by Alex Morton, with Lara Gebka, April 2015
Lara and Alex flew to Sydney to embark on a 12 night South Pacific Cruise on board Celebrity Cruise’s Celebrity Solstice, the first ship of its kind sailing out of Australia. The Overseas Passenger Terminal at Sydney’s Circular Quay was a hub of activity with cruise goers, like us, getting exciting to see what New Caledonia and Fiji, and our home for the next two weeks, had to offer.
A seamless process through passport control had us checked in, on board and in our Balcony Stateroom within half an hour! The room was spacious and contemporary with plenty of room to unpack, unwind and get ready to sail out. I may be a little biased to Australia, but Sydney has to be the most magnificent port in the world. The Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House are a backdrop second to none, and they make for an equally spectacular welcome home. This should be on everyone’s bucket list!
Now – it was time to explore! Two pool areas, health club, Sky Observation Lounge, Shops to suit everyone, Casino, Theatre, Sports Court … I could keep going but I don’t want to ruin all the surprises. One thing I will highlight is the food. You will never, ever, go hungry on a cruise ship, especially on Celebrity. There is a two storey Main Dining room, an Ocean-View Buffet, a Crêperie, three Specialty Dining restaurants (that are impeccable!), and more! On board we, and all of the guests, had the opportunity to tour the main Kitchen Galley. It was amazing to see the areas where I like to think the magic happens, but to know that the quality of the food provided is outstanding. For those concerned about food intolerances whilst on board, they have whole separate kitchen dedicated to this, so rest assured you are in safe hands!
Our first port of call was Lifou, New Caledonia. When you think of the South Pacific, this is what you envision: Turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, fresh coconuts lined up…there was even a turtle in the water! This port was a tender operation, where the Ship is anchored off shore, and smaller boats, holding around 50 people each, are used to transport passengers to land. It is an extremely efficient and safely run operation, running back and forth throughout the anchored period (usually 8am-5pm). This was the same process for our last port at Isle of Pines.
Our two Fijian stops were Lautoka and Suva, and being mainland Fiji they are industrial ports (shipping containers instead of palm trees). To make the most of your time here, I can definitely suggest booking on to one of the shore excursions offered by the cruise line. On your first day of the cruise, and prior to departure, you will be given a list of shore tours available for you to choose from – so get your highlighter ready! In these ports you are docked on shore, so you can stroll on and off at your leisure.
When choosing your cruise, aim for an itinerary that is best suited to your interests. In our 12-day itinerary, there were 5 days in Port and 6 days at Sea. The ports of call throughout the South Pacific (Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu), each offer their own quirks and unique highlights to see, however overall they all present a similar experience. This called for a lot of relaxation and down time. If you think you are more of an active and on-the-go traveller, try and find an itinerary with fewer sea days and a variety of ports.
After a thoroughly enjoyable and educational experience, I can confidently recommend cruising for travellers of all ages, interests and budgets.