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8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
We chose this cruise because it went to Pitcairn Island and Easter Island from Papeete. We then stayed on for a further 6 days and cruised to Chile. Embarkation at Papeete was shambolic as the Paul Gaugain was also boarding at the same ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it went to Pitcairn Island and Easter Island from Papeete. We then stayed on for a further 6 days and cruised to Chile. Embarkation at Papeete was shambolic as the Paul Gaugain was also boarding at the same time. It appeared that no one from Ponant was present to advise us what we were to do and we were all walking around like sheep. At the disembarkation end it was even worse as we were told there would be taxis once we got out of the terminal and of course there were none, nor did the taxis even come there, so we had to arrange very expensive private transfers after waiting more than an hour for a fabled taxi. Once on board, our cabin was what we expected. It was very clean and our room steward was excellent. The turnaround for laundry, which was free for us as past passengers, was brilliant. Service in the dining room was inconsistent. Sometimes it was good and sometimes not. The service on any gala night seemed to favour those tables which had officers, which seemed to only host French passengers. That said, the wait staff we had were always happy and helpful. The standard of the entertainment is consistently good and the shows are always a highlight. Kamel, the Cruise Director is a huge asset for Ponant. The food is the biggest let down on this ship. In advance of this cruise we were required to produce significant medical evidence of our ability to travel for the last 6 days. From that I would have thought that both I, and my doctor, had made my gluten intolerance very clear. Apparently not. The choice of gluten free food is beyond poor. I raised this at the first opportunity with the head waiter, who then raised it with a very indignant head chef, who effectively dismissed my complaints. To be given a broken piece of toast for breakfast is an absolute insult, given how much this cruise cost. There were no gluten free pastries, not even rice biscuits for the cheese. The room service menu was even more limited. It is not often that I can go on a 3 week holiday, on what sets itself up as a French culinary gastronomy cruise and lose weight, but it happened. The quality of the included wine was very hit and miss. It was all French. Some was acceptable and others were very, very ordinary. The cocktails however were fabulous. The port calls were a bit of a problem, but mainly due to the water conditions. Our captain did a great job to get us to Pitcairn. In other reviews, non French passengers have made the complaint that there appears to be favouritism shown to French passengers and a sense of entitlement. We saw this too. I don't know how many times I was literally pushed out of the way by a person thinking that they had a better right than I did to be in that position in an ordered queue. We had very few landings on this cruise and for our special lunch and performance on Easter Island the French speaking passengers arrived significantly before the English speaking ones and took up the very best positions. We found it so hard to find a spot together so far from the action that it was not worth even bothering to get involved in the show. With so many non French traveling on Ponant this really needs to be addressed. We really did feel like we were getting second best treatment. Overall, if this had been my first cruise with Ponant I would be in no hurry to do another. We have been on two other cruises ( the Kimberley and from New Zealand to Sydney) and they were excellent. Read Less
Sail Date: October 2018
We have been C&A members for many years and been always pleased with the services and treatment on board of RCI ships. We been grateful to the army of the hardworking members of the RCI team, many ymployees, cabin attendants, ... Read More
We have been C&A members for many years and been always pleased with the services and treatment on board of RCI ships. We been grateful to the army of the hardworking members of the RCI team, many ymployees, cabin attendants, restaurant workers, cooks, etc. for their efforts to make our vacation comfortable and enjoyable. We never complained. This time, however , we encountered something different. The detailed account of our recent misadventure is enclosed to this message. Thank you for reading In October 2018, to celebrate a wedding anniversary, we boarded Explorer of the Seas for a 21-day cruise journey from Seattle to Sydney. In addition to cruise sailing we also planned a detailed itinerary in Australia, including flight from Sydney to Cairns, scuba diving in Great Barrier Reef for six days, and return home to Portland Oregon. For two years prior to travel we were looking forward to once in a life time exotic adventure. My husband and I like to cruise and dance. We enjoyed RCI hospitality and have been diamond members of Crown and Anchor Society for several years. We are both seniors, but continue to work full time, therefore each vacation is very special. To travel to Australia these days, all U.S, citizens must have an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) approval. It is an electronic application that is filed on line and approved (or rejected) within seconds. Once approved, it is electronically attached to your passport and subsequently secure the entry to Australia. Prior to boarding the ship, we were provided with the web site address and instructions how to apply for the ETA. Day 1. Departure Our dreams were instantly ruined once we stepped aboard a magnificent cruise liner Explorer of the Seas. My Electronic Travel Authority (ETA) was approved; my husband’s one - rejected. No reasons or explanation provided. But the automatic response suggested that we should apply for a tourist visa. Day 2 In search of advice and assistance we met with the Explorer of the Seas’ manager of guest services. At the Crown and Anchor parties we often attend, the captain and officers always thank and praise the past guests for loyalty, and pledge support and assistance in ANY perilous situation and circumstances. Right? Wrong! Meet Mr. X, the manager of the guest services office of Explorer. On surface, he appeared groomed and polished. In substance, he was cold, unsympathetic, indifferent. He advised, that my husband’s ETA rejection is not the RCI problem, but rather decision of the Australian government; that we should disembark in the next port of call, preferably Honolulu (albeit a huge fine we were responsible for under the Jones Act). He frequently used the word “unfortunately, as the highest degree of sympathy and compassion. In addition to his arrogant demeanor he was amazingly misinformed. In fact, everything he said was either flat wrong or highly inaccurate. For instance, he advised that the ETA rejection was a decision of the Australian government ( wrong; it was not a government decision just yet, but rather a computer program with certain preset data); that we shouldn’t be allowed to board the ship without the visa on the first place ( wrong, the passengers were allowed to board and did apply later); he said he could not say if there were any other guests in the same or similar situation, as it was against the RCI policy (there was no such policy); he said, we could not disembark in New Caledonia because it would require Australian visa( wrong again, it is a French territory and visas for the US citizens are not required). His demeanor was unfriendly, if not arrogant. He did not offer any constructive advice or suggestions. At the contrary, he behaved as if we were common criminals or habitual visa violators. His verdict was simple and clear “get out of the ship”. The fact that we had purchased a twenty-one-day cruise fare and paid for the hotels and air in Australia meant nothing. If before the meeting with manager X we felt upset and worried, after it we were completely devastated. This cruise was becoming the worst nightmare. The same day ( which was second day of the cruise in the middle of the Pacific) we were provided with the rules of disembarkation that was carefully placed on our well-made bed. Perhaps, Mr. X wished my husband to disembark in the open ocean…. Day 3. Once we realized there was not much help or assistance coming from the guest manager’s office of RCI to rely on, we decided to take some actions and get to work. Within the next twelve hours, we learned all we could about the Australian visas and applied electronically for all of them: again, for ETA, but from different intermediary; for the transit visa (in hopes to at least be able to fly back from Sydney and save the costly airfare); and the Australian tourist visa (visa # 600). This one required 20-page application and numerous supporting documents that we too provided electronically. In the meantime, our cruising was business as usual: the RCI praised us, as diamond members, for loyalty. Each day we were invited to various celebrations, lunches, behind the scene tours, dinners, exclusive member shows, etc. Also, we were presented with elegant souvenirs as a token of appreciation for our loyalty. Day 4. We called the manager’s office to say that, first, we applied for Australian tourist visa; and second, in case the tourist visa is not approved, we would like to disembark in New Caledonia. Day 5. Manager's assistant, guest administration officer called back to advise that we would be allowed to disembark in Noumea ONLY if we provided the flight itinerary and hotel accommodation confirmation in New Caledonia. The deadline - tomorrow, in the port of Lahaina, the eighth day of the cruise. We were stunned. This information is required at the time of entry New Caledonia. Why manager X demanded it 12 (twelve) days in advance ? It remained a mystery. Regardless, we did not question or dispute his demands. What else you do, if you are in the middle of the ocean under complete power and control of an incompetent and arrogant RCI official? You just comply. Again, we spent hours on internet putting together a new itinerary, booked a new flight from New Caledonia back to the US, and cancelled all the previously booked (nonrefundable) flights in Australia and cancelled all existing hotel reservations in Sydney and Cairns. As was required by officer X, we provided the info to the guest services desk. Day 11 On the 11 th day of the cruise, and twelve days before Sydney, we discovered my husband’s visa was approved. The guest service manager’s assistant called and asked If perhaps we still wanted to disembark in Sydney….. No, we did not. By that time, we already cancelled all booking in Australia and made a new reservation in New Caledonia. On October 24th, we disembarked in New Caledonia. We wanted to leave the unfriendly ship ASAP. The manager X did not offer a single word of regret, sympathy, or apology. It was business as usual. Yes, we suffered financial losses due to improper conduct of the RCI manager’s indifference, and his insistence on booking a new itinerary ahead of time; and yes, we lost two full days of the cruise vacation. Most importantly, we lost faith in RCI and felt deep disappointment in treatment and attitude we had experienced on board of the Explorer. Mr. X is not good for the RCI guests and he is not good for the RCI reputation. He should be removed, or seriously retrained. Read Less
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1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2018
First, let me say, I loved the itinerary for this cruise - 21 nights across the Pacific from Seattle to Sydney. Embarkation (and disembarkation) went very smoothly, though we were surprised there was no welcome aboard glass of champagne. ... Read More
First, let me say, I loved the itinerary for this cruise - 21 nights across the Pacific from Seattle to Sydney. Embarkation (and disembarkation) went very smoothly, though we were surprised there was no welcome aboard glass of champagne. This was a minor change from the previous cruises we'd taken on Celebrity (a sister company), but was just the beginning of a slew of disappointments in the quality of Royal Caribbean as it compared to Celebrity. My biggest complaint was the quality of food in the main dining room. Steaks were low quality and very tough. Selection was low quality and, most surprising, did not improve on formal nights. They were literally offering higher quality food selection at the buffet! The result of this however, was that the huge dining room was virtually empty while the buffet was packed with long lines and full tables. Secondly, was the unabashed up-sell! Even the dining room menu had choices that you needed to pay extra for! Apparently, if you wanted decent food, you had to pony up another $30-$50. Breakfast in the dining room had an option on the menu for the fresh-squeezed orange juice, but that would cost you an additional $5. We looked at menus from the signature menu and even they offered up-sell selections!! That's just plain tacky. Next was the sick-boat-syndrome. Every one of our party of 5 had upper respiratory illness throughout the entire 3 week period. It never abated until we got off the boat. Yet my husband and one of our friends, who suffered the most severe symptoms, had to pay exorbitant medical fees and wait for long lines to get treatment. The long lines and loud chorus of coughing throughout the boat was enough proof that this entire boat was suffering the same symptoms. The design of the ship itself left much to be desired. There was no outdoor dining section. In fact there was little emphasis on offering outside views. There were few window seats in the lower level lounges and even those just looked out on the lifeboats. There was one upper-level lounge that had a wide array of windows, but that looked out at the pool rather than out to sea. There were a lot of little lounge areas that looked into the atrium, but who wants to look at that when you're out at sea? The shows also didn't live up to the quality of those we had experienced on our Celebrity cruises with the only exception being the ice show. That was actually quite extraordinary! The one area they excelled at over Celebrity was the more active offerings for younger travelers - the FlowRider, climbing wall, miniature golf - and the larger children's activity center. Personally, I would never take another Royal Caribbean cruise. As an after thought - I forgot to include a review of the enrichment activities. On a cruise this long with SO MANY sea nights, they were unprepared for the number of people wanting to participate in the activities. There were literally fights between people trying to get into watercolor and jewelry classes and the lounges used for trivia were way too small to accommodate the crowds. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2018
This was a 21 night cruise from Seattle to Sydney Australia. Our previous cruises were all on Princess so this was our first experience with RC. The ship was in excellent condition and the staff was friendly with great emphasis on washing ... Read More
This was a 21 night cruise from Seattle to Sydney Australia. Our previous cruises were all on Princess so this was our first experience with RC. The ship was in excellent condition and the staff was friendly with great emphasis on washing your hands. However, the food was not good. In 21 days we ate at every outlet and struggled to find a "good" meal. Speciality dining was the only option that approached "average". We were in a Jr. Suite 9270. The suite was roomy with a really nice walk-in closet. Our steward was fabulous. The entertainment and production was very poor. We sailed on a 13 day Princess Cruise from Sydney a week after this cruise and the difference was significant. The quality of Princess food was significantly better and the quality of entertainment was light years ahead of RC. One last comment.......RC was reasonably priced for cruise but everywhere we turned RC had its hand out wanting more. We will not waste our money on another RC cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: October 2018
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. After booking the 21 day cruise I discovered I was gluten intolerant and went on a gluten free diet. I thought I would be doomed to eat foods naturally gluten free and have to pass up so many ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the itinerary. After booking the 21 day cruise I discovered I was gluten intolerant and went on a gluten free diet. I thought I would be doomed to eat foods naturally gluten free and have to pass up so many of the goodies. The first night, in the dining room, when I told my waiter about my diet needs, he brought the head waiter over to talk to me. From then on, they made sure I was enjoying as much as possible while not messing with my diet. Every evening Clinton would bring me the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus from the next day and have me place my orders. In addition to those things marked as gluten free, they would make changes to the food if possible to meet my needs. For example, replacing the pasta with GF pasta, replacing the toast with GF (finally eggs and toast for breakfast), etc. My order was always prepared in a special gluten free section of the kitchen, to prevent cross contamination. In addition to the dining room, the buffets were also accommodating. They had a gluten free section which always had GF breads and rolls, GF entrees, deserts etc. If I wanted the GF bread toasted, they used fresh gloves and used a dedicated toaster. They offered delicious GF pizza upon request. They had great GF cookies at the Cafe Promenade. I am sure they would be as accommodating and attentive to any special diet needs. Other than the food, the rest of the cruise was spectacular as well. We loved the ports, the ship is beautiful, and enjoyed many of the activities. My only complaint would be that the evening entertainment started too late for us, so we missed a lot of it. In past cruises we were able to listen and dance to music before dinner and go to the show shortly after dinner. We missed that. Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
Despite what I consider to be the most apt review title, my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise albeit plagued by a very high numbers of people experiencing prolonged bouts of chesty coughing and sneezing with some also suffering ... Read More
Despite what I consider to be the most apt review title, my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise albeit plagued by a very high numbers of people experiencing prolonged bouts of chesty coughing and sneezing with some also suffering bouts of the dreaded Noro Virus. Thankfully my wife avoided the Noro Virus but both regrettably fell foul to the coughing sickness and in my case twice, with only 3 days clear around Mid trip. There were many cruisers being taken off the ship by ambulance in the various ports of call, there was also a helicopter high line medivac on the 2nd day of the cruise. There were frequently large lines of people standing outside the medical centre. Apologies for the rather lengthy review but this was a 21 day cruise. Our vacation started with a BA from London to Seattle on Wednesday 4th October arriving in Seattle around 18:00, we took the light train from Seatac to Westlake for the amazing Seniors price of $1 each. Unfortunately as we had been previously advised, regular taxis were rather thin on the ground in Seattle and as we don't use Uber we set off to find the Edgewater hotel on foot. After a couple of wrong turns and taking advice from some very friendly and helpful locals we arrived safe and sound at the hotel some 20 minutes later. It was a bit of a hike dragging our luggage but perfectly doable for the relatively fit and healthy. I would however most probably chose a hotel closer to Westlake station if I were to return to Seattle in the future . (Or figure out how to use Uber) The Edgewater was a great hotel ideally located for sightseeing. However was a bit miffed by the concierge who quoted $45 for a hotel taxi to the cruise terminal, telling us it was about the same cost as a regular taxi. We took a regular taxi and only paid $15 including the tip. We arrived at the pier 91 around 11:00 and were on board the magnificent Explorer of the seas by 11:20 with the absolute minimum of fuss... well done to both the port authorities and RCL for this. After running the now normal gauntlet of crew trying to up sell almost everything imaginable, including the kitchen sink, we settled down on the Royal Promenade to await access to the staterooms. Despite the rather gloomy weather, first impressions of both the ship and staff were very good. Our stateroom which was ready at exactly 13:00hrs was spic and span and our stateroom attendant Ketut from Indonesia found and delivered our bags and also a couple of extra pillows as requested. Our wait staff Renato and Guilherme in the Sapphire deck 3 my time dinning were very friendly and efficient and our first dinner was both excellent and served in a very timely manner which we very much appreciated. We took the majority of dinners in the Sapphire dinning room, lunch was just a sandwich in the Promenade cafe and breakfast in the Windjammer. We gave up doing speciality dinning around 10 years back, finding them none to special after the 2nd or 3rd time and not worth the additional cost. The entertainment and activities organised throughout the cruise from were numerous and well organised by the entertainment staff. The very experienced cruise director (head of on board sales) was very good at his job. He did appear to be quite elusive at times during the day and only turned up at events as and when he had to. In a similar manner the master of the vessel was certainly not a high profile character. If were not for his somewhat repetitive noon announcements we would not have known he was on the ship. The Hotel Director on the other hand was the complete opposite, he was to be seen frequently on a daily basis around the ship carrying out his various duties and interacting with both crew and passengers on numerous occasions. The continued on board attempts to up sell various products and services was occasionally annoying but thankfully not overly so, with the exception of speciality dinning being touted within the main dinning room. Which I personally considerer to be a somewhat shoddy practice and rather insulting towards the food being served in the Sapphire dinning room. Thankfully the Park West art auctions were being held in the ships conference room. Well out of the way and not taking up valuable seating in any of the lounges, every 2nd day or so. (You may guess, I am not a great fan of Park West).....We heard frequently about RCL being an environmentally aware company and doing all within its power to save the planet. I have a great suggestion for RCL to assist in their most noble effort, stop delivering Park West paper copy junk mail to all Staterooms Fleet Wide.....that would certainly save quite a few trees each year.... The ice show as always was phenomenal, the 2nd show impromptu show was also very good. The majority of the headline acts were very good however the initial production show Wild Cool and Swinging by the resident singers and dancers, was rather disappointing with respect to both vocals and set design. The other production shows after this however, were very professional and most enjoyable. The exceedingly high number of Diamond and Diamond Plus cruisers on this very popular voyage resulted in the pre-dinner social drinks event being extended from the dedicated lounges to the Star lounge to accommodate the numbers. Despite this change, seating in the Star lounge was at a premium for the first hour or so. It took until around day 10 or so to realise just why we could never find and empty seat at 17:00hrs., there were people queuing up from before 16:00hrs to rush in and grab their favoured seats in the star lounge. Our first port of call Honolulu was a bit of a disappointment, the local tourist board have obviously no interest in cruise passengers. There was no warm welcome to Hawaii indeed there was no welcome either within or outside the extremely large and barren cruise terminal. No greeting of any sort, no local guides or tourist pamphlets, no maps etc. absolute zero, an opportunity lost by the Honolulu tourism industry. Lahiana our 2nd port of call and our first tender port was considerably better. There was a group of singers on the jetty giving us a real Hawaiian welcome. There was also plentiful local information to be had on the jetty and a considerably better atmosphere in comparison to the rather inhospitable Honolulu. There was about a 10-15 minute wait for our tender going ashore which has to be expected with so many people wishing to get ashore at the same time. However the line was well organised and controlled by ships staff. On the return trip we listened to the cruise directors advice and came back slightly before the high volume rush time, getting a tender with no delay on the jetty. The crossing the line ceremony (equator) was a hoot and very well attended and the certificates we received from King Neptune were a great souvenir as was the one for crossing the international date line westbound loosing a full day in the process, on the occasion Friday the 19th Suva Fiji was a bit rough looking around the port area but the people were very friendly polite and most helpful. We took a shore 4 hour excursion with Mona tours, visiting the Museum, a native village and some sightseeing along the way. Our guide was excellent, and the bus/group size was ideal with only around 20 passengers. (One of the 2 reasons we no longer use ship tours is the delays involved with large bus groups, the other being the extortionate price charged by RCL) Again regrettably Port Villa Vanatu was also somewhat rough around the edges, and not somewhere I would be in a hurry to return to. We took the $5 water taxi into town and had a good look around before returning to the ship. Mystery Island was just expected, a very small uninhabited Island with a grass airstrip running down the centre. We had a great time wondering round the island, sitting on the sand and dipping into the clear water occasionally to cool down. Just a shame the weather turned rather wet in the afternoon. Numea New Caledonia was a great port of call, the compulsory free shuttle bus takes you from the ship to the In town Cruise Terminal" from where there are many many options to go sightseeing. The cruise terminal has excellent free WiFi and reasonably priced souvenirs. Well done again to both RCL and the Australian immigration authorities for carrying out the immigration checks prior to our arrival in Sydney. This resulted in a very smooth departure from the ship. From the volume of moaning and groaning by some Americans and the repeated PA announcements regarding the Australian Visa requirements, not all US cruisers were aware of this requirement prior to the cruise. All in all a great transpacific cruise, the sea days were brilliant, the crew were great, the ports were OK, but not a cruise I would repeat Read Less
7 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
My wife and I had twelve prior cruises under our belt, but had never done a re-positioning cruise. The "Tahitian Treasures" cruise from Honolulu to Sydney via French Polynesia and New Zealand sounded like just the ticket for our ... Read More
My wife and I had twelve prior cruises under our belt, but had never done a re-positioning cruise. The "Tahitian Treasures" cruise from Honolulu to Sydney via French Polynesia and New Zealand sounded like just the ticket for our inaugural re-positioning, and we were not disappointed in the slightest. The Solstice, although the oldest of the Solstice class ships, is still relatively young (in service since 2008) and is in tip-top shape. Everything is sparkling clean, in good working order, and we didn't see anything that showed signs of wear and tear. Our stateroom was reasonably spacious for two, as was the veranda. One thing I liked was that the bed frames were high enough off the floor to easily allow our 29-inch suitcases (and we had four of them since we were staying on in Australia after the cruise and needed clothing for a couple of climate zones) to fit underneath them. There is also a nice-sized couch in addition to a small but functional desk. The large TV provided for easy viewing and the controls worked well. Storage space was adequate, but just barely. More drawer space would have been nice although I'm not sure where it could have gone. One minor complaint is that the safe was in a less-than-convenient spot, requiring you to get on your hands and knees to operate it. At least there was a safe, however, which we think is a critical piece of equipment for storing passports and other valuable. This was the first time we opted for Celebrity's "Select Dining" rather than having a fixed dining time and fixed seating assignment, and we found it worked quite well. Being able to eat when we wanted was very convenient, and allowed us to select the time that best worked relative to shows or other activities that we wished to see. We never had to wait for a table, and although the tables are relatively close together, it afforded us the opportunity to meet some very nice people while also avoiding the situation, which has sometimes occurred, of being seated for the whole cruise at a table with people with whom you have nothing in common. Also, over time Celebrity has cut back on the selections available in the main dining room, and we found that on some nights where there was nothing that compelling on the main menu we enjoyed the more relaxed atmosphere of the buffet in the Ocean View Cafe. Food quality was uniformly good in the main dining room and the Ocean View Cafe. We also tried three of the premium restaurants -- Silk Harvest (Asian fusion--nothing particularly impressive), Murano (continental--limited menu but excellent quality and superb service), and Tuscan Grill (Italian/steak house--good amount of choices, also with excellent quality and service). We found the entertainment on this cruise to be somewhat better than on other Celebrity cruises we have taken in the last couple of years. There was a good variety of singers, comedians, and production shows. We particularly enjoyed Ivan Rutherford, who for many years was in the Broadway production of Les Miserables, and Nikki Barrett, an Australian singer. The singers, dancers and band really put their all into the production shows. Although we enjoyed some of the shows more than others, we never for a moment felt that any of the cast were putting less than 100% into their efforts, even though by this point (they were all near the end of their tours) they must have done these shows any number of times. The only entertainer we were a little put off by was a juggler who, although quite talented, made a number of comments we thought were a bit too edgy for an audience that included some (although granted not a lot) of children. Special mention goes to one of the bands, Jeam Beam, who we thought did an excellent job with every genre of rock, pop and contemporary music. Service was exemplary. We don't know how they do it day in and day out, but one thing we have found on every Celebrity cruise we have taken is that to a person, the crew is friendly, cheerful, and anxious to please. Being a re-positioning cruise, there were lots of sea days, but we never felt bored or as if we were going through the same routine day after day. There were a variety of activities to keep us busy, and plenty of time to just sit, relax, and read if that's all we wanted to do for the moment. We enjoyed all the ports of call and the shore excursions we did, although Papeete on Tahiti was something of a disappointment--a bit grungy around the edges. Bora Bora and Moorea were excellent, and we highly recommend the Aqua Safari on Bora Bora--you put on a diving helmet into which air is pumped under pressure so it keeps the water out, and you can walk on the sea bed 15 feet below the surface, surrounded by hordes of tropical fish. A truly memorable experience! Moorea was scenically magical--very reminiscent of Bali Hai in South Pacific. For some reason, it has been dropped from next year's itinerary for this cruise, however. Would we do this cruise again? In a heartbeat! It was one of the best we've ever done. Read Less
16 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
This is going to be long winded! So many times, I have read that this itinerary only comes around twice a year and therefore, fewer reviews. If I can help anyone decide to take this journey, my job will be done. I decided to sail from ... Read More
This is going to be long winded! So many times, I have read that this itinerary only comes around twice a year and therefore, fewer reviews. If I can help anyone decide to take this journey, my job will be done. I decided to sail from Honolulu instead of Sydney mainly to escape airline luggage restrictions and also to rest after my first visit to Hawaii. This trip was 18 months in planning with no stones unturned. I really don’t know where to start. I’m always sceptical about people who have a gripe against a cruise line or hotel when something goes wrong that clouds their entire review (sometimes due to unrealistic expectations), or those, much like me, who can see no wrong. I’m a glass half full kind of person. I will try to give this review balance. A little background. I have always wanted to go to Hawaii and more importantly, to Bora Bora, my bucket list place. My youngest daughter aged 19 and I flew to Hawaii on Jetstar on September 24 from Sydney. We spent a marvellous week there before embarking the Solstice on Oct 1 for the cruise home via French Polynesia and New Zealand. What a month-long journey it was…. We stayed at the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel in a premier oceanfront room. The view was stunning and well worth the extra cost for this room in my opinion. It made me constantly “feel” I was finally in Hawaii. It’s located next to the Park Shore Hotel and the Zoo in the quieter end of Waikiki. It was an easy 10-minute walk to Waikiki central. The staff at this hotel were friendly, helpful and professional. We luckily paid $USD60 for an early check in which was much appreciated after arriving from Sydney at 6am. Those overnight flights are brutal if you can’t sleep on a plane (like me). Check in and check out was super easy and fast. The pool area was very pleasant. You could check out towels and deck chairs to take to the beach across the road without charge. There’s an ice machine on some floors. One thing about this hotel is that there is no room service. That didn’t bother us in the least because there were 2 ABC stores, a Wolfgang Puck, a juice place, a cookie store and a Subway on the ground level. The weather in Hawaii was very warm and humid. The locals saying that it was unusually so due to the recent hurricanes and volcanic activity around the islands. I enjoyed swimming at Kuhio Beach to cool down on many occasions. The ocean was refreshing and not cold. Whilst in Hawaii we went with Oahu Photography Tours to the “North Shore” and a “Beautiful Hawaii” tour. I can highly recommend them. You don’t need to be a photographer. They will help you get great shots at some beautiful locations if you want or you can do your own thing. An iphone is just as good as an SLR. We took both. It’s a great way to see the island. I do have to say here that many people we spoke with went to the North Shore with Hi5. It sounds that this may have been a better option. I will go with them next time. Oh, and there will be a next time. Already booked for next June before I even left Hawaii. LOL. We also went to Pearl Harbour. Got a shuttle from our hotel, for something like $USD32 return for both of us. Of course, you still can’t disembark the boat onto the memorial due to structural defects, however, the moving video and 2 free museums were well worth the visit. The movie really explained in simple terms why and how the bombing of Pearl Harbour occurred. Such a tragedy. I booked Arizona tickets online two months out. We got there two hours before our tour asked if we could change our times. Numbers are down so we were able to do that no problem and did not have to wait. One morning at 6am we hiked Diamond Head. We caught an Uber as the buses weren’t running that early. My daughter called it the “death hike” although it wasn’t that bad. It was tough though. There were lots of places to stop and rest on the way up with great photo opportunities. There are lots of uneven lava paths, tunnels and stairs +++. I saw some young and older people have trips and spills. TIP. Once you get to the top and arrive at the near vertical stairs on your right, turn left, a much easier climb to the summit. We were greeted by an amazing scene that included a rainbow! Well worth the effort. Some other things we did was to eat Poke’ in backstreet restaurants, tuna, salmon and octopus, yum. I tried Loco Moco once, and ate at a lovely Italian place, Arancino Di Mare, down near the zoo. Beautiful food. Of course, we went to the Cheesecake Factory and Dukes. No complaints. Lulu’s attached to the Park Shore had great breakfast although way to big portions that were very tasty and economical. Get one meal for two. Great views too. Tikis grill at our hotel was lovely too. You could have a light meal by the pool with drinks or dine in the restaurant for a more a la carte menu. There was nightly music and entertainment. We were on the 10th floor and the music was enjoyable, not intrusive. Of course, we also did some retail therapy at the Waikele outlets and Ala Moana Centre and got some high-end bargains compared to prices in Australia. We caught an Uber to the outlets from Ala Moana, $USD35, and then got a Robert’s air-conditioned bus back to the hotel for $USD10 each which you could book at the outlets. Now to the cruise October 1, got to the terminal by 11am with Hawaii23 shuttle service and were on board by 12 eating lunch at a dedicated dining room function for Concierge class. A lovely way to start. This would be my 7th cruise. All the others on Royal Caribbean. As Concierge class we were invited by the concierge Javier, to the bridge and to sail into Auckland on the helipad which were really nice touches. The main advantage of Concierge class for me was the location. We had a hump cabin on the pool deck with a bigger balcony. We were starboard and had shade most of the day. From day 1 I was blown away. This ship by far is the best I have been on. Probably the biggest difference is that this ship seems to have 2 passengers to each crew member. That is amazing. Considering I have been on Ovation where it was probably 10 to 1. There were no lines on this ship! The Solstice staff were standout. They are truly a credit to their ship and industry. So friendly and willing to help anyone and assist at every opportunity. I could name so many people. But here goes some….Greg and Abel on the pool deck, Maurice, our room attendant, Jim, Faishoul, Kim and Almandi in the dining room. Thank you. You deserve all the recognition you can get. The Solstice has tendering down to a fine art. We had no problems getting off or back on the ship whenever we wanted. We were docked for Honolulu, Papeete, Auckland and of course Sydney. The entertainment was enjoyable with a few standout performances. I enjoyed the enrichment talks about sharks, rays and turtles etc with Brent Nixon prior to French Polynesia. They were appropriate and informative. Especially as we would be swimming with them in Bora Bora. The food was amazing. Not one bad meal. We were careful not to overeat and enjoyed our food. Often skipping lunch after a lovely breakfast where you are spoiled for choice. Occasionally we had a hot dog or burger from the Mast Grill that were always tasty. We dined at many of the specialty restaurants, namely Murano, Silk Harvest, and Tuscan Grill. The flambé lobster at Murano was particularly good. At Silk Harvest, we did a set menu that consisted of a lot of seafood with an Asian twist titled Silk ‘n’ Soul. Very nice. Tuscan Grill was my least favourite, only because I am not a steak person. We had pre-purchased a 3-night dining package. Most nights we did select dining and did not ever wait to be seated. We were treated like royalty. We ate breakfast in the Oceanview café daily except when we ordered room service on days that we had early tenders. It was on time, complete and still hot enough to eat. I was not going to purchase a drink package; however, I could not pass up the premium package for $AUD46 a day! It went on sale just before our cruise. By the time I had daily bottled water, speciality coffees, soft drink, nightly wine with dinner and a cocktail or two, it worked out economical for me. Whenever we went ashore I would grab some cold bottled water to take with me. I suppose I should mention here that we were advised not to drink anything other than sealed bottles of water in French Polynesia which surprised me a little. We were also warned about having drinks with ice in it. My daughter had the premium non-alcoholic package which was not on sale. I was under the impression that she would not be able to drink alcohol as this cruise originated in the USA where drinking laws are 21. However, after clearing Hawaii and in international waters, the drinking age was reduced to 18. So, she ended up having a couple of drinks which were charged at full price and 18% gratuity. Luckily for me she doesn’t drink much. Our first port of call was Maui after departing Honolulu at midnight. We had organised a ship’s tour on what was a beautiful day without any wind. A 45min helicopter flight. How else to see the most of Maui in one day? I can only say that it was worth every dollar. My daughter and I travelled in the front with the pilot as we ascended 10000 feet to the Haleakala Crater. Awe inspiring. It looked like something out of a sci fi movie. A bit like Mars, the red planet. We then travelled the road to Hana by air and saw majestic waterfalls and beautiful terrain that you can’t see from the road. We travelled the famous Jurassic Park helicopter scene into the “park” as Blue Hawaiian had the contract for all the helicopter scenes for all the Jurassic movies. On return to the port we visited the shops and bought some souvenirs and enjoyed the shade of the Banyan Tree. After Maui we had 5 sea days. There was always something to do around the ship or relax around the pool. The cruise director, Rick Spacey and his team could certainly entertain. The uniformed staff often played games against passengers which I think they genuinely enjoyed. Many people debated that 5 sea days in a row were too much, however, I didn’t think so. I used the Canyon Ranch Spa for a massage and a manicure however I found the staff unengaging, condescending and dismissive on two different occasions. Karin who did the massage and Kim the advanced aesthetics technician who did my nails were less than happy to be there in my opinion. I believe they are not employed by Celebrity which could have enhanced their business in my eyes. I could not wait to get out of there. Our next port of call was Papeete, Tahiti. The city itself was like any other capital city with a French flavour. We did another ships tour down the West Coast. It was a nice way to see some of the island. We visited a grotto, a scared ground, and a botanical garden. We called into the markets to buy some souvenirs and found them to be quite expensive. $USD10 for a fridge magnet minimum. This was the same all over French Polynesia. I did get some beautiful unique flower arrangements for my granddaughters to wear in their hair. The next port day was Bora Bora. My destination!! I was up early because I was so excited. It was another beautiful day. I had organised a private tour for about 30 cruisers with Maohi Nui. We had booked nearly a year out to ensure we could experience all Bora Bora has to offer. 12 of us, 6 at a time, did a full day combo tour for $USD215 each which included going up the mountain in a 4-wheel drive for some stunning views, a drive around the island with commentary from Arii who was obviously proud of his country and culture. Up the mountain we visited an artist studio where I bought 4 beautiful hand painted sarongs for my family at home. They were not cheap but definitely unique and of good quality. The artist said it takes him 4-5 hours to paint each one. We then went down the mountain and boarded a 12-seater outrigger canoe with Teddy and Vaitiare and went snorkelling in a coral garden. So many fish all swimming around you. We were serenaded by ukulele as we were taken through the pristine waters to Patrick’s private motu for a true Polynesian feast of suckling pig cooked underground. It was melt in the mouth good! It was served with fruits cooked in the oven, two types of BBQ fish, a chicken and spinach dish and some salad. Cold drinks were supplied and included bottled water, beer, wine, soft drink and champagne. We ate with our hands as you do in Bora Bora from banana leaf plates. After lunch, Patrick performed his fire dance before we headed back to the outrigger to swim with sharks and rays, and that we did in 1-2 metres of water! It was thrilling. Finally, we headed out to the reef to swim in 40ft of deep blue water on top of sharks deep below. To top everything off, a mother and calf whale breached in front of our outrigger as we headed back to the port. What a day! Words are not enough. This day turned out to be the highlight of our month-long holiday. It’s a good idea to take water shoes, an underwater camera, and your own snorkels as we did. If you go to Bora Bora, do yourself a favour and tour with Maohi Nui. Vaitiare likes to book groups to make her job easier so use your roll call and organise things early with one person to do the planning. I do recommend the combo tour however only 12 people per day can do this. The other cruisers did the full day tour and Polynesian lunch minus the 4 wheel drive up and around the island and most raved about the day. All money is payable on the day in cash. The last port of call in French Polynesia was Moorea. It was very hot and humid. We booked the ships Capture Moorea photo tour. It was a lovely way to see the island from Belvedere Lookout and atop Magic Mountain. It was very majestic scenery. After we left French Polynesia, the weather changed. We had cold windy weather with 4 metre swells. They closed the top decks for a couple of days. I was rocked to sleep two nights in a row. The weather settled a little in New Zealand and remained cool till we reached Sydney. Fortunately, I heard of no one coming down with gastro. Unfortunately, many people including myself became unwell in the last few days of the cruise. Many people were quarantined due to influenza A or another virus going around that caused razor blade throats and a hacking cough. I am still recovering. I don’t blame Celebrity for this. The ship was kept meticulously clean and they maintained mandatory hand sanitising. It was just a consequence of many people in a confined space with viruses that were airborne and helped along via the air conditioning when everyone was forced inside due to inclement weather. Despite the illness, I had the time of my life!! I met so many nice people to share my time with. I can now tick off Bora Bora and hope that you can too one day. It really is paradise. Everything else on this remarkable voyage was a bonus. Tours Hana and Haleakala Helicopter Exploration ++++ Discover Tahiti’s West Coast +++ Maohi Nui- Bora Bora ++++++ Capture Moorea- Photo tour ++++ Auckland- Hop on Hop off bus and the Skywalk +++ Bay of Islands- Island and Cave Adventure ++ Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2018
We did the Tahitian Treasures Cruise on Solstice from Honolulu to Sydney for the second time now. We enjoy seadays and chose Aqua Class because of the breakfast in Blu and access to Persian Gardens. Dinner in Blu is a nice plus and we are ... Read More
We did the Tahitian Treasures Cruise on Solstice from Honolulu to Sydney for the second time now. We enjoy seadays and chose Aqua Class because of the breakfast in Blu and access to Persian Gardens. Dinner in Blu is a nice plus and we are happy to report that the food has been significantly better compared to our Blu experience from last year! Our cabin 1543 showed some wear under the roof on the balcony (visible and rusty holes) beside this, it was kept extraordinarily well by our steward Santan. He was incredibly hard working and we can't praise him enough! Overall the ship is still in very good condition - just the seats in the theatre desperatly need a new padding and one hot chair in Persian Guardens seems to be out of order for more than 1 year! We love seadays and we have immensely enjoyed Brent Nixon's lectures and those of Mary Amanda (B. Nixon's wife). The Hawaiian enrichment where enjoyable and authentic, but we had the feeling, that they have just been squeezed into the daily programme without very much attention - which resulted often tin conflicts with other important programme points. Too bad, because our tutors where hard working and overly friendly and helpful. The shows where hit and miss, often very good and spectacular, but then noticeably cheap (repetetive jugglers and the comedian was not funny at all) and boring. Our cruise director Richard and his sidekick Tim where more entertaining than the jugglers and comedians of the main program. Food in Blu was outstanding all the way and Ocenview Cafe always offered an incredible offering of various food and we always found something delicious there. The crew is exceptionally hardworking and overly friendy - with one exception: Guest Service who had a different attitude: "No, you customer are wrong, we can't help you" and we could always feel that they where afraid that complaints could lead to potential refunds (which we never asked for). We dined twice in Murano - top notch from beginning to end and being helped by Sandra was like being guest at a friend's home! She's a gem! We also dined twice in Sushi on 5 and where excited about their offerings that had nothing to do with Sushi! We enjoyed the Lobster Ramen, the Lobster Wan Tan and in particular the Ramen Sliders (Wagyu burgers). Having booked the dining package for 4 nights in advance, Sushi on 5 and Murano gave a very good value for money. All meals in Blu where excellent and beyond what we have experienced last year, the staff around Tanja where absolutely outstanding and it was just like returning to family. It really was that good! We did read a lot about Celebrity diming down and to be honest (with the exception of the lack of the daily 2 bottles of water) we could not sense anything compared to last year - quite the opposite: Everything was slightly better compared to last year. One negative thing: We had to leave ports in Bora Bora at 6:00, Moorea at 5:00, Auckland and Bay of Island at 6:00. Keeping in mind the tender times, this all left not enough time at the destinations and we have heard complaints, that Celebrity excursions left viewpoints before sunset just to be right on time back on the ships. These stays should be longer (and have been mostly longer in the last year) to enable guests to enjoy more of these phantastic destinations. Another niggle: Last year, we had an Hawaiian Farewell show with Hula dancers of all ages (particularly the little boys and girls where just adorable!!!) - nothing like that this year and we really missed it! All in all, it was an almost perfect experience and we can highly recommend cruising on Celebrity Solstice! Read Less
9 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2018
We booked this cruise to get home to Australia from North America. We were assured when booking that the ship was to be refurnished in early 2018. On embarking we found a stateroom with tatty furniture - holes in the upholstery, peeling ... Read More
We booked this cruise to get home to Australia from North America. We were assured when booking that the ship was to be refurnished in early 2018. On embarking we found a stateroom with tatty furniture - holes in the upholstery, peeling wallpaper, chips in bath and sink and bathroom mirrors degrading. The public areas were no better. Meals in the dining room and lido were at best lukewarm no matter where or when we ate. The only way to get fresh hot food was to dine in the pinnacle grill or canalettos both of which were excellent. Having paid for one's food one shoukd not have to pay twice. A lot of the fruit on board was old from the start of the cruise and off by the time we reached Fiji. The ship ran out of english breakfast and tetley tea bags and corn flakes. Only one flavour of yoghurt available at a time. But notbto worry there were at any one time inumerable boxes of a full range of caffeine free teas! The numbers of servers has been reduced so much that the tables could not be cleared between diners and on some evenings it took over 25 minutes to place one's order for dinner. When it arrived the food was usually tepid at best and when returned to the kitchen to be reheated it came back no better. It was ridiculous that as we crossed the Pacific passengerd had to wear sweaters inside the ship because the airconditioning was so cold. The standard of evening entertainment was poor with large gaps when nothing was happening at all. The internet access was described by a member of Holland America staff as abysmal most passengers were much ruder about it. The 'range' of dvds available was a joke the staff asked psssengers for a list of requested titles then couldn't deliver any of them I am not sure what Holland Americ's agenda is; whether they are trying to move down market within the CCL group. If so they may well succeed but they alienated a whole lot of experienced mariners on this cruise. Many times I heard fellow passengers express the determinstion never to cruise HL again. Read Less

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