A full ship of about 2300 passengers (including around 500 children as the beginning of December is a time that parents take children out of school before the end of term and before the festive season)left Sydney for 2 days at sea then calls by tender to Isle of Pines, Mystery Island, Champagne Bay, Lifou and port calls to Vila and Noumea before 2 days return to Sydney. This ship is normally in American waters but visits down under for a few months during the southern spring/summer. It seems to be a better class than the normal ships permanently based in Australia that do this route. Yet pricing is very competitive.
The ship is clean, well equipped, lots of facilities and activities, good resources and captained by a man who respects passengers AND crew and finds time to mix with the people.Yes the captain greets everybody daily, holds a 1hour ship video/questions session, is on hand at formal dinners, has photos taken, joins in cake making and yes hello anywhere and anytime.
Many people on this cruise had been on other P&O cruises and noted the significant upgrade features, facilities and services with Radiance. At least 2 couples we met booked specifically because of the ship.
So now for a brief summary of the key areas-
Onboard activities are multiple, continuous, pretty well organised and cater for all ages and interests. We found only the art auctions to be abit hard sell. Sure other things like casino, fitness, grooming and specialty dining were mentioned but definitely not hard sell.A couple minor issues - only a 50 seat cinema, occasional poor siting as activities crossed.The pool is small. There is no public laundry so people were not pleased with $15-25 for a bag wash only.Refridgerator is cooler only so only an issue if you neeed cold items.
Dining includes the buffet/smorgasbord in the Windjammer and service in the Cascades restaurants and thirdly some specialty restaurants for a fee (which we did not participate). The Windjammer is good with only MINOR issues-very limited options for people with special diets,an over attention to fried, burger foods, not enough non red meat options and towars the end limited food choices as some had run out both persihable and non perishable.The Cascades restaurant was very good food, services, options and seating.Food quantities are adequate but not large.
Entertainment in the theatre was first class and appropriate in other venues. The backstage tour was excellent into the workings and lives of the performers.
Cabins were pretty good with many balcony units. Bathroom is 1 person only but adequate, bed (king) was excellent, options for pillows,but limited to poor TV options (eg movies as they have a pay option, good lighting, numerous mirrors and free room service.
Shore stops and excursions were well handled with tenders for 4 locations and the 2 main cities of Vila and Noumea require bus transfer as some distance from the centre. Most people did their own thing but there was a fair number doing organised shore trips. Each location is different with its options. There was no hassling or pressure from locals except at the 2 large ports.Visiting Noumea on a Sunday is poor planning as shops, museums and other sights are closed and only cafes/restaurants are open. Even moreso if you arrive on a wet day. For the smaller stops local currency (available on ship at about 5-8% below best)is readily accepted and more emphasis in the 2 major ports on the local currency but still plenty accept A$.
Sum: A good ship that is a definite 3.5/4.0 star (no real 5 star in Australia for this route)that has no real significant negatives. Only some minor issues that most Australians can work around. A ship that is better than average for this part of the world. The itinerary is OK (Noumea on Sunday the exception)and you get what most people expect. An enjoyable time and most people seemed pleased.