We flew from the Gold Coast to Sydney early on departure day to board the ship. We caught the shuttle from the airport to the overseas passenger terminal at Circular Quay and were able to store our baggage in the vans provided by RCI. We passed a few hours with friends before returning to the ship around 2pm.
Boarding was simple. No queues. Straight thru to collect seapasses and board the Rhapsody. Our bags were already at the cabins when we got aboard. The cabin was clean and comfortable and certainly adequate.
Lunch was available in the Windjammer cafe, passengers were swimming in the pool, playing shuffleboard and generally making the most of the facilities. We liked the look of the ship from the beginning. Plenty of glass making the most of the ocean views. People had mentioned the ship looking it's age, being a bit old etc however we thought it was comfortable and clean. We've sailed in ships a lot older than this.
As the cruise got underway we discovered the Schooner Bar and the entertaining staff - Gaston and Troy - behind the bar. Always up for a chat and story from somewhere in the world! We thought the many bars and lounges on board provided something for everyone and even though the drink prices were higher than we're used to, it wasn't as bad as we were led to believe before getting on board.
Drink prices - There are daily specials of 2 for 1 beers (around US$7.50 for 2)and cocktails (about the same), cocktails of the day around US$6-7. We pre-ordered a wine & dine package providing us with wine with dinner each evening. Any bottles not used can be taken off the ship at the end of the cruise. Soft drink packages are available for purchase on day one of the cruise and worthwhile if you have kids with you. I think it was around US$4.90 a day for the package.
Coffee shop prices were around US$3.25 for a latte which is around AUD$5. The price however includes your choice of cakes from the patisserie. If you don't want to eat cakes/pastries you can take them back to the room for later.
We had dinner in the dining room each evening. Food and service was first class. Lunch we ate in the Windjammer or Solarium. Most days we had breakfast in the Windjammer though did try room service one morning and the dining room a couple of times. We didn't have to queue for tables at any time and there was plenty of variety. We reckon we ate our fare in smoked salmon.
The kids (14-year-old boys) went to the teen club day one but weren't really impressed. Said there wasn't much to do and the room was packed (a couple of hundred teenagers on board I heard). They found plenty of other things to do ie rockclimbing, shuffleboard, swimming, ping pong, movies, video arcade - no problem filling in time and loved the cruise. Other people we spoke to had nothing but praise for the kids club (U12).
PORTS Noumea Not much to do in town where the ship comes in. Best thing to do is get out of town, even on a short tour. Tours from $AU20 at the port terminal. We've been to Noumea a few times - the island is very pretty, especially on a nice day. Take time to get out and look around the bays and beaches, boulevards etc.
Luganville Another port that doesn't promise too much at first glance. Worth a walk up the main street and browse through the stores, even if not buying. There are plenty of nice places around here. Champagne Bay, the Blue Hole and Million Dollar Point a few of the popular ones. We caught a ferry to Aore Island Resort for the day. Great snorkeling & use of the resort facilities for the price of lunch.
Port Vila Friendly locals add to the day out here. No problem getting a taxi to go anywhere - Shopping, sightseeing, snorkeling, lunch - drivers always happy to recommend somewhere to go - for a reasonable fare.
Isle of Pines Beautiful beaches and a great snorkeling spot.
All in all, a value for money cruise. Nice ship, efficient & friendly staff. We'd definitely cruise again on this ship.