Having been to Australia 5 years ago but mainly to the East coast region, ie Sydney, Brisbane, etc, we decided to do the West coast option but doing cruising as opposed to land based tour. We are a couple of reasonably fit, adventurous 70 ish people from the UK. After a couple of long uncomfortable flights we arrived in Perth to spend 3 days pre-cruise. Perth is a beautiful city, we used the free CAT buses to get around with four different routes (why doesn't every large city have this option). We spent a few hours walking around Kings Park, beautiful sights overlooking the Swan River, following day we did a tremendous wine tasting tour with Out and About Wine Tours incorporating river cruise, three wineries, brewery and chocolate factory, it didn't get any better than this.
We embarked at Fremantle and were told quite wrongly that we had to be back on the ship by 16.00 hours for lifeboat muster. This was apparently wrong as we could have done it later in the evening we, therefore, cancelled going walkabout in Fremantle. Embarkation was a doddle, in our cabin within 20 minutes. This was our first cruise with Celebrity and it's quite possible that we picked the best ship in the fleet?? Arguable. We were absolutely blown away by the style and elegance of this beautiful ship and considering there were so many people on board you never had the feeling of being overcrowded, plenty of sun loungers, you were always able to find a lounger on any deck. There was always something interesting going on, glass blowing demonstration, popular Zumba, interesting talks particularly by a guy called Milos who gave talks on a variety of interesting subjects but with a quirky offbeat sense of humour.
The standard of service on board was exceptional from the bar staff, waiters, cabin steward, dining room staff, all were superb. We had the drinks package and we found this a very quick and hassle free option when ordering drinks, so much quicker and easier to check your onboard account, instead of looking for the things you have ordered just looking for the ones you haven't.
We chose to use the Ocean View buffet everyday for breakfast and lunch. The first 72 hours service was a little slow due to the fact that the passengers were not allowed to help themselves, after this period there were generally no problems but we suppose that's for the good of everyone hygienewise. The buffet food was very good with lots of variety, it would be your own fault if you couldn't find anything acceptable. We chose Select Dining and usually went for dinner 7.30 - 8.00 pm each evening. The food and standard of service at any of the dining rooms was nothing short of exceptional. Full credit to those responsible.
We had balcony cabin 9109 close to the front of the ship which was very quiet and it involved much needed exercise to and from the main areas of the ship. The cabin was immaculately clean and kept that way by a super-friendly cabin steward. Not much hanging wardrobe space!
The itinerary involved Port Headland, very hot but interesting only for those who like large industrial mining operations. We found the locals extremely friendly with lots of people volunteering and school children with clip boards given time off school to interview passengers. Small tip rather than waste time trying to connect to the free wifi at the Visitor Centre, best to walk 20 yards down the street to the Seafarers Club where you can use their computers for $5 per hour or $2.50 for half an hour. Next stop Bali was a tendered port and as such there was a lot of problems. Priority was given to people on ship shore excursions if you were doing your own thing (which we were) even allowing for the fact that we started queuing 15 minutes before tender tickets were issued, we were still on number 19 tender which resulted in us not being ashore until 11 o'clock. Fortunately this did not affect the private tour that we had arranged but it could have done. We thought it was a fiasco. Next stop Darwin, again very hot, we arrived on the day Australian soldiers were marching through the town on their return from Afghanistan to a rapturous welcome. We also saw the Australian Prime Minister and his entourage also marching through the town centre. We did the jumping crocs excursion with the ship, very interesting. Next stop Airlie Beach, again this was a tendered port but without the problems of Bali, lots of local volunteers greeting people, went on a private tour, we did a flight over the Whit Sunday islands and then onto the Great Barrier Reef which was absolutely amazing. The pilot of the 6 seater aircraft was a young girl (23??) such a fantastic experience well worth the extra money involved. Next port Brisbane, having been before we chose the shuttle bus option into town. Next port Newcastle. This is the one that really blew us away, we woke early as usual 7 am to go out on the balcony and there before us were thousands of people giving up their Sunday morning lie in lining the beach and the headland waving and cheering as we entered Newcastle harbour. As we got off the ship the Lord Mayor was there to greet the passengers as they got off, also dozens of volunteers (we've never seen so many smiling faces) what a credit to the town of Newcastle. We did a Hunter Valley wine tasting which again was very interesting but the best was saved til last, the sailaway from Newcastle. Again thousands of people lining the beaches and headlands and in honour of the ship docking there we had a three gun salute from one of the World War 2 artillery pieces stationed at the entrance to the harbour, fantastic, so emotional! Final port Sydney, what can be said about Sydney that hasn't already been said, fabulous place. We had the added bonus of meeting up with relatives who were staying with their son. We couldn't rate this cruise any higher we have never come across so many smiley faced happy people in one place and as we write this review we have already booked our next Celebrity cruise, recommendation indeed.