Yes this was my first cruise but not my first time at sea. First off I will say that I did a lot of research before the cruise. I read all te reviews I could and I looked at the deck plans to pick a cabin.
So here are the first few tips for other beginners. Find out where your cabin is and get it right when you book. Consider the issues! If you allow yourself to be booked into a stateroom that is right over the night club DO NOT have the nerve to complain about the noise! If you want to sleep in the afternoon it's probably not a good idea to get a stateroom under the deck 9 restaurants! The hundred dollars you save on your fare may cause you more grief than you think. I picked a balcony stateroom on deck 7 in the middle of the ship. Not a lot of movement, low traffic and quiet. Nice.
We took the train to Circular Quay and joined the ship after a short walk. The friendly service started when we arrived at the baggage drop off. We were guided through the boarding process quickly and efficiently. We were at our stateroom door in about half an hour.
Was roomy enough for the two of us for the 12 night cruise. The choices on the TV are a bit limited but you don't go on a cruise to watch TV right. Comfortable bed and ample storage. The mini bar is handy. Take a drink container for water. The desalinated water tastes fine! Better than Sydney water at any rate! I am a big man and I never had any issues with the shower etc. the housekeeping team in our area were a credit to the ship very courteous and accommodating of our needs.
We ate in the Empire Dining Room every morning and every night. The meals were amazing! I was never left wanting more. The quality was consistently good. A bottle of wine with your meal will cost from around $30 and goes off the scale from there. " it's show time....." the staff do an amazing job and as well as putting on a spectacular meal they have a few talented members that can sing and dance. All in all dining in the Empire was a memorable experience for all the right reasons.
There are various dining choices on deck 9 and all are worth a look. Seating can be at a premium at peak times and the layout can be a challenge but if you keep a cool head and you are a reasonable individual you can navigate your way to a good meal.
I did not personally dine there but I was told more than once that I should. I will make a point of it next time. There is a $35 per person surcharge and your wines are at the regular ship prices.
My only disappointment was that the Sushi Bar that I thought was on board.... Wasn't.
Public Areas and Entertainment.
There are so many places to sit and choices of activity most passengers were happy I think. The shows were pretty good considering they are included in your fare. We went to the late seating for dinner then a show at Pharohs Palace and the comedy at the Punchliner. There a several other venues catering for different tastes. Good value I thought. You would be hard pressed to fault the quality of the performers on board. The Shanghai bar was a jewel I only discovered on the last night of the cruise! The few passengers who were there were treated to a performance by some of the stars from the ships team in an impromptu jam session. Without a word of a lie it was very special.
I only have one dissapointment about the public areas. The Serenety area is not really very fair. That is not the fault of the ship. That is the fault of the selfish people who feel they have the right to the exclusive use of pods etc. no doubt the same SOB who sits in the right lane doing 95 right!
Some would say that the ship is the destination and the holiday others say the ports. I don't know about that. Booking through the ship provides the certainty that if the trip is delayed they will wait for you. But you pay for that. It's up to you. The fact is that the ship is not in ports for long. Do a bit of research and have a think about what you value. It's easy to spent $200 on a shore trip that runs for 6 hours and then spend 4 hours on a squeaky bus to enjoy an island style lunch at a resort somewhere.
Amazing. Customer service like I have never experienced. No doubt there will have been bad experiences but I never heard of one. Stu Dunn seems to be everywhere and all things to all people. There were serious issues at Denerau with broken tenders and other things I will never understand but Stu and his team sorted it out. We were delayed getting back to the ship and Stu waited with us. It was terrible! We were forced to sit in a pier side bar and drink Coronas waiting for the tender. I don't know how we survived.
We travelled as a couple and deliberately booked out of school holidays. It's a big ship. No issues here.
Painless. After enjoying yet another sumptuous breakfast we returned to our stateroom, collected our bags and walked off the ship through customs in less than 15 minutes.