Having read reviews of the ship/line before booking and then all the Aussie season reviews on here before booking from 2011 to the day before we left we were very happy! We booked this wanting an easy holiday after we spent 6 wks in Europe last yr backpacking and were not disappointed.
Disembarking: We read online that our deck check-in was at 2pm and I work in near the Quay so had watched the terrible queues between 12-1:30 so new not to trun up then. We dropped out bags off, looked at the ship from the OPT observation deck with fam & had coffee before going to check-in a little before 2. We had all our paperwork ready and were through immigration, on the ship & our room was ready to drop our carry bags off within 15 min. (We noticed others took longer because they appeared not to have their paperwork completed).
Stateroom: Anyone who says there is no storage has too much junk with them! We are a couple and were quite pleased with our cabin. There was ample hanging space, we did bring our own hangers (suit came on board hanging in suit bag), but we wouldnt have needed them, there were about 20 to use. There are plenty of draws & shelves, just open the mirrors to find more. Suitcase goes under the bed. I brought a hanging jewellery organiser to go in the cupboard which could stall jewellery/lip balm/chords/hair ties etc. made it easy to know where to find what I wanted. We had a USB euro charger from our travels so we took them to use on board because there are euro plugs and most things are USB charge now. We loved Johann out attendant! Used our name, checked how the activities were that he knew we were doing and I think his towel animals were better than the ones in the demo!
Food:MDR has good service and delicious food, menu chages every night and we quite enjoyed it. On casual nights my boyfriend wore shorts & shoes and there was no problem. MDR lunch on sea days was really nice change from Windjammer (W/J). There is an amazing made to order salad bar and a good main/dessert menu. We preferenced W/J for b/fast over MDR because of the choice and the omelette chef in the W/J. W/J serves a huge choice of dishes, although generally the same, it is easy and the staff are always topping up items and cleaning. Park Cafe is the best! Roast beef rolls are amazing and soups/salads/sandwiches. Great for a snack or if you can't be bothered to go to W/J for lunch.
We bought the Royal Dining Package pre-cruise for $53 and you can go to all three specialty restaurants. Chops Grille(norm $30):Amazing food & best service on board! Giovanni's Table (norm $20):Nice hearty Italian, service was ok and we rolled out we were so full. Boyfriend said Mushroon risotto & Tiramisu was the best. Izumi (Norm $5 plus a la carte but we were allocated $5 for covercharge & $15 bill credit): Go early in cruise so raw fish is fresher, great wonton soup, rolls pretty good, very good value we only spen $1 over our credit and were full when we left. We would do this package again.
Drinks: We bought the Premium Beverage Pkg for $55/day each. It only came out on rhapsody on 23/01/13, is only for sailings 7days+ and you must buy for all 18+ in your cabin. We liked that we knew what we were up for in advance. My bf used his quite well, but never irresponsibly so, I had a few days where I didn't make my quota but he made up for it. It only includes house wines by the glass and in the MDR there was a misunderstanding when that wasn't what I was given. Took speaking to 8 ppl to refund over three days; I have written to RCL about this and hope they will respond. We also didn't know we could have house sparkling till the 8th day. Check the inclusions carefully by asking the staff when buying the pkg 1st day (they only had a 1pg document on it when we bought it in the R Bar) and be careful when ordering. We would do it again on any sailing 7-10 days, any longer and it is just too difficult to get you moneys worth. We found it difficult to get drinks before food being served, particularly beer, except with our regular waiter in the MDR after the first night. Our fave places were Schooner Bar & Viking Crown Lounge during the day and at night with DJ Frantz.
Ports: We enjoyed every port. Cascade waterfall abseil in Vila is a must do! Noumea we should have booked something but we just walked around the harbour to the marina, had a coffee, bought snorkel gear in a small place next door to Quicksilver shop in town (don't buy from the ship its expensive). Mystery Island we did turtle snorkel tour w locals, was wonderful & saw turtles. Lifou we walked across island and snorkelled on our own. Isle of pines just walked down the beach away from people to swim, however sadly there were three local children throwing rocks at people on the beach. Take small AUD notes and everything is well priced or don't buy it if you don't think so. At Vila port markets boardshorts for bf $10 & mosaic bowl $40.
Ship/Activities: All really good. We didnt see many shows, not our thing. Saw a bit of the comedians/illusionists, we thought they were good. Love & marriage show hosted by ricky (cruise director) is good & Quest (18+) only was very good fun. So many activities all the time so you never get bored or you can chill at solarium pool with a book.
People: We met a nice couple 2nd night who also had dining pkg and did all that with them, they enjoyed it also. We had a great time discussing our day's activities including all the "interesting" people we had seen ;)
We had a great time and have booked our next cruise on Mariner out of Singapore! the couple we met have booked another also.