This was our first cruise ever with one teenager. We decided to do a cruise because I don't like flying and it was recommended by someone. The ship is relatively new - launched in 2016 and looks amazing. We had a stateroom with a balcony which was small but perfectly formed. Our stateroom attendant was unfailingly cheerful even though he never seemed to get a break.
We decided to purchase the Key, a priority program and skip the line pass that included the Zoom internet package. We mainly bought this mainly to skip the line with activities, which it was not very useful for (see below) but it was useful for onboarding and disembarking. Not sure if it was worth the cost.
The activities such as FlowRider, NorthStar, IFly, bumper cars and roller skating were pretty amazing given this is all on a ship, but the lines are long if you did not have the Key and even with the Key we could only skip the line once a session.
There are 5000 passengers on board. Sometimes this is not apparent but sometimes it did get very crowded. There were countless attempts to separate your money from your wallet, ranging from art auctions to high end shops to lots of sales and "opening specials" on thousand dollar jewelry which did get a little tedious at times. The price point for the beauty and massage service, Vitality Spa, I thought was rather high as it is easy to find a Thai style or hot stone massage in Australia for 60 AUD, as opposed to the 190 USD being charged onboard.
The gym was enormous but even so could get very crowded. There were free stretch and core classes, although again these could get crowded and occasionally started early which I found a little irritating.
I thought that the shows were quite good, with professional dancers and singers and the Cruise Director was very amusing. We found the complimentary dining more than adequate with US style service. The Windjammer was the biggest buffet I had ever seen. Cant comment on the alcohol as I don't drink.
This ship is full of Aussie passengers - the construction business must be good as there was a preponderance of cashed up tradies and their families. Some kids ran around like they were in a caravan (trailer) park and would press all the elevator buttons.
There were a couple of craft activities that simply consisted of a staff member handing out a craft kit. No real instructions to speak of which I found disappointing and again this often started early and was often crowded.
Our main problem was the teen clubs called The Living Room for 12 to 14 and Fuel for 15 to 17. There seems to be this expectation that teens were simply let loose until up to the curfew at 1 am, to roam around at will, which I thought was highly unsafe given the population was equivalent to a small town. There were scheduled activities for teens aged 12 to 14, but after about 8 pm there were a few gangs of boys that roamed around checking out the young girls, some of whom were allowed to dress with long fake nails, low cut crop tops and false eyelashes. As I had a 14 year old daughter, I was not impressed. She loved meeting the other kids though and it was difficult to drag her away.
We did our own shore excursions. Noumea was not that exciting although we did a bus tour which was interesting. Mystery Island was beautiful, but suddenly overcrowded by 5000 passengers! We ended up taking a village tour to Aneityum Island which was very interesting and much less cramped. We did the Hop On and Hop Off bus at Auckland and spent most of our time at the Auckland museum.
Overall my impression was that was a surprisingly good holiday. This cruise liner catered for all types of passengers, although with a strange combination of high end exclusive marketing trying to persuade a somewhat downmarket customer base to spend up big on their vacation. The ship is quite spectacular and the service from the international crew was excellent. The teen area was our major concern and may be a deal breaker for us in the future.
Beautiful cabin with more storage than an average hotel room.
We disembarked and were immediately set upon by numerous tour operators. In the end we chose a bus tour which was informative and then walked around the shops. The markets were a bit of a waste of time.
We did a snorkelling tour and a village tour at another island about 15 minutes by boat. The village tour was conducted by someone who actually lived at the village who gave us a very authentic experience and showed us some indigenous religious sites.