This was our 10th. cruise with RCL and our 1st. cruise as Diamond cruisers. We travelled from the UK to Sydney with BA taking a 3 day stopover in Singapore on the way, arriving in Sydney 2 days prior to the cruise.
The embarkation process was very well organised, we dropped our luggage off at the terminal around 11:00 hrs, had some lunch and a walk around the rocks prior to boarding at 14:00hrs. There was no delay in boarding and our luggage was delivered to our cabin around 15:00hrs.
Our balcony stateroom 7604 was RCL standard, large enough for 2 so long as you keep it reasonably tidy. Our 4 large suitcases fitted comfortably under the beds. The new flat screen TV was a bonus however the normal poor programing came as no real surprise. The cabin attendant was fantastic and took excellent care of us throughout the cruise.
We were very pleasantly surprised by the excellent food served in the MDR. The quality of food and variation of menu was the best we have experienced in RCL in the last 10 years. The staff in the MDR were first class, nothing was too much trouble. We made no use of the "pay to eat" speciality restaurants as there was no need, nor any real incentive. The Park Cafe was great for a light breakfast and the Windjammer was perfect for a reasonable lunch.
The ship appeared to be in very good condition. The costly addition of the extra speciality eating outlets and the large outdoor TV during the last dry docking have made very little difference to the overall cruise experience and the money would have been better used to provide more onboard activities. Indeed "bun fight" to get a table in the Windjammer at peak periods has been made worse, by the loss of the side aft tables in the restaurant.
The entertainment was of a very good standard with the exception of a so called Australian Comedian who was neither funny nor humorous and to some extent, quite offensive. The activities were very well managed with a fantastic (Scottish) cruise director and his team doing a very good job in keeping us informed and entertained. The port information lectures were particularly informative and not used as the normal opportunity for RCL to push their overpriced shore excursions.
Brisbane: The cruise terminal is situated some considerable distance from the city, we booked a bus and river cruise which was excellent.
Airlie Beach: This is a tender port of 30 mins each way, it is a 15 minute pleasant walk from the jetty to the small town of Airlie beach. We spent about 3 hours ashore and had seen all the local sights twice.
Darwin: The cruise berth and water front in Darwin has been much improved over the last few years. The walk ashore takes around 20 minutes, with a conveniently placed elevator from ground level to a new raised board walk giving easy access to the town. Lots to do and see in Darwin and we walked around and explored for over 5 hours, taking a very pleasant late lunch at an Irish pub near the cruise terminal.
Bali Benoa: Again a tender port of some 30 mins. each way. Opted for the Kuta town shopping experience, which was OK, the bus drops you off at a fairly large shopping mall which has a very wide range of goods. Did not like the atmosphere outside the mall too much grabbing and pushing by the local merchants trying to sell their wares.
Port Headland: The cruise berth is situated in the Iron Ore Harbour and regrettably this has to be the most disappointing cruise port I have ever visited. The people of PH were all very friendly but simply put, THIS IS NOT AN APPROPIATE PORT FOR TOURISTS. we were told that the vessel must call here to take on fuel to reach Perth the next fuelling point.
Geraldton: This is an excellent port with a fantastic Nautical museum and a very spectacular and moving hill top memorial to HMAS Sydney II . Lots to see and do in Geraldton.
Perth: As B/B cruisers we took the train up to Perth from Fremantle and after 4 hours in Perth took a river cruise back to Freo.
The onboard shopping was the normal RCL set up, flogging everything from T-shirts to Opals at so called reduced prices!!! The cost of the onboard photo packages was very expensive. On a recent TA cruise with Celebrity the full package of all photos was $199 on ROS it was $450 for a limited number.
The dreadful art auctions were scheduled on an almost daily basis on sea days taking up valuable seating sapce in the sky lounge. The "captain speaking" at lunch time was rather repetitive and borning after a few days was never listened to.
The various alcoholic and soft drinks were all reasonably priced and as per RCL normal, the coffee served ranged from poor to passable on a good day.
As Diamond members we were very pleased with the service and hospitality received in the Diamond club lounge. Our hostess JJ was a star and with only around 60 members it had the feeling of a quiet and somewhat select club. Unlike our last cruise on the Celebrity Constellation where there were over 500 Elite passengers and it was almost impossible to get a seat never in the lounge, mind a quiet drink.
Overall a great cruise and one I would certainly highly recommend.