Floating resort makes inaugural visit

By James Fuller

The top-rated cruise ship in Australasia features half an acre of grass and cost US$750 million to build. Last week it made its inaugural visit to New Zealand and Tauranga.

Cruise ships are frequently referred to as floating hotels but the Celebrity Solstice is so chock full of features it is more like a floating resort.

This is no coincidence says managing director for Royal Caribbean Cruises, Australia and NZ, Gavin Smith.

"Cruise liners are getting more adventurous with their dining options, cabin design, everything they offer. The whole focus is about trying to make cruising as relevant and attractive as shore-based resorts. That's what the market is, who we are competing against, and we need to offer variety."



The Solstice certainly offers variety. It has 10 dining venues; four of which are speciality restaurants including Asian, Italian and French cuisine; her main restaurant has a two-storey, floor-to-ceiling glass wine tower that holds 2800 bottles of wine, there is a 1500-seat theatre with two shows an evening, 18 retail outlets, two resident artists who give lessons, a glass blowing studio, a night club, casino, "liquid chefs" who create cocktails on demand.

You can even practise your best James Bond at the Martini Bar, which features a central trough running the length of the bar filled with ice to keep your drinks icy cold. Or if relaxation is on your mind there are four-poster hammocks, with privacy drapes if you want to watch the world go by or snooze the afternoon away in style, spread around the upper deck.

Gleaming chrome and glass surround you as you wander the Solstice's spacious corridors. Walls are adorned with artwork and the feel is clean and contemporary. This is stylish luxury on the high seas.

Mark Kinchley, sales manager New Zealand for Royal Caribbean International, has the tone of a proud father and is unstinting in his appraisal of the Solstice.

"This ship is redefining what it means to go cruising in the South Pacific. You don't see this type of quality on a cruise ship anywhere else here."

He backs this up by stating Solstice is the highest rated cruise ship to be based in the region this summer according to Berlitz.

Solstice can boast a number of firsts including New Zealand's first spa holiday at sea, with AquaClass cabins fitted with spa-inspired amenities. She was the industry's first cruise ship to use solar energy and is fitted with 216 solar panels, enough to power all of the ship's guest elevators.

And there's that grass. It is the first cruise ship to feature real grass and employ a greenkeeper to mow it. If I'm honest, a broad swathe of grass on top of a cruise ship seemed a little like a gimmick to me but then that's part of the Solstice's charm. If you don't fancy lawn bowls there are plenty of other options.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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