Life aboard the Solstice
02.03.2014 - 04.03.2014 28 °C
This cruise has been a bit unusual in that we are covering such vast distances over our 35 days at sea. We have gone around the country of New Zealand and now have almost circumnavigated the continent of Australia. This has necessitated more of what cruise lines call “Sea Days.” As the name implies these are days when the ship will not be stopping in at any ports. We are strictly focused on putting miles under the keel in order to reach the next destination. During this 35 day voyage we will have a total of 17 sea days. Usually these occur in ones or twos but for the first time in our short cruising experience we now have three straight days at sea. A number of our non-cruising friends have asked what we can possibly find to do on those days at sea when we are cooped up with 2800 other guests and the crew of 1200.
We thought we would devote this blog entry to give you a glimpse of a typical sea day with a variety of pictures from on board the ship. Most of the pictures relate to the text but not all so you will need to read the photo captions for it all to make sense. Although this entry is a bit wordy we hope you find it interesting.
Most days start around 8:00 am unless we are going ashore in which case we are up an hour or so earlier in order to get off the ship and go on an adventure. From our king size bed we gaze out on the ocean and chat about what we have planned for the day. We will often go out onto the balcony still in our jammies and get a look at the day as the ship presses on through the ocean at a speed of between 15 and 20 knots depending on how far our next destination is.
Our ship the Celebrity Solstice in the distance. Our floating city home for 35 days.
Hazel out on our balcony scanning the ocean for signs of life. . Best balcony we have ever had on a ship. We are located amidships close to the mid ship elevator bank.
Night view taken from our balcony
One of a bank of six glass elevators near our cabin that we use from time to time although we do the stairs as much as possible including the 6 flights from our deck to the food deck several times a day.
By now we have showered and made ourselves presentable for our next activity – eating. Eating is a major activity on a cruise ship and Celebrity Cruise Lines is renowned for the quality of its cuisine. Breakfast is no exception. You can choose to be rather formal and eat breakfast in the main dining room with table service and white linen table cloths on Deck 3 or you can choose the more informal option of eating in the main buffet area on Deck 14 known as the Oceanview Café. We almost always choose the Oceanview as we can putter around choosing exactly as we want and avoid the temptation of all of the pastries. The Oceanview has stations where you can have them make an omelet or Eggs Benedict with your choice of ingredients. There are huge trays of fruit, sliced meats, cheeses, breads, bagels and sweet rolls. There are also stations for cereals both hot and cold. Early on in a long cruise you realize you have to discipline yourself with food intake or you will be a typical cruiser and gain five pounds per week. Since we are on the ship for five weeks that could be a disaster. After picking up our selections we usually head out to the outside deck to sit overlooking the ocean as we glide along. Often we’ll run into another couple from our group of five couples and sit and chat while we eat our breakfast. While we are at breakfast the room stewards will have been busy making beds and changing towels and generally sprucing up our rooms.
Oceanview Café on Deck 14 where we eat breakfast and most lunches being set up by staff so that there are many different food stations to reduce crowding
Oceanview Café inside seating area. There are identical areas on each side of the ship
Oceanview Café outside eating area where we sit for most of our breakfasts or lunches. Only one day of inclement weather so far with only 5 days to go
The quality of the food in the Oceanview is outstanding
The variety of the food in the Oceanview is endless – this is just the desert section with an identical one on the other side.
With breakfast behind us we frequently walk down to Deck 5 to the Cappuccino Bar where they have a whole selection of excellent coffees and pastries and a large very comfortably set up lounge with high backed deep lounge chairs. We’ll grab a cappuccino or even two and read the morning Canadian Newsletter which is available every morning at the front desk along with newsletters from half a dozen other countries. This year one of the first things we look at is the weather at home in Canada. We have been shocked at the weather that is hitting the eastern part of North America and we are all talking about it. Sometimes other members of our group will stroll by and join in for a coffee.
The ship’s library, a popular after breakfast reading area.
Time for one of the many, many activities available on the ship. There is something for everyone. Some choose to head to the gym or take a Zumba class; others participate in one of the many game activities that the ships entertainment staff have organized; others drift off to the pool or a hot tub and others bake in the sun. Many of us in our group attend one of the many lectures or even facility tours that are available in various venues during the day. There are lectures on cooking, computers, glass blowing, ship’s engineering, navigation as well as sessions on our destinations or destinations for other ships in the Celebrity fleet. Our favourite ones are the ones delivered by the ship’s naturalist, Milos. He was a professor from University of San Francisco and now makes his home on a Celebrity Cruise ship for half the year. He offers a PowerPoint presentation every single sea day. They are so popular they have to be held in the ship’s main theatre that seats 1200. The topics are all along the natural sciences and are generally related to the areas that we are travelling in.
One of several kitchens on the ship taken during our kitchen tour
Deck 14 walking track. Most of us made walking this deck a regular part of our daily routine
A number of our group take advantage of the large well equipped gym most das.
Equipment in the gym is excellent quality and staff are available to give you pointers and set up a fitness program for you.
Back to the cabin and work on any of our many projects such as this blog, doing a little laundry or catching the world news and the stock market activities on our TV. Since we are anywhere between 18 and 20 hours ahead of home our timing is not always convenient. Our TV outlets are MSNBC, CNN International, BBC International and Sky News International and ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). With this selection we get very little Canadian news except for our morning print Newsletter which is big on sports and news on Rob Ford but not a whole lot of quality reporting of key events.
Time to eat again, again we have the choice of the formal dining room or the buffet in the Oceanview. The lunch menu is amazing and you could gain weight just eating lunch alone. Again we pick up some lighter fare and go out onto the aft deck and find a place to sit and watch the ocean slip by 14 decks below. Once again members of our group will often drop by and join in for a leisurely bite of lunch and a glass of wine. One of the promotions for booking this trip nearly a year ago was a free beverage package which includes all soft drinks, bottled water, specialty coffees, standard beers and wines and standard mixed drinks. We are all going to turn into lushes by the end of this trip as wine is a fairly common compliment with lunch for many of us. Lunch generally lasts 60-90 minutes. If one chooses there is also a fast food outlet located on Deck 14 where one can order a burger and fries or other similar fare. There is also a dining area that serves only lighter “healthy” fare near the adults’ only indoor pool.
The adults’ only pool and hot tub area. Although there are only about 5 kids on this whole ship we have been on cruises where having an adults only area is a very necessary escape. This pool is also enclosed so very pleasant on some of our 35+ temperature days. Note the solar panels on the roof. This ship has solar panels everywhere on the top decks.
Back to our cabin to organize the rest of the afternoon which again consists of another round of lectures, activities like a galley tour or simply just reading on your balcony or in one of the dozens of lounge areas or little nooks and crannies tucked around the ship. Today we decide to go up and watch the Hot Glass Show. On the very top of the ship next to the lawn area there is a major glass works studio set up. This is operated by the folks from the Corning Museum of Glass from Corning New York. They offer 2-3 shows a day and demonstrate how to make a variety of decorative items out of blown and rolled glass. Each show is a bit different so we have been up to see several of the shows while on this ship and her sister ship Eclipse.
Molten glass being heated in the electric oven in preparation for making a decorative item.
More from the Hot Glass Studio
It is hard to believe that there are 2800 people on this ship as it is not uncommon to drop into an area and there may only be one other person sitting reading in a fairly large space. There are also a lot of people on their computers and tablets both reading and doing email. There is a computer lounge which is furnished with a number of Apple computers. The lounge is almost always full and there are tech support staff there to help you with your tech problems. The ship has Wi-Fi available in all cabins and in virtually every corner of the ship, however, as I have mentioned earlier Internet at sea is a bit of a challenge as the ship jokes go - we are not hard wired to the shore! All communication is via satellite link and the ship’s communication equipment takes the lion’s share of the bandwidth. So guest internet is VERY slow and expensive. We brought a number of e-books as well as magazines on our iPad as well as several hard copy books which we are trying to make our way through. None of our group of 10 are sun worshipers so we are not out with the hundreds who appear addicted to worshiping the sun on the decks. That is a real challenge here as the heat is intense and the sun is extremely powerful at these latitudes. Yesterday we were only 10 degrees off the equator. None of our group has suffered any significant sun burn yet and everyone is slathering on the sun block regularly, #50 and #60 seem to be the lotion of choice in our group.
The Sky Lounge located on Deck 15 at the front of the ship looking out towards the ocean. This is a great spot to find your own little corner to read or snooze in. In the middle of the room there is also a dance floor and band area. This is a popular late evening entertainment spot with a live music group every night after 10:00 pm.
Main outdoor pool deck (with hot tubs) which is mainly populated by sun worshipers and a few older German gentlemen in their speedos.
Outdoor pool deck at night. Pools are closed at night but there are a number of musical events held here just away from the pools.
The Deck 15 lawn area, great for just walking around on or even take up a blanket and have a nap or most popular a game of Bocce ball or at the other side a putting area
The basketball court – no one in our group was a keen player
iLounge on Deck 6. This is where you can go to download your email on one of their many Apple computers or you can get one of the staff to give you tech help with your own device.
More reading or other ship activities until about 4:30 when we often return to start getting cleaned up for dinner. Since sun block is a constant in our lives a shower is often our late afternoon activity. We then get dressed for dinner in the formal dining room. “Smart Casual” is the normal dress code for dinner which means no jeans or t shirts. Formal nights are still a staple of cruises and Celebrity is no exception. On formal nights you see everything from gentlemen in tuxes and dinner jackets to ladies in beautiful sequined gowns. Our group falls more to the less formal side of things with the ladies in fancy dresses or tops and the lads in sports blazers and ties.
Our group of 10 informally meets each night around 5:30 pm on the outside deck of the Oceanview Bar for a pre-dinner glass of wine or drink. We don’t often have all 10 of us but whoever is around shows up for the event. At 6:00 pm we all migrate down to Deck 3 for dinner in the formal dining room.
Most of our group getting together at the Oceanview Bar on the outdoor section of Deck 14 for our normal pre-dinner drink or glass of wine at 5:30 pm. Missing from the photo are Larry and Lee as well as Hazel who is taking the picture.
Here we are again, eating again. We have a table for 10 in the formal dining room where we all get together most evenings for dinner and share what we have each done for the past day. Dinner is a five course extravaganza each evening. There are many, many choices of meat or fish and even a vegetarian option. Gluten-free items are noted in the menu. Dinner is a fairly long social event and it is usually 8:00 pm before we push back from the table. Once again limiting your intake at this sitting is critical to keeping the pounds from accumulating.
Main dining room of the ship where we were seated.
Most of our group all ready for a formal night in the dining room – Lee & Larry missing, picture taken by Sue.
Ship’s main foyer. Front desk is located to the left and the shore excursions booking office to the right. This is a rare shot as it is usually quite busy.
After dinner most evenings we all make our way to the other end of the ship and the big main stage theatre. Every evening the ship has some form of main stage attraction and there are two shows each evening, an early show and a late show. Most of the shows are musical in nature and all are of high quality. The ship’s own performing troupe consists of a great 7 piece stage band plus a dance troupe of 8, four lead singers and two cirque style acrobatic performers. The entire troupe is highly professional and has four musical stage shows that they will perform during each of the two phases of our cruise. On other nights there are guest performers who are often second tier acts from Vegas, New York or London’s West End.
Ship’s main stage 1200 seat theatre. Picture taken from the stage looking out one day when we had a back stage tour.
Ship’s main stage taken from the audience as the ship’s naturalist is starting a presentation
After the main stage show we all wander off to any one of a number of entertainment or retail outlets that are all over the ship, pop into the casino to throw away a little money, or just take a leisurely walk on the upper decks in the balmy warm weather. Our group tends not to be night owls and most of us are back in our cabins by 11:00 pm for a little reading or TV before dropping off to sleep to the gentle rocking of the ship.
So there you go, a day in the life. A bit long on the narrative this time.
Looking off the aft deck of the Solstice as she makes a slight course adjustment heading south along the east coast of Australia.