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I was on the 15 January cruise out of Sydney, bound for New Caledonia (Noumea and Isle of Pines), Vanuatu (Mystery Island) and Loyalty Islands (Lifou). It was my second cruise on Celebrity, first in Aqua Class, first on Solstice. I got a really great deal a month prior to the cruise, where they waived the solo supplement and reduced the price of Aqua cabins to less than the price of ordinary verandah cabins - as a result, about a dozen CC women jumped onboard and we had a really great time on this cruise. Solstice is not my ideal ship - she looks like a floating building rather than an elegant swan on the water (my previous cruise was on the Millie, and she formed my view of what a beautiful ship looks like it seems), but on the inside, she is really very sleek and sophisticated. I was really impressed by how clean the crew kept her - she was always shipshape and polished. I loved all the quiet nooks and crannies - the seating areas down from the midship elevators, the library and card rooms, the wonderful relaxation room in front of the spa on deck 11; even though the ship was packed, as long as you stayed away from the crowds up on deck 12 and 14, it never really felt that crowded. I loved the glass elevators, the tree of life and the grass lawn - it was all really well thought out. Although it took me a a few days, now that I have the deck plan engraved into my head, it's actually easy to get around the ship. The only place I really tried to stay away from was Celebrity Central - the casino really creeped me out, and I hated having to walk through it. Embarkation: prior to the cruise I spent a few days at the Four Seasons, so on embarkation day, I checked out at 10.50am, and at 11am was at the baggage collection point, at the entrance to the OPT. I then walked along to the terminal, and as I was Aqua Class I literally walked through all the checkpoints with no waiting, and was on the ship by 11.16am. No drama at all. A lot of people were in the cafe area on deck five upgrading their free beverage package to the premium package. I head up to deck 14 to have a look at the ship from the top down but it was so hot and humid in Sydney that it was not a lot of fun up there. I headed back down and settled in for lunch in the Bistro (which turned out to be my go-to place for lunch: there was never more than a couple of occupied tables when I was there - so peaceful and delicious). After lunch I went to the future cruise desk and booked myself another cruise (more on this later). My cabin - 1576 - was just lovely. Although it looked small at first, there were plenty of storage solutions, and the bathroom in particular was very well organised. It took me a few days to get the hang of the funny shower and all the nozzles but once I worked that out, I loved it. I wasn't so keen on the new toiletries - not very pleasant to smell, but I had brought my own shampoo and conditioner, so only used the shower gel. The lip salve, however, is FABulous and that came home with me. The bed was very comfortable, and it was really nice having it close to the balcony. Next time I will remember to take a peg to close the curtains properly at night. I don't like cold tea, so Violetta, my lovely cabin attendant, quickly agreed to bring extra water instead and as a result, I never needed to buy water on board - there was always an abundance in my cabin. Canapes were delivered around 3.30pm every afternoon - usually a dab of dip (hummus etc) and corn chips, olives, and once choc chip cookies). The mini bar was stocked with cold drinks and they were very reasonably priced for a mini bar - a can of 7Up cost $3.50. There was also a little basket of treats likewise regarding price - two packets of M&Ms, or mini pringles, for $5. I was also given a little white cotton backpack which I used during the cruise but threw out at the end, and a blue shoulder bag which I brought home: It was packaged exactly the same as the one I was given in the Caribbean in 2010 so I nearly didn't open it (that one had fake leather handles and was not comfortable to wear) but after seeing someone using theirs, I opened it and discovered that they have changed the handles - now a well reinforced fabric handle, long enough to wear comfortably over your shoulder - very nice and will definitely get some use at home. Food: I had planned to eat in the MDR because on the Caribbean cruise I had enjoyed that so much. However, on the first night I wasn't ready in time, so I wandered down to Blu and it was so convivial and such a lovely small space, that I ended up eating in there most nights. The food was ok - I am vegetarian, and some nights the meals were good, on others they were pretty bad. However, the service and the company were always exceptional, so I was happy. I went up to the lunch buffet twice: once I spent 15 minutes wandering around looking for somewhere to sit with no avail, so I had to leave my sandwich and went down to Bistro on Five for lunch. The second time I found a table first, but when I went to the sandwich bar, I was so put off by what I saw (passengers putting the part of the tongs they held in their hands down in the food, people taking things with their hands, kids passing their hands over food etc) that all I could see was Germs (and I am not one who is normally fussed by this, I believe my immune system needs a good work out daily) and I grabbed my bag and made my way to the Mast Grill instead. So, not a fan of the buffet. Also Not a fan of room service breakfasts: I tried twice and both times my meal was revolting. The smoothie was warm, the eggs were way over cooked, the toast was soggy, and little butter pats and jam containers were scattered clumsily on the tray - nothing about it was appetitising; when the room services manager called to ask how everything was and I told him, he wasn't really interested. After that, I ate in Blu, or went up to the buffet early enough to be there just as it opened - no crowds, no germ spreading... that was a good solution. I tried the MDR once for lunch - my friend was happy, but as a vegetarian the only thing on the menu was a vege burger - and it was not nearly as good as the one I had at the mast grill because there were no condiments, no beetroot etc. I was very glad not to be dining in there on a regular basis: it was so huge that I think I would have felt a bit claustrophobic. I went to the gourmet dinner in Tuscan Grill after the waiter in Blu sold me on it: it cost $95 and we had 6 courses with matching wines. The wines were AMAZING - so delicious. I had never heard of any of them before, although you could loosely match them to familiar grape varieties, but I didn't bother writing them down because I knew I'd never find them at home. They really made a huge difference to the meal, because a group of us dined in the Tuscan Grille a few nights later and I had some of the same courses, which did not taste anything like as good as they did the first time, without the wines to enhance them. The dinner itself was fun - 19 of us, and we all seemed to talk ourselves silly. Wine: I bought a sommeliers classic package of 3 bottles - they moved the bottles between Blu and Tuscan Grill for me with no fuss. I was not impressed with the wines available on the classic package - very limited options, and very standard wines (at home I'd expect to pay about $10 per bottle, which made paying $40+ for them on the package very steep). I didn't buy a beverage package because I drink so little alcohol and as bottled water was provided in Aqua Class. I did have a couple of cocktails in the Passport bar and they were well priced and well made. I used my coupon for a free scoop of gelato quite late in the cruise which was lucky - the icecream was VERY good and as it was, I only had time for a couple of trips to get more. We had coffee at the Cafe mid-morning on the last Sunday of the cruise, and while the coffee drinks were disappointing, the cakes were DELICIOUS. I didn't understand how it worked until after: you pay for the coffee ($6) but the cakes are free: there were 10 of us, and they brought several large plates loaded with chocolate cakes and cheese cakes of various descriptions. Apparently they change direction several times a day - pastries in the morning, cakes from 11am, and then more elaborate dessert cakes later in the day. So, all in all, you will not go hungry on the cruise, and there are pockets of good food, but mostly it's very ordinary. Entertainment etc: the pool was insanely crowded (over 500 kids on board this cruise) so I never went near it. The Solarium was also very crowded on sea days, but I found that if I went early I could have a lovely swim and a relaxing read before it got too hot or busy for me. On port days, I headed straight to the solarium after getting back on board, had a shower and then a swim to regroup after the heat and humidity outside. It was very lovely. I went to a port lecture, which I thought was poorly delivered (I am a university lecturer so have a professional interest in delivery) and full of generic wikipedia type information: as this man was giving the other lectures, I did not go back. I also went to a presentation on the galapagos, but it was really just a sales pitch for the cruises, so the information was all on the website and thus not terribly informative. I enjoyed the singers who performed in the Passport Bar each night, but didn't go to the shows - by 10pm most nights I was exhausted and looking for bed. the in-room entertainment channels were good - lots of good movies to watch for free, although some of them were broken links and were not fixed during the cruise (indeed, my room attendant said one of them had been broken for at least a month). One tip I learned late: if you go to the Cruise Relations desk early on port days, they'll give you a handout on the island, with lots of interesting information on it. I wish I had known that earlier. Spa: I loved the spa. I had four massages and a mani/pedi over the cruise. I learned a lesson quite early on: on embarkation they made announcements that if you book a 50 minute massage for that day, you would receive an 80 minute massage for no extra cost. Great, I thought: I had already signed up for a 50 minute massage, which was to cost $105. However, at the end of (the most amazing massage I have ever had) the experience I was presented with a charge slip for $167. It turns out that what they don't tell you about the "free" extension is that you have to pay full price for the 50 minute massage - you can't have the 20% port-day 'flexi pricing" and the "free" extension. When I pointed out that this was most likely a breach of the Fair Trading Act (misleading and deceptive conduct, because they advertised it was no extra cost, but in practice the extension actually costs an extra $43) I got a shoulder shrug, a garbled non-explanation, and an offer to make all my remaining booked massages into 80 minutes-for-the-price of 50 minute sessions. The massage was so good that I decided not to be annoyed, and agreed to this deal. I did however, resist all efforts to sell me extra stuff. Excursions: I booked a couple of excursions pre-cruise. Once on board, I wanted to change an excursion which was booked to start at 10.30, for an earlier start time, so I could do a second excursion in the afternoon. I didn't realise that this would involve cancelling the first excursion, with a refund, and then having to pay the higher-on board price for the later start time, so that was a good lesson to learn. Especially as the climate was so horrid that I didn't end up going on the second excursion after all. Noumea: I went on the island tour with 90 minute stop at Anse Vatu beach. I did not enjoy this excursion at all. We had to go to the Theatre and onto the stage to collect stickers, then wait in the theatre seating area until all of our tour had arrived, then we were called, herded down the stairs to deck 2, and off the ship. I think they'd do better to have the check-in desk at the top of the theatre rather than the stage = there were a lot of people milling around not sure where to go or what to do. It felt like a lot of effort rather than being easy. Anyway, once off the ship, it became immediately clear that the humidity was insane; it made the 28 degree temp feel like 40 degrees. Luckily, the bus was parked right next to the ship, so as soon as we got off the ship, we jumped onto the air conditioned bus and got to cool off - just that 3 minute experience had many of us damp with perspiration. The tour heads off on a rushed jaunt up a hill to a viewpoint (so hot when you got off the bus, my camera immediately condensed and took almost the whole 10 minute stop to unfog) then through the old area of town - to be honest, there is not a lot to see and the commentary was so rushed to keep pace with the speed of the bus that I spent the whole tour looking back trying to work out which building she had been talking about. We were then dropped at Anse Vatu beach and I still don't really understand why. There is no "beach" as such - the water comes up to the little grass "cliff" - so you can lie on the (wet)grass, or sit on the plentiful picnic table and benches. The water was murky - the fine clay soil and the seaweed etc means that the water is not clear, so it's not good for snorkling, and there are no waves, so it's not much fun for playing in. It was great to get in and cool off, but after that there's not much to do. Across the road are a lot of dodgy tourist-trap shops and then we all ended up huddled under a tree waiting for the bus. On the way back to the ship, we stopped off at a cafe five minutes walk (60 seconds drive) up the road for a class of cold soda and a tiny wee macaroon - both were good, but not worth the effort of getting on and off the bus again. And ironically, opposite that cafe is Lemon Bay - a much nicer looking beach!! I would not be in a hurry to head back to Noumea. It might have been different if the Solstice was not too big to dock at the passenger terminal, which is just opposite the main town marketplace; however she is, and we were docked on the freight wharf. By the time we got back, I was so hot and so bothered that the thought of sitting on the little open-top "train" and heading back out for what was clearly going to be a very similar tour, was very unattractive, so I gave up on that idea. Lifou: No tours were offered for this island. We tendered ashore and it was very easy and well organised: picked up a tender ticket on deck 5, waited until my number (18) was announced, and then headed down to deck 2 - the whole process took about 30 minutes, although I understand that by 10am there was a long backlog, partially caused by the fact that so many people went ashore and then headed straight back to the ship again. Again, it was incredibly hot and humid, and the island itself - at least the area around the market place and the beach nearest to the tender dock - was dirty and poorly resourced. There were no seating areas, and no shade on the beach itself - apparently a lot of people went back to the ship badly dehydrated and that led to a change in organisation the next day. The beach near the dock had very few fish and no coral - it was very disappointing. A few people who walked to the marine park and paid the entrance fee reported that the snorkling there was much better. I only lasted 90 minutes and that was in a long sleeved rashie and hat, with 50 plus sunscreen. You definitely need reef-shoes - the entire area is covered in dead coral and shells. Mystery Island: this was everyone's favourite stop. You tender ashore again, and then walk 30 metres across the island to the other side where there are wee coconut-tree plank benches along the edge of the forest, and head out into the most amazing acquarium - I have never snorkled with so many different kinds of fishies - it was snorkling heaven. The coral was however, very disappointing and not helped in any way by all the people walking over it constantly. The ship crew brought over a lot of beverages, set up a station, and sent out wait staff who walked from group to group taking orders: it was really amazing to come out of the water, sit in the shade, and have a nice cold lemonade delivered to you - it made the day before in Lifou seem like a bad dream. There were islanders selling trips on their traditional sail boats ($10AU a trip which lasted about 20 minutes) out to see the edge of the reef - and being on that gorgeous turquoise water was a treat. there was also an amazing market where they sold lots of cool stuff (really beautiful sarongs) and lobster, if you didn't want to go back to the ship for lunch. By 11.30 the tide was way out, so I headed back to the ship for lunch, and then in the afternoon, I went back and played in the waves in the deep beautiful water on the beach just along from the tender dock. AMAZING and beautiful beach day. Isle of Pines: once again, insane humidity and heat. I went on the Le Meridian lunch excursion, which was a huge disappointment in every way; I have posted a detailed review of that on the Celebrity website excursion page and don't want to go over it again, but suffice to say, do your research before you decide to waste your money on this trip. Future Cruise Desk: I booked another cruise on the first day of this cruise, and then on the last day, went back and upgraded myself from concierge to Aqua Class. Definitely a smart move - I was offered the captains club free upgrade, the 123Go package (free beverage package, no gratuities, $300 US OBC), a $300 OBC from future cruises, and a refundable $100 deposit. However, it took some organising: initially he sold me on taking a $400 OBC on this cruise instead of having it in the future cruise. However, what he didn't tell me until it was too late, was that in order to take that option, you have to pay a non-refundable deposit equal to the OBC - of course, that makes total sense, but once he told me about it (as I was reading the form) I didn't want it. He then had to cancel the whole thing and do it all over again to charge me the $100 refundable deposit. And once I got home I discovered that that first deposit has not been refunded. So I have had to open a dispute with my credit card company, to try and get it reversed. So, make sure you ask that question before you allow them to charge anything to your card. Debarkation: I booked the Manly Beach-Airport transfer, because my flight was not until 2pm. This was the best excursion of the trip. At 8am I headed down to Celebrity Central to check in and collect my sticker; at 8.30am we headed down to deck 2 and off the ship. It was POURING with rain and cold for the first time all cruise; none of us were dressed for the weather. We were quickly escorted in to collect our cases and then to the bus - it took about 5 minutes in total to leave the ship and get onto the bus. We then had a really informative, lovely ride in the rain to Manly, where we (most of us) sat on the bus in the rain for 45 minutes enjoying the conversation, and then were dropped off at the airport. Much better than trying to find a taxi in the rain, and spending the whole day at the airport. So, a good cruise, I certainly arrived home in a very calm relaxed frame of mind. And very good value for money given the excellent deal I scored back in December.

Great cruise, not so fussed about the destination.

Celebrity Solstice Cruise Review by trinitygirl

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: January 2015
  • Destination: South Pacific
  • Cabin Type: AquaClass
I was on the 15 January cruise out of Sydney, bound for New Caledonia (Noumea and Isle of Pines), Vanuatu (Mystery Island) and Loyalty Islands (Lifou). It was my second cruise on Celebrity, first in Aqua Class, first on Solstice. I got a really great deal a month prior to the cruise, where they waived the solo supplement and reduced the price of Aqua cabins to less than the price of ordinary verandah cabins - as a result, about a dozen CC women jumped onboard and we had a really great time on this cruise.
Solstice is not my ideal ship - she looks like a floating building rather than an elegant swan on the water (my previous cruise was on the Millie, and she formed my view of what a beautiful ship looks like it seems), but on the inside, she is really very sleek and sophisticated. I was really impressed by how clean the crew kept her - she was always shipshape and polished. I loved all the quiet nooks and crannies - the seating areas down from the midship elevators, the library and card rooms, the wonderful relaxation room in front of the spa on deck 11; even though the ship was packed, as long as you stayed away from the crowds up on deck 12 and 14, it never really felt that crowded. I loved the glass elevators, the tree of life and the grass lawn - it was all really well thought out. Although it took me a a few days, now that I have the deck plan engraved into my head, it's actually easy to get around the ship. The only place I really tried to stay away from was Celebrity Central - the casino really creeped me out, and I hated having to walk through it.
Embarkation: prior to the cruise I spent a few days at the Four Seasons, so on embarkation day, I checked out at 10.50am, and at 11am was at the baggage collection point, at the entrance to the OPT. I then walked along to the terminal, and as I was Aqua Class I literally walked through all the checkpoints with no waiting, and was on the ship by 11.16am. No drama at all. A lot of people were in the cafe area on deck five upgrading their free beverage package to the premium package. I head up to deck 14 to have a look at the ship from the top down but it was so hot and humid in Sydney that it was not a lot of fun up there. I headed back down and settled in for lunch in the Bistro (which turned out to be my go-to place for lunch: there was never more than a couple of occupied tables when I was there - so peaceful and delicious). After lunch I went to the future cruise desk and booked myself another cruise (more on this later).
My cabin - 1576 - was just lovely. Although it looked small at first, there were plenty of storage solutions, and the bathroom in particular was very well organised. It took me a few days to get the hang of the funny shower and all the nozzles but once I worked that out, I loved it. I wasn't so keen on the new toiletries - not very pleasant to smell, but I had brought my own shampoo and conditioner, so only used the shower gel. The lip salve, however, is FABulous and that came home with me. The bed was very comfortable, and it was really nice having it close to the balcony. Next time I will remember to take a peg to close the curtains properly at night. I don't like cold tea, so Violetta, my lovely cabin attendant, quickly agreed to bring extra water instead and as a result, I never needed to buy water on board - there was always an abundance in my cabin. Canapes were delivered around 3.30pm every afternoon - usually a dab of dip (hummus etc) and corn chips, olives, and once choc chip cookies). The mini bar was stocked with cold drinks and they were very reasonably priced for a mini bar - a can of 7Up cost $3.50. There was also a little basket of treats likewise regarding price - two packets of M&Ms, or mini pringles, for $5. I was also given a little white cotton backpack which I used during the cruise but threw out at the end, and a blue shoulder bag which I brought home: It was packaged exactly the same as the one I was given in the Caribbean in 2010 so I nearly didn't open it (that one had fake leather handles and was not comfortable to wear) but after seeing someone using theirs, I opened it and discovered that they have changed the handles - now a well reinforced fabric handle, long enough to wear comfortably over your shoulder - very nice and will definitely get some use at home.
Food: I had planned to eat in the MDR because on the Caribbean cruise I had enjoyed that so much. However, on the first night I wasn't ready in time, so I wandered down to Blu and it was so convivial and such a lovely small space, that I ended up eating in there most nights. The food was ok - I am vegetarian, and some nights the meals were good, on others they were pretty bad. However, the service and the company were always exceptional, so I was happy. I went up to the lunch buffet twice: once I spent 15 minutes wandering around looking for somewhere to sit with no avail, so I had to leave my sandwich and went down to Bistro on Five for lunch. The second time I found a table first, but when I went to the sandwich bar, I was so put off by what I saw (passengers putting the part of the tongs they held in their hands down in the food, people taking things with their hands, kids passing their hands over food etc) that all I could see was Germs (and I am not one who is normally fussed by this, I believe my immune system needs a good work out daily) and I grabbed my bag and made my way to the Mast Grill instead. So, not a fan of the buffet. Also Not a fan of room service breakfasts: I tried twice and both times my meal was revolting. The smoothie was warm, the eggs were way over cooked, the toast was soggy, and little butter pats and jam containers were scattered clumsily on the tray - nothing about it was appetitising; when the room services manager called to ask how everything was and I told him, he wasn't really interested. After that, I ate in Blu, or went up to the buffet early enough to be there just as it opened - no crowds, no germ spreading... that was a good solution. I tried the MDR once for lunch - my friend was happy, but as a vegetarian the only thing on the menu was a vege burger - and it was not nearly as good as the one I had at the mast grill because there were no condiments, no beetroot etc. I was very glad not to be dining in there on a regular basis: it was so huge that I think I would have felt a bit claustrophobic. I went to the gourmet dinner in Tuscan Grill after the waiter in Blu sold me on it: it cost $95 and we had 6 courses with matching wines. The wines were AMAZING - so delicious. I had never heard of any of them before, although you could loosely match them to familiar grape varieties, but I didn't bother writing them down because I knew I'd never find them at home. They really made a huge difference to the meal, because a group of us dined in the Tuscan Grille a few nights later and I had some of the same courses, which did not taste anything like as good as they did the first time, without the wines to enhance them. The dinner itself was fun - 19 of us, and we all seemed to talk ourselves silly. Wine: I bought a sommeliers classic package of 3 bottles - they moved the bottles between Blu and Tuscan Grill for me with no fuss. I was not impressed with the wines available on the classic package - very limited options, and very standard wines (at home I'd expect to pay about $10 per bottle, which made paying $40+ for them on the package very steep). I didn't buy a beverage package because I drink so little alcohol and as bottled water was provided in Aqua Class. I did have a couple of cocktails in the Passport bar and they were well priced and well made. I used my coupon for a free scoop of gelato quite late in the cruise which was lucky - the icecream was VERY good and as it was, I only had time for a couple of trips to get more. We had coffee at the Cafe mid-morning on the last Sunday of the cruise, and while the coffee drinks were disappointing, the cakes were DELICIOUS. I didn't understand how it worked until after: you pay for the coffee ($6) but the cakes are free: there were 10 of us, and they brought several large plates loaded with chocolate cakes and cheese cakes of various descriptions. Apparently they change direction several times a day - pastries in the morning, cakes from 11am, and then more elaborate dessert cakes later in the day. So, all in all, you will not go hungry on the cruise, and there are pockets of good food, but mostly it's very ordinary.
Entertainment etc: the pool was insanely crowded (over 500 kids on board this cruise) so I never went near it. The Solarium was also very crowded on sea days, but I found that if I went early I could have a lovely swim and a relaxing read before it got too hot or busy for me. On port days, I headed straight to the solarium after getting back on board, had a shower and then a swim to regroup after the heat and humidity outside. It was very lovely. I went to a port lecture, which I thought was poorly delivered (I am a university lecturer so have a professional interest in delivery) and full of generic wikipedia type information: as this man was giving the other lectures, I did not go back. I also went to a presentation on the galapagos, but it was really just a sales pitch for the cruises, so the information was all on the website and thus not terribly informative. I enjoyed the singers who performed in the Passport Bar each night, but didn't go to the shows - by 10pm most nights I was exhausted and looking for bed. the in-room entertainment channels were good - lots of good movies to watch for free, although some of them were broken links and were not fixed during the cruise (indeed, my room attendant said one of them had been broken for at least a month). One tip I learned late: if you go to the Cruise Relations desk early on port days, they'll give you a handout on the island, with lots of interesting information on it. I wish I had known that earlier.
Spa: I loved the spa. I had four massages and a mani/pedi over the cruise. I learned a lesson quite early on: on embarkation they made announcements that if you book a 50 minute massage for that day, you would receive an 80 minute massage for no extra cost. Great, I thought: I had already signed up for a 50 minute massage, which was to cost $105. However, at the end of (the most amazing massage I have ever had) the experience I was presented with a charge slip for $167. It turns out that what they don't tell you about the "free" extension is that you have to pay full price for the 50 minute massage - you can't have the 20% port-day 'flexi pricing" and the "free" extension. When I pointed out that this was most likely a breach of the Fair Trading Act (misleading and deceptive conduct, because they advertised it was no extra cost, but in practice the extension actually costs an extra $43) I got a shoulder shrug, a garbled non-explanation, and an offer to make all my remaining booked massages into 80 minutes-for-the-price of 50 minute sessions. The massage was so good that I decided not to be annoyed, and agreed to this deal. I did however, resist all efforts to sell me extra stuff.
Excursions: I booked a couple of excursions pre-cruise. Once on board, I wanted to change an excursion which was booked to start at 10.30, for an earlier start time, so I could do a second excursion in the afternoon. I didn't realise that this would involve cancelling the first excursion, with a refund, and then having to pay the higher-on board price for the later start time, so that was a good lesson to learn. Especially as the climate was so horrid that I didn't end up going on the second excursion after all.
Noumea: I went on the island tour with 90 minute stop at Anse Vatu beach. I did not enjoy this excursion at all. We had to go to the Theatre and onto the stage to collect stickers, then wait in the theatre seating area until all of our tour had arrived, then we were called, herded down the stairs to deck 2, and off the ship. I think they'd do better to have the check-in desk at the top of the theatre rather than the stage = there were a lot of people milling around not sure where to go or what to do. It felt like a lot of effort rather than being easy. Anyway, once off the ship, it became immediately clear that the humidity was insane; it made the 28 degree temp feel like 40 degrees. Luckily, the bus was parked right next to the ship, so as soon as we got off the ship, we jumped onto the air conditioned bus and got to cool off - just that 3 minute experience had many of us damp with perspiration. The tour heads off on a rushed jaunt up a hill to a viewpoint (so hot when you got off the bus, my camera immediately condensed and took almost the whole 10 minute stop to unfog) then through the old area of town - to be honest, there is not a lot to see and the commentary was so rushed to keep pace with the speed of the bus that I spent the whole tour looking back trying to work out which building she had been talking about. We were then dropped at Anse Vatu beach and I still don't really understand why. There is no "beach" as such - the water comes up to the little grass "cliff" - so you can lie on the (wet)grass, or sit on the plentiful picnic table and benches. The water was murky - the fine clay soil and the seaweed etc means that the water is not clear, so it's not good for snorkling, and there are no waves, so it's not much fun for playing in. It was great to get in and cool off, but after that there's not much to do. Across the road are a lot of dodgy tourist-trap shops and then we all ended up huddled under a tree waiting for the bus. On the way back to the ship, we stopped off at a cafe five minutes walk (60 seconds drive) up the road for a class of cold soda and a tiny wee macaroon - both were good, but not worth the effort of getting on and off the bus again. And ironically, opposite that cafe is Lemon Bay - a much nicer looking beach!! I would not be in a hurry to head back to Noumea. It might have been different if the Solstice was not too big to dock at the passenger terminal, which is just opposite the main town marketplace; however she is, and we were docked on the freight wharf. By the time we got back, I was so hot and so bothered that the thought of sitting on the little open-top "train" and heading back out for what was clearly going to be a very similar tour, was very unattractive, so I gave up on that idea.
Lifou: No tours were offered for this island. We tendered ashore and it was very easy and well organised: picked up a tender ticket on deck 5, waited until my number (18) was announced, and then headed down to deck 2 - the whole process took about 30 minutes, although I understand that by 10am there was a long backlog, partially caused by the fact that so many people went ashore and then headed straight back to the ship again. Again, it was incredibly hot and humid, and the island itself - at least the area around the market place and the beach nearest to the tender dock - was dirty and poorly resourced. There were no seating areas, and no shade on the beach itself - apparently a lot of people went back to the ship badly dehydrated and that led to a change in organisation the next day. The beach near the dock had very few fish and no coral - it was very disappointing. A few people who walked to the marine park and paid the entrance fee reported that the snorkling there was much better. I only lasted 90 minutes and that was in a long sleeved rashie and hat, with 50 plus sunscreen. You definitely need reef-shoes - the entire area is covered in dead coral and shells.
Mystery Island: this was everyone's favourite stop. You tender ashore again, and then walk 30 metres across the island to the other side where there are wee coconut-tree plank benches along the edge of the forest, and head out into the most amazing acquarium - I have never snorkled with so many different kinds of fishies - it was snorkling heaven. The coral was however, very disappointing and not helped in any way by all the people walking over it constantly. The ship crew brought over a lot of beverages, set up a station, and sent out wait staff who walked from group to group taking orders: it was really amazing to come out of the water, sit in the shade, and have a nice cold lemonade delivered to you - it made the day before in Lifou seem like a bad dream. There were islanders selling trips on their traditional sail boats ($10AU a trip which lasted about 20 minutes) out to see the edge of the reef - and being on that gorgeous turquoise water was a treat. there was also an amazing market where they sold lots of cool stuff (really beautiful sarongs) and lobster, if you didn't want to go back to the ship for lunch. By 11.30 the tide was way out, so I headed back to the ship for lunch, and then in the afternoon, I went back and played in the waves in the deep beautiful water on the beach just along from the tender dock. AMAZING and beautiful beach day.
Isle of Pines: once again, insane humidity and heat. I went on the Le Meridian lunch excursion, which was a huge disappointment in every way; I have posted a detailed review of that on the Celebrity website excursion page and don't want to go over it again, but suffice to say, do your research before you decide to waste your money on this trip.
Future Cruise Desk: I booked another cruise on the first day of this cruise, and then on the last day, went back and upgraded myself from concierge to Aqua Class. Definitely a smart move - I was offered the captains club free upgrade, the 123Go package (free beverage package, no gratuities, $300 US OBC), a $300 OBC from future cruises, and a refundable $100 deposit. However, it took some organising: initially he sold me on taking a $400 OBC on this cruise instead of having it in the future cruise. However, what he didn't tell me until it was too late, was that in order to take that option, you have to pay a non-refundable deposit equal to the OBC - of course, that makes total sense, but once he told me about it (as I was reading the form) I didn't want it. He then had to cancel the whole thing and do it all over again to charge me the $100 refundable deposit. And once I got home I discovered that that first deposit has not been refunded. So I have had to open a dispute with my credit card company, to try and get it reversed. So, make sure you ask that question before you allow them to charge anything to your card.
Debarkation: I booked the Manly Beach-Airport transfer, because my flight was not until 2pm. This was the best excursion of the trip. At 8am I headed down to Celebrity Central to check in and collect my sticker; at 8.30am we headed down to deck 2 and off the ship. It was POURING with rain and cold for the first time all cruise; none of us were dressed for the weather. We were quickly escorted in to collect our cases and then to the bus - it took about 5 minutes in total to leave the ship and get onto the bus. We then had a really informative, lovely ride in the rain to Manly, where we (most of us) sat on the bus in the rain for 45 minutes enjoying the conversation, and then were dropped off at the airport. Much better than trying to find a taxi in the rain, and spending the whole day at the airport.
So, a good cruise, I certainly arrived home in a very calm relaxed frame of mind. And very good value for money given the excellent deal I scored back in December.
trinitygirl’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

AquaClass
Cabin A1 1576
A really great location I think - mid-way between the midship and forward elevators. Nice and quiet - hardly saw or heard anyone in the corridors other than the crew, didn't hear anything from the neighbours except on days when we were on our balcony for sail-away and got to chatting. Heard no noise from deck 12. The bed is next to the balcony which is lovely. Plenty of storage space although I don't know what the purpose of the cupboards over the bed is for - you'd need to be a Goliath to access them. The lovely Violetta and Dennis did a great job as room attendants. Being on the starboard side not so desirable for Sydney (city view, not Opera House) but got the port view (rather than the sea view) in Noumea (unfortunately).
Penthouse Deck Inside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Isle of Pines (New Caledonia)
    Isle of Pines: once again, insane humidity and heat. I went on the Le Meridian lunch excursion, which was a huge disappointment in every way; I have posted a detailed review of that on the Celebrity website excursion page and don't want to go over it again, but suffice to say, do your research before you decide to waste your money on this trip.
    View All 241 Isle of Pines (New Caledonia) Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Isle of Pines (New Caledonia) Cruise Port Review
  • Anse Vata Beach
    Noumea: I went on the island tour with 90 minute stop at Anse Vatu beach. I did not enjoy this excursion at all. We had to go to the Theatre and onto the stage to collect stickers, then wait in the theatre seating area until all of our tour had arrived, then we were called, herded down the stairs to deck 2, and off the ship. I think they'd do better to have the check-in desk at the top of the theatre rather than the stage = there were a lot of people milling around not sure where to go or what to do. It felt like a lot of effort rather than being easy. Anyway, once off the ship, it became immediately clear that the humidity was insane; it made the 28 degree temp feel like 40 degrees. Luckily, the bus was parked right next to the ship, so as soon as we got off the ship, we jumped onto the air conditioned bus and got to cool off - just that 3 minute experience had many of us damp with perspiration. The tour heads off on a rushed jaunt up a hill to a viewpoint (so hot when you got off the bus, my camera immediately condensed and took almost the whole 10 minute stop to unfog) then through the old area of town - to be honest, there is not a lot to see and the commentary was so rushed to keep pace with the speed of the bus that I spent the whole tour looking back trying to work out which building she had been talking about. We were then dropped at Anse Vatu beach and I still don't really understand why. There is no "beach" as such - the water comes up to the little grass "cliff" - so you can lie on the (wet)grass, or sit on the plentiful picnic table and benches. The water was murky - the fine clay soil and the seaweed etc means that the water is not clear, so it's not good for snorkling, and there are no waves, so it's not much fun for playing in. It was great to get in and cool off, but after that there's not much to do. Across the road are a lot of dodgy tourist-trap shops and then we all ended up huddled under a tree waiting for the bus. On the way back to the ship, we stopped off at a cafe five minutes walk (60 seconds drive) up the road for a class of cold soda and a tiny wee macaroon - both were good, but not worth the effort of getting on and off the bus again. And ironically, opposite that cafe is Lemon Bay - a much nicer looking beach!! I would not be in a hurry to head back to Noumea. It might have been different if the Solstice was not too big to dock at the passenger terminal, which is just opposite the main town marketplace; however she is, and we were docked on the freight wharf. By the time we got back, I was so hot and so bothered that the thought of sitting on the little open-top "train" and heading back out for what was clearly going to be a very similar tour, was very unattractive, so I gave up on that idea.
    View All 9 Anse Vata Beach Reviews