This ship/trip report (Safaga, Egypt to Barcelona, Spain) has been structured for better clarity, and this way you can skip the section(s) that don't appeal to you. It is rather detailed, so if you just want a quick overview, you might look elsewhere.
Before the cruise
Documentation arrived somewhat late due to a new system. However, it was well structured and pleasant to read. Compared to earlier, this is an improvement. We flew into the holiday resort of Hurghada a few days ahead of the cruise and stayed at the Sheraton, half an hour from the port of Safaga. This would be our second cruise with RSSC Voyager.
We initially wanted to join the Cairo-Luxor package, but considering our flight cnx and the political tension in Egypt, we later decided not to. Passengers that did, seemed to be fairly happy though, and all of them arrived in time for departure (after a rather long bus trip from Luxor to the ship)
This part began with a rather unpleasant incident, mainly because of incompetent and arrogant egyptian port officials. It costed us quite some spoilt time, from arriving to this small port of Safaga until reaching the ship. Thus, be warned for this place, at least if you are planning on arriving individually.
Assuming that several readers already know the ship, I won't mention much about that. Technically that is. Maybe it should be mentioned, that the ship received a few upgrades (new carpeting everywhere and some other minor changes) in September 2011. However, standard cabins have remained unchanged. In due time some upgrades will be necessary here. It is interesting to compare some figures (passengers space ratio and passengers/crew ratio) with other 4* to 5*+ ships (Douglas Ward -- see below, gives the Voyager only 4*+ though, just "a tad" under the score needed for 5*).
Ship pax sp. r. pax/crew r. DW rating / points
RSSC Voyager 59,0 1,65 4,5* 1'698 pts
Crystal Serenity 62,6 1,7 5* 1'702 pts
Seabourne Odyssey 71,1 1,3 5* 1'787 pts
Hapag-Lloyd Europa (*) 70,4 1,4 5*+ 1'851 pts
Carnival Splendor 37,0 2,5 3*+ 1'393 pts
Silverseas S. Shadow 72,8 2,5 4* 1'445 pts
MSC Musica 36,2 2,6 4* 1'462 pts
* According to DW, this ship, the only 5*+ in the book, is mainly suited to germanspeaking passengers
Of course these are just two aspects of a ship. Douglas Ward's "Complete Guide to Cruising & Cruise Ships" gives quite standardized opinions. The book is to my knowledge widely accepted by most cruise professionals. It is also quite a Handbook (Part 1) about all aspects of cruising for people just new to this way of travelling. Opinions by individuals (like you and I) can, as you probably know, vary considerably... But, as they say, you get what you pay for. On the other side, organisations like Cruise Critic or Conde Nast Traveller, just to name a few, give the opinions of a lot of passengers at a given time.
We had a standard cabin (suite, in companyspeak) on deck 9, midship, 355 ft2 / 33 m2, including a small balcony (teak floors) with a table and two conventional chairs. The cabin, nicely decorated has about everything you'll need. Walk-in closet with enough hangers, drawers and space for your shoes. Large safe. Also in the cabin itself is enough storage space. Kingsize bed with very good mattresses. We always bring our own pillows (tempur-type, the best there is) as these seem to be unknown by those cruising companies offering speciality pillows. Large fridge to be filled to your liking. Fresh fruit, replenished daily. Mirrors everywhere. Comfortable sofa, chairs (3) and a cocktail table. Bathroom large enough for size M. Enough storage space for his/hers stuff. However, shower stall is definitely only for maximum size L. Xes and up, be aware. Then there is the mandatory (?) bathtub, that most people I've spoken to hardly use, and one washbasin. Getting rid of the tub would leave space for a second washbasin and a larger shower stall.
Is generally quite good. The staff is genuinely friendly and most guys really go out of their way to please the passengers (why some cruising companies have started to call us guests is somewhat strange -- we are still on a ship, not in a hotel, right?). In a few days most head sommeliers (In the Compass rose as well as in the Veranda) knew which wines and waters we liked. Even some of the waiters (like Dylan) did. The two special restaurants are run quite well with excellent service. Room service (used only once - in the morning) was quick and efficient. In the Cafe we normally only needed eye contact with the indian waiter at the coffe maschine (forgot his name), plus two fingers in the air -- and our cappus arrived within minutes to the table where we had sat down. In the restaurants the food normally arrives quickly. On the other side, we were always one of the first couples to arrive and to order. Could make a difference. In the Compass Rose, the staff should try to slow down their "speed" a little. Handling by receptionists, GM, cruise consultant, pursers and the like was professional and very good.
Food and beverage
Compass rose (main restaurant): Food quality generally quite good with some exceptions. Occasionally the main dish arrived luke warm. As the plates leave the kitchen hot (acc. the Chef!) it probably has to do with the large amount of covered plates arriving to the stations together, and (naturally) not being delivered to the tables at the same time. Various excellent wines (changing daily) for dinner. If your taste was different, there were always sufficient alternatives available. We hardly enjoyed brakfast here because of tight schedules in the mornings (excursion buses waiting!) as it took longer here than at the other (selfservice) breakfast alternatives.
Prime 7 (steak house) and Signatures (cuisine franaise) are reservation only (no charge) restaurants with excellent food and wines (charges only for exclusive wines from a separate list -- that we never tried. The free wine selections are "tres bien", believe me).
La Veranda, the italian restaurant at the uppermost deck (with a nice view and also some outside tables), was really our favourite "eatary" for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Buffets for appetizers, soups and salads, and main dishes from the menu (dinner only), served individually. Good to very good food as well as wines and mineral waters (Perrier and San Pellegrino). The room temperature however, was often really icy. Why??
The "Pizzeria" is not excactly what you would expect. It is just a window in the wall in the starboard part of La Veranda, and only open during lunchtime, serving slices of two different styles pizza (Margarita and a daily changing variety).
The Cafe has the best speciality coffees (espresso, cappucino etc.) onboard. But sitting space is rather limited and not excactly cosy.
Observation lounge A nice place on deck 11 to sit and watch the bow of the ship plowing thru the waves. Normal bar service at fixed hours. Pianoplayer in the evening.
Voyager lounge: Midship on deck 4 next to the atrium (which reaches to deck 11). Dancing floor and a stage for music and entertainment. Bar service in the evening.
Horizon lounge: At the aft of the ship with an outside lounge area. Dancing floor with room for 6-piece band. Bar service at fixed hours. Afternoon tea trivias as well as bingo.
The 2-3 shows broadwaystyle that we visited were rather professional and enjoyable -- had it not been for the terrible loudness over the loudspeakers. As if that was not enough, the female leadsinger of the shows (otherwise quite a good singer and artist) had to scream into the mikrophon now and then. We talked to several other passengers sharing our opinion and mostly also refraining from going to the shows as well. I spoke to the cruisedirector and other officers a couple of times about this -- with no noticable result. The same problem goes for the music at other spots and occasions, like the lounges on the pool deck. The latter is a great place to have lunch and a chat with friends. However, as soon as the music starts -- forget about conversation. Even if we were sitting at the other end of the deck (and music)... This wouldn't be a topic at all -- if we were onboard a Carnival ship or the like (where I will never be found alive). But mind you, the average passenger on this ship is probably 65 or above! However, this nuicance seems to be a desease that is spreading all over the cruise industry. And as long as not more passengers complain and in stead rather keep their fist in the pocket or just stay away -- things won't change. I wonder what it is, that keeps the the cruise directors and others from applying some changes... And more passengers from complaining.
Spacewise more than sufficient. Very well maintained. Rest rooms extremely clean and well cared for. Even tissues at the inside of the door (for those guys that don't wash their hands afterwards). A cosy library (but only a few chairs) with several daily newspapers (satellite prints). Seating in the restaurants could be less cramped. Particularly in Compass Rose, where the chairs are very comfortable, but very, very bulky and heavy.
For this cruise there was quite a selection (10) of interesting countries and ports to visit. The organization of the different excursions (90% free of charge, unless you want to take a helicopter ride or so) was excellent. Timing for debarkation; buses, guides, intinaries and so on, very good. Probably the most impressing trip for us was the halfday tour to Efesus (port of Kusadasi) in Turkey.
Spa and Fitness
The fitness room (with the machines) is for a 700 pax ship absolutely too small. Particularly when used also by entertainment staff... I tried a couple of times to get some workout on a maschine -- no chance, always full. On the other hand, next to this location is a rather big, empty room that obviously only now and then was used by some of the artists for their daily stretching or whatever. The same problem goes for the sauna and the steam room. Both of them (male department) are fully booked (!) with more than 4 visitors. Same goes for the steam room, which is also way too hot. I can't speak for the rest of the spa as neither I nor my wife paid a visit there.
- RSSC (and others) should quit promoting the silly "2 for 1 fare", it is not impressing anybody these days. Or do they really expect somebody to pay the "normal" fare??
- A chokolate on your pillow in the evening s nice, but the flavours could change once...
- Dress codes are fine -- but only when enforced. It is like speed limits; if not enforced, they cease to exist. Some passengers show up at dinner in the same outfit with which they toured the desert during the day...
- Even ashore you are recognized and friendly greeted by staff members on short leave (for example the Veranda waitress Olga, one of several). Nice. We have experinced the opposite on other ships, even though the crew members in question knew you quite well (on board...)
- We were lucky to have our old, italian friend Mario as our very special captain. Grazie!
- One evening there was a strange "happening". Everybody should take a glass and position themselves in gangway and shake hands with everybody, including the
passing officers. Red and white (sour) wine was served by some of the waiters. I hope everybody washed their hands afterwards (although I hardly believe so...). Hygiene?
- Thank god (and RSSC) that we aren't continously being pictured all the time!!
- Plastic sunloungers and corresponding tables might be ok on a fun ship... But on a ship like the Voyager?
- Restaurants are often closing too early for passengers returning in the afternoon from excursions, wanting to have a late lunch. Not everybody is satisfied with a burger or a hotdog on the pool deck.
- Cleaning the pool decks in the morning should be done earlier
- How come the silly art auktions have not yet been abandoned on this kind of ships?
- The ship is very quiet, no unneccesary announcements, no elevator music and such.
- Value for money? Generally good!
- Rates per day? Vary considerably from trip to trip (check!). This time ok.
- Internet room: Always free screens, internet speed very good (being satellite)
- Kids club missing, an advantage
- Fresh whole wheat rolls should be available for breakfast
- A computer class would be appreciated
- As there is a daily meeting for AA people, why not a regular gettogether for christians? Like a bible study or somehing like that? Perhaps not politically correct? Or there are more AA's than believers?
Everything perfectly organized. Group by group left the ship between 8 and 9 am. We said goodby among the the last passengers, found our suitcases right away and could make a short walk to a waiting cab which took us to the BCN airport.
As always the main part of the passengers originate from N. America. A few come from Europe (mainly the germanspeaking countries), Australia, NZ, Asia (we had a "geisha" and her husband with us -- quite nice people), latin countries and others. Perhaps 10%? Of course, you don't get to know everybody... However, the ship is definitely geared to the North American clientele. I sometimes wonder though, if not some of the passengers rather should have chosen a Carnival ship. With regard to their manners...
50% of the passengers are repeaters...