We have cruised on a variety of ships, from a cargo ship containing 35 passengers, to small cruise ships holding approx 600, to bigger ones holding approx 1800, ending up on this monstrosity of approx 3000. Have cruised on RCI a number of times, each time has become worse, so this was has become our final cruise with this line.
We know the ship has had many many happy cruisers but it is a party ship, pure and simple. IT WAS OUR FAULT WE DID NOT LOOK INTO THE NATURE OF THE SHIP BEFORE GRABBING ONE OF THE GREAT SPECIALS IN A SUNDAY PAPER SUPPLEMENT: but we are sure many will be happy on it, as we saw smiling faces around us, particularly those travelling in groups. Families will enjoy it too as it has plenty on offer for kids from say 5 years of age on.
PRECRUISE ACCOMMODATION was not an issue with us as we live only half an hour away from the city.
EMBARKATION in Sydney was fine; quick and professional, but we think that is partly due to the fact that we did not hurry to get onboard, the ship was going nowhere that day/night! All in all we were onboard within half an hour. The ground crew, however, were all pretty much wilting by 3.30; they said that queues had been forming from 10am and the crowds had been intense. However, hats off to the them to be still able to raise a smile (better than their Purser office counterparts!) After taking a cruise out of Shanghai in 2011, we know how bad embarkation CAN be!
CHILDRENS SERVICES AND PORT AND SHORE EXCURSIONS we cannot comment on as we did our own thing on shore in all ports, having been to New Zealand before.
This ship is fine if you can handle crowds everywhere from the lifts, to walking around, to the library, to the buffet, to the theatre etc. Only area of peace is your cabin and if you find yourself in a Promenade stateroom, unless you are down by the purser's office, forget peace and quiet for much of the time, as the promenade is used regularly for live music, with speakers running near the full length of the promenade.
We would being on this ship to being at a large shopping centre the week before Christmas; hordes of people, mediocre mall fast food (but with hygiene standards well below that of Westfield).
Total nightmare. Hoards of ravenous people, table hogging after finishing eating, many not using sanitary cleanser beforehand. DO NOT sit at one of the tables for two alongside the walkways/balustrading next to food areas: the crowds will be so thick they will literally brush past you as you eat; fancy a breakaway strand of someone's hair drifting into your food?? We are sure there will be outbreaks of norovirus and/or colds on a lot of the cruises in the future. The food variety was actually much less than on our last cruise on a 600 person ship, and overall was cold or just medium warm. The selection was less, only lukewarm, stodgy pastries, congealed toppings on pizza, etc etc. We usually enjoy going to the buffet a few times on each of our prior cruises, to have a meal together alone; not on this ship. Even the food on the cruise from Shanghai, with its prevalence of Asian based foods, was presented and kept more hygienically than this offering.
DINING ROOM: the two waiters were fine, though looked very very tired. Usually had to send at least one course back to be reheated to a decent safe level. Cheese platters were a laugh, all tasted the same, and a handful of crackers. Luckily we had a lovely table of 8, 6 Aussies, 1 English couple, so dinner made up for the stresses of the day, once we received hot food!
Promenade stateroom level 7: small, with inadequate storage for long trips. Most drawers narrow and not deep. Had to move things around in the wardrobe to fit both suitcases and most clothes in there. Two sofas are not needed; more drawers would have been better, only one sofa needed. Bathroom fine, liked the plastic rigid door to the shower instead of the usual flimsy plastic material. Stain on quilt cover (getting to expect this with RCI), grubby marks on one sofa. Would not pay extra for one of these cabins; would try and pay a little more again and have a window. Bear in mind unless you are down near the Purser area, you will have no respite from any music being played in the Centrum as there are speakers and :DJ boxes: along the promenade walls. Be particularly careful not to get cabin in the vicinity of Cleopatra Needle if you cherish sleep.
Also unless you are travelling with family or friends, avoid interconnecting cabins as sounds from the other cabin come through loud and clear and if you get someone who is hard of hearing, is an insomniac and loves their TV, forget sleep!
ENTERTAINMENT in the theatre was of an enjoyable standard. There are I believe 14 pubs/bars onboard:::::: well, great, but NOT all Aussies have to drink each and every day and night. Some more quiet non-alcohol, non intrusive music areas would be fine.
LIBRARY was the worst we have come across. It basically is a divider room, between two levels, with doors on either side and a passing parade of passengers, plus the internet connections are there on a universal table so lots of chatting and general noise from the net users too. The book selection was of a good standard and variety, pity that it was not a 'quiet room'
So please, if you like leisurely paced cruises, with smaller amounts of passengers, plenty of quiet areas, interesting stimulating onboard activities in addition to the usual cruise ships offerings of trivia and shows, then don't consider this ship as you will possibly be very unhappy. With the number of other lines cruising in these waters over the next few months, there are smaller, more intimate ships on offer.
DISEMBARKATION was well organised and swift (thank goodness)