I started our journey 2 days before the cruise was to depart as I was flying down from Queensland and wanted to be there without rushing. We were travelling in a group of 7 with another group of 4 that we would also know on the ship. I am 48 and also travelling was my 5 yr old daughter, 20 yr old niece, 78 yr old Mother, 57 yr old sister, 55 yr old sister and our 50 yr old family friend. We left home early on the day to beat traffic and we arrived in Sydney around 11am. A little bit confusing for the parking and we had to lug our bags down some stairs, but got there in the end. Our bags were accepted very quickly and we made our way up stairs and passed through onto the ship within about 10 minutes. Very, very quick and we were up in the Windjammer Cafe having lunch by 12 noon.
Our rooms were ready from 1pm, so we all raced off to have a look. Myself, daughter and Niece were on level 3 and everyone else were staying on level 7. All of our rooms were interior rooms, but felt roomy and looked very clean. We found space for all of our clothes in the drawers and hanging space in the wardrobe, which also had space for all of our empty bags. I was very disappointed that we didn't have a fridge as I had some medicine for my 5 yr old that needed to be kept in the fridge after opening, so a trip to the pursers office asked if I wanted a cooler (a plug in type esky), or the other option was to leave the medicine in the Pursers fridge and collect it every night before dinner. So I left the medicine with them and every night our most awesome Head Waiter "Solt" collected this for us and brought it to our table.
The ship itself was very beautiful and was a joy to explore. We were suppose to leave Sydney at 6.30pm, but were delayed by the re-fueling barge who was late. So we didn't leave Sydney until 10pm, but the city and the Opera House lights were so pretty to see. It took me a while to get to sleep as I was still getting used to the movement of the ship and it was very windy that night, but finally go to sleep around 2am.
Our first day out at sea was still very windy and a bit rocky, but everyone seemed to be doing ok. A couple of us got up early to walk around the deck, but ended up in the Gym, as it was too windy up on the top deck. The Gym was very well equip and we got on the walkers and bikes without waiting. Our first breakfast was very tasty, but the coffee was awful. We did find the Latte-tudes coffee shop, so went there every day, getting our 7th coffee for free. Lunch was in the Edelweiss Dining Room and was all so tasty. Dinner was also in the Edelweiss Dining Room and was even better than lunch. The meal was perfect, our Waiter "Austin" and Ass Waiter "Jing, Li" were both just fantastic and so friendly. Nothing seemed to be a problem for any of the Dining room staff that we could see. Our very shy drink waiter was very helpful and made sure that our table was always served first for our loving cup shot glasses. As our table was for 10 and we were only 7, the other 3 people that shared with us at dinner were all wonderful, friendly and chatted very easily. We have been told that sometimes sharing can be a nightmare, but we were very lucky. I am not too sure if they thought they were lucky though as all together our family can be a bit loud, LOL.
I took my 5 yr old up to the kids club, which took quite a while to register, but they said that it was only because it was the first day. The lines did get smaller over the next few days. I only put my daughter in the kids club once a day between 2 and 5pm, so I could do some adult courses, like the belly dancing course, or the Cocktail making course. The kids club is run very well and the staff are just fantastic. My daughter was a bit shy the first day, but "Grandpa" had her laughing within 15 seconds. Just amazing and she was fine everyday after that. It took us till day 3 to work out the times, etc for getting everyone together when there was some activity on, but we had the most fun on the Flip Video Scavenger Hunt. We had to complete 25 tasks in 20 minutes while videoing each task. We were laughing so hard we were crying and I am sure that some people on the ship thought we were crazy.
Our first port of call was Noumea and we had pre-booked our city and Aquarium tickets. Everyone's disembarkment was timed down to the second and all went very smoothly. We found Noumea to be a bit dirty, but still felt comfortable walking around in our group. Most of the shops took French, Australian or American dollars. The Aquarium was very pretty and the views were beautiful. We went back to the ship for our lunch in the Windjammer Cafe which was just the best and ate way too much food. We then went back out looking at the shops after lunch. Our next stop was Isle of Pines which was just so pretty and clean. If you want to snorkel, I think you would be best to take your own. Our shuttle exit went smoothly and we didn't have to wait very long to get off the ship. We only stayed there until 1pm, as we went back to the ship for lunch again and then we all went and had a Seaweed wrap and hot-rock massage in the SPA. These were both beautiful and I would recommend the SPA to anyone. My Mum had some tummy pain and the doctors/nurses were just fantatic and were very helpful and had her fixed up and feeling better within the hour.
Our next 2 days sailing were taking up between Eating, Scrap-booking, shopping, Jewellery making, another Scavenger Hunt, Dancing, drinking, relaxing, swimming, more eating, reading in the library, and attending heaps of the activities that were on board. We had 2 formal nights on board and both were lots of fun. The Waiters had a big sing along and dance on a couple of the nights and it was fun and quite entertaining. It was hard leaving and the waiters all felt like family when we left.
All in all, it was just the best cruise and our whole group had the best time. We are all trying to book another one for early 2012 and although we would love to go on the Rhapsody again, we hope to try the Radiance of the Seas this time.
On the down-notes. Next time I will be prepared for the extra costs involved with photos, coffee, Internet, etc. I was disappointed that there was no Baileys in the duty free bottle shop. (Just a personal choice). Also if you want head-ache tablets, take your own, as you can only buy them down at the doctors office with American coins.