This was our 7th and 8th cruise so we are not cruising virgins. We knew things were going to be bad when we embarked in Sydney on a cool, rainy day at a mystery location. Embarkation was by tender. Tender? Somehow we got to the mysterious embarkation dock very early so we could get aboard then come back to see some more of beautiful Sydney. I say 'somehow' because Royal Caribbean (RCCL) identified the area where the tenders were loading by a name only the Chamber of Commerce uses. They also used the wrong street name and gave the wrong directions to the dock in their literature. Only a knowledgeable cabbie who knew of at least 3 locations in the area was able to find the dock after 2 wrong turns. The location of the dock was in a warehouse area without any nearby transportation so using cabs was the only alternative if we wanted to get to or from the tenders.
We got a taste of things to come when we were not allowed to tender until all the previous previous passengers were off the ship. That took some time so we sat and sat and sat and finally were allowed to board a tender. Waiting for RCCL to get their act together is something we almost got used to. Sloppiness happened several times on our back-to-back cruise. RCCL doesn't seem to know what the words 'plan in advance' means or they just slapped these cruises together without any consideration of their passengers.
We booked the second cruise primarily to go Cairnes and see the Great Barrier Reef. It was almost impossible for us to do. Cairnes was on the itinerary but the ship did not dock in Cairnes and we did not tender into Cairnes. Ever hear of Yorky's Knob? We tendered into the small yacht basin at Yorky's Knob from about 2 miles out. We were 20 miles at least from Cairnes. The ship arrived at 9:00am as shown on the brochure but by the time we pushed our way onto a tender full of paying tour customers (they are always the first ones on the tenders irregardless of other nonpaying passengers plans ashore) and caught a cab into Cairnes we almost missed the last boat out to Green Island. The reef center was almost deserted when we got there and it scared us to death. The ship should have arrived at 7am, moored off of Cairnes, and had tenders going ashore plenty of early enough for passengers to catch a reef tour out to the outer part of the Great Barrier Reef and get back. The Reef is The Premier Attraction in Australia IMO. I think that RCCL tendered to Yorky's Knob to save on port fees, to generate shuttle bus income ($14 RT per person), and to sell excursions. Like they did in almost all ports.