My wife and I had planned for several years to visit Australia and New Zealand. We first considered a land trip but eventually choose to do a cruise due to the overall value and convenience. I looked at several very similar cruise lines but ended up choosing the Celebrity Solstice based on ship size and a good experience with them on a Bermuda cruise. We arrived in Sydney a few days early to take in the sites before boarding. In Sydney we stayed at the Marriott which is only a couple of blocks from the cruise terminal and an easy walk. Embarkation on the ship was a breeze, with easy luggage check in and no lines. We were on-board and enjoying ourselves by 11:30 in the morning. After a tour of the shop and a welcome lunch, our room was ready, much sooner than we have ever experienced on any other ship. The ship itself, the Celebrity Solstice, was elegant and understated. My favorite section was deck 15 with it's expansive grass (yes, grass) areas for relaxing, playing bocce balls, watching movies on the outdoors screen, watching glass making, or simply gazing at the sunsets in the evenings. The remainder of the ship was nice but very similar to most other cruise ships. Really like the casino but was disappointed that it wasn't open more often. Bars were average and the theater was about what you would expect. Overall the food was good but not great. The buffet was very disappointing, one of the worst we have ever experienced. Sit down dining was very good with prompt service and high quality meals. We did each of the four specialty restaurants and found them to be about with average to that of other cruise ships. Not sure they are worth the extra money given the quality of the food in the main dining area. Although the ship was almost full is felt very uncrowded. We never had to fight to find a chair and were able to go where we want when we wanted without any lines or having to reserve seats ahead of time.
Shows - very good but not great - new cast who did a very commendable job on their first gig. Some of the best cast singers that I have seen on a cruise ship. Hit and miss on the "guest" entertainers.
Service - Very mixed results. At times they were johnny on the spot and at other times virtually non-existent. You were supposed to get free drinks when you were gambling but I only got served once over the 5-6 days I gambled in the casino. I even asked the pit boss for help running someone down but it never happened. Our dinner took 2 1/2 hours in one of the specialty restaurants due to a shortage of staff.
Up-sell - We were constantly badgered by ship personnel to buy more; more drink packages, more dining, more everything - this continued almost to the last day and really become annoying . I would have bought the drink package if it weren't so outrageously expensive. It would have cost me and my wife about $1600 for their premium package. You really have to drink like Otis the town drunk to break even on that deal.
Excursions - They were well organized and generally went as advertised. Prices continue to rise so I began looking outside the ship. Viator,com offers virtually the same excursions for 10-30% less. Check them first before booking on board.
Celebrity Travel - Used Celebrity travel to arrange our return trip from Auckland. They booked us on Air New Zealand which sounded fine till we got to the airport and got hit with $500 in excess baggage fees. US airlines allow 2 checked bags on international flight but not Air New Zealand (unless you are flying from Australia to the US - go figure). No disclosure of this before arriving so I'm mad at both Celebrity and ANZ for the last minute surprise.
Typical cruise cabin - Tight on room but that's pretty normal. The closet was the worst part. It was difficult to access with limited space. More drawers would have been nice too. Our room steward was awesome and did an incredible job without being intrusive. No towel animals if that's your thing.
Sanctuary was awesome but needed more time. Second half of excursion was to winery which was nice but would have sacrifices our time there for more time at sanctuary.View All 6 Healesville Sanctuary Reviews
It's a house on the hill. Nice but nothing to get too excited about. Nice drive up with great views.View All 36 Larnach Castle Reviews
You really don't need to take an excursion. We took the shuttle to town and did the Te Papa Museum, Cable Car, and Botanical Garden on our own. Easy to do and only costs us $5 for everything.
Took train up to Belhem ? in the Marlboro wind region. Visited the town which was OK and then drank many wine samples at the Wine Station.View All undefined undefined Reviews
Long bus ride and then tour of Hobbiton - highly recommend for fansView All 53 Hobbiton Movie Set Reviews
2 days in Sydney - diid the Opera house tour, bay cruise, and the hop on hop off tour of city. Nice place but 2 days was enough.