Return to Sydney - cruise 2 evaluation

After 2 sea days, the Celebrity Solstice returned to Sydney.  This cruise was a rather confining experience.  The itinerary was Sydney to 3 islands in New Caledonia, and return.  Caroline had to work when we stopped in Noumea (the capital), and the other 2 islands weren't very large.  On those islands, we walked and snorkeled, then returned to the ship.  It was a different cruise experience for a number of reasons.    

We seemed to spend a lot more time on the ship, and there seemed to be minimal programming to adjust for that.  The primary programming?  Eat, drink, and be merry.  Of course, days and days (and weeks) of this behavior can be debilitating, and it is not what we do.  Late evening activities with alcohol don't work when you go to bed "early" (when Caroline works, it is lights out at 9 PM).  

There were kids everywhere.  I heard that, of the 2800 or so guests, 600 were kids.  There were special activities for youth and teens, but after about 4 PM you'd see them sitting in groups on the stairs, racing up and down the corridors, or just wandering around. It seemed as if many parents were just happy turning them loose... after all, they can't get lost on a ship, right?  This was still summer vacation prior to the start of school (Australians made up most of the passengers), so families were on holiday.

We were told by another guest that the ship had run out of ice cream cones (not ice cream).  A staffer told me that the ship had also run out of raspberries and half and half (probably more things, but this is what we had asked about).  I recognize that provisioning a small city on the ocean for 8 days is logistically complex, and I'll ask more about running out of material when I get a chance to talk to a requisition officer.  But running out of cream for coffee?  They sure didn't run out of beer and wine!

For whatever reason, comparing this cruise with the last, it seemed that ship escaped the ability of the crew to maintain cleanliness standards.  Particularly on the final 2 days, dirty dishes weren't collected, the floor wasn't cleaned in areas, and furniture was disorganized.  I wouldn't be critical, except that the first cruise just the previous week on the same ship with the same crew didn't leave us with this impression.  In fact, we were amazed at how hard the crew worked, all the time, to keep the ship clean.

Table tennis rant.  Caroline loves playing ping-pong.  Although there was an "adult" time scheduled for 10-4 in a room with 2 tables (there was another table or 2 in the youth area), this room was always full of kids.  Our strategy to work Caroline on to a table was to ask if we could play doubles with whoever had the table (or whoever was on deck), then after the first match I'd bow out and let another person take my spot.  But when we would stop by and there were people waiting 2-3 teams deep for a chance to play, we would just keep walking.

Caroline and Russel

We continually appreciated the efforts of Kirsty!

I don't think John got a lot of sleep... we'd see him in both the morning and evening!

Lest my comments all seem critical, there were staff that continuously seemed to go above and beyond the call of duty.  Kirsty, Russel, John, Mohanty, Mariana, Kristina... I recognize that they are in the hospitality business, but they do their work with a spring in their step and a smile on their face.  I'll feature a few of these wonderful people in a future blog.

Not all crew positions are glamorous.  Room attendants check your room twice a day.  The pool staff is constantly picking up used towels and dishes, and using a squeegee to keep the deck around the pool and spas dry.  Some crew seem to be stationed in the restrooms to keep the facilities clean and free of... drips.  As I said, they work hard.  The majority of the crew on this ship come from the Philippines.

Senior officers and staff interact with the passengers, but after 2 cruises I can see that many of the jokes and tales are repetitive.  The first time through, I thought everyone was delightfully witty!  Now, I would describe them as "polished."

I can't give you a great perspective on what the visitors all want out of the cruise experience.  But I would summarize it as follows: eat a LOT, drink a LOT of alcohol (all day), snooze on the deck chairs and lounges throughout the day (then drink more), and go to the gym for 20 minutes every other day to allow you to eat and drink guilt-free again!  Of course, there are also shows, and the casino, and shops. For the Americans, there is that "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore" experience that also attracts people to the excesses of Las Vegas.

One of these blogs, I'll give you a summary of 1 of my days.  Nice and boring.

Our new friend, Art (on left), taught us the card game "13". 

Waiting for me in the Royal Botanic Gardens when I got off the ship!


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