I have always wanted to take a cruise but have had many reservations, I have spoken to a number of people who have gone on cruises and love it but once you start reading reviews on line, this starts to put many doubts in your mind. First and foremost when reading the reviews remember "everyone is different". Some people are just not going to be happy and will try and pick fault in everything, all things need to be put in perspective. Anyway as I have read so many reviews I felt a need to add my own.
It was just the three of us, my husband , my 10 year old boy and myself. We departed from Sydney and our allocated boarding time was 12.30pm. As you can imagine being our first cruise we were very excited to get on, so we started to line up at about 12.00pm. The embarkation is organised and it only took us about 40 minutes and we were on the ship. We were told that our stateroom would be available around 2pm. Some people thought they should be able to access their room straight away, but I do not think they realised that the ship has only arrived back to Sydney port at 6am that morning and they start having the new passengers for the next cruise come aboard at 11.30am. Excellent turn around if you ask me!
We played a game of mini golf and then went to the Windjammer for lunch (first of many lunches in the Windjammer). The Windjammer is a casual smorgasbord style cafe, the food is great and there is something for everyone. Breakfast is the best, there is everything you can imagine and they will cook your eggs just the way any you like them.
After lunch we went to our room, the room was very clean and basically exactly how we imagined. We had three very large bags and initially thought we would never fit it all in, but you will be surprised how much space there is in the room! Make sure you look behind all he mirrors as these provide extra storage and as for our large bags, these slipped nicely under the bed !
On the first night we had dinner in the Cascades Dinning room and we picked 6pm dinning time, we thought we could go to the earlier shows but in fact it worked out perfectly for our 10 year old who wanted to go to the kids Club every night and this started at 7 pm each night. The food is nice nothing really to write home about. We had two lovely couples and their children on our table, it was good to listen to their cruise experiences too. My only complaint was that the dinner service was too quick, the waiters would be taking your orders by 6.10 and you would be finished by 6.50pm.
Dinner packages are available on the ship, there was two kinds of packages. First package was for all of the 6 speciality restaurants for $129 or second package for $75 for 4 speciality restaurants (Samba, Izumi, Chops & Giovanni's) we purchased the 4 package deal. All of the restaurants are of very high quality and we could not fault any of them, I would definitely recommend all these restaurants it was well worth the money! We also went to Rita's a Mexican restaurant which was fantastic food and extremely cheap, to give you an idea two kids tacos were $1.75 total. If you do not take up any food packages then go to Rita's if you like Mexican.
Food in general on this cruise was of high standard and if you could not find anything you liked then there is something wrong!
The boat is enormous and is absolutely beautiful and always clean and well presented. My husband and I were surprised that even with 2100 people, we could always find a place to sit without a lot of people around. Our cruise had approx 700 children aboard so I will not lie the main pool area was crazy with children and also there were many 18/20 year olds drinking around the pool area, but if this not your scene then you can work around this by going in the Solarium area which is an adults only pool. The Solarium was where we based ourselves on many days, our son would want to go the the kids club so we would show him where we were sitting and when he came back he would meet us there. Children can sit in the Solarium area but they just cannot swim in the pool. It was really nice to have one place with no kids !
The Kids Club or better known as Adventure Ocean was fantastic, once my son went the first time there was not stopping him. I was somewhat concerned if he would like it and how we were going to meet up with him afterwards. They have a very good system, the 9-11 years old can self sign themselves in and out so this eliminates the worry that he may not want to be there. The times of Adventure Ocean was 9-12pm, 2-5pm and 7-10pm and each session had organized activities for each of the sessions. During the day we would make a place to meet and at night we would meet him back at the room.
A brief summary of the ports;
Isle of pines, New Caledonia - worth a visit - good snorkeling
Suva - I will quote from the Ventriloquist during one of the shows , he asked what is the Fijian meaning of Suva....."Stay on the boat" . I suggest to arrange a shore excursion in Suva.
Denarau - Do a Shore Excursion to one of the small Islands.
Vila - We did another Shore Excursion - Kayaking - fantastic.
Lifou - Absolutely the best port, the water was beautiful, shades from blue to green and we were lucky to be greeted by two turtles on our arrival to the dock...amazing.
All in all it was the most amazing holiday, total relaxation, no cooking, no washing, no driving and especially no checking emails for work . This was the first holiday of this kind and we are now planning our next one with Royal Caribbean.
We highly recommend a Royal Caribbean Cruise.