This was our first ever cruise, and we booked just over a year prior to sailing.
At that time of booking, the Itinerary was:
1 - Sydney
2 - At Sea
3 - At Sea
4 - Noumea
5 - Lifou
6 - Mystery Island
7 - Isle of Pines
8 - At Sea
9 - At Sea
- and back to Sydney
What we ended up with was quite a lot different, and had we known at the start - we wouldn't have booked this cruise. It was A LOT of sea days to see just 2 ports, neither of which we were overly interested in (we wanted to see the small tropical islands)
But we get that it's a risk with cruising so while disappointing, we didn't get hung up on it.
This is what we ended up doing:
1 - Sydney
2 - At Sea
3 - At Sea
4 - At Sea
5 - Port Vila (torrential rain, we got off the ship for about 30 mins walk around town)
6 - At Sea
7 - Noumea (we did the 2 hour Tchou Tchou Train tour)
8 - At Sea
9 - At Sea
- and back to Sydney
The Embarkation: was great, or at least WE thought it was - we arrived around 11:30am and were on the ship eating lunch in Windjammer by 12:30pm. Many were complaining about the time it took, but normally when we travel internationally we have to check in at the airport 2 hours before and wait MUCH longer before we get on the plane, so no complaints from us! It was all very easy and ran smoothly.
Getting a table at Windjammer was fine, and we didn't have to wander around for more than a 5 mins or so (at any time during the cruise) to find a table. We live in the city so are used to having to wait sometimes for a table, and had no problem with it.
Rooms were ready around 1pm, and we saw our luggage in the hallway so grabbed it ourselves. Nice and easy!
We were REALLY impressed with our room. We had cabin 10134, port side, forward. It was close enough to the elevators and convenient to the Solarium which was good as with no kids we planned to enjoy this adult only area. There is plenty of storage space, and coat-hangers - surprisingly I didn't need to ask for more. The bathroom is good, with excellent shower pressure. The bed was by the window, maybe a bit hard for our liking but we managed to sleep well so it wasn't too bad. It was definitely more rocky at the front of the ship so next time we'll go for something more midship.
The Included Dining:
We chose to do My Time dining, and dined in the MDR 4 times on the cruise. We were lucky enough that we managed to dine once in each of the 4 MDR's. We liked the atmosphere better in Grande and Chic - which are typically for traditional dining, it seemed a bit more friendly and personal? The food was ok. Very classic/old school dishes - probably a safe bet I guess. Some were great (loved the lobster bisque and creme brulee), but some were pretty terrible - e.g. a scallop appetizer special one evening was teeny tiny pieces of scallop swimming in butter that had partly clarified and some garlic, served in the dishes used for escargot. And one random piece of bread in the basket was literally like rock - we couldn't even break it.
I'm not normally a buffet person, but was quite impressed with Windjammer - plenty of variety and pretty good quality - especially for breakfast. Service in there was good too - you don't have to go looking for drinks, there is table service.
Solarium Bistro was our favourite for breakfast, a little bit quieter and just as good a selection.
Cafe 270 was good for a salad or sandwich during the day. Seaplex hotdogs were great! The Sorrentos Pizza was ok - not the best pizza I've ever had but not the worst either. Very convenient though to grab whenever you like.
The Specialty Dining:
We tried Wonderland on the first night, which is the one we were most excited about, but we were really disappointed with it. We were there for 30 mins before anyone came to even offer us a drink, and service was similar for the whole evening. I am a self confessed foodie - and love this type of dining, but this truly was theatrics over flavour. The food was bland and boring, and even the theatrics were nothing special. The egg was exposed by lifting a glass dish with smoke (so 10 years ago) it tasted nice, but was really just a cold stuffed egg like my grandma used to make. The chocolate ball for dessert that collapsed when they poured the sauce over it (this theatric has also been done to death) resulted in an overly sugary sickly mess. Barely edible - I ate 1-2 mouthfuls and couldn't finish it. The garden thing with soil was really bland and boring.
Chops Grille on the other hand, was fantastic! I would love to have eaten there again but it was booked out for the whole cruise. NOTE: IT PAYS TO BOOK EVERYTHING BEFORE YOU GO OR AT LEAST AS SOON AS YOU GET ON BOARD AS YOU MIGHT MISS OUT OTHERWISE!
Jamies Italian was also excellent, but booked out the rest of the cruise too.
We didn't try Izumi, it looked a bit canteen/sushi-train-ish and didn't seem so popular.
There is a great selection of bars. We had the drinks package, which was great and we got our moneys worth - but we might not do that again as it did encourage us to drink more than we normally would, so our plans to go to the gym every day and be semi healthy went out the window very early on! The bars were all very crowded (see my comments on "The Crowd" later on) but the staff were working relentlessly and very fast at making the drinks, so it wasn't too much of a wait most of the time. There is also table service almost everywhere, which we found frequent enough to not even have to go to the bar most of the time.
We saw Pixels (my favourite), Live Love Legs and Beautiful Dream. If you go 30-45 mins before, you'll be fine to get a decent seat, if you go 10-15 mins before you might struggle.
There was trivia, karaoke, all that sort of thing, plenty to do - but we did feel that during the day the activities were mostly for kids. At night there were parties - I particularly loved the Disco Inferno party, but they don't start until after 10pm which is quite late for us, especially since we'd booked some early morning activities. You don't find out what's on each day until the night before, so it's impossible to plan these nights out accordingly. I wish we could know when the parties were on - I really wanted to go to the Silent Disco but didn't manage to because I was already tired and had an early morning activity the next day.
We booked the iFly, and the booking went smoothly - happened on time. It was fun!
We also booked North Star - also went smoothly. There are times you can go without reservation but you'll line up for a long time. It definitely pays to book before the cruise as early as possible. My husband did the flow-rider once, but lined up for an hour and a half to do it! So we never bothered again. It did get a bit quieter later in the cruise, and on port days (we only had two of those!) but we didn't bother as planning timing for things was a challenge - as I've noted earlier: you don't know what's on each day until the night before. We did bumper cars once, also a long line so didn't bother again.
Nice pools, the main pool is 1.5m deep. However they were FULL of children. One had to be emptied twice one day - because someone had an accident in it. I'm not sure any adult would be game to get in those pools unless their own children were in it. This was disappointing for me because my favourite thing to do on holiday is to have a relaxing day by the pool and a couple of cocktails. I didn't get to do this at all, except for about 1 hour on a port day before it started raining. The solarium pools are adults only but aren't really proper pools, and it was VERY hot in there and VERY crowded, impossible to find a spot to sit after 9am. Chair hogs in full force!
All the staff on the ship were amazing. They were incredibly hard working, always smiling, and couldn't do enough to help you in any way. Guest Services were fine, although I think RC could do a lot more to be proactive with their communication. e.g. I checked in online and entered my credit card details - and checked, checked, rechecked MULTIPLE times. Then on the cruise I went to check again (lucky I did!) and turns out it hadn't registered so I had to go back again to get it sorted. There was nothing anywhere, no email, nothing on 'my account' that would indicate this needed to be sorted.
We had the Surf and Stream internet with our drinks package which was SO worthwhile getting. We procrastinated for a long time about whether to get internet or not, but I can't imagine not having it and will not hesitate again in future. The Royal IQ app isn't great - My Calendar never worked for the whole cruise, and guest services said "we'll log a ticket with IT" and I never heard from them again. We also couldn't make or check restaurant reservations from the app. This was a bit annoying as it's a very handy feature to have - if it's working!
So this is were we were majorly disappointed. We had looked at doing this cruise in either January or March - and chose March thinking there would be less kids on board because it's not school holidays. Boy were we mistaken! The ship was incredibly crowded at full capacity - and felt like a giant shopping mall a week before Christmas, and apparently (we heard) there were about 1,400 kids on board! Don't get me wrong - I don't dislike children, but there was no respite anywhere! They were out of control all over the ship. Running around under the feet of staff carrying trays of drinks, climbing around the stage during show setup (security told them off twice and parents still did nothing), one I saw in a romper suit crawling up the casino stairs around 10pm, and one adult party I thought about going to where the dance-floor was 100% children - after 10pm!
It was insanity. Many of the parents were on the bourbons from as early as 9am, and there were plenty walking around smashed all day - and we heard medical emergencies in bars a few times that woke us up at night (maybe genuine, but we suspect probably someone too drunk fell over!) This was not at all a relaxing cruise. Even the solarium was just way too full. The only respite was in our room, so the second half of our cruise we spent most of the day there. There are also some seats outside on deck 5 that were nice and quiet. But to pay the $$ we paid, and with so many sea days (6, on a 9 night cruise!) it would have been nice to have somewhere to relax other than our room and the few seats outside on deck 5.
The ship itself is amazing, and the staff are amazing. I think as first time cruisers we have discovered that perhaps just Royal Caribbean isn't for us? The crowd, and lack of ability to truly relax except in our room was what spoiled it for us - other than that I think we would really like this cruising thing. So after talking to others on board (we did meet some really lovely people!) we have decided to give cruising one more go - but this time with Celebrity, the very first week that kids go back to school - hopefully at that time parents will be less inclined to take them out of school for a cruise holiday :)
The cabin was excellent. A really good size, spotlessly clean, great balcony, plenty of storage, strong shower pressure. No complaints at all!
This is quite far forward so a bit more rocky, but it wasn't too bad.
We live in Sydney, and are only a 15 min taxi ride from home to the cruise terminal.
Sydney is the best city in the world and our home so 5 stars of course!
Unfortunately it was torrential rain while we were there.
We didn't book anything because the main place we were excited about was Mystery Island - for a nice relaxing beach day.
It was the first time this ship had ever been to Port Vila so they closed down the main street and had markets set up - it was nice to have a bit of a walk around but unfortunate about the very heavy rain.
Note - it was a VERY long line to get a tender!
This port was cancelled due to bad weather.
Unfortunate, and we know it's not the cruise line's fault - safety first!
But this was the one place left on the itinerary we were excited about, so very disappointing to miss it.
This was ok. Our guide was lovely and informative. In the middle of the 2 hour tour there was a 20 min break to go to a pretty nondescript hotel lobby for a toilet break and a piece of cake which seemed a bit of a waste of time to me.
We paid $60 - but apparently could do this for $30.... were ok with this though as it was super easy doing it through the ship.View All 68 Discovery Tchou Tchou Train Reviews