Overall a great cruise, but to be fair I think ANY cruise is great, they are as good as you make them.
Our embarkation was ok, but we arrived late at about 4 pm, bag drop, check in and customs proceeded with no delays. On arrival at the pier it is hard to be anything but awed at VOS 's massive size, really impressive.
Due to late arrival we were able to go straight to our cabin. Junior suite 9628, port side on the hump. Very nice! Great position for access to the dining areas, promenade and not too bad for access to the theatre. Elevators very convenient, but our cabin was still really quiet. I never heard anyone in the hall etc, or any noise from neighbouring cabins. Only disadvantage on port side, no Opera House views in Sydney, and we reversed into most of the port of calls, due to tides and size of Voyager. Personally, it didn't worry me, it mean't I could leave my washing drying discreetly on our very spacious balcony when in port. Our balcony had 2 chairs, 2 side tables and a lounger chair. We didn't lounge out there much as the weather was quite windy and cold, but great for photos leaving port.
Our JS cabin was very spacious with more storage than I could ever fill in 2 weeks. The walk in wardrobe was fantastic, but we did need the extra coathangers we brought with us. We found the bed a bit hard, but our cabin steward fixed it the next day with extra duvet layers and it was fine. TV channels a bit hit and miss, but that is normal on any cruise. The bathroom was a bit small, but very functional. We had a shower over the bath, and it was quite a big step into it, but not as bad as previously reviewed. I am 5 ft 7" ( 170cms ) and had no problems. Plenty of storage with a small wall vanity cabinet on each side holding all our stuff. Shelves under sink available as well.
Our cabin was clean, furniture was a couch and 2 armchairs, coffee table and 2 chairs at 2 desk areas and they were all clean and unstained. The carpet was not too bad, a little tired and had a patch under the coffee table, but I only noticed it because I had to move an armchair and it got stuck on the patch. We had tea and coffee facilities, but bring your own instant coffee. Tea bags available, but not coffee sachets , unless you asked for them, and that could take days. I got a cup of milk and sugar sachets daily from one of the food areas. Hot chocolate sachets available from drink stations as well. The fridge was not very cold and full of minibar items. I requested it be cleared at guest relations ( always a huge queue), it was done the next day and the fridge seemed cooler after that, the milk kept ok for at least 24 hours. After that, I threw it away to be on the safe side.
The food was a bit hit and miss. Some meals in the main dining room were great, some not so great. However, if there was any problem with your meal, something different could be ordered to replace it. We had problems getting the steak and beef right. The roast beef was really raw, the steaks overdone. Overall the dining room food was very nice and we enjoyed most of it. Portofinos was excellent and well worth the $20 cover charge. Johnny Rockets was also an experience worth the small $4.95 cover charge.
The Windjammer food was also of a reasonable standard ( think cafeteria), there was a lot to choose from, but it did not vary a great deal each day, although each day something different was offered as a "prepared before you "option. Due to a norovirus outbreak self service was terminated and there were quite long delays at the popular stations while the crew took over the serving. After that we chose to eat more breakfasts and lunches in the MDR, but so did a large proportion of other passengers, so this resulted in longer than usual delays in that venue as well. Didn't really worry us, because, hey we were on holiday and there was no rush anyway.
Also I did feel the cleaning of the Windjammer was generally not very good, with dirty tables and used dishes everywhere fairly normal, hence our move to the dining room.
Extra cleaning procedures in all public areas, constant advice for frequent hand washing and sanitising went into effect and after a week it seemed numbers of new cases were on the decline. We were a party of 8 in 3 separate cabins on different decks and we were not affected, but were even more fussy with our usual policy of washing hands as soon as we returned to our cabin, and often wiping things down with Wet Ones wipes within the cabin such as door handles, spraying glen 20 etc regularly. The new Wet Ones have the correct chemical to kill Norovirus, being benzalkonium chloride. I did feel the public restrooms were not cleaned often enough given the outbreak, we avoided them as much as possible, bit hard with toddlers though.
The ships daily activity program is fairly extensive, although there was not a lot that we personally wanted to do. But that was just our preference. I have to say Gordon Whatman, the cruise director is terrific and never stops from early morning to the wee small hours. The music offered in casual areas is of a high standard and the shows we attended were really good. The library is well stocked with up to date books of the popular genres. The Promenade deck was always worth a stroll to check out what was going on or score an extra coffee and cookie in between meals. We found the onboard shops disappointing though, very expensive, not much choice in the souvenir or sundry items. The daily sale items were the most popular shopping experience with huge crowds vying for the best evening bag or jewellery set at $12. We thought the duty free alcohol was still quite expensive compared to other cruise lines we have been on.
Our grandchildren attended the kids club for ages 3 to 5. The 5 year old had a great time, the 3 year old did not. The 3 year old was expected to join in a very structured set of activities that were above his abilities. He would have preferred to play with the trains and cars on his own while the older ones did craft, but was not allowed, supposedly due to not enough staff to supervise him within the secured enclosed area. We were paged frequently to take him away as he was not joining in the activities or listening to instructions! We did not feel his younger age was taken into consideration and the activities offered were too advanced for his age group. One extra crew member to supervise unstructured playtime for the little ones would have been far better alternative.
The Captain was great with a lot of public interaction and good humour. I felt in safe hands, an awesome responsibility of all those lives, passengers and crew!
The ports of call were all enjoyable, although docking times and duration were not always the best. This cruise was more about the cruise than the destination for us as we have been to NZ several times.
We thought that the whole cruise exceeded our expectations,but, as was expected, it is a mass market ship with a lot of passengers, same paying very low fares (usually the ones complaining about something) with the usual delays created by having 3000 plus people all trying to do the same thing at the same time. Nevertheless, most people were good humoured about long lines and full lifts and took the opportunity to exchange pleasantries.
In summary, we really enjoyed our family cruise, but I am not sure whether I would sail on such a large ship again, but would like to try a smaller RCL ship, maybe not from Australia though, it seems more exotic embarking in a foreign country.