Celebrity Solstice Postcard #17 – Sydney, Australia (End of cruise one)

It’s a very strange feeling being onboard the night before 90% of the passengers are going to be disembarking the next day. On one hand you feel quite smug then on the other sad that many of your new found friends will be leaving.
So at just before 6:00 this morning we eased our way into Sydney Harbour and our berth at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay, we were on our balcony for the sail in and the Sydney skyline looked pretty spectacular all lit up in the dark. By the time we had pulled along side the skies had opened and the weather we had experienced in Auckland was back as it absolutely poured down.

I’m going to do two posts today to separate the cruises so there will be another later on today with how we got on in Sydney and our experience of not disembarking with all the others.

The two photos above were taken just moments ago from our balcony and I can hear the seapass scanner down below playing it’s funny little tune as all the disembarking passengers leave the ship.

Time to go explore Sydney……..

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #16 – A Sea Day

Nothing notable to mention about last night apart from we both felt really tired after the day’s activities so retired to bed around 10:00 to catch up on some sleep.

I was awake about 6:00 this morning which I consider an improvement and perhaps a sign that my body clock is at last falling into sync.

So today was the last full day of this cruise and because we are on the next cruise as well we had to attend a consecutive cruise meeting at 11:45 where all the procedures we explained. We have discovered there are over 200 people staying on and just about all the seats were taken at the venue used which today was Celebrity Central.

In a nutshell we have to be off the ship by 9:30 and won’t be able to get back on until 11:30 but we must be back  onboard by 4:30 so we can attend the muster again at 4:45. It seems a simple enough process and will give us a good day in Sydney. The meeting lasted for 45 minutes and straight after we took our lunch in the MDR followed by a spot of sun worshipping where we were once again blessed with clear skies except today the wind although a little gusty was lovely and warm. Not many braved the upper decks but the pool area which was sheltered was really busy.

Sydney here we come!!!!

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #15 – Hobart, Tasmania

We have now crossed what Australian’s and Kiwi’s refer to as The Ditch and are now in Australian territory for a few days. Our first stop being Hobart, Tasmania and today we had decided a little bit of adventure was in order.

We docked at just before 8:00 and were given clearance soon after which was our signal to walk the 9 minute walk to the Avis Car Rental outlet to pick up our pre-booked car. From there we headed in land for about an 75 minutes to reach our first destination which was Mount Field National Park where we had researched a circular walk taking in Russell Falls and Horseshoe Falls.

Everything went smoothly and exactly to plan and after 90 minutes we were back on the road heading back in the Hobart direction and our 2nd and final destination which was the summit of Mount Wellington. Fortunately for us we had booked a sat nav and managed to get from A to B without too much of an issue. The second journey took 95 minutes and the climb from Hobart to the top 30 minutes of that. After spending 75 minutes at the top we headed back down to drop the car off and go back to the ship for an early tea.

A fabulous day and one we have been planning for months and it was nice that it all worked out just as we had intended.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #14 – A Tasman Sea Day

So with the clocks going back another hour last night we had some more time adjusting to cope with. I’m still waking up very early and then feeling very tired come 10:00 in the evening and would love to try and rectify that and hopefully over the next week or so things will fall into sync.

Today was another sea day and weather conditions were a little better than yesterday. We arrived down in the Tuscan Grille at 8:30 expecting it to be quiet but we’re surprised to find lots already there so probably all suffering from similar sleep patterns as me.

Afterwards being as it was cloudy we decided to do some walking and probably completed around 15 or so full circuits of the open decks, using the full perimeter of the ship making use of the steps up and down between 14 and 15 to complete the laps.

The walk was made more eventful because of the 4 metre swell we were sailing through and it was a bit like walking around a giant see-saw. The next two photos will give you some idea.

We also spotted Azamara Journey heading in the opposite direction and she is to date the only ship we have seen apart from ones in port, the seas here are very quiet compared to other areas we have sailed.

At about 11:00am the skies cleared so we headed up to the Solstice Deck and found a couple of beds out of the wind to get the best out of the situation.  We persevered with it there until just after 1:15 before popping down to the Mast Grille for a lunch of burger and fries.

With all the best sheltered spots around the pool on deck 12 taken we headed back to the cabin and saw the rest of the afternoon out on our balcony which luckily for us had the sun on it. If it hadn’t of been for the wind today it would have been a perfect sea day.

Tonight is the third and final Chic night of this cruise and we are also aiming to go to the theatre tonight where the act is a acrobatic one called Euphoria.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #13 – A Tasman Sea Day

Last night’s dinner with the officer’s in the Tuscan Grille was a really lovely evening. Along with the two officers attending we were joined by two other British couples and it was a really relaxed atmosphere with good wine flowing and some really tasty food. It was a real privilege to have been invited and certainly an evening we can look back on.

Our hosts were very chatty and gave us a nice insight into life behind the scenes onboard the ship.

I was curious and had asked why the shops and casino had failed to open one evening after we had left port and was informed that they are not allowed to open until the pilot has left the ship. I had also broached the subject of the new ships too but there is  nothing to report on that front at the moment. If they know anything then they are all keeping very quiet about it.

This morning at 9:00 we ambled back down to Tuscan Grille again for breakfast, an hour later than usual as we had a time change last night with the clocks going back an hour and it will happen again tonight.

We have also received information about our consecutive cruises meeting which will be on the sea day between Hobart and Sydney. So far we have met another three couples doing the same three cruises as us.

Lunch was taken in the dining room for the second day on the trot and at 2:30 we had a date with Australian Immigration officer’s prior to getting to Hobart which should hopefully speed things up when we arrive in a couple of days time.

The weather today has been a mixed bag with plenty of sunny intervals but with a really chilly wind go with them. If you could get a place which was sheltered it was not too bad but such locations were in short supply. At least the sea conditions were calm for us as the Tasman Sea has a bit of a reputation of being a bit rough at times.


So it’s been a much quieter day today and a good time to recharge our batteries.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #12 – A Sea Day Cruising the Sounds

This morning we woke around 7:30 to clear skies and bright sunshine. It was the first of three sea days but one with a little bit of a difference in that it wasn’t all spent on the open sea. At around 9:00  we started the sail in to Dusky Sound which was the first of three special transits today.

All the sunbeds on the open decks had been cleared away and just about everyone seemed to out and enjoying the scenery which really was quite breathtaking.

As we made our way in we had a running commentary from our onboard naturalist who kept us all up to date with where to see anything of interest and it wasn’t long before she spotted a pod of Bottle Nosed Dolphins who then proceeded to just make the water boil as they played in the ship’s wake. Dusky Sound was an amazing experience and a real privilege to see from the comfort of a cruise ship.

With a couple of hours to spare until the next one which was Doubtful Sound we went back to the cabin sit on the balcony and enjoy the coastal views. I had heard that our loyalty status would provide access to the helipad for one of the sounds but as we had not received an invitation I decided to go and see Angelina the Captain’s Club Hostess who said that on this occasion it wasn’t an option for us, however after a quick phone call to one of her colleagues we then received an invitation. So at 11:15 we found ourselves on the helipad which is where we stayed for the 90 minutes it took for us to sail through the Doubtful Sound. Amazing views and I have just too many photos to share today.

On our way back to the cabin we stopped by Angelina’s desk to thank her for arranging it for us and consequently got invited to dine at the officer’s table tonight in the Tuscan Grille with the onboard marketing manager, Ashley Gordon. So ourselves and 6 others will be wined and dined tonight courtesy of Celebrity.

Not only that but another invitation to go to the helipad for the sail in and out of Milford Sound was extended so it was just turning out to be quite a remarkable day for us. However, after the skies clouded over we elected to sit this one out on our balcony so that we could stay out of the wind. Being as Milford Sound is cul de sac we  turned around at the end and we still got to see both sides. A wise move that turned out to be too.

Nothing though can prepare you for the amazing scenery that Milford Sound has to offer, it has to be one of the most spectacular places I have ever seen. A truly memorable experience and one never to be forgotten. The sheer scale of it needs to be seen to be believed.

I think given the events of the day it will probably be easier just to post photos as I have run out of words. What an amazing day!!!!

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #11 – Dunedin, New Zealand

Our departure from Akaroa was delayed last night by an accident which involved some passengers returning to the ship. I’m not sure what actually happened but the captain did make an announcement over the tannoy to explain why we had not departed. He later revealed that one of the Celebrity tours had been involved in an traffic accident while on their way back to the ship and of the 31 passengers involved, 6 required hospital treatment.

I do hope that it wasn’t too traumatic for all those involved. Having Googled the news this morning it looks like they were very lucky indeed not to have had any fatalities and to think we took that road ourselves just minutes before. We had spotted the Akaroa fire engine coming  out at speed just as we got back to town but at the time never thought any more of it.

During the Cocktail hour the Club Hostess Angelina came round to all attendees to make sure we were aware that as Elite members there was in invite to enjoy the sail into Dunedin on the helipad and that we needed to be there for 7:15. As we had nothing planned in Dunedin we decided to do the helipad then take breakfast after.

We docked at Port Chalmers which  is a suburb and the main port of the city of Dunedin, it lies approx ten kilometres inside Otago Harbour and it was a real treat to sail in on the helipad.

We were even served hot chocolate and Celebrity provided blankets to warm us up as there was quite a chilly wind this morning.

As with every port we have visited in New Zealand there are huge piles of logs ready to be exported to China, I am curious to what they are being used for as they are all still in log form.
Once again there was a shuttle service involved to get into town but today it came with a $20 per person price tag. I can understand the reason for the fee as it was a good 20 minute journey into the drop off point in the centre of Dunedin. We had put together a short list of places of interest and set off to explore.

First on the list was the railway station which was opened in 1904 and has some fascinating architecture. The old booking hall is quite impressive. Lots of our fellow passengers took a scenic ride from here today it wasn’t something that appealed to us and we have a train trip booked later on.

From there we visited the Chinese garden which was a short walk away and again a really picturesque place. There was a $9 NZ entrance fee but well worth a look round.

It was then onto the  Toitū Otago Settlers Museum which was free entry and full of articles documenting the area since it has been habited by man and  how they shaped the city they have today. We found it really interesting and would recommend a visit if you are ever in the area.

Having spent 3 hours or so wandering around, fatigue set in and we headed back to the ship for lunch and to lay in the sun. The last 4 days have been pretty full on and we have been feeling the effects of it. The ship was deserted so we enjoyed the peace and quiet while taking advantage of the sun and clear blue skies. From our vantage point on the Solstice Deck we had a beautiful view out over Otago Harbour.

Dunedin was good to see and experience but lacked the amazing things we have experienced on the previous three days and just didn’t have the same impact.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #10 – Akaroa, New Zealand

Today was our 3 consecutive port in a row and the first and only tender operation on this cruise. So for the third day on the trot it was an early start so we could get breakfast before the masses and then be one of the first ashore.

The sail into the channel where we dropped anchor was absolutely stunning and is up there with the best of them. Our loyalty club status saw us on the 3rd tender across and the trip took just 20 minutes. No local boats were used and Celebrity made use of 6 of their life boats to provide the shore to ship transfer.

Once we were ashore we quickly located our private tour company (ES Tours) who today were running 3 vans all doing the same itinerary which was a tour around the Banks Peninsula then on to Christchurch for lunch and a drive around the sites which finding out about the 2011 earthquake which took 185 lives and devastated the city. What we hadn’t realised was that today was the 6th anniversary of the quake and there was a special ceremony going on in Christchurch to unveil a new memorial. The old temporary memorial which is still there at the moment is 185 white chairs and today they all had a flower attached to mark the anniversary.

The views over the natural harbour were absolutely stunning and we stopped at several locations along the way for some amazing photo opportunities. I will try and upload as many as I can in the short time available today.



Celebrity Solstice Postcard #9 – Wellington, New Zealand

Yesterday was a typical example of what I am now discovering with regards to doing this blog, the more you have to show and tell the less time you have to do it. When there is little to tell such as a sea day you have lots of time. Very frustrating indeed.

We awoke to an amazing sunrise this morning on our sail into New Zealand’s capital, Wellington. With no tours booked we still got up early in order to cram in as much as we could.

The same setup for getting off the ship was again in place but we managed to just walk off not long after the ship being given clearance. After being dropped in town by the shuttle we made our way to the Wellington Cable Car where purchased a one way ticket to the top.

From there we took a 30 minute walk to a wildlife sanctuary called Zealandia. Once inside we did a 2 hour circular walk round the park trying to spot as much of the native species they have. We could hear them OK but seeing them was another matter.  Amongst the species we did spot were the Takahē which a large flightless bird which was once thought extinct. Anothers were a Tūi which has a white tuft on its throat, a Kākā which is a type of parrot and Pāteke which is a small brown duck.

It really is a picturesque place and provided a really lovely walk. From there we used their free shuttle to the top of the cable car but then walked down through the botanical gardens.

Wanting to get to Te Papa which is what is described as New Zealand’s interactive museum we then took a taxi to get there as it was the other end of town. We spent about an hour there but if honest found it a little disappointing, there were some interesting items but it just didn’t deliver the knock out punch I was expecting.

So prior to heading back to the ship we had some lunch and I sampled some local craft beers which were very nice indeed.

Back on board we have just relaxed and chatted with friends before getting ready to go for early evening drinks in the Sky Lounge. Tomorrow is a tender port so I will be curious to see how that all unfolds.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #8 – Napier, New Zealand

Last night was Evening Chic night and from what I saw just about everybody made some sort of effort. Quite a mixture of styles but yet you were still aware it was a more dressier evening.

We did stick our heads in on the production show which was called Broken Strings but didn’t stay very long. Instead we just did some wandering before going into dinner where again there was just the 8 of us, and btw the sisters are from Ohio.

The weather this morning was again cloudy to start and the temperature was notably cooler than yesterday.  We had heard from our guide that we might encounter some problems getting off the ship and making it to the meeting point which was the second shuttle stop. All local tours have been facing some awkwardness from the cruise companies visiting Napier who are making it as difficult as possible for them. It makes me all the more determined to use the locals! For the first time ever we had to apply for a free numbered shuttle bus ticket which we later discovered was more to do with it being a commercial port and tighter than normal security. Nothing to do with Celebrity who I have to say managed the situation rather well given the circumstances.

We had booked a tour with a company called Hawkes Bay Scenic Tours and specifically one called the Discover Hawkes Bay Shore Excursion which is aimed at cruise passengers and is a 4½-5 trip around the area taking in the countryside and all the Art Deco buildings that were detected following the earthquake there in the 1930’s. The price was $95 NZ per person which I thought was extremely good value.

Our lady guide and driver for the morning, Chris took us south of Napier and looped back taking in Havelock and Hastings. Along the way we stopped briefly at the Craggy Range Winery for a toilet stop before heading on up for the views from the top of Te Mata Peak. Nicole managed the drive up by squeezing all the blood from my hands and keeping her eyes shut tight but did confess to really appreciating the view when we got to the top.

All the time we were travelling the weather was improving and by the time we got back  to Napier it was beautiful sunshine. After a quick walk round we headed back to the ship for some lunch followed by a few hours out in the sun.

A lot of our fellow Cruise Critic friends had elected to do winery tours but because Nicole doesn’t drink it would have been a waste of time and money for her. What we ended up doing was a great experience and we even managed to fill out minibus via the roll call. Hawkes Bay is a really beautiful area of New Zealand and Napier is another port which has a lot to offer. Big thumbs up from us!