Seeing Australia and New Zealand has always been on our bucket list and this cruise seemed perfect. We have been on Radiance two other times so we knew the ship quite well so it was like coming back to an old friend. Needless to say, ... Read More
Seeing Australia and New Zealand has always been on our bucket list and this cruise seemed perfect. We have been on Radiance two other times so we knew the ship quite well so it was like coming back to an old friend. Needless to say, getting to Perth takes some effort. 14 plus hours to Sydney from Los Angeles and then 5 more hours from Sydney to Perth. I was surprised how inexpensive the flight was on Virgin Australia to fly over 5 hours to Perth. Definitely less expensive than flying across the United States.
We stayed at the Parmelia Hilton, which was well located to see Elizabeth Quay and the shopping district. We had two nights and a full day to see Perth and the surrounding area (Freemantle). We did the Hop on Hop off around Perth then took the train down to Freemantle, had lunch and then toured the prison, well worth the effort.
Embarkation was quite easy and we were on the ship within 20 minutes of arriving at the port. It was hot, so nice to get on board and have a nice lunch in air conditioning!
We booked this cruise over a year ago while in the Baltic on the sister ship Brilliance. We booked a Junior suite on Deck 10, because of the good price and the length of the cruise. (Always nice to have a little extra room on a long cruise.) Our room was well located, was clean and neat, and obviously had been refurbished when the ship had its overhaul a few years ago. It was easy to walk up one flight to the windjammer or catch an elevator to the lower floors. We absolutely had no complaints about our accommodations. Now, for those not familiar with the Junior Suite category, the storage is amazing. It is really the only category with an actual "walk in" closet!
I have read some reviews that have already been filed and I have to disagree with some of the conclusions vis a vie the food reviews. We have been on about 20 cruises, mostly with RCI but we have done two Princess and two Disney cruises as well. We found the food in the Windjammer to be good for both breakfast and lunch (never had dinner in the Windjammer but friends we met did and they were complimentary of both the variety and quality of food for dinner). The breakfast omelets were quite good, with little wait time. I did miss my regular pork breakfast sausages we get in the Caribbean and other locations, but I understand we were in a different part of the world, but they did do both American and English bacon. The choices seemed to me to be good and equivalent to other RCI cruises we have experienced. I found the quality good, considering that they are cooking for over 2,000 people! As an example, the hamburger patties at lunch seemed to be thicker than I remember and the cooks were doing them in batches so that they were constantly adding newly cooked, hot hamburgers to the bar. I found the hot dogs much better than I remembered, both in taste and they were kept warm on a rotating grill. Either I am easily pleased or those who didn't like the food are not experienced cruisers or have unrealistic expectations. I guess if you want to experience Crystal, Silverseas etc. you might get "different" selections or better presentations, but you will pay over twice as much for the experience.
In general, the breakfasts and the dinners in the main dining room were good. For us, the company at dinner is one of the reasons we cruise. Meeting new people and sharing experiences of the day are one of the highlights. We were very lucky to have 4 British couples at our table who were all nice and provided great conversation and humor during dinner. Generally dinner was good and up to what we have experienced in the past, with two exceptions. No lobster night, AND more importantly, no steak as one of the every night options. For some reason, when RCI cruises in this area of the world, steak in not part of their every night menu, unlike when in North America or Europe. I missed that option when the nightly offerings didn't tickle my fancy. One of the issues for me, and this is a personal issue, is I do not eat a lot of fish and there seemed to be many fish options on both the appetizer and main selections each night. But that said, the quality was generally fine and when it wasn't, our waiter brought us a new or different entre.
Someone was "complaining" in another review I read about the hand sanitizers in the Windjammer and I was amazed when I read the comment. I found the folks who have the thankless job of trying to make people clean their hands as they enter the restaurant both enthusiastic and diligent in doing this task. By the way, if people were better at doing it themselves, they would only need the machines and not have to make staff stand there and force it on the cruisers! It's an "us" problem not a "them" problem!
I found the service really good from almost everyone I encountered on this cruise. Staff seemed to be making a little extra effort to be both friendly and helpful. The cruise director and the activities manager were front and center every day and were both enthusiastic and good at their jobs. I found other higher ranking cruise staff to be both more visible around the ship and engaging with the cruisers. Our cabin attendant was great and so were our waiter and his assistant. No one I encountered seemed to want to "dump" an issue on others rather than helping out themselves. this hasn't always been the case on other cruises.
Ok, this is one area where RCI gets a "mixed" review from me. I generally like to have dinner and then see a show in the theater. Unfortunately, there were a number of times where the show for the late seating was actually before dinner and I was forced to choose between going to the lounge to have a drink with friends or go to the show. The drink won out! Also, the RCI "singers and dances" may have been the least talented I have encountered on an RCI ship. Other than their lack of singing ability, the staging was very odd at times with the costumes and the music not matching the scenery etc and the choice of music quite odd at times.
Many of the other efforts, headline performers, the band in the Colony Club (one of the best I have ever experienced on a cruise, man could they do Santana!), the 70's party and the British v. Aussie music battle were very good and a lot of fun. The tango performance was really entertaining as the lead couple were quite good.
I did not participate in any "enrichment" because there simply wasn't any!!
I found the whole ship to certainly be up to my standards. I realize that this is one of the older ships in the fleet, but I really do like this class of ship and I did not find it "old" or run down as some have said in other reviews. The centrum was well appointed as were the Colony Club, the Schooner Bar and the crown. Again, I'm not sure what people expect, and I sometimes think I was on a different cruise when I read other reviews. I am both an experienced cruiser and I expect good value for my cruising dollar and this cruise did not disappoint me in any way.
The destinations were fantastic (Melbourne, sailing the fiords, Dunedin, Akoroa, Wellington etc were great!) , we had good weather most of the way and got to see a lot. When on a long cruise like this, you have to understand that there are only so many breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings and at some point, things will repeat. and, just like at our homes, some things will break down, need attention or repairs. The real questions is how the staff responds to these issues. These ships spend almost all their time sailing, not in a ship's garage getting repaired so stuff happens.
I would sail this ship again, with this crew again and most certainly with RCI again. Thanks for a great cruise and taking me to a lot of places I would not have otherwise gone! Read Less