My second cruise with Royal Caribbean. The first was on Radiance of the Seas from Fremantle WA to Sydney.
This was our first cruise with a balcony and it didnt disappoint. The balcony was large, with two chairs and small table. Plenty of room to stretch out. The bacony rail is wooden and the outer wall is metal so far up then green clear glass up to the rail. The glass was dirty until the attendant gave it a good clean.
Our room was on port side. I specifically asked for portside going to New Zealand as I remembered from my last cruise that I would see land for most of the cruise, rather than sea, sea and more sea.
The room was like all the others, aside from the glass balcony doors, which sealed very well, blocking out noise and had thick curtains to keep the heat and light out, which gave us a good sleep in. The bed was large double and the sheets were of good hotel quality. The pillows were shockingly hard and didnt do much for my neck, but I survived by asking for a second pillow which helped alot.
We had a double couch, small glass table and small curtain between the couch and bed, which didnt serve any purpose except for appearance I guess. The wardrobe was a good size and opened right up which meant we could access the rails and shelves. Our cases went under the bed. Our bathroom was very clean. Plenty of room to move about. Our shower had a curved screen (my last cruise did not. There was just a curtain and water got all over the floor) The hot water was hot and had great pressure. Shampoo is in a dispenser and there is a washing line in the shower. Towels are replaced when needed and the bathroom was cleaned daily.
Our Room was on the 8th floor. We were in midship and could access both ends of the ship/elevators and stairs easily. On our floor, we had the library.
Actually the library was on floor 7 and 8 and in the library there was a curved staircase going to floor 7. Daily, there were trays of puzzles and people exchanged magazines and you can borrow books by writing in the file and returning books in the shoots on both floors. Internet consoles here. Internet is about $65 per hour. Wifi is available in staterooms at the same price. We used free wifi in Macdonalds at the ports. Many took iphones and ipads.
The Windjammer dining room was on floor 11 at Aft. On the first 4 days, the crew served us the food, due to a stomach flu in November. It was annoying for us and for them and the staff didnt appear to be very happy. Rarely did we experience staff smiling. There appeared to be alot of stress and even the manager of the dining room was not friendly. The quality and variety of food was very good. On Christmas day we had a a christmas lunch with other choices, complete with christmas puddings. The children were give christmas crackers. It was a low key affair, although there was carol singing in the promenade.
Johnny Rockets is a diner which has a cover charge of $4.95 each. We went once and once only. The food was disgusting and there was very little choice AND it was rowdy as it is right next to where the teenagers hung out. For what it had, it was too expensive and noisy.
We had a 6pm dining time at the Restaurant. We went a couple of times, one night being new years eve. We were given hats and noise makers. The meals at the Dining room are really nice. Some a bit strange and ended up going back and having something different. We discovered that we could go to the dining room for breakfast and lunch. we waited in line for a table for two but the service is great and the food it really good. It is nice to be waited on and after a few days of buffet, the stomach welcomes the rest and measured amounts. I just wish I hadve known about the dining room earlier. I think I would have used it alot more than the buffet. The dining room covers 3 floors and is very grand. There is a huge staircase which leads up to the other floors and it is beautiful. It was said that it looks like the Titanic staircase. It wasnt something I wanted to be reminded of, on a cruise! Althought the wait staff were friendly, the woman at the door who directed diners to their tables was like a commando and didnt smile. She was grumpy when we asked for a table for two and we felt we were imposing on her.
Breakfast in the dining room is nice. While seated and your order taken, you can also make your own breakfast in the centre. Most mornings we had breakfast in our stateroom - using the room service. For room service, you can order your breakfast on the menu card and hang it on your door handle before 3am. The only problem we encountered with room service is that although we ordered the same thing every morning, we rarely ever received what we ordered and it was never the same two mornings in a row. But it was free and we were able to enjoy our breakfast on the balcony.
Our ship had a huge open space down its centre called the Promenade. It is like a street, complete with street signs and a car outside the pub. There are shops, including Coach, Lacrosse, watch and jewellery, booze shop which sold a few basics, a perfume shop and Royal Caribbean items. The shops were very expensive and I found it frustrating because like the last Royal Caribbean cruise, they didnt sell Estee Lauder "Beautiful" and I was told that port staff didnt have time to load it. Same story as on last cruise. I figured that they just didnt want to sell it. I didnt bother with the other stores as they were very expensive and some items I could buy on land in Sydney and Perth. On some nights there are sales on tables in the middle of the promenate. These are not always advertised and you find out about them when you look at the tv and see people milling around the tables. Otherwise there are sales advertised in the ships daily notices called "the cruise compass"
The Compass tells you what is on the following day, the weather, sales, specials, photo packages, casino and movies etc. The events have times and costs. Some things did cost money, eg, Pilates and Yoga. I went to daily stretch classes and my husband went to the gym each day.
The gym is on level 11 behind the solarium pool. It has many treadmills and bicycles and a hot whirlpool. And weights. There is also a steam room and sauna. A staircase from hear leads up to the spa, where you pay for massages, treatments etc. They hold info segments which are free. These are generally about acupuncture and dieting etc. A bit of a sales pitch. I enjoyed a try at yoga. This was $13.
The solarium has deck chairs, two hot whirlpools and a rectangular pool. It is an adults area and it is a quiet place to relax. Of course there is a bar, but you can get iced water here too and soft drinks. All alcoholic drinks had 15% gratuitaries added to the cost.
Walking through the solarium, you find the swimming pools. There are bars here and other whirlpools. There is a gold card are upstairs (apparently you have a gold card if you stay in a suite). On level 12 overlooking the pool area is the running track.
Walking through from the pool area, you come to the WindJammer buffet. This is disappointing walking into. All the food serving areas are not used, until you get to the very back of the ship. On entry to that area, there is a sushi counter and the soft serve icecream machine. Most days it was easy to find a seat in the windjammer but after a movie or show it can get busy and you have to hunt. The eating areas onthe way in were blocked off and unused. On entry to all eating areas were the antibacterial dispensers. It was mandatory to use them and I was glad about that.
In the Promenade, apart from the shops, there was a Cafe which had free percolated coffee and food - pizza and cakes and sandwiches. There was also fruit. It got very congested in this area and it was annoying when it was crowded. That was the inside. On the outside was Barista Coffee and icecream. The Barista coffee was Starbucks and about $4 a cup. I found it frustrating as the girls making the coffee lacked friendliness and didnt know how to make this type of coffee. The icecream was expensive and I didnt bother as I could get icecream at Windjammer with dessert for free. I did have the Starbucks coffee and in the end the girls realised that they had to make the coffee hot and fill up the cup. They were making half a cup! The reason I bought cofee was because the percolated coffee was DISGUSTING!!!! Bitter and disgusting. I bought a jar of coffee in Hobart. It was also frustrating that there was only one coffee shop on board for 3000 people. Maybe three over a few floors would be better! And if they could change the percolated coffee for Nescafe or something equally as good would be great, especially if they are going to keep selling cruises in Australia and New Zealand. We dont generally have percolated coffee in Australia. The majority of coffee drinkers drink Barista Coffee.
This time I didnt bother buying photos. They have photo packages, which I have bought previously. I couldnt see the value in buying them this time. As a suggestion, I wouldnt buy the package straight away. I would wait until later in the cruise as they often give a better deal toward the end of the cruise and if you have been with Royal Caribbean before, you will have received a voucher book, which has a photo voucher in there.
On one of the top floors is a Cupcake shop, there are cup cake making classes and things to buy. Nearby is a games room, where you can get some cards and board games to borrow for the length of the cruise. On the same floor is a pub, and this is where the jewellery making sessions are held. On the next floor up is the chapel. Weddings can be held there and the reception in the area where the jewellery making is held. There are lovely views from here.
There are daily quizzes and origami and towel or napkin folding mornings. These are fun! Worth attending.
The shows were not all that great. I had see the same magician and the same impersonator on the last cruise. SO that was disappointing. The impersonators wife sang and she was quite good. Aside from that we didnt see anything else. Some of the entertainment can be viewed on your stateroom tv once it has occured.
There is an icerink on the lower floor. We had christmas card making down there and they must put a cover over the ice or something because I didnt see anything like that there. One night we went to see the jazz band down there and the ball room dancing. There is tiered seating all around.
There is a small cinema below the theatre. Its a little hard to find and takes some working out. On the smae floor is a conference room.
The captains Bridge is worth taking a look at. At the front of the ship you are able to stand above the bridge and look into the bridge. there is a glass section where you can look down into the bridge and see the controls etc. Where the glass is you will find an up to minute map showing where we were and going. From here you can see down to the helipad. We couldnt work out how people got to walk out on that. We searched the ship but didnt see a door. We were thinking it was probably a gold card privelege or something like that.
Of course, there is a casino. You have to walk through that to get to some of the other things. ALOT of slot machines and bars there.
Room service during the day was free too. Its in the early hours that there is a surcharge. The room service is booked using the tv and remote control. It doesnt always work so its best to check that they received your order otherwise you will be waiting a LONG time.
There are plenty of deck chairs for all and you are unable to reserve them, which is a good thing because people can get a bit precious about them. It gives everyone a change to enjoy themselves.
If you dont like smoking, then the smell can be a bit of a problem as there is meant to be a smoking area but the smoke and smell travels into the dining room and trying to relax on the deck can be difficult when inhaling someone elses smoke. We noticed smokers when out on our balcony. It was annoying and we went inside a few times to get away from the smell.
There are plenty of places to take a book and relax. There were no rules (as far as I could tell) which prevented anyone from reading in the buffet area or in the bar areas. I saw people playing cards at lunch!
You can hire tuxedos onboard. Not sure about womens clothes though.
NOW...land stops. We didnt do any tours, as we had been to most of these places before. Sometimes it was frustrating as the ship only provided one gangway for the entire ship to get off! It took a long time to get off and it can get hot in the stairwells and corridors. Be prepared to wait! Tours get off early as they are organised. AND some land transfers cost money and they dont tell you. You find out when you get off. Wellington is like that. It is $12 each return. Doesnt sound like much but after alot of them it adds up. Most ports were a distance away and transfers were the only way to get there. Dunedin is similar. At the port we didnt get the ships transfer. Instead we got the hop on hop off deal which took us into town and a tour of the area. We got to see the steepest street in the world, museums and the beautiful train station. On the way back to the ship we had no trouble finding the bus. At the port is a little town called Chambers which is a lovely little town that is well worth strolling through. there is a library and museum there and the street has shops and a newsagency and chemist. We asked to be picked up and dropped off here.
Be mindful that if you are on a tour, you rarely have time to look at the actual town you are docked in. For example, Hobart. If you take a tour to Port Arthur, it may not leave you time to look over Hobart on the way back. I missed out the first time I cruised there and this time didnt do any tours so I could see the city. We took a bus up to the top of Mt wellington. Fantastic views.
Being a cruise over Christmas and New Year it was frustrating at some of the stops because they had their state holidays. Shops were closed and amenities were limited. It is something to think about when deciding on a cruise.
The cruise ship was very clean and very tidy. Workers were cleaning and disinfecting all the time. It is a real shame that equal attention could not have been spent on being friendly and smiling. It was disappointing that the attitude of staff could not have been more cheerful. That was the most disappointing part of the cruise. It really is something Royal Caribbean should look at. But in saying that, our stateroom attendant was lovely. We didnt mind tipping her at the end.
I understand that Voyager of the Seas is having a refit in 2014 (couldve heard wrong). I hope that they look at providing great coffee, more coffee shops and better value shops.
Leaving the ship at the end of the cruise - During the cruise you will be asked when and what time you are flying out and need to be off the ship. They will work out a time for you to put your cases out. The night before leaving you are given baggage labels and these correspond with your times. It will pay you to check that these are correct well in advanced. you put your cases out by a certain time that night and they are taken down below ready for screening and immigration. Had I realised that I can take my own case off at 6.30am, I would have chosen an early flight home. As it was we got off the boat at the latest we could, which was 9.30am and our flight was at 5.30pm. We had alot of time to waste at the airport. I couldve taken a 10.30am flight without worry had I have know about the 6.30 walk off.
Bus transfers to Sydney airport - DONT buy a return bus ticket from any of the drivers at the airport. Take the train. Seriously, the train costs $15.40 one way but takes only 20 minutes. It will stop at Circular Quay. You walk about 500 meters to where the ship is. The reason I say dont get a return bus ticket from the little buses is because a few of us did that and found getting to the quay easy but to get to use our return ticket to the airport was madness. Altough we had a return ticket, we battled to get a ride back because the drivers were taking others who hadnt booked. I felt it was like they had our money and didnt care. Others were new money and they could afford to get a bunch of people onto seats. We noticed other drivers organising groups and ringing the other companies with the numbers. I would recommend not bothering with these and use the train instead. The train is quick and easy. We did it last time and wish we hadve done this time. We and another family who had return tickets eventually got our return ride to the airport, not without having to fight for it! It was digusting. I should mention that the cruise ship offers a transfer to the Airport which is good value and worth accepting as it will get you there on time. Getting off the ship with our luggage took 20 minutes! I was impressed.
We have lovely memories and had a relaxing time. I would recommend Royal Caribbean as the ships are beautiful and you wouldnt know you are on a boat as we didnt feel any motion from waves. It was well worth what we paid for the cruise and a balcony is wonderful. Always do homework before you leave and look at the reviews as these hold so much information which can make your cruise much more enjoyable.