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Hi. I am a regular cruiser, principally on Princess, this being our 4th time on Celebrity, and the third time on this ship.
Celebrity Solstice launched 2008, is probably the most elegant of the cruise ships sailing around New Zealand. In 2013 it was Rated No 6 in the world of the large resort ships by Douglas Ward, Berlitz “Cruising and Cruise ships this year 2017, inside the top 20 big ships.
*Keep in mind being regular cruisers we are looking for small points of difference, and some of the comments are very specific. Overall this ship provides a quality experience, excellent dining, excellent entertainment, very nice cabins across the range and also offers lots of personal space, and enormous variety of options.
This cruise was excellent, assisted by lovely weather, and unlike our 2014 experience the well-equipped Gym, played pleasant background music only, the loud rap music of the earlier voyage, gone hopefully forever. Both Shirl and I are daily Gym users, and this cruise ship has a large and well equipped Gym etc. Good work by Celebrity in listening to this early criticism
This was a budget trip for us, no shore excursions and no specialty restaurants, we had been in Australia on other business, and noticed the Ship was departing for Auckland on our planned day of air travel return, thought we would take the opportunity to return by sea. We also have done this trip many times, so most of the excursions done before
This ship carries 2800 passengers and 1200 crew, a floating town of 4000 people, and just before our excursion the ship had suffered a severe Nora Virus outbreak, which when we boarded was in its final cleansing component. Food was served at all, outlets including the buffet stations by staff for the first 5 days, and the sanitation methods used including removing the complete ship library for sanitizing purposes, a significant loss for a book worm, and using a specialist USA team to isolate the cause of the problem.
However overall this cruise was pleasant, the shows and events and on board activities including formal lectures of a solid standard, and the main dining room (Level 3 first sitting) and buffet food (Level 14) was excellent. Each day we had breakfast at either the main restaurant (waiter served) or the buffet, lunch was primarily at the buffet with its many food stations, and at night we dined alternately at our table for 2 in the Grand Restaurant or the buffet restaurant. Shirl had room service on a couple of occasions (free) and convenient, but the day time menu lacked real taste.
Large Ship queue formed at Customhouse Quay the Rocks, but due to Shirl’s knee issues, I had arranged a wheel chair for her, and we were whisked aboard. Felt like being on business class, but with many stairs etc., the wheelchair was a blessing.
The ship in general
The Celebrity Solstice is a lovely large ship, now 9yrs, old, with a minor refit in 2015. It appears very clean and polished. Elegant is the word. Americans, Canadians, German, British and Aussie/NZ made up the passenger list, with virtually no children. 2800 passengers and 1200 crew, so it’s really a small town or perhaps a floating palace? We are big resort ship cruisers, there is so much variety, formal and informal entertainment, and yet so much space if you wish it to read a book, listen to piano, or lie on a deck chair. Although full, we never felt crowded, at least not until the tender queues. Both Akaroa and Bay of Islands, required tender facilitation and that does cause delays and frustration. They have it down to a fine art, but it is still a pain. Something to check on when considering different cruises, how many tender operations involved?
One of the first things you should do on the first day of the cruise if is to check and see if you have the right color Celebrity Cruise card. We get a hole punched in it, and wear it around neck. Different cards signal different cruise levels, and make sure you have the right one. This cruise card acts as your room key and security card whilst on the ship. It is deactivated as soon as you leave the ship for the last time at the end of the cruise.
Celebrity cruises add a US $12.50 a day per person amount to your bill and that covers your tipping for the total cruise. This is done so that people employed on the ship who are not in direct contact with the ship can also receive something. If you don’t like this idea you can negotiate with the Pursers office to have the amount reduced if you wish, and envelopes for traditional tips are available.
Laundry facilities not available on this ship, apart from what you put out and pay for. However we found for most things your smalls and shirts etc., you can do yourself and they dry in the room. Only 2 of us would be more problematic if a family.
The Sky Lounge on the 14th floor was a wonder full viewing area with soft chairs, and bar service. At nighttime it is a dance and entertainment area and during the daytime it is a restful area for reading and just watching the sea, and special events. During the daytime you can always get a seat there for reading or quiet time. Great viewing of the Sounds from this spot
The other bars and public seating areas of the Celebrity were sound, duo music, jazz and string quartet-good range of music, though I personally missed the normal piano playing, not on this cruise!
The library on board is normally well stocked and a pleasant space, but not this time
I enjoy cruising for its floor shows/Cabaret acts principally in the large Solstice theatre at 7pm and 9pm. This is one of the primary reasons I go on cruises, and the entertainment was first class. Quality Las Vegas singers, and the Dance Company and 4 lead singers were excellent. They did 4 presentations, all with a modern theme, equal to Conrad Jupiter’s stage show levels. The support entertainers covered a wide range from violinist, Aussie Boys (3males) etc., too vocal musicians, e.g. Helen Reddy Show. Overall the formal and club entertainment was very good. Noted the lack of free movies on the in-house Television, lots of Pay movies at 15$USA each time. The daily feature movies in the Level 4 Theatre were too often just repeated e.g. The Big Sick. Improvement here required.
The quality of formal lectures was sound. There were two formal guest speakers aboard; I enjoyed the women presenter, a geographer but not the male, his topics and style not my cup of tea. Not up to the standard of Princess or Cunard speakers.
Excellent range of cooking demonstrations, wine tasting etc. excellent range of choices every day, including the usual bingo, table tennis, bridge games. Art shows were very visual. Wine tasting events were of great interest to me, and thoroughly enjoyable.
The weather was superb, but do remember motion sickness is a real issue on NZ/Aussie cruises and up the Pacific Rim area. This can be managed by good planning, patches/tablets if one is prone. The reality is cruises in this part of the world are not calm. Reasonable sea motion swell often occurs, and we were lucky with our wonderful November weather
Traditional 1st or second sitting evening dining room, versus anytime dining are great options.
We had a 1st sitting time and we had a lovely table for 2 in the Grand Epernay Restaurant. However a bit of luck and organization is required to get a table for 2. There are not many, and as per normal our initial seating setting was at a table for 6. We like our own dining privacy, so a request to the Maître was successful.
The Ocean View buffet dining venue with its 12 dining stations was excellent, a wide choice, and great sea views.
Specialty Restaurants with a surcharge fee abound
French Murano Restaurant: Did not use this time but in 2014 a wonderful food experience. On that occasion “Our main courses, sole and Lobster were cooked the Chef at our table, as was the wonderful flamed Ice Cream Strawberry Crepe. Silver service, waiter inspired dining at its finest. Perhaps the best dining experience I have experienced.
The Silk Harvest Asian eatery also with surcharge was also not used this time. Heard a lot of comment this was overpriced and food, Ordinary
Café Bacio charged for coffees, but the pastries /cakes were free, and no charge for “Grab and run”.
On a ship like this clarifying what surcharge fees are being charged at each restaurant is not transparent, and this should be more clearly signaled in both signage and through the daily Celebrity today newsletter which all aboard receive
Available 24 hours at no charge but limited menu. Celebrity has cut back on the width of its options for free room service food, and also introduced some items at a fee. Overall adequate.
We had an interior stateroom on the 8th floor Room 8280. Roomy and spacious we decided to go the cheaper option, as this trip had many sea days, and we have found the balcony is most useful on a Port intensive trip. Air conditioning was excellent.
The design of the cabin made good use of mirrors to enhance the feeling of light and maximize space. Bed was excellent. We picked up a little more noise transference from rooms around us than I expected, not a problem, but more aware this time of not speaking too loud etc. The open space wardrobes without doors provided plenty of hanging and excellent storage space for our requirements. 32 inch TV screen with lots of programs, but all USA satellite feed, with today’s technology a revamp possibly due. The room configuration made it seem very spacious. Soaps and towels were changed twice a day. Bathroom shower pressure was excellent. There is a safe in every room and our cabin had a fridge.
Large with great views. Light background music playing.
• Auckland: Ship berths right in center of business area and down town. Great City access
• Bay of Islands: Tender into Copthorne Hotel Jetty. Great access to Treaty grounds, 30 minute walk to Paihia Shuttle bus available free of charge
• Tauranga-Berths right at Mt Maunganui. Great walking access
• Akaroa. Tender operation. Into pretty township, all walkable
• Dunedin. Port Chalmers, nice little village 20 Kilometers from City
• Sydney: Berth in the Rocks area. Wonderful location, Opera House view and Harbor Bridge.
• Melbourne: Berth at Port Melbourne. Good tram access to City, walk to St Kilda also great
• Hobart: Great berth in the center of Viaduct and close to Town. Enjoyed the local Museum
Special thanks to our cabin stewards Jessica and Arnel - level 9 . You are so lucky to have these guys at the ship...they always serviced with a smile on the face .
Your restaurants Managers at waterfront - I do not remember full name by I think Indian guy ( Van ) , Ashok , and all staff at waterfront restaurant were just amazing and made our experience so much more exciting.
Just minor thing , I was charged bit more than what the final balance was ...it was AUD 14 but I was charged $ 31 in NZD ...If you can have this checked please with acccounts that will be great.
Thanks and See you in Future . Keep up the good work!!
Our Mini Suite accomodation was very comfortable and our Cabin Steward was friendly, helpful and did an excellent job of keep it very clean and tidy.