My family and I embarked on the magnificent Voyager of the Seas on December 8th, for a 14 night sailing to New Zealand.
This is my second RCCL cruise, the first being a South Pacific adventure with Rhapsody in October 2010. That cruse was fantastic, and got me hooked. It was miles above my first experience with P&O Pacific Sun in August 2009.
So you could say we were expecting BIG things with Voyager, and well..........It sure is big, but things just didn't seem quite right. More on that in a minute.
GOOD STUFF FIRST: This ship has a great Captain and he was always on time and you always knew what was going on. He was very friendly and even answered a letter from my 7 year old requesting a photo! The ship is also very smooth in the water and you hardly feel it moving. Lots of bars/lounges also. Royal Promenade good and so was the Cafe but it was always crowded. Met a lot of great people on board and also a lot of grumps. For goodness sake people - you are on holiday!!
ARRIVAL: Got aboard very smoothly with no real issues. I hardly had time to fill in the customs declaration. Sydney is a beautiful port and you can just gaze off the side of the ship for a long time. Harbour Bridge, Opera House etc...
STATEROOM: Deck 7, inside cabin, aft end, no window. Very neat and clean. Our stateroom attendant was fantastic. Very limited storage space. 2 adults and 2 kids in one room gets old real quick, but hey, we already knew that.
DINNER: 6 PM sitting deck 4. Our table mates took some warming up to. I would have hoped RCCL could have paired us up with another family (like on Rhapsody) but this time not. They turned out to be nice people but it took a while to warm up to them. Our waiter was friendly and so was his assistant. Food mostly very good and the service at dinner excellent. However they all seemed so tired!
LUNCH/DINING: Very slow and disorganised. "Brassiere 30" is what they call it. 2 courses in 30 minutes. Well it never happened. Dining room lunch was never over in less that and hour, usually longer. We were served mouldy vegetables two times in a row! The waiters are so tired they just didn't notice. But I preferred that over the Windjammer. The Windjammer is the buffet area on deck 12. Always crowded and impossible to get a seat. Food average but I will say the omelette dude in the morning was awesome!! It's just you had to wait 20 minutes in line.....
KIDS AREA: I was stunned by how small Adventure Ocean was. For such a big ship the kids get packed in tight!!! The staff were great but the entrance to the area really annoyed me. You have to walk through the video game arcade and its noise, then you are channelled into a tiny hallway constantly bumping into others on the way. Then they had to break the news that my 5 year old couldn't join her sister in the explorers group. That meant she was with the "babies" (her words, not mine) the aquanauts. So she refused to go for the first 5 days (arhhhhhhhhhhh!!!) So much for Husband/wife quality time! I asked for her to be moved but they wouldn't do it. Eventually she relented and made some good friends. My 7 year old had a great time.
THE REST OF IT: I am not really into the shows and only saw one - the magician. he was entertaining. The shows were always on at the WRONG TIMES!!! 7PM and 9:30 PM. 7PM did not give us enough time to have dinner and get the kids to Adventure Ocean, we were never finished dinner before 7:30 P.M and 9:30 is too late! Kids club closes at 10PM, then they charge you $6 per kid per hour. I wanted my kids in bed before then anyway. On Rhapsody the shows were t 7:30 and 10PM. I could have seen EVERY show EVERY night had I wanted to.
The Cruise Compass activities were poorly planned. There would be a 3D movie showing at the same time as meet n greet with Shrek and Fiona or the Madagascar animals. So you couldn't do both. And some of the "kids" entertainment activities were at times like 9:45 and 10 PM!!! clearly none of the Cruise Directors staff have children. I know Cruise ships are for predominately older people but Rhapsody just seemed to work really well in comparison.
LIFTS: forget it - take the stairs. This ship is CROWDED. To amuse the kids I would put them in the lift at Deck 3 and run up the stairs to meet them on deck 12. I always won. And I am no athlete.
GYM - lots of machines that were always in use. Overall not too bad here. I used the gym 4 times and found it ok.
I'm sorry, but the ICE SKATING (studio B) is a gimmick and such a let down. The rink is TINY. We tried no fewer than 3 times to get a session (ice skating is very different for us Aussies) and were turned away. The rink was open for like 2 hours a day every 3rd or 4th day and crowded beyond belief. We eventually got in the 10PM session one night and my daughter almost lost a finger when she fell on the ice and was run over. That could have ended very badly but luck blessed us. This area could be used for so much else. I missed the ice show as I was sick. My family said it was wonderful. You are allocated a time to see the ice show, and if you miss it, too bad.
Another reviewer mentioned this too - it is hard to be spontaneous on the Voyager. You need to arrive 40 minutes early to everything or you won't get in. That simple. I found my wife always hurrying me to be somewhere only so we could stand in line.
Now back to what I mentioned earlier - something was wrong and I just couldn't put my finger on it. Then after a conversation with my waiter it dawned on me. The crew were miserable. Long hours and unkind bosses have taken their toll. My waiter had been with RCCL a long time and seen many different ships. In his own words "this is the worst - the crew are so unhappy" when pressed on the issue it seemed this was due to certain middle managers in the food & beverage area. What a shame. I guess bad bosses are everywhere in this world. An unhappy crew will make a big difference to the whole experience, especially dinning.
SICKNESS: approx 200 people got Norovirus (we call it gastro in Australia) On the cruise prior the number was in the 800's. I was sick but only for about 12 hours. I stayed in the cabin for 24 hours till I was 100% My excellent Chinese barman commented "Voyager will have to leave Australia soon - you people are too sick!!" he then gave some good advice "keep you cruises at 7 to 10 days only. After 12 days everyone starts to get sick" RCCL stopped all service in the windjammer - you had to be served for everything. Passengers were not permitted to handle any food. Better safe than sorry. But who likes lining up for 10 minutes for a cup of coffee from the urn??
Overall a good holiday but it really opened my eyes to the realities of the Cruise ship world. You get what you pay for. I wish we had more cruise variety in Australia. I would love to see the Disney Cruise line head down under. Something that is geared 100% for families. When you try to please everyone you rarely succeed.
I enjoyed my vacation but the jury is out weather I will choose RCCL again.