Celebrity Solstice Postcard #16 – Disembarking & Hong Kong, China

We arrived at Hong Kong before we were awake this morning. After doing our morning ablutions and putting the last few items into the carry on cases we made our way to the MDR for breakfast. Once we had finished, it was just a case of walking off, going through immigration, picking up our luggage and then locating our guide and driver for the day. Our private excursion was booked with This is AsiaTours and was for 8 hours and included dropping off at the airport at the end. We had managed to get another couple from Cruise Critic to join us which helped keep the price manageable. Our first stop today was a sampan ride around Aberdeen Harbour with the most enthusiastic boat man I have ever met. He had us taking photos from all angles and there was a point that I wondered if he would ever stop.

From there we made our way up to Victoria Peak for some amazing views over Hong Kong. We quickly built up a great relationship with our guide Pearline who was very engaging and informative and adapted the tour as we went round to maximise the experience.


Our next item was a tram ride through the city and when we got off it was time for lunch but on the way we passed some people that were providing a service called Villain Hitting. This involves practitioners theatrically “beating” an effigy or photo representing someone who has wronged you and meant to bring karmic retribution upon them. Totally bonkers but very enjoyable to watch.

Lunch was taken in a nearby restaurant, nothing high end but very tasty food and full of locals.

After lunch we were back in the van and taken to Statue Square to see the HSBC Building and the Statue of Sir Thomas Jackson who was the third Chief Manager of HSBC. He was responsible for financing the development of Colonial Hong Kong under the first large scale bank.

Back in the van and onto the next item which was a trip across the harbour on the Star Ferry.

On the other side we passed the Former Kowloon-Canton Railway Clock Tower and also found our driver was already there waiting for us.

The final section of our tour involved visiting a few markets. The first was the flower market which with it being a weekend and close to New Year was extremely busy. It wasn’t what I had expected and really it’s just an area of shops that all sell flowers.

We also visited a bird market and then a goldfish market all along the same lines as the flower market with lots of shops in one area all selling the same thing.


Unfortunately, our itinerary had come to an end and it was time to go to the airport. We had a busy but very enjoyable day and will look back on today with fond memories. I hope you have enjoyed my waffling on about some of the mundane things that have happened over the last two weeks and thanks for all the comments as they are always well appreciated.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #15 – Sea Day 3

Today was the last day of the cruise and a sea day. Ever since leaving Halong Bay there has been little or no internet because of something to do with being in Chinese waters. The weather hasn’t been great so it’s been a bit of a quiet one. Nicole seized the opportunity to pack this morning so that is done and all we need to do is put the cases out later. We collected our passports this morning and also picked up Hong Kong landing and departure cards which I filled in almost straight away. We met up with the couple we will be doing a city tour tomorrow and spent a couple of hours chatting with them in the Sky Lounge before trying to get some food. The Oceanview Cafe was a total no go area at lunchtime so we visited the Mast Grille for a burger and fries and sat outside and ate them out of the wind. On the way back to the cabin we passed some of the entertainment that had been put on by Celebrity, this is good as it gets!!! Who can fold and throw a paper plane the furthest!! Even now I can hear cruise director Pete saying “there’s so much going on onboard today” and sounding like actually believes it. ????

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #14 – Halong Bay, Vietnam

It was an early start for us today and after a quick breakfast in the buffet, we set off along the pier to the cruise terminal building to meet up with our tour for today. Once again we joined forces with some Cruise Critic members and booked an 7 hour cruise around Halong Bay. The weather was overcast again and it wasn’t particularly warm but it wasn’t going to ruin our experience.

After leaving the terminal we were directed to our boat which was moored up with many others along the side of the pier. There were 12 of us in our group and we were on a boat that was big enough for 10 times that so plenty of room.

By 8:30 we were on our way cruising past the many of 1969 limestone islets that make up this remarkable place.

Our first stop was to visit a fishing village and an oyster farm which were both accessed via a bamboo rowing boat that was piloted by a Vietnamese lady.

The transfer between the different farms was so peaceful and all you could hear were the blades of oars gently stroking the water.
Once back on the boat we had lunch while we made our way to Hon Co Island to visit the Thien Canh Son Caves. Once there, it was a climb of 100 steps or so to the entrance of the cave. Then entrance was through a small opening which took you into the first cavern. A further set of steps took you into a much larger cavern and the overall affect is quite stunning. We were the only group there so it was just the 12 of us plus our guide so feel very fortunate.


After, the boat took is back to the port along a different route than the one we had come and we arrived 7 hours later than we had set off. It was a great excursion and the only downside was the weather which was overcast which makes the photos look rather dull.

There has been no internet since leaving Halong Bay which is something to do with being in Chinese waters. It is on and off so I have only just managed to upload yesterday’s post.


Celebrity Solstice Postcard #13 – Halong Bay, Vietnam

After yesterday, it was great to have a bit of a lie in however we timed breakfast in the buffet completely wrong. We forgot to take into consideration that most old people are early risers and it was heaving when we arrived at 8:15. We thought that being as we weren’t arriving at Halong Bay until midday it would be nice and quiet. How wrong were we. 

The weather for our sail in through the islands was very overcast and murky with the temperature much cooler at 9°C. I’m sure this place looks totally different when the sun is shining but such is life, it was what it was.

We pulled alongside at 11:30 and next to us was the former Viking Sun (now sailing under her new name of Zhao Shang Yi Dun). She departed almost as soon as we arrived and there didn’t appear to be any passengers onboard and I couldn’t find any details about any current itinerary so a bit of a puzzle.

After a quick lunch we decided to walk to the end of the pier to explore, the walk took around 20 minutes to get to the cruise terminal building where we were greeted by you guessed it, a throng of ever eager taxi drivers all wanting to take us downtown.

Being as all we wanted to do was walk we walked through the building and encountered more of the same on the other side. We had spotted a cable car that passes from one side of Cua Luc harbor and Bai Chay Bridge to the other side. But it only seemed to operate every 30 minutes so we decided to give it a miss. The only other things in the locality of the cruise terminal were loads of sea food restaurants with the live tanks out front. So because my heel was starting to hurt we headed back to the ship. We are doing a full day bay cruise tomorrow so it was just a case of filling time today.

Sunset was around 5:30 and in the dark the panorama looked completely different, the big Ferris wheel taking centre stage. We have an 8:00 rendezvous time in the cruise terminal so it’s not going to be a late one tonight.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #12 – Chan May, Vietnam

A quick update on my heel, I occasionally suffer from gout but have never experienced it in my heel that is until now. I have tablets which I am taking along with painkillers and hopefully it will run it’s course fairly quickly.

We had quite a bumpy night on our way to Chan May and as we were making our final approach conditions deteriorated even more. At 9:30 the captain made an announcement over the PA that due to port congestion our arrival had been delayed.

There was another ship occupying our berth that needed tug boats to assist with departing.
We eventually made it in but an hour later than planned and even though it was pouring down, everyone was dead keen to get off.

Today we joined 5 others from our Cruise Critic Roll Call for a trip into Hue to visit the Citadel which is where the last king of Vietnam, Bao Dai, stepped down on August 30th, 1945. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site covering a large area all surrounded by a large moat. Time was of the essence and we hurriedly made our way around the highlights with our umbrellas up. Much of it is not in a great state of repair and our guide said that this was down to the communist regime that took over when the king abdicated.

On the way to our second site, we stopped at an incense making shop to see how the sticks are made and the opportunity to buy direct from the manufacturer. It was very colourful and at least it wasn’t carpets!!

From there we then visited the tomb of King Tu Duc, which is said to be the most popular and impressive of all the royal mausoleums. It houses courtyards, pavilions, temples, and chambers. Our guide told us about its fascinating history and the king’s life of imperial luxury.

It wasn’t until the end of this part of the tour that it stopped raining and today, all the photos you see are from my phone, there weren’t that many of them to choose from either.
The drive back to the ship took 75 minutes and our late start meant we never got as much time as we had hoped. They were 60 minutes late in but only delayed departure by 30 minutes and darkness had fallen by the time we got back.

My heel held up and I was able to make it all the way around with the others but boy was it hard going. The weather didn’t make matters any better either but it was great to see another part of the world but it did feel great to get back onboard the ship today.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #11 – Nha Trang, Vietnam

I awoke this morning not able to put any weight on my right heel, there was a shooting pain as soon as I tried to walk on it. Hobbling around the cabin a bit seemed to ease it and with the assistance of a few pain killers I felt able to go for breakfast. The additional movement eased it some more and I was confident that I would be able to cope going ashore by tender. I am not exactly sure what was wrong but it did improve during the day.
So after breakfast we made use of the priority tendering and were ashore by 9:30 with the aim to just go for a walk.

Getting on the tender
Celebrity Solstice at anchor
The tendering zone ashore

Once we had exited the security zone ashore we were bombarded by locals trying to sell taxi tours which seemed to last for ages. I really dislike the constant barrage you receive and I don’t really believe they are aware of how off putting and annoying it is. The taxi drivers all wanted to take you to pagogadas and Buddha’s and although we do still have items of this nature lined up, today wasn’t one of them.

We had to walk along the road side for maybe ¾ of a mile and even then they were still coming along side and pestering us. Escape came when the footpath left the road and we could walk next to the beach.

Sanctuary from the taxi drivers

We passed the small Temple of Tran Hung Dao along the way and next to it the Statue of Tran Hung Dao who was some sort of national hero.

Temple of Tran Hung Dao
Statue of Tran Hung Dao

It was a really great beach and Nicole even took the opportunity for a quick dip. We sat in the vicinity for half an hour or so before making our way back to the ship.

Looking out from the beach
We could see the ship from where we were sat
Looking in the opposite direction

We wanted to get back before all the tours and have a nice lunch while the ship was quiet which is exactly what happened.
The rest of the afternoon, we just relaxed on the balcony watching the tenders coming and going. It was nice to actually get off and do something albeit only a walk.

The beach from the tender

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #10 – Phu My, Vietnam

I was awake to watch the sail in which provided a few photo opportunities.

It was very peaceful experience as we gently edged our way to the berth. It was my turn to collect the coffee from Cafe Al Bacio this morning which was completely empty when I got there. We have taken to getting the coffee in the cardboard take out cups and then enjoying it on our balcony.

We went for breakfast as soon as the tours had started to depart and found the ship was practically deserted. It was bliss and the Oceanview Cafe was a dream to navigate, if only…….

By 10:00am we had found a nice spot on the Solstice Deck and made camp for the day. Other than visiting the Oceanview Cafe for lunch, we have done nothing all day so this is going to be the shortest post ever.

Tomorrow is another tender port where we have nothing planned so we may just go for the ride to see where it takes us.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #9 – Sea Day 2

We awoke this morning to beautiful calm seas, it was quite misty and at times it was difficult to separate the sea from the sky on the horizon. However, during breakfast we encountered some really dark storm clouds which produced some showers and then it clouded over completely.

During the morning there were a few showers and by midday there were enough breaks in the clouds to make it pleasant enough to sit outside.
It stayed like that until about 2:00 so we decided to brave the Oceanview Cafe for lunch which thankfully wasn’t that busy.
I spent about an hour on my phone seeing if I could find anything of interest near the port of Phu My but there was nothing that jumped out at me. Every search kept pointing back to Saigon.
We did a Mekong River cruise in 2019 and spent a couple of nights in Saigon and saw what we considered the best bits then so it looks very much like another day onboard.
With the temperature being somewhat cooler and the wind picking up we headed back to the cabin at 4:00.

At 5:00 we attended the Senior Officers Party in the Sky Lounge and wondered why we had bothered. A complete non event with the Captain being the only one who was introduced. It’s a bit of a stretch to actually call it a party if you ask me.
Tonight has highlighted the fact there’s very little to do on this ship in the evening if you are not eating or drinking, the shows in the theatre are not appealing to us whatsoever. Tonight it’s a production show called Amade which is about how Mozart and the work of other classical composers inspire, evolve and connect to modern music. It might have been really good but for us had zero appeal. The other night it was a show called Rock City which we have seen several years ago and questioned why something new hasn’t been introduced?
For the first few days it felt great to be back on this ship and it was like putting on a really comfortable pair of slippers, however as the days have passed we have felt less connected. We are still grateful to be here and once we can get off and do some tours or walking around it should feel better. I’m not very good at sitting around doing nothing these days.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #8 – Laem Chabang, Thailand

Today is Nicole’s birthday and we had no plans whatsoever and just wanted to chill out after yesterday’s activities.
We enjoyed breakfast in a fairly deserted Oceanview Cafe then went off the ship for a quick look around the little boutique/market in the cruise terminal with the aim of finding something to go on the travel trophy walls in our downstairs loo. This we achieved so it was then back onboard to lie down in the sun.
The only interruption being lunch in the Oceanview Cafe and even then the break was just for 30 minutes. The temperature today was around 32°C with hazy skies and a gentle breeze now and then. It’s not the greatest views in port but there is plenty going on watching the containers being loaded and unloaded from the ships.

We had pre-dinner drinks in The Sky Lounge today for a change which was nice and quiet.
Nicole was surprised by the waiters in the MDR with a non vegan birthday cake but at least she had Happy Birthday sang to her.

I can’t help drawing comparisons to my Costa birthday experience in 2022 where they made me a vegan birthday cake so I could share it with Nicole.
It’s a sea day tomorrow so we will once again be doing very little.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #7 – Laem Chabang, Thailand

As Civitavecchia is classed the port of Rome and Le Havre similarly as Paris and despite being a good distance between port and city, Laem Chabang is classed as Bangkok. Because the ship was overnighting here we decided to do a tour and see Thailand’s capital city with a group from Cruise Critic.

This morning we arrived at Laem Chabang just before 9:00 and with more time at our disposal it allowed us to take breakfast in a more leisurely manner. All the rushing around could wait until later in the day.
We were off the ship by 9:30 and located our guide and fellow tour mates very quickly. Our group consisted of 6 of us plus guide and driver and we set off fairly quickly to destination of Bangkok in our very comfortable and air-conditioned 9 seater minibus (Luxury-Mini-Bus Jim ????)

Our LMB otherwise known as Luxury Mini Bus


It took approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes to reach our first stop.
The Royal Grand Palace which is said to be one of the most beautiful samples of an ancient
Siamese court. It used to be the residence of the Kings of Thailand. Here we were shown several palaces which were used for different occasions: The Funeral Palace, the Reception Palace, the
Throne Hall, the Coronation Hall, the Royal Guest House, and the beautiful Emerald Buddha
Temple. It was very busy and we had to rely on a voice alone narrative from our guide who was heavily accented so I missed 85% of what he was saying. It was still impressive to see even if I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking at.

The Emerald Buddha

Lunch was supposed to have been served in a very good riverside restaurant but they didn’t manage to secure a table for us and we ended up somewhere else. This turned into a bit of a farce too because we had made it known when we booked that Nicole was vegan. Our guide ordered for us and for some reason he made the decision to order vegan for everyone despite telling Nicole that she had something different to the rest of us. It doesn’t matter to me but it didn’t go down well with the other four and I can’t blame them either.

After lunch, we were driven to Wat Pho, The Temple of the Reclining Buddha which was quite an impressive sight, it’s 46 metres long, covered in gold leaf and fills the temple it’s in.


Now the next bit of our day involved a tour around the canals of Thonburi on a long-tailed boat and I’m not convinced we started from where we were supposed to. Our guide spent several minutes on his phone before we set off on foot for a ten minute walk to a nearby pier. Looking out across the river, the current was extremely strong and I did wonder what we were getting ourselves into at this point as there wasn’t a canal in sight.

First though, we had to get into the boat which quickly became like an assault course, possibly because the pier was designed for bigger boats, there was a good 3 foot drop to get from the pier just to the side of the boat which was bobbing around like a cork because of the current. Nicole went first and despite having two men assisting her managed to get her foot wedged between a tyre and the boat. Luckily it was only for a brief moment of time but still very concerning. I went next and was able to jump but with my forward momentum I almost went out the other side because there was very little to grab on to. So after everyone managed to free dive into the boat, we set off up the river. We were instructed to wear the lifejackets that were laying on the seats but mine must have been for a child because I couldn’t get it on properly and get it done up. I must have been mad!
As I said previously the current was strong and very choppy and our little boat started catching large waves side on and both the guy in front and me took a full hit from one of these waves, I got soaked including the camera and at that point totally lost interest with what we were doing. I wasn’t happy sitting in this little boat bobbing up and down in the middle of the fast flowing Chao Phraya River. If there was one consolation, it was very hot and I did start to dry off, the tour around the canals became a bit of a blur and it seemed to take forever although in reality it was nearer 30 minutes. According to the literature for the tour, I missed passing by venerable temples among lush greenery, wooden houses built on stilts, coconut groves, garlanded shrines and spirit houses and vendors offering goods on their boats. Bangkok was given the name the “Venice of the East”. What I did remember seeing were lots of decrepit empty wooden buildings falling into the water interspersed with modern brick buildings, some with swimming pools.

All the way around Nicole was in fits of laughter which didn’t help. I didn’t realise at the time but Doug, the guy in front of me had taken a direct hit in his crotch and looked even worse than I did when we eventually got off the boat. Just to add insult to injury, there was a nice set of steps for disembarking.
Trying to put all that behind us we found that we had arrived at our next temple, Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) where we stayed for around 20 minutes.

We then took a more civilised method back to the other side of the river using the local ferry, and met up with our driver who was waiting to take us back to the ship.

We had one final photo stop on the way back and we were all relieved that we didn’t have to go in. It had been a long and eventful day and one more temple might just have finished me off.

We arrived safely back at the ship at 8:50 after also getting lost in the port. Once onboard we enquired about getting into the MDR and were welcomed in despite being 20 minutes late. After several glasses of wine and a few plates of food we were both ready for bed.