We set off from Sydney, got to Circular Quay at boarding time for our deck, to find half the ship had already boarded, don't know why they even try to implement boarding times, if they don't actually stick to them. We could not even get a seat in the Windjammer the buffet, for lunch, went to the PARK cafe which I knew about from the internet, so at least got a small salad and sandwich in peace and the cool. Cabins not ready till 1pm, in future would just come later and not rush.
Cabin was 9924, was slightly disappointed with the size, we had cruised before on Queen Mary so that had set the bar, the bathroom minute, the bed rock hard and pillows terrible, bring your own! The fridge also does not really work at all, everything lukewarm, not worth having, and others told us the same about their cabins. Ours was a so-called superior, don't bother, just go for a Deluxe and also try for level 8 as the noise above from the suites on Level 10 was horrendous. We had a small child that had obviously been put in a bed above us and the parents must have just closed their door to their bedroom, and come 5/6am every morning he jumped out of bed and started running from one side of the room to the other and that went on all day till around 12am, a continuous cycle for the whole trip, the morning of our return, he started thumping around 4am. We were very surprised by the noise transfer between the floors, the cabins next door were fine, just the occasional stuff which you would expect.
The staff however made the trip, they were lovely people, couldn't do enough and were not fussed if you tipped or not. We did enjoy the evenings in the Schooner and Ritas Cantina, the young Indonesian in that bar was great, and interested to talk to us all.
The food was pretty good, the Samba Grill by far the best, definitely try it and don't eat all day before. Chops Grille a real disappointment, my husband's Halibut was inedible, and my steak was just ok, the staff however were terrific once again. The wine tasting an experience and also the Martini making course great, Rebecca in the Champagne Bar was very funny and entertaining.
There were some annoying things, like queuing for tender boats when we arrived at Isle of Pines, they said between 8am and 9am no tickets just go to deck 2 and queue, however the line went for miles past the cabins on deck 3, I would not have been happy if in those cabins. After everyone became used to the routine it was much better. We just had an early lunch then went off the Boat at each island.
Mystery Island the best for snorkeling, very clear and cold water, more unspoilt than the other places. Could take or leave Port Vila and Noumea, spent a lot of time on the boat, which was much better, as not many on it!!! We did the one hour orientation bus tour and that was enough.
The pool area good for young people, but not for us older ones and the undercover one was yucky, people just got in the spas and would not move at all. It smelt of lots of chlorine and hot days unbearable.
Summing it up, we had had enough by the 7th night so next time we would go for a shorter time. We did enjoy the break from everyday life and the Staff made it a memorable experience. The drinks reasonable price and the wine package worth doing.
One of our main gripes was the awful coffee as they only have long life milk all over the boat, even Lattitudes they used long life milk. They could do with hiring an Aussie barista too, the two people on the majority of the time, were terribly slow and not that good. One day at an off time I got a coffee and there was a young Asian girl, and she was great, did the same job by herself in half the time and made a much better coffee. I know Aussies are fussy when it comes to coffee, we are not far behind the Italians in our love of a good coffee.
Food in the main dining was pretty good and breakfast there was very nice and relaxed, the buffet wears off after a few days.
I will reiterate the main point, being THE STAFF MADE THE TRIP, VERY OBLIGING AND WORTH ANOTHER TIP AT THE END OF THE JOURNEY! THEY WORK INCREDIBLY HARD AND MADE US FEEL LIKE OUR LIVES WERE VERY BLESSED, THEY NEVER COMPLAINED AND SMILED ALL THE TIME