Playing with your food takes on a whole new meaning on Celebrity Solstice this season. The much-acclaimed ship is sailing around Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands for its eighth season, bringing the interactive Petit Chef experience here for the first time. The surreal, 3D animation is designed to entertain and amuse guests of all ages, and projects "little chefs" onto your table and plates who "prepare" your meal before courses are served.
Celebrity has a well-deserved reputation for fine dining across its fleet; Celebrity Solstice has 10 restaurants and eateries, including six no-charge options and four extra-charge venues. If a sense of theatre with your dinner is not satisfied by Le Petit Chef, try Murano, one of the line's for-fee specialty restaurants, where traditional and contemporary French dishes are served table-side in spectacular style. And of course you can sip on a cool cocktail at the ice-topped bar, Martini Bar & Crush, any time.
During its six-month stay in local waters, Celebrity Solstice is sailing to classic cruise destinations such as Wellington, Napier and the Sounds in New Zealand, as well as Cairns, Melbourne and the Barrier Reef in Australia. New ports of call include Eden on the NSW south coast, Port Vila in Vanuatu and Mare in New Caledonia – home to the world's largest lagoon. The ship is offering more overnight and 12-hour stays in port than ever before.
In summer 2020-21, Solstice will be joined Down Under by Celebrity Eclipse, which will be based in Melbourne. Meanwhile, Celebrity Apex is due to launch in Southampton in April – Apex is the second in a series of four of Edge-class ships and will cruise the Med next northern summer. See celebritycruises.com
CORAL GEOGRAPHER SAILINGS
Following the success of its new ship, Coral Adventurer, Australian company Coral Expeditions is building a sister ship, the 120-passenger Coral Geographer, that's due in December 2020. Its maiden season includes three new itineraries in the Indian Ocean during February, March and April 2021: 17 nights from Mauritius to Zanzibar; 19 nights from Zanzibar to Fremantle; and 27 nights from Fremantle to Darwin. Coral Expeditions is taking its trademark destination-intensive, small-ship cruising experience to this region for the first time, with a full complement of historians, anthropologists and destination experts. Bookings are open now. See coralexpeditions.com
Award-winning international garden designer, author and TV personality Jamie Durie will join nine other high-profile gardening gurus – including Graham Ross, Angus Stewart and Indira Naidoo – on Cunard's inaugural Australia's Gardening Journey onboard Queen Elizabeth. Departing March 1, 2021, the seven-night Sydney round trip includes an overnight call to Hobart and a day in Melbourne, with bespoke, gardening-themed shore tours available. The experts will host workshops, panel discussions, audience Q&A sessions and special events, so guests can learn about everything from balcony gardening to bee-keeping and growing native plants. See cunard.com
Looking for a stress-free Christmas break – no shopping, cooking or washing-up required? Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is offering a variety of cruises during the festive season, including close to home sailings departing from Sydney, Honolulu and Singapore. Every ship in the fleet will be decked out in red and green decorations, including Christmas trees and a giant gingerbread house, baked by NCL chefs. A special menu will be served, featuring traditional favourites like roast turkey, baked ham, Christmas cake and pudding. Santa will be doing the rounds and there will be plenty of entertainment for all generations. See ncl.com
What is the name of Australian company Aurora Expeditions' just-christened expedition ship? Hint: think of an award-winning explorer and mountaineer. Last week's answer: Celebrity Solstice
Booked: A Traveler's Guide to Literary Locations Around the World explores 80 famous literary destinations, inspiring readers to follow in their favourite characters' footsteps by visiting real-life locations portrayed in beloved novels. Author Richard Kreitner explains the importance of each literary landmark, including the connection to the author and novel, cultural significance and historical information. He also includes practical travel advice such as addresses and more. Published by Hachette, RRP $45. See hachette.com.au [https://www.hachette.com.au]
NAME, SUBURB AND STATE
LEWIS AND IRENE COOK, PAGEWOOD, NSW
NUMBER OF CRUISES TAKEN 3 (plus one we didn't complete)
LAST CRUISE Back in February, we sailed on Viking Orion on the 15-day Australia and New Zealand voyage, visiting Melbourne and Hobart in Australia, as well as Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Napier and Rotorua. We took advantage of all the included excursions and especially enjoyed Napier's beautifully preserved Art Deco heritage buildings. We felt thoroughly pampered on board the ship.
NEXT CRUISE We enjoyed the Viking experience so much that we're booked on the Sydney to London leg of Viking Sun's world cruise in February 2020 – sailing an epic 82-day segment from Sydney to London via 21 countries in Asia, the Middle East and the Med, including the Suez Canal. As soon as we arrive in the UK, we'll join Viking Sea's 15-day Into the Midnight Sun voyage, sailing from Bergen to London, where we take a journey into the heart of Norway during the arctic summer. We can't wait to see the fjords, mountains and tiny Norwegian fishing villages up close.
DREAM SHIP No kids, included gratuities, included drinks, no extra charges, no hard sell, hassle-free cruising – in other words, pretty much what Viking offers.
DREAM CRUISE A lap of the Pacific, starting and ending in Sydney and visiting all the places that others don't go to.
DREAM PORT Where the ship berths alongside (rather than tenders), close to the town/city centre, allowing self-paced gentle exploration of somewhere historic, and with the food to match the quality onboard!
BEST CRUISE TIP Always take the stairs rather than the lifts so that you can enjoy the food guilt-free.
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