We were glad to find the ship had been refitted during it's 8 day lay-over in Singapore, before the relocation cruise to Sydney. However engine problems meant we were given a revised itinerary for the cruise on boarding. Many people were unhappy as they had made prior arrangements for some scheduled ports of call. The ship could only manage half speed.
$200 USD per person was credited to ship board accounts as compensation.
However by the time we reached Darwin new parts were delivered to the ship and the remainder of the schedule could revert to the original.
The rooms, while refurbished to a good standard, are still very small. We were on deck 9 with balcony.
In the toilet (smallest ever - when sitting on the toilet you could rest your forehead on the facing wall - beware if you are a larger travelers!)
Room steward was excellent and was very helpful.
Food was overall disappointing and lacked variety.
The Tsar's Palace dining room was nicely refurbished, but staff were overall quite indifferent at times, and didn't interact, as on other cruise lines.
We dined at The Azura Restaurant the first evening, but found the staff inattentive and the food was cold - yes we complained!
Le Bistro was our 'best of the bunch' with a good selection and attentive staff. We are early diners so benefited from having the venue mainly to ourselves.
The 'Chinese' restaurant on board was disappointing, a very limited menu (you could pay extra for two alternative dishes) and again service was average.
The Irish themed restaurant was lacking in real Irish themed food, and was really just a cafe.
Shore excursions were reasonable, although on Bali it was quite shocking to see the poverty in the areas we were driven through.
The ship has limited shopping options but service was good.
The entertainment was a highlight , very high standard and good variety.
Another highlight was the 'The Spinnaker' lounge which was a nicely refurbished lounge at the top of the ship, with glass all around, a bar, and events and entertainment throughout the day and evening. A nice area to 'chill out' during the day with a book.
The on board TV and video system has been upgraded and vision quality is good (best 'bow camera' we have seen) though there is no 'programme guide and many 'genre' are misnamed - some of the most violent movies were on the 'family movies channel'. Also there is no system to check your account in your room on this system, you have to go to Guest Relations and request a printed copy.
Major disappointment was the shore excursions to shore at Airlie Beach were via 'ships tender' and also contractor's catamarans, we went on a 'cat' and returned on a ship's tender. The return crossing was 30 minutes in rough seas (10 minutes outward on the'Cat') the rough seas resulted in sea water coming into the boat at times , very frightened passengers and 2 people in our tender suffering minor injuries. It was very scary with waves crashing over the boat. On returning to the ship, I went to 'Guest Services' and said that having had some experience in Work Health and Safety, I would recommend not using the tenders for the remainder of the day, instead using the 'Catamaran's', in the interest of passenger safety. The Guest Services staff member seemed uninterested and said if there was a problem it was up to the 'Pilot' to report it! I said I had passed the message to them and that I could do no more.
One other matter worth mentioning, was an excellent presentation by the staff responsible for future cruise bookings, on the things guests should be aware of, and wary of, when booking cruises. The jargon and pitfalls were explained and some of the background on how and why cruise lines offer upgrades and specials. Also there relationship with agents. We found this quite refreshing and very helpful. It would be good if other 'lines' were as open on these issues. A 'Q and A' session at the end was unhurried and everyone was able to ask there individual questions, long after the session was supposed to conclude.
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