Tourists often experience Australia by car, campervan or coach, but a cruise ship is a brilliant alternative. You'll enjoy spellbinding views of the country's vibrant cities, jaw-dropping coastline and oceanic treasures on Celebrity Cruises' 10-night Great Barrier Reef voyage (beginning October 29, 2018).
Starting and finishing in Sydney, and calling in at Newcastle, Airlie Beach, Cairns and Brisbane, with a scenic sailing around Willis Island, off the North Queensland Coast, this has all the ingredients for an unforgettable cruise, helped by the fact that you'll be on the Celebrity Solstice, an impressive liner with fabulous features.
Not too vast, nor claustrophobia-inducingly small, the Solstice is a medium-to-large vessel with occupancy of 2,850, and almost a 1-to-2 crew-to-passenger ratio - higher than the industry average. If you like the idea of opening your curtains in the morning to ocean views shimmering under the sun, the Solstice has plenty of enticing sleeping quarters to choose from. More than 85 per cent of the spacious, superbly-appointed staterooms have their own private balcony. For a real splash out, book one of the 120 square metre penthouse suites. They come with their own private butler, whirlpools and even a baby grand piano.
Complimentary room service is one of the ship's many perks, but you'll want to swap your bath-robes for something a little more smart-casual in order to savour the delectable food and drink in the Grand Epernay, the Solstice's Insta-worthy main dining room.
Blessed with a two-storey wine tower and glittering chandeliers, it has a varied menu with staples like steak and seafood, along with changing daily specials such as rack of lamb and frog's legs. The Solstice has 10 eateries in total, including speciality restaurants like classy French affair Murano and Silk Harvest, which promises authentic pan-Asian flavours in a friendly, chilled-out setting.
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While away your evenings sipping cocktails and listening to live music in the Solstice's plush bars, or by watching fun, Broadway-style productions in the Solstice Theatre. During the days at sea, you'll have ample opportunity to savour the organised activities, which span everything from bingo, karaoke and cooking classes to art auctions, acupuncture seminars and cultural lectures (where you can discover more about the Barrier Reef's rich marine life).
Fossick the ship's shiny boutiques for clothes, jewellery, fragrances and electronics, and browse and borrow books in the well-stocked library. On the top deck, you'll find the Lawn Club - a welcoming grassy space with a country club vibe, where passengers picnic and play boules and croquet.
Health and Fitness
It's easy to over-indulge on a cruise, but the Solstice has plenty of facilities to help you stay in tip-top shape. As well as an outdoor basketball court, jogging track and numerous pools, there's the indoor Canyon Ranch SpaClub® and fitness center. Work up a sweat with the ultra-modern cardio equipment and weights, sign up for instructor-led classes and wind down and recuperate with a selection of massages and wellness treatments.
Leaving the Solstice can be a wrench, but you should, occasionally. In each port of call there's an excellent range of shore excursions. In Newcastle, for example, you can tread a bushwalk trail to see kangaroos, wombats and native birds, and from Brisbane, you can cuddle koalas at Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo - or trek to the lookout of Mount Coot-tha to take in the marvellous vistas of 'Brisvegas'.
Other highlights include yachting around the wondrous Whitsunday Islands near Airlie Beach, and of course, there's the chance to go snorkelling or scuba diving on the one-and-only Great Barrier Reef, where you'll have your masks - and water-proof cameras - trained on an incredible array of tropical fish, rays, turtles and sharks.
Images courtesy of Getty & Celebrity