We'd been on Princess twice, and decided to give RCI a try to see how it compared.
Overall, we had a very good time.
Embarkation in Sydney went quickly. We'd stayed at the Holiday Inn across the street the night before, so it couldn't have been easier to get to the ship.
The ship was lovely, and we liked the touch-screens near the lifts which often helped us find our way around.
We had a "superior interior" cabin, and it was of a good size. The couch seemed a bit long for the space as it abutted the bed, but that said, room for a couch in Princess' interior cabins is unheard of. It was great to have it, to sit and watch TV if I wanted quiet time.
Ahhh, quiet time, now there's the problem. I found it nearly impossible to get any in most areas.
When there was a band on the pool deck, it was so loud, it set my teeth on edge. Now mind you, I spent decades as a musician in a rock/metal band, so that's saying something. There are times when even I relish relative quiet - not necessarily silence - but an atmosphere where my husband and I can talk to each other, without having to yell like we're in a techno nightclub.
It was a bit of a challenge finding a quiet place to sit and read. All of the seats around the centrum were often filled, and if there was something going on below, even more so (and less quiet). One day, we managed to find seats there, a few decks up, and grabbed them. It was then that I noticed the aerial artists starting their show (they hang from the ceiling and do acrobatic-type things). I felt compelled to watch them, as no one else was. I felt sorry for them, going to all that effort for no one's entertainment. It was then that I realised that often on the ship, I felt like I was in the middle of a three-ring circus. HOWEVER, I would still prefer that to the nursing home ambience and entertainment we experienced on the Crown Princess in May, so I don't want to complain TOO much. It had a younger, more energetic vibe, and that was a good thing (but there also have to be places where you can escape that if you want to).
I liked that the age group on this cruise was a mix of all different ages, unlike the aforementioned voyage on the Crown Princess. It makes for a much more interesting time.
We only ate in the dining room about 4 times, dinner only. Our waiter, Richard, and assistant Sachin were lovely. They were always eager to please, and Richard missed his calling as an entertainer. We always got a kick out of him. One of our table companions had a remarkable resemblance to the captain, and always got double-takes from the staff. It was quite amusing.
I thought the food in the main dining room was good (I'm a vegetarian). My husband was generally happy with it, though I think he found the meat somewhat lacklustre as it had probably been reheated to serve (typical for catering large numbers). If there wasn't anything on the menu to my liking, Richard would ensure that something was made for me.
Most of our meals were in the Windjammer Cafe. There seemed to be a decent variety on offer, and the overall quality was good. On a mid-priced cruise, I don't expect lobster and truffles (wouldn't eat the lobster, anyway!).
On Feb 14, we'd booked for dinner at Giovanni's Table restaurant. We found our waiter to be an arrogant snob. He appeared to think less of us for our poor unenlightened palates, if we didn't like something listed. I loved the teeny-serve entree (appetiser) of ricotta cannelloni (manicotti), and asked if I could have a larger serve as a main meal, because there were no vegetarian options listed under mains. No, I could not! This waiter was far cry from Richard in the main dining room! And I paid extra for this! I wasn't too happy with this restaurant for that reason.
One thing I need to comment on is the pizza. It was DISGUSTING! Princess spoiled me for pizza, as their pizzeria on Dawn Princess makes delicious hand-made pizzas, and the pizza bar on Crown Princess makes quite good pizza, too. It was funny on Rhapsody, how many pieces of pizza I saw left behind on plates with only a bite or two taken out. So it wasn't just me. It was truly awful. They need to improve that, as it doesn't cost much to make and would take some of the pressure off of the other dining options. Send a spy over to Princess!
It was a bit disappointing that it was hard to find grazing food late at night.
The energetic, entertaining cruise director, Ricky, was fantastic. His enduring reputation is well-deserved. His assistant, James, was very good, too. James was moving on after that cruise, to another ship. Too bad, they made a great team.
We went to watch one of the production shows. It was good but in all honestly, not really our thing. We watched the movie, "The Help" in the indoor theatre, but it was kind of fuzzy, not very sharp (for the most part, they seemed to offer movies during port days, it seemed. I would rather it were a regular thing).
Karaoke wasn't too good, bland offerings, but we enjoyed the daily trivia comps. I won a number of them, but the prizes offered (a pen, a fridge magnet, etc) were quite lame. I get that it's supposed to be "only for fun", but how about a voucher for ONE to eat in a speciality restaurant (meaning you'd have to pay for your partner), or a $10 voucher for the shops? Or even for laundry credit? It seemed really cheap, cheesy, and tacky to offer a pen as a contest prize.
There was a jazz duo or trio (can't remember) with a female singer. It was nice, pass-the-time music, and probably suited for the older crowd, or for when having quiet drinks. They were in the centrum a bit. I quite enjoyed the "house band", a group of (I think) 5 Asian men who played rock/dance music. I think they were called New Edition or something like that. They were fun.
All in all, in spite of the revolting pizza, ha ha, we'd be happy to cruise RCI again. We're looking at doing a cruise of the Baltic and Russia in the next two years, and it'll probably be on RCI.