Overall we loved this cruise, not only because it was a fun cruise but also because we love snorkeling. Many of the ports visited offered good snorkeling.
The Business Analyst in me does have a few tips for RCI which I will share a little later.
Precruise - We caught an early morning flight out of Brisbane to Sydney on the morning of the cruise. We paid for a shuttle transfer and were at the terminal within 30 minutes.
Because we were early, there was no queue at all in customs or check in. Within 10 minutes we were on the ship having lunch in the Windjammer.
Ship Info -
Although the ship is showing its age, it is very well maintained and we just loved all the glass everywhere.
We were forward on Deck 2, large oceanview room which was quite adequate for our needs. Being at the front of the ship meant we got a bit of a roll but no problem for us old sea dogs.
It didn't matter where we went, we were always greeted with a good morning, big smiles and exceptional service.
We don't normally join in shipboard activities but we did join in on the Quest which was a real laugh. Did we (the men) really do those things on stage and on camera? I think some guys enjoyed it more than they might own up to.
We also watched the belly flop competition and joined in with the "Name that theme song" trivia.
We watched two cooking shows and paid to attend the cocktail mixing which was quite good considering the cost included 4 cocktails each.
My wife attended the environmental lecture while I attended the passenger talent show.
We both attended the captain's question and answer which was very informative. The captain mentioned that Rhapsody has not had one disease outbreak in 2008 which I thought was great advertising if true. He also mentioned that the entire fleet has been disease free for the past 2 years except for one outbreak on a ship this year in the northern hemisphere. By the way the captain was very approachable and was often seen mingling with passengers. Great to see!
The rock climbing wall was popular but due to a knee injury, it will have to wait till next cruise.
It never really seemed to be busy but we had a few drinks at the bar.
Shore Excursions -
They were expensive so we decided to do our own thing.
Ports visited -
Noumea - New Caledonia
I had heard a lot of negative things about Noumea so decided to have an open mind. Sadly I agree, I won't be returning to a dirty, expensive town where I didn't feel that welcome.
We joined our Canadian friends (hi Gordon and Sandra) and travelled via local bus to Duck island. The snorkeling was quiet good especially the underwater pathway.
Vanuatu - Lugenville
We hired a taxi who took us to Million Dollar Point and the Blue Hole. We snorkeled in both places, the wreckage at MDP was quite interesting.
Vanuatu - Vila
We loved the friendly people. We visited the Cascades which was very nice, we had a beautiful refreshing swim. Our taxi driver told us the people who own the land are quite rich and at $AU 20 entrance fee per person, I am sure of it... Total rip off.
He also drove us around the town, up to a lookout for photos, past the Australian High commission, to the city for duty free and back to the ship.
Isle of Pines - New Caledonia
Just beautiful, like everyone else, we snorkeled here for hours around the Sacred rock. Loved the Isle of Pines.
Gym & Spa -
We had a tour of the spa on the first day, but that was as close as we got. I used the gym three times and it is well equipped with Life Fitness machines and a small free weights area. Fairly good layout for a ship, if I was to be very picky, I would say it lacked a leg press.
Food Patisserie -
Too expensive and wasn't going to pay up $AU 8 for a cappuccino.
Dining - Edelweiss
We only ate dinner in the Edelweiss and every meal was hot and well presented along with great service by our waiters. Additional or alternative dishes were offered if you didn't eat the last morsel on your plate.
Dining - Windjammer
We ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer. Although the food was generally very good, we felt none of the dishes to be hot enough.
One of my wife's patients used to send home her famous Banana pie for me. Unfortunately she passed away several years ago, so imagine my delight to see Boston Cream pie which was quite similar. Yes I just had to have several pieces.
We attended the BBQ on pool deck and the midnight buffet which were both good. Sadly, after a big day, our little eyes couldn't stay up past 11.30pm for the midnight chocolate buffet. Probably a good think in hindsight, too much food.
Solarium - We really liked the concept for a pool for the over 16. It meant that it was usually quiet enough to stretch out on a lounge for a good read. We also met many nice people in the spas here. The self service ice cream bar was a hit here as was the midnight pizzas that we become accustomed to.
Only complaint was that it could become a little stifling being indoors. Although the roof is retractable, I believe it was only opened one day, really need to open more often to let the fumes out.
The usual ship shopping was available including the cheap watches, jewelry etc. Duty free alcohol was very fairly priced and we purchased 2 bottles of Baileys. We also bought 2 bottles of Bundaberg Rum at Vila for $Au 17 each, a real bargain.
What can I say, this was our first Meet and Mingle and I'm so glad to have met so many fellow Cruise Critic posters. The many children on board seemed to be reasonably well behaved.
Entertainment Shows -
The RCI singers and dancers were not so good, sorry to say. My ears still hurt. The Variety shows were generally very good, the Las Vegas show was a bit boring The Farewell show - very good, Matt the cruise director can sing, Wow.
We didn't see a lot of wildlife from the ship except for several flying fish and albatross.
It took awhile for Green 3 to be called, I think they were running about 40 mins late by the time we were shipped out.
The friendly staff and fellow passengers. All the glass which provided fantastic views of the moonlight on the water, the wild electrical storms and the passing ship in the night, Dawn Princess - very close! Does anyone recall the name of that passage where we passed DP?
Some thoughts for RCI -
For Australian cruises, please display comparative pricing in $AU as well as $US.
I happened to witness two incidents requiring medical assistance. I won't go into them out of respect for the people involved but Security and nursing staff were very slow to react. Passengers had to take the initiative to assist. My wife is a health care worker and she was quiet horrified by the lack of assistance.
I changed some money at the Pursers office from Au to French Pacific francs. After our last port of call I went back to the Pursers to change the remaining francs back into Aussie $. They would only change back into $US. Hmmmm - grrrrrrrr
Originally I requested on my Set Sail pass that I wished our account to be settled in $US and to allow my bank to convert to $AU. During the cruise I enquired at the Purser as to the state of our account, and I noticed that at the bottom of the account, it said that I had elected for RCI to charge my account in $AU. I marched back to the Purser and she confirmed that it would be charged in $US.... Surprise, surprise and sure enough now that we are back home, a quick look at my credit card account and it was charged in $AU.... Hello, why did I bother not once, twice but three times????
The drinks and shore tours are very expensive. If you make them more affordable, Aussies will spend up.
The percolated coffee was good!
Fantastic time - thank you Rhapsody!