We are from Topeka, Kansas. This was our tenth cruise, the sixth consecutive on Royal Caribbean. The earlier ones were to the Baltic in 2011 and New England/Canada in 2012, on the Jewel; the Mediterranean and Panama both on the Brilliance; and on the Oasis in 2010.
We, as anyone should, cruise for the destination (Australia and New Zealand), so from that perspective, the cruise was certainly an enjoyable success and worth the trip. There were other aspects that were not so good.
The Ship itself.
We were on the Voyager in 2002, when she was newer. She has lost some of her luster, but the crew is keeping her in very good condition. Some of the wood railings, e.g., those on our balcony, need to be refinished, but I also noticed crew refinishing railings throughout the ship. The carpets in the cabin hallways need to be replaced as do those in the cabins. Still, the ship is very comfortable and bright in many ways. I've heard it is due for a refit in 2014.
However, I personally prefer the smaller Radiance class, i.e., the Jewel or Brilliance. Their design configuration is, to me, better, e.g., the Solarium is open to the sky on the Voyager, which makes it noisy and cooler, but it is closed with skylights on the Jewel; the Jewel has open air seating from the rear of Windjammer and the Voyager does not.
I've noticed RCCL has new ways to get money. There is a cover charge for Johnny Rockets that did not exist when we sailed some time ago. You can buy a tour of the control room, galley, and backstage for $150. That backstage tour was once free and certainly not worth the new cost. Most noticeable: the cost of an 8x10 picture increased $5 from just four months ago.
We drove to and then flew from Kansas City to Dallas to Sydney and arrived on the day of embarkation with no issues. The RCCL greeters met us after we claimed baggage and exited customs. The wait in the shuttle bus was a little long, for passengers who had lost luggage, but not inconvenient. We were on the ship by 1:30, with scheduled departure at midnight, so, plenty of time to spare. It sounds strange but leaving home and traveling 24 hours to the day of embarkation was not a problem. We booked the flights through RCCL Choice Air. The scene was a bit confused at the pier after we got our bags off the bus and was aggravated by a light rain.
We ate in the main dining room every night. We thought the food was very good. We noticed a few welcome changes in the menu from the last time we cruised four months ago. There seemed to be a good variety and we thought it was well prepared. However, we did notice many dishes were the same as before, but that is mostly OK with us. After all, they were good. I understand the need for standardization and routine procedures to feed so many people quickly, but we've seen tempura shrimp and fish or turkey/dressing and cranberry and key lime pie many times as the last dinner of the cruise.
We usually eat in The Windjammer for breakfast and lunch. There was good variety and we thought it was prepared well. However, for those occasions when we had time, to avoid the crowd and feeding frenzy in the Windjammer and for a bit of a change, we started eating in the dining room for breakfast and lunch. This was a very good change. We'll be using the dining room more for lunch and breakfast.
Very clean and comfortable. They are always cleaning and making sure we sanitize our hands. With the exceptions noted earlier, the ship still looks good, is shiny, and is almost pristine in some places. The ride was smooth, but our cabin was forward this time. The ship was riding swells from recent weather and we could certainly feel them. Our room steward noted that several people, including herself, were seasick. This was the first time I've seen barf bags made generally available, in a larger bag attached to a public stair rail.
Comfortable although small, as expected; however a bit larger than previously. We had a balcony this time and certainly found it of value.
The live stage band was very good. The ice show was excellent: well executed, good costumes, good music, good story. Other musicians across the ship were good, except for the duo from the Caribbean, who were not! Although the stage band was indeed very good, I thought it odd that, during the farewell performance, they played the same song from the farewell show on our cruise a few months ago on a different ship. The piece was Benny Goodman's "Sing Sing Sing". I suppose it is to highlight the drummer, who was very good, and standardization is still key. It was a great performance, just an odd repeat.
The traditional late night "70's Party" was much weaker on the Voyager compared to our cruise four months ago on the Jewel. On this current cruise, the dancers were much less energetic and the costumes very plain.
The entertainment on-stage is where this cruise failed... miserably. Most acts were mediocre, at best. Some were just barely passable, and a few were awful.
I did not think anything could be worse than the "comedian" juggler/magician and his assistant on the first night. I was wrong. The "comedian" on the last night, the farewell performance before Sydney, was absolutely awful. That is not just my opinion. Five people in our row alone walked out and many others across the auditorium left during his show. I had more fun watching for people walking out. His "act" was not funny and not well executed, but apparently this guy has some kind of following ... somewhere.
The magician (John Taylor) was pretty good, but I very clearly remember his tricks and banter from his show on our cruise in 2011. It was the same act...exactly, with the same jokes. The illusions were good and indeed mystifying, but variants on well established illusions.
The RCCL dancers were OK, but the RCCL singers were weak. One female singer was just too loud, and we were always in the balcony! She was so loud she shrieked, and by doing so, she ruined the shows, at least for me. She thought she was great, but louder does not make it better. This opinion was supported buy other travelers with whom I visited.
Another act was an impersonator of Celine Dion. She was mostly OK and said she won a talent contest in England for here impersonation, but if that was Celine Dion, I don't think I'll see one of her shows. The impersonator seemed WAY over the top theatrically. I'll give you one guess what song she closed her cruise ship show with. Hint: To try to be "funny" a stagehand brought out a life jacket for effect.
One bright spot was the singer Michel Bell. He has a very impressive resume (Google him.). His performance was quite good and his long stage and showmanship experience were obvious.
The other guest acts were quickly forgettable. I think the Aussie and American standards or expectations might be different. Again, both those statements are not just my opinion but also that of others with whom I visited.
The best show I saw was NOT by RCCL. On a clear night I would urge you to go to the dark helideck and look at the stars. I went to Deck 12 , but there was too much glare from ship lights. Upon viewing on the dark helideck at the front of the ship, the sky was as if a light switch had been flicked. The stars were very bright. The Milky Way was clearly visible and there were more stars in Orion than I've seen in a long time. BUT, folks in the northern hemisphere will notice the constellations and moon are "upside down".
Study the excursions on the Royal Caribbean web site and book them in advance. We did that and our tickets were waiting for us in our room. In my opinion, RCCL does an excellent job organizing and facilitating tours. Although I've not researched and confirmed it, we thought these tours were more pricey than on other cruises.
Melborne: ML53-Kangaroo and Koalas. This was a good tour. Sure, the animals are in game preserves in two different locations, so we are likely to see them, but we are going to them in their natural habitat.
The Sounds: Get up early. On that day, we cruised in and out of several sounds of New Zealand. These are awesome, majestic, beautiful. One of our tablemates took the overnight excursion that departed from one of the sounds. Afterwards, he highly recommended it.
Dunedin: DD48-Royal Otago Tour. A good tour, but what will it be like when the young penguin and albatross leave the nesting grounds? The Larnach Castle was interesting as well as other stops on the tour. Be prepared for walking a very step hill to see albatross.
Wellington: WL50- Lord of the Rings Weta Cave... Somewhat disappointing, but informative and interesting nonetheless. Good view from the top of Mt. Victoria.
Tauranga: TR64 Rotoroua Maori Village Encounter. Our guide was genuine Maori as were the enactors at the village. Definitely touristy and built for tourists, but interesting to learn of the Maori culture and language. The ship is berthed very close to a shopping area and we had a bit of time to look around afterwards.
Auckland: AK46- Auckland Rain Forest express... A pretty good tour. Aside from the Sounds, I got some of my better pictures throughout this tour. Note: this is not a "traditional" train. A person of size might have some difficulty entering and exiting the cars. I'll leave the adventure to you.
Sydney: SY59-Sydney sights.... Before the tour we did a bit of shopping in the port area (no other tours, except in Tauranga, had any shopping time) and since the harbor bridge is very close, we were able to walk halfway across and back, no charge. We got back in plenty of time, but this was the one excursion that was poorly facilitated by RCCL.. It was to meet on the pier, but the exact meeting spot was not defined. We found a rep and asked but several were simply wandering around to find the meeting place. This was a very good tour of Sydney. We were not impressed with Bondi Beach. The opera house is interesting. We were able to enter the performance center but an opera was being performed in the House.
The service was good and friendly. Their objective is to pamper you and they accomplished that. Our room steward did a great job and was a conscientious and a hard worker. The dining room staff also did a wonderful job.
Easy, fast, and well organized. No problems at the airport.
Food was good and especially good in the dining room for breakfast and lunch. Service was friendly and helpful. Excursions were well organized and worth our time. The live music across the ship was good, but the shows on stage and the RCCL singers were very weak and not good. The stage shows were the failure of this cruise. We always felt safe on the ship and on tours, even when our bus broke down in a rural area in Auckland. We bought an open booking for our next cruise onboard.