Freelance writer living in Perth, Western Australia.
Published January 26th 2020
Baby, letís cruise
Fresh off the boat, I penned this review, as so much fun was had and a multitude of amazing memories made, I was insistent on getting it all down before I forgot.
People say you are either a cruise person or you aren't. The only way to test that theory was to try one out for myself. My partner and I were invited to celebrate a friend's 40th aboard the Celebrity Solstice, which involved cruising from Sydney to Port Douglas and back, with a few stops along the way, a 10 day/11 night adventure, one which we willingly agreed to embark on.
Baby, let's cruise!
Boarding the ship in the late afternoon, we checked in to our room, a cosy but spacious cabin with a porthole view (various room types ie. balcony suites etc. can be chosen when booking) and then, making our way up to the Sunset Bar, we were able to witness a beautiful sunset as we set sail off into the horizon, complete with a gorgeous view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.
For most of the trip, we chose to dine at the Grand Epernay, one of the ship's many restaurants, which features an impressive array of dishes; starters, entrees, desserts, which change nightly so there's always a new selection. Dress is smart casual, so it's great fun to dress up a bit and dine in style! There are set dining times for this restaurant however, depending on the package you select upon booking your trip, you can also opt for any time dining. There are also many other dining experiences available, including Le Petit Chef, a visually captivating ride where animations are projected on to the tables that make it look as if tiny chefs are preparing your meals. Le Petit, as well as a few other restaurants, such as Murano, Silk Harvest and the Tuscan Grille, are classed as specialty dining and an additional fee is required. Be sure to keep an eye out on board as staff are always offering special discounts for these dining experiences.
If you consider yourself to be less adventurous when it comes to the tastebuds, Oceanview Cafe is buffet style with so many options available, it's difficult to figure out where to start. Ranging from the standard bacon and eggs on toast for breakfast, to more adventurous options, you are definitely spoilt for choice. The buffet area also transitions throughout the day to accommodate for lunch and dinner, meals being available pretty much up until the late hours. Available options also changed daily which kept things fresh and new. Coffee and drink stations are available where you could help yourself and there is more than ample seating available to accommodate the constant flow of hungry patrons.
There are many bars situated throughout the ship, each with its own ambience and atmosphere, so you can pick your favourite go-to spot or even hop about and have a drink or two from each. Martini Bar & Crush features an ice-topped bar where you can keep your drink chilled while you sip. Upon boarding the cruise, you are given a key pass card which is what is used to purchase your drinks, gain access to your room etc. All drinks, depending on the package purchased in your booking, are included in the cruise and no additional payment is required. The classic package, which is the one my friends and I opted for, covered drinks up to $11 which includes coffee, beer, wine, and cocktails. You can upgrade before boarding or onboard to the premium package, which then enables you to have beverages up to $18.
When you're not dining and drinking your way throughout the decks, there is a multitude of activities and entertainment to while away your time. Each day boasts a plethora of events you can attend and partake in. A daily newsletter is delivered to your room the night before with the following day's schedule for onboard festivities. You can plan your day in advance or just laze about by the pool and choose activities at will. Everyone is catered for, from single travellers to families. Activities such as bingo, trivia, ping pong, dancing, silent disco, karaoke and even a class on glass blowing (at an additional charge) where you're assisted in making your very own project are a few of the fun activities you can partake in. There's also a games room, casino and library where you can do puzzles, have a flutter or read a book, whatever suits your downtime best!
As well as events and activities throughout the day, there also features multiple nightly shows in the Solstice Theatre, which seats hundreds of people, with performances ranging from comedy acts, magicians and hypnotists to spectacular musicals performed by the onboard entertainment crew featuring aerial acts, high octane dance performances and astounding vocals.
Then there are offshore adventures! Cruise ships will usually dock at a few stops along the trip where you can disembark and explore the local areas. For an extra fee, you can opt to go on excursions and sightseeing expeditions book through the cruise or go it alone and see where the day takes you. If the cruise ship can't dock, they provide tenders (smaller boats) which will take you ashore for the day and run every 15 minutes or so which means you can head back to the ship whenever it suits.
The particular cruise we were on, we got to explore Newcastle, Airlie Beach, Cairns, Port Douglas and Brisbane where you can marvel at the local attractions, do a spot of shopping as well as take in some gorgeous scenery.
There are also themed nights onboard, such as 'evening chic' where you get to dress in your glamorous best and party the night away with other guests onboard and have a grand old time.
As a first time cruiser, I am definitely a convert and look forward to booking my next cruise as soon as possible. The staff were so friendly, hospitable and welcoming, I was more than forlorn when it was time to head back home. Considering the number of guests onboard, I was amazed at how easily they manage to remember your name, favourite drink or even how well you like your steak cooked!
Whatever country or destination you wish to explore and if you're not overly enthused about flying, a cruise is most certainly an amazing way to see the world and I highly recommend it.
My top tip would also be to take advantage of discounts and specials they have when booking online or onboard when it comes to dining, photo packages and gift store shopping, you can save loads! Also, grab your duty-free and any purchases from the gift store on your last day as they usually have some awesome last-minute deals.