A First Taste of Modern Luxury: Celebrity Solstice

Carli gets ready to board her first ever cruise ship

Carli gets ready to board her first ever cruise ship

My mobile rings en route to the terminal and my first time cruising buddy exclaims from her position alongside Celebrity Solstice, “She’s huge and so gorgeous!”

That would be the first of many shocked exclamations of this four year old ship’s beauty and grandeur, by my friend Carli over the next 24-hours or so that we were aboard the youngest ship to be based out of Sydney.

Grateful that we were able to be escorted on rather than do battle with the long lines at the Overseas Passenger Terminal (Sydney ports really need to get their act together), our check-in experience was a breeze.

Sara greeted us with a smile and made up for the disastrous check-in I had experienced two week’s prior at the same terminal – it’s amazing what a difference it makes to be treated courteously when embarking on a vacation, even if it is

A real tree is suspended above the atrium

A real tree is suspended above the atrium

only for one night.

Posing for the requisite cheesy photo, we gratefully accept the offer of a Mimosa on boarding and head straight to the ’Oceanview Café’ to enjoy a bite to eat before our Sky Suite is ready.

The benefit of boarding early means that we don’t have to do battle with lines at the buffet and Carli is shocked by the variety on on offer.

We pile our plates with a menagerie of flavours from Mexico, India, Asia and Spain and try to control ourselves when it comes to dessert but, with such an array of melt-in-your-mouth delicacies, how can one resist?

Heading to Deck 8 aft to explore our Sky Suite, we are grateful to find our butler nearby as our cabin keys don’t work (a shipwide IT issue meant that half the ship was unable to access their cabins for the duration of the cruise) and spend some time on our spacious balcony admiring the views over Circular Quay.

A bottle of champagne from the Celebrity Vintage Artist Collection awaits us in a bucket of ice and we settle in before exploring the ship.

Easy to navigate, we head straight to Deck 4 mid-ship, where a group has gathered to marvel at the talent of the bartender at ‘Martini Bar’.

Three martini glasses are arranged in a pyramid as the bartender effortlessly pours the delectable concoctions into each glass without missing a drop. The cheers of delight attract more passengers and the bar is quickly the centre of attention – a position it remains in all night.

Our spacious Sky Suite on Deck 8 aft

Our spacious Sky Suite on Deck 8 aft

Keen to take photos of the ice surrounding the bar, I am disappointed to find out that it is out of order – luckily the floor show more than makes up for my inability to write my name in ice though.

Marine biology student Carli has spotted ‘Team Earth’ and we head to Deck 7 to see what the area is all about.

Positioned mid-ship, within perfect viewing of the real tree that graces the atrium, ‘Team Earth’ displays a montage of photos and information in an interactive exhibit designed to capture the interest of passengers wishing to learn more about the wonders of our planet.

In partnership with Conservation International, touch-screens display news, films and audio that teach passengers not only about conservation efforts around the world, but also, in particular, aboard Celebrity Solstice.

Carli takes some time out on our balcony

Carli takes some time out on our balcony

The ‘green’ aspect of this ship doesn’t just lie in the innovative lawn club or in the atrium-suspended real tree, the ship was designed with the environment firmly in mind.

A specially designed hull ensures more fuel efficient sailings, 80 solar panels help to power the elevators, a partnership with 3M to design a window coating that deflects the heat and ship-specific LED lighting saves on energy – all just part of the eco-friendly features aboard the line’s first Solstice-class ship.

Pulling Carli away from ‘Team Earth’, we head to the library before venturing to the pool deck to watch the entertainment team host games by the pool whilst sipping on my signature mai tai – which needed to be ‘juiced’ down several times to enable me to drink it!

Note to self – ask for a weak mai tai next time!

Flowers and dancing fountains at the 'Solarium'

Flowers and dancing fountains at the ‘Solarium’

Taking advantage of the near-empty Solarium, we melt away in the spa, overlooking the dancing fountains, before getting ready for the evening’s festivities.

Popping champagne on the balcony, we enjoy the iHome system in our Sky Suite to play music from our iPhones while nibbling on canapés delivered by our butler.

The waterfall shower head is one of the best I have ever experienced and I make a mental note to see about getting one installed in my apartment.

Having a nice shower aboard a ship is always a novelty for someone generally used to being in cabins where I battle with a shower curtain and struggle to get any semblance of water pressure!

Sailaway is just about upon us and we head up to Deck 15 where I eagerly anticipate seeing the ‘Lawn Club’ for the first time.

Heels in hand, I relish that feeling of grass between my toes aboard a cruise ship – who would have ever thought such a simple feeling would be amplified so much?

Keen to lie on the grass and have a picnic, I resist and enjoy canapés and cocktails instead with friends as we set sail.

The live music is pumping on the pool deck where some passengers are getting the dancing happening early and coloured lights create an ambient atmosphere for those enjoying sailaway on deck.

Asian fusion specialty restaurant, ‘Silk Harvest’, is our venue for dinner and the

The entertainment staff prepare for a big night

The entertainment staff prepare for a big night

warm atmosphere is the perfect place to share our day’s experiences with new friends.
Our waiter kindly makes the suggestion to share a range of their signature dishes for dinner and so we commence our two-hour feast with dish after delectable dish fighting for a place on our table.

Fresh sushi, crispy barramundi, tempura prawns, fried rice, pad thai, pork belly and a host of other dishes ensures (for me at least) that there is no room for dessert, but my fellow diners seem determined to power through and we retire to the ‘Martini Bar’ while they work through the dessert menu.

The crowd around the ‘Martini Bar’ is four person-deep and many give up on ordering drinks, deciding instead to watch the spectacle before heading to the ‘Sky Observation Lounge’ for a dance and, hopefully, easier access to the bar.

Supreme talent at the 'Martini Bar'

Supreme talent at the ‘Martini Bar’

The dance floor is filled and the motion of the ocean makes for some very interesting dance moves as we welcome the next day.

A change in music encourages most of the lounge to head downstairs to the ‘Quasar Nightclub’ on Deck 3 which is packed to the brim with people keen to dance into the wee hours of the morning.

People spilling drinks on the dance floor results in the DJ stopping the music repeatedly whilst cleaning is undertaken and we make the decision to head back to our Suite to try and catch a few hours of sleep before arriving back in Sydney.

The rock of the waves lulls us quickly into slumber and we are shocked awake by our doorbell at 7am when our steward asks us if we are ready to leave – an hour and fifteen minutes before we need to.

'The Lawn Club' by night

‘The Lawn Club’ by night

Whilst this wasn’t the wake-up call we were hoping for, it does enable us to pack leisurely before indulging in breakfast at the ‘Oceanview Café’.

Everyone dining in the one venue resulted in several ingredients and dishes running out quickly but we both enjoyed omelettes and fresh fruit as we chatted with fellow passengers about their brief time onboard a ship that had certainly impressed many.

True modern luxury really has arrived in Sydney.

Click here to view entire photo gallery.

Originally written by Natalie Aroyan for e-Travel Blackboard.

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