Celebrity Solstice Postcard #30 – Sydney, Australia (End of cruise two)

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.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #29 – A Sea Day

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.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #28 – A Sea Day

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 Maître 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.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #27 – A Sea Day

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.


Celebrity Solstice Postcard #26 – Lautoka, Fiji

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 curry’s in a big way, we have an Indian head chef and his curry’s 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.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #25 – Suva, Fiji

Very hot and humid would be my first impression of Suva, we sailed in at around 7:30 and such was the heat haze it was difficult to make certain shapes and colours out. As we neared the port things became clearer and the colours started to appear.  Suva was a much bigger and busier port than our previous stops on cruise two and one where we could walk straight off.

So after breakfast we went back to the cabin to gather a few things and then made our way ashore. The outside temperature felt really hot and it was very humid and it didn’t take much effort to build up a sweat, in fact in reality you didn’t actually need to do anything at all.
Suva is what I would class as a pester port, as soon as you are off the ship there are locals all wanting to sell you tours but having researched what was here to see prior to leaving the UK we were not the slightest bit interested in what this location had on offer.

This behaviour continued all the way up the main street from the port exit with the taxi drivers being the worst culprits.

We then spent about an hour just browsing the shops and managed to pick up a couple of souvenirs, did some more walking until the humidity got the better of us and at which point we made our way back to the ship just in time for some lunch.

The very humid conditions continued throughout the afternoon and there were moments of light relief when we were treated to a shower or two. All we ended up doing was sitting up on a virtually  deserted Solstice Deck in sweltering conditions and every now and then cooling off under the cold shower they have on this version of the ship, I don’t think we would have coped without it.

There were beaches available on tours but they all involved a 30 minute plus drive and to be honest we are more than happy to just sit up on deck and enjoy the facilities. Something comfortable is always close to hand.

This last photo is of deck 14 at about 3:45 and the temperature is 31°C. I’ve never known anything like it.



Celebrity Solstice Postcard #24 – A Sea Day

Last night the clocks went forward one hour and as a result I found myself awake at about 7:00 this morning. I have been really struggling to stay awake after 10:00 and consequently have yet to indulge in the latest craze onboard this ship. What I am talking about is the Silent Disco which was held three times on the last cruise and now twice on this one. It is the most hilarious thing to see and all taking part seem to be having a great laugh.  It takes place in the Martini Bar area and all participants have a set of headphones on which there are 3 channels to choose your music from, these can then be identified by coloured lights on the side of the headsets which are linked to the channel you choose to listen to.

It really is the most amusing spectacle and periodically you hear certain people shout out the chorus line to what ever it is they are hearing in their headsets. Everyone is dancing to the song in their own headphones and when you combine all three in the same area it really is the funniest thing to watch. As you would imagine it has been a huge success and it often gets brought up in conversation when chatting to other passengers. To date we have either had to be up early the next day or I have been too tired to participate but I certainly intend to give it a go before we get off.
No prizes for guessing what and where breakfast was taken this morning but we did follow it up with 5 complete laps of the perimeter of the open decks which my Fitbit clocked at 2 miles. It’s the first time I have put it on for a few days because it’s been all over the place because of the changes in time zones. Being as it was a fresh start this morning I will have got a good idea of steps we will have taken on a sea day by the to time we retire for bed tonight.
So the rest of the morning was spent relaxing outside on the open decks, it was not as hot as yesterday and there were more clouds but the wind was lovely and warm.

At 12:30 we took lunch in the MDR before returning to lie out in the sun.
What we couldn’t understand was why the ship was so deserted today, it was warm and partially sunny but the open decks were practically empty by comparison to the first cruise. I’ve never known so many empty sun beds on what I would consider a lovely sea day.

I even looked in on the Sky Lounge and that was the same so have concluded everyone must have been in their cabins.
Even the MDR was quiet considering it was a sea day. Perhaps the Aussies are all hung over from last night or sun burned from yesterday? What ever the reason it was nice to have a quiet ship for a change.

Tonight is our 5th Evening Chic so far on our trip so it will be interesting to see how many come out of their cabins and what they will be wearing.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #23 – Mystery Island, Vanuatu

Our third stop in three days saw us at Mystery Island which is a small uninhabited island in the Vanuatu archipelago. I had Googled this place on quite a few occasions and it was one stop which had really caught my curiosity. Just about everyone who has ever written about visiting here has really raved about it. My optimism about how our day might pan out was boosted when we got our first view on sail in. What a amazing looking island and I was very keen to go and explore.

At breakfast this morning I set off with all the intention of resisting a Bellini but as soon as our waiter asked what I wanted I crumbled at the first hurdle.  So once I’d had one there had to be another.
As soon as we had finished eating we went back to the cabin to gather our things and then played our trump card which was to get on an early tender using our loyalty status.

By 9:30 we were walking around the island in an anticlockwise direction which we did for around 35 minutes. Some parts of the island are rocky in the most part it is beautiful sand. Eventually we just dropped the bags and towels under a palm and dived into the water. We spent ages in the sea today as it was just amazing, the water being completely clear and when up to your shoulders you could still see your feet. We are not snorkellers so selected a spot away from the rocks and reefs but I did hear someone say it was like swimming in an aquarium.

There were lots of locals who commute to the island when a ship is in to sell tours and souvenirs. The boat trips and snorkelling tours were very popular and not too pricey. We though just prefer to take things a little easy on the beach just periodically taking to the water every now and again to cool off.
We stayed on the beach until about 2:30 before making our way back to the jetty for the trip back to the ship.

Today we have visited paradise. What a wonderful location to spend the day.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #22 – Lifou, Loyalty Island

We are due another clock change and my body is waking me up a little earlier than usual because it is so bright in the morning. Sunrise this morning was at 5:50 and I was awake very soon after that and found there to be clear blue skies and it already very hot. I think the Captain announced that last night we were only going to travel some 95 miles and at a speed of 7 knots so we haven’t come very far since yesterday.

Lifou was a tender port and once again we had nothing booked, Google searches again showing nothing more than what the ship was offering so we just decided to make it another beach day. It’s not a big island and the longest ship tour on offer was only 3 hours long and priced at $59.75 per person and not in the least inspiring to us.

Our first glimpse of the island this morning when we arrived was something that looked close to paradise with most of the land covered in green foliage and it looked very inviting indeed. It was a very striking image with just a thin line of white sand visible against the green backdrop and clear blue sea before us. It looked just beautiful!

We dropped anchor around 7:45 just as we were busy applying our sun cream and being as we were in no hurry a couple of Bellinis seemed to be the appropriate thing to do while we waited so at 8:00 we made our way down to the Tuscan Grille for breakfast. I currently have 3 very attentive waiters all practically falling over themselves to help feed my habit.

By 9:45 we had tendered ashore and for some reason nobody seemed to want to get off early so the process was really quick. We first visited the church on the top of the promontory to get a better idea of the surrounding area. There were some really lovely views across the bays either side and the setting was truly idyllic.

The beach then called so who were we to refuse? It was just an amazing place to spend a few hours today. The sea was beautiful and warm and we did find it difficult to get out at times.

We remained there until just before 2:00 and caught a tender back with a total journey time from beach to cabin of 25 minutes.
Luckily the Oceanview Café was still open so we were able to grab a quick plate of lunch before we headed back to the cabin to shower  and relax.

It’s been a truly lovely day with a perfect setting and fantastic weather. This is how I imagined this region to be and today Lifou delivered.

Celebrity Solstice Postcard #21 – Noumea, New Caledonia

Last night’s dinner in the Silk Harvest was very nice indeed, the portions were very deceiving and we came away totally stuffed. It was great to catch up with our table mates and fellow back to backers and were totally surprised when we came to settle the bill that we had been there over  2½ hours.  A lovely evening and thanks for your company Frank & Susan.

This morning we arrived at Noumea just before 8:00 and our first impressions were that it reminded us of the sail in to St. Johns in Antigua. We were greeted by locals doing a native dance on the dockside and it’s been a while since we have witnessed anything like that.

As we were docked in a commercial area of the port we were provided with a free shuttle into town and Celebrity again utilised their numbered ticket system which presumably is to reduce numbers on the dockside.

As we didn’t have a tour organised we fed my Bellini addiction and then proceeded ashore and then took the shuttle which dropped us off at a small visitor center. We picked up a local map and made a few enquires about which was the best beach and method of getting to it. The main language here is French and fortunately for us most of the people selling tours and bus tickets spoke good English so being able to communicate what we wanted wasn’t a problem.

Hoho bus was the recommended transport and either Anse Vata Beach or Lemon Beach, the latter being the smaller and more quieter. Lemon Beach it was and 20 minutes and 3 stops later we found ourselves on a nice quiet little beach.

Being a Saturday there were a few locals using it too and was very relaxing. The sand was quite coarse but not really an issue, it was just lovely to finally get into the sea. The temperature was really warm but there was quite a bit of cloud cover which occasionally produced some light drizzle and helped keep things nice a cool, all aided by a lovely coastal breeze.

We are not snorkellers but there seemed to be quite a few others partaking so can only assume that there was plenty to see under the water.

There were a lot of ships tours going to somewhere called Duck Island which is advertised as being an excellent snorkeling location and we could just about see it in the distance from our place on the beach along with the resort of Escapade Island which is a small coral atoll just off the coast. There were private tours available but opted to save our cash today.

Around 1:00 having accomplished our objective we rejoined the Hoho bus to complete the circuit and then returned to the ship for some lunch. Noumea is very picturesque but for me it didn’t seem to fulfil my preconceptions, if we ever come back then a trip to Escapade Island might be on the cards. I’m sure the island of Grande Terre has lots more to offer but I couldn’t find anything other than what the ship’s tours were selling. Considering what we were able to achieve in New Zealand then perhaps the locals should take some advice about making the most of what they have. It’s a large island and must have some gems somewhere. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the visit but had anticipated much more.

The afternoon was spent relaxing in the sun until we were completely cooked and returned to the cabin to shower and get ready for the evenings events.