Celebrity Solstice Review 22 March 2015 South Pacific Cruise

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Joined Oct 2007
CRUISE REVIEW: Celebrity Solstice 22 March 2015 12 Night South Pacific Cruise

Just to start off with a bit of background on ourselves. My partner and I are in our late 20’s / early 30’s and have previously cruised together with Royal Caribbean. I have also previously cruised with P&O Australia & Carnival. We knew the general age demographic on Celebrity would be different to Royal Caribbean however we do have a passion for good food and wine, which for us outweighed the younger age group on other cruise lines. This trip was a chance for us to spend quality time with each other, so it didn’t matter too much to us which fellow travelers we would be cruising with.

I had researched quite a bit about Celebrity on these forums and combining this with feedback from other friends that have cruised, I knew Celebrity would be great but I didn’t realize just how amazing.

For us, it was all the little touches, from the glass of champagne greeting us on embarkation, to the faultless dining room experience, and everything in between.

Just as the Celebrity slogan says, they have ready exactly what we wanted, a nano second before we knew we wanted it.

Best way for me to include everything I want to is to try to write it all in sections:

PRE CRUISE & EMBARKATION

We arrived in Sydney the night prior to the cruise departure, and were lucky enough to stay at the Harbor Rocks Hotel McGallery in their Penthouse Suite. The property is located in the Rocks Area of Sydney, with restaurants, bars and the weekend markets just a minute walk away. The Opera House was also easily accessible within a 10 minute walk. The Penthouse Suite had a rooftop terrace with views of the harbor, which was fantastic to see Celebrity Solstice sail in on the morning of our cruise. Fantastic breakfast on offer at the property, and with the Overseas Passenger Terminal an easy 5 minute downhill walk, this property was the perfect setting for a relaxing start to our holiday.

As we have previously cruised with Royal Caribbean, we were automatically entitled to Captains Club Select Status (Celebrity membership program) which meant that we were able to board anytime on embarkation day. From the time we arrived at the OPT and dropped off our suitcases, we were onboard within a half hour enjoying our first drink of the cruise. The complimentary glass of bubbles waiting for you when you board the ship was a lovely touch, and really set the scene for the luxurious cruise that was to begin.

We embarked on deck 5 and with drink in hand, there were two desks setup – one for specialty restaurants and one for beverage packages. As we already had the beverage package (more on this much discussed topic to come below!) we went straight to the specialty restaurant desk. On this sailing, we opted for the 3 night specialty dining restaurants for US$99 per person. The representative had a list of the formal nights dates for our cruise, as we were wanting to be in the main dining room for the formal nights where we generally find they have special event menus. We went ahead and booked our three dinners for later on in the cruise, and were able to get our preferred 8pm time slot for each of the restaurants. We were also not made to visit a specialty restaurant on the first night, which I was happy about.

Bacio coffee shop was in full swing as was the Oceanview Café. Rooms were available at approx 1pm which was great to get settled in. Sailaway was more low key than Royal Caribbean and P&O in terms of noise level, deck party etc, but it was perfect for us as we just relaxed at the Lawn seating, drink in hand, as we sailed out of Sydney. This became to be one of the things I really appreciated about Celebrity and really showed the more luxurious side of the cruise line. While there were a few pool deck activities etc, I found the cruise to be much quieter in terms of over the speaker sale announcements, pool competitions etc. Sailaway was a little cloudy and cool, did start spitting a little after we had passed the Opera House, so we headed back to our balcony to see us sail through the heads.

Pre departure emergency drill was fairly similar to other cruise lines, held in designated indoor areas throughout the ship. We didn’t need to bring our life jackets which was good, and was quick and efficient.

CABIN

Our cabin was a midship 1C Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom on Deck 8. The cabin itself was fantastic, very modern and we were especially impressed with the bathroom which was much larger than we had previously had on a cruise ship.

The bathroom itself had glass shower (no shower curtain!!), and quite a lot of shelf and cupboard space so that we could unpack our toiletry pack. We had basic toiletries provided such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash, moisturizer and standard cotton bud sticks, cotton wool, make up remover pads etc. The mirror was quite large and one of the bathroom features I loved was the nightlight that was always automatically on, so that it was easy to navigate if you were up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Towels were provided in a range of sizes, however the only thing I couldn’t see was a pull out clothes line which is normally common on other cruise lines. This didn’t make a difference to us as I would just place something over our balcony chair if it needed drying, but something to keep in mind for other travelers who may not have a balcony.

The queen bed was two single beds placed together however we couldn’t feel the middle “gap” too often which was great, it was more my partner that felt it as I didn’t notice it at all. There were two bedside tables with three shelves each. The lounge was quite large with a small coffee table, a desk and vanity area with a large mirror and light (perfect for doing your makeup!) and approx. 30inch flat screen interactive tv which swivels out to face the bed. Cooling / heating could be individually controlled per stateroom, and the main cabin lighting was mood lighting so you could adjust the brightness.

In room storage we found to be perfect for two adults (who slightly over pack but not too much!) however to be honest I’m not sure how you would go storage wise if sharing as a triple or quad share. The wardrobe itself was spacious with a generous amount of hangers (both the standard hangers, and also pant clip on hangers). There was a safe in the cabin, and then also shelving above the bed. This was a little difficult for me to use as I am short, so I needed to climb on to the bed anytime I wanted to access those clothes. Near the tv was also five further drawers for storage. The suitcases fitted nicely under the bed once emptied.

We had towel animals two or three times, and loved the nightly chocolates on our pillows.

The balcony was a fantastic comfortable size with a table and two chairs which also reclined. We really loved the balcony to just have somewhere quiet to sit and relax. While my partner caught up on some cricket in the room, I could sit on the balcony with a magazine and take in the sea air.

We also really enjoy a balcony on port days to see the sail in while we’re getting ready for the day, and for a low key sailway from the ports. Nothing like a cheese plate while watching sailaway from our balcony! Or even a quick pre port day breakfast with a salmon bagel from the buffet.

ROOM SERVICE

Room Service was a balance of complimentary and at cost. There was a page which had a few speciality items available at a cost, and then the remainder of the room service menu items available complimentary.

There may have been a charge if ordering room service late at night, however as we never ordered that late, I am unsure on this for sure.

Room service had a fantastic Artisan Cheese plate which you could order for US$15 which featured premium cheeses from Murano and was just amazing.

There was also a complimentary cheese plate available on the room service menu which was still nice, but offered a more standard range of cheeses which would also be available at the buffet.

The few times we had room service delivered for these in between snacks they were reasonably quick and efficient.

GRAND EPERNAY / MAIN DINING ROOM

We found the main dining room food to be just amazing, and definitely the best we have experienced on cruise lines by far. We found all the evening menus and dishes to be just perfect, with a fantastic range of different cuisines, something for everyone.

Breakfast – breakfast in the main dining room we found offered your standard breakfast offerings from bacon & eggs to pancakes to cheese plates and fresh fruits. We dined here a couple of times for breakfast and never had a problem finding a table for two. The only thing I would have liked to see at breakfast time would be a daily Special Of The Day just to spice things up a bit. For example, eggs benedict one day, ricotta pancakes another day etc.

Lunch – lunch in the main dining room on port days was fantastic and again we never found it hard to get a table of two. Available on offer was starters, soups, salads, mains, and of course dessert. This was a great relaxing lunch and we didn’t at all feel rushed.

Dinner – dinner itself was an event every night and something we really looked forward to. We had a table for two as requested, for the late seating of 8.30pm. The tables of two are placed quite close to each other – approx 15cm apart so that you can easily talk to the guests at the tables next to you. The staff in particular were friendly, professional and always happy to help with recommendations, and also made sure you were always happy with your meal when it came out. The menus were four / five courses, and you could select from the standard everyday menu on the left or the daily changing menu on the right. As big foodies, we are always looking for new foods to try and the dining room was perfect for this. The quality was always top notch and on par with some of the great fine dining restaurants of Melbourne. We especially impressed with the quality of the produce while being a restaurant at sea, and could not fault the main dining room at all. Some of the highlights included crocodile, kangaroo, seared duck, steak tartare, frog legs, lobster tail, and our favourite escargots every night!
The soups were just beautiful, especially the cold gazpachos. The bread baskets were popular every night and even though we normally don’t eat bread on a daily basis, we always had a roll or two at dinner, with options of butter, cream cheese or hommus to spread. The wine sommelier in the main dining room was always on hand to take orders and reasonable quick in returning with a beverage.

OCEANVIEW CAFÉ / BUFFET

The buffet was available most hours of the day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between.

Even at it’s busiest time, while it was busy, the queues weren’t too big as the buffet was set out as individual stations.

We really enjoyed the buffet for a quick port day breakfast of smoked salmon and bagels, however didn’t really use it at any other times of day.

I found that the few times I did consider the buffet for a lunch, it was too crowded in terms of seating and noise level, and didn’t find anything that appealed to me. Maybe I was still full from breakfast or unsure what I felt like, so we just ended up dining for the buffet at lunch once. Quite a lot of other travelers seemed very happy with the buffet offerings from pizza & burgers, to pastas and salads, Indian curries, salad bars, and desserts.

We didn’t dine at the buffet for dinner however did visit to take some photos and have a pre dinner snack, one evening where they had a Fijian dinner theme.

They had the whole roasted suckling pigs, fish kokoda, traditional meats cooked in vine leaves and fresh drinking coconuts amongst other Fijian treats.

There was an ice cream bar on offer in the buffet and while complimentary, you could tell the difference between this ice cream and the ones in the gelataria which tended to be more creamy. That being said, it was quite popular with a range of flavours and toppings, and we did try this on a lazy day by the pool.

And…FRESHLY SQUEEZED ORANGE JUICE is available! This was available from the buffet bar at an additional cost, however not sure of the exact cost as it was included in our premium beverage package. The juice was freshly squeezed behind the scenes, and in jugs ready to pour. Juice pulp and all.

Of course there were the complimentary beverage drink stations available with juices, fruit punch, waters etc.

BISTRO ON 5

We dined at Bistro on 5 twice for lunch on port days, as a quieter alternative to the buffet.

There was a US$7.00 per person cover charge and both times, we were only one of two tables so it definitely was quiet and relaxing.

On offer is a range of savoury and sweet crepes which were amazing and cooked to order, as well as some beautiful soups. There were also salads and paninis to order, however we didn’t try these.

Bistro on 5 was available for most of the day for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack in between.

Reservations generally not required however I did hear that the evening of the first formal evening, Bistro On 5 was booked out with guests wanting to avoid the formal attire of the dining room. So maybe this is a night to make a reservation if you are planning on going.

SPECIALITY RESTAURNTS

For a 12 night cruise, we purchased the 3 restaurant package for US$99.00 per person which could be used for any three evenings of our choice. We found this to be extremely fantastic value at an average of US$33.00 per restaurant.

The food in Grand Epernay was already amazing, and these were another step above.

We also loved that the specialty restaurants each were decorated as individual restaurants, and you no longer felt like you were on a cruise ship of 2000 plus guests but at a premium restaurant on land.

Silks – Silks was the first specialty restaurant we dined at, and found the menu to be a variety of Chinese / Vietnamese / Japanese / Thai cuisines. I had read mixed reviews of Silks as compared to Tuscan Grille & Murano, however we found the food to be delicious and a very modern take on these traditional cuisines.
We ordered a selection of dishes to share, so that we can sample a few different ones. We both started with a tom yum soup which was fresh and clean, and really set the bar for the rest of the dishes to come. We continued with beef and chicken satay sticks which were amazing, and then dumplings which were tasty however not the highlight. An order of squid infused salmon sushi followed, with one dish coming out as a generous six pieces of sushi with ginger and wasabi accompaniments. For mains we shared chicken pad thai noodles which were beautiful and smokey, and beef green thai curry with rice which was full of flavor and really packed a punch. Dessert was a coconut tapioca based pudding which was nice, but not wow. Overall, a fantastic dinner, definitely worth the cover charge, with quite a large menu to select from.

Tuscan Grille – We visited Tuscan Grille twice, once as part of our package and once as part of a wine event (more to come on the wine event dinner), and definitely glad we did. A steakhouse style restaurant, the food was up a notch from Silks, and the service to match. Starters included octopus carpaccio, French onion & gruyere soup, steak tartare, and a fried goats cheese salad. The filet mignon was the standout main course, and cut just like butter. We did also offer a plate of the truffle ravioli to share which was just beautiful and the pasta paper thin. Dessert wise I had heard great reviews of the tiramisu however found it to be quite heavy and cream based, as opposed to the traditional mascarpone tiramisu which I am used to. I had a few bites, but much preferred my partner’s crème brulee with popping candy. The sommelier here in particular was amazing. We let him know we were on the premium beverage package and he offered to wine match our dishes based on our package, which made a fantastic dinner even better.

Murano – Wow. We saved Murano for our last evening on the cruise so that we could end the cruise with a bang. French inspired cuisine, this restaurant was the best of the three and you would be forgiven for thinking you were in a fine dining establishment in the heart of Paris. There were two menus to select from – a standard menu with starters, entrees, cheese course and desserts to select from, or alternatively a degustation menu for US$90 per person additional which also came with wine match, and you could select from two options for each course (FYI for the degustation option, the US$90 covered the costs of the wines, and could not be used in conjunction with the beverage packages). We were leaning towards to the degustation menu regardless of cost however opted against it, as we wouldn’t experience their famous table side lobster. Ordering from the standard menu, we started with the goats cheese soufflé and creamy lobster bisque which were both amazing. They had caviar available as a middle course at market price however as we don’t know a lot about caviar, we didn’t know if we would appreciate the taste vs the cost, so we gave this a miss and continued to entrees. My partner ordered the five spice crusted venison loin which was cooked Medium Rare and to perfection. If Murano was a restaurant on land, I would go back just for the venison. I ordered the signature lobster which was a cognac flambéed lobster tail prepared table side. This dish is an event in itself, with the waiter cooking this from scratch right in front of you, explaining each step as he goes. We then moved on to a cheese course with a selection of their cheeses from the cheese cart. A beautiful variety of cheeses from your goats cheese to your brie to your blue. Petit fours were bought our next as we had a bit of a break, before finishing with a selection of six of Murano’s best desserts. This was perfect to share between two, and a fantastic way to end an amazing dinner.

BACIO

Bacio was always busy any time of the day, especially in the mornings. Their menu was on offer for takeaway or have a seat in their beautiful lounge area. We had coffees and teas, all included in our premium beverage package and we were quite happy with the taste of the beverages we had. In the mornings in particular, there was sometimes a wait of ten guests or so for takeaway coffees. While there were quite a number of staff working behind the counter, it always seemed a little unorganized. I’m not sure if they are a new team working together, however there often seemed to be confusion amongst them about what drinks had been done, which were for which guests, had sea passes been scanned etc. Table service was quite efficient, with an approx. 10 min wait once ordering. The display window always had a large range of beautiful pastries and cakes which are complimentary. I can definitely recommend their premium range of teas, which included raspberry and citrus infused flavours, and caffeine free tea options. The coffees were also available in the passport bar on deck 3 however not sure if teas were also available there.


GELATARIA

We had the ice cream spaghetti one day to try which was a beautiful pistachio icecream pushed through a spaghetti style sieve into a waffle basket, topped with cream, chocolate sauce and almonds. Tasted fantastic and very refreshing however not sure about the approx. US$9 price if many order this dish. They had a great range of gelatos and sorbets which could be purchased in a cone or a cup which looked yum, but we ran out of time to try them.

PREMIUM ALCOHOL BEVERAGE PACKAGE

This seems to be one of the most talked about topics when it comes to Celebrity! And one of the most confusing ones, so I’ll just let you know about our experience. As a bit of background, my partner and I are not necessarily big drinkers, don’t drink most nights, just maybe some wine with a meal once or twice a week. However on holidays, we like to take advantage of extensive drinks menus to try different things and not needing to drive home, so we will indulge in a few drinks. When we booked our cruise, we received a complimentary Classic Alcohol Beverage Package, and we upgraded this to the Premium Alcohol Beverage Package prior to the cruise for approx. US$11-US12 per person per day. As we like to try different cocktails and new wines and enjoy sparkling water with meals and fresh juices for breakfast and were keen on the Molecular Bar, upgrading our package for us was a no brainer. The cost of our Molecular Bar cocktail a day was more expensive than just upgrading the package! We had no hassles at all with using our beverage package, and as we had upgraded prior to the cruise, when we embarked our cruise card already was printed with the code for the Premium Alcoholic Beverage Package. At any of the restaurants we dined at or even at Cellar Masters, we’d let them know which package we had and the sommeliers / bar staff would be more than happy to make recommendations within our package. One of the best things about the package as well was no need for signing dockets for each drink!

The following price limits are the prices based for our cruise 22 March 2015 which may be different to price limits for future cruises and/or for cruises that don’t depart from Australia. These are just a guide to show the higher limits for the premium package.

Premium Package – unlimited soft drinks, premium teas and coffees, all specialty coffees, smoothies, sparkling water, red bull, vitamin water, non alcoholic cocktails. Beers up to US$15, and wines, cocktails, frozen drinks, spirits up to US$15.50.

Classic Package - unlimited soft drinks, premium teas and coffees, specialty coffees, smoothies, non premium bottled water. Beers up to US$7.50, wines up to US$11.00, cocktails, frozen drinks and spirits up to US$9.50.

One of the great perks of the premium package was that if you decided to splurge on a wine over your limit, you would just pay the few dollars difference. Whereas on the classic package, you would need to pay the full drink costs.

MOLECULAR BAR

The Molecular Bar was one of our favourite features of Solstice. The cocktails were priced at US$15.50 and were amazing. This was fine dining in liquid form! There was a three page menu of cocktails on offer, with each cocktail featuring beautiful flavor combinations with garnishes ranging from liquid nitrogen to chipotle infused foams. Service tended to be slow, with just one bartender, or one bartender with an assistant. This was the only downfall to the bar however we still kept going back for the drinks. We really were looking forward to trying the avocado based cocktail however unfortunately they were out of ingredients for this for the full cruise. There was approx eight seats at the bar, in which case the waiting wasn’t too bad as you were kept busy watching them make the cocktails. Alternatively there were also 20 or so seats just behind.

MARTINI BAR

The Martini Bar was always busy and had a fantastic atmosphere! Busy before and after dinner, it had a fantastic vibe and the bartenders were friendly and efficient. The top of the bar was frozen ice, which was great to play a game of noughts and crosses, or just “doodle” on while having a drink. We had to try the famous Martini Flight one night. As my partner and I both decided to try this, the bartender had a huge flight of 12 drinks to pour! This was an amazing experience with dancing, whistling, and was fantastic to sample different martinis we wouldn’t have tried. Cost was US$22 per person (not included or compatible with the beverage package), and we each sampled six different martinins in slightly smaller glasses.
Later in the evening there would often be a DJ setup in front of the Martini Bar which made for a fun evening.

CELLARMASTERS

Cellarmasters felt like our secret place onboard. I don’t know why it never was busy, because it’s just amazing. We are fairly new to the wine scene. We are trying to learn more about wines all the time, and while we are happy with a $15 Brown Brothers, we also appreciate tasting new varieties and some higher priced ones.

We originally had planned to use the automatic wine dispensers to try different wines but completely forgot about these once we became regulars of Cellarmasters and got to know the sommelier who was a wealth of knowledge and took time each visit to explain each wine and teach us.

He knew we were on the premium alcohol beverage package so we would let him know what we felt like (red, white, medium body etc) and he would pour accordingly for us and give us a few different types to taste. He talked us through each glass teaching us what to smell for, what to look for when tasting, background of the variety etc.

You can even take some cheese and crackers with you from the buffet, to enjoy with your wine in Cellarmasters pre dinner.

There were 8 wine tasting events for our cruise, which we booked three. These three events were not combinable with our package.

The first was on a sea day afternoon where they had six countries representing at various stations throughout the room where we tasted a white and red from each country (twelve tastings in total). This combined with a large selection of breads and cheeses, made for a fun sea day afternoon. Approx price US$22 per person.

The second was a Wine Coinossieur dinner which was a Tuscan Grille dinner with a premium wine match. We began with bubbles and canapés in Cellarmasters before heading to Tuscan Grille for a 5 course dinner with a premium wine match. The dishes on offer were the same that could be ordered from the Tuscan Grille menu, and the sommelier explained each wine nicely and topped up our classes throughout! We were also able to order extras of the dessert port at the end. Approx price US$95 per person.

Our last wine event was the Riedel Wine Glass Tasting which was quite an eye opener. I didn’t know the value of a good wine glass before this event, and it was fantastic as you sampled four wines – once in a regular glass, once in a Riedel Glass. We also received four Riedel wine glasses to take home each (8 in total), which for us made this wine event well and truly worth the price of approx US$87 per person.

OTHER BARS / POOL BARS

We found the other bars okay however did not frequent them often. The bar on deck 5 just near Muranos advertised quite a variety of beers different to your standard Peroni / Stellas / Heinekin etc, however when we tried to order any of the premium ones they didn’t have them in stock, only the standards which was a little frustrating when wanting to try something different off the menu. There also didn’t appear to be drink service in the solarium indoor pool area. The pool bars were often quite hectic in the afternoon, not sure if this could be helped by having increased drink to deck chair service.

INTERNET

I had heard reports of the internet being quite slow to load, so we didn’t purchase an internet package. I used it once in the internet lounge for 10 minutes and found it ok, but slow. Cost was approx. US$0.75c per minute if you didn’t have a package.

PERSIAN GARDEN PASS

We didn’t have Aqua Class however were keen on the Persian garden. On embarkation day, the day spa staff were more than happy to tour us around the Persian garden facilities before we purchased a pass. The couples pass for the cruise duration was approx. US$190 per couple which we went with. The single pass was approx. US$120 per person for the cruise duration if you were after a single person cruise pass. I asked about day passes and was advised that they were not being offered for this cruise. I guess it must come down to if they sell enough of the cruise duration passes, they won’t offer day passes. We used the Persian garden three or four times and found it quite relaxing. There were eight hot tiled lounges with beautiful sea views, as well as a steam room, a sauna room and aqua spa exclusive relaxtion room (all multi sex). There was also saunas in each changing room (mens / womens separate), and a separate relaxation room which was open to guests waiting for spa treatments and all other guests. We never found it hard to get two heated tile lounges in the middle of the day (10am – 3pm) which surprised me considering the number of rooms sold as Aqua Class. While we loved having the Persian garden experience on this cruise, I’m not sure if we use it enough to warrant the cruise pass next time.

GYM

My partner visited the gym a few times and was impressed with the whole gym itself. Brand new equipment, state of the art weight equipment, treadmills. The area was well sized, ultra clean and impressive for a cruise ship. They also offered a number of classes available.

PHOTO GALLERY

We didn’t find the photographers to be too pushy on Celebrity. Their presence was known, and there was the invitation to pose here and there, but not too pushy. They had an offer of unlimited photos either in print or electronic for US$300. We alternatively went with the offer of 10 photos for US$200, which was combinable with our 15% Captains Club discount.

GLASS BLOWING & LAWN CLUB

The Glass Blowing Show was fantastic and something different and unique to see on a cruise ship. We have seen glass blowing in Venice and found it quite similar. There was a number of Glass blowing shows on offer throughout the cruise.

We didn’t spend a lot of time at the Lawn area but were quite impressed and loved the country club feel. We had cocktails at the Lawn area on sailaway from Sydney. One of our favourite little touches Celebrity offered a few times was cheese picnics on the lawn while sailing away from a port day. Just a half hour before sailaway, you could head on up where they were handing out picket blankets. Find yourself a piece of grass, setup your blanket, grab yourself a complimentary cheese plate, and relax as you sailaway. There was also a wine table available to purchase a glass of bubbles of wine to enjoy with your cheese. This was a fantastic touch and one of the things I loved about Celebrity.

SOLARIUM / POOL DECKS

We only really spent our pool time by the Solarium indoor pool area. While walking past the outdoor pool areas, there were always plenty of deck chairs available, same can be said with the solarium.

We were able to grab a cabana twice to relax in for the afternoon with sea views, and the hammocks were also a favourite of mine.

Pool towels easily and readily available, no need to sign for them like with other cruise lines.

Solarium pool was reasonably warm, spas even warmer.

The café in the solarium area was open in the mornings and afternoons with a few healthy offerings such as salads, fresh fruit plates etc.

LITTLE TOUCHES

We really loved the small touches by Celebrity, which gave our cruise a really luxurious feel.

When arriving at your port for the day, there were umbrellas on hand if you wished to take one with you on your journeys.

We loved that while you’re coming back on the ship, they have cold drinks and ice cold towels ready for you.

For us, it was just these little touches which sets Celebrity apart from other cruise lines.

SOUTH PACIFIC ITINERARY

We have been to Noumea, Lifou and Isle Of Pines a few times so this time, we chose to see things a little different on our visits. This was however our first visit to Luatoka and Suva.

Noumea – on arrival into Noumea, Celebrity offered complimentary shuttle bus transfers to the main city centre terminal, an approximate 5 minute drive. Here, we walked inside the terminal where they had quite a number of tour operators offering different day trips. We opted for the Hop On Hop Off bus for approx AUD$15 per person for a days worth of bus loops which takes you to the main city highlights. We were quite specific in what we wanted to see this day, so we just used the HOHO pass as a method of transport. Our first visit was L’Atelier Gourmand, a beautiful patisserie just a 10 minute walk from the Aquarium. This patisserie is was full of locals coming in for their daily baguettes. We had some beautiful cakes, petit fours and a large baguette for approx. AUD$15 total. After morning tea, we walked back to the Aquarium which had fantastic exhibits of all the beautiful tropical fish of the South Pacific. We spent an hour here, before making our way to Lemon Bay /Baie De Citron where there is a number of restaurants and bars all lined up. We had a tapas lunch at La Barca with food and drinks coming in at approx. AUD$50 for the two of us. We had a walk around the main city centre Coconut Square where there was a number of local stores and boutiques, before heading back to the ship.

Lifou – we were one of the first tenders to Lifou and as there wasn’t a wait at 8am, no tender ticket was needed. We began with setting up our spot on the beach under a beautiful shady tree. Remember to avoid the coconut trees, you don’t wait a falling coconut! We had massages 20 minutes for AUD$20, a fresh local coconut and a bit of a swim. It was beautiful to experience the beach first thing in the day while still quiet. We went back onboard after lunch for a lazy day.

Luatoka – as this was our first time to these port in Fiji, we opted for excursions through Celebrity. In Luatoka, we booked the Ooh La La Savala Cruise which was just amazing. This tour was approximately six hours in duration, and we sailed from the ship to Savala Island approx 40 min. This island was truly paradise, and an uninhabited island 1.5acres in size. Sand perfect powder white, snorkeling here was amazing as was the opportunity to see the baby shark feeding and reef glass bottom boat tours where you could hand feed fish. Lunch was a fantastic bbq style buffet including alcohol, together with a coconut presentation. This was the perfect tropical island day at leisure and would definitely recommend this tour.

Suva – for Suva, we booked the Jewel Of Fiji tour which was a fantastic cultural day tour. The drive was approx. 1 hour in duration to a local village where we participated in a traditional kava welcome ceremony, viewed some presentations on local art and the use of coconuts, learnt about the history of the village and viewed village cooking techniques. Lunch was a traditional Fijian buffet with beautiful meats cooked in the ground, fish kokoda salad, curries, and a sandwich bar. After lunch, we went on a 20 minute long boat cruise over the rapids until we reached a rainforest where after a 5 minute walk we came across a beautiful waterfall to swim in. Back on the longboat to the village and back to ship, this was definitely a tour to rave about and fantastic for a cultural insight into Fiji.

Isle Of Pines – we have been to Isle Of Pines before however had heard raving reviews about the Turtle Bay & Brush Island tour. Approx 2 – 3 hours in duration, we did this tour first thing in the day. We sped across to Turtle Bay on speed boats and once there, we found a sea turtle, and were able to jump out of the boat to pat and swim with the sea turtle. Afterwards, we continued to Brush Island which was one of the most perfect beaches I have been to. Perfect white sound, powder soft, clear blue water for swimming. We had a half hour swim before heading back to Isle Of Pines. We went back to the ship for a quick lunch and rest, before returning back to Isle Of Pines for an afternoon swim and a fresh drinking coconut. This is one of our favourite islands and this beach never fails to impress.

WEATHER

Weather was fantastic throughout the cruise. We were fortunate to have missed the cyclone that hit Vanuatu two weeks prior. Cyclone season is generally November – March, however I have found that this is the best time to cruise weather wise for warm weather. We had very minimal rain, the cloudiest days were our two last sea days coming back to Sydney. Our days at port were beautiful warm days especially the Fijian port days.

WOULD WE CRUISE AGAIN?

We loved Celebrity Solstice. The cruise line and ship far exceeded our expectations. We loved all the amazing food, the fantastic cocktails and wines. We felt truly pampered and had a beautiful 12 nights of luxury. While onboard, we booked the same 12 night South Pacific Cruise onboard Solstice for March 2016 with same itinerary, and we can’t wait ☺

Feel free to post if you have any questions I can help with! ☺
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*South Pacific Port Summary
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2267857

*P&O Pacific Eden 2016 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2327093
*Celebrity Solstice November 2015 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2298377
*Celebrity Solstice March 2015 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2192606
*Paradise Cruises Paradise Peak Halong Bay Junk Boat Cruise 2014
*RCI Radiance Of The Seas 2014
*Carnival Spirit 2012
*P&O Pacific Jewel 2012
*RCI Radiance Of The Seas 2012
*RCI Rhapsody Of The Seas 2009 / 2010
*P&O Pacific Dawn 2008
*P&O Pacific Dawn 2007 / 2008
*P&O Pacific Sun 2006 / 2007
*P&O Pacific Sun 2005

#3
Melbourne, Australia
100 Posts
Joined Feb 2011
Thanks for posting your review, I really enjoyed it. We are doing our 1st Med cruise on the Reflection at the end of May and it's our first Celebrity Cruise as well, so your information was very helpful to us. It all sounds fantastic!
#4
69 Posts
Joined Oct 2006
We will be taking our first Celebrity cruise in May on the Solstice, and it is great to read such a comprehensive, positive review. Thank you for posting!

I have seen so many reviews that say that the service in Bistro on 5 is slow, taking 30 minutes to receive an order. Did you find the service slow?
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Carnival Sensation - 07/00 Western Caribbean // Carnival Holiday - 03/05 Western Caribbean // Crown Princess - 04/07 Southern Caribbean // Carnival Fascination - 10/07 Bahamas // Majesty of the Seas - 03/08 Bahamas // Norwegian Sky - 11/08 Bahamas // Sovereign of the Seas - 3/09 Bahamas/Key West // Golden Princess - 9/09 Alaska // Majesty of the Seas - 6/13 Bahamas/Key West; Baby's First Cruise // Celebrity Solstice - 5/15 Alaska // Disney Magic - Castaway Cay 3/16
Upcoming:
Allure of the Seas - 4/17 Western Caribbean
#5
642 Posts
Joined May 2006
Thank you for the great review! We will be on the Solstice to Alaska. I have done 20 cruises (this will be my second Celebrity) and our first Celebrity cruise was certainly one of our favorites!! I can't wait
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#7
3,803 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Originally posted by fuinseog
We will be taking our first Celebrity cruise in May on the Solstice, and it is great to read such a comprehensive, positive review. Thank you for posting!

I have seen so many reviews that say that the service in Bistro on 5 is slow, taking 30 minutes to receive an order. Did you find the service slow?
Thanks everyone for your kind comments.

The two times we went to bistro on 5 it was very quiet and we spent quite a bit of time chatting to the waiter. We had our dishes in maybe 20 minutes but they can work at whatever pace suits you. You can go for a quick meal or a lazy relaxed meal, just let them know what you prefer. If it is busy I guess maybe service would be slower, but not too sure.
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FORCED TO WORK, BORN TO CRUISE!!

*South Pacific Port Summary
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2267857

*P&O Pacific Eden 2016 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2327093
*Celebrity Solstice November 2015 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2298377
*Celebrity Solstice March 2015 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2192606
*Paradise Cruises Paradise Peak Halong Bay Junk Boat Cruise 2014
*RCI Radiance Of The Seas 2014
*Carnival Spirit 2012
*P&O Pacific Jewel 2012
*RCI Radiance Of The Seas 2012
*RCI Rhapsody Of The Seas 2009 / 2010
*P&O Pacific Dawn 2008
*P&O Pacific Dawn 2007 / 2008
*P&O Pacific Sun 2006 / 2007
*P&O Pacific Sun 2005

#8
Dallas, Texas
703 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
Wonderful review, thank you for posting.
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#9
NSW
209 Posts
Joined Nov 2007
We were on this cruise too and agree with all your comments. The destinations were great. The perfect weather of course always helps any holiday but we loved everything about the ship and this trip. We had cruised Solstice before and found it just as good as we remembered. We had our first Celebrity Suite on this cruise - and we certainly felt pampered by the many little extras offered!! Michael's club with our concierge Kim and the intimate new Luminae dining room (albeit still with the MDR food on this cruise as the full opening was taking place for the next cruise) were both excellent perks and contributed to the enjoyment.
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March 2005 Superstar Leo April 2008 Pacific Sun November 2008 Grandeur of the Seas
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#10
Madison, WI
13 Posts
Joined Jan 2015
Thanks so much for the extremely thorough review! My husband and I (both age 28) will be on the Solstice in December and we've never cruised with Celebrity before so it's great to hear from a similar perspective.
#11
St. Paul MN
3,344 Posts
Joined Dec 2007
Loved reading your review. It brought back fond memories of sailaway at the Sunset bar, fine dining in Murano's and the lovely service and food in the MDR.

Thank you for a relaxing read. I needed that today.
#12
Melbourne, Australia
1,226 Posts
Joined Sep 2013
Thanks LuckiePuris,

A detailed and unbiased review of what was surely a wonderful cruise. I felt like I was there.....hang on....I WAS There, along with my family and another whom we had talked into trying a cruise.
They too loved it and have booked their 2nd to join us again next year.

We are in our mid forties and found this cruise had attracted a healthy demographic of all ages, although would agree the 20-30 yo bracket would've been a minority. We had our children with us, aged 8 thru 12 - their 2nd Solstice cruise and they also loved every minute of it (again!!)

Could not agree more with your review in all areas that we also experienced. We also often commented the food onboard was comparable or even better than some land based restaurants we've been to! And that can't be an easy feat logistically when they are feeding over 2000 of us at once!

Wasn't Silk Harvest a surprise! On our first trip last year we had heard it was only 'ok' but decided to give it a try on the first night due to a 50% discount deal. Well this time around we didn't hesitate to do exactly the same and found our favorite cream cheese wontons as good as ever....and new dishes (for us) of orange chicken and whole barramundi (filleted table side, wow!) simply cemented our feelings towards this location. If only we could find it ashore!!

Of course Tuscan and Murano were all special, not taking anything away from the wonderful MDR and our wonderful table staff who largely contributed to us al felling like Royalty (or should that be Celebrity-ies!!)

Oh by the way Room Service is 24/7 and there is no surcharge for late hour dining. Might've squeezed in a pizza one night

Cheers!


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#13
Melbourne, Australia
1,226 Posts
Joined Sep 2013
PS, did you book the Brush Island tour directly once on the island? How much was it if I may ask. We went to the Natural Aquarium this time (our first visit to Isle of Pines) and found it breathtaking, but when we get back again my daughter would love the chance to swim and interact with the turtles!! Thanks!


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#14
3,803 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Originally posted by QE2_Fan
PS, did you book the Brush Island tour directly once on the island? How much was it if I may ask. We went to the Natural Aquarium this time (our first visit to Isle of Pines) and found it breathtaking, but when we get back again my daughter would love the chance to swim and interact with the turtles!! Thanks!


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Originally posted by QE2_Fan
Thanks LuckiePuris,

A detailed and unbiased review of what was surely a wonderful cruise. I felt like I was there.....hang on....I WAS There, along with my family and another whom we had talked into trying a cruise.
They too loved it and have booked their 2nd to join us again next year.

We are in our mid forties and found this cruise had attracted a healthy demographic of all ages, although would agree the 20-30 yo bracket would've been a minority. We had our children with us, aged 8 thru 12 - their 2nd Solstice cruise and they also loved every minute of it (again!!)

Could not agree more with your review in all areas that we also experienced. We also often commented the food onboard was comparable or even better than some land based restaurants we've been to! And that can't be an easy feat logistically when they are feeding over 2000 of us at once!

Wasn't Silk Harvest a surprise! On our first trip last year we had heard it was only 'ok' but decided to give it a try on the first night due to a 50% discount deal. Well this time around we didn't hesitate to do exactly the same and found our favorite cream cheese wontons as good as ever....and new dishes (for us) of orange chicken and whole barramundi (filleted table side, wow!) simply cemented our feelings towards this location. If only we could find it ashore!!

Of course Tuscan and Murano were all special, not taking anything away from the wonderful MDR and our wonderful table staff who largely contributed to us al felling like Royalty (or should that be Celebrity-ies!!)

Oh by the way Room Service is 24/7 and there is no surcharge for late hour dining. Might've squeezed in a pizza one night

Cheers!


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
Haha it certainly was a fantastic cruise wasn't it! So glad to hear you and your family enjoyed yourself also.

We booked the Turtle Bay & Brush Island onboard and from memory it was approx US$125 per person. Wasn't cheap but for us that had been to Isle Of Pines previously, it was nice to do something different to break up the day.
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FORCED TO WORK, BORN TO CRUISE!!

*South Pacific Port Summary
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2267857

*P&O Pacific Eden 2016 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2327093
*Celebrity Solstice November 2015 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2298377
*Celebrity Solstice March 2015 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2192606
*Paradise Cruises Paradise Peak Halong Bay Junk Boat Cruise 2014
*RCI Radiance Of The Seas 2014
*Carnival Spirit 2012
*P&O Pacific Jewel 2012
*RCI Radiance Of The Seas 2012
*RCI Rhapsody Of The Seas 2009 / 2010
*P&O Pacific Dawn 2008
*P&O Pacific Dawn 2007 / 2008
*P&O Pacific Sun 2006 / 2007
*P&O Pacific Sun 2005

#15
Melbourne, Australia
1,226 Posts
Joined Sep 2013
Thanks! We are back on December on Explore of the Seas so may consider that tour!!


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#16
3,803 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Originally posted by QE2_Fan
Thanks! We are back on December on Explore of the Seas so may consider that tour!!


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Definitely worth it but book early as it does sell out!
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Happy Cruising!!

FORCED TO WORK, BORN TO CRUISE!!

*South Pacific Port Summary
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2267857

*P&O Pacific Eden 2016 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2327093
*Celebrity Solstice November 2015 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2298377
*Celebrity Solstice March 2015 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2192606
*Paradise Cruises Paradise Peak Halong Bay Junk Boat Cruise 2014
*RCI Radiance Of The Seas 2014
*Carnival Spirit 2012
*P&O Pacific Jewel 2012
*RCI Radiance Of The Seas 2012
*RCI Rhapsody Of The Seas 2009 / 2010
*P&O Pacific Dawn 2008
*P&O Pacific Dawn 2007 / 2008
*P&O Pacific Sun 2006 / 2007
*P&O Pacific Sun 2005

#17
Palmerston North, New Zealand
1,019 Posts
Joined Oct 2006
Thanks for such a detailed review. We are sailing on her this December and it was great reading all your comments on the ship and what if offers.
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#18
3,803 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
Well I come with some news - it has only been just over a week since we were on Solstice.

We booked another Solstice cruise while onboard for March 2016, but that's so long away...so we've just booked another Solstice cruise for this November to tie us over.

We are not even fussed about the shorter 8 night duration or the similar South Pacific itinerary, as this November cruise for us will be purely about the ship and onboard experience.

Can't wait to be back onboard!
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Happy Cruising!!

FORCED TO WORK, BORN TO CRUISE!!

*South Pacific Port Summary
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2267857

*P&O Pacific Eden 2016 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2327093
*Celebrity Solstice November 2015 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2298377
*Celebrity Solstice March 2015 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2192606
*Paradise Cruises Paradise Peak Halong Bay Junk Boat Cruise 2014
*RCI Radiance Of The Seas 2014
*Carnival Spirit 2012
*P&O Pacific Jewel 2012
*RCI Radiance Of The Seas 2012
*RCI Rhapsody Of The Seas 2009 / 2010
*P&O Pacific Dawn 2008
*P&O Pacific Dawn 2007 / 2008
*P&O Pacific Sun 2006 / 2007
*P&O Pacific Sun 2005

#20
3,803 Posts
Joined Oct 2007
You're very welcome, please feel free to let me know if there are any queries I can help with!
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Happy Cruising!!

FORCED TO WORK, BORN TO CRUISE!!

*South Pacific Port Summary
http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2267857

*P&O Pacific Eden 2016 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2327093
*Celebrity Solstice November 2015 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2298377
*Celebrity Solstice March 2015 - Review http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=2192606
*Paradise Cruises Paradise Peak Halong Bay Junk Boat Cruise 2014
*RCI Radiance Of The Seas 2014
*Carnival Spirit 2012
*P&O Pacific Jewel 2012
*RCI Radiance Of The Seas 2012
*RCI Rhapsody Of The Seas 2009 / 2010
*P&O Pacific Dawn 2008
*P&O Pacific Dawn 2007 / 2008
*P&O Pacific Sun 2006 / 2007
*P&O Pacific Sun 2005