It was our first trip to Australia and after 5 brilliant days in Sydney, we were getting very excited to board the Voyager of the seas on 4th February 2014. In Sydney, we stayed at Sydney Boulevard hotel which was an excellent hotel in a great location with perfect harbour views. There is so much to see and do in Sydney, that I would recommend spending at least 5 days in this great city prior to boarding a cruise. We did the hop on hop off tour around Sydney and Bondi on 2 days, blue mountains trip on another day, manly beach trip one day, a dinner cruise round the harbour one warm evening, watching fireworks in darling harbour to celebrate Chinese New Year and valentines day etc. All in all we had an amazing time in this awesome city.
On the day of the cruise we took a taxi from the hotel to the overseas passenger terminal at around 10.30am. It took us around 15mins to get to the terminal and cost us around A$20. After unloading the luggage from the cab, we handed our luggage to the porters and proceeded to join the long queue developing to check in. We were met by a representative from the cruise line who noticed that we were gold members and directed us to another area where there was no queue whatsoever. We were very soon inside going through security and after a quick check in and a photo,we were inside this huge ship within 15mins. One of the fastest check ins and we were well pleased. We were told that the staterooms wouldn't be ready till 1pm and hence were directed to windjammers for lunch. As it was only 11.15, we decided to explore the ship before going for lunch. Loved the royal promenade which is a great feature of voyager class ships. I have been on Explorer and Mariner of the seas and knew the general lay out as they are all similar. Also liked the mini golf, studio B which is the ship'a ice rink area, massive theatre, casino, bars, 3 tiered main restaurant etc.
We proceeded for lunch to the windjammers restaurant around 12pm. Luckily there were many tables available as it was still early and there were lots of passengers still to come. As we are vegetarians, we knew our choice would be limited but hoping there would be a few decent items on the menu to choose from. To our surprise, there was hardly anything vegetarian on the menu except some pasta and chips. Being the first day, we thought things would improve in the days to follow. How wrong were we.
Anyway, at 1pm we proceeded to our staterooms. We had 2 balcony rooms next to each other on the 7th level. The cabins were of a decent size with a small balcony which had 2 chairs and a small table. The room had a flat screen interactive tv, fridge, plenty of storage space, safe etc. The bathroom was small with a compact shower area. Not much storage space to store your toiletries in the bathroom. As the ship was 15 years old, it looked quite tired with lot of areas needing attention. There were lots of stains on the sofa and the carpets. Storage drawers were not cleaned properly and looked dusty. Hence we were not entirely pleased with our staterooms but kept hoping thing would get better. Also to mention that the balconies don't have full length glass unlike the newer voyager class ships. Hence couldn't get a full view of the sea if you were relaxing in the bedroom.
The suitcases were delivered around 3pm and were delivered completely wet as there was a downpour after we had boarded the ship. However I was surprised that the luggage was left outside instead of transferring to a sheltered area. Unfortunately water had seeped into my mum's case and wet some of her clothes.
After unpacking the cases, we decided to go have a walk on sydney harbour bridge as the ship was not sailing till 6. When we decided to exit the ship, we couldn't go through the same way we entered the ship. The staff were also confused which way we could go out. Hence we had to find our own way out.
After our walk on the bridge we came back to the ship just in time for the fire drill. We were lined up at our muster stations for a long while. Not sure what the delay was. Some passengers who had a standing difficulty had to seek assistance to have a seat somewhere as it took so long and no one could leave until we were discharged. We were all relieved when that was over.
The ship set sail on time and we headed towards Malbourne, our first port of call. We got ready for dinner and went for dinner at My Flute dining room on level 5. We were on my time dining and one could either just walk in, however this would mean waiting to get a table or sharing a table with other guests. I had reserved a table for 7.30pm every evening. Hence we got a table straight away for the 3 of us. The waiter and his assistant were both very pleasant and despite not much to choose from the starters, our main meal was quite good. Sadly this was the only decent main vegetarian meal we had all cruise.
In the evening we went to see the welcome show which was ok. We were introduced to the cruise director Luke from UK. He was not bad but no where as good as our previous cruise director, John Heald from Carnival Legend who was one of the best cruise directors we had come across.
We had a decent night's sleep. Next day was sea day and hence woke up at 8.30 or so and after getting ready headed to windjammers for breakfast. This is when our dining problems began. We just couldn't find a table to sit at. The staff were not helpful in locating us a table. Hence we had to ask other guests ourselves whether we could share a table with them. Breakfast was the worst I had ever had in a cruise ship. Toasts were very hard, omelettes were the worst I had ever had and once again apart from bread and pastries and potatoes, there was not much choice for vegetarians. We had a daily problem getting a table which made the whole experience of going for breakfast very frustrating. Going for lunch at windjammers was no different with everyone trying to grab a table when they could. This also led to awkward situations when we got to a free table at the same time as other passengers and causing a bit of friction. As I don't like arguing, I usually gave in however my hunt for a table lasted around 15 mins every morning and nearly every lunch time especially on sea days. This is a design fault in voyager class ships and hopefully when the ship goes in a dry dock later this year, this may be rectified.
There were many activities on sea days like bingo which was well organised, competitions, 3d movies, napkin folding denonstrations etc. which kept us all busy. We had 4 sea days in total on this cruise and loved them all in terms of activities on the ship. However not pleased with the food that was on offer especially for breakfast and lunch at windjammers. We raised our concern with one of the officers in windjammers but nothing was done to improve the variety of vegetarian food. All the sandwiches were also meat or fish based so couldn't eat those either.
We had a formal night on the first sea day of the cruise and this was quite well organised and got a chance to get pics taken with the captain. Free alcohol flowed all evening. We went for dinner at 7.30 as usual and were shown to a different table at the back of the dining room. Service here was no where as good as what we had experienced on the first evening. Veg food choice on the menu was pathetic, hence we ordered the veg Indian curry which was not very tasty and came with one nan bead, rice and 2 pappadoms. The curries didn't change much from day to day and by the third day we got fed up of eating veg curries however had to eat that whenever the veg choice on main menu didn't look or sound appetising. The only choice in starters for vegetarians were different types of salads and if you didn't like eating salads, you were **gg*red.
The show that evening was not bad and the comedian was quite talented. After dinner went to bed but got woken up with severe heartburn middle of the night. This was strange as I never suffer from such symptoms. Must have been as a result of the Caesar salad I had the previous evening. Felt slightly better in the morning and headed for a quick breakfast before disembarking in Melbourne and going on a tour. All the tours were well organised and usually met at the la scala theatre before heading out. Melbourne was a great city and slightly more relaxed than Sydney. We did a lot of sightseeing in the city and went up the eureka deck in Melbourne to get panoramic pics.
We then sailed towards Adelaide. Had another sea day in between. In Adelaide we managed to go to an animal park whereby we could hold the koalas and feed the kangaroos. It was a very hot day with temps reaching 42C however didnt feel the heat much due to the huge shade giving trees which resulted in some cooling effect. Then went for a city tour around Adelaide. The place looked fine but definitely not as impressive as Melbourne or Sydney.
We had another sea day before heading towards Hobart, Tasmania. This was our favourite stop. Very nice marina area with many bars and restaurants. Also Hobart is very scenic and has many things one could see. As were going to be in Hobart for 2 days, we did a Hobart Highlights tour on the first day and a trip to mount field and salmon ponds and Richmond on second day. Both trips were brilliant and very scenic. Loved Tasmania. There was another day at sea before heading back to Sydney.
Although we were given the same waiter and assistant waitress and same table as first night from 3rd day onwards with good service, the food was not good at all. Sometimes it was too salty and at other times it was too bland. I literally couldn't finish any of my main meals on most nights. Desserts were not very good either. I was surprised that there was no tiramisu on any of the nights. There were no hot vegetarian soups in the starter menu most nights and hence we had to make special requests for these for rest of cruise. Royal Caribbean really need to change their menu and add a few more veg choices. Having sailed recently on carnival and NCL , I was surprised that the food on this ship was no where near that of those ships in terms of quality or choice.
We bought a royal reserve package for mum as she liked her chai lattes and cokes and non alcoholic cocktails. IT was $20 per day but well worth it if you like your speciality teas and coffees. Also you can get bottled water on this package. The alcohol packages were quiet expensive so we didn't get those.
Most of the shows on the ship in the la scala theatre were below average. However the ice shows were top notch. Being crown and anchor members, we were invited on the 3rd day to meet the captain in studio B and were shown a breathtaking performance by the ice cast. The captain came on skates and gave his speech. He was heard daily on the tannoy and one could see him through the ship on a daily basis. Shame I never got a chance to tell him about the food quality on board.
There was an outbreak of norovirus midway through the cruise and several passengers fell ill. They tightened the hygiene procedures and started serving meals in windjammers rather than everyone helping themselves at the buffet. However on the last morning we were allowed to help ourselves. They didn't care whether we fell ill at that stage as we were disembarking. Not nice of royal Caribbean to treat passengers like that.
Wifi on the ship is appalling with only a few wifi hotspots and the connection is very poor. Also very expensive. Hence we didn't bother to get any wifi onboard and used free wifi at the various ports of call.
Our room steward was not bad and ensured rooms were cleaned twice daily. However towel animals were only made every other day unlike carnival and NCL whereby towel animals were done on a daily basis. Also there was no chocolate on the pillows. Moreover he often missed certain areas that needed cleaning.
Disembarkation was a breeze and well organised. All shore excursions were well organised too. If the veg food and choice was improved, we would have certainly enjoyed this cruise much more. However I suppose there is a silver lining to every cruise and on this one, I managed to loose some weight which was a blessing in disguise.