Our group had been looking forward to this cruise since booking in early April. Between booking and embarkation there was quite a few price drops. After a little persistence RCI came to the party. We arrived early on Dec 18Th at around 8:30am and reached Syd OPT about 9:30am. We were able to drop our luggage off soon after which made it a lot easier to get around. We started boarding around 11am but were told the staterooms would not be ready until 1pm. This gave us a little time for lunch and to explore some of the ship.
The ship was very clean and well decorated for Christmas. After a quick look around we made our way to the helipad to meet up with friends and a few beers as we sailed away from Sydney Harbour. We had the best view, kind of like Kate Winslet had in Titanic.
We were travelling with my parents "first time cruisers" and after the 3rd day they had already booked our next cruise. Booking on-board for a stateroom only was $100 per person plus we received a very handy tote bag. If you were booking a suite then the deposit is considerably more.
The captain was very active in his announcements throughout the cruise, keeping us informed on what the situations were both at sea and on land. The food on board was excellent, the table service in the main dining room (Cascades) was above and beyond. We visited 4 of the 6 specialty restaurants (Chops Grill, Izumis, Giovannie's and The Samba Grill) , We purchased a package on board that gave us the 4 specialty restaurants for $70 or $120 which included the chefs table. We decided not to do the chefs table on this cruise, but will defiantly do it next year.
We booked our tours independently, Iconic Tours for Dunedin and Archers Tours for Tauranga, both gave us a real personal tour experience. We would highly recommend both tour companies.
Entertainment on-board was a little disappointing, but may have had something to do with the time of the cruise, (performers on holidays???)
We had a bit of excitement when there was an "Oscar Oscar" call one afternoon. The captain slowed the ship down and turned around to where the flares and life rings were deployed. A rescue boat was also deployed into the water and did a search. The captain informed us that it was a false alarm and all passengers were on board. Nobody knew for sure what happened, and there was allot of speculation. We did however have a guard on duty 24hrs a day for 2 days opposite our cabin, so I guess someone was distressed.
The only real negative I had about this cruise was doing a cruise during school holidays. The spas and pools were overrun by children and teenagers along with the pool tables in the colony club. There was also rumours of violence and thefts among the teens as well.
All in all it was a great cruise with a fun group of people.