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I am pre writing some of this because I am anticipating on the day time will be very limited. This port is without doubt the one day we have been eagerly awaiting , not that we have wished the others to go quickly it’s this stop where we have decided to spend a little money to do something memorable.

Airlie Beach is the first port of three for us which has Barrier Reef tours and being as we are not snorkelers we decided we needed to do something else to get the most out it for us.

Our decision was an easy one in the end and as soon as I suggested it to Nicole it was sold.

After searching the internet for different options we selected a helicopter flight over the reef with a landing on Whitehaven Beach for 1½ hour on the way back. It’s the most expensive trip we have ever booked and without doubt the most exciting and just to add to the mix I have never flown in a helicopter before either.

There were 4 places available and after making a post on Cruise Critic we managed to get another couple onboard which helped spread the cost. We were a little on tender hooks the last couple of days thinking the weather would prevent us from flying but I received an email from the operator the night before saying everything looked good for us. The company we have chosen is called GSL Aviation and they run different tours out over the reef to suit different budgets.

Airlie Beach is a tender port and we were again hoping to be able to facilitate our loyalty status to get us on a tender across earlier than others. However despite the ship arriving at 8:00 the first proper tender across wasn’t until 10:00 because they needed to fill the catamarans going out to the reef on ships tours first. All this was being done directly from the ship so with limited space for boats to dock the tenders ashore were moved down the list.  Our agreed pick up time ashore was 9:45 so we were not exactly pleased with the situation. It’s a bit naughty advertising the stop as being 8:00 until 5:00 but then not allowing you the option to leave the ship until gone 10:00 with added travel time to shore of 25 minutes. I had thought we had built a nice buffer zone into getting ashore but that was wiped out in one swift move by Celebrity.  Angry doesn’t go anywhere near describing how I felt first thing this morning. I did call GSL who were very understanding and suggested a backup plan should things not work out. Not what we had booked but a nice gesture given the circumstances.

But….. Angelina to the rescue, Nicole went over to her and explained our situation and we were told to quietly come to the waiting area and before we knew it we were front of the queue for the next tender.

Talk about cutting it close, we arrived at the marina 5 minutes after we should have and were so relieved to see the GSL van waiting for us.

 

From there we were driven to the airfield for a quick pre flight briefing and within 25 minutes of getting off the tender we were in the air and on our way to the Heart Reef. We circled twice before heading back to our next stop which was a landing on Whitehaven Beach with 1½ hour stop to enjoy it. Ian our pilot left us on the beach while he popped back to Airlie airport to pick a few more lucky individuals up to bring back. Its ranked in the top ten beaches in the world and​ it’s not difficult to understand why.

Pure silica sand which is not hot to walk on and it makes a really strange sound as you walk across it. Part of the package included​ sparkling wine along with umbrellas and blankets to sit on. Words cannot describe what an amazing setting we were privileged to visit today.  I’m not even going to try so please enjoy the photos which I hope will do it some justice.

Despite Celebrity doing their utmost to ruin our day we ended up having what we both regard as the best day we have ever had on a cruise.  DeeDee and Chip, you were the perfect company today. Thank you so much for joining us.

The problems with my WordPress app still persist but I have found a workaround which is a bit more time consuming. The result is that you might not get as many photos as you have been used to. Until I’ve tried it in anger I won’t know for certain how effective it will be and this post will be the first attempt.
Because we have done​ back to back cruises there has never been an urgency to see some of the shows and we have tended to let others review them first and then make our minds up on the follow on cruises. Using this formula we decided to go to Broken Strings which was one of the production shows.  We sat through the whole of the show last night which killed 45 minutes and I have no idea if there was any sort of story to it but it did pass the time before dinner. I will leave it at that and say no more about it if you know what I mean.

I’m looking forward to tonight as it’s a Beatles tribute act called The Beatnix. Let’s hope their Paul McCartney has better sea legs than the last one we saw as they had to cancel the second show because he was seasick.
After yesterday’s dismal weather it was at least dry when we first looked out this morning which was a major improvement. We are both feeling very full at the moment which given the abuse our bodies have taken is no real surprise, so many meals and courses to deal with.  Nicole skipped breakfast completely while I just grabbed a bacon sandwich and a coffee from the buffet.
The Solstice Deck was then our destination with the weather steadily improving throughout the day. It went from cloudy to partially cloudy skies with a really lovely warm sea breeze. Eventually the clouds almost disappeared all together and it really turned out to be a super day.

 

The Mast Grille was certainly very popular today with long queues just to grab a quick burger or hot dog. I decided to grab a quick Thai Curry in the Oceanview Cafe instead today.

We stayed up on the Solstice Deck most of the afternoon only really moving to grab something to eat.Both at different times I might add as we figured it would be easier to find a seat that way. It was too nice to stay indoors.

I took the following photos of the lawn club area just before heading back down to the cabin. The lawn looks the best we have ever seen on one of the Solstice ships.

 

 

 

On our sail out of Newcastle yesterday we were given a three gun salute by the volunteers who run and maintain the fort. It was a nice touch which went down really well.
Before dinner last night we paid a visit to the theatre to watch a young Kiwi singer called Will Martin and what a good move that turned out to be. He had a fantastic voice and was probably the best singer I’ve ever heard on a ship. If the weather is still bad tomorrow afternoon he is doing a matinee show so we will probably go and see him again.

Btw, for dessert last night there was a special option which was a chocolate something or other and was to commemorate the Edge revealing. Centre place was a bar of chocolate with the Edge logo embossed into it. Shame I never took my camera as it might have given me a photo to post today. It’s very short on the ground today so there are just a couple of weather related shots from earlier this morning. The one and only photo I have been able to upload is the view from our breakfast table. The WordPress app has developed a bug so currently isn’t letting me upload any more photos. I hope it fixes itself soon!!!

The ship feels more like it did on the first cruise which is really great. There seems to be a lot more older passengers this cruise and the dining room seems to be about 70% full.

The weather on the other hand isn’t exactly what we were anticipating and it rained heavily throughout the night and continued through the morning. At times visibility was poor and there was little chance of even going for a walk out on the open decks.

We did seize an opportunity about 11:00 and managed about 1½ laps before the drizzle started again. Not wanting to sit inside we found a couple of beds undercover on the pool deck and just dozed until dinner which we took in the MDR.

Really that is exciting as it got today, we spent the afternoon just dozing in the cabin until it was time to go to the Sky Lounge at 5:00.

I had always anticipated the two sea days going up to Queensland would be lovely and sunny but we just seem to have been unlucky this trip.

Last night in the dining room the four regulars were joined by two empty chairs and two ladies, one from Essex, England and the other from all places our destination today Newcastle, NSW.  Plenty of lively chatter so it promises to be a fun table. I just wish the chairs would let their hair down a little.  

We were alongside at just before we eight this morning in a commercial area of the port of Newcastle. It is a very busy port with lots of container ships sailing in and out of the channel. Because of the commercial element there was a free shuttle into town and the journey time was a good 15 minutes 

After the bus dropped us off we decided to do some walking and headed in the direction of Nobbys Point and Fort Scratchley to get a panoramic view looking back to the ship. 

We spotted some bad weather making it’s way in so quickly headed back to find some shelter and only just made it as the skies opened. It rained for about 45 minutes and it was heavy too. 

We took cover in a coffee shop while the weather did it’s thing. When we were able to continue we carried back on into town and browsed the shops for a while before returning to the ship. 

Had the weather been better we would probably have done more walking but it always looked as if the weather could change at any moment and we weren’t really prepared for today’s torrential downpour. Newcastle is a charming little town and doesn’t seem to have been too commercialised by the large chains. Everyone we met was super friendly and all the shuttle buses had a volunteer guide onboard to help you get the best out of your visit. I got the impression the locals would really love to see some more ships visiting and we were told the preparations are well under way for the port to get it’s own cruise terminal. A lot of other ports could learn loads from these guys, no pestering just good old information to help make your visit worthwhile. 

Once back onboard we had a spot of lunch before sitting out in a sheltered area to do some reading and​ in my case a snooze. The rain returned at 3:30 but at least somewhere it couldn’t prevent us from doing what we were doing. 

There has been much talk about Celebrity’s new ship and to signify the revealing of lots of details all the sun beds had been turned out to face the sea. 
There will be a special presentation in the theatre tonight at 7:00 which we may or may not go to. 

We were off the ship this morning at 8:15 and headed immediately to a little cafe we had spotted last time we were here. The reason for this particular one was because of the gluten free options that were available. I have to say it was the best breakfast I’ve had in weeks and Nicole’s wasn’t bad either. 

Because of Nicole’s recent ailment we had decided to take it as easy as possible so the obvious choice was the Hoho bus which as it happens was only a short walk from our breakfast venue. 

There are two circuits within the price of a single ticket, one going round the city and the other going out to Bondi. Both tours are 90 minutes long and today we just did the city one as after the first 90 minutes we were all  bused out and needed to do some walking. 

The weather was perfect for a stroll and with Nicole feeling reasonably OK we headed for the Royal Botanic Gardens where we walked at a very gentle pace so as not to tire the patient out too much. It’s a super walk and it offers some fantastic views​ across the harbour and city. There were some amazing trees and we spotted loads of different types of birds. The only grumble I would have was the amount of joggers running all over the place, it reminded me of the push bike’s in Amsterdam. 

We covered quite a bit of ground and Nicole managed to make it all the way round to Mrs Macquaries Point where we found the stone bench which was carved in 1816 for the then govenor’s wife. A very popular spot for having your photo taken and I gave up trying in the end and just settled for an empty seat. 

After a couple of hours we headed back to The Rocks for a quick bite to eat and a drink before making our way back onboard ship. Being a back to back cruiser meant we already had all the paperwork done and it was just a case of a new photo for our seapass. The whole process took under 5 minutes and even better the photographer’s had moved on elsewhere so no delay there either. No health questionnaire to fill and do wonder what the response would have been had we actually been to the medical centre for Nicole. 

Back in the cabin we relaxed for an hour before we had to attend the muster yet again. The third one in 25 days which is a bit annoying but I suppose it’s always good to have a refresher and just to add insult to injury the video wasn’t shown in all the muster stations so we had to watch it all over again.  
Nicole has coped really well today and despite still needing to keep her Paracetamol updated has really enjoyed the day. She is very tired tonight but well on the way to full recovery. 

Sydney has so much to offer and on our two turnaround days we just touched the edges.  

This is the first of two posts today as it’s the end of cruise two and it will be the start of our third and final one​ on this trip. 

It was another very strange feeling being onboard last night with many of the passengers disembarking the next day, I thought that the previous experience would make it easier but it still felt quite odd. What added to the weird feeling was Nicole wasn’t there for the last night so didn’t get to say her goodbyes. Still I’d rather she build her strength up ready for today. 
On the positive side,  two of our table mates are staying on for the next cruise too so it’s not all bad. It just means 4 new faces tonight. 
So for the second time we sailed into Sydney and this time it was a dry event. While it’s great to sail in while it’s dark with all the tower blocks lit up it would have been great to do it once in daylight. 
On our way into port we passed  Costa Luminosa which was anchored away from the main port area. As we are disembarking and embarking today it would seem we have the preferential treatment at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay. 

Also some good news, Nicole is feeling much better this morning so we will keep her dosed up and hopefully will be OK to see some more of Sydney. 

After bringing Nicole up some rice, cauliflower and some peppers (which went down really well), I showered and went down for dinner. Being an Evening Chic night I had reconsidered my initial plans and came to the conclusion I really should make the effort particularly for our American table mates who always dress for the occasion. It felt really odd getting dressed up with Nicole watching me from in bed. 

I’m pleased to say that the dining room was much busier last night but still far from being full. 
Nicole had a much better night but was still very weak first thing, she felt well enough to take a shower which then totally wiped her out. While this was going on I made a couple of trips to the buffet to get her some hot water with lemon and a couple of bowls of fruit. 
My medication needed topping up so I left her in the cabin while I took my prescription. 

By the time I had returned Nicole was back asleep, so I went off for a walk so that she could have some peace and quiet. It gave me the chance to photograph a few areas of the ship for the first time. I also noticed the tables were all out and fully loaded in preparation for the sea day sales. It’s a total mystery to me how popular they are and they must generate a tidy profit because the majority of it is complete tat! 

At 10:15 I went to my second talk by Dr Dave which today was about Whales. Very popular and he completely filled Celebrity Central. I never normally do this sort of thing and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. 

On the way out I noticed the sales were in full swing and creating plenty of interest from the masses. I hope that they will be happy with their acquisitions when they get them home. 

When I got back to the cabin I found Nicole again not feeling great and feeling totally fed up with the situation. However after the last batch of tablets had kicked in she was feeling well enough to sit out on the balcony with me for a while. The weather today has once again been really lovely with the sea calm as well it made for a beautiful afternoon. 

It’s the last night of cruise two and will shortly make my way up to the Sky Lounge for a spot of imbibing and to say my goodbyes to some of the people who’s company we have enjoyed this cruise and also a few from the previous one too. All being well Nicole’s recovery will allow her to see some more of Sydney tomorrow.  

Not long after we returned to the cabin Nicole started complaining of a really sore throat which then developed into her feeling achy all over. So we dosed her up with Paracetamol and made the decision she should remain in the cabin for the evening. 

I  carried on as normal by going to dinner but by the time I had returned at 10:30 Nicole was running quite a high temperature so we carried on giving her the pain relief throughout the night and thankfully things were much improved this morning. The sore throat had gone her temperature was back down but she was still feeling very achy. 

Our breakfast waiters sent me back to the cabin with some cloves,  honey, hot water with lemon which was gratefully received. We have made the decision to confine Nicole to the cabin until she is feeling much better, it’s just a shame others haven’t adopted the same approach as there are people coughing and spluttering all over the ship. How do you contain something if people cough without covering their mouths or do cough into their hands then touch every conceivable handrail they pass?  I just hope it misses me. 
In ten years of cruising we have never had any health issues onboard before and Nicole is feeling guilty, I have told her not to be so silly and to concentrate on getting well again. 

This morning after my own form of medication I took some more bits up for Nicole and then went to watch Dr Dave and his Beyond the Podium talk on Dolphins which was really interesting. His passion for the sea and the mammal’s that live in it shines through when he talks. It was 45 minutes on a sea day well spent. 

On the way back I picked up some Tylenol from the gift shop so Nicole would have something to follow on with when her Paracetamol has been used up. 
So as we carry on with our cruise back to Sydney the ship has continued to feel very quiet. This particular leg of our three back to backs was always going to be less intense but at the same time I had not anticipated the ship would feel this deserted. There could be a number of contributing factors involved such as the number of first time cruisers or perhaps the fact that many of those are Aussies and being new to cruising aren’t behaving in the same way as more experienced cruisers generally do? Then it could also be the cough and cold virus which is with us onboard and is maybe a lot more prevalent than we are aware of with many being confined to their cabins? Either way this ship isn’t half as vibrant as it was on the cruise before. 
I was sat looking across the dining room last night on deck 3 during second sitting and was really quite shocked to see that over 50% of the places were empty. So many empty tables with an abundance of waiting staff stood around with little or nothing to do. Such a shame. 
Talking of the dining room I should really mention our Maitre D, he’s quite a remarkable man in many ways. His name is Alex and from Romania, he stands over six foot tall and is a giant of a man but what a character, such a jolly and funny guy. He really is entertainment on his own right but at the same time has the respect of all his staff who he has eating out of the palms of his giant hands. He is easily and without doubt the most approachable, friendly, helpful and efficient Maitre D we have ever had. 
So this afternoon I have continued to fetch Nicole bits and pieces along with plenty of hot water with lemon while taking the odd time out sitting on the balcony. She has been up and down all day but I believe she is now over the worst of it. Boring as it be she just needs to sleep it off and keep taking her pain relief. 
We have another sea day tomorrow and with a bit of luck she will be OK for Sydney round two. 

It’s been windy today with relatively clear skies and sitting on the balcony was a nice treat. Not too many photos today due to the circumstances but hopefully as things improve I will get back to normal. 

It’s an Evening Chic night tonight but I don’t think I will be making much of an effort. 

Last night was a bit of a rarity in as much that following a recommendation we went to the show in the theatre, the act was an Australian vocal impressionist called Keith Scott and he was very good indeed. Loads of voices and funny with it. 

Prior to that I also got chatting to Dr Dave (Dr. David Plourd) who is one of the Beyond the Podium speakers last night in the Sky Lounge, he is the current naturalist on board. Very interesting chap and I will make a big effort to go and see some of his talks. He has already done one talk on H2O and has a couple more planned, one on Sharks and Rays and the other on Whales and Dolphins. 
The clocks went back one hour last night and despite the fact we had another hour to play with     I felt totally exhausted by 10:30. Probably the heat over the last 2 days being a major contributor and despite all this I was wide awake at 5:45 this morning. 

Can you imagine how it felt to wait over two hours to get my medication!!! It was worth the wait though and being a sea day I had an extra one as well. 
At 10:15 we went to our second Consecutive Cruisers meeting in Celebrity Central. The turn around day set up is a little different this time in that we can get back off again once we have embarked for the follow on cruise. Because the next cruise is all Australian ports there is no immigration to deal with once we have got back on for the next leg. We still have to disembark the ship by 9:30 and can’t get back on until 11:30 but do have a little more freedom to come and go after that. There are only half as many back to back cruisers this time and 75 people are back to backers from the previous cruise. 

At 12:00 we attended a special luncheon for consecutive cruisers in Blu restaurant, because of the amount of passengers doing back to backs they have had to do two separate lunches and ours today was the second. We were on a table for eight and were joined by the Guest Relations   Manager (Monica) and Assistant Guest Relations Manager (Neil) who were excellent company. The food was delicious and we were virtually the last to leave and I was very surprised to see we had been there over 1¾ hours. It was a really nice touch and a great way to spend lunch on a sea day. 

By 2:15 we were up on Solstice Deck enjoying a sunny but breezy afternoon. Bliss! We stayed up there until about 4:00 before heading back down to the cabin. 

On the way back down we stopped off for a bowl of ice cream and some fruit and spotted these guys. With not many photos taken today I seized my opportunity. 

We had docked before we were awake this morning. Today our port times were from 7:00 am until 4:00 pm and this meant the clock was already running before we were up and about. Strange considering we didn’t need to travel far from Suva and we then follow it with 3 sea days so why not give us the 8:00 to 5:00 spot which would be a little more user friendly? I know it’s only an hour but it did sort of impact on what we eventually did as we were not prepared to get up early for a tour of little interest. 

Research prior to leaving again showed little here which we regarded as worth seeing and after hearing some of the stories from our fellow passengers experiences yesterday we made the decision not to leave the ship. It’s not really a tourist port and when you factor in the requirement to take a shuttle into a town very similar to yesterday then the ship certainly looked the more inviting option to us. 
There were some nice looking island trips available but we would have needed to have been up a lot earlier to have done them. 

So with the decision made to stay onboard we followed our usual routine for breakfast and I had to laugh this morning when Ana who is one of the waiting staff asked me if I’d come for my medication, so from now on that is how I am going to refer to it. 

Breakfast was followed by 5 laps of the ship where the temperature was showing as 30°C with 75% humidity. A was a good workout and something to ease the conscience a little, from there we allowed ourselves a relaxing lie down up on the Solstice Deck periodically moving the beds in and out of the shade while taking a shower to cool off in between. 

We did observe a man overboard safety drill this morning and it was interesting to watch the device they use to lift the body out of the water. It’s a sort of flexible bed which they floated underneath the dummy which had two ropes on the end and when pulled on these it just rolled the body out of the water into the boat. A clever way of getting a dead weight out of the sea. 

The ship was again very quiet and we have come to the conclusion the Aussie first time cruisers prefer to stay inside with the air conditioning on full pelt. It’s only the mad British and American passengers who are daft enough to be outside in the heat. 
Lunch was taken in the Oceanview Café where I have taken to the currys in a big way, we have an Indian head chef and his currys are the best I have ever had on a ship. Absolutely delicious!

We were discussing this particular itinerary over lunch and both agreed that we would have been disappointed had it been just this cruise on its own, yes there have been some nice beaches early on but it hasn’t really had the impact of the first one in New Zealand. It was always going to be our kickback cruise but I had hoped it would maybe conjure up some surprises. 

So with the hunger pangs sorted it was back to some more R&R until sailaway which was at 4:00. Three sea days now before we return to Sydney and the the start of cruise number three. 

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