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This was our second cruise. We are a couple of 50 year olds and we travelled with another couple of the same age. We had adjoining stern cabins 7311 & 7315 on deck 7. The cruise was titled Australia’s Top End and travelled from Perth up around the top of Australia and finished in Sydney. All ports were Australian with the exception of Bali, Indonesia. 17 nights with 10 sea days. Incredibly calm seas all the way. Cyclones whipped up off Western Australian and Queensland after we cruised past. We were in the bottom 10% by age group on the ship i.e. lots of older passengers, mobility scooters, walking frames etc. As one of the bar staff pointed out, the longer the cruise the older the passengers (generally speaking). The pax were predominantly Australian but with a good mix of North Americans, English and Europeans. We had the Classic drink package as part of the 123 go promo and upgraded to the premium package before we boarded. We do enjoy a drink so this worked well for us. It cost us $11.50 per day to upgrade. So it paid for itself with one cocktail at USD $15/AUD$19 per day. It was just nice passing the card over and knowing that there were no more charges.. What really surprised me is the ability of people to find something to complain about. I work hard in my own business and holidays are always much anticipated and taken with a happy disposition. On a ship like Solstice the general approach by all crew is to make passengers experience as enjoyable as possible – they generally bend over backwards to help/serve you. Of course sometimes there are inconveniences, some which could possibly have been avoided but most are insignificant in the overall scheme of things. Yet people get worked up over little things/first world problems (no English Breakfast tea) and are rude to staff. The ship – we loved the ship. Whilst it’s 7 years old now, the only place that I really noticed that was the balconies of the cabins. They were showing small amounts of rust and the rail was in need of a coat of varnish. Everywhere else throughout the ship was in good condition. For the most part It’s a bright airy, open, modern ship. There’s plenty of tasteful art all over the ship, plenty of quiet spots if that’s what you wanted and always something going on if you want to be active. I was told that the ship was full so that means 2850 pax or close to it. Surprisingly it never felt crowded. I think the only time we queued was for tender boats and for customs paper work. I never ceased to be amazed at the size of the ship but I only really appreciated it when we were in port and I was looking at it. The Cabin – stern cabin so peaceful and wind free. There has been complaints about soot on the balconies of the stern cabins. We did not experience this at all – clearly it depends on what fuel they burn. No over hang on the balcony so it was very sun exposed. We had the balcony divider opened to share with our friends in the adjoining cabins – that works to a limited extent. The inter connecting doors at the cabin entrance are a bit of an odd setup and worked …sort of. Our cabin 7311 had the bed near the balcony whilst 7315 was near the bathroom. Good size bathroom with a proper shower screen. More than enough storage for us. We had Peter our cabin steward empty the fridge so we could bring back drinks and put them in there. It is however a 100 metre walk from the stairs/lifts to the cabin. Not an issue for us but if you had mobility issues it might be. All in all, very happy with the cabin. The Crew – We make a habit of trying to engage the staff and create a friendly relationship with them. It helps us enjoy the experience more and they seem to enjoy it too. It must be so hard for the crew – long contracts, long shifts, away from family. Every day must be groundhog day for them and whilst as passengers we’re excited about our holiday/experience, it’s just another day/cruise for them. Our cabin stewards Peter from India and Ahktar from Mauritius were friendly, attentive and only to happy to help if there was an issue. Bar staff and MDR staff were generally very good. I happened to meet the Chief Engineer one day and he was happy to chat with me and answer my questions. We also had a good chat with Richard Green, the head chef, who gladly gave us a few minutes of his time. The entertainment –A very talented ensemble cast in the Solstice theatre. The house band Spitfires were a bit under whelming – their performances always seemed to lack punch. There was a duo who sang daily throughout the ship and even performed in Solstice theatre one evening. A good variety of performers brought on for a few days eg. Aussie Boys, Rat Pack, David Campbell, magician, comedian and my favourite, the Cirque Soleil style show. overall very good. The Ports – Port Hedland was an industrial mining port and was interesting. I may not ever get back that way so it was worth seeing/the experience. Interestingly it’s been dropped from the same cruise next year. Bali and Cairns were tender ports – due to windy conditions tendering was delayed in Cairns so we ended up with only about 3 hours on land there. We enjoyed Bali but again because of tendering our time was limited. Darwin, Cairns and Newcastle were all enjoyable and I know we’ll get back there individually to get a better look around. Coming back on board it was often very hot so the crew would be waiting at the port with iced towels and cold drinks … just an extra special level of service. The Food – I was a bit disappointed in the quality of the food in the MDR. Variety was plentiful but was often just bland. By contrast, we found the buffet food quality and variety excellent. Bistro on 5 was not that good. The only specialty restaurant we tried was Tuscan Grille and it was the food highlight of the cruise. The mast grill was very good for burgers and gourmet sausages. The Bars – we really enjoyed sitting out the back at the Oceanview Café at any time of day – we often had brekky out there. It has more cover than the sunset bar and comfy couches. We were regulars at the Molecular bar – we found it surprisingly quiet, particularly compared to the Martini bar, and got to know the bar tenders there quite well. They were a bit stand offish early but became more engaging as the cruise progressed. I personally loved the passport bar, it had the best variety of beer on board and you could sit quietly and have a drink or alternatively you could always find someone to chat to. Sky observation lounge was good afternoon trivia venue and live band venue in the evening. Qasar night club was a good karoke venue and late party spot. The older crowd seemed to work well in our favour at the bars. There was hardly any waiting or crowds at the bar so no waiting for drinks – this was because the older crowd didn’t frequent the bars too much and were tucked up in bed early. Shops, photos, art sales. Not really our thing. We did a little bit of shopping and bought a couple of photos. Whilst we got 'personal' invitation to the Art Auctions, we didn't attend. We did attend a couple of the enrichment presentations which were OK - you've just got to pick your mark. The casino looked impressive although I didn't utilise it. Overall – a wonderful experience on a beautiful ship. We had great friends with us and made some new ones along the way. I certainly got the fun and relaxation I was looking for. It was a great experience cruising around northern Australia, especially down the east side of Cape York. At times it felt like you could reach out and touch the mainland on the starboard side and islands on the port side – the shipping channel was only a couple of kilometres wide. 17 nights was probably a bit long for us (personal view) but we persevered. Not sure that I could or would travel without a drinks package again – for us it was well worth it. Whilst I love sea days, 10 was a lot. This was only our second cruise so we’ve learnt a lot – we would probably avoid (as far as possible) tender ports. Embarkation was a breeze but that might be because we didn't board until about 3pm as we were waiting for our travelling companions to fly in. Disembarkation was an equally simple and well organised process. We had a very active roll call group with plenty of well organised activities. We even had a pre-cruise meet up the night before in Fremantle.

Great Cruise, Great Company, Great Fun, Great Ship

Celebrity Solstice Cruise Review by Team Alpha

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Trip Details
This was our second cruise. We are a couple of 50 year olds and we travelled with another couple of the same age. We had adjoining stern cabins 7311 & 7315 on deck 7. The cruise was titled Australia’s Top End and travelled from Perth up around the top of Australia and finished in Sydney. All ports were Australian with the exception of Bali, Indonesia. 17 nights with 10 sea days. Incredibly calm seas all the way. Cyclones whipped up off Western Australian and Queensland after we cruised past.

We were in the bottom 10% by age group on the ship i.e. lots of older passengers, mobility scooters, walking frames etc. As one of the bar staff pointed out, the longer the cruise the older the passengers (generally speaking). The pax were predominantly Australian but with a good mix of North Americans, English and Europeans.

We had the Classic drink package as part of the 123 go promo and upgraded to the premium package before we boarded. We do enjoy a drink so this worked well for us. It cost us $11.50 per day to upgrade. So it paid for itself with one cocktail at USD $15/AUD$19 per day. It was just nice passing the card over and knowing that there were no more charges..

What really surprised me is the ability of people to find something to complain about. I work hard in my own business and holidays are always much anticipated and taken with a happy disposition. On a ship like Solstice the general approach by all crew is to make passengers experience as enjoyable as possible – they generally bend over backwards to help/serve you. Of course sometimes there are inconveniences, some which could possibly have been avoided but most are insignificant in the overall scheme of things. Yet people get worked up over little things/first world problems (no English Breakfast tea) and are rude to staff.

The ship – we loved the ship. Whilst it’s 7 years old now, the only place that I really noticed that was the balconies of the cabins. They were showing small amounts of rust and the rail was in need of a coat of varnish. Everywhere else throughout the ship was in good condition. For the most part It’s a bright airy, open, modern ship. There’s plenty of tasteful art all over the ship, plenty of quiet spots if that’s what you wanted and always something going on if you want to be active. I was told that the ship was full so that means 2850 pax or close to it. Surprisingly it never felt crowded. I think the only time we queued was for tender boats and for customs paper work. I never ceased to be amazed at the size of the ship but I only really appreciated it when we were in port and I was looking at it.

The Cabin – stern cabin so peaceful and wind free. There has been complaints about soot on the balconies of the stern cabins. We did not experience this at all – clearly it depends on what fuel they burn. No over hang on the balcony so it was very sun exposed. We had the balcony divider opened to share with our friends in the adjoining cabins – that works to a limited extent. The inter connecting doors at the cabin entrance are a bit of an odd setup and worked …sort of. Our cabin 7311 had the bed near the balcony whilst 7315 was near the bathroom. Good size bathroom with a proper shower screen. More than enough storage for us. We had Peter our cabin steward empty the fridge so we could bring back drinks and put them in there. It is however a 100 metre walk from the stairs/lifts to the cabin. Not an issue for us but if you had mobility issues it might be. All in all, very happy with the cabin.

The Crew – We make a habit of trying to engage the staff and create a friendly relationship with them. It helps us enjoy the experience more and they seem to enjoy it too. It must be so hard for the crew – long contracts, long shifts, away from family. Every day must be groundhog day for them and whilst as passengers we’re excited about our holiday/experience, it’s just another day/cruise for them. Our cabin stewards Peter from India and Ahktar from Mauritius were friendly, attentive and only to happy to help if there was an issue. Bar staff and MDR staff were generally very good. I happened to meet the Chief Engineer one day and he was happy to chat with me and answer my questions. We also had a good chat with Richard Green, the head chef, who gladly gave us a few minutes of his time.

The entertainment –A very talented ensemble cast in the Solstice theatre. The house band Spitfires were a bit under whelming – their performances always seemed to lack punch. There was a duo who sang daily throughout the ship and even performed in Solstice theatre one evening. A good variety of performers brought on for a few days eg. Aussie Boys, Rat Pack, David Campbell, magician, comedian and my favourite, the Cirque Soleil style show. overall very good.

The Ports – Port Hedland was an industrial mining port and was interesting. I may not ever get back that way so it was worth seeing/the experience. Interestingly it’s been dropped from the same cruise next year. Bali and Cairns were tender ports – due to windy conditions tendering was delayed in Cairns so we ended up with only about 3 hours on land there. We enjoyed Bali but again because of tendering our time was limited. Darwin, Cairns and Newcastle were all enjoyable and I know we’ll get back there individually to get a better look around. Coming back on board it was often very hot so the crew would be waiting at the port with iced towels and cold drinks … just an extra special level of service.

The Food – I was a bit disappointed in the quality of the food in the MDR. Variety was plentiful but was often just bland. By contrast, we found the buffet food quality and variety excellent. Bistro on 5 was not that good. The only specialty restaurant we tried was Tuscan Grille and it was the food highlight of the cruise. The mast grill was very good for burgers and gourmet sausages.

The Bars – we really enjoyed sitting out the back at the Oceanview Café at any time of day – we often had brekky out there. It has more cover than the sunset bar and comfy couches. We were regulars at the Molecular bar – we found it surprisingly quiet, particularly compared to the Martini bar, and got to know the bar tenders there quite well. They were a bit stand offish early but became more engaging as the cruise progressed. I personally loved the passport bar, it had the best variety of beer on board and you could sit quietly and have a drink or alternatively you could always find someone to chat to. Sky observation lounge was good afternoon trivia venue and live band venue in the evening. Qasar night club was a good karoke venue and late party spot. The older crowd seemed to work well in our favour at the bars. There was hardly any waiting or crowds at the bar so no waiting for drinks – this was because the older crowd didn’t frequent the bars too much and were tucked up in bed early.

Shops, photos, art sales. Not really our thing. We did a little bit of shopping and bought a couple of photos. Whilst we got 'personal' invitation to the Art Auctions, we didn't attend. We did attend a couple of the enrichment presentations which were OK - you've just got to pick your mark. The casino looked impressive although I didn't utilise it.

Overall – a wonderful experience on a beautiful ship. We had great friends with us and made some new ones along the way. I certainly got the fun and relaxation I was looking for. It was a great experience cruising around northern Australia, especially down the east side of Cape York. At times it felt like you could reach out and touch the mainland on the starboard side and islands on the port side – the shipping channel was only a couple of kilometres wide. 17 nights was probably a bit long for us (personal view) but we persevered. Not sure that I could or would travel without a drinks package again – for us it was well worth it. Whilst I love sea days, 10 was a lot. This was only our second cruise so we’ve learnt a lot – we would probably avoid (as far as possible) tender ports. Embarkation was a breeze but that might be because we didn't board until about 3pm as we were waiting for our travelling companions to fly in. Disembarkation was an equally simple and well organised process. We had a very active roll call group with plenty of well organised activities. We even had a pre-cruise meet up the night before in Fremantle.
Team Alpha’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
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Cabin Review

Sunset Veranda
Cabin SV 7311
The Cabin – stern cabin so peaceful and wind free. There has been complaints about soot on the balconies of the stern cabins. We did not experience this at all – clearly it depends on what fuel they burn. No over hang on the balcony so it was very sun exposed. We had the balcony divider opened to share with our friends in the adjoining cabins – that works to a limited extent. The inter connecting doors at the cabin entrance are a bit of an odd setup and worked …sort of. Our cabin 7311 had the bed near the balcony whilst 7315 was near the bathroom. Good size bathroom with a proper shower screen. More than enough storage for us. We had Peter our cabin steward empty the fridge so we could bring back drinks and put them in there. It is however a 100 metre walk from the stairs/lifts to the cabin. Not an issue for us but if you had mobility issues it might be. All in all, very happy with the cabin.
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