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Last sailing of the season – 3 senior couples traveling together, 2 couples from Phoenix, 1 couple from WA state – our 4th cruise as a group of 6, 14 days, March/April 2019. GREATEST FEAR: Dread of the flight to AKL and the transport home from SYD. Into AKL we arrived 2 nights early – all on Hawaiian. One couple did PDX to HNL to AKL in one shot – the others did PHX to HNL, overnight, then HNL to AKL on day two. This gave us 2 non stops PHX to HNL 7 hours, then HNL to AKL 9 hours by leaving a day early. Though an inconvenience to go from airport to hotel then back using free hotel shuttle and free breakfast the 4 of us felt this was a great way to go. JET LAG ISSUES: Indeed for all of us – about 18 hours ahead of our normal time, plus while onboard we had 3 instances of setting the clock back 1 hr each time. We found we did not bounce back from this quickly and seemed tired for a week trying to adjust to the time change issues. Pricing to do this by Hawaiian was very good. TRANSPORT HOME: 1 couple left upon concluding the cruise, 3 flights, SYD to AKL, AKL to HNL, HNL to PDX. We all found air fares back to US from SYD very high with a saving by first going to AKL then home. Our 2nd couple in fear of 13 + hours non stop chose to cruise SYD to HNL on the Radiance, then fly home from HNL. Couple 3 braved the long non stop which was 12 hrs 35 mins SYD to SFO, then SW SFO to PHX (USED UAL FF MILES for the non stop and paid for the extra comfort seating, which we felt was a good idea). Couples 2&3 stayed 5 nights after disembarking to tour Sydney as 1st time visitors. We’ve come too far not to see Sydney !! EMBARKING – GETTING ABOARD: As we arrived into AKL at 10pm 2 nights prior to departure we chose to stay near the airport at a hotel with free airport transport. The other 4 chose to ride into the CBD after the flight and stayed 2 nights in the CBD. We decided to get to the ship via an Auckland City Tour just prior to loading. We used Skybus from the airport to get into the CBD, day of boarding, was quick, efficient and about $12 USD each. There we were picked up by the tour operator. The other 4 were added at their hotel and the 6 us had a 4 hour tour of Auckland with Auckland Scenic Tours, dropping us at conclusion with our luggage at the Solstice Pier. THE SHIP: Sept 2014, 4 of us had been on Solstice, 11 day Alaska sailing. Had been in dry dock since and was somewhat improved. Still very shiny, well cared for, public areas neat clean – it is like a floating palace it’s so nice. CREW: Had a change of Master’s mid cruise, never had this before. New one, Captain Tasos, was a ton of fun with his 10AM briefing - one favorite quote; “put the pedal to the metal”. Staff was very good, mostly friendly and helpful with a smile. PASSENGERS: Approximately 2900 + crew – 1/3rd US/Canada, 1/3 Aussie/NZ, and 1/3rd other countries. Few children, mostly a senior crowd but a good age mix. DINING: A very annoying situation here – we all booked over a year in advance and requested linked traditional early dining (6pm) with a table for six. All of us requested this and at times we were linked and at times the linkage would disappear. One week before leaving home I was told by Captain’s Club we were at a table for six, but I should check with the maître'd to be certain. 1st thing on boarding we checked and the link had again disappeared – 1 table of 4, 1 table of 2, not a table for six. We immediately went to the maitre’d who had an explanation of why this had happened but after being forceful and determined he agreed to seat us together the 1st night in MDR and would arrange for seating together the 2nd and subsequent night. That is what occurred but our permanent table assignment though for six was too noisy to hear one another during dinner. Why does a linkage for 6, set up in advance disappear? This should never have even been an issue and did not get us off to a good start on boarding so beware. Once a link occurs it should be impossible to tamper with this – this needs fixing. Our evening dining at our joint table was a very important part of the cruise. SERVICE AND FOOD QUALITY DIVERSITY: Some nights were okay – menu choices were not special many times; food quality was sometimes very good, other times not what we expected. Service was fine but the noisy table and food prep overshadowed everything else so we skipped the MDR the most times we ever had on this cruise as a result. Also – show times were 7pm and 9pm; with the 6pm dining we could not make the 7pm show so we dined at the Oceanview buffet at 6pm to make the 7pm showtime; not liking a show starting at 9pm normally. Too late for our needs and enjoyment. We did dine in one specialty restaurant, the Murano one night and found it to be a special experience, well worth the added cost. Otherwise most dining was in the buffet; we found their food better overall than the MDR so kept going back and we usually could hear each other as we dined together. Good service and usually tables available to select. We did have prime rib twice and lobster once in the MDR. PORTS AND ITINERARY: This was a winner – ports were outstanding, docked and departed on time, great weather but why an overnight in Tauranga? One day was enough. Nice balance of ports and sea days. TOURS: We normally stay away from the ship’s product assuming it will be on a big bus (55 people) and usually too expensive. We did tours in most stops but took only 2 Celebrity Tours, using OBC for that. Though convenient for pickup and return big bus it was but pricing for these 2 tours was acceptable too. Our private tours worked just fine and usually came with a smaller bus as well – never a problem getting back to the ship on time. I think my favorite port and tour was in Hobart, Tasmania – we took a Gray Line tour with Jim on a tram type car but this did involve a 10 minute walk from the pier after an involved immigration clearing as this was our 1st port into Australia. We all loved Tasmania and it was a good city to walk upon tour conclusion. THE EVENING SHOWS: As stated. Shows at 7pm and 9pm – never an issue getting a seat. Many production shows by Celebrity talent and orchestra; most were good and entertaining. Had some singers; a comedian my favorite was the Motown show by the OZ brothers; for them we dined in Oceanview at 6pm and attended the 7pm show. Was advertised as a Motown show but that was a 3rd of the music they performed. Also did 4 Seasons and other artists – well done guys. DISEMBARKING – GETTING FROM SHIP TO OUR SYDNEY HOTEL: Four of us stayed the 5 nights to see Sydney, staying at the Hyatt Regency Darling Harbor, near the ship docking pier. The four shared an SUV, along with all our bags and in 20 minutes or so were at the hotel – cost: $35 AUD total including a tip – hard to beat. SHIP ACTIVITIES: On those days not visiting a port we always did the trivia sessions and there were usually 3 per day. There were the usual exercise classes, information lectures and the crew selling various products. Also the retail area regularly had sales and offers and there were numerous upscale retail outlets on board. We found no trouble staying busy as we also enjoyed playing games as our group of six. PUBLIC AREAS: We found them to be clean and in great condition, we could usually find a quiet place to do our group game sessions. INTERNET CAFÉ: As stated having access to 180 complimentary minutes allowed us to avoid paying for internet use on board. Once docked it was usually easy to find free wi fi locally to stay caught up. Pricing was the usual outrageous number. CASINO: ENTIRELY NON SMOKING ALL THE TIME -The slots were not very generous but we certainly had seen worse on prior cruises and cruise lines. Enough of a variety to keep a gambler interested, also the usual blackjack, craps, roulette. TRIP HINTS CPAP BREATHING MACHINE – Suppose to use distilled water in the device – almost impossible to find in NZ/AUS. CAPTAIN’S CLUB – This was our 1st time at the elite level and the benefits we found were very nice to have, e.g., unlimited drinks in most bars between 5 and 7 pm most days. A free bag of laundry and 90 mins of free internet. NOTE: These benefits are per person, not per stateroom. We were thinking per stateroom until our room steward called this to our attention so we really had twice what we thought we had. POST CRUISE LAUNDRY: Arriving into Sydney with a lot of dirty laundry and plans to stay 5 days meant trying to address laundry needs. A coin laundry in the central city was not possible but we found a true gem for this problem. WASH ON THE ROCKS.COM.AU ON HICKSON ST. They are in the rocks area of the city and they pick up, do the laundry, fold it and deliver back to your hotel. They picked up before noon and by 6pm of the same day it was all done. We (the 2 couples) sent them 4 loads and for that the charge was $84.00 AUD. That includes pick up and return to the hotel – we were all so excited to have clean laundry done for us for this pricing and set us up for the balance of our trip. SYDNEY HOTEL RECOMMENDATION: Hyatt Regency, 161 Sussex near Darling Harbor. We opted for the “deluxe” room for our 5 nights. Rates were reasonable for Sydney, the hotel is beautiful and the Darling Harbor location a good location, felt safe and excellent location. Employees were friendly and helpful; received many helpful hits from Tony, Hyatt valet for 22 years re: things to see, do and where to dine. He is a treasure. Room was quiet, good bed and pillows, good for temperature control (note they use Celsius not F). A great choice for our needs. SUMMARY Overall would give the cruise and ship a 4.8 out of 5.0 due to the small very irritating items mentioned earlier. Celebrity does so many things well and we feel offers a superior, premier cruising product without requiring premium pricing to cruise. The six of us are booked in April on the Silhouette and all looking forward to that cruise. If Celebrity could just address these nagging problems I would not hesitate to give them a 5.0.

SOLSTICE - NZ TO AUSTRALIA - GREAT TIME

Celebrity Solstice Cruise Review by Arizona Budgies

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Trip Details
Last sailing of the season – 3 senior couples traveling together, 2 couples from Phoenix, 1 couple from WA state – our 4th cruise as a group of 6, 14 days, March/April 2019.

GREATEST FEAR: Dread of the flight to AKL and the transport home from SYD. Into AKL we arrived 2 nights early – all on Hawaiian. One couple did PDX to HNL to AKL in one shot – the others did PHX to HNL, overnight, then HNL to AKL on day two. This gave us 2 non stops PHX to HNL 7 hours, then HNL to AKL 9 hours by leaving a day early. Though an inconvenience to go from airport to hotel then back using free hotel shuttle and free breakfast the 4 of us felt this was a great way to go. JET LAG ISSUES: Indeed for all of us – about 18 hours ahead of our normal time, plus while onboard we had 3 instances of setting the clock back 1 hr each time. We found we did not bounce back from this quickly and seemed tired for a week trying to adjust to the time change issues. Pricing to do this by Hawaiian was very good.

TRANSPORT HOME: 1 couple left upon concluding the cruise, 3 flights, SYD to AKL, AKL to HNL, HNL to PDX. We all found air fares back to US from SYD very high with a saving by first going to AKL then home. Our 2nd couple in fear of 13 + hours non stop chose to cruise SYD to HNL on the Radiance, then fly home from HNL. Couple 3 braved the long non stop which was 12 hrs 35 mins SYD to SFO, then SW SFO to PHX (USED UAL FF MILES for the non stop and paid for the extra comfort seating, which we felt was a good idea). Couples 2&3 stayed 5 nights after disembarking to tour Sydney as 1st time visitors. We’ve come too far not to see Sydney !!

EMBARKING – GETTING ABOARD: As we arrived into AKL at 10pm 2 nights prior to departure we chose to stay near the airport at a hotel with free airport transport. The other 4 chose to ride into the CBD after the flight and stayed 2 nights in the CBD. We decided to get to the ship via an Auckland City Tour just prior to loading. We used Skybus from the airport to get into the CBD, day of boarding, was quick, efficient and about $12 USD each. There we were picked up by the tour operator. The other 4 were added at their hotel and the 6 us had a 4 hour tour of Auckland with Auckland Scenic Tours, dropping us at conclusion with our luggage at the Solstice Pier.

THE SHIP: Sept 2014, 4 of us had been on Solstice, 11 day Alaska sailing. Had been in dry dock since and was somewhat improved. Still very shiny, well cared for, public areas neat clean – it is like a floating palace it’s so nice. CREW: Had a change of Master’s mid cruise, never had this before. New one, Captain Tasos, was a ton of fun with his 10AM briefing - one favorite quote; “put the pedal to the metal”. Staff was very good, mostly friendly and helpful with a smile.

PASSENGERS: Approximately 2900 + crew – 1/3rd US/Canada, 1/3 Aussie/NZ, and 1/3rd other countries. Few children, mostly a senior crowd but a good age mix.

DINING: A very annoying situation here – we all booked over a year in advance and requested linked traditional early dining (6pm) with a table for six. All of us requested this and at times we were linked and at times the linkage would disappear. One week before leaving home I was told by Captain’s Club we were at a table for six, but I should check with the maître'd to be certain. 1st thing on boarding we checked and the link had again disappeared – 1 table of 4, 1 table of 2, not a table for six. We immediately went to the maitre’d who had an explanation of why this had happened but after being forceful and determined he agreed to seat us together the 1st night in MDR and would arrange for seating together the 2nd and subsequent night. That is what occurred but our permanent table assignment though for six was too noisy to hear one another during dinner. Why does a linkage for 6, set up in advance disappear? This should never have even been an issue and did not get us off to a good start on boarding so beware. Once a link occurs it should be impossible to tamper with this – this needs fixing. Our evening dining at our joint table was a very important part of the cruise.

SERVICE AND FOOD QUALITY DIVERSITY: Some nights were okay – menu choices were not special many times; food quality was sometimes very good, other times not what we expected. Service was fine but the noisy table and food prep overshadowed everything else so we skipped the MDR the most times we ever had on this cruise as a result. Also – show times were 7pm and 9pm; with the 6pm dining we could not make the 7pm show so we dined at the Oceanview buffet at 6pm to make the 7pm showtime; not liking a show starting at 9pm normally. Too late for our needs and enjoyment. We did dine in one specialty restaurant, the Murano one night and found it to be a special experience, well worth the added cost. Otherwise most dining was in the buffet; we found their food better overall than the MDR so kept going back and we usually could hear each other as we dined together. Good service and usually tables available to select. We did have prime rib twice and lobster once in the MDR.

PORTS AND ITINERARY: This was a winner – ports were outstanding, docked and departed on time, great weather but why an overnight in Tauranga? One day was enough. Nice balance of ports and sea days.

TOURS: We normally stay away from the ship’s product assuming it will be on a big bus (55 people) and usually too expensive. We did tours in most stops but took only 2 Celebrity Tours, using OBC for that. Though convenient for pickup and return big bus it was but pricing for these 2 tours was acceptable too. Our private tours worked just fine and usually came with a smaller bus as well – never a problem getting back to the ship on time. I think my favorite port and tour was in Hobart, Tasmania – we took a Gray Line tour with Jim on a tram type car but this did involve a 10 minute walk from the pier after an involved immigration clearing as this was our 1st port into Australia. We all loved Tasmania and it was a good city to walk upon tour conclusion.

THE EVENING SHOWS: As stated. Shows at 7pm and 9pm – never an issue getting a seat. Many production shows by Celebrity talent and orchestra; most were good and entertaining. Had some singers; a comedian my favorite was the Motown show by the OZ brothers; for them we dined in Oceanview at 6pm and attended the 7pm show. Was advertised as a Motown show but that was a 3rd of the music they performed. Also did 4 Seasons and other artists – well done guys.

DISEMBARKING – GETTING FROM SHIP TO OUR SYDNEY HOTEL: Four of us stayed the 5 nights to see Sydney, staying at the Hyatt Regency Darling Harbor, near the ship docking pier. The four shared an SUV, along with all our bags and in 20 minutes or so were at the hotel – cost: $35 AUD total including a tip – hard to beat.

SHIP ACTIVITIES: On those days not visiting a port we always did the trivia sessions and there were usually 3 per day. There were the usual exercise classes, information lectures and the crew selling various products. Also the retail area regularly had sales and offers and there were numerous upscale retail outlets on board. We found no trouble staying busy as we also enjoyed playing games as our group of six.

PUBLIC AREAS: We found them to be clean and in great condition, we could usually find a quiet place to do our group game sessions.

INTERNET CAFÉ: As stated having access to 180 complimentary minutes allowed us to avoid paying for internet use on board. Once docked it was usually easy to find free wi fi locally to stay caught up. Pricing was the usual outrageous number.

CASINO: ENTIRELY NON SMOKING ALL THE TIME -The slots were not very generous but we certainly had seen worse on prior cruises and cruise lines. Enough of a variety to keep a gambler interested, also the usual blackjack, craps, roulette.

TRIP HINTS

CPAP BREATHING MACHINE – Suppose to use distilled water in the device – almost impossible to find in NZ/AUS.

CAPTAIN’S CLUB – This was our 1st time at the elite level and the benefits we found were very nice to have, e.g., unlimited drinks in most bars between 5 and 7 pm most days. A free bag of laundry and 90 mins of free internet. NOTE: These benefits are per person, not per stateroom. We were thinking per stateroom until our room steward called this to our attention so we really had twice what we thought we had.

POST CRUISE LAUNDRY: Arriving into Sydney with a lot of dirty laundry and plans to stay 5 days meant trying to address laundry needs. A coin laundry in the central city was not possible but we found a true gem for this problem. WASH ON THE ROCKS.COM.AU ON HICKSON ST. They are in the rocks area of the city and they pick up, do the laundry, fold it and deliver back to your hotel. They picked up before noon and by 6pm of the same day it was all done. We (the 2 couples) sent them 4 loads and for that the charge was $84.00 AUD. That includes pick up and return to the hotel – we were all so excited to have clean laundry done for us for this pricing and set us up for the balance of our trip.

SYDNEY HOTEL RECOMMENDATION: Hyatt Regency, 161 Sussex near Darling Harbor. We opted for the “deluxe” room for our 5 nights. Rates were reasonable for Sydney, the hotel is beautiful and the Darling Harbor location a good location, felt safe and excellent location. Employees were friendly and helpful; received many helpful hits from Tony, Hyatt valet for 22 years re: things to see, do and where to dine. He is a treasure. Room was quiet, good bed and pillows, good for temperature control (note they use Celsius not F). A great choice for our needs.

SUMMARY

Overall would give the cruise and ship a 4.8 out of 5.0 due to the small very irritating items mentioned earlier. Celebrity does so many things well and we feel offers a superior, premier cruising product without requiring premium pricing to cruise. The six of us are booked in April on the Silhouette and all looking forward to that cruise. If Celebrity could just address these nagging problems I would not hesitate to give them a 5.0.
Arizona Budgies’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Inside Stateroom
Cabin 12 3164
Interior, 3rd deck, one of 8 interiors on this deck. Central to ship, near dining on one end, theatre on the other, same floor as customer service, low for choppy waters, very quiet, comfy bed and pillows, good temp control for sleeping and THE LARGEST CRUISE SHIP SHOWER WE HAVE EVERY HAD, might be a result of the dry dock – thank you Celebrity. We would choose this cabin again. And plenty of storage. One couple stayed down the hall, 3rd couple on deck 8 in verandah. CONS: our TV did not work for a few days until we requested a service call. Our room safe and BOTH our friends had safe failure – all 3 of our safes failed and required unlocking?? They did not fail at a good time and you should be present as you wait for repair. Missent Mail: Upon 1st entry to our room we had an envelope with another guest’s name and room #. And our shore excursion tickets, with the correct room and name were in another guest room – that person brought us our excursion tickets – never has this happened before – it was brought to the attention of the hotel manager. So overall happy but some issues to deal with.
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