We had been researching this Cruise for over twelve months with regular dialogue with all the great people on the Cruise critic Site. My wife and I were cruising with her sister and brother in law. It was our second cruise together having been on the almost last cruise of Pacific Sky up in Asia.
We chose to arrive in Sydney the night before and stayed in a little hotel in the Rocks. Great location as long as you don't mind dragging enough luggage for 21 days, up a narrow stair way. No Lifts you see. The location meant we could go down to the terminal early to get a feel for the ship. The baggage handlers were quite willing to accept our bags well before the advertised embarkation times so we took advantage of that. We were able to go through the embarkation process relatively smoothly being toward the front of the line, but I think those arriving later would have had a longer wait. Access to our cabins was not available till after lunch so we had our first experience with the Windjammer. As most passengers on board were new things didn't flow quite as smoothly as they did latter on, had the occasional lunch here and less frequent breakfast - found the more organised dinning room less effort. Who want's to get their own food when someone will do it for you.
Cabin was aft on Deck 3. Bit of a walk to the dinning room but saved us from having to do extra laps to compensate for the meals. The service from our cabin attendant was excellent; she couldn't do enough for us. Only problems with the cabin - toilet system backed up morning of day 3 - 1st call to maintenance resulted in the toilet being cleaned but still didn't flush. 2nd call latter in the day, again toilet cleaned promptly but still didn't flush. 3rd call at 11pm finally got everything resolved. While it would have been better to have the whole problem rectified after the first call, we didn't have any further problems with it the entire cruise nor did it unduly inconvenience us. We did hear the occasional bang or crash from the kitchen on deck 4 above us, but not enough to interrupt a good night's sleep.
Our Travel Agent had picked MyTime Dinning for us, which meant for us dinner was in the upstairs dinning section (deck 5) and gratuities were all prepaid. First experience with trying to book a 7.00pm sitting on the first night wasn't good. We arrived just before 7.00 to be told there would be a 45 minute wait. ("My Time" Dinning suddenly became" TheirTime" Dinning. I was persuaded by the Head Waiter to give it another try before we moved to set time dinning (it was also suggested to book either an earlier or latter time) We booked an earlier time the next night and everything flowed very smoothly. Apart from one night (Laihana), we generally booked between 6.00 and 6.30 and had the same table and waiters for the entire cruise which was great. They quickly got to know what we wanted and were always very accommodating. Both couples had purchased a Wine package (platinum- differing number of bottles) and that worked out well (wine mark-up was 150% compared to retail prices) , but with us all having different tastes we often had four bottles on the go at once. If we didn't finish them they were put o bed in the wine locker ready for the next night. (Didn't arrange to get any sent to the cabin but I believe that is an option too). Bought a second small package towards the end after the first one ran out). Whether the package represents value for money will depend on your wine choices within the package helps to know the individual bottle prices. From other reviews I've read of fellow CC travellers, I'd have to say the upstairs kitchen on deck 5 performs better than the larger kitchen for the main dinning room. Hot Food was always hot (being early sittings we always got the choices we wanted) Service was prompt. The Filet Mignon which I had twice was excellent on both occasions. All staff upstairs were very attentive. The range of choices suited me down to the ground (although whoever said Australian won't eat lobster that's why it wasn't on the menu really needs t do more research). Notable omission
The guest entertainment was a mixed bag, and we attended about 80% of the shows only a couple of acts didn't really do it for us. But may be we weren't the right demographic as others did enjoy them. The Production numbers were all well staged, well sung, well danced but I felt the audience were superfluous to the performance. The way in which the productions are put together didn't really lend itself to audience "engagement". There was no real dialogue with the audience in my opinion although the production values were high. Pick of the entertainment for us was Anselmo Boles in the Schooner Bar, got the whole place jumping and really knows how to work a room. The guest lecture series on Hollywood Murders was fascinating (if you like that sort of thing) - I did my wife didn't - but there was always plenty of activities if one didn't suit. The ship organised two services for Anzac day, a dawn service and a memorial service which was very moving. It might have had something to do with the domination of Australians on board but it was very much appreciated. Many of the crew asked about the significance of the day and were very respectful The Ports - Papeete - Dead on a Sunday - most things were shut including the Market- we should have gone on an organised tour of some sort - (pity we couldn't have gone slower and arrived on a Monday) Moorea - Private tour with Moorea ATV - brilliant fun for a small group they have 5 ATV's for hire (each holds two people - automatics - and the terrain while spectacular isn't too rough for the inexperienced - 3 hours very well spent. With great photo's Bora Bora - Private tour with Patrick - brilliant for a large group of 36. Swimming with Stingrays, sharks, fantastic lunch of BBQ Crayfish, Suckling Pig, Chicken, Beef and local vegetable with French wine on a private motu. Then a trip round Bora Bora by motorised outrigger A highlight of the entire cruise. (Thanks Lynn for allowing us to join) (Thanks also to the Cruise Director for helping us tender off as a group even though these were private tours - asking at a CC Mix and Mingle with 75 fellow CC members helps) Raiatea - walked around town but we should have tried harder to find something more organised. Maui - Booked a Hire Car and travelled to top of Haleakala - Spectacular views from well above the clouds. We would have loved to spend more time in Laihana too. Honolulu - great place to spend a week (another three or four would have been better) Memorable and moving experience at the Hale Koa Luau too (Thanks for the invite Dennis)
In Summary - Would we do it again - Yes - with Rhapsody of the Seas - Yes. Were there things that could have been better Yes, just not enough in our experience to detract from the overall package. Best advice is to us e the roll call forum - it's a great source of information and knowledge and you communicate with great people for all over the globe, then you finally get to meet which enhances the cruising experience even more.