This was our first cruise and I was a reluctant cruiser however I have been left wanting to experience more cruise holidays. We travelled with a 5 year old and 3 teenage children during school holidays so the ship was full of families, which was fine.
The allocated time for Embarkation (3pm) meant we didn't have a massive queue so were on the ship within about 10 minutes. The checkin staff were very helpful on advice regarding our cabin configuration.
Our cabins (both on level 1) were quite spacious, the bed was very comfortable, it was well presented and was clean. Our cabin steward was very friendly and serviced our cabin 2 or 3 times a day which was very appreciated.
Our meal time in the Empire room was quite late (7.45pm) however we managed to dine together most nights. The staff were excellent (especially Kadek and Tan) however the bar service was a bit slow most nights. The food was pretty good considering the number of meals they were serving.
My wife and I dined in the Nouveau restaurant (paid extra $35 per person) one night which was a nice break from the main dining room and the food was great.
The buffet was overall pretty good and we always manage to find a table for the 6 of us.
Our first stop was at Noumea where the ship docked at the container terminal due to its size so we had to get on shuttle buses to get to the city centre. This was okay as they ran continuously. We did the Chou Chou train excursion which took us on a tour around key places. It was quite expensive as we booked it on the ship. There were plenty of people waiting where the bus pulled up to offer excursions so would probably do that.
Second stop was Mare where we had to take a tender to get to as there were no docking facilities. This is a basic island with limited facilities. The only thing you can do is take a bus trip to a beach about 10-15 minutes from where you land. We queued for about an hour to wait for the next bus/mini van to take us to the beach so were dreading the queue we would encounter at the other end when coming back. The snorkelling was okay but it was a hassle lining up at both ends of the excursion.
Third stop was Mystery Island which you can walk around in about 30 minutes. Again we used tenders to get on/off the island which worked quite well. The island was a great spot to swim, relax and have a drink (the ship took a bar to the island). Enjoyed the relaxation!
Fourth stop was Port Villa where we took an organised snorkelling tour. It was really good and they entertained our 5 year old while we all snorkelled. The city was about a 8 minute cab ride from the ship and there was no shortage of taxis willing to bargain the cost of the trip.
Entertainment on the ship was overall very good however some of the bands in the bars were a bit ordinary.
There were lots of activities to do daily when we were at sea so no excuse to say you were bored. We managed to get to the over 18 area (Serenity) a couple of times and it was pretty good however being under the water slides meant it was a bit damp some times.
Our 5 year old loved kids club as the people were very good and there were plenty of other kids there. It ran till late at night and is part of the cost of the cruise (except after 10pm when it is $8 per hour). The older kids really enjoyed the club however it was a bit hit and miss regarding activities - but they are teenagers so some things weren't 'cool' enough!
I paid for wifi access for one device (about $60) so could keep in touch with rest of the world. It worked well although a bit slower than used to.
Disembarkation was again well organised so when we were called it only took 10 minutes to get off. we opted to take our own luggage off and nominated a late time. Everyone was off the ship by 9am.
Overall the kids all had a fantastic time, as did we. The food was pretty good considering the logistics and most crew were very friendly and helpful. We cant wait to cruise again.