This was our first Celebrity cruise and was supposed to be our family vacation of a lifetime, celebrating many stepping stones in our lives...retirement for my husband, 31st anniversary, daughter's master's degree celebration, birthdays...all in one trip. We always make the most of what life throws us, so we
still loved the cruise and its itinerary. Nothing can beat the beautiful nature and scenery and wonders
we saw on this side of the world. The Solstice would have been a happier memory if it were not sick.
2 out of 5
We boarded the ship about three hours later than initially told, so the ship could have more time to clean. They mentioned the presence of a few cases of gastro illness on board the ship prior to our sailing, but did not say how bad. The Solstice ship was contaminated and still sailed, only alerting everyone to wash their hands before and after eating or going to the restroom. It must have been very serious because after two days, my son got sick with vomiting, then diarrhea later that day. We have always been a healthy family and have never in our lives gotten sick like this. Throughout the 14 days we all had low grade fever on and off and were anxious that we would come down with it since we were in the same cabin. But only one of four in the family definitely had Norovirus. I do not know how much more cleaning was required, but the crew was overextended, working very hard to contain the problem, sanitizing every minute, serving every passenger individually with plates and utensils and food and beverages vs. buffet style. Plastic wrap was used as a barrier to keep people from touching any of the food or spreading germs on the food. People were wiping down walls and handrails all times of the day. Our room steward took extra precaution and cleaned our room last because we had one person sick. His laundry was cleaned and he was quarantined for two days until the medical staff cleared him.
He was lucky to get sick early before we landed in New Zealand. He ate only bland food if he had any
appetite. Room service was very difficult. The phone lines were always busy trying to get service. Norovirus compromised the whole ship and it desparately needed professional help to properly rid it of its sickness. If safety was a priority, why expose more innocent passengers to this problem? We could have stayed longer in Sydney before boarding if they needed an extra day or two. We had insurance if the trip was delayed, especially if it was their fault. Is that correct? We used almost a million of our Hilton Honor points on the cruise to have a balcony and concierge service, but we may have spent too
many for this particular cruise when we had such high expectations when we booked it.
Food and Dining
3 out of 5
We dined at first in the Grand Epernay when we boarded the ship for a special welcome aboard lunch since we had a concierge class cabin. We felt special and enjoyed a nice meal off the menu. Most of the choices had names we were not accustomed to, but the waiters were very helpful explaining them and recommending what to pick. It was very formal having tablecloths and people putting your tablecloth on your lap and bringing whatever you desired. We also ate at the Oceanview Cafe buffet for breakfast or lunch or when we did not want to get too dressed up. I think that is where we might have experienced the Norovirus exposure. My son was the only one who had Lemongrass soup late one night in the Oceanview Cafe after a show. He was the only one who got sick.
3 out of 5
My daughter participated in a game where you were timed to finish hitting the lights on a board when they flashed in a race to beat other contestants. She won! But at that time, prizes were not given out, so
she felt short changed. Similar races throughout the cruise got prizes. Her muscles ached from working so hard! The glass show was interesting. We just huddled under blankets if we could find one because it was windy and cold outside.
4 out of 5
The shows were good. The most awesome one was the pianist who played so beautifully and had a unique life story to share with the audience.
The artists needed to collaborate on what songs they were going to perform, because the most popular songs kept popping up every show. It was starting to get monotonous and predictable. The theatre for the early show was not full because the dinners were taking too long to be served and the late show was so packed that people could not find a seat.
We had no children with us.
Service and Staff
4 out of 5
The crew did a fantastic job fighting a monster that could not be seen. The Norovirus posed a great
deal of stress and exhausted the whole staff in all areas. They went beyond the call of duty trying to satisfy thousands of people one by one, and still kept their cool, giving great customer service. Our cabin steward, Sheldon, was very nice and genuinely wanted to make our stay on the ship comfortable, cleaning our cabin and helping us the best he could. Joy, the nurse from the medical staff, got my son back into feeling well fairly quickly so he could enjoy the rest of the cruise. We appreciate their kindness
2 out of 5
Under better circumstances, I would given the ship a better rating. It is a beautiful ship and probably
would have given a higher rating if it was not contaminated with Norovirus. The previous person who
stayed in our cabin left their pills on the bed, so it makes me wonder if the cabin was really cleaned before we boarded. Also, someone may have been sick in that cabin because when we first went in the room I noticed an odor, but not sure what it was. Now I think it was the faint smell of vomit in the restroom.
Cabin / Stateroom
3 out of 5
Our balcony cabin was nice when we went through the Sounds and we could take pictures from there
without going out on the deck, since we had a sick person quarantined. It was good that we could hear
some info from Mickey from the television as we went through the three Sounds. Enjoyed the "donuts."
Experience as much as you can on this luxury ship. Keep your health up before you travel so your body can fight any illness it comes across. Be not only aware of good hygiene habits, but also practice them
ALL the time because you never know when Norovirus will creep up on you.
We stayed in Sydney three days ahead of the cruise and learned how the trains and buses worked. Got an
Opal card and used the ferry to Manly Beach. Took an excursion to the Blue Mountains. Took in Featherdale Park feeding the animals, rode the rides in Scenic World, saw the Three Sisters and great scenery, rode on the Parametta River under the Sydney Harbor Bridge, ate meat pies at Harry's, explored Chinatown, toured the city doing the free walking tours at the Rocks and in the Royal Botanical Garden and Observatory. We had a fabulous time. We could have easily stayed a few more days visiting the attractions. Got to see the Sculptures by the Sea on Bondi Beach and enjoyed the walks around the beach. Saw the Sydney Opera House special show on the sails at night. We had fun. All of our tours were on our own at the various ports on this cruise because we like to make our own adventures and find it more affordable for four people. We love exploring new places and learning how to do things the way the locals do it by asking questions and researching in advance before we get there. If your tours were not so expensive, we may have considered some of them.
We did the free walking tour around town and thoroughly enjoyed it. Saw the city sights and went down the alleys taking pics of the graffiti art, had pastries at a bakery, visited a museum, shopped at the places along the way. The shuttles to the cruise ship were convenient and the Melbourne city volunteers very helpful giving directions while we were there.
We enjoyed visiting the Larnach Castle and Cadbury Chocolate factory tours and saw the city's attractrions on a hop on hop off bus. We learned the haunting stories about the family who lived at the castle and saw the gardens and ate salmon wraps and carrot cup cakes. We had a delightful tour guide at the Cadbury chocolate factory. We got bags of awesome chocolate and ate a chocolate lunch. Of course, bought bars
of chocolate home.
It was so windy and cold! We went out on a catamaran to see the wildlife out in the harbor. We did
not see any penguins. Only one or two fur seals dared to come out on the rocks. A few birds also flew
around. We were outside on top deck of the boat and froze. Wish more wildlife were out, but they were
smart to stay out of the cold and wind.
Loved visiting the Hobbiton movie set and Rotorua geysers and Te Puia. This was our best tour.
We had a great time and really enjoyed Tauranga and its beautiful scenery. The people at Te Puia
were very interactive and the meal and performances were outstanding.
The Kawiti glow worm cave was good but a very short tour since they were doing some reconstruction work at the site. Back home, in the USA, our caves are gigantic and have massive rooms filled with columns of formations. We just do not have the glow worms, but lots of bats.
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