I booked this cruise knowing full well it was going to be family orientated. I travelled with my 16 year old son hoping he would enjoy the O2 club and meet new people. The club style and atmosphere didn't suit him (and quite a few kids we met of the same age said the same thing) so we spent time together and he eventually met up with kids his age outside of the O2 club which was fine. We met up with other families and had a great time socially and on our own. There were reportedly 471 kids on this trip and if that was true they were quite well behaved with just a few "runners" and "lift button pushers" but on the whole they were just kids having a great holiday and enjoying themselves. One or two foul mouthed teens tried their best to shock fellow passengers with expletives or inappropriate conversations, but you will find these types where ever you go - nothing to do with the ship. We just moved on out of their way. There were no kids running amok, lying wet in the lifts, fighting, no under age drinking etc. as has been reported on previous cruises - so no complaints there. Just be aware this cruise is for families, if you don't like kids, choose another ship - preferably one that doesn't have a water slide and certainly don't cruise in the school holidays. If you have a family and want a fun time this ship is for you. You will love it. Singles - look elsewhere!
We had an Ocean View cabin with an extended balcony. Well worth the money with loads of space, separate dressing room/walk-in robe with dressing table with Hollywood lights. Bathroom had a spa bath with a glass shower screen (big plus, no plastic curtain) and double vanity - all in marble. The cabin also had a settee, table and chair, more cupboard space,lots of mirrors, bar with fridge, beautiful big balcony,and excellent black out curtains which kept us in complete darkness in the morning - fantastic. The pillows are to die for (duck down I believe)and the beds are fabulous - mega comfort, so good - ahhhh.
The entertainment was quite good especially the comedians in the Versailles Lounge - they were really funny. Unfortunately they weren't on every night which was a shame. Trevor the pianist in the Shanghai Piano Bar was fantastic playing sing-a-long requests with a huge crowd each night- great fun. Can't guarantee that he will be on any other cruises though. I didn't make all the shows but those I saw were not bad. They had a roaming magician in the dining room as well - he was very good. Bingo was the biggest attraction during the day, drew a huge crowd though the prize money wasn't fantastic considering the numbers - biggest prize was $1,100.00. But it was all in good fun.
The food was plentiful in the Laplaya buffet on the Lido deck and so were the crowds so it was best not to eat at peak times when the lines were very long, especially at the Asian food counter. Freshly prepared stir fries often with seafood was the attraction there I think. Equally popular (maybe too popular judging by some of the passengers) was the desert bar - Wow they had some good stuff and fruit salad as well. On the last day they had a chocolate extravaganza with a chocolate fountain - the queue was out the door! The only complaint was they had very prompt closing times - not a minute over curfew, so don't leave it too late or you will miss out. Mind you 24 hour Pizza was available and the Deli which had excellent toasted sandwiches and wraps was most of the time.
My main complaint was with the food in the main dining room - the Empire - we had anytime dining so I don't know if that was the problem but the food was, more often than not, just luke warm. Also the steak I ordered one night was inedible, it was cold and oddly didn't taste like steak at all, I had to send it back - a first for me! And they had some very strange food combinations that just didn't sit well with each other - so a few problems with the menu as well. The fish was generally overcooked, dry and had bones in it so I stopped ordering that. What they did excel at was the Indian dish on offer every night - spot on! Oh and lets not forget the Chocolate Melting Pudding for desert every night - yum yum. Service was very prompt - both drinks and food - no waiting. If the food had been hotter it would have been perfect. I didn't get round to trying the Nouvelle Steak Restaurant ($35.00 each) as my son isn't a big steak eater so it would have been a waste of money. I was tempted by the menu and most other passengers said it was great and worth the extra money.
After all that food it was time to hit the gym - which was excellent - but my son was disappointed that they didn't have any barbells (whatever they are) just dumbbells - so he had to make to with the machines, but he was pretty happy with that as they had so many of them. I did the circuit class - on every day at 5 - not that I went every day, but we had a regular group and it was fun, free and vigorous.
So that leaves us with trying to get a sun lounge - very hit and miss. I absolutely gave up on the "Serenity Lounge" impossible to find anywhere to sit with some people lying fully stretched out on the lounges leaving no space for anyone else. Don't even think about getting to try the hammock! Also not a lot of shade available here either.
Around the two pools it was also very busy with most spaces taken up on a sunny day, but you could find something every now and then. The two spas were always full - not very appealing to me but obviously everyone else thought they were great. Also the two pools (salt water) were very popular as were the water slides. Not that I tried them but my son did and was very impressed with the Green Thunder which was open most days. I was impressed with the queuing system here as they kept the kids off the open stairways (out of the sun) until it was nearly their turn to go on the slide - now that's thinking! But of course it gave the impression that the queue wasn't very long - it was - you just couldn't see it.
We had some wonderful shore tours - only booked one through the ship at Noumea to Duck Island. Got there on a Zodiac which was fun. The others we just "winged" it. The best was the jet skiing we booked when we got off the ship at Port Denerau - a bus picked us up and took us to the Sheraton Resort where the jet skis were and then we spent the rest of the day at the resort. We used their pool, had lunch and probably had the best shore day ever apart from Lifou. You must check out the "cave" at Lifou where you jump into an impossibly dark fresh water pool only guided by locals with torches. Much fun - but quite hard work getting down to the "cave".
So overall we had a great time and would highly recommend this ship for families with kids of all ages. Staff were great as were the facilities. Always difficult to leave such indulgences and return home to reality! Oh and did I mention the Long Island Iced Tea cocktail - do try one (or two)highly recommended!