PHOTOS: Crowds welcome luxury liner Celebrity Solstice

Source: Newcastle Herald

IT CAME, it honked, it went.

Newcastle residents woke on Sunday to the sound of the largest ship to ever enter the harbour blasting a greeting as it passed Nobbys for the first time.

The 317-metre luxury cruise ship Celebrity Solstice made a whirlwind visit to the city, arriving from Brisbane  about 7am before departing for Sydney at 6pm. 

Newcastle made the most of it: the foreshore was bustling early as onlookers picked out the best spots to watch the ship come in, while blue skies and sunshine acted as the perfect welcome mat.

Lord mayor Jeff McCloy even donned the mayoral robes to greet passengers as they  disembarked.

‘‘It was bloody amazing,’’ he said. ‘‘I couldn’t believe the amount of locals along the foreshore who came out to welcome the ship in, and I couldn’t believe the reception we got from the passengers.

‘‘I think I posed for about 300 photos with them. They were really delighted with the reception we gave them. I met people from all over the world who said they never got that sort of reception in Brisbane or in Sydney.’’

Only six years old, the luxury superliner has plenty to boast about including 18 retail shops, a half-acre of manicured lawns on the top deck,  10  restaurants, a 1300-capacity theatre, and  more.

Despite that, the majority of the ship’s 2800 passengers had disembarked by 9am, and the sight of full shuttle busses dispatching bleary-eyed tourists to destinations like Nelson Bay and Pokolbin was enough to have the city’s tourism officials salivating.

Will Creedon, the chairman  of Tourism Hunter, said the visit was exciting because of the potential it hinted at.

‘‘Newcastle Ports have been really aggressive and dynamic in the last 12 months in how they deal with the costs associated with bringing these ships here to make Newcastle a more attractive place to visit, like Brisbane and Sydney,’’ he said.

‘‘You look at the number of passengers on board, if we can get more of these ships here, that’s the population of Cessnock in 10 trips.’’

With a return visit booked for the same time next year, the city’s officials are bullish in their assessment of Newcastle’s chances of becoming a regular stopover. 

On board the ship, Newcastle City Council’s manager of tourism and economic services, Jan Ross said yesterday: ‘‘I know we’ll be seeing many more ships from all over the globe in the future.’’

CELEBRITY SOLSTICE

317 metres – The ship’s length. It is the largest ship ever to visit Newcastle.

13,000 – The number of meals prepared each day on board the ship. It takes 162 chefs to prepare all that food.

7.6 metres – The height of the Ficus Benjamina ‘wintergreen’ tree suspended in the middle of the ship’s 13-deck high atrium.

2800 – That’s how many bottles of wine are stuffed into the ship’s two-storey, floor-to-ceiling glass wine tower in the main restaurant.

277– The number of solar panels on board. Enough to power all the guest elevators.

$2419 – That’s what one ticket for a balcony room on a 14-night cruise from Sydney to Auckland will set you back, including a flight back home, according to cruiseabout.com. 

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