The New Zealand cruise season, like the summer, ended overnight. The tail end brought with it storms, wild weather and the 2850 passengers of the Celebrity Solstice, blustering into the Port of Auckland.

None of the mac-clad guests seemed to mind the rain. The Solstice will soon be heading north, making the nineteen-day journey across the Pacific towards the Alaskan summer.

Standing on top of the Lawn Club, I couldn't help but admire the verdant shade of green grassy space.

It's the sort of lawn which can only come from a twelve month growing season, constantly chasing summer. Considering the perpetual games of croquet and petanque played out on its grass, it was in amazing shape.


The Celebrity fleet are particularly proud of this feature - real grass lawns at sea. It's a comforting gesture to fellow landlubbers and first time cruisers.

If that wasn't enough novelty for one deck, the Lawn Club also hosts glass-blowing workshops.

Here passengers are able to make their own mementos, with expert supervision from partners Hollywood Hot Glass. It's a particularly unique pastime offered on the Celebrity Cruises, and there's plenty of time to take up a new hobby on the long journey north.

But on a day like today, when the weather is less than ideal, the floating city offers plenty of places to hide below deck.

There is perhaps no better place than sitting on the warm tile chairs of the Persian Gardens, watching the raindrops slide off ocean-view windows.

Provided by partners Canyon Ranch, the spa and gym is the height of luxury. Particularly the eight heated spa-seats of the Persian Garden. At sea, on a cruise of nearly 3000, these will surely be hotly contested.

Making use of the spa facilities before they disappeared from the Southern hemisphere was one last party of visitors. I catch up with them during their tour.

"It's really excellent. You fell you could be in a luxury spa anywhere" said Viva magazine's Rosie Kelway, one of the guests attending. "It's only looking out the windows of the Persian gardens you can appreciate exactly where you are."

There was a time when a gym was overlooked and tucked away somewhere into the bowels of a ship. On the Solstice it has been given prime position on deck 12, at the prow of the ship. A rank of treadmills and free weights offer motivational views over the blue yonder. It's a forward thinking move by Celebrity liners, caring for their increasingly fitness-conscious passengers.

"We're not going to let them gain any weight" says Caroline, a fitness instructor rolling away her Pilates mat.

Once a danger of the food-and-leisure heavy cruise lifestyle, passengers now have to keep their energy up for the activities aboard.

Guests certainly eat well. There is plenty of choice in dining aboard the Solstice.

Inside the Grand Epernay, the main dining room of the Solstice, you can seat just over 2000 passengers. At its heart stands the 'Wine Tower', a practical centrepiece which also serves as a 1800-bottle wine cellar.

Goran, the Maitre D', takes great pride in his wine-themed dining room.
"The whole thing is shaped like a champagne flute," he says, "You can see the bubbles in the décor."

While there is more than enough room to seat the entire ship over two seatings, guests often spill over into one of four other specialty restaurants.

The rest of the dining options are located up on the fifth floor. These include French restaurant, Murano, the Tuscan Grille and, the pan-Asian fusion restaurant, Silk Harvest.

There's even an exclusive dining option for Aqua Class guests, Blu.

Then again, if you really need some space there's always al fresco, up on the Lawn Club.

As Cruise Director, Liam Ryan, says: "It's a really nice touch of home, to have that grass space. We have a lot of first time cruisers and it helps to bridge the gap."

I can imagine it will see plenty of use over the three weeks at sea, when the Solstice turns back on return to the Southern Hemisphere in October.