This was our 5th cruise with RCCL - previously sailed on Rhapsody and Radiance but decided to give Voyager a try on the advice of a loyalty sales consultant. We were a little apprehensive after reading some of the reviews but realised that everyone has a different idea of what makes for a good cruise. On the day of embarkation, I checked my booking on the RCCL website, which showed that we weren't heading on a New Zealand cruise (as booked) but leaving for the Caribbean the following day. I was a little concerned and decided to call the recommended phone number for enquires on the day of sailing. After numerous attempts, I was unable to get through to anyone. We arrived at the pier and everything was fine with the booking - it was obviously a temporary glitch with the website, although for people with serious/urgent problems, this is a potentially significant issue.
Boarding at the pier was seamless and efficient. This was primarily because we're Crown and Anchor members with priority boarding privileges. The line for other passengers was quite long and I can only hope that people made it through fairly quickly. Staff at the pier were friendly and we had completed the boarding process within 15 minutes. The ship is due for refurbishment but is still a lovely vessel and in better condition than we expected based on some previous reviews.
We had a balcony stateroom which was very clean and in a great location (on the hub) - highly recommended. We booked for dinner at 7:00 pm in Portofino to coincide with sail away. The restaurant was absolutely superb and the waiters were professional, friendly, and attentive without being intrusive. We opted for My Time Dining on the other nights and were seated at the same table on deck 5 each evening. We thought that the meals in the main dining room, Portofino, and via room service were all fantastic. Other passengers commented that some of their meals were cold but ours were consistently hot, and of a very high standard each night. The food in the Windjammer was standard buffet style but reasonable. Apparently the selection is much better in the evening but we only dined there on occasions for breakfast and lunch. Johnny Rockets was lovely - great American style burgers, & shakes - the onion rings are a must-try! Overall, the food and restaurant staff were consistently amazing throughout the ship.
In terms of bars, we tended to frequent the Champagne Bar. The bar staff were again attentive, professional, and friendly. We noted that quite a few of the passengers were rude to the crew, which was very disappointing, as they do a great job and really aim to please. The staff in the Aquarium Bar and High Notes were equally great and pride themselves on personalised service. I don't know how they remember the names and preferred drinks of so many passengers but they're quite amazing. I would recommend giving a gratuity to staff here and there throughout the cruise as this can make for even better service.
The negatives - as noted above, the hospitality staff and meals were very difficult to fault and while the ship will benefit from the forthcoming refurbishment, it's still a lovely and impressive vessel. The negatives for us were more from a policy/management/organisational point of view. Having done the same cruise on Rhapsody, a problem with Voyager is the absence of tenders. This means that unless the ship can dock, many scenic ports are missed. Voyager is also a large ship and it seems that unless there are large ports and perfect weather conditions, expect a lot of days at sea. We also departed 2 hours late on the first evening, completed missed Dunedin due to winds, and left Melbourne 5 hours after the scheduled departure time (again due to winds apparently). We've been on cruises before in much worse weather conditions, rougher seas, and smaller ports but have never been late or missed a port. Unfortunately, we didn't step on land at all on the South Island of NZ which was disappointing, so consider sailing to NZ on either the Radiance or Rhapsody. The Voyager is obviously a larger ship and may be more difficult to maneouvre, but it doesn't have the capacity to tender, and is currently mastered by an extremely cautious Captain.
Speaking of the Captain, he was invisible for most of the cruise. He didn't tend to dine with guests in the evenings or attend a number of functions where you'd expect to see him. He blamed the pilots and port authorities when we were delayed or missed ports, and even went to the extent of conducting, and televising, an interview where the pilots were called upon to "please explain" why we missed Dunedin. The Captain was reluctant to take responsibility for any decisions and, instead, blamed everyone else. In addition, the pilot who was onboard through the NZ sounds was delegated to perform the commentary- he was a depressing Scottish guy - usually, the Captain does this so, overall, it seemed to us that the Captain was uninvolved and uninterested.
Other negatives - we had difficulty using our loyalty vouchers and didn't receive the bathrobes or toiletries that were part of our program. The toilet stopped working on four occasions (as did the hair dryer) and it often took quite a while for problems to be rectified. We were overcharged several times for items that we hadn't used from the mini-bar and seemed to spend a significant amount of time at guest services trying to "fix" problems that were beyond our control.
I would also recommend not packing a power board in your checked luggage if travelling on this ship. We made the mistake of doing this, as we have done on the other cruises without a problem. There is nothing in the policy to indicate that power boards are prohibited (although they tell people "it's in the policy"). On the day of embarkation, we had booked Portofino to celebrate a special occasion. Unfortunately, we were unable to acquire our luggage until after 9:30 pm that evening when we were told to proceed to security on deck 1 and suitably chastised for bringing contraband on board. We had to attend the restaurant in the t-shirts we were wearing when we boarded, which was rather embarrassing. Other passengers carrying powerboards didn't receive their luggage until after 11:00 pm. Apparently, this is considered a safety issue but when people complained, they handed them back after a few days. For other passengers, their powerboards weren't confiscated in the first place. There is obviously no consistency across ships/staff, and RCCL needs to spell this out in the policy fine print.
Overall, our experience of Voyager was hit and miss but the food was fantastic, all of the hospitality crew were amazing (we felt that a tip was warranted with almost every service from every crew member), and the entertainers were extremely talented. The problems that need to be corrected are more at a management level, and the crew on the bridge need to spend a little less time circling scheduled ports of call and, instead, performing PR activities. We have never been able to find fault on any of our four previous RCCL cruises and I understand that this review will appear to some people to be whinging about trivial matters. However, I've always relied on reviews posted by other people and feel that it's important to highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly. We will happily sail on Rhapsody and Radiance again but not on Voyager, particularly if the same captain is at the helm!