Firstly I would like to acknowledge the front of house crew and how they tried their best to rectify any issues that I raised.
We have never sailed with RCI before and if not for fellow passengers telling us how much better the other cruise ships with RCI were we would never sail with them again.
We knew this was a repositioning cruise and there would be extended days at sea and were looking forward to the relaxation and quite.
I booked a cabin with a balcony for the first time as the cost was very affordable (less than 1800.00) and looked forward to having breakfast watching the ocean in the mornings.
Embarkation at Singapore was very hectic as the Diamond Princess was also in dock. We gladly left our bags and went to explore the gardens by the bay for the afternoon and fell in love with the cloud dome. It was very hot and humid in Singapore this day and the air conditioning was a welcome relief. We then
We casually proceeded to check in after the crowds had gone. We decided to stay on board the next day as the ship was docked overnight.
The cabin was a great surprise with the extra room and the shower with the doors was the highlight (no wet curtain attacking me). The decor is getting tired and worn but didnt worry us. The bed was very comfortable and there were plenty of pillows. Having a lounge to sit on was also great as previously we only had the one tub chair. The balcony was roomy enough to both sit and have our morning coffee without crowding each other. Had I known how bad the coffee and tea on board would be I would have brought my own and used the tea and coffee facilities in the room.
What did spoil this was the ever present smell of damp mouldy carpet and the intermittent smell of sewerage in the hallway. The smell at times induced dry retching and there was never a reason given for this. Several times during the early part of the cruise there was blowers situated in the hallway to help remove the smell. On the last night of the cruise the smell of sewerage was overwhelming when we went into our cabin. It was so strong I had to check the bathroom in case there had been an overflow. That night we had to sleep with the balcony door open to elevate the smell.
The day we left dock there was a safety drill which is a legal requirement for all cruise ships and some do this very well and some not so well. RCI dont do this well, in fact they do this very badly. We were given assembly areas to go to and told not to bother with the safety vests. Some of the assembly areas were inside and some were outside. As the day was in the high 30 degree mark and humidity at 90% this was going to pose some health issues for any elderly or special needs passengers.
We all arrived at the assembly point and told to stand in single file in rows of approximately 20. We waited there while they made their way down the rows writing down the cabin numbers taking around ten minutes to get all of the numbers. The crew member that was supposed to show us how to use the life vest was too busy chatting up a female crew member and the smaller passenger at the back of the file couldnt see anyway. Several elderly passengers collapsed from the heat and were taken inside. This is an issue that RCI must address as part of their OHS policies.
The promenade was great fun with the two bars (Pig& Whistle and Sports bar) the cafe and the shops to stroll through. All of the Parades (fantastic) were through the promenade and were always packed. There were several viewing points from balconies and the rooms overlooking the promenade would have had a great view! The shops opened on our first day out of port and I managed to get some perfume at fantastic prices. Unfortunately the prices seemed to jump by 30% or more the closer we got to Australia. I was told by one of the store attendants that the cigarettes priced at $7.00 a packet would jump to $14.00 once in Australia??? Taxes maybe?
The restaurant we were assigned was Carmen. The decor was lovely and the waiter on the first night was lovely (Redwin). It was explained after I inquired on the second night of his whereabouts that there was 200 new staff that boarded in Singapore. This was evident in the fact that in some of the areas the crew didnt know where some of the stock was located or what the procedures were or something simple like how to use the toaster in the Windjammer. The food started out very good and went downhill very fast. In the restaurant they were very obliging and would swap food until you found something you liked. At times though it seemed it was a matter of swapping bad food for more bad food. One of the most frustrating parts of the restaurant was the fact that the menu didnt reflect the meals. For example- Escargots was on the menu every night- there never was any snails on board from day one. They just replaced it with salmon and crab. When ordering eggs Benedict green beans replaced the asparagus with no explanation as to the swap. This occurred frequently throughout the cruise with many of the food items.
Windjammer food was a big disappointment as the food was boring, repetitive and tasteless most of the time. The exceptions were- the bread rolls and bread- delicious (except when toasted) Fresh fruit every day (sometimes with grapes and strawberries) some of the delicious pies (plum my favourite) and the French fries. My partner loved the smoked salmon every morning and scrambled/ fried/ poached eggs and omelettes were everywhere.
Portofino’s was the specialty restaurant and we had the prawn risotto, seafood skewer and the tiramisu dessert. The risotto was gluggy and the rice chalky but had great flavour. The seafood promised lobster tail, prawns, scallops and salmon with assorted veg. The lobster tail was the size of the prawns- small and chewy, the scallop had been steamed and was a gelatinous lump and the salmon was overcooked and dry. The prawns had been seared and were the only tasty part of the seafood. I didn’t eat my meal but declined any offer for a replacement they graciously offered me. The tiramisu was outstanding! Some of the others in our group had the lamb and steak dishes and said they were delicious and cooked well.
Johhny Rockets was great fun and the burgers were hot and decent flavour although nothing like their pictures. My partner loved the shake of the day.
Café promenade also had fresh cookies, pizza and rolls available till the early hours. The pizza was again a big hit with my partner as was the cookies.
You may get the impression I am a food snob or a whinger but that’s far from the case. I appreciate all food as long as it is tasty, cooked properly and as described on the menu. There was always plenty of food to eat and the ice cream and cones got a great workout from all of the passengers.
Entertainment was good, but for me the standouts were Jonathon Taylor the illusionist and the singer from Western Australia that sang the greats from Dylan to Johnny Cash. The ice show was absolutely spectacular and we managed to go twice. The parades we saw were marvellous and I am sure the kids (big and small) enjoyed them.
The activities available were a bit hit and miss but we always tried to get to the Quiz’s. The progressive quiz with Luke the entertainment director was always hilarious. Some of the quiz’s became so popular there was never any room to participate.
Our favourite place to go was the solarium and adults only pool area. The spas were great and being able to have a dip in the pool day or night was a relief from the heat. There was always somewhere to go on board and explore. Being such a large ship there always seemed somewhere else to go. We only found the gym on the second last day!
The drinks and cocktails were very well priced and the bar staff very willing to suggest different types of cocktails. I purchased the premium package and found it not worth the money as the drinks were very reasonably priced ($6-$12 cocktails, $5- $8 beers).
Disembarking in Sydney was a breeze, very well organised and easy.