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Celebrity Solstice's Alaska Sojourn

Joanna Hall

I was fortunate to be on board Celebrity Solstice when she made her debut in Australia on November 30, and later in Sydney, to begin a maiden season cruising Down Under. When it comes to ship design and innovation, she's in a class of her own as well as an inspiration among other ships in the Celebrity fleet.

The first of five in her namesake class, Solstice was also a ship of many "firsts", with her famous Lawn Club and live Hot Glass Show. She's also a ship of innovation with dedicated spa accommodations, 10 dining venues, and a plethora of facilities to keep guests amused and this is a ship that's ideal for couples looking for a romantic getaway or for families with children who want a vacation getaway on the high seas.

Solstice's debut season was deemed a huge success, and she'll return to Australia in October by way of a Transpacific Cruise from Honolulu to Sydney, departing on October 4, 2013. The 19-night voyage visits the Hawaiian Islands, as well as Tahiti, and northern New Zealand. During our short winter months, however, she's plying the dramatic waters of Alaska offering a calendar of cruises including one-week round trips from Seattle and Vancouver, to 11-night explorer cruises from Vancouver.

The popular seven-night Tracy Arm cruises, round trips from Seattle, take in popular ports of call on the Alaskan Inside Passage including Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway, and Victoria in  British Columbia with a highlight being scenic cruising of the famous Tracy Arm glacier. The seven-night Saywer Glacier cruise itineraries, also round trips from Seattle, follow a similar route. And with every cruise there's the option of adding an on-shore pre or post cruise touring component, offering guests the best of land and sea in the state.

These two cruise itineraries in particular, however, offer the best snapshot of Alaskan landscapes and experiences. Ketchikan, for example, is the southernmost point for most ships, with a claim to fame of being the salmon capital of the world. Fishing is a big thing, along with pleasure cruises to the unspoiled Misty Fjords, and a visit to the Totem Heritage Center, where dozens of original Tlingit totem poles have been proudly restored to their original condition.

Juneau is Alaska's state capital, and a small, picturesque city perched on the Gastineau Channel. Here, the tramway up Mt. Roberts provides great views across the city, the mountain tops, and the Inside Passage, while the Mendenhall Glacier remains a main attraction, and the place to go glacier walking or dog sledding.

Skagway, in contrast, was established during the great Klondike gold rush, and had a reputation for being the "roughest town on earth". Today, however, mini-cruises can get you close to whales, sea lions and otters, along with other marine mammals and birds and there's also an opportunity to go hiking through pristine forest, or take a traditional train ride. 

Then there's the glaciers. While some are as small as football fields, others can grow to be over a hundred kilometres long, and some, called tide water glaciers, flow dramatically into the ocean. Alaska has more active glaciers than the rest of the world combined, with Southeast Alaska boasting 60 major glaciers alone.

The cruise departure and arrival cities are also a draw card on these cruises. Canada's cosmopolitan harbour city, Vancouver, is the biggest west coast city, and often described as the most scenic city in North America. Set on a magnificent harbour ringed by a wall of towering mountains, the city's densely packed skyscrapers compete for the blue sky, adding a touch of the modern to an already dramatic landscape. Further south across the border, Seattle is a major coastal seaport, and a small, if glamorous, city famous for boutique beers, food, and a warm welcome. When she returns to Australia later this year, Celebrity Solstice's guests can choose between three-night sample cruises from Sydney, to Pacific Islands, South Pacific, Australia's Top End and New Zealand cruises ranging from eight to 17 nights. Solstice will remain in local waters until April 11, 2014 when she will embark on a 17-night repositioning cruise back to Hawaii through New Zealand and Tahiti.

Would you like to win our major holiday competition which is a cruise for two on board Celebrity Solstice? To enter and for more information click here.

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