This review would mainly be based on ‘The Palace’ which I would highly recommend. 14 nights, Singapore-Jakarta-Bali-Darwin-Cairns-Gladstone-Sydney.
As this was a maiden voyage of this cruise line touring out of China, communication was the biggest hurdle. Once we got to the right port, check in seemed very unorganised. We chose a Palace Suite which was an upgraded package, and was advertised "A boat within a boat, with VIP treatment". This entitled us to a different check in lounge and process different to standard. After standing in lines that weren't moving and checking twice that this was for "Palace guests" and being told everyone checks in here we finally saw other people being ushered to what seemed where we should be, and sure enough, we had a separate area to check in, which was what we expected finally.
Once on the boat, we went straight to our room to check it out. Room 09212. Centre back of boat.
Old, but clean and tidy. (The new refurbishment didn't make it to this part of the boat)
We did however change rooms after 1 week as our room vibrated and was very noisy with a heavy propeller noise at full steam ahead (which with earplugs was more tolerable) but once we knew more rooms were available after Darwin departure we got moved to Room 10022 which was so quiet, we then realised how bad our old room was!
"The Palace" was an area for guests who splashed out, and we thought highly worth it. Own pool area, bar, restaurant and casino. (I wouldn't recommend for children)
The service and food was flawless, the staff were amazing and all food and drink (including spirits) was included in this package.
Took us a while to work out our butler service and she did struggle with English, but everyone was so helpful and on call to please us.
The night time shows were spectacular, but were repeated. Easy to get a seat at with reserved seating for Palace guests, but also seemed fine for everyone else. The daytime entertainment lacked in having much to do at sea days, and when they did have something on it was badly organised, much due to lack of knowing what an out of Asia market would want. We didn't hold back in telling them and they were very eager to make changes and we did notice them become more organised as the trip went on. (The chaos sometimes added to the entertainment!)
We didn't stray to far from our Palace entitlements, as when we did it did look very chaotic and we had spoken to a lot of others who weren't quite happy with the standard service. The free restaurants on the boat were 'The Lido’ which got the nickname 'the piggery' as it was a bit of a snatch and grab no manners ordeal. Food was standard buffet style. Free tea and coffee water and juice was available at all times.’Dream Dining’ was great food but service very slow. ‘The Pavilion’ was authentic Chinese and the Chinese loved it. Heard that the alcohol was very expensive, would recommend a drinks package if you want more than a few.
There looked to be a fantastic kids club, (we didn't take our children on this cruise) but there were no kids!! Saw about 3 the whole time.
The excursions were a bit of a let down, as the ones we wanted to do never seemed to get enough interest to get opened and go ahead. So we were always in limbo if we were on our own or at the last minute they would say 'we got enough people'.
We didn't quite understand with 1800 passengers, why they couldn't scratch 35 people minimum together. Because the ships passengers were mostly Chinese, we found out they weren't interested or they went on the Chinese speaking tour and they didn't get enough numbers for the ones we wanted to do. However we had a blast hiring private drivers for the day in a group we made friends with on our own, a piece of cake to do in all ports we stopped at.
Overall "The Palace" experience made our trip amazing. I would say it would have been average if we had choosen to go main stream.
Improvement was happening as the cruise went on, and all staff were helpful and friendly. Once they nail the communication, organisation will get better!
We will be back to sail again another day!
Clean and tidy. Changed from cabin 09212 because of vibration and noise of propeller. Cabin 10022 perfect.