HELLO, finally! I’ve been extremely behind on pretty much everything since I got back! Here’s a recap of everything that happened on the last two weeks of my trip.
Monday morning, January 20th, we boarded the Celebrity Solstice cruise ship. We were assigned a small inside cabin with two beds and a bed that came out of the ceiling for myself and my two roommates Lauren and Rachel. The ship was amazing. We loved the unlimited buffet, hot tubs and pools! We were docked in Sydney for the night so after our first dinner on the ship, we headed out to Argyle, one of our favorite spots in Sydney. We spent the next day exploring the city one last time and saying our goodbyes to Australia.
The next day was our first day at sea. we had our first cruise class where the event coordinator of the ship came and spoke to us. after class we all hit the hot tub and pool deck! It was quickly easy to see that the majority of the other passengers were over the age of 65 so our group stuck out like a sore thumb. Even though it wasn’t what we expected, we made friends with a few other young passengers as well as cruisers of all ages that we loved!
The 23rd we were in Tasmania. We boarded a bus and were driven to a beautiful winery. We were taken out by the vines, into the wine-making areas, and then downstairs to a wine tasting in the barrel-storage area. We tried a whole bunch of different wines, given pouring lessons, and a fancy cheese tray. Outside the winery was a really cool outdoor concert venue with teepees, huge cushions and art displays.
Afterwards we headed to Cascades brewery. Upon arrival, we learned that we were all required to wear long pants, socks, closed-toed shoes and neon vests. They had a collection of old warn sweats, socks and pants for us all to wear on the tour. We toured the brewery and then had a tasting of their beers when we were done.
The next two days we were crossing the Tasman Sea where there was constant waves and bad weather. One night there was a storm with 30-foot swells and waves crashing against the fourth floor of the ship. It was a rough couple of days and a lot of us were seasick, but we still had class. Multiple cruise officers from the all of the departments on the cruise came and talked about their jobs and the industry. It was great to get to know and have access to the hotel director, entertainment director, captain, etc. Because there wasn’t great weather, we had to make our own entertainment. We did a lot of hot-tubbing, eating, playing games, etc. We went to dinner every night, including formal night and really begin to love our waiters. After dinner we would usually go to a show and then either the casino or dancing. The show was different every night; I even was on stage for the magician one night!
On the third day we were at sea, we were going in and out of the Sounds. Beautiful tree-covered mountains lined both sides of the ship. It was also Australia Day so we all wore our favorite gear we bought while in Manly to Skybar and met up with some of our favorite cruisers! That was also our second formal night so we got all dolled-up for dinner and the show.
On the 27th we were all thanking the Lord we were finally back on land in Dunedin! We got to go to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory! The tour was about an hour long but the best part was the big silo. We went inside the top of a huge silo and there was a ‘chocolate monster’ that unleashed a downpour of melted chocolate that scared the poop out of us. The next stop was Speights Brewery. It was by far my favorite brewery that we toured. After we toured through a history display and production area, we had an awesome self-serve tasting.
The next day we boarded a tender and we taken to Akaroa. We then took an hour and a half bus ride to Christchurch. We first stopped at a famous cathedral that was extremely damaged by the earthquake in 2011. Then we went to a container mall. Many retailers lost their buildings because of the quake and so they made a cool mall out of shipping crates. That day was Emily’s birthday so our professors made reservations at the fancy French restaurant on the ship. Everything was very elegant and we had some amazing food.
That night there was a dancing competition called ‘Dancing with the stripes.’ The competition was for 12 couples comprised of one cruiser and one cruise employee. We had one of our guys, Lee, paired up with one of the officers, Angie. They had to dance to multiple genres and songs including the Tango and Gangnam Style. The best was the ‘interpretive dance’ of the Titanic theme song. Of course, our couple won because of our obnoxious cheering. It was hands down, one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long long time.
We were in Wellington the 29th. We toured a local museum and then got to sit in on a class at the culinary school Cordon Bleu. Afterwards we had free time to explore the city and do some shopping! The following day we were in Napier. We had a virtual vineyard tour and wine tasting which was really neat. In a theater, we were virtually flown to 12 different wineries in the area and sampled a wine from each!
The 31st was our last day at sea. We had our final presentations in the morning and then the rest of the day to ourselves. It was our last formal night so eight of us decided to pair up for a ‘prom-style date night.’ We took pictures and toasted our final formal dinner together with our amazing waiters Victor and Joseph!
February 1st we hit Taurunga. We had the entire day free so some people went on excursions while the rest of us explored the beach and the town. The next day we were in the Bay of Islands. Being our last day, we all booked a sand boarding excursion. We took a tender from the cruise ship to the dock, an hour-long bus ride, and then another boat to the sand dunes. Basically you climb to the top of a sand hill and boogie board down it. It was an all-day event that was really fun, even though I was no good! I ate at least a gallon of sand.
After we got back to the ship we packed up. We went to dinner, the casino and dancing one last time. The next morning we spent a few hours disembarking and gathering our luggage and then headed to a hotel in Auckland. It was the day of the Super Bowl even though it was a Monday there. After the game was over we headed for the airport.There were lines and cranky people everywhere. And the majority of us had overweight luggage. So after we finally all get checked in we find out our flight was delayed 3 hours. So we were trapped for 5 hours in the airport, again. We surprisingly had a few good laughs and eventually boarded the plane.
When we landed after 14 hours of flying, we all headed for baggage claim. I had already missed my connecting flights but the others in my group still had hope of making theirs. We said our very dramatic and emotional goodbyes and of course I was a hot mess.
After we split up, it took me over 2 hours to get new connections to get home and it ended up that the group missed their flight too. Both of our rescheduled flights left later that night so we all had a 6 hour layover. I ended up meeting back up with everyone to hang out and for dinner.
Eventually, I boarded a flight to Atlanta that I was hoping to sleep on, which I didn’t. In Atlanta I had an hour layover before I finally boarded the final leg to Columbus. I was so happy to see my mother when she picked me up but I could barely keep my eyes open on the way home! It took me about a week after I got back to adjust to the sleeping schedule; jetlag sucks!
Overall, it was one of the best trips of my life. I visited some of the most amazing places and met wonderful people. I grew especially close to the group from the University of Delaware that I was traveling with. I recommend anyone still in college with the opportunity to study abroad to take advantage of it. Go by yourself and be pushed outside your comfort zone. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience unless it would have been a month longer!