The ship filled up the whole of Circular Quay, or so it seemed. Crowds were clustered around and about the side, and the luggage collection area was like a disturbed ants nest. Outwardly a chaotic shambles, in reality a well organised bustle, with each of the ants knowing their job and doing it well.
We approached the embarkation area, passports, customs forms and illness forms clutched in our hands. Prepared for the usual long and seemingly indeterminable wait. Pleasantly surprised we found ourselves seated next to the pool, sipping cool beers within 20 minutes.
Our Junior Suite was clean, spacious and had a view of the Opera House. We were to have no major complaints about it, despite the ceiling light fitting we found on the floor after the last port of call, or the toilet roll holder that fell off after day 2 and didn't get fixed until day 6, or the telephone that kept flashing a red light even when there was no message, or the closet light that would, on occasion, switch on whenever the ship rolled.
Getting a drink, however, was a totally different ball game. This was a problem on two levels - Level 1- Not having completed a course in semaphoric communication, I found it difficult to attract the attention of a waiter in any of the bars. Once attention was gained, it could take as long as 20 minutes for the waiter to approach (as there were many people in the same boat as us). Then, once the order had been given, allow a further 20 minutes for it to arrive. Level 2 - Often we propped up the bar. When doing so, you need not only to know what you wanted to drink, but also what you wanted in case they didn't have your original choice. Unfortunately, this was often the rule rather than the exception. During the cruise the bars variously ran out of: Tooheys New, Fosters Oil cans, Johnnie Walker (red, black and gold), mojito mixes, Baileys,the list goes on....By the last 2 days, there was not a bottle of Tooheys New or a can of Fosters to be found.
Thinking we could indulge in a bit of retail therapy, we headed into the shopping precinct. Very nicely done. A bit like shopping in communist Moscow. Nice shops, barren shelves.
Duty free stocked only one brand of cigarettes (two types - same brand). Liquor selection was very limited. Even the usual ship and cruise line branded items were a bit light on. No joy there.!
When it came time to eat, we found that room service was prompt and efficient, ringing to ensure we were awake to receive our breakfast. Nice touch. We chose Traditional Dining, because we couldn't see the point in paying extra to eat from the same menu, in the same venue, just at a different time. Had there been a separate dining room, different story.
Our dining room staff were everything we could have expected and the food fulfilled our expectations also. Good food, good service, good company.
Our ports of call were all enjoyable and the dis - and- embarkation at them was smooth and efficient.
Our fellow passengers were, on the whole a nice bunch. Although we wish parents would do more to control their screaming brats. We understand they are on holidays too, but hey, so are we!
Upon our return, disembarkation was even smoother and swifter than embarkation.
In conclusion: This is a very nice ship for first time cruisers and those cruisers with lower expectations. Unfortunately, we found the service, choice and range disappointing, and it is doubtful we will choose Royal Caribbean International again.