We traveled as a group of 5 split between two cabins next to each other. My Mother and daughter (12) in 7646 and my husband, myself and my son (9) in 7648.
Boarding is Sydney was quick, we just got out of the taxi and staff we polite and keen to take our bags. We then went on "The Rocks Walking Tour" which I really enjoyed. When we arrived at the cabins all the bags were waiting for us.
I cook with only fresh foods and found the amount of frozen vegetables etc to be difficult to swallow. Although this cruise had an Australian head chef, some of the things were a bit too american for me. I was looking forward to the omelette bar but each omelette came with 2 full ladles of oil - about 4 tablespoons - Also the crispy bacon was hard enough to send up a flag poll - I think it was ?deep fried?. The pumpkin and Apple soup was fantastic - although I asked for the recipe twice it never came. Otherwise the food was good to great. But only one or two dishes were excellent.
SERVICE Staff were always smiling and friendly but perhaps we should have tipped as we went and not pre-paid, as no one really made that "extra effort" you read about in other reviews. Our dining staff were good but preoccupied with the other table - we gave up and poured our own wine on 3 nights, and they didn't seem to notice.
The Teens club was a big disappointment. My daughter had just turned 12 and was put in with children up to 17 years old. They said this was due to a lack of numbers as there were only about 28 teens onboard. In Australia all holiday activities run on a 10 to 1 ratio NOT 28 to 1 so this was disappointing.
An older group of about 8 dominated the Teen room and were not encouraged to include others by the staff. Often the staff had their backs to the group and ignored kids. I am a teacher myself and even after I voiced my concerns with the staff little was done to improve the situation.
Obviously my daughter had a terrible cruise experience and this made it difficult for me to enjoy my cruise.
We did one excursion through the ship, a cultural center in Lugenville. The center was fantastic, informative and interesting. Unfortunately on the run down mini-bus back to the ship (that was organized by Royal Caribbean) the radiator cap came off and hot water sprayed onto one american lady we were with, burning her legs. Her screams were terrible and we were all stressed by this. There was also no follow up once onboard, I expected at the least a call in the cabin to check we were all OK.
Noumea Very smelly city - walked around a bit. Had trouble finding a local restaurant that looked clean enough to eat in - returned to the ship after 2 hours.
Mystery Island FANTASTIC - ate a great lobster $35 AU, went on a excellent local tour for $10 australian each. Snorkeling was great. The ship told us to expect no shops and no water on shore and sold us water at $4 US each. When we went ashore there was big water eskes and cups supplied by the ship for free.
Another top day, hired a local taxi for $130 AU for the day for all of us. He showed us around and took us everywhere, Had a great lunch at TARA BAY RESORT - another wonderful snorkeling spot.
CHAMPAIN BAY Better then the photos, a top day, told on board that they didn't accept australian dollars but prices were in AU in all the stalls. We found heaps of fish - we even "Found Nemo"
We did the tour as listed above, were a little tired and shaken by the mini-bus so we didn't do anything else. Others who went to the town enjoyed the day.
ISLE OF PINES The best snorkeling of the cruise. like swimming in a aquarium!!!!
ONBOARD ENTERTAINMENT We enjoyed many activities , Trivia, Scrapbooking, jewelry making photo basics, midnight fests and dancing my the pool. there was always heaps to do, some were a bit hard to enjoy with a 12 year old because of above.
Shows were great although the cruise compass didn't give much info about what to expect. The violinist was listed as a singer??? and we missed a puppet show that sounded great because the compass didn't mention puppets.
CABIN The cabin was great- heaps of storage even in the bathroom. We didn't travel light and 6 big bags of stuff fitted easily. Always clean and in good repair.
OVERALL Having spent well over 10,000 dollars we expected a little more. Things were good, but not the GREAT others talk about. I will cruise again but next time I think as Australians we would be happier with an Australian ship.