnerable to air carrying infection. This ship carried 2800 passengers and 1200 crew, a floating town of 4000 people
This 18 day cruise included a stop at Albany Western Australia, but on boarding the vessel I discovered this was dropped from the schedule. I had not been advised of this, and to this day don’t know why the itinerary as advertised had changed. We did receive a small tax concession in our onboard account for this port not being visited, but as a courtesy I would like to have been advised of the non-visit, and some explanation, prior to boarding
Ship queue formed at Princess Wharf Auckland. A big crowd, but the process once known to you, becomes easier to handle. About an hour plus wait from joining Queue and onto ship. Great to board at home port, avoid airports at all costs. All in all, a pass mark
The ship in general
The Celebrity Solstice is a lovely large ship, now 6 yrs. old, and I understand shortly to go for a refit. It appears very clean and polished. Elegant is the word. Americans, Canadians, British and Aussie/NZ made up the passenger list, with virtually no children. 2800 passengers and 1200 crew, so it’s really a small town or perhaps a floating palace? We are big resort ship cruisers, there is so much variety, formal and informal entertainment, and yet so much space if you wish it to read a book, listen to piano, or lie on a deck chair. Although full, we never felt crowded, at least not until the tender queue, 3 ports required tender facilitation and that does cause delays and frustration. They have it down to a fine art, but it is still a pain. Something to check on when considering different cruises, how many tender operations? Used the Gym fitness machines each day, enjoyed the Casino, and watched a lot of movies. For exercise the Gym was modern and the ship has a nice walking track and table tennis etc. was a regular activity.
One of the first things you should do on the first day of the cruise if is to check and see if you have the right color Celebrity Cruise card. We get a hole punched in it, and wear it around neck. Different cards signal different cruise levels, and make sure you have the right one. This cruise card acts as your room key and security card whilst on the ship. It is deactivated as soon as you leave the ship for the last time at the end of the cruise.
Celebrity cruises add a US $11.50 a day per person amount to your bill and that covers your tipping for the total cruise. This is done so that people employed on the ship who are not in direct contact with the ship can also receive something. If you don’t like this idea you can negotiate with the Pursers office to have the amount reduced if you wish, and envelopes for traditional tips are available.
Laundry facilities not available on this ship, apart from what you put out and pay for. However we found for most things your smalls and shirts etc., you can do yourself and they dry in the room. Only 2 of us would be more problematic if a family.
The Sky Lounge on the 14th floor was a wonder full viewing area with soft chairs, and bar service. At nighttime it is a dance and entertainment area and during the daytime it is a restful area for reading and just watching the sea. During the daytime you can always get a seat there for reading or quiet time. Great viewing of the Sounds from this spot
The other bars and public seating areas of the Celebrity were excellent, excellent piano playing, duo music, jazz and string quartet-good range of music
The library on board is a pleasant space, book choice not as wide as some, and no formal check in and check out. Those that go in early got the best of the books. Card playing room was excellent and well used, and internet facility also
Floor shows in the evening in the Solstice theatre were excellent. This is one of the reasons I go on cruises, and the entertainment was first class. Quality Las Vegas singers, and the Dance Company and 4 lead singers were excellent. They did 3 presentations, equal to Conrad Jupiter’s stage show levels. The support entertainers covered a wide range from Jane Choi violinist, Irish tenors, etc. Elvis impersonators to musicians. Overall the formal and club entertainment was very good .Solid range of late release movies showed each day.
The quality of formal lectures was interesting including” introduction to each Port” per a Power Point presentation, the day before each stop designated. The Speaking presentations had a forensic theme (Professor Hadyn Green). Miro a naturalist, and Professor Lisa Didler-History all University based and solid content and material all round. Excellent range of cooking demonstrations, wine tasting etc. excellent range of choices every day, including the usual bingo, table tennis, bridge games. Art shows were very visual. Wine tasting events were of great interest to me, and thoroughly enjoyable
The weather was superb, but remembers motion sickness is a real issue on NZ/Aussie cruises and up the Pacific Rim area. This can be managed by good planning, patches/tablets if one is prone. The reality is cruises in this part of the world are not calm. Reasonable sea motion swell often occurs, and we were lucky with our wonderful February weather
Traditional 1st or second sitting evening dining room, versus anytime dining are great options.
We prefer 2nd sitting times and we had a lovely table for 2 in the Grand Epernay Restaurant. However a bit of luck and organization is required to get a table for 2. There are not many, and as per normal our initial seating setting was at a table for 10. We like our own dining privacy, so a request to the Maître was successful.
The Ocean View buffet dining venue with its 12 dining stations was excellent, a wide choice, and great sea views.
Specialty Restaurants with a surcharge fee abound
French Murano Restaurant at $45 US surcharge pp is dear, but a wonderful food experience. Our main courses, sole and Lobster were cooked the Chef at our table, as was the wonderful flamed Ice Cream Strawberry Crepe. Silver service, waiter inspired dining at its finest. Perhaps the best dining experience I have experienced. The Silk Harvest Asian eatery was $30 pp surcharge was pleasant but that is too pricy, I would have suggested $15 pp surcharge was appropriate. The Tuscan Grill we did not try but it looked great, again the surcharge I think of $25pp is getting to high. Bistro on Five with a $5 surcharge looked excellent, and no argument with that fee. Café Bacio charged for coffees, but the pastries /cakes were free, and no charge for “Grab and run” with the cakes.
On a ship like this clarifying what surcharge fees are being charged is not transparent, and this should be more clearly signaled in both signage and through the daily Celebrity today newsletter which all aboard receive
Available 24 hours at no charge but limited menu. Celebrity has cut back on the width of its options for free room service food, and also introduced some items at a fee. Overall good value.
We had an interior stateroom on the 9th floor Room 9170. Roomy and spacious we decided to go the cheaper option, as this trip had many sea days, and we have found the balcony is most useful on a Port intensive trip. Air conditioning was excellent.
The design of the cabin made good use of mirrors to enhance the feeling of light and maximize space. Bed was excellent. We picked up a little more noise transference from rooms around us than I expected, not a problem, but more aware this time of not speaking too loud etc. The door configuration on this vessel also requires a hearty bang to close, and you can hear this every time when someone next door goes in and out of their states-room, The open space wardrobes without doors provided plenty of hanging and excellent storage space for our requirements. 32 inch TV screen with lots of programs. The room configuration made it seem very spacious. Soaps and towels were changed twice a day. Bathroom shower pressure was excellent. There is a safe in every room and our cabin had a fridge.
I have mentioned this already, but further comment is required. The music tapes used were similar or the same, and background music was too loud. Repetitive music mostly with a huge bass beat, and no variety. You can listen to channels per earphones/I pad on the equipment consoles, but this background music was so obtrusive this was not an option. Regular attempts to get staff to lower the music were unsuccessful, very poor customer service by Spa and Gym staff, with little leadership shown.
• Auckland: Ship berths right in center of business area and down town. Great City access
• Bay of Islands: Tender into Copthorne Hotel Jetty. Great access to Treaty grounds, 30 minute walk to Paihia Shuttle bus available free of charge
• Tauranga-Berths right at Mt Maunganui. Great walking access
• Akaroa. Tender operation. Into pretty township, all walkable
• Dunedin. Port Chalmers, 25 Kilometers out.
The Sounds. Magnificent. Good weather. One of the great world locations
• Sydney: Berth in the Rocks area. Wonderful location, Opera House view and Harbor Bridge.
• Melbourne: Berth at Port Melbourne. Good tram access to City.
• Adelaide: Berth Port Adelaide, free shuttle into city Centre about 25K
• Esperance. Tender operation. Small rural country town with nice beaches.
• Freemantle. 20 k from Perth City. Freemantle nice town
PS Jimmy at Guest Relations. Top class, tried his best. 5 star awards Jimmy
Alec Waugh: March 2013