I’ll admit I wasn't entirely thrilled to be going on my first cruise. I feared for stodgy buffet foods and mixing with loud cruising types that would either force me to hide away in my shoe-box sized cabin watching The Mindy Project, or worse, I’d have to prescribe to the ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ philosophy and guzzle one too many mango daiquiris in a hot tub with 10 of my newest best friends.
Neither of those scenarios played out how I’d imagined. Celebrity Solstice left me rather pleasantly surprised. I *might* even be a ‘cruise convert’. [Full disclosure: I did get in a hot tub and I did have a mango daiquiri in my hand at the time]. If cruising means spending your days doing Zumba and yoga classes, sunning yourself by the pool, steaming in the sauna, and eating six to eight square meals a day, paired with delectable wines, I’m in. Did I mention it’s acceptable to order a piña colada anytime after 10am?
What to expect
- The rooms are small, and if you haven’t got a balcony, they’re dark at all hours. Rise and shine is dependent on your alarm. And your quality of sleep? It's all dependent on the seas and/or how much your cruising companions snores after a few martinis.
- Be as busy or as non-committal as you like. On board you can fill your days with dance classes, gym sessions, Neil Diamond tribute shows, glass blowing demonstrations, art auctions, bingo, seminars, the list goes on. Or, you can do very little, eating and drinking at your leisure, reading a book in the library, or laying by the pool without a care in the world. That’s the beauty of cruising, you can do as much or as little as you like.
- To put on a kilo or two. No matter how many times you power walk the deck, or take the stairs instead of the lifts when navigating the ship [that’s the pro cruiser trick], with so much fresh and delicious food on board, it’s hard not to overindulge. But with so much leisure time on your hands, you've really got no excuse not to hit the gym and test out your coordination running on a treadmill at sea.
- The food was honestly very good. Starting from the buffet and the a la carte inclusive options, to the specialty restaurants on board – of which there were three: Contemporary French, Asian and Italian cuisine. As well as a gelateria, a burger and hot dog grill, creperie and a cafe.
- The wait staff service is impeccable, staffed by hundreds of hospitality professionals from 71 different nationalities. The crew is highly skilled at making your whole experience something to remember; be it attentively draping your napkin, expertly explaining the menu and topping up your water, recommending a bottle of wine, and even knowing if a member of your group is having a birthday.
- The gym has icy cold refrigerated face towels for when your brow sweats.
- Cocktails, cocktails, cocktails. With 14 bars on board, I’d sadly didn’t make it round to them all. I can however recommend the Martini Bar which carries over 100 varieties of vodka and where you can be guaranteed, as the name suggests, a damn good martini. I also waited my turn to order a flamboyant cocktail at the Molecular Bar. It was worth the wait to experience the theatrics alone. Forget shake and stir – these guys whip, smoke and diffuse their cocktails into existence, for a sensory experience to impress. One cocktail had avocado in it, another had roses.
- The wine. Celebrity being an American based cruiseliner, much of the wine on board is sourced from the Napa and Sonoma wine regions of the United States. So even if you haven’t strayed too far from Australian waters you can be enjoying the flavours of West Coast, USA.
Top 5 moments on board Celebrity Solstice
- Best-ever fries of my life from the Mast Bar and Grill. No kidding. Best ever.
- Sitting minding my own business on the deck having lunch and being asked if I’d like a piña colada – it’s hard to say no – which was then swiftly delivered to me with no more than a quick swipe of my room card.
- Napping in the mid-afternoon in a hammock, looking out at endless ocean
- Getting a much needed cut and colour on board at Canyon Ranch SpaClub
- Doing a (free) Zumba class in a nightclub on a cruise ship, in the middle of the day, instructed by a very talented, coordinated, highly energetic, red-headed young Northern Englander [who also happened to work in the beauty salon on board too].
So there you have it, a cruise cynic converted. It helps that my initiation started out on board one of the top cruise lines in the world. I would highly recommend Celebrity Cruises to friends and family interested in stress-free holidays where you ‘only unpack once’. Those with a foodie palate who will make the most of the exceptional dining on board, and families looking for a unique getaway where the kids are having so much fun you’ll have time to relax yourself. Girl’s getaways, bro-weekends, family reunions – cruising offers something for everyone – and once you’re on you can’t get off! But, why would you want to?
It’s safe to say, for this first-time cruiser, solstice was found on the high seas.
Rachel boarded Celebrity Solstice in Sydney on October 23-26, for a three-night 'Cruise to Nowhere', that departed Sydney Harbour and sailed the Pacific Ocean for three days. Celebrity Cruises travel Alaska, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, The Bahamas, Canada, New England, Caribbean, Europe, Galapagos, Hawaii, Panama Canal and South America.