Firstly thing I want to say to anybody planning on doing a cruise for a honeymoon is don't. With the amount of great food and activities on board, you don't do much "honeymooning" at night.
We took this cruise as our honeymoon. We stayed at the Novotel Rockford Darling Harbor. It was a nice hotel in a great spot between Chinatown and Darling Harbor. I would stay there again. It cost about $15 for a taxi to the ship.
Embarkation day in Sydney set the tone for what to expect. As we had booked a suite, we had priority boarding. It probably took us about 45 minutes from when we dropped our luggage off until we were in the Windjammer for lunch. We hade purchased our beverage packages and dining options well in advance so we were able to bypass the crew members selling these packages as we were boarding.
As it was our honeymoon, we booked ourselves a junior suite. After seeing the size of the balcony rooms, we could go down to that, but I don't think that I want to. The room was turned over twice a day and our room attendant, Rodica, was amazing and always there to help.
Cascades Dining Room
We ate in here three times for the whole cruise. We had nothing against the food in there, it just didn't appeal to us. We checked the daily menu there and found that roughly half of what they had on the menu was available in the Windjammer in the evening. I'm disappointed that I didn't try lunch or breakfast in there. The food that we did have was very good. I liked how we were able to get order more than one entrée, main or dessert. Two issues that I had in here.
1. When we ordered the "roasted beef tenderloin", we weren't served tenderloin. It was roasted silverside. There is a big difference in tenderness and succulence between the two.
2. We ordered a bottle of wine one night and they kept topping up our glasses without asking first. this wasn't an issue until we had asked them to stop and they still topped up.
Great food, great selection every day at all times. It's a trap! You will put on weight from all of the nice food. The hamburgers are addictive.
I am not quite sure if I ever want to have Japanese on land again. I thought I loved sushi beforehand, but I was wrong. I now know what good sushi is and I don't want to go back to crap. I would almost book another cruise just to back there. There is a $5 cover charge but its worth it. We spent about $45 for the two of us both times we went in.
WOW! An entrée buffet that consisted of cured meats, salads and bread. 9 courses of meat perfectly cooked, followed by your choice of any of the courses again. Then there was the choice of three desserts. We couldn't get through our dessert because we were that full. That's saying something because we always have room for dessert.
I'm not going to pretend that I know what good Mexican is because I don't. There was no cover charge and the dishes ranged from $1.75-$2.75 (not a typo). Four of us went in and all had the same question about the meal size. The waiter said that they were only small serves. The waiter was a pretty big guy so we learnt what his version of small is. We all ordered 2-3 dishes and struggled to get through it all. All up our bill was $53.00. $33 of that was a bottle of wine. Excellent value and good food too.
Nice hotdogs with five different types to choose from. We found it to be a bit out of place considering all of the other good food on offer.
A good place to go if you want a light meal/snack, or if you felt like something healthy. There were plenty of healthy options in Windjammer but I always bypassed them (I guess that's why I put on 10kg). Food was nice, and a good place to go for a late night snack or dessert.
Giovannis, Choppes Grille and Chefs Table
We didn't try these three and we're disappointed that we didn't. I would recommend purchasing a dining package either before, or as you board. We will be doing this on our next cruise so we can try these specialty restaurants. These three were also booked out on the last night so make sure you get in early.
We purchased the Royal Replenishment package beforehand as neither of us are big alcohol drinkers. This worked out to be roughly $20/day. I thought that it was excellent value and I definitely got my moneys worth out of it. Knowing how much I spent on alcohol for the trip, I would even consider getting a Premium Package that includes alcohol as well.
I've seen several people in other reviews complain about the coffee on board. I can't comment because I don't drink coffee. However it was nice to be able to go to the coffee shop and get a hot chocolate every day because it was included in my package.
You must go to the show every night, even if it doesn't sound like your kind of show. They performers were fantastic, the shows were fantastic and we had seats in the first three rows every night which made it even better. getting served drinks at your seat before the shows was a nice touch.
There were several musicians that were on a rotating roster throughout the ship. I found that there was somebody to cater to all different age groups.
There was always something to do. There were usually two quizzes everyday, dance classes, karaoke, bingo. If we wanted quiet time we just went into the Colony Club and played chess or backgammon. We had trouble keeping up with everything to do
We went to the solarium pool once and didn't go again because we were always doing something else We went to the main pool for a party another night which was great fun.
As we were in the beautiful tropics of the South Pacific, most of our shore activities were based around water and snorkelling. Take a snorkel set with you (they sold them on the boat for $50 each). Make sure you get off the boat nice and early and don't waste the day. Most days we were back on the boat by 2pm. One day we got back on at 1pm and it was just as well because the boat had a medical emergency and had to leave 3 hours early.
Kayaking was ok. If I knew then what I know now, I probably wouldn't have done it. I guess you need to experience these things for yourself to know. I didn't see any independent operators offering this.
Tchou Tchou train - there is and independent operator doing the same thing for half the price. This covers both the train and city tour.
Hop on/hop off bus tour - don't bother. Use the local public transport to get around. It's cheaper and a better way to see the city.
The only tours that I would take would be to Amedee Island, Duck Island or deep sea fishing.
Lemon Bay - overrated. It's nice because it's sheltered from the wind, but the sand is very shelly and gritty, with a nice sprinkling of glass through it. The restaurants are overpriced, and the bars are too. $12 for a pint of Heineken and $6 for a can of Pepsi was over the top.
If I ever go back there on a cruise, I will get on a local bus out to Anse Vata beach and get either a windsurfing or kite surfing lesson. They are so much cheaper than in Australia. Unfortunately, that would be the only thing that is cheaper than Australia. Do not buy food or drink there unless you're very well off for money. Eat and drink on the boat.
Isle Of Pines
We didn't book any shore tours here, we just winged it. Met a nice family on the tender boat who asked us to join them for a tour to make it cheaper. That family talked a tour operator down from $150 to $80. I just about fell over when she asked that, but he had no hesitations in saying yes. The tour was well worth it as we got to see the whole island. The old prison was the highlight for me.
We lounged around on the beach for the next couple of hours. There were people selling grilled half lobster with rice and papaya salad for $30. We thought that was a great deal until somebody told us that they got a whole lobster for the same price from somebody else. There were other selling French pastries for about $3 each they were really nice.
We were going to do a shore excursion to the natural aquarium but it was cancelled because the new mayor said no more. This was understandable because they would sometimes have 5 cruise ships a week going through there, so they want to preserve it. You can still go there, but you have to pay a good price for it. We snorkelled close to the jetty and found it to be pretty decent, without being spectacular. Others said that they found some great snorkelling near the big rock.
Beautiful Island that had some fantastic swimming and snorkelling. On the same side of the island as the boat, we were able to see turtles and snorkel around some reefs which was nice. On the other side of the island was a natural aquarium that cost $15 to enter. I would pay $30 to enter because it was that good. It is also limited to 100 people in the morning, and 100 people in the afternoon.
There was a cave that we were recommended to see because you could go swimming in there. I thought this was a bit overrated (maybe that's because of my expectations).
There were local curries, avocadoes and coconuts on offer which were at a decent price. The best part, IMO, was that at every attraction on the island were drinks. $3 for a soft drink and $4 for a beer.
A small island that takes no time at all to walk around. on the opposite side to the boat is a reef that had some great snorkelling. We found the trick was to not fight the current and let it take you from one end to the other (where you end up on the beach) and do it all over again.
We took a snorkelling tour where we were able to see turtles. They say to keep up with your guide, but they're like Olympic swimmers. We saw turtles and it was well worth it. I think that was about $25 each. Reef shoes required.
For a floating fitness centre for people on holiday, I thought that this was a pretty good facility. I went every second day at 6am when it opened. This was the best time because by 8am it was packed. There were classes including Pilates and Yoga for a cost. There were free classes every morning for stretching and Abs and they were good too.
STAFF & SERVICE
I found the bar staff to be bit surly early on, but as the cruise went on they seemed to warm up a lot. Apart from that, the staff couldn't have more friendly or helpful. On a daily basis were greeted with a smile from every staff member that we encountered. This starts from the top and Captain Sindre set the tone for the crew. We ran into him once and he had no hesitations to stop and have chat to see how our experience was. I even ran into a lady from HR on the second last day who went out of her way to see how my trip was. I did find that some wait staff gave the best possible service on the last two days in the hope of getting tips from customers at the end. Before that though, the service from them was fantastic.
Everyone is asked to give their preferred method for leaving the ship about 3 days into the cruise. Its pretty easy stuff, just fill in a form and hand it to guest services. We pretty much had an easy walk off the ship as we were in the second group. Please do the staff a favour and make sure that you are in your group as you will hold people up if you're not.
Overall we had a fantastic time and have put down a deposit for our next cruise. I highly recommend that everybody takes a cruise at least once in their lifetime, and Royal Caribbean is definitely a great choice.
I did notice that somebody in another review complained about children and their behaviour on the ship. I guess that we were just lucky not to have encountered any who had questionable behaviour. Considering there were 600 on board, I thought that was pretty good. I'll put that down to the kids clubs.