Lets start at the beginning, Singapore. Singapore is a beautiful city, very clean and worth a couple of days to check it out if your cruise starts there. Travelling with kids meant we HAD to visit Universal Studios. Singapore - well worth it, checked the box saying Singapore, right let's get on that boat (oops Ship, don't call it a boat).
Day 1 - It's brought to you by the letter Q. OK here is a bit of a whinge, Royal Caribbean could have handled this a bit better. When 3200 people all try and get on the ship it's going to take a while. Unfortunately signage wasn't that great and the staff directing passengers were a bit lost. Though once the queue got moving, things were looking up. We met a nice couple in front of us, Peter and Rebecca, and ended up having a few drinks with them throughout the cruise, so look for the positives.
After our first Dinner in the main dining room, blast the horn captain and lets go !!
The first couple of breakfasts and lunches were crowded, though once people started finding their happy eating time, the crowds thinned out. Lets talk about the main source of breaky and lunch - the famous Windjammer cafe. Some reviews say the food is bland and always the same. Maybe if you don't venture past the first 3 feet of the buffet you might not find enough variation. On the 14 days (less 2 for shore excursions) I didn't repeat the same lunch. My food was always hot enough/fresh/tasty. I tend not to change my breakfasts, but if I wanted to there was a constantly changing choice. Personally, I discovered the waffles, and they were GOOD !
The main dining room was our main source for Dinner, and our Waiters (Henry and Inyoman) could not have been more helpful, everything we asked for they at least tried to accommodate, and if you wanted 2nds - not a problem - they were there. We took our daughter to the Dreamworks breakfast (Note to Royal Caribbean - cut down the sugar levels on this one for the Aussies). There was a small problem with our daughter's order. I mentioned this to Henry at Dinner, by the time we got back to our room there was an apology and some chocolates waiting for us.
So We're on the ship now what?
Each night there is a sheet called the Cruise Compass delivered to your room. It gives you a run down of activities for the next day. All in all good info. Some things do get changed due to weather etc. We all know there's ice skating etc, but look out for Trivia comps, Napkin folding, crafts, lectures, Bingo and much more!! There's something for everyone ( Well actually some people find fault with everything, but they would be miserable anywhere)
15 Bars, 14 nights I like a challenge!!
OK we're Aussies, and we like a drink, and really you can't complain about the choice. A good selection of Beers was available. (I'd like to take this opportunity to challenge all those who appreciate a good beer, to the "drink your way around the world" game. There are many different beers from different nations. Try to have one beer from each different country. NB You will have to visit different bars to do this...) Sorry I digressed there. We ended up with 2 favourite Bars, the Schooner Bar on Deck 4, very nautical, and smells like leather; and High Notes on Deck 14 (yay to the Denise Canby Trio). It overlooks the world as we know it.
Port Days - Look out Asia here we come!!!
Our Cruise had 3 stops, Bangkok, Saigon and Port Hedland. We chose the "On Your Own" tours for Bangkok and Saigon. Having booked these before the start of the Cruise our tickets were waiting in our room, with easy to read details of where to be and when. Remember there's 3000 people all wanting maximum time in port, there's going to be some waiting. I thought that the staff had these organised pretty well. See below for a bit more on those Ports. Our 3rd stop was Port Hedland. Another reviewer got a bit precious about people picking on Port Hedland, there's nothing precious about it - take it for what it is.
There was a good variety of shows on board, both in the La Scala Theatre and around the ship. The Royal Caribbean ensemble put on a decent effort, and there was a good mix of outside acts featured as well. The Ice Skaters were about to swap over the staff after 8 months or so, resulting in only one show for the 2 weeks. This caused some whinging from guests, but its a relocation cruise - that's why its cheaper !!! For the adults, there are 2 must see shows. The love and marriage game, and The Quest. Good fun nights !!!
The Staff !!!
Captain my Captain. Captain Charles came across as very serious. Personally I like this. We all know where flamboyance in a Captain can end up... Captain Charles leaves the "Fun" to the Cruise Director Gordon. It must be hard making your well-honed jokes sound fresh, but Gordon did a great job of it, not afraid of taking the Mickey out of the Aussies. Remember people it's Humour - it won't hurt you.
Your Service staff will do what they can to help you, and every problem we asked for help with was sorted out beyond our satisfaction.
Always checked out the onboard shopping. Bought something most times, and while there were queues/crowds, we made it part of our day and chatted with those around us. Things got a bit hairy when the paper weights were on sale, yes they were cute but no need for the grabbing and demanding that was evident. Only disappointment was the on-board duty free was not delivered to our room, and with a rocking ship on the last night and some people a bit heated having to queue again, that took the sheen away from that experience. Price wise it was worth the hassle though (in hind sight).
The Kids Club was fantastic for our 10yr old daughter. Spent most of the times available there doing many games and activities. And they had the pleasure of seeing things that were 'off-limits' eg backstage tour of the La Scala stage and meeting the dancers, plus having dinner free in Johnny Rockets. Our very nearly 12yo son had a harder time with the activities as the number of his age group was very small and were joined together with the older 15-17yos. Not so much into activities, although planned, and the staff just had to 'give up'. But he loved the rock climbing and rollerblading. Both kids come back to the stateroom with medals, freebies, lanyards etc and both loved the Arcade area (cha-ching Mums and Dads).
Yes the ship developed a gastro bug and a flu. The crew did what was required to contain the spread, we as a family also did our bit. No touching of hand rails or lift buttons (used elbows instead) and kept out of the pools. Yes it was annoying and disappointing we couldn't serve ourselves in the Windjammer, but better than spending 3 days in a interior cabin.
Major highlights were the Royal Promenade (and a glass lift coming down from above),70s night, Halloween, the Denise Canby Trio, Kenetic, the helicopter (truly a shame to end a holiday for the poor lady and her husband it was required for), chilling by the pool, the Gym, High Notes and it's staff, Kids Club, the food, cocktails and the draft Heineken, the trivia - Many thanks to Bill and Audrey (with the 2 Cathys)-, seeing the dancers and staff at various shows and bands, Gordon and all the staff, and finally the Red Hat Ladies in all their splendour for giving our daughter a rousing applause for her stage appearance at La Scala on departure morning.
After a few days to settle in, the cruise was as relaxing or as busy as you want it to be. Ignore the people on board who whinge about anything and everything. It's your holiday Enjoy it !!!!!!