I will keep my critic to the point.
Embarkation was easy and straightforward. Straight onto ship and up to Windjammer Cafe for lunch. Stateroom would be ready in about an hour and it was.
Cabin was very clean and balcony is recommended. Get portside if possible. Plastic tables and chairs on balcony. Room decor dated - peach and mid green in colour. Old minature tv but effective. Small mini bar fridge. Sofa bed and glass coffee table. Lots of storage. Need US adapters for any electrical items. Use their hairdryer as Oz ones go dead slow. Bed reasonably comfortable and nice linen. Suitcases under bed. Not much room around bed. Bathroom adequate - shower small. No toiletries other than soap and some sort of shamp/cond combo on wall.
Ship is maintained very well - in fact they decided to jackhammer paint or rust off tender deck while we were enjoying a glass of wine on our balcony when we pulled up at one of the ports. Not good!! Ship is very clean but decor is again quite dated. Lots of wood and mid green or mid blue and peach furnishings - very 80's 90's. Would be nice to see more contemporary decor. Schooner bar is really nice and there is lots of glass. Nice library. Nice theatre. Eidleweiss restaurant very nice. Solarium steamy but nice setup. Pooldeck nice setup but lots of plastic lounges and tables. Lots of kids in the pool and spas. Gets very windy when sailing. Windjammer Cafe good setup - dated decor and lots of food stations. Egg Harbour not clearly set out as no-one seemed to know where to line up for eggs and omlettes.
Food in main dining room was very good. We really enjoyed it. Need to keep cheese on cheese platters without the American preferences. Aussies like vintage cheddar and Brie or Camembert mainly. We do not like edam and havarti types as much. Servings not too large so you could have all courses. Wine list reasonable as well. Good choice of beers. Wine packages available. Mixed reviews on these. Platinum packages seemed to be well recieved. Most kept them in their rooms and took the bottles to wherever they were going to be on the boat. Walking around with a drink from anywhere on the ship was acceptable. Do 'My Time Dining' (can change as soon as you board on ship) as this allowed us to mingle with all sorts of people or just be on our own. Really enjoyed this. Must remember to book each day though. Times are flexible. Service was excellent - great waiters Jaydeep and Dante, along with head waiter Jerry and restaurant host, Gia. These guys made our cruise!
Service overall was excellent. Could not complain. The cruise line should be proud of their service, especially in the restuarant.
Negatives: No snorkels to hire or buy on the ship and most destinations highlight coral reefs - very unhappy about this. Some islands offered small amount of snorkeling gear for hire, but most of us missed out. P & O offered this service so we expected it on RCCL. Take your own snorkels and reef shoes as I cut my feet on the coral and it still has not healed (approx $10 from Big W).
Food in Windjammer Cafe was very average and lacked taste. Service could be patchy when it was busy and tables were hard to get. We chose to use the dining room which was fantastice for breakfast, lunch (not while in ports)& tea. Tutti Salad was sublime for lunch so try it. Coffee is absolutely awful. Many previous cruisers took their own coffee bags (even tho you are not supposed to)however changing coffee appears to be out of RCCL control as they have a contract with Seattle Best Coffee or whatever and can't get out of it.
Entertainment was, in my opinion, very average and this affected our cruise experience. Lots of live music playing music from eras where the people are either geriatric or dead! We are in our late forties and prefer music no earlier than the 70's, unless it is classical. The singers for live music were not very good either. We were wincing when they got wrong notes - a lot! Lots of waltzing music and it got very boring. The other thing they do is show you how to do dance steps then stop the song and go onto another and show you more dance steps. Most of us can dance freely, but there was very little opportunity to do this - instead you were obliged to try and follow the dance steps being shown or sit down and yawn. Noticed lots of 18-30yr olds wandering aimlessly looking for something to do. I love dancing but did very little on this cruise. The viking bar was more up to date and this filled the void for many for mainstream music and dancing, but it really was the only place for it. Has sensational views too.
Most kids we spoke to were very happy with the kids clubs for their ages. None of them appeared to be bored or unhappy. Did not notice kid noise too much except for one lad who was hell bent on consuming 'at least 6 cokes a day' so parents need to monitor. This lad was bouncing off the walls all the time and the temptation to sit on him and gag him very strong!!
Very few enrichment sessions or chats - intelligent people do like to learn new things too. Shopping was very average too compared to P & O. They had brand names but stock was dated and tizzy. Diamonte jewellery on plastic hangers for $70 - $100 - you can buy on land in most stores for a quarter of the price. Guess bags were old fashioned and boring. Some nice real jewellery. Booze was cheap but cheaper in Vila, Vanuatu. I did not buy anything except a bottle of booze on the ship. Display of merchandise was cheap and tacky. I had money to spend too but did not.
Shows were hit and miss. Some were very good - guitarist and violin player and ship dancers. Davida was an opera singer and was not good especially for NYE. Seemed quite Americanised - Country & western night was all American - no Oz material. Some good movies, but was looking for something to do a lot of the time. Some the game activities were fun. Casino looked good if you were into gambling. Currency on board is US dollars.
Overall, the experience was a bit 'beige'. Australians like fun and most have a larrikin side to them. I would definitely look at the activities available on board and what entertainment was available before booking any cruise with this line again. Excitement and vibe are just not this line's selling point - or at least on this ship. P & O were a lot more fun even though the ammenities are a star below. If you are aged between 18 - 40 and want fun this is not the right boat for you.