28 Sydney (Australia) Gay & Lesbian Cruise Reviews

We took a 4-day cruise out of Sydney to Melbourne on 10/11, than stayed on ship for 12-day cruise 10/15 to east coast of Australia and Great Barrier Reef. We are longtime Celebrity cruisers, and were somewhat disappointed with our ... Read More
We took a 4-day cruise out of Sydney to Melbourne on 10/11, than stayed on ship for 12-day cruise 10/15 to east coast of Australia and Great Barrier Reef. We are longtime Celebrity cruisers, and were somewhat disappointed with our transatlantic cruise last Spring on the Celebrity Reflection. But these two cruises fully restored our faith in Celebrity. Excellent and very visible/entertaining captain and crew, impeccable service in main dining room and lunch buffet, as well as in lounges. Food quality and variety were excellent. Entertainment with ship house band and others was varied and outstanding. Most theatre performers were excellent, and there were some very good matinees. Cruise director was energetic and fun, entertaining at a variety of venues during the day and evening.Cabin stewards and size/cleanliness/comfort of our balcony cabin for both cruises were terrific. Ship is in very good condition and well-maintained, even though it’s the oldest of the Solstice-class ships. It’s a mid-size ship (under 3,000), and they managed the tendering at several stops very efficiently. Many of the ship tours for the Barrier Reef are very expensive, and we limited ourselves to a couple, simple city tours (e.g., Melbourne) that were very good and fairly priced. The cities and coastal stops in Australia are beautiful with lots to do—from the exotic to just simple city tours and dining/shopping. Our only real complaint, which is symptomatic of most cruise ships, is the price and quality of drinks/wines, even in drink packages. We had a “classic” as opposed to the “premium” package—didn’t expect the best, but also didn’t expect Celebrity to be serving wines that retail for under $5 in the US (ugh!). And if you don’t specify what liquor you want in your cocktail, they pour the house brand rot-gut. When you’re paying $60 a day, per person, this should not be. Our biggest disappointment, though: having to leave the ship. Read Less
Sail Date October 2019
this cruise was amazing, coming with one side of the family it was a fantastic trip. Everyone was always occupied and the activities couldn't have been better. There were lots of shows to watch and parties to go to. Our room was a bit ... Read More
this cruise was amazing, coming with one side of the family it was a fantastic trip. Everyone was always occupied and the activities couldn't have been better. There were lots of shows to watch and parties to go to. Our room was a bit small, but our room stewards couldn't have been better. Every day there were great activities on for the whole family, which varied from White parties to Gatsby dance classes. The food in the pantry was pretty good, but could have been better if there was a bigger range. The pizza restaurant on level 8 served amazing food, and so did Dragon Lady (level 5), the only disappointing part was that it cost more to eat at these places.Our cruise travelled to Noumea, Maré, Lifou and Isle of Pines. This trip had been going smoothly until day 6 when the weather in Maré was miserable, as it was raining all day, when we reached Isle of Pines the following day (the last island) we were told that we weren't going to be getting off the ship due to the swell. The rocking of the boat was definitely noticeable throughout most of the trip but sailing with P & O Pacific Explorer was great!. Read Less
Sail Date July 2019
we chose this ship because it was new but it is badly designed you have to go to different floors to get from one end to the other end of the ship food was average would not sail again on this one found the sun and diamond princess ships ... Read More
we chose this ship because it was new but it is badly designed you have to go to different floors to get from one end to the other end of the ship food was average would not sail again on this one found the sun and diamond princess ships are better. Not enough cover around the pool area dance floor between the pools was a wasted space not enough seating for 3500 people no entertainment on pool decks just movies no good for families used passengers as entertainment with line dancing every day played lawn bowls in front of lifts .this ship is ok if you are over 70 and you like gambling or wake up in the morning have breaky then lay at the pool and sleep until lunch have lunch then go back to the pool and sleep until dinner when you have finished dinner they are ready for bed same again next day. Read Less
Sail Date March 2019
My family needed a cruise suitable for our range of ages and tastes and this family friendly, low stress cruise absolutely matched our needs. Very clean ship inside and out with friendly staff and fun entertainers. We travelled from ... Read More
My family needed a cruise suitable for our range of ages and tastes and this family friendly, low stress cruise absolutely matched our needs. Very clean ship inside and out with friendly staff and fun entertainers. We travelled from Sydney, Australia to Melbourne and Hobart and then went to New Zealand getting stops at Port Chalmers, Akaroa, Tauranga and Auckland. There was a large variety of activities that suited the seniors in our group as well as the younger cousins, too. From Zumba to Bingo to jaw-dropping production shows, we were thoroughly entertained onboard. Food was easy to acquire and change to our tastes as necessary for those with food allergies. I am pleased to note that there were accessible shore excursions and the entire ship was accessible for people with mobility issues. The outside and inside of the ship were truly majestic, with details everywhere to enhance the experience for guests of any culture. Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
We sailed for 14 days from Sydney to Auckland. There was a lot of confusion about which port we would depart from Sydney. Was very confusing up until almost the last minute as the original plan seemed to have been the Overseas Cruise ... Read More
We sailed for 14 days from Sydney to Auckland. There was a lot of confusion about which port we would depart from Sydney. Was very confusing up until almost the last minute as the original plan seemed to have been the Overseas Cruise Terminal - located near Circular Quay at the Rocks. Instead we left from White Bay Cruise Terminal. (Apparently they've had alot of confusion as we later learned that Azamara sent a representative to the OCT to redirect guests.) While many chose to be unhappy about it - the silver lining we found was that this allowed us to sail UNDER the Sydney Harbour Bridge - which made for some cool pics and videos. The ship itself seemed to be in good shape. I was surprised to hear that it is scheduled for dry dock in Singapore in a couple of months. Public areas, furniture, and cabins appeared to be in good shape - with nothing standing out as needing updates. We have sailed with Azamara a few times - but always on the Journey. Last time was in 2015. The Quest - as previously reported by others - is the same layout. Since our last sailing, they introduced the Living Room concept on deck 10 - replacing the Looking Glass. We really liked it. On bad weather sea days, it was packed. Service was great throughout the cruise. From bars to restaurants to cabin staff - they did a great job as they have in the past. We had one issue that we weren't initially happy with how they handled it - but then they reconsidered (without our asking) and contacted us to resolve in our favor. To make a long story short, we purchased the Ultimate Bundle - which was really worth it. Includes internet, spa credit, excursions credit, drinks package, laundry, etc. We expected that we would get the $40 credit per person for our status that we would have gotten if we bought just the internet package. They said that applied only to purchases of internet packages and not if it was purchased as part of a bundle. Sounds ridiculous and they finally understood why a guest would be confused between a package and a bundle. As I said, they eventually got it and gave us an onboard credit - which was what we requested. Food was good but not great. Discoveries (main dining room) had a pretty good menu with rotating selections. Always love that they consistently offer shrimp cocktail and french onion soup! Windows cafe was good for breakfast and lunch. We only tried it for one night for dinner and it was just ok. We are not buffet people - so we are probably biased anyway! The Living Room had a nice supply of sandwiches, tea (scones & cakes), and tapas throughout the day. Our bundle included the Ultimate Drink package. They had a nice offering but honestly didn't need it as most of the included wines they poured were acceptable. It's also nice that since our last sailing they have added prosecco to the complimentary list - as it was awkward to not have any bubbles on that list. (Although I should note that I take small offense to them calling it complimentary since we paid for an all inclusive cruise. They should said "included" or something instead." The White Night deck party was alot of fun. Lots of people remembered to pack their whites - so it really turned out to be a nice night. They brought a local band onboard who played fun jazz - followed of course by the ship's entertainers who did a great job leading dances, etc. Our fellow guests were mainly retired folks with a spattering of working age folks (40-60) from all over. Alot of Europeans (especially Scots & Brits), some Americans, and surprisingly alot of Kiwis and Australians (guess its easy to get to or from the ship!). We met lots of folks and enjoyed most. 14 days is a long time with some people - including those who jump in line or ignore that you are next for the bus and take the last 2 seats ahead of you ... Thankfully these folks were the exception and not the rule. Most of our fellow guests were classy and realized that common courtesy was the best way to go. As I frequently remind people who have to be "first" for everything - the cruise lines know what they are doing and never seem to run out of what people want! They take care of everyone! We had a balcony cabin on the eighth deck forward. Even with a few days of high seas, we did ok being forward. Tasman crossings can always be a bit rough they said. They were right! As described as naseum in other reviews, the bathroom (shower in particular) are laughably small. 14 days is a long cruise for us - but we found the size of the cabin to be adequate, including plenty of storage. Ok - now the areas where Azamara could improve ... 1. they seem to have started nickel and diming for some things... charging for movies on the TV ($12 or something) seems a little much ... and charging for a bridge tour or behind the scenes tour .... Seems rather Royal Caribbean, instead of Azamara ... 2. When the Living Room was packed, it sometimes took awhile to get served ... once they saw you needed something, they were helpful. More a matter of not enough servers instead of the staff being lazy 3. Entertainment was the same as on small ships... They could learn from the larger ships and try to make this a bit better 4. Prime C was just ok ... seems like they could improve quality of beef ... (Aqualina was excellent). 5. Excursions were pricey. Disappointed a few were cancelled due to lack of interest. Overall - super happy with this cruise. Kudos to Azamara for having some of the friendliest crew and definitely the most engaging officers at sea. We sail with Seabourn, Oceania, and SilverSea regularly and think Azamara is just as enjoyable and a much better value! Read Less
Sail Date February 2019
My partner and I with a group of friends cruised on Silver Muse for 14 nights from Sydney to Auckland. It was a wonderful cruise that exceeded all expectations; we have been cruising with SIlversea for over 20 years and have been on each ... Read More
My partner and I with a group of friends cruised on Silver Muse for 14 nights from Sydney to Auckland. It was a wonderful cruise that exceeded all expectations; we have been cruising with SIlversea for over 20 years and have been on each of the Silversea vessels many times; this was our first time on the Muse and we absolutely loved it. We were very impressed with the new direction that Silversea is taking: everything seemed to be more modern and more upmarket (and the product was terrific in the first place.) Lets start with the ship: its gorgeous! The layout is similar to the Spirit with certain areas expanded and improved, the décor is beautiful with a modern and elegant look, all of the rooms and spaces are accounted for with new additions such as the cute Arts Café and a supersized Lobby/Dolce Vita area, and the outdoor space has been enhanced with a pool and deck area that is longer/larger than the equivalent space on the Spirit (before it was lengthened) and an extra Jacuzzi aft. All good. We had a Deluxe Veranda Suite that was simply beautiful; the suites are (I think) slightly larger than on the Spirit but the new and very beautiful interior design makes the suites feel roomier and brighter. There was a super bathroom, good walk in closet, and lots of storage; all as expected on Silversea. Everything being new and fresh is a good thing and we enjoyed our Suite very much - simply superb! Dining was extraordinary: the food was terrific in each of the eight restaurants. The dining and reservation issue seems to have worked out on the Muse; the system is now perfected. We had advance reservations for many evenings and everything went according to plan; on our non-reservation evenings (when we ate at Atlantide or Indochine) we never had a problem getting a table directly even around 800PM which seemed to be the peak dinner hour. The décor at the restaurants is pretty and each venue has its own design and style. The food at each Restaurant was wonderful: we ourselves were surprised that we enjoyed Indochine as much as we did. Of course, La Dame is a wonderful dining experience and our dinner at Silver Note was an adventure in dining. So much fun. We also thought that the wines being served (and there was much variety in the standard categories) were rather good; Frank, the chief sommelier who we know for years, was onboard and very gracious towards us. The service that we received onboard was nothing short of spectacular; we knew many of the crew members and (I think) that they were genuinely happy to see us. At the restaurants, we were catered to at each and every meal regardless of venue - the head waiters and maître d's always checking and making sure that we were pleased. A big thanks to all of them, especially Giwa who made sure everything went well. Waiters, bar staff, and the pool staff were all active and engaged, knew our names by the second or third day, and looked after us. Our butler, Alan, was marvelous and took care of many details for us (including a ridiculous amount of laundry) and Sam, our cabin attendant did an outstanding job looking after of our cabin which was always spotless. Although we do not do ship shore excursions, the members of the shore excursion team were helpful and assisted us with a smile. All good. As for entertainment and activities, its standard Silversea. The singers were lovely and had talent and we went to a few shows.....but entertainment has never been and never will be Silversea's strongest point; this is not where small ship cruise lines excel. The cruise director, lecturers, entertainers and social staff were all engaged and passengers seemed quite happy. The only odd thing was that many of the production shows were scheduled for 615PM which we found unacceptable as we don't care for early shows; scheduling the shows early left us with little to do after dinner. It was not a big deal, just strange. As always with Silversea, embarkation was a breeze (from curbside at the port to La Terraza for Lunch in less than 30 minutes) and debarkation was even quicker with us leaving exactly at the designated time. Our Sydney to Auckland itinerary was lovely: this is the third time that we have done this cruise over the years but Australia and New Zealand are absolutely beautiful and the ports of Burnie, Picton, Napier and Gisbonre were all new to us. And, its always wonderful to spend a few days in Sydney before embarkation. I cannot comment on the shore excursions: we make our own arrangements and tour independently with private guides so that we can set out own pace (we move more quickly than most ship operated excursions) - it works out better for us. Our only issue was internet at sea; its frustrating and remains so on the Muse. In our technology driven world where we are all dependent on the internet for just about everything, its time for internet at sea to catch up. I understand that this is not a Silversea issue (we have had the same problem on Regent and other small ship cruise lines) but, nonetheless, reliable and fast wifi is a necessity and not a luxury in 2019. In summary, we had a wonderful experience on Silver Muse and look forward to her sisters Silver Moon and Silver Dawn joining the fleet; as a "small-ship person" I never thought that my partner and I would like the "larger" Muse as much as we did. Also, we adapted to the multiple dining venues much more easily than we thought we would - we both always loved the ease and simplicity of the Restaurant on the smaller Silversea vessels. We cant wait to return and are already planning our next voyage with Silversea: we are deciding between the Med and Northern Europe for the summer and its probably South America next winter Read Less
Sail Date January 2019
About the Reviewer: I’m a mid-30s male who cruised solo. I used the Explorer of the Seas as a vehicle to leisurely get home after intense touring in Australia and New Zealand. This was supposed to be my second non-charter Royal Caribbean ... Read More
About the Reviewer: I’m a mid-30s male who cruised solo. I used the Explorer of the Seas as a vehicle to leisurely get home after intense touring in Australia and New Zealand. This was supposed to be my second non-charter Royal Caribbean sailing but my first one on the Radiance to go around New Zealand was cancelled (April 6 departure). Overall, this was my fourth Royal Caribbean cruise with the other 3 being full ship charters (Atlantis, Inception at Sea and Groove Cruise). I’m not new to cruising with 44 total completed cruises and the majority having been on Norwegian Cruise Line. Other cruise lines I’ve sailed are Celebrity, Princess and Carnival. Reader’s Digest: Usually I write my reviews on a day by day format as I’ve experienced the items. However, given the length of this cruise, I realize you might not want to read all of it so here is a brief summation and for details you can read it all. The ship is only as good as it’s crew. The stateroom steward, dining team and bartenders were what made this trip. The cruise staff, minus Veronica who joined in Fiji, were disengaged and the DJ was the worst I’ve ever experienced on a non-chartered cruise. I truly believed my Sapphire Dining team could’ve done a better job engaging guests as cruise staff then most of the actual cruise staff ever did. As a solo cruiser and a shy one, I had to come out of my shell by day 4 to meet people my age after the ship botched solos events for my age demographic. Guest entertainers were some of the worst I’d ever seen at sea and I’ve done repositioning cruises on NCL. If you’re a solo cruiser, I would steer clear of this ship and cruise line if you’re shy. As for LGBT friendliness, the scavenger hunt to find the meet up spot was excessive. I was told repeatedly to go to guest services to look for a bulletin board only to be told it was moved to the library and the library said the meet up was at the R Bar on Deck 5. No one paid attention to this until Day 4 and by then it was a haphazard meet up. With Celebrity being such a supporter of LGBT equality, it’s beyond me why their sister brand is so far backwards. DAY 1: SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – EMBARKATION Guests were encouraged to show up at designated times to check in for the cruise to help spread out passenger flow. I adhered to the assigned check in time for 2PM for my deck but came earlier to drop off the checked bags. Tip: You can drop bags earlier outside at the pier and not go into the terminal. Take advantage and explore the Rocks neighborhood around or Circular Quay. At 2:30PM when I turned up to check in, there wasn’t a line or a wait or anything. A lot of the passengers had already embarked the ship I was told. I sped through check-in, cleared customs and was on my way onto the ship within 20 minutes of stepping foot into the terminal. It was very fast and efficient! BALCONY STATEROOM 7216: The balcony room can fit four people with a pull-out sofa bed which meant there was no coffee table inside the room. The bed was firm. I switched from side to side some nights to see if one side was better compared to the other. The side closest to the balcony seemed softer. The room itself was in good condition given the ship’s age. Dings, dents and scratches were covered over with paint or stickers. The light over the sofa was cracked but still functioned. The balcony was spacious and recessed into the superstructure. It provided more privacy then modern ones with the partitions. Being so far forward, the water drained inefficiently off the balcony when it rained causing it to pool for quite some time. The bathroom was the only portion of the room I found challenging. The water from the sink always ran hot, even all the way on cold. It changed once the ship reached the equator so perhaps the water temperature being taken in by the ship was hot to begin with and since the room was so far forward it was being heated by the ship more before it’s arrival to the room. The shower was equally scorching hot and would temperature fluctuate frequently during the 3PM to 6PM time frame. The water from the sink would come out annoyingly slow with no water pressure. Out of all the cruises I’ve taken it was also the first cruise where I’ve clogged a toilet. Just flush more frequently. At first I thought it was something I did but the toilet line for this section of the ship broke down twice during the voyage and the entire section wouldn’t flush. Perhaps this has more to do with the ship’s age then what I was doing. When heading to my room I spotted one of my cases in the corridor, I grabbed it and brought it to the room and unpacked it. The closet space for a solo cruiser and the amount of storage drawers was amazing. Plus, you could store your luggage under the bed to provide for additional space in the closet. Time had flown since boarding the ship and wondering around. The ship looked great and I needed to get my bearings for the 23 days. Once orientated, I returned to the room and it was immediately greeted by Christopher Hy, the stateroom attendant. He informed it was actually time to go to Muster Drill and welcomed me to the ship and asked if the room was setup ok. I told him it was perfect since I was cruising solo. At muster drill I actually sat on the floor of the Star Lounge stage. I was surprised our muster station didn’t have enough seating given the ship wasn’t sailing completely full and there were quite a few solos onboard. I watched the ship sail off from Sydney and the sunset just behind Sydney harbor. It was breathtakingly beautiful and the best place to watch sail away was at the aft on the top deck. I stayed up there until the ship had reached the ocean and commenced it’s turn North for New Caledonia. The crowd dwindled until it was me and a security guard watching. I went back to the room and the second case which didn’t have the cruise clothing in it had arrived. I took a shower and discovered the temperature issues. Afterward, I headed off to the Sapphire Dining Room and did a table share. I was sat with a number of people who were on the cancelled Radiance cruise and an older couple from Australia. Dinner service seemed remarkably slow but talking helped pass the time. The waiter apologized and said the first two nights of service are customarily like this as a lot of people go to the dining rooms then and then spread out or go to Windjammer. Dinner went late so I floated around the ship. Tonight’s featured entertainment was a Star Wars movie. Oddly enough there wasn’t a welcome aboard variety show for one show only like most cruise lines do on embarkation day. I decided to stay up until the solo and single traveler get together up at the Dizzy’s Nightclub on Deck 14. I went up and ordered a drink and sat at the bar. Met the bartender named Made and spoke to him for a bit. The bar was dead. No one had really turned up and when the 18-25s gathering was at 11PM, the music was in the 1950s. What young people did turn up left when they heard the music! What was this DJ thinking? DAY 2: SEA DAY The day started really late but this was not surprising as I was exhausted from extensive traveling leading up to it. I went up to the Windjammer Buffet at around 10AM and was surprised how packed it was. I couldn’t find a seat to sit at and it was a mad house. The people with interior rooms must have been chair hogging in the buffet. I also wasn’t keen on the people in the line with one pushing me out of the way to get bacon. I went up on deck for some sun, coming down to meet up for the solos luncheon. I figured it would be a great way to meet people. The problem was the solos gathering lunch was placed just after the ship’s first one hour forward which happened at Noon. All of the ship’s time changes were done at Noon instead of overnight. At first I didn’t like it at all as it shortened my day but towards the end of the cruise I got used to it. It did help the crew a lot by not shortening their sleep time to try and keep them healthy. Only about 10 people turned up for the solos gathering luncheon and all of them were older females. I turned around and left before being sat. I headed up to the Windjammer Buffet for a quick bite before heading back out to the sun. Tonight, was the first of four formal nights of the cruise. I decided to dine on my own and ordered a bottle of wine with dinner. I only had one glass and kept in on hand for other nights of the cruise. The guy who served it to me remembered me and always said hello in the Windjammer on the rest of the days of the cruise even though I never sat in his section again for dinner service. Impressive he remembered my name but sadly I can’t remember his. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: ROCK RHAPSODY I turned up for the late show at 10PM. The show featured the hits of Queen and largely featured the production cast singers versus the dancers. The singers were great! The girl from Australia could really belt out a song. The overall production aesthetics seemed to be lacking. It was more of a singing show then a full-scale cruise ship production. Afterwards it was time to head back to Dizzy’s nightclub and give this a try again. Upon arrival I discovered DJ Tony was again playing big band music and ballroom dancing was taking place. I checked my watch and it was 10:55PM. At 11PM there was supposed to be 18-25s meet up. I was hoping there was a younger crowd on the ship so I sat at the bar facing the entry way and again saw people turn up and leave. This DJ either didn’t know what was supposed to be going on or didn’t care. Tonight, I finally met someone who was around my age at the bar and was traveling alone as well. The music never really flipped from the 70s format. The DJ kept disappearing too which I thought was odd. DAY 3: SEA DAY I tried breakfast in the buffet again after rising late and decided after another rude encounter and lack of finding available seats that I would just order room service for the remainder of the voyage. I disliked having to regiment my morning rise times on holiday but this was sheer madness with the amount of chair hogging going on. I walked around the ship and got some sun while waiting for the World’s Sexiest Man competition to begin at 1PM. When I turned up for it, they were having a hard time getting participants to join in so it was postponed. I went to the gym and did a workout since I discovered the afternoons the gym was largely dead and the sun was too strong at that time making me burn even with SPF50 on! I gave the LGBT gathering a second shot tonight and turned up at the R Bar where the bulletin board in the library said it was supposed to be. There was no one around who looked like LGBT. Guest services was opposite the bar so I went over and asked them how come they don’t put the LGBT gathering in the daily yet there’s veterans ones and some friends of Carol activities going on. Friends of Bill W (alcoholics anonymous) also was made to seek out the bulletin board. I found the selection of what was and was not placed in the Compass odd. I spoke to a gentleman at guest services and he said he would let management know and composed an email right there to send to them. I explained my experience with other lines and he said someone would contact me about it. I never was until I put it in the mid-cruise survey again. Tonight, was casual attire in the dining room. I had requested a table for two as I had turned up rather early. I was placed in Domnic and Gede’s section and it was the first time I had dinner service where the meals, if more then one was ordered, were served one after each other instead of all at once. It was classy service and I was truly impressed. I informed both the head waiter and assistant waiter I was very impressed with their service that night. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: CRAIG DAHN, PIANIST At first this started off as almost being a piano recital with older piano favorites coming along. As the show progressed it moved more current and he played a mix of more current artist hits and you could hear the words in your head. His tribute to Lady Gaga was quite nice. In between songs he would talk about his past experiences in show business. Overall it was a pretty good show. I gave up on Dizzy’s as we had a port day tomorrow and went to bed. DAY 4: NOUMEA, NEW CALEDONIA COMMEMORATION: ANZAC DAY The Australians and New Zealanders asked repeatedly if there would be an ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corp) services on the day of observation. The Cruise Director did arrange a service to be done at sunrise. I decided to attend the ANZAC service but stayed up the back. The ship’s senior staff were all in attendance minus the Captain who was steering the ship towards Noumea (and it was in sight). The cruise staff were dressed and handing out fake poppies and programs to those in attendance and the ship’s galley and waitstaff were on the lower pool deck handing out coffee and ANZAC biscuits. The ship’s staff did a great job with the ceremony despite a technical glitch when playing the Australian national anthem. The attendees from Australia sang it on their own. It was a short service and a reef was laid in front of the pool bar. I thought it was a very nice touch by Royal Caribbean to honor the fallen. It was very well attended too. NOUMEA I went back to the room and had room service delivered and ate it on the balcony as we pulled into port. It was a much calmer breakfast experience today. I even got to experience a show from a local performance troupe who greeted the ship as well pulled alongside. The ship was docked at a working container port which meant we had to use a bus shuttle to get to the actual passenger terminal designed for smaller ships. I got off the ship early and caught one of the transfer busses. I didn’t book anything and a lot of the items the ship was selling for shore excursions were to beaches. The weather wasn’t conducive for the beach as it was raining. At the cruise terminal I found a lady who was selling a historical tour with a stop at the Melanesian Cultural Center and an island tour. The total cost was far less then anything the ship was offering and the tour provider accepted Australian currency and provided change in it as well. I had some time before the tour took off so I explored downtown Noumea a bit and did part of the walking tour they give out at the visitor’s center located in the same building. The independent excursion took off about on time and took us over to the Melanesian Cultural Center first. We spent about an hour there and were shown some exhibits and cultural history was explained as we navigated through two of the showing halls. It was also explained about the architecture of the building itself. I wish we could’ve spent more time here and if you go on your own and love culture, be sure to just take a taxi to this location. You could easily spend a better part of your day there. Afterward, we continued on an island tour going past the beaches, an old church and stopping at a view point lookout for photos. All in all given the weather, it wasn’t a bad day. When we returned to Noumea, I finished the walking tour before heading back to the ship. I turned up for dinner and requested Domnic and Gede’s section again as I was impressed by their service. I was informed his section was full but I could table share if I wanted to. I did so and was sat a four seater. I waited a good 20 minutes and no one was sat so Domnic came by and took my order. The meal was amazing. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: INVITATION TO DANCE For a 23 day cruise I was surprised the first of the three production shows so soon! I attended the first show which was at 8:30PM. This show was more high energy and featured more dance numbers compared to the first show. The singers and dancers were out in full force and the ballroom dancers performed as well. I loved this production show and the backgrounds were far more thought out and appealing compared to Rock Rhapsody. FEAUTRED ENTERTAINMENT: PERFECT COUPLE GAME SHOW Having caught up on my sleep, I decided to stay out a bit later tonight instead of going to bed early for Lifou. I turned up for this game show and they were looking for volunteers. Not a lot of people were in attendance but out of those who were, a lot of them wanted to be IN the game show, not watch. They had to dwindle it down first before the show began. It was entertaining to watch as the couples the audience selected were fun. Afterwards, I headed to bed as we were in port the next day. DAY 5: LIFOU, NEW CALEDONIA It wasn’t a great looking weather day again so I brought my rain gear and headed ashore. If you were not on an organized tour there was a church to the left and up a hill to explore and a road to the right which went into town. The road to town was a long road and at the end you were in for a rude awakening if you didn’t have local currency. I walked to the town and took some photos of the ship but the sky had turned really dark so I decided to start the journey back. This stop was my least favorite out of all of them. I didn’t think there was really anything much to see that you didn’t see the previous day for culture. I headed back to the ship for a late lunch and decided to go workout as the weather didn’t look good. I was happy I did as I went to workout the sky opened up and since it was a tender port, a lot of people were stuck on the barge (aka tender platform) getting soaked. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: MONIQUE MONTEZ, VOCALIST An amazingly talented vocalist brought the crowd to a standing ovation by the end with her style. She sang some old tunes and more current ones which showcased her vocal range. Along the way she told us stories and sang to a picture of her child on the display. Out of all the Australian guest entertainers, she was the best of the cruise! A note about the showtimes, tonight the showtimes were moved to 6:30PM and 8:30PM from the 8:30PM to 10PM show times. It would stay this way for the rest of the cruise largely. I’m not sure what triggered the change, but it left a hole for when you were waiting for the nightclub to get decent. FEATURED ENTERTAINTMENT: TROPICAL DECK PARTY This was supposed to be outside but Mother Nature rained it out and it was moved to Dizzy’s Nightclub. I turned up for a bit to see what was going on and met up with some new cruise friends at the bar. Finally on Day 5 it was easier to meet people and the ship was starting to come alive. What I couldn’t understand was why a deck party was scheduled on a night with a port call the next day. If you’re encouraging people to stay up later and generate alcohol revenue, this was NOT the way to do it. The party had the obligatory line dance songs and I stayed until just before midnight. The music never moved from the 70s the whole night. DAY 6: MYSTERY ISLAND RCCL SHORE EXCURSION: MODERN VILLAGE TOUR (ANEITYUM) The tour meet up time was 8:15AM and this was pre-booked online. The ship did offer hourly tours from 9AM onward but I was in the first tour. Upon arrival to the theater I was given a sticker and told to sit with the group. We were called rather promptly and taken to a tender boat to be transferred to Mystery Island. The tender operation seemed a bit rocky at this location and they were having issues with the ropes at first. We were then transferred to another boat that had pulled up on the beach and took us over to Aneityum next door for the village tour. Upon arrival we were greeted on the beach by two women who would guide us through the rest of the tour. We were brought in and a piece of what appeared to be seaweed bestowed upon each of us. What ear it hung from determined if you were single or married. We were moved through different demonstrations within the village including weaving of baskets, making of coconut water and splitting coconuts as well as a small native dish. Samples were given to guests on the tour. Given the sanitation standards around, I passed on sampling the food but did take photographs. Ancient history was discussed including the use of cannibalism among the different tribes and how ancient traditions seem barbaric compared to today’s standards. For a short 2 hour tour, this tour was more informative then I thought it was going to be. The ship was selling it for USD 94 but it was cheaper if you pre-purchased online. I would recommend it. I returned to the ship after the tour ended taking a tender boat back over. The weather looked great for a change so I wanted to give Mystery Island a go for the beach. I didn’t have anything else planned. I returned to the ship and went to the Windjammer. It didn’t open until 11:45A and I was early. This was a first for lunch service! After lunch I headed ashore immediately and was with a few other fellow cruisers and mostly crew on the tender. Guests were trying to get back to the ship for lunch and the tender queue was snaked down the pier and into the island. I was thankful I did it the opposite way. About 1 hour later, most of the back side of the beach was deserted! I had a nice small section to myself. I spent a good amount of time on the beach until about 3PM when most of the crew had returned to the ship. The place was literally a ghost town when I went back at 3:30PM! Tonight I dined in the Sapphire again and within Domnic and Gede’s section. I asked Ethel, the hostess, to be assigned to his section with a table and she said would see what she could do. I guess I had told too many cruisers how good the service was as his section was now full! She was able to accommodate me when someone gave up a table who switched to a later dining time and I would have that table for the remainder of the cruise. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: JONATHAN CLARK A comedian and impressionist from the UK, Jonathan Clark put on a decent show. No politicians were left unscathed no matter where you hailed from. He poked as much fun at Australian politicians as he did with America’s Trump. However, it was interesting the number of people who got up and walked out when he did his Trump jokes. Unless you were up on Australian politics, the other part of his show didn’t make much sense to you. He did try and do both countries since the demographics onboard were split among Australians and Americans. I thought his show was enjoyable and could understand the basics of what he was throwing out there for the Australian politics. His impression of Trump was hilarious. We had a sea day so I gave Dizzy’s nightclub another try. The Compass for the day was screwed up because in one place it said Dizzy’s was a chill out zone and in another place it said for the same time it was Rock N Roll Hour. Either way, upon arrival to Dizzy’s it was rock and roll mixed with ballroom and 70s music. Good grief with this nightclub. When the older clientele left after 11PM, we stayed stuck in the 70s as the same mix tape DJ Tony had been using was played and he disappeared AGAIN. Where does this man go? He’s there to play and take requests! A guest reported when he asked for something the DJ requested a tip. DAY 7: SEA DAY It was a leisurely day at sea and a one hour forward day. I spent the morning grabbing some sun and when the ship shifted one hour forward and the weather turned cloudy. I checked out the World’s Sexiest Man competition on the way to lunch. This time it ran and a person was crowned the winner. I figured out a hole in the fitness area stretch and seminar schedule and went to the gym in the afternoon. The sun is very strong in this area and I was burning too much. Bring SPF50 or higher! FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: WILD, COOL and SWINGIN This was the second of three production shows on a 23-day cruise and it was day 7? This was the highest energy production of the ship, I guess save the best for last. This production also had the highest amount of backdrop usage and sets. I loved it! The singers and dancers took us on a journey through the USA with stops in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami and Las Vegas with different vibes in each. The costuming was the best for this show as well! Make sure you catch it. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: FRIENDLY FAMILY FEUD GAME SHOW There were a lot of families who wanted to participate so they rotated through the families for each round. No family won by clearing the board. Some of the survey results were impossible to guess such as what are the top pizza toppings? The answers were geared for the North American market versus the Australian market so that stumped the participants. Even Guido, the cruise staff, said who the heck picked those for answers! LOL It was Frank Sinatra hour in Dizzy’s and I was trying to stay awake. I walked the Promenade and sat up on the bow helipad staring at the starry night. I fell asleep briefly there and headed back to the room and called it a night. I figured the nightclub wouldn’t get out of the 50s all night anyway. DAY 8: SUVA, FIJI I was up early watching the arrival to Suva, Fiji’s capital. Our arrival in the channel was fun to watch as there were plenty of ship wrecks in the area so the channel had to be narrow. The port side of the ship had the best views of the islands mangroves and green landscaping. We docked starboard side to the city of Suva. RCCL SHORE EXCURSION: COUNTRYSIDE DRIVE and FIRE WALKING SPECTACULAR We were taken by an open air motorcoach meaning no AC. A lot of people were displeased with this type of accommodation but I was fine. I sat up the back and had a nice breeze the whole drive. Along the way the tour guide pointed out things and the locals waved as we passed. The natural beauty of the Fiji outside the city was nice scenery to view along the way. There wasn’t too many highlights between Suva and Pacific Harbor but the tour guide did her best. Upon arrival to the Arts Village in Pacific Harbor, we were greeted by a performer who was banging the drum. We were then informed we had time to go shopping and when the drum performed again we had to meet up and head to the performance platform. I didn’t realize shopping was included in this tour or that it would be about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The time came to go to the theater to watch the show. It was an outdoor venue with well kept landscaping including a tribal house, a sand pit to do dancing and demonstrations and hot stones from which the Fijian firewalkers performed. The show lasted some 45 minutes and showed the firewalkers at the start, cultural presentations and explanations and ceremonial dances. This show was amazing and made the whole tour worth it. I would recommend this tour. INDEPENDENT TOURING: WALKING TOUR After a quick lunch on the ship, I headed into town. The shopping mall was offering a free shuttle transfer and I took it not knowing just how close it was to the ship. When I got out I headed down the main roadway towards the Holiday Inn and found the Fijian Parliament Building and Prime Minister’s residence. Looping back into town I found Suva’s oldest church on the back street and then headed for the mall which between two malls in the city were the only things open. The ship had called on a Sunday when most everything was closed. I returned back to the ship late so I wanted to have a later dinner, I called up the dining team and informed them of the time change and they said it was ok. I watched the ship sail from the balcony which coincided with the same time as the early show which was 6:30PM. I went to dinner after the ship was away from land missing the second show. Tonight’s entertainment was a hypnotist named Tony Laffan. Some Australians said he was good and some Americans said he wasn’t. I can’t comment but that’s what was on for entertainment. Tonight, the Cruise Director made a special place for the ballroom dancers in Studio B ice skating rink. He had the show band play for 45-minute sets twice in there and covered the ice so the people could dance there. I was thankful because I was hopping the nightclub would actually start to play some nightclub music for a change! It was Motown hour in Dizzy’s and I only stayed for a short bit. DAY 9: LAUTOKA, FIJI From one port on the Fijian big island to another. We docked at the sugar port for Fiji but a short walking distance into Lautoka meant more shopping malls. These malls featured most of the same names they had in Suva but a lot more other stores were open too since it was Monday. The ship was offering a shuttle bus transfer for those who didn’t want in the unrelenting sun and heat for 9USD. RCCL SHORE EXCURSION: NAWAKA VILLAGE TOUR This tour requires no bare shoulders or exposed knees. You must cover up. I wore linen pants and a button-down shirt. We were transferred by air-conditioned motor coach (different day over day but same island in Fiji) to the Nawaka Village. Upon arrival to the village we were greeted by several women who handed out a necklace with a flower around it. A kava making demonstration was done by one of the local villagers under the direction of the tribal chief. The kava was made using Fijian bottled water but after using their ‘bathroom’ (more like out house) and it did not have a sink, I passed on the sampling which was done. Also, there two cups to hand out the samples which were dunked back into the kava to draw up samples for the next person. The cups were not washed. I could understand from this demonstration why the Cruise Director said there was always an uptick in noro cases after Fiji. Sanitation in Fiji is not up to Western standards. The tour continued on with a walking tour of the village. It wasn’t really a village but more of a walk around the corner to the tribal chief’s house with an explanation of the items were could see outside. We were not allowed to enter the house. I took a photo by the house and then we were brought to the village church was the sturdiest building they had. In the event of a weather emergency such as a cyclone a few weeks prior, the church would be used as a shelter. Our tour guide performed in the choir and someone asked her to sing us a hymn. She obliged. We later discovered she was also the story teller during the cultural performance show back in the same spot as the kava making demonstration. For being on the same island and seeing the show the previous day, some of the cultural performances were different. On the way back to the ship, the tour made a stop in Nadi where the airport is located. We were again dropped off a Tappoo shopping center. I was starting to wonder if the tour provider was getting some sort of kick back from this shopping mall. The tour the previous day dropped folks off at one prior to returning to the ship. I was able to find a Fiji shirt in my size and purchased it before we returned back to the ship along the same route we did on the way out (no commentary so we could snooze if we wanted to). Back at the pier, I went to the ship and had some lunch before venturing back off the ship in search for sunglasses. I had crushed my final pair and needed to buy new ones! Unfortunately, all the vendors setup by the pier didn’t sell them and it was simply too hot to walk into town in the mid-day sun. I returned to the ship after being hounded by taxi drivers every few feet. I watched the ship sail away before heading to dinner at 5:30PM in Domnic and Gede’s section. I also had a lovely chat with my neighbors in the forward most balcony room 7214. By the end of the trip they would become great friends! FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: MOVIE NIGHT The Palace Theater was quiet for guest entertainers tonight and all the productions shows had run so the only option left was to run movies. Tonight’s featured movie was Victoria and Abdul starring Judi Dench. It was about Queen Victoria’s friendship with a young Indian clerk named Abdul Karim who won her heart. This was based on a diary which was discovered. I love as a remarkable actress and so I did attend the 8PM viewing of it. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: RED and WHITE ATTIRE DECK PARTY Another theme party planned for the deck and another party where Mother Nature had other plans. The party was moved to Dizzy’s nightclub after the rain started shortly after the deck party began. Dizzy’s had a Michael Jackson hour going on until 11:30PM. The music flipped around and then landed on the 70s mix tape with the DJ leaving again. Tonight, since we had nothing but sea days ahead of us, a lot of people stayed up later including some newer, younger faces I hadn’t seen up there before. We were younger then 70s music so the music should’ve changed. The music didn’t change because DJ Tony was missing. When DJ Tony showed up, he had a coffee and sat on the stairs drinking it while we were at the bar watching him. No one wanted to dance because the music wasn’t applicable to our timeframe. The grumbling at the bar was enough and we had many, many more sea days to go. DAY 10: SEA DAY – May 1 – International Date Line A leisurely late start to the sea day meant some going to the gift shops and purchasing a new pair of sunglasses. This time the lady was kind enough to put them in a hard case so I wouldn’t break them. Afterward I walked around the ship as it wasn’t good weather to grab sun. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Captain’s Corner with Captain Kjetil The Captain, Chief Engineer, Hotel Director and Cruise Director were on hand to ask questions. Questions posed from the weirdest such as what was this random rock in the Pacific called to whether or not we would be doing scenic cruising past a volcano in Hawaii. At the time I didn’t know why the Hawaiian question kept coming up as I wasn’t watching the news (exploding volcano on the big island was current top story). Another guest asked about why the chairs on the Royal Promenade were so short because people were having a hard time getting into and out of them. I thought this was odd as I am tall and didn’t have any issues. Someone asked for details about what caused the Radiance cancellation and the Captain rightly ducked it, he didn’t know and it wasn’t applicable to our sailing. The Cruise Director would crack jokes between the questions to help pass the time. If you have a burning question for any of the four of them, be sure to turn up and sit on Deck 3 to ask. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: FAST FORWARD This was the final production show of the cruise and it was Day 10 of the cruise? What on Earth would we have for entertainment for the rest of the trip? Out of all the production shows, this was my least favorite. I don’t know if it was because I was already annoyed with the amount of 70s music I had been subjected to or if the show really wasn’t entertaining for me. The show centered around 70s and 80s music. It didn’t feel as high energy as the previous ones but it was still far more entertaining then some guest entertainers which lay ahead. Tonight after the 8:30PM show I returned to the room to discover a mid-cruise survey asking about all facets of the cruise along with the Day 11 Cruise Compass on the bed. Since it was Elvis Presley hour up in Dizzy’s, I figured I would take some time out and fill out the survey with detail. I outlined how the dining room service, food and stateroom stewards were doing excellent work but the entertainment was lacking. On the back it asked about details of what was working and what needed work. I went into detail about the DJ not gauging the audience, disappearing for a spans of time and then sitting down and not paying attention or playing music that would engage people to dance after 11-11:30PM. It asked if I wanted to be contacted about it and I said yes. I dropped it off on my way up to Dizzy’s nightclub and that night DJ Tony’s behavior was no different then any other night previously, he put his mix tape on and left. DAY 11: SEA DAY – May 1 – International Date Line As I was about to leave the room and head for the pool deck, the phone rang. I received a call from the Cruise Director Graham Seymour to discuss my mid-cruise survey. Graham listened attentively to what I had to say about how the solos gatherings and younger age group which has a presence on this ship have been ignored or botched since Day 1. We also discussed the DJs behavior. Graham admitted he wasn’t readily aware of what happens in the nightclub as it’s usually when he was asleep. He said he would have a chat with the DJ and work on having some solo gatherings outside of the lunch time hour. I thanked him for his call and follow up. When I mentioned the LGBT gathering, he said it was corporate policy and that more recently RCI had told the ships to move the bulletin board from Guest Services to the library. Given the special requests being put in the Compass by guests, I thought this rationale was still lacking but RCI corporate will be the final judge as I’m sure they’re reading this. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: COMEDIAN SIMON PALOMARES After a leisurely sea day and a nice dinner in Domnic and Gede’s section, it was off to the 8:30PM late show for the comedian. Simon was an Australian comedian and I guess the differences were in the jokes. I found his humor very dry and he didn’t have a lot of good punch lines. Even the Australians at the dinner table next to me said they didn’t think he was overly funny but said some of the jokes may have sailed over my head as again they were related to Australian politics. I did leave his show earlier then when it finished and walked around the ship. It was a nice night for star gazing on the forward helipad again. I did turn up for dancing through the Decades after the Rock N Roll hour. The nightclub wasn’t really changing from Rock N Roll and a mix tape had seemed to be on again. This time the DJ was around but he wasn’t actively mixing music. I gave up and called it a night. DAY 12: SEA DAY Today featured the equator crossing ceremony. After a leisurely morning of room service on the balcony, I went to the gym. There weren’t any classes going on so was able to stretch in the studio! I finished the workout just prior to the one hour forward making it 1PM and almost time for the ceremony. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: Equator Crossing Ceremony The event started off with a flash mob (ironically scheduled in the Compass) doing a dance number. I knew a few of the people who were going to be in and turned up to support. Immediately after Graham started the ceremony presenting King Neptune and Queen Neptunia. It was actually a show where cruisers who had been naughty were brought up and turned into some form of pasta dish. Yes, I said pasta. Not going to say what specifically happened but the UK cadet officer who had gained a bit of fame was also christened with this pasta creation and kissed the fish. Next up it was the hotel director who knew what he was in for an wore shorts. The poor cadet didn’t have the luxury. Comparing this ceremony to the one NCL did on a repositioning cruise from San Diego to Chile, this one was far more entertaining. I liked it. Afterward you could take photos with the Neptune folks who were the dancers I believe and James, the cadet, also hung around for photos too. After this ended, the whole pool deck shifted to the buffet. The pushing and shoving to get food was a bit much. It’s not like anyone was going hungry. Headed back to the balcony for a bit. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: SPIRIT OF THE SEASONS ICE SKATING SHOW By far the best performance I’ve seen on the Explorer cruise so far. I give props to all the figure skaters who did this show. To do it on a moving ship, have several costume changes and a smaller than usual rink to get the speed up for jumps, the show was simply amazing! Even with a fall or two, the performers brushed it off like true professionals and kept going. The skating was equally matched to slow and fast songs. The costumes changed with the seasons and were the best costumes of all the productions on the ship. Bravo RCCL for having such an incredible show! Since the show was at 4PM, it made for a tight turn around for the early dinner with Domnic and Gede. Tonight, I had the Calamari appetizer at Domnics recommendation and it was quite good. I usually don’t eat seafood. I also had the lamb chops. The lamb chops were so bony and had very little meat on them so I got a side of strip steak. The desserts tonight didn’t really stand out. Coconut flan was on order so I went with the apple pie which is always available. I wasn’t crazy about it. It was rather tasteless and needed more cinnamon and nutmeg. The spices just weren’t there to give it flavoring. I followed it with a fruit plate. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: DUELING DIVAS featuring Rechell and Danielle Two of the production singers belted out tunes from divas like Celine Dion (my favorite), Barbara Streisand, Donna Summer and many more. They told us their personal stories between songs. It was a wonderful and powerful performance. After the show I bounced around the exterior promenade and bumped into the lecturer who was talking about the stars up on the helipad. I stuck around for a bit as he was pointing out constellations and telling stories about how far light traveled. It was fascinating and just the beauty of being able to go out to the front of the ship with mostly no light and just stare at the sky. This has been a hidden gem in the cruise. A lot of people haven’t been out there yet. I met up with some of my fellow cruisers at the R Bar and bought a drink. After chilling there for a bit, some went to bed and a few of us went to try Dizzys nightclub. It was 80s night. Upon arrival to the club, we saw all the senior staff in the corner table by the Diamond entrance. The captain and the folks seemed to be talking and just relaxing. They stayed until just about 11 when the format was supposed to flip. It sort of did and out came the mix tape by the DJ. It wasn’t until I went to the bathroom and walked by the DJ booth did the music suddenly flip to current. It appeared Graham did talk to him and likely showed him the security embark photo as well. The rest of the night was fun and those of us in the nightclub took turns dancing. With the more current music playing new people turned up who hadn’t been there the whole cruise. It was nice to meet new people and to dance with them! All in all it was the best sea day of the cruise so far. DAY 13: SEA DAY Another leisurely breakfast on the balcony. I noticed the Compass said chance of showers and in the distance there were clouds. I figured it was a good idea to go and get some sun for a bit. I was able to get two hours before it started raining just after noon time. The rain stayed around all afternoon and I hung out on the balcony reading. It was a low key day but there was plenty to do including a matinee movie in the theater and the first meeting of the guest chorus group. Assembly station B and C have their ice show today. I was thinking of doing standby but with the weather like this, I’m sure everyone will turn up for it unlike my assembly station yesterday. I turned up for dinner at Sapphire a bit past my usual time but my table was still available. Domnic and Gede held back the service to get me caught up with everyone else. I felt bad but two of the couples stayed behind with me for dessert at neighboring tables. Tonight’s menu had prime rib again. I opted for the tortillas and had a strip of prime rib. It was a good thing I did that because the tortillas were quite small. Be sure to order two of them. I had the carrot cake for dessert which was nice along with the nightly fruit plate. Unfortunately during dinner service a guest on the starboard side choked. Thankfully fellow guests helped by performing the Heimlich maneuver on her. The ship paged a code alpha but it was resolved by the time they had done so. I’m still hoping the injury in carpentry on Deck 1 the other day wasn’t severe. I’ve noticed a lot more people popping up with braces and crutches. The ship is moving but I’ve been in rougher seas. My room is all the way forward on Deck 7. If anything, the ships motion keeps putting me to sleep. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: PATRICK MCMAHON I turned up for his first show at 8:30PM. The show times keep moving around and this was the first show. It was packed. I’m not sure if it was because he was Australian and there’s a lot of Aussies on the ship or what. He came out and started with performing the same song with different impersonations several times over. Patrick was very animated and was running back and forth all over the stage. I wasn’t sure if he was just hyperactive, drunk or high. He was very animated and telling lots of stories. I thought he was a performance musician but he didn’t do much singing. I gave him a half hour as there wasn’t much else on. I left and walked the promenade deck. Later I bumped into some Aussie friends who told me it is customary for the storytelling in performances in Oz. Overall, he wasn’t my cup of tea. Tonight, cruise director Graham had arranged the first solos gathering at Schooners Bar on Deck 4. It was at 9:45P instead of at lunch. Guido, cruise staff, was assigned to the meet up. Four people turned up but no one really talked except me to someone I already met earlier in the voyage (not at a solos gathering). I appreciated the effort and told Guido that. It was my first time at Schooners Bar so it gave me something new to experience as well. The piano player there may have been a reason I didn’t go before. Yikes. She could get better with more alcohol perhaps like the dueling pianos on the NCL ships. DAY 14: SEA DAY I can’t believe I’ve been on this ship for two weeks. Feels like an eternity since I’ve seen land last. After leisurely room service on the balcony it was time to head up to the top deck for some sun. I stayed up there 2 hours and left at 11:45A to get to the buffet before the noon announcement from the Captain. It was one hour forward today. After lunch it was gym time. The gym was fairly quiet and Busi let me stay in the back to do my stretches during her Good Feet presentation. It was very nice of her to allow me to and she did a nice presentation for the folks who showed up. The ship was rocking a bit today according to some guests. With my room all the way forward it made for a fun time getting ready for dinner but I wasn’t sea sick. Two tables in the row didn’t show up tonight. I had the duck with a side of strip steak. The duck was very good and the steak was cooked to order. Dessert tonight repeated the sky high lemon meringue pie, cold soup and fruit plate. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: RAT PACK RELOADED A trio of singers performed music of the big band era with songs from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Junior. While the entertainment was outside my time period, the guys were actually quite entertaining between songs. They passed jokes but kept the show flowing. For a change they kept me engaged for the entire show and I stayed until the end. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: 70s Disco Dance Party The Royal Promenade came alive with the sounds of the 70s. The same mix tape we heard at the beginning of the cruise with 70s tunes in the nightclub was played by the DJ. Live vocals kicked off the actual party by cast members Danielle and Michael. They did an amazing job getting the energy up and then the cruise staff came out dressed as the village people and disco divas. They did some dance numbers and got the audience involved. It was a great night with a lot of energy on the promenade. The body heat in the venue made it a little stifling but it was still a great time. Tip: Wear shorts to the party and a light shirt. After the party ended I checked out Dizzys Nightclub. As expected the music stayed in the 70s until the crowd thinned towards 11:30. It began to flip to more current music by the end of the night. I left just before 2AM. DAY 15: SEA DAY It was a late start to the morning with room service on the balcony. Room service again told me they were out of bananas. I tried roaming the ship in search of them to no avail. I went upstairs for some sun before lunch and to catch the FlowRider safety demonstration. At 1 PM a group of new friends went up and tried it out for the first time. It was tricky given my height but the kind folks there gave a lot of direction. My execution wasn’t so good though. By the time I finished, I was able to pull myself up on the boogie board with my knees. Thanks to the crew working the FlowRider for the encouragement and patience! The rest of the afternoon until and including dinner was spent relaxing. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: JOHNNY BALANCE I was skeptical about staying up for the 8:30PM show as I wanted to be up early to see the ship into Honolulu. I went anyway and was surprised with how good he was. The opening set is a bit of juggling which itself is not so entertaining but when he moved to his magic tricks with slight of hand stuff, it was impressive. He also poked fun at some of the tricks recreating them in slow motion. His closing act of balancing items, especially the last one (not going to spoil it), is just downright awesome! Be sure to check out his show if he’s on your ship. Afterwards, the rest of the ship and I retired for what would be a long three days in Hawaii. DAY 16: HONOLULU, HAWAII The excitement of seeing land was too much for some on the ship and I was awakened by them at 5:30A. I did want to see the ship in from the balcony and a sunrise so it worked out. We were alongside about 6:30A. Immigration started at 8AM. For USA citizens, it was very easy. The queue stretched from the aft dining room to the forward elevators but moved along. They looked at the passport and then gave a sticker to show you’ve cleared customs. The international guests had a lengthier queue and theirs moved much slower. I did hear complaints about how long it took them to clear customs, especially those who waited. Tip: To clear customs first, be sure to have a tour booked and have proof on you when entering the dining room. RCCL SHORE EXCURSION: Explore and Taste Oahu’s North Shore Our tour meeting time was 8:30A but due to delays with international guests clearing immigration, we didn’t leave the theater until 9:15 or shortly thereafter. Our tour was split into two groups and put on smaller tour vehicles compared to motor coaches. Our first stop was in The Valley of the Temples and stopped at the Byodo Temple for about 30 minutes. It was enough time to get out and see the temple from outside and to go inside. You must remove your shoes to go inside. Seats are provided to put your shoes on and off. Next, we drove along the North Shore stopping at various beaches known for different things like surfing, snorkeling and marine life. We stopped at the China Man’s Hat for photos as well. Lunch was at a shrimp farm stand where we had the choice of various prawn dishes and a few non-seafood options. I tried the spicy prawns. I didn’t realize you had to peel them so I made a small mess when doing so. The lunch was great and dessert was offered of shaved ice or popsicles. The popsicle flavors ranged from odd to bizarre but I gave the Thai Tea popsicle a go and it was quite good. Next, we stopped at a beach the driver said would have some sea turtles at. There were plenty of turtles there! She said the usual stop wouldn’t have any so she brought us someplace else. Tip: Hawaiian law requires you remain at least 10 feet away from sea turtles or you can be fined. Respect marine life and use your zoom lens. The last stop on the tour was the Dole Plantation. Now this is where the tour went screwy. The driver guide told us we would be there for a span of time. She followed up this announcement by saying do not do the train and do not go into the maze. The maze was obvious because it would be too long if you got lost. Essentially this was a contrived shopping stop where you could also get Dole Whip, a pineapple soft serve. The problem was you had to wait in a horrendously long line as all the tour busses doing the north shore tours were in there together! The shop was a mad house. I went outside to get some photos of different pineapples before getting a photo taken in a display of them. There wasn’t much else to do unless you wanted to be in a pushing and shoving match inside the shop or queue for Dole Whip. Either more time should be given to this stop to enjoy the plantation and have a train ride or it should be cut from the tour completely. What I found odd was the tour guide said we started the tour late but she still got us back on time. If this were the case, what did she cut out to do that? The tour was good and the driver guide was great but the Dole Plantation needs to be looked at more. I would book it independently as E Noa Tours was along with us for most of the stops and much cheaper too. After a quick shower and change, it was off to the dining room. A lot of people did the the Germaine’s luau tonight so the Sapphire Dining Room was quiet. Domnic and Gede had the largest amount of guests show up in their section. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: HAWAIIAN FOLKLORIC SHOW For one show only at 7:15PM, RCCL brought aboard Halau Hula Olana School of Living Hula. It was a 45-minute presentation along with storytelling on the history of Hula, the stories behind each dance and a performance cast which included women of all ages from kids to older adults. All of them moved gracefully and smiled the entire time. It was a very good show and glad I stayed aboard to catch it. After the show ended I immediately went ashore taking an Uber to Waikiki beach for USD 13 from pier 2. Uber can pick up directly at the terminal, no need to stand out at the corner. I started my night out at the famous Dukes bar. It was crowded and getting a drink there to chill was next to impossible but persistence paid off. I went on Waikiki beach and dipped a toe in the water to say I had been. I next went off in search of LGBT bars. There were three I tried but for a Sunday night, only one was hopping. Bacchus bar served well in a Grey Goose bottle. I was not impressed and left. The best place on Sunday night was Hula’s Bar and Lei Stand. Located across from the zoo, it had an open-air concept and was playing music of today and some retro songs. The drinks were strong and reasonably priced. A lot of the ship turned up there as it spread that it was the most happening place on Waikiki Sunday night. I had to curtail my time there as I had an early tour to get up for. DAY 17: HONOLULU, HAWAII An early rise at 4:45AM led to the discovery the Cafe Promenade which was supposed to be open 24 hours did not have any breakfast foods to serve. The food was in the case but no one was around. I did find someone to give me a muffin but was told service didn’t begin until 6AM. I’m not sure how all the people getting up insanely early are finding food on this ship. INDEPENDENT EXCURSION: E NOA TOURS - PEARL HARBOR WITH ARIZONA MEMORIAL The scheduled pick up time was 5:45A and they were punctual. I got a phone call from the company as I was clearing ships gangway at the time saying they were there. After we stopped at the far end of Waikiki beach to pick up more people and headed off to Pearl Harbor Memorial. Upon arrival there was a bit of traffic trying to get into Pearl Harbor but the tour guide went to a different entrance. The tour allowed for 1.5 hours to explore the visitors center and exhibits before we needed to queue for the 8:30AM USS Arizona movie and boat ride. Unfortunately, the wharf had become separated over the weekend due to high winds and they were still assessing the safety of it so the ride only went alongside the Arizona, not onto the Memorial itself. After the boat ride was completed, it was off to the USS Missouri for a guided ship tour there. A brief 15-minute guided tour around the top deck by a worker showed us the spot where the cessation of war was signed by Japan and US forces. Afterward we had about 45 minutes to explore the Missouri. This didn’t and wasn’t enough time to check out all the exhibits there. On the way out of the Missouri was the USS Oklahoma Memorial. I ran out of time to properly look at this Memorial during the tour stop. We drove back to the bag check to retrieve the bags and it was off to Honolulu for a city tour. The last part of the tour was an overview of the sights in the downtown area along with the popular sights in Waikiki. The guests picked up after us were dropped off first since the tour concluded on Waikiki. The tour did run a little late due to traffic encountered but I was back on the ship by 2PM. INDEPENDENT SHORE EXCURSION: Magnum Helicopter The pickup time was at 3:30PM outside the terminal and the transfer arrived on time. Upon arrival at the helicopter building, I must’ve looked tense or like a ghost. The pilot introduced himself and asked if it was my first time flying. Once the safety briefing was completed, it was time for the flight. I was sat directly behind the pilot. The pilot always advised me of what was coming up and when he would swap sides so the folks on the other side could see whatever it was we looked at. It was a 50-minute exhilarating tour flying over the cruise ship, Waikiki to Diamond Crater and China Mans hat to Dole Plantation and the waterfalls in the north side of the island before looping back and heading over to Pearl Harbor and the US Naval base moth balled ships area. This tour was amazing and I can’t recommend it enough. You can book direct with them by visiting their website. They had me dropped back off the at the ship by 5:30PM. I showed up to the dining room about 1 hour later then usual. Ethel, the hostess, was able to seat me in Domnic and Gedes section. Dinner service was quick and tasty. However, during this dinner service the Captain came on and said our departure from Honolulu was delayed because of an azipod repair on the starboard side which was not completed on time. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Since the Radiance Cruise was cancelled due to an azipod issue, I truly wondered whether we would be stuck in Honolulu. The Captain said he expected us to be under way by midnight and we could go ashore. He came back on a few minutes later and said no one could go ashore as the security team had left the terminal building. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: COMEDIAN SCOTT HENRY A comedian always has to offend someone to make a joke. It’s the nature of the business. A lot of Australians didn’t care for his style of comedy and left. I was neither amused or unamused by his jokes. I did leave early simply because I couldn’t stay awake. One could say this entertainer mellowed me out to sleep. I wouldn’t recommend seeing him if something else is on. Unfortunately, the Explorer runs all the activities during the day so there’s nothing else to do when the entertainer at night stinks. I went to bed. When I awoke just after midnight for a brief bit, the ship was traversing the channel to leave Honolulu. Thank goodness! DAY 18: LAHAINA, HAWAII I woke up and we were still heading towards Maui. We had not arrived yet to the anchorage. It was just before 7AM. We arrived close to the time we were scheduled to and the crew wasted no time getting tenders in the water and going. I had a leisurely breakfast on the balcony and went ashore. The visitors center is to the right of the tender landing in Lahaina. At the visitors center they have lots of information on tours without the sales pitch you’ll encounter in town. They also have a map of Lahaina so you can do the walking tour. There’s over 40 points of interest and plaques around town. It takes a few hours to do it and you have plenty of places to rest along the way or shopping options too. Front street was the hub for shopping but if you rounded the corner and went up some side streets you’d find the same stuff cheaper. I returned to the ship on a tender around 2 to grab some lunch and shower for the luau. INDEPENDENT SHORE EXCURSION: OLD LAHAINA LUAU RCCL was offering a luau called Drums of the Pacific for this port call. According to Trip Advisor both luaus RCCL offered were not number one and each had comments about why. Old Lahaina luau was rated number one for luaus by Trip Advisor and AAA. The quality showed from the moment I arrived. They had live music going while we checked in. Once inside you were escorted to your seat and then were free to explore the different areas of the grounds. They had the fire pit, a net demonstration for how to catch fish, a children’s play area, an adult Polynesian game area and multiple photo areas with real back drops. The dancers performed an opening number before the food was ready. The buffet was very good. You could go up and get seconds if you wanted to. Pulled pork and steak were available. There was also an open bar with a selection of drinks to choose from on a menu. I tried the Chi Chi which was vodka, pineapple and coconut juice. I also tried the Blue Hawaii which had vodka, pineapple, sweet and sour and blue curaçao in it. Lastly, I tried the Green Passion featuring vodka, passion orange, sweet and sour, lime juice and Blue curaçao. Three desserts were presented afterward. After dinner was completed, the rest of the show commenced with five acts. The run time for the show was over 1 hour and the costuming, live musical entertainment and energy the dancers gave off was just astounding. This luau was a great way to finish my stay in Hawaii. I highly recommend it and it can be booked online or by calling. After the luau there was no rush to get back to the ship as the featured entertainment was a movie shown at two different times. I met up with some fellow cruisers and pub crawled our way back to the tender pier. Stops along the way included the Bad Monkey (good drinks, bad on service), a place where Fleetwood Mac drummer was playing (did not know and walked in and then was bounced out) and lastly the Down the Hatch bar and grill (fast service and good drinks). We waited until the second to last render to return to the ship. The group of us agreed to go check out the deck party which was running until midnight. Upon arrival there were only the nightclub regulars. The DJ was no where to be seen and his mix tape was on. Some party this must have been. I went up to see the ship off. Next time we would see land is disembarking in Seattle. I went up to Dizzys for a bit and then went to bed. DAY 19: SEA DAY It was the last day to get sun and the temperature had dropped a bit. I headed up to the usual Deck 13 forward spot and tried to get as close to the bulkhead as possible. The wind was relentless and the seas were kicked up. Eventually we sailed into some rain and that curtailed the last bit of sunning I would get this voyage. It was also one hour forward at noon and this pushed the time to 1. I was still exhausted from Hawaii so I took a nice afternoon nap. At dinner tonight the menu had repeated once more but Domnic made good suggestions on alternates to try. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: BOBBY ARVON Who? This entertainer (and I use the word loosely) was the guy who sang the opening number to the Happy Days tv series. Bobby let everyone know this was his claim to fame. His voice was horrid, either from performing too much or from smoking. Either way, it didn’t sound at all like how the opening to Happy Days sounded. Bobby proceeded to play Happy Days song over and over again with variations based on who would be singing it like Barry Manilow or Stevie Wonder. This entertainer was so boring I walked out. Unfortunately, since the entertainment on the ship is on early for all the elderly folks nothing was on besides karaoke. When I returned after looping the ship, Bobby then proceeded to murder a Boston hometown favorite Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. I walked out again and this time just sat at a bar waiting for Dizzys to open. Bobby was the worst entertainer of the cruise so far. The wait was grueling for Dizzys as it was Frank Sinatra hour there. This ship is stuck so far in the past it’s unreal. Most of the older folks are in bed after the first show is over! DAY 20: SEA DAY Another day at sea and another workout to be had. I didn’t do too much else. The weather outside was exceptionally cold and meant bundling up to walk the Promenade. It was a low key sea day. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: ELTON JOHN TRIBUTE - Craig Meyer A night over night improvement of entertainment. Craig didn’t sound exactly like Elton John but he did a passable job. When you know the lyrics, sometimes your mind can fill in the actual voice. He was very entertaining and good showmanship. I saw the second show and from what I heard he had a technical mishap in the first one. In the second show he shifted the piano when he tried to brace himself on it. He tried to shift it back but it didn’t move that much so the show went on. He is lucky he didn’t injure himself when that happened. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: ROCK BRITANNIA DANCE PARTY This show was for the Royal Promenade featuring the cruise staff. The 45 minute show featured song and dance numbers. It was good at getting the crowd involved. Children were engaged with blow up balloons so all ages were entertained. The after party was up in Dizzys. DAY 21: SEA DAY A leisurely day at sea included giving the ice skating a try. I would say it’s not something you should try out for the first time on a cruise ship which is moving in the ocean. I didn’t do too bad but also was hanging onto the side. You do sign a waiver for it so if you fall, that’s on you. There were three open skating sessions from 9-11AM, 1-3PM (as we did the one hour forward) and 4 to 6PM. I did the 4PM to 6PM session after stopping in to ask questions during the 1-3PM session. I found some of the nightclub folks at the Dodgeball game and they came along too for the 4PM session. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: HAYDEN SMITH FINALLY! Hayden Smith was a variety entertainer, both good with instruments and with his singing. He was the BEST guest entertainer of the whole cruise and his wife Alexa Jayne performed some moving theater anthems. I wished I had caught their earlier show as well. The second show which I attended went a bit longer as they didn’t have time constraints but they did an amazing job. Rightfully so they received a standing ovation and people wanted an encore. While they didn’t oblige it, this speaks volumes to just how good they were and how starved we as audience members were for a good show! I decided to give Dizzy’s a go. It was an ok night. The DJ stayed around and actually mixed songs for a change and played a wide variety. The Aussies love their Macarena and Nut Bush dance (Tina Turner)! It’s amazing how when the Macarena comes on it gets more people on the dance floor compared to the Cupid Shuffle. DAY 22: SEA DAY A leisurely day at sea meaning another workout as it was too cold outside to do too much. It started with 10 laps around the Promenade deck and up to the gym. With it being colder, there’s more seminars scheduled for the fitness center stretching area so it has become a challenge to find time to stretch. Busi was nice about it and would let me stay in the back corner but the other fitness trainer from Portugal didn’t care where you were in there, she wanted you out of there. Given how much they scheduled the room for and for what few people showed up, her reaction was overkill. The only reason why the ship was so quiet and the gym was dead was because there was a 1:15PM show of Karaoke Superstar Finals, Michael Jackson Dance Performance and the Guest Choir. It was something arranged on the sea days for guests to participate in and rehearse for. Today was the big day. I completely spaced on the event and by the time I knew what was going on, I had missed it completely. I did take advantage of the empty buffet to enjoy a meal without being coughed on or shoved so someone else could get food. I spent the afternoon relaxing and bundled up on the balcony before dinner. I was determined to get some usage out of it even though the air temperature was hovering around 55 degrees Fahrenheit or 13 degrees Celsius. It was another night of great service in the Sapphire with service from Domnic and Gede. It was also our last formal night on the ship. I had two dinners tonight. The first was at the usual slot of 5:30PM which I had the Cesar Salad and the lobster tail. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: MAGIAIN LEO WARD I saw the early show at 6:30PM and there was a kid in the front row who kept on distracting the performer. Leo was not pleased with this and let the whole audience know but it didn’t seem to phase the parents too much because they kept the kid in the front row and the kid kept interrupting. I felt bad for the magician, illusionist because in one of his tricks the sword got stuck in the box and the trick was timed to an audio track. The track finished and the big reveal wasn’t anywhere near to being complete. Leo definitely seem frustrated with some parts of the performance but barring technical issues, he was not bad in comparison to some of the other dodgy performers we’d had this cruise. It was back to the dining room for an 8PM reservation with the nightclub crew. We decided it was best to have one night where we would meet up and just have a leisurely dinner talking. This time around I had the prime rib and asked for an end cut. They did have an end cut piece available and it was quite tasty cooked medium. Tonight the cooks presented themselves to the dining room and were happily cheered on as they came through. I was going to try and catch the Darkest Hour in the theater but that didn’t work out. I ended up back up at Dizzy’s nightclub for a bit. It was Dizzy’s or nothing else at this point so if you didn’t like the music, you just had to drink more until you did! DAY 23: SEA DAY It was Mother’s Day and after a late start, I had lunch with my neighbors with the final one hour ahead of the cruise. We dined in the Sapphire Restaurant and then I took them on the tour of parts of the ships they had not seen. They were part of the needlework group on the ship. All their sea days were spent with the group and tutors learning about things they were passionate about. It was nice they had such a group organized for the sea days but you had to book through the travel agency to take advantage of it. I showed them the Sports Deck with the mini-golf, basketball court and the Flow Rider. I also showed them how to get to the helipad which was open during the entire cruise – day and night! I was busy packing and missed the Royalpallooza Parade on the Royal Promenade just before the 5:30PM seating happened. From what I was told I didn’t miss much anyway. It was at a really odd time and it must’ve lasted only 15 minutes as when I went through the Promenade at my assigned time they were dismantling the props for it. The final night in the Sapphire Dining room meant saying goodbye to a great team of people including Ethel, the hostess who helped me out this cruise, Domnic and Gede. The assistant waiters including Gede did a song for us to send us off. I also thanked Carlos, the restaurant section supervisor for helping get messages back and forth to a couple whose table I took over much earlier in the cruise. They were really nice and it was nice to keep in touch. FEATURED ENTERTAINMENT: FAREWELL VARIETY SHOWTIME featuring Bruce Gold I went to the late show at 8:30PM. I gave it a go and lasted until the comedian came on. He said a few things and then I decided the sunset on the bow of the ship was far more important. I had only caught the last two days of sunsets, so I wanted to make it memorable and the cloud condition was favorable. I did pop back in and see the singers performing a number. However, I was then informed marine life was spotted and went back out to the deck. Sea lions were popping up and it also looked like a pod of dolphins as well. We were just turning into the channel between Canada and Washington State when this was going on. The sunset was amazing and it was a more fitting end to the cruise. After the sun had set it was time to go back and put the suitcases out. Unlike other cruise lines, RCCL wants the suitcases out by 10PM. I went around the ship and said goodbye to people I had met along the way and catching the 60 seconds or less game show. It didn’t seem all that exciting so I said goodbye and headed off to bed. I had an early rise for a shore excursion the next morning and a long day so I wanted to be well rested. DAY 24: SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – DISEMBARKATION RCCL SHORE EXCURSION: EMERALD CITY AND TILLICUM VILLAGE I had a red eye flight so I booked the longest tour option from RCCL and it was the Emerald City and Tillicum Village. It had some of the primary highlights in the tour like the Space Needle and the Pike’s Market to visit so I figured it was worth it. However, just after sailing from Hawaii I received a phone call saying the village portion was cancelled due to mechanical issues with the ship. When the revised itinerary showed up, it was a boxed lunch on the motor coach and not the fish bake at the village. I thought this was some sort of bait and switch by them but since the RCCL shore excursions were not overly impressive to begin with and I did not have the ability to independently book something this close in, I kept the tour. Not a lot of people did it. The tour bus was not full by any means. We were off the ship and onto the tour bus about 9AM. Two people had missed the tour bus but caught up with us in Pike’s Market. We started the tour by going to Botanical Gardens and seeing the locks we would later traverse. The next stop was the Seattle Space Needle which was under construction and then it was off to Pike’s Market. We were given until noon to get back on the bus and everyone did. The city tour consisted of going to visit spheres Amazon had built. It seemed more like a tour about the big corporations of the city versus the history of it. We were brought to the locks cruise terminal at the wharves along the waterfront. The locks cruise took about 1.5 hours and we sailed through the lock we saw earlier in the day. The tour then took us by the sports stadiums before we started the hotel drop offs for guests staying in the city. The remainder of us were taken to the airport and dropped around 4:30PM. The tour was something to do but felt I paid way too much for what was given. In closing, this was my first non-chartered Royal Caribbean cruise and I was impressed with the dining team in the Windjammer and especially Domnic and Gede in the Sapphire Dining Room. Christopher Hy and the other housekeeper down the hallway on the starboard side forward section were both a pleasure to interact with during the cruise. The bar staff in the R Bar, Marcela (a bar server from Brazil in the Palace Theater) and the Dizzy’s bar team of Made and Ferdinand were always enjoyable to chat with, even if you didn’t buy a drink in that moment. The service from these individuals made the cruise what it was. Anyone of these individuals could easily be in the cruise staff team as each had a sociable personality and did a far better job of engaging me then any of the cruise staff besides Veronica (who got on in Fiji) did. The biggest negative I had about the Explorer was the entertainment, cruise director and staff and most disappointing was the lazy DJ Tony. Entertainment is a big part of what makes up a cruise for me. The Cruise Director misjudged the amount of young people on the ship and failed to engage programming for us leaving a crappy nightclub as a last resort. The DJ was the worst I’ve ever experienced and became flippant with guests after a number of us reported his lazy behavior. I’ve never wanted a crew member fired before but this guy does not belong on a cruise ship, perhaps a retirement home disco but not a cruise ship. Walking off for long periods of time, sitting on the stairs, demanding tips for requests and playing the same 70s mix tape night after night is not the way to get people to drink or have fun. Botching the young cruisers mingle on the first and second night by playing 50s music only hurt the age demographic coming together at the start. It was a comedy of errors led by the Cruise Director not keeping up with his staff. Graham seemed more focused on the elite cruisers then he was on anyone else. He tried mid-cruise to address my concerns, but it was already too little, too late to fix the missteps. I do give him partial credit for trying. For a 23-day cruise, I had 34 drinks and a bill less then $200. Had the nightclub been better and the evening entertainment more engaging, my bar bill would’ve been considerably worse. I’m not sure I would try Royal Caribbean again any time soon unless the itinerary were really right. Norwegian Cruise Line is a far better cruise line for solos and LGBT cruisers. You don’t have to scavenger hunt to find the LGBT meet up spot and you don’t have to dine in the middle of the day following one-hour forward to meet solo cruisers. RCCL has a long way to go to woo either of these segments based on my impressions of this cruise and if you fit either of these, I would suggest steering clear of the Explorer of the Seas. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
Celebrity Cruises South Pacific Sydney to Sydney To put our trip report into context, this was our third cruise and the first one on Celebrity. Our previous cruises had both been with Royal Caribbean which we understand owns Celebrity ... Read More
Celebrity Cruises South Pacific Sydney to Sydney To put our trip report into context, this was our third cruise and the first one on Celebrity. Our previous cruises had both been with Royal Caribbean which we understand owns Celebrity as well. The RCC ships were all a bit too gimmicky for us and we hardly ever used all the facilities and rather got annoyed by all the screaming little kids and multi-generational families you encounter everywhere. So this time, we thought we go a bit classier and give Celebrity a go. We are a gay couple in our mid 30ies and traveled together with one of our best friends who stayed by himself in a separate stateroom of the ship. We had a really good deal so we all stayed in Concierge class which turned out to be totally not worth the money had we paid in full instead of getting a discount, but more on that later. For our friend, it was his first ever cruise so we were very keen to ensure he has a great trip. As always, we did extensive research on forums like this beforehand but many little quirks had to be found out directly on the ship, as we soon realized. But let’s start from the beginning: We had learnt on previous cruises that the “recommended boarding time” is a simple measure of crowd control which can be completely ignored, as was the case on this ship. Actually, had we followed the cruise lines advice, we would have missed the lovely welcome lunch for Concierge class guests which turned out to be one of the few real benefits of this cabin class. This lunch is not very widely published and only runs from 12 to 1:30pm on embarkation day. Luckily, we arrived just shortly before 12 and the boarding process in Sydney was very fast and efficient. About half an hour after arriving all up we had cleared check in and emigration and got onto the ship. There we headed straight to the main dining room for our welcome lunch which turned out to be lovely. Great to avoid the usual zoo up at the buffet on your first day and the lunch consisted of about 5 different choices for main, plenty for everyone to find something for their taste. We had ordered and paid for both the Premium Alcohol package as well as a Dining Package for the specialty restaurants online before the cruise which helped us to brush off the constant and often borderline aggressive attempts to upsell us at every possible occasion. This is one of those many things that just don’t fit well with the so-called “Modern luxury” image that celebrity portraits in their advertising. The other big thing that is totally removed from all the happy mid 40ies couples in their ad material is the average age on this ship, which is decades older that what Celebrity shows in their advertising collateral. I actually didn’t mind it quite so much as I find most of those oldies to be very friendly and polite but my slightly younger partner and our friend found the old age rather depressing. One bad side effect of this which turned out to be the biggest issue with this entire cruise was the music played on the ship. Wherever you go, nothing but music for our parents’ generation or even older. And regardless of this rather old average age, we still had dozens of the usual screaming babies on board, I seem to attract them like a magnet wherever I go. After the lunch, we went to see the one guy who has access to the table bookings in the main dining room and had to queue up for about half an hour because the guests from hell were in front of us trying to sort out their dinner bookings for a party of 20. Once we finally got to see the guy, we were lucky that we did, as the Celebrity online systems had failed us as ever so often: We had linked our two bookings ages ago online but no trace of this was to be found once on board. We had specialty dining booked for this first night anyway which gave staff a chance to move people around and were promised to sit together (as requested all along) from night 2. Unlike some other requests, this one actually worked and we got assigned a lovely table in the middle of the MDR from the second night onwards. When we got to our stateroom shortly past 1pm, there was no trace of our room attendant which turned out to be the regular thing with her and we were disappointed to find none of the promised Concierge class amenities in the room. No trace of “Plush bathrobes” or a welcome sparkling on arrival. Once our attendant, Marion, finally showed up, we had a whole list of things to ask her. Besides the amenities, my partner uses a CPAP machine at night for his sleep apnea and we had requested an extension cord and some water beforehand but nothing was there so we asked her for these as well as all the other little things that were missing. We wanted to do the right thing and specifically took some US Dollar notes with us for tipping which is a highly unusual thing to do here in Australia so a 10$ note indeed did wonders with her. Unfortunately, we were about to learn that we had the slackest room attendant ever on this cruise which was very disappointing. She was always the last one in our hallway to start servicing the rooms compared with the otgher super efficient attendant on our floor who we saw constantly working and if you didn’t tell her every single thing, she wouldn’t do it (and even then she sometimes ignored it!). Our friend at the other end of the ship had a much better experience so I am certain it was just her specifically. Most of the time, if she would show up at all, you’d find her at the end of the hallway having endless chitty chats with other crew members and overall we had the feeling that she didn’t like working. Somehow, the cruise line managed to knock off the name tag from my partners luggage and stuffed it into an incorrect bag, missing the fact that that other bag actually had someone else’s name on it too. The missing bag was found by the late evening but it was still an inconvenience that could have easily been avoided. Let’s talk a bit about Concierge class as some of you might wonder if it is worthwhile. If you were to pay extra for it, let me assure you it is not (unless you are after the additional Captain’s club points, that is). We got our bathrobes and the free welcome sparkling later on the first day but both were nothing to write home about. The “Plush bath towels” were a total lie as they were thin and ripped and crappy on most days- if they were any worse in the normal cabins, you’d dry yourself in paper! Speaking of it, Celebrity uses the cheapest possible toilet paper which you usually only find on the lower shelves of US supermarkets, so prepare yourself to wipe your bum with sandpaper. Top tip: We found the facial tissue in the bathroom to be the much better option so do your behind a favor and use these instead! Aside this, neither the pillow menu nor the apparently upgraded bedding was anything special. As always with these “Twin bed converts to a King” configurations, we could always feel the gap between the two single matrasses- a bit like the princess and the pea. In general, we found the room to be exactly the same size and, unfortunately, also the same décor as the RCC ships we’ve been on before. The upgraded massage showerhead offered in Concierge class was also one big joke as it’s still one of those old-fashioned showerheads that are attached on the wall of the shower. I couldn’t really care less whether it’s a Grohe showerhead or whatever brand it might be, as long as I can’t remove the damn thing to properly clean my body. You really have to wonder why Celebrity can’t install a proper showerhead if every decent 4 or 5 star hotel can do it and Emirates even has one on their airplanes which is better than that! As for the “Evening canapés”, this was a typical case of on Celebrity, the only consistency being nothing being consistent: On the first night, we asked our hopeless room attendant how we order these. She, truly herself, told us incorrectly that there is no need to order and they “simply show up every night”. Only to two hours later leave an order form for the canapés on our bed (imagine an eye rolling emoji here). And then, over the 9 nights of the cruise, we experienced every single possible combination: Filled in the form, got the canapés. Filled in the form and didn’t get them. Were in the room at the scheduled time of delivery (the form tells you that you only get them when you are present at that time) and still didn’t get them. Were not in the room and got them anyway. Then one night, we didn’t get any form but canapés showed up anyway. Another night, again no form so we left a Post-it note instead asking for our canapés but guess what, nothing arrived. Writing all this, I realize that it was quite futile anyway as these canapés were always TRULY awful. And I am not exaggerating here, not only were they “nothing special” but they were always soggy and had clearly stood there for hours which (especially with the always included seafood) was nothing too appealing. Our friend never touched them at all and we tried a few but really, get some crackers with cream cheese and olives at ALDI and you’ll have (way!) better quality canapés than what Celebrity offers. Besides those canapés, the food turned out to be one of the highlights on this ship and in our eyes, the biggest difference to Royal Caribbean main line. The specialty dining in Murano was out of this world and we decided to come back a second time towards the end of the cruise (they pretty much flambé everything at your table from the lobster to the desert which is pretty amazing) and Tuscan Grill was also very nice. We were told that the Sushi place is excellent also but Silk Harvest, the Asian specialty restaurant sounds to be really awful as we are really spoilt for good Asian cuisine here in Australia (we haven’t been ourselves but our friend ate there and didn’t rate it at all). The biggest surprise, however, was the MDR. We opted for fixed seating this time as the flexible seating in our experience always ended up with being shoved to some side table and waiting in line forever and indeed we did not regret: The flexible dining always had endless lines on deck 4 while the fixed seating on deck 3 was lovely. We can only recommend to anyone to choose the fixed seating and we will definitely continue to do so from now on. Staff was always very friendly and attentive throughout even though a little bit scripted as always on these ships. This became particularly clear when our waiter raddled of the his “Tips of the day” which he had clearly learnt by heart from some prepared script and probably never eaten himself. Our favorite each night was the freshly baked super-crispy “French” style baguette which we remembered had been exactly the same on Royal Caribbean. One important point worth nothing: A lot of things on this ship are making it very obvious that it’s an American ship. We actually LOVE the US so for us it wasn’t a big deal but the food, for example, is VERY American- from whipped butter to the salad dressings and calling the main an “entrée”, it’s all clearly US-influenced. Again, we actually liked this but many Aussies would probably not agree (they even had “proper” American deep fried cheese sticks which is a rarity outside the US, yumm!). The same was true for many of the wines but unfortunately not for the beer selection on this ship- we had looked at many menus posted online but in reality, they turned out to be useless on an Aussie cruise as most of the beers had been swapped with delicious Bogan-delights like VB or XXXX, yikes. While all the menu cards still told you there nice beers like Blue Moon or Sam Adams available, unfortunately this was a lie- I tried every single bar and the only thing I could find was some rather odd leftover Sam Adams ale which I didn’t like. Luckily, you could get Heineken and Beck’s at most bars so I was happy with these. But again, no complaints at all with any of the staff at the restaurants and bars with the sole exception of two Bartenders, both Indonesian to no big surprise, who clearly displayed a whiff of Homophobia towards us- one of them at the Passport bar which was shockingly bad anyway and another one at the Casino bar which we didn’t really enjoy very much either. Not sure where they were during the Diversity training sessions that Celebrity apparently does but luckily, they were the absolute exception. Other than that, we were treated with respect everywhere in the ship and the staff was a delight throughout. We particularly loved the bartenders at the Martini Bar and the Worldclass Bar on deck 5, Alin at Martini and Janathan & Dimitri up at the World Class bar were our favorites as was our sommelier in the main dining room, Fatma. Finally, a few general observations: We found both the captain and the cruise director highly annoying when they came on the intercom which they did far too often and always when we wanted to have a sleep in- the Greek captain didn’t speak English too well and had a super annoying way of speaking and “sing-sanging” his sentences which was usually followed by the equally annoying Canadian accent of the cruise director who was strangely upbeat even on grim days with constant rain. I must leave him that though- he did a great job moderating the “Newly wed not so newly wed” game show one night which was absolutely hilarious. Similar to those announcements, there were of course the usual sales messages on the phone EVERY SINGLE DAY trying to peddle some shore excursions or worse, overpriced handbags and jewelry in the rip-off shops on the ship. And to top it off, they had nothing better to do on land days than announcing every single damn tender boat throughout the entire ship- because the weather was pretty bad on most days we opted to sleep in instead rather than heading to a deserted rainy Island and were furiously annoyed by these announcements and didn’t understand why they couldn’t have been limited to the lower floors of the ship were guests would wait for their tender boat to be announced. Regardless of the older crowd, we still had some families with small children on this cruise and while some of them were very well behaved, others were not so creating a total nuisance for everyone else on board. The highlight was that Bogan couple (“Bogan” in Australian is similar to “Rednecks” in the US or “Chavs” in the UK so uneducated, noisy, small-minded people from the country or outer suburbia) who took their little one into the Adult only Solarium to change its dipers (!). Before I could complain, some others had done so already and it took only about 5 minutes until they were told to leave the area. The smell was still lingering for a while but I did appreciate the staff to react so quickly to the complaints. What else, hygiene is a big thing on this ship, they are obviously dead scared of these Nuro viruses and hence there are cleaners everywhere. I wondered what would happen if Airlines had to worry about the same thing- would they suddenly bother to clean their planes properly? No issues on this ship at least. All the entertainment on the ship was made for an older generation and even on the Silent Disco night you had the choice between Motown (what the heck…), 80ies and “Top 40”. The two latter styles were were US-focused, no trace of some modern dance music, house, techno, trance, anything like that- nope. As a result, the Nightclub, Qasar, was always dead empty unless there was Karaoke on which was certainly not our thing. On the pool deck, they often played American country rock which was just deadly and some of the live musicians playing… I won’t go into more details but the music on ship was just absolute horror for us but I am sure the older folks would have liked it. Despite some of the criticism, we still had a good time, met some lovely people and great staff, enjoyed the food and all the alcohol that we definitely indulged in too much and all in all had a great time. So good actually that regardless of all the complaints, we went into the “Book your next cruise” office on the ship to put the deposit down for a cruise through the Greek Islands next year on Celebrity’s new Edge ship. Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
a quick 4 night getaway on Pacific Explorer. This is my third time on this ship, and actually like the interior. The cruise was out of White Bay as there was a bigger ship in the OSPT in Circular Quay. Our cabin was a mini suite, and ... Read More
a quick 4 night getaway on Pacific Explorer. This is my third time on this ship, and actually like the interior. The cruise was out of White Bay as there was a bigger ship in the OSPT in Circular Quay. Our cabin was a mini suite, and quite tastefully furnished. The beds were comfy and the pillows are actually fine (previously the pillows had been a contention on other P&O ships). The weird thing about the mini suite is the setup of the bathroom. The shower and bath are in one area, and through the door is the toilet and sink. This means that you can't get out of the bath and brush your teeth without having to go next door to the single sink. Our cabin stewards were friendly and gave us a lot of attention. Although they didn't introduce themselves till the second night. The room was serviced twice per day. The balcony is a bit small for a mini suite, not in length but in depth. Food was actually not bad at all. We went to a taste of salt (excellent and well worth the $99 per person cover charge). We also tried Dragon Lady and Angelo's as well as Shell and Bones. The disappointing thing is that if you actually want a decent meal, you have to pay for it. No drama if it's reasonably priced. Angelo's was the star of the free meal selection. The pasta was warm and tasted excellent. The secret bar is the Bonded Store, and I can highly recommend you find this small out of the way place, it's by the blue room. Blink and you'll miss it, as it's hidden around a corner. The "nightclub" which is situated in the Blue Room after about 11:30pm was always full. I've seen this either empty or over capacity on different cruises. I guess it depends on the itinerary and if the drink packages are in operation. In Moreton Island, we took the Quad bike tour. Enjoyed this very brief excursion, and maybe P&O might consider doing a longer version, as we just drove around in the sand around a made course. Fun to drive, but not really exciting views. Overall not a bad cruise, better than other P&O cruises I've been on before. Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
Heard there were a lot of fights and many passengers 'kicked off' but we didnt see anything. I have cruised with RCL twice now on Voyager and this time around the food, service and overall experience has greatly improved. Our ... Read More
Heard there were a lot of fights and many passengers 'kicked off' but we didnt see anything. I have cruised with RCL twice now on Voyager and this time around the food, service and overall experience has greatly improved. Our dining room waiters and cabin steward were the highlight of the crew- absolutely awesome. A lot of the shows were not my cup of tea- but hats off to the dancers and singers- awesome voices and moves. Ice skate shows amazing. A lot of activities not my thing but there's heaps to choose from to keep you busy, or just relax- which is what I prefer. Ports of call more than most cruises I have been on, so a good variety of things to do ashore except Mare. Unfortunately due to the weather (and hoard of jelly fish) it wasn't safe to do anything, but mare has definitely upgraded the dock and market, so great to see. Have booked Ovation of the seas for Jan 2019, so excited to see all the extra activities onboard. Crew very attentitive in all areas. Promenade cabin 6305 in a perfect spot too. Got a great price. Booked all tours directly with locals before boarding- all ships are too expensive! Read Less
Sail Date February 2018
BACKGROUND: Took my mom on this cruise. It was #1 on her bucket list to travel to Australia. I’m 50 , she’s 71. We chose this 12 day cruise based on itinerary, not cruise line. It covered South Australia including Tasmania and was ... Read More
BACKGROUND: Took my mom on this cruise. It was #1 on her bucket list to travel to Australia. I’m 50 , she’s 71. We chose this 12 day cruise based on itinerary, not cruise line. It covered South Australia including Tasmania and was round trip from Sydney. I normally cruise on Silversea but have also cruised one time each on RCCL, Paul Gauguin, Celebrity and Azamara. HOTEL: We stayed for 3 days pre cruise at Hotel Intercontinental which is a fantastic location and beautiful hotel. I have been to Sydney 4 times and this was by the best location. Circular Quay really is the heart of Sydney and is the easiest location to venture to other parts of the city. Definitely will stay here again or Marriott which is also right there as well. EMBARKATION: very easy. Porters met us as soon as we exited limo. We went inside, filled out health questionnaire and proceeded to desk to check in., No lines, very nice staff. In a matter of minutes we were on board. FIRST IMPRESSION: I had low expectations honestly . Having read cruise critic before trip and I had googled photos. But much to my dismay, the pictures I had seen actually made it look nicer than it really was. I knew it wouldn’t be modern and shiny like Silversea and Celebrity but was shocked the second I walked on. It was terrible. Ugly dark blue carpeting, with bright red accents and the lighting was literally yellow with ugly brass sculptures and trim. I know this ship was built in 2006 but cant imagine it was even stylish back then. We made our way to deck 6 and as we walked aft to our room , I couldn’t believe how ugly even the hallway was. Ugly wall covering, peeling in most places, cabin doors that looked like cork and ugly blue funky carpeting. My heart sank..The ship is so dated and worn. I know it’s going in to dry dock for a refurbishment in May....but I’m not sure HAL will do enough to make this ship really competitive in the industry. There are so many new ships out there and ships being remodeled, I would think HAL must be losing ground. I noticed when I got home they are advertising a lot and wonder if they are beginning to have trouble filling up ships with all the stiff competition out there. CABIN: See below on cabin review...but we had a Neptune Suite 6177. LOVED LOVED the huge wraparound veranda. DINING: i prepaid 6 specialty restaurants ,,,3 for Pinnacle and 3 for Canaletto. I was happy to find out that we had the same 2 top reserved for the whole cruise in the Main Dining Room . I dont know if that is normal, a suite perk or our travel agent set it up for us, but it was a lovely surprise. I loved the food on this cruise. I thought it was better than Celebrity and not too far off from Silversea. There were lots of choices every night. After eating one night each in Canaletto and Pinnacle, we decided that although very good, I dont think they are worth the upcharge as the MDR was so good and I dont think they were better than the MDR in my opinion, so we canceled the remaining reservations at specialties. We also had very good service in the MDR>. Loved our waiter and asst waiter and we felt the service was quicker in the MDR and a bit slow in Pinnacle and Canaletto. I dont like to linger at the table for hours on end during dinner, so I appreciated the quicker service in the MDR. Every meal I had was good (except room service). The only thing we didnt like at the restaurants was a ginger chocolate cake one night for dessert. Had no flavor, seemed a bit “wet”...just blah. It wa like a major ingredient was left out . We only ate at LIdo Buffet twice as I hate buffets. We did salads for 2 lunches and they were good. LIdo Buffet dining room was always packed and hard to find a place to sit. Decor looked straight out of Golden Girls episode. ROOM SERVICE: Definitelly needs improvement. Without going into detail on each item we ordered....just seemed like it lacked someone doing quality control. Missing or short ingredients in salad, food not to temperature, omelette bathed in butter/oil, only hot milk brought for cereal, Every time we got it, we were disappointed. Fortunately, we had access to Neptune’s Lounge and there are always snacks and sweets there all day long. ENTERTAINMENT: I dont normally like cruise ship entertainment, so i didnt go to any shows , so I cant really comment . I can only say that friends I made on the ship didnt have anything good to say about the shows. SERVICE: Noordam really shined here. Everyone from our cabin stewards, to our waiters, to bartenders etc, were all excellent. Everyone was so nice and friendly and even though it’s a larger ship than what I m used to, i was surprised at how many workers knew my name and used it frequently. The only place where employees werent friendly was Explorations Cafe....I felt like I was in the “soup nazi: episode of Seinfeld. Order quickly then move down counter to collect your coffee and pastry. They didnt smile, didnt seem like they enjoyed their job, seemed annoyed if you didnt know what you wanted right away. OVERALL: It was such a mixed bag of experiences. While I loved the service and the food and the passengers were pretty social (unlike Silversea sometimes). The dreariness of the ship tarnished the experience. I loved the pool aft, big open space and never crowded. I never did the midship pool because it seemed like every time I walked through it, the roof was closed and they were doing some type of sidewalk sale from the shops and there were tons of people clogging up the space and being noisy. I loved that HAL has happy hour from 4-5 and 9-10. The bars were packed and a lot of fun and dare i say a great value for dinks on a ship! I got 2 gin and tonics or old fashioned s for $11 total including gratuity. Celebirty is outrageous...so I was very pleased. SPA: so while i dont do spa treatments on cruise ships as I think they are way too expensive, my mom loves pampering herself and so I encouraged her to enjoy. What I will say is that on day one, we did a tour of the spa and fitness area and was totally turned off/irritated. There was such a hard sell on this ship like I have seen on no other. I dont like when they wont take no for an answer. I had to get pretty curt in order to overcome their hard core selling pressure. My mom did 5 spa services and after the first one , she came back to the cabin with hundreds of dollars of unneeded and overpriced products. She’s very soft and easily influenced and the spa crew definitely knew her number. I was furious...feeling like they take advantage of an older person. GYM: old equipment and too small of a free weight area. PORTS: SYDNEY...MY FAVORITE CITY IN AUSTRALIA...BEEN 4 TIMES, LOVE IT! MELBOURNE: feel like it is overrated. Surprisingly, I didnt care much for it. We did our own thing...lots of locals at port to help with tourism advice. We uber’d Everywhere and it was easy. We did the Royal Botanic Gardens...Amazing!! It’s huge and gorgeous. Probably the best I have done anywhere. Then we went to St Kilda Beach. A great beach town south of town. Beach not as nice as many in Sydney, but clean. The village there has lots of local boutiques, restaurants etc...kind of a funky, hip town. Had a good lunch there in one of the many sidewalk cafes. Then we went to city center for some shopping. Ugh, what a mistake. Felt like just another huge city, with too many cars , people etc....it was claustrophobic....didnt feel like it was unique or interesting. General consensus of my happy hour friends that night was the same....Melbourne was a bit of a disappointment. ADELAIDE: we overnighted here. However, it’s a 45 min train ride into the city, so not as convenient. Train was free that weekend....it isn’t usually, but for whatever reason, that line was free. We loved all the beautiful architecture in Adelaide. It’s a smaller city which I liked and easy to walk. We also did the botanical gardens there which were very nice as well. Shopping is good ...they have a huge pedestrian mall/street there with anything and everything you would want...and lots of restaurants. Seemed to be the hub of the city. . Would definitely go back. PORT LINCOLN: small town of about 15k. Did a ship excursion that gave us a bus tour of the highlights of this fishing village. Then we walked around the town, poked in some shops. Some might not like it since its small and not a lot to do, but i love small towns and enjoyed the slower pace very much! KANGAROO ISLAND: wow....this was probably everyone’s favorite destination. Anyone we talked to , raved about this island. You go here for wildlife. We did a ship excursion..but you could easily do it with a rental car as my friends did. It’s a sparsely populated island and easy to drive around and see the same sights we did on ship tour. Its gorgeous, the seals are amazing, seal lions, koalas, birds , kangaroos etc...it was a very long day, but absolutely stunning and magnicient. PORT ARTHUR TASMANIA: We did a ship tour. It was an eco cruise along the coastline for about 3 hours. It was a wild crazy fun ride. Swells were huge.....but it was such a gorgeous ride. A couple people got seasick...but the rest thought it was exhiliarating! HOBART TASMANIA. We did ship tour here to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. They only gave us 1 hour here which was disappointing. Lots of kangaroos to feed and pet. But lots of other Australian wildlife. This place isi great and no one wanted to leave. Then we went to historic town of Richmond....no tour...just dropped us off the bus and gave us an hour to walk around. Town was boring...even the shopping wasn’t very good. My big purchase there was a Red Bull to keep me awake. Once back to Hobart, we walked over the city. REally cute quaint city...in particular the trendy area of Salamanca....beautiful old buildings turned in to cool restaurants and shops...loved it. DISEMBARKATION ...super easy and quick....took the ship arranged bus to Sydney airport for flight home. We had an amazing vacation and loved our trip, our time together, the food , the amazing new friends I met on the ship...just wish it had been on a beautiful ship where I felt more upscale and special. Read Less
Sail Date January 2018
This was our first cruise and we chose Carnival because of the price and that it covered our birthdays. Our trip started well with the shuttle from the airport it was easy to use,( they found us) quick and our luggage was well taken care ... Read More
This was our first cruise and we chose Carnival because of the price and that it covered our birthdays. Our trip started well with the shuttle from the airport it was easy to use,( they found us) quick and our luggage was well taken care of at the port. Our cabin was a pleasant surprise comfortable and very clean. Later we found it to be well appointed. We sailed out of Sydney and the views from the ship were outstanding. We used most of the dining options, and enjoyed all of them. The Empire being our favourite not just because of the great food, but because of Dessi and her marvelous team who not only feed us each night but entertained us. Our waiter Godfrey sand and danced for us each night. We enjoyed the Red Frog Pub and again our waiter Eka gave us personal attention. The stops at the islands were wonderful, some with not a lot of touristy things which was nice. Our cabin stewards Turi and Andi keep our cabin in very good order and went out of their way to help us celebrate our birthdays with messages in colour pens on the mirrors. We found that all the staff we came in contact with remembered our names and made us feel like we were special. Lastly the young people who put on all the shows, Wow what talent. The comedy club, very entertaining. We travelled from Adelaide to join the ship, We are a couple late 60's and early 70's. We disembarked with ease, no rush, shuttle to the airport in time for our flight. Would we do it again...........in a heart beat. Thank you Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
As soon as I knew this huge ship was coming to Australia, I was determined to sail away on her, even if it meant cruising solo Fortuneately I had the company of a very good friend and after booking a virtual balcony interior room many ... Read More
As soon as I knew this huge ship was coming to Australia, I was determined to sail away on her, even if it meant cruising solo Fortuneately I had the company of a very good friend and after booking a virtual balcony interior room many months ago, the upgrade fairy visited 2 days prior to sailing with a balcony on deck 13 This was a fabulous posltion, right opposite the lifts and one flight of stairs up to the solarium bistro and the adult only tiered pools...our room had the twin beds in the middle of the cabin with a lounge near the balcony doors, I prefer the bed to be nearer the balcony as I think it would give a more open area as we had limited area to get past but the beds were super comfy, so much cupboard space for 2 ladies and a fabulous on wall TV.... we loved the bathroom with a night light which was much appreciated by 2 older ladies We proceeded to the two70 lounge where we were lucky to get 2 comfy chairs right against the large 3-4 story windows and with a drink in hand, watched this massive beast reverse out of the overseas terminal and with the sydney harbour bridge in the background, it was full steam ahead This was an 8 night cruise to Hobart overnight in Tasmania and a visit to Adelaide, the ship is docked right in Hobart and lucky for us it was a Saturday, the famous Salamanca markets which meant lots of shopping with no worry about weight taking our purchases home Obviously over 4 sea days, we explored the ship from top to bottom but still not managing to see it all We did not like the 4 indiviual included in the fare restaurants as we felt they lacked atmosphere and seemed quite cramped so we elected to eat in the Windjammer and once at Jaimie Olivers and only twice in the American Grill....the choices in Windjammer were mind boggling, so many choices and beautifully presented but our favourite was the breakfast in the Solarium Bistro, only a small choice but we were able to get our selection and sit outside and linger in lovely surroundings We saw 2 shows, Pixels and The Dream, we regularly visit live theatre but even though the voices, sets and costumes were world class, we were left scratching our heads as to what it was all about...Pixels was very entertaining with the dancing screens and a variety of acts We pre booked some activities on board prior to sailing, this disappointed many older people, as they had no idea that this could be done and were left trying to queue for the Northstar and shows ...I didnt like this aspect but with 5000 odd passengers, I understand the reasoning but not exactly what you cruise for We loved the two70 lounge, the small deli connected to it with its wraps and soups and yummy desserts, we spent quite a bit of time in this lounge as I could stare at the seas for hours on end....this area is utilised a lot during the day with a talk by a very yummy captain, a highlight The seaplex also had us tearing around in the dodgem cars, watching young adults playing dodgeball and attempting the roller skating, so much to do for teenagers, they could never get bored....we didnt try the flow rider or ifly but had fun watching people attempt and fail on this fast moving water....so many other things to do We loved the indoor air controlled swimming pool, this was a large size with some people able to do laps, i spent some time in the very heated tiered pools at the front of the ship but for some the smell of chlorine was quite over powering at times The main negative we heard from various people was the "friendliness" of the crew....someone described them as robotic, very attentive, polite, helpful but with none of the playfulness of other family geared cruise lines....it is a large ship and trying to find out information was not always easy, when the queues were too long, we retreated to our cabin and phoned, much quicker and query resolved I would prefer the big open dining rooms, where you felt you were part of a family and it would be easy actually to get a bit lonely unless you put yourself out there to talk to people We loved the silent disco, something you need to see but all "parties" were held indoors at the two70, I missed the deck parties usually associated with cruising This was only my 2nd RCL cruise as I am platinum on Carnival but wanted to experience this ship Would I cruise again??? definitely, in fact I booked another cruise for next year, 7 days was not enough to experience all this ship has to offer...obviously its more expensive but that is to be expected when you look at the maintenance and crew necessary to keep a ship 3 football lenghts operational Read Less
Sail Date February 2017
Just returned from the Tassie cruise (23 – 28 Jan) and I wanted to comment on our experience (having noted some negative feedback from others on the NZ trip) We are seasoned travellers although this is only our 2nd cruise (previously ... Read More
Just returned from the Tassie cruise (23 – 28 Jan) and I wanted to comment on our experience (having noted some negative feedback from others on the NZ trip) We are seasoned travellers although this is only our 2nd cruise (previously we sailed with Carnival Spirit to New Caledonia) We were a party of 5 and all had a great time. Plenty to do and lots of options for food and beverage. Some tips/points to be aware of: (meant as helpful advice not criticism!) All prices on board are US$ and there is an automatic 18% service charge on most items you need to pay for (speciality restaurants etc.) see below: Cabins (well at least ours) didn’t have Aus plug sockets so bring an EU or US adaptor (there were 2 USB hubs for phones, ipads etc) The voltage didn’t support an aus hair dryer (the new dyson) or a hand held steamer – there was a hair dryer in the cabin though. If you have a power board or alcohol in your check in luggage it will be held in a secure area and not delivered to your room (they x ray all items) so you’ll need to visit deck 2 to collect your bags once under way. (power boards are held and given back when you get back to Sydney) - not end of world but a hassle on day one you don't need so just be mindful? Bags are checked (X rayed) when you return from shore tours and alcohol etc is kept and delivered back to you the night before you dock. There was no option/laundry room to wash or to iron your own clothes – you can get them done by room service but there is an additional charge (as around $4US for a man’s shirt to be ironed) I had some creased clothes straight from the laundry basket at home (planning to iron them when I had more time in the planning and packing mayhem pre-trip) so they stayed in the case and I made do with what I had – 1st world problem! LOL The ship holds around 5,000 guests so some shows, dining options and attractions get booked out early and queues on day 1 were massive so book on-line in advance if you can or wait a day or so and you should be able to book/see most options. A lanyard to hold your key card (ID And all charges are via the card) is useful – we saw a few cases where people had lost them (including a young kid who’s card was then used by others to charge items). Go with a happy attitude and you’ll likely have a great time (we encountered a few who were determined to be unhappy and they were!) General feedback: A very very good operation. - the boat is super modern and has some amazing features and benefits! Check in process was prompt and efficient. Room was well presented, spacious and functional and cabin staff did a great job of keeping it clean and tidy. We tried quite a few of the food options and were happy with pretty much all:- Windjammer was the “food court” area with a wide selection of smorgasboard and made to order options (there was also a gluten free section I noticed) Plenty of healthy options and I’d be surprised if anyone left hungry or couldn’t find something they enjoyed. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner there at various stages and had no complaints – clean tables, good food, well cooked and presented and staff were friendly, efficient and cheerful. We ate at Izumi one night (Japanese) – we paid extra for this but were very happy with the food, service and experience. We chose “anytime dining” which gave us an (complimentary) option of Silks or American Icon to choose from (deck 4) – both a la carte, similar menus and again great food, service and hospitality. You can reserve tables in advance when on board but may experience a short wait on arrival during the busy dinner periods – no drama’s they’ll seat you asap and they won’t run out of food! Staff were fantastic, wine prices were reasonable (we didn’t take the drink package options) There is a free hot dog stand near the kids entertainment quarter – some options not available when we had one but still – free hot dogs!! A free pizza parlour (next to the pub on deck 4) Mmmm...Pizza! The pub staff were great – draught Heineken at $8US a pint and I like a scotch egg – theirs were fantastic! We saw both shows – Legs, live love and Pixels – both great (pre-book shows preferably if you can – we didn’t but got in on stand by as we just turned up but there was a slight wait until the reserved patrons had gotten in. Bingo was popular – mind you some were taken aback at the cost of a book of 5 for 4 games which was $49US and another session was $20 US for one game of full house for a book of 5 – we won one session though and got $500 US so happy happy happy, smiley smiley smiley!! Trivia comps were fun, pools popular with kids and adults alike and the sports courts/dodgem area popular and although there were queues they made sure they moved it along and everyone had a turn. The ifly sky dive simulator was popular and bookings essential – note there are height and weight restrictions – if you are under 6ft and weigh over 104Kilo – no go and there are also restrictions for people over 6ft so worth checking before your allotted slot if you get one? Your trip bill is automatically charged to your nominated credit card at the end of the trip (there are cash options) – be careful and check the small print as to the rate they use to convert from US $ to Aus plus they Royal Caribbean also charge a 3% fee on top (as well as an automatic gratuity of $13.50 US per person per day) We have an international currency debit card (ours is Commbank but most banks offer them) and we loaded it with US dollars at a good rate before we travelled and paid the bill in US dollars using that card which saved us a fair bit. You can check your bill by using the on-board app (check your trip booklet when you book and pay for your trip) or via the TV option in your room or at guest services - Note queues on the night before arriving back to Sydney and the morning of disembarkation were long so best to check and sort things out sooner than leave it to the end of the week if you have any queries? The spa offers some great packages and the steam/sauna option was lovely but a bit pricey at $200US a couple. To help offset the increased calorific intake (!!!!!) I used the gym each day and plenty of machines available (usual sort of stuff for most well equipped gyms) and there were a number of complimentary or pay as you go options for classes/training or seminars. We didn’t get to use the North star “eye” as it was booked solid. Plenty of on-board shopping (including Cartier and other high end stores) Bags are checked (X rayed) when you return from shore tours and alcohol etc is kept and delivered back to you the night before you dock. The boat docked in Hobart very close to Salamanca so an easy walk to some great things to see and do - there were a number of trips you can pre-book plus minibuses and private hire cars waiting to offer their services for trips to points of interest. We know the town well so did our own thing including a day trip to MONA which was great as always. In Summary – we had a great time and from the general chats we had with others they did too. Some people (only a very few) were just plain rude and grumpy but I guess a cruise can’t work miracles so read in to that what you will. A real mix of nations and everyone (most) seemed keen to have a good time and interact well with other guests. All meals were well cooked, well presented and there were plenty of options – great! – well done to the chefs and support crew – your efforts are recognised and appreciated by many. Entertainment – great – some amazing shows and plenty to keep us all amused – but still plenty of space on board to sit and relax with a book or a cocktail and people watch if you wished. Staff – excellent – not a bad word to say about any of them – each played a part in what was a great holiday experience. A big boat with a lot of people on board but very well managed and well organised – credit to the whole crew – well done and thanks! We had a 9.15am slot to assemble to leave the boat, were called at 9.20 and off the boat at around 9.30 and in a taxi - easy! Just read the info sheet they give you the night before and follow the instructions - Easy Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
Yes, there were long queues at embarkation but it's a world wide issue as port authorities ignore the need to rethink the embarkation process/facilities. All cruise lines are limited by the design of the terminals. Port authorities ... Read More
Yes, there were long queues at embarkation but it's a world wide issue as port authorities ignore the need to rethink the embarkation process/facilities. All cruise lines are limited by the design of the terminals. Port authorities need to allow for multiple entry points to the ships instead of funnelling thousands of passengers into one entry point. Enough said. Once on board, the Princess crew were all over the place providing assistance to locate our cabins. Food was already being served and it never stopped for the eleven days we were on board. The decor on the Emerald Princess is tasteful and subdued with a mix of many shades of blues and browns but lacking a little pizzazz. Nonetheless all areas and venues are clean and comfortable. Our mini-suite (D526) was immaculately clean and our cabin steward couldn't have been more helpful and responsive to our requests. As cabins go our mini-suite was very spacious and comfortable. When selecting the cabin, we didn't realise the balcony was open/visible to the decks above but worse, there was no relief from the sun. We did change the pillows for smaller ones as the standard ones were so big and luxurious we were almost smothered as our heads descended into pillow overload. The air-con all over the ship was on the cold side for my liking so make sure you take some longer sleeved items and a cardi/jacket. Of course you can buy on board! We didn't bother with the specialty dining venues (at additional cost) as the food in the main dining rooms was perfectly fine. A few misses but in the main, the options were many and varied and well cooked and presented. Still amazed at the precision and quality considering the number of passengers. We chose "anytime dining" and shared tables at lunch and dinner and we met many delightful people, some of whom we will keep in touch with. Great staff in the dining rooms too. We are not fans of buffets but when in port, it's the main eating venue on board. Food was fine. A tip for coffee lovers... there is often a long queue to order lattes etc. in the International Cafe (deck 5) despite having to purchase them. Just sit down at a table and flag a waiter who will order for you and deliver it to your table (even if you want takeaway). There is a variety of entertainment from musical stage productions, to comedy, mood music, ballroom dance lessons, line dancing, Zumba, a full gym, in cabin TV/movies, a giant screen for movies under the stars, a kids club, games on deck, art auctions, shopping sales, spa services, competitions, giveaways and if that's not enough you can attend churches services too! Excursions are not always good value for money but if you do your own thing you really need to do a lot of research beforehand and be aware if you don't get back to the ship on time, it doesn't wait for you! Some South Pacific Islands are really beautiful like Isle of PInes (not visited this trip) and Champagne Bay but Noumea is very tired looking and the locals not particularly friendly. Port Vila is run down and dirty but the people are all very friendly and chatty. Of course there is no need to go ashore as the entertainment just keeps going on board. We met many people who have cruised on Princess ships many times and some debatable incentives are offered for loyalty. There are still other cruise lines I wouldn't mind trying but I have no hesitation in recommending the Emerald Princess and may well cruise on her again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
We chose this cruise as it fitted in with our annual company closedown in January each year, when we must take most of our annual holiday leave. The price was great for this peak holiday time in Australia. Both the embarkation and ... Read More
We chose this cruise as it fitted in with our annual company closedown in January each year, when we must take most of our annual holiday leave. The price was great for this peak holiday time in Australia. Both the embarkation and disembarkation processes ran extremely well, no queues All food was fresh and good quality, with the dining room providing gourmet meals each night. We initially asked for extra vegetables with our meal, thereafter a separate plate of steamed vegetables was automatically provided for our table to share each night. Dining room service was excellent. The free food on the swimming pool deck was welcome, we have cruised with other lines three times & always needed to pay for food outside the dining room & cafeteria. In addition, each day a self-serve Mexican food bar was set up on that deck, enabling us to enjoy tacos & nachos - the pulled beef was yummy! WE dined in the Pinnacle Grill for lunch on two occasions. For an extra US$10 per head for three courses plus tea or expresso coffee, this was most worthwhile. The prawn bruschetta (entree) & seafood in tomato broth (main) were highlights. We were each able to take a 750ml bottle of wine aboard on embarkation, which we could drink in our cabin. To take a bottle to the main dining room incurred a corkage fee of US$18. When we visited a wine region in New Zealand, we were each permitted to take a further bottle aboard for use in the dining room, without incurring the corkage fee. A good move by Holland America. The first sitting for dining was at 5.30pm, which meant we sometimes missed dining there due to still being ashore on port days, or missed viewing the ship's departure from ports as we were in the dining room. In hindsight we would choose the later dining option. Our major gripe was with the cost on internet on board the ship, very expensive. Also quite slow according to those who did use it. Accordingly, we waited for port days to use free wifi at local libraries or cafes. However, in NZ this was not always satisfactory as it appears they are still using 3G, at times we were unable to read incoming emails & text messages, & most times could not send emails, although text messages were fine. The entertainment on board was first class, ranging from an in-house band, in-house singers & dancers, to guest comedians, musicians, & singers. There were a variety of classes especially on sea days, including a unique series of computer classes dealing with all aspects of Windows 10, & also several computer Q & A sessions .Everyone found these classes very helpful. Other activities included cooking demonstration, DIY cocktails, galley tour, fitness classes, health & beauty talks, excursion previews, just to name a few. We didn't take any ship organised excursions, mainly due to cost. As we travelled with another couple, we hired cars at two ports to travel further afield, & noticed other groups especially families, did this as well. One excursion I saw advertised privately online prior to the cruise for NZ$50 (Napier town tour 1 hr), yet the ship charged US$69 for exactly the same tour, with the same company, which was double the price (taking into account the exchange rate). This is something cruise ships need to look at closely, to encourage more use of their own shore excursions. For the cost of our cruise, we would definitely sail with Holland America again! Read Less
Sail Date January 2017
Ovation of the Sea- Syd/Tas/NZ/Syd 15th December 2016 Embarkation/Disembarkation Ironically Ch9 was doing a live telecast from the ship and they were heavily promoting it as the “ Love Boat” including the presenters heads in ... Read More
Ovation of the Sea- Syd/Tas/NZ/Syd 15th December 2016 Embarkation/Disembarkation Ironically Ch9 was doing a live telecast from the ship and they were heavily promoting it as the “ Love Boat” including the presenters heads in buoys !, it should have been a warning. Our experience has shown from “Allure” and now “Ovation” that RCL has this down to “pat” and all move fairly quickly and smoothly providing people stick to the RCL guidelines and time slots given with your paperwork, the hold ups ,if any, normally comes from Customs, having said that, both on and off the ship on the 15th/30th December was very fast for us. Plenty of Taxi’s were also available. Cabin etc Our balcony cabin was on deck 13 and it was a little longer than normal, however, it was not as wide, therefore the balcony was very small, having said that, it worked well for us, the shower in these smaller type rooms was very roomy and possibly one of the better we have experienced in the thousands of nights we have now spent at sea over the decades- there was no toiletries. We booked this cruise 8 months out to experience the ”premium ship” and the “bells n whistles”, we were told by RCL themselves at the time of booking that deck 13 was the only cabins ( at a premium) that were available, this we have since found out not to be true, deck 13 has above it the Pool and the Windjammer- therefore I would not recommend this even if it was the “last of the balconies” The “paperless” approach that is being taken left the room with NO information in relation to how to do anything unlike previous cruises where there was a iPad in your room to book shows etc.,( or the TV) this was not the case nor was our TV working and when it was fixed it did everything other than ROYAL IQ, ( there are 2 iPad’s at the elevators so you will need to line up at times) It appears there is at least 2 balcony cabin “layouts” a. with the bed closer to the bathroom and the divan next to the balcony door/window and b. the other way round. If you like lying in bed and looking at the ocean then make sure you have layout “b” although it is a tight squeeze between bed and window. A very common complaint from many women was that the toilet paper was rough and a thin single sheet of poor quality so you may consider bringing on your own, albeit it this is supposed to be a “premium ship and cruise” where you are paying up to 30% more for a similar itinerary on a similar “star” ship The TV in the cabin has a great picture, it has the normal channels HOWEVER it doesn’t offer the movie that was shown the day before and your only offering in movies is to purchase them at US$ 12 so a movie will end up costing you around AUD$ 15-18 ! there is no on board Show Channel because there is a total lack of this type of entertainment on the ship. The telephone has Chinese as the 1st language and English the 2nd as with much of the information on the ship. Ports The good itinerary ( only port lacking was Napier) started with our first port of call Hobart with all as expected, however we ran into very poor weather and had 3 days of the “premium bells n whistles” shut down while crossing the Tasman from Hobart to Milford Sound where we entered the sound and sat for 6 hours having being told the day before we would be not calling into Dunedin and instead going up the west side of the south island into Wellington, then onto Picton a fantastic small port that each year keeps re inventing / improving itself for cruise passengers ( much like Napier has) and certainly a port you want you to go back to then onto Tauranga ( the locations is really the port of Mount Maunganui and you can get a “express bus” into Tauranga for $10 return. (It amazes me for over a decade they have been charging / treating tourists all over NZ that a AUD$/US$/GBP has the same value as a NZ$ and in many cases will give you back a NZ$ for change, this is so petty and shows such a poor light to visitors and why the NZ Tourist Commission hasn’t put a stop to it fails me) such is the case in this port. What I found amazing is there was no port “sail away” music in any port and what you must see is this clinical uninviting ship steam out to sea, in Tauranga a perfect opportunity was lost of promoting the ship and the perception of the cruise when we had possibly 10,000 people crowded onto the beach, docks, jetty and rooftops and a fantastic flotilla of around 50 craft that stayed with us all the way out until the pilot got off and still not one single happy party Sail Away music was to be heard, really sums up the ship, not inviting, not fun, not appealing, Then it was onto Auckland and the shock was it is a tender port ! but the worse part was still to come in that the ( I will use RCL daily Compass “we will be offering a FREE return tender service- WOW FREE TENDER AYE”) was that the tenders didn’t go into Queens Warf or Princes Warf but down into Viaduct Marina some 7 blocks away from Queens street ! Downtown Queens St is all gone ( yes even the Warehouse gone!) so maybe given 12 months there will be a more visitor useful and friendly region but at the moment those who head straight to that part of town will find it a long long walk to find all has changed. The additional problems of the tenders is that both the marine and foot traffic caused mayhem for both locals and cruisers & requires RCL to be much more firmer with Auckland Council and say it is Queens or Princes Warf or nothing to be honest IMHO. There is no Map or Information relating to ANY of the ports to take ashore. If you haven’t booked a Shore Excursion your on your own so to speak. FOOD The ship is homed in China and what we saw was the Chinese Head Chef, the Sous Chefs, Chefs and Cooks are Chinese far more than normal on a RCL cruise and to be honest it trashed the RCL brand as they simply can’t do western food, the offerings were/are the same every night and bland, and as far as cakes / sweets they have no idea, the same 2cm square cake/deserts in a different color on tray after tray, meal after meal, and as for pastries there is none, other than the “Danish” for breakfast. As a example the Napoleon slice is “pastry” and filled with some water based gunk product with no cream in sight, just not worth the calories and as for the red velvet cake it is coloured sponge and very poor. If you enjoy this part of your meal give the entire ship a miss at this stage. ENTERTAINMENT RCL have at every point of entertainment gone out to break the 80/20 rule to prove you can ruin a great brand and product in one or 2 cruises. Ovation was to be a premium cruise, on a premium brand, and what they delivered was substandard offerings at almost every point. The “bells n whistles” of this ship that people were prepared to pay up to 30% more than other cruises were, when they were working, or if you could get a booking for the few, offset by poor overall entertainment. If you are a child/teenager or part of the lycra set ( the gym is well equip however ALWAYS overly crowded) then you would have had a fair sort of time with things to do, however, as for the other 4000 passengers, you were left with Trivia every hour and THAT WAS IT in general ! , the Daily Planner ( I am sure someone called it that in jest) was so sparse of things to do that they repeated in a space of one hour the same feature ( ie Flow Rider) 3 or 4 times so the 6 or 7 items made it look like there was entertainment on the ship for most of the guests day after day. On a ship with 4600 guests the Morning Show has a following where maybe as many as six (6) people will do a shout out, or answer the riddle of the day, and that starts the Cruise Directors day with more trivia with his side kick the “Activities Manger” and I use that term very loosely, taking part and promoting her Zumba class in between the commercials to spend more money on everything you can think of. While both seem like nice people, the cruise director apart from self-promotion and a narcissistic self indulged plugging his DVD you can buy on boardwalk and what Trivia he is taking on the day is about it as there is nothing else on. The manager of the Windjammer has daily jokes & thoughts and had everyone up doing the twist so he was offering more entertainment that the Cruise Director. The entertainers and what shows there are on a 2nd or 3rd rate and not what RCL is renowned for, I guess that is because of the large Chinese numbers. Because of the lack of entertainment when there is something on the rooms are far too small to seat a ship of 4600 people, therefore you are asked to stand ( even in a 90 min movie!)if you can cram in BELLS N WHISTLES Most of these were all shut down with 3 days of bad weather and the results were disastrous. SEAPLEX-huge open floor capable of hosting everything from basketball, soccer & cricket etc and often around 200-300 people would gather to watch or participate CIRCUS SCHOOL- on Seaplex and you would have maybe up to 50 people involved DOGGEM CARS- on Seaplex and averaged the same group of people however too many breakdowns spoilt it for many. Flow Rider- fantastic ride however with only 2-20 at any given time wanting to use it again its also for a select few- you can pay for private lessens. IFLY- another fantastic experience HOWEVER on the 5th day of the entire cruise, it was totally booked out ( for your 58 second fly) and you had to really fight to even get in the hope of being so grateful to be considered as a standby- disgraceful- having said that, on the final day some had been able to get as many as 3 or 4 flys in, so the management of this was sloppy, poor & possibly not Kosher ?. NORTH STAR- again this was totally booked out and what was decided was that the 30min ride and 360 degree would be cut back to 10 mins and a up and down experience only, not the promised 360 degree experience- shabby and nothing more than a very basic outdoor experience. The problem is the ship has too many passengers with too few timeslots available for some of these experiences and I would be wary of paying such a premium cruise price to maybe get on these. BIONIC BAR – primitive robotic arms and primitive software driving it ( my wife has a “Scan n Cut” that has far more clever software) and is really below the standard of some of the other “B n W” offered on the vessel –still it is on board revenue for RCL SUMMARY Despite my poor review of Ovation, we love the RCL brand and product, however this ship is not for those that like what you normally get from RCL. The ship is not the best in “southerly” winds and is terrible in swells, the lack of entertainment is the worst we have experienced and certainly not up to a premium cruise. There was a gastro outbreak on board however little wonder when you consider the poor hygiene some of those passengers had. A excellent format was when entering Windjammer you were sent to a washing room with maybe 10 taps and soap to wash your hands, however the failure here is the staff is more interested in saying washi washi than having someone ( or video) in the room to make sure that passengers DID wash their hands or simply walk through it as many did as was the case with certain groups, and on several occasion I watched as people took the USED paper towels out of the rubbish bin and wiped their hands with them-RCL need to understand that if you have charged a premium price for a cruise then you need to offer some entertainment for the masses and not keep trying to squeeze the lemon to the point where people on principle do not want to spend any more money to go to seminars or additional charges for entertainment. The sooner Ovation gets back to her home port in China the better and let RCL Australia recover from this terribly planned season on a substandard cruise experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2016
Overall, the ship was amazing. The dining was a WOW!! Although the entertainment was average, with only 4 or 5 musicals, the ship still kept our family of 4 busy throughout the whole day. The sporting and fitness facilities on the ship ... Read More
Overall, the ship was amazing. The dining was a WOW!! Although the entertainment was average, with only 4 or 5 musicals, the ship still kept our family of 4 busy throughout the whole day. The sporting and fitness facilities on the ship were outstanding, the ship provided us with a number of sports, such as table tennis(ping pong), basketball, soccer, cricket, paddle tennis, mini golf a jogging track and a well equipped high-tech gym. Every night, when the room steward refreshed our room he left us with delicious chocolates and the next day's edition of the Princess Patter( the newsletter with showed all the activities happening in the next day). One very important thing I would recommend you to purchase, especially if you are travelling with kids, is to buy the soda and drink package. And also purchase once you get on the ship, not before, because the price onboard is cheaper than purchasing it from the website. With 60 Australian dollars we could get all the drinks we wanted for free. And one thing that you should know is that Princess is not very strict with the package. For example, I could but a drink and then give the card to my sister and she could get a drink for herself. Our interior cabin was very nice. The service on the ship was amazing. The dining was also great. The pizza in this ship was amazing. For breakfast there was a huge variety of food, from pancakes, to waffles, to omelettes, to hash browns, to scrambled eggs, to croissants, to yoghurt, to chocolate croissants, to fruit etc. The dinner was amazing too, and the dessert was absolutely wonderful. The cruise was actually very great for children too, the kids clubs were awesome, and the youth counsellors very very friendly. The service on this ship was also very great. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
Having cruised only once before with Royal Caribbean, we tried Celebrity Solstice because the timing suited and the ship got great reviews - deservedly! We booked through Vacationstogo.com - they were excellent! We booked an inside ... Read More
Having cruised only once before with Royal Caribbean, we tried Celebrity Solstice because the timing suited and the ship got great reviews - deservedly! We booked through Vacationstogo.com - they were excellent! We booked an inside stateroom because we only sleep in the stateroom and this was true of this cruise too. There was too much to do elsewhere. The shows at night were excellent with a wide variety of sensational acts. Some nights we would have 2 courses to get to the 7pm show then have desert in the Cafe. Other nights we would have the complete meal in the Dinging Room then go to the 9pm show. The food in the main dining room Grand Epernay was well above standard and then we spent one evening at Murano. Murano would equal any 5 star restaurant. Particularly if you are lucky enough to get Ibraham as your waiter. We selected fixed time dining on a table of 6 people so met 2 other couples and got on so well, we looked forward to dinner each evening (I hope they did too). This is not a ship to get bored in. There is everything from the well-stocked library across two levels to a range of bands and singers during the evening and night at various locations across the ship to guided behind-the-scenes tours of various aspects the ship to dancing and shows. There is also the specialty Corning Museum of Glass exhibitions of glass blowing daily which is absolutely fascinating to see. We did not book the ship's shore excursions preferring smaller more intimate tours we booked ourselves so can't comment on these. As members of Cruise Critic, we attended a morning tea hosted by the ship and attended by some of the senior crew where we had the chance to meet some really interesting Cruise Critic members and formed friendships from day 1. I would highly recommend the Celebrity Solstice. There were 2 staff members who were particularly good - Deborah from Guest Services and Ibraham from Murano. Celebrity should be extremely proud to have these staff. Read Less
Sail Date November 2016
P&O Australia is what it is, a budget cruise line so my expectations are lower and in general they do a good job, its obvious that the Pearl is past it and has not received the upgrades that the others have as it is retired next year ... Read More
P&O Australia is what it is, a budget cruise line so my expectations are lower and in general they do a good job, its obvious that the Pearl is past it and has not received the upgrades that the others have as it is retired next year but why is the service and food so poor in comparison. We don't have the nice new buffets but the food served is a miss match of items that just don't go together and most of it is served cold. The coffee in the machines is just awful and you are not even provided with a tray anymore, assumedly so people take less. The room I had was a mini suite and these are nice on a P&O Ship but its the little things that I notice, no chocolates at turn down any more, the water in the room was removed after the first day and the door did not latch other than a hook so you could not close it once on the balcony. The Waterfront Dining was average but after an incident with four very rude women just turning their backs on us as the staff made us share with them we were put off, we asked to be moved but this all turned out to be to hard when they wanted to place us on the table next to where we were, basically we were to embarrassed to return again. It was billed as a comedy cruise that was a cruise to no where but there was only shows in the evening, the first night we had a ventriloquist and an 11pm comedy show, the second a comedy variety show and another late night show then the third night singing and dancing show and one comedy show at 11pm that was the best in the cruise. But what about the day time, we spent all day with very little to do, the entertainment team was on board and they did one show, why not put on some matinee shows and day time comedy, after all it was a comedy cruise. You get to see the same amount of comedy on an average Carnival Spirit cruise. Overall it was a good way to spend a weekend but maybe just cruise somewhere on Carnival Spirit instead, same amount of comedy but a much nicer ship. Read Less
Sail Date July 2016
I went on this cruise as part of a wedding. The wedding itself was very nice, it was held in the Dome, which was closed for the event, although the staff in charge of the music screwed up multiple times. And that was the good part of the ... Read More
I went on this cruise as part of a wedding. The wedding itself was very nice, it was held in the Dome, which was closed for the event, although the staff in charge of the music screwed up multiple times. And that was the good part of the cruise. The ship itself was smaller than usual, being a Comedy Cruise, the layout seemed fine although there was only 1 pool and 2 spas in the main pool area. My cabin was dated, I was on deck 5 and the bunk bed above me creaked all night, and i dont mean every now and then, almost constantly throughout the rocking. The dining was absolutely abysmal and i would not eat the food on the ship if it was free. The pantry was boring and lacked variety, the Italian restaurant had disgusting bread-sticks, flavourless food and a very boring menu. The Pantry (buffet) was slow and tedious, taking away the option for collecting your own food, meaning you had to get another plate if you wanted to go to a different cuisine, the food itself was bland and mostly rubber (i couldnt pierce the top of my jelly with my spoon). There were very few activities and the entertainment was very average. The service was very mediocre, the staff in the restaurants were incredibly slow and I payed no attention to them, as opposed to other cruise staff, which are usually quite joyful and get to know everyone. We did travel with children who were bored out of their minds the whole 3 days. Would never travel on this ship ever again. Read Less
Sail Date June 2016
The embarkation and disembarking were fantastic ! on and off in no time at all as with the tender services that i did The ship itself i did find good and had plenty of bars and retreats to just laze around, pool area on deck 11 was ... Read More
The embarkation and disembarking were fantastic ! on and off in no time at all as with the tender services that i did The ship itself i did find good and had plenty of bars and retreats to just laze around, pool area on deck 11 was good as with the adults only pool at the aft,could do with a bar in the adults pool area. The cabin was clean and spacious (was on deck 5) and loved it , no engine noise as i have heard people say at all and no noise either from other cabins,room attendants were great ! Got to say you are spoiled for choices when eating on the ARIA ,as part of your ticket you have options such as the Pantry and Waterfront as well as Angelo's for Italian and Dragon Lady for Asian ,people Angelo's and Dragon Lady are free eating places ,i am saying this as so many people onboard thought you had to pay to get into these top eating restaurants but you must pre book in the early morning to ensure you get a time that suits you to eat ,so read up about prior to going onboard what is free and what is not A concern i had was that mainly at the Pantry the food was only warm ,it was rare to get a hot meal ! If you are into organised there is plenty to do and for the entertainment it was all good from the adults only comedy shows to stage shows i found the service provided by the ships staff excellent As for shore tours it is cheaper to do your own thing when reaching a port as a lot of the same tours you book onboard are a lot dearer than the same ones as mentioned you can book yourself on shore All in all i had a good cruise and will be back on the Aria in the near future Read Less
Sail Date May 2016
We paid a huge sum for 18 nights in top Queens Grill class. I found very little in return from Cunard/Carnival. We were not shown to our cabin (we did not know this ship). Except for breakfast the food did not reflect the flowery ... Read More
We paid a huge sum for 18 nights in top Queens Grill class. I found very little in return from Cunard/Carnival. We were not shown to our cabin (we did not know this ship). Except for breakfast the food did not reflect the flowery language of the menu. Food quality was not what I expected.Room service food poor.After we moved tables we were very happy with our waiters and we were also lucky with our cabin stewards. As on many ships staff are from some 60 countries so English language skills are variable. Our QG cabin deck 9 was large enough yet looked ordinary. Our wash basin was cracked and the shower was over the short bath.The double bed was made by pushing two singles together leaving a mattress gap in the middle.TV was very limited with no extra functionality. Balcony cabin doors were hinged not sliding so the slamming noise was frequent. Pools were ordinary. Entertainment cheap mostly, often one man performers. Ships Officers kept a low profile keeping hidden. The June 2016 major refit is vital. We paid a massive ticket price, daily service charge, and 15% drinks service charge on top. Value for money is missing. Read Less
Sail Date March 2016
First of all and up front - my long term partner left me while I was on this cruise, so i'll do my best to not let that get in the way of the review. The good: Jen Baxter - The Cruise Director. After many many cruises ... Read More
First of all and up front - my long term partner left me while I was on this cruise, so i'll do my best to not let that get in the way of the review. The good: Jen Baxter - The Cruise Director. After many many cruises across several lines, Jen is a stand out. Her quick wit and sense of humour manages to balance that all too difficult line between appropriate and inappropriate with perfection. She's the equivalent of a pixar film - entertaining for the kids with plenty of hidden gems for the adults to enjoy. She's a rare beast amongst cruise directors - as she's visible just about everywhere and works hard to make a connection with everyone. There is a striking gap between what the public expect of a cruise director, and what a cruise director is 'physically' able to do (or endure). The only downside to Jen is that she makes all other cruise directors I've encountered seem lazy and the equivalent of an FM radio drive time host going through the motions in a desperate bid to appear 'fun'. The difference with Jen is, she actually seems to 'be' fun, and as a result, if she's putting it on you'd never know. The entertainment: Terrence (might have been assistant CD?) is tops. He's like SNL's Kenan Thompson in a carnival uniform. Plenty of variety and they worked hard to keep it interesting on a cruise that was almost 75% sea days. The Average: Food: The food was nothing special. Often too salty, overcooked and chewy. It was also nothing to write home about, as chances are those at home would be eating the same thing. It's a shame - and something Carnival Australia could work on improving. The service at the restaurants would always triumph over the (often inedible) uninspiring 'nanas on a thursday' style food (if nana was drunk and jacked up on amphetamines). Ship: The ship is in need of a bit of a refurb. The decor seems less 'in your face' than Carnival Spirit, but only so far as sorbet is generally less unhealthy than ice-cream. The Bad: Staff Tensions With exception to Velmir in the dining room and Rai (our steward), there was obvious tension between the asian staff and the eastern european staff. On opening night, some of the asian staff were in tears. The eastern european staff (again, with the exception of Velmir) seemed to be disinterested and very abrupt. Cultural I know, but not what one pays for aboard an american cruise line. The 18+ area on deck 9: The age limit seemed more of a guideline, as the security staff sat idly by as toddlers and teens ran amok. On a Christmas cruise where there was a large number of kids onboard, (as a reasonable person) some concession could be made - but not to the level of nonsense that existed with kids being served at the bar! Tendering in Queensland: As a QLD resident, I would urge the cruise lines to avoid QLD until such time as they introduce suitable berthing arrangements. A 45min ride on a packed tender at Airlie Beach is both uncomfortable AND totally unacceptable. Docking at Fishermans Wharf in Brisbane, almost an hour and $15 on a bus to the CBD - unforgivable. Carnival would have been better off stopping at tangalooma on moreton island (just off brisbane) and tendering again. Room Service: Most of the food served was available free from the buffet - so why not a tray charge of $5 (for the labour) instead of the overpriced 'per item' fee? The ship's best feature is the stateroom balcony - so why not encourage the use of said balcony by introducing a better 'in-room dining experience' with an expanded menu and simple tray charge. Airport transfer staff: This was a domestic cruise. Two different carnival employees at Sydney Airport had DOZENS of passengers in a 'twist' in Terminal 2 when upon arrival (pre-cruise) they were informed by these staff that they would definitely need a passport as 'the captain has decided to take the ship more than 12nm offshore'. NONSENSE, as was confirmed after quite a nervous conversation with the call centre, and upon check in. Shore Excursions: Another prime example of why cruise lines should avoid Queensland. The offering was abysmal! Port Douglas had 4 tours available, most of which had sold out before the ship left Sydney. All other ports had bugger all, most 'advertised' options on the website weren't available due to the 'holiday season'. What a load of garbage - tour operators once ashore, including those who advertise on the carnival website were spruking as hard as they could. Saved money (sure), but with no guarantees, whats the point? Overall: 7/10 - Below what i'd expected but satisfactory. Read Less
Sail Date December 2015
As the title suggests, the cruise was pretty good overall, but not perfect by any means and not as good as it could have been with better management. This was our 6th cruise and having sailed with P & O and Celebrity, we had ... Read More
As the title suggests, the cruise was pretty good overall, but not perfect by any means and not as good as it could have been with better management. This was our 6th cruise and having sailed with P & O and Celebrity, we had obviously experienced both ends of the spectrum of quality, with P & O clearly the worst of the cruise lines on just about every front and Celebrity so far ahead a telescope would be required to see them. Before this cruise we tried to find out if we should have a drinks package, but despite a considerable effort, we could not find a definitive price list for on board drinks, so I wrote to both Princess and my own agent with a handful of questions. Oddly enough I received mixed replies and none of them accurate. For example, Princess sent me a list of prices which were so under priced as to suggest they were either from a different cruise line or decade and my agent categorically stated we would require a US electrical converter! So just to set the record straight let me list a few prices and facts here for anyone else trying to organise themselves before departure. A Crown lager is $7.95, cocktails start at around $10 and a half decent wine was $10 a glass. A bottle of red would set you back around $35, but remember all these prices are subject to a 15% gratuity. And talking of gratuity, Princess state that passengers will be automatically charged a per night gratuity of around $12 per person, unless they opt out, but in fact if you book in Australia for a cruise from Australia, they DONT charge gratuities at all and you need to make your own arrangements or opt IN to do it. There was a universal plug socket in the cabin (a mini suite of very generous proportions indeed} and the choice of in room movies was beyond impressive - we are talking dozens of them and several VERY new releases. The TV channels however were to put it mildly very poor. Having said that, we have found they usually are on Cruise ships. Now for some personal highs and the odd lows of the cruise. Embarkation at the Sydney International Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay has been improved over the past couple of years and is virtually seamless, swift and painless. We were given a boarding time and arrived about 30 minutes early. Our cases were dropped off before entering the terminal and we were on board in our cabin less than 30 minutes later and our bags were delivered soon after. Another high is the food, which in our opinion is better than Celebrity in as much as Celebrity seem to serve their food with an American twist, meaning everything is OVER sauced, over flavoured and very salty, whereas Princess 's food was delicate and subtle with LOTS of seafood across the 13 days. We chose anytime dining and had the choice of four silver service restaurants to eat at at any time in the evening we wished along with the trough - err sorry I mean the buffet upstairs, a grill with burgers and hot dogs and a pizza bar. ALL of these are included in the fare and require no surcharge. For breakfast and lunch the choice of dining venues was more limited but still more than ample with breakfast in the main Princess dining room offering table service and the trough - sorry again - the buffet offering self service and these being joined by the grill and pizza bar for lunch. The main dining room also offered a totally unnecessary but still pleasant afternoon tea as well. There are a large number of bars on the ship as you would expect, but this leads me to my first negative of the cruise. I am a rather large individual, standing over 6 foot and not exactly slim in stature, yet gaining the eye of the waiters in most bars was virtually impossible on most occasions, though I would stress there WERE the odd exceptions. I am not used to being invisible and can only surmise that the staff have somehow perfected the art of not seeing people waving frantically, with arms over their heads directly in front of them - having given up on waiting for the staff to come over of their own free will. Could only describe this aspect of the cruise as abysmal, made worse by the fact we had purchased a drinks package for over $700 and therefore it was the drinks we had already paid for they werent serving us!!! Having said that, Skywalkers Bar and the Churchill Bar were exceptions to this with excellent service and a delightful young girl called Ruri ran herself off her feet serving everyone in various bars at different times, while some of her colleagues chatted to their mates behind the bar!!!!! Other pluses included the on board musical group Evolution who were very VERY good and very , VERY approachable and pleasant, with a stunning repertoire of songs crossing all genres and datelines. The best on board entertainment ever! I wont dwell on the odd negatives, though a couple were pretty bad. One involved the staff tying up 3 out of 4 aft lifts for the benefit of around 200 passengers to the detriment of the remaining 2000, turning what was normally a good and reliable method of transport between decks into a completely useless system and forced many less mobile passengers to become prisoners of their cabin or to be exiled from their cabin if they were elsewhere when the exercise started. Another was the refusal of the International Dining room Maitre D to allow passengers to be seated as on 2 seater tables on the final morning - forcing them to sit on large tables with other passengers. This is fine for most, but not for all and the minority should have been accommodated. My final is about the disembarkation process which went horribly wrong for about an hour and a quarter through no fault of the shipping line or its staff, but which should have been handled better on board with a bit of intelligence by the officers. Basically the Immigration departments computers went on the blink and the disembarkation process all but stopped. NO announcements were made for the best part of 3/4 of an hour and when it was explained, there was no guide as to how likely it was to be fixed in the short term. As I said NOT the crews fault in ANY way that the problem occurred, BUT keeping the passengers informed as quickly as possible and keeping them, updated VERY regularly would have avoided stress for those with a timetable to keep to. Personally I would have given free internet wifi for all passengers during the delay. This would have allowed those WITH a time problem to deal with the problem using the internet on their phones and kept the other passengers occupied as they either read the news, played games or communicated with family and friends. Simple, but NOT offered. All we got was silence! Moving back to the more pleasant aspects of the trip, the tendering service from the Diamond Princess is brilliant. With 6 tender vessels operating, the longest we waited was 20 minutes to get a ride ashore. That is remarkable. The ships singers and dancers were very entertaining and the special effects, props and costumes were all excellent for all their shows. Having said that the theater didnt seem to be large enough for the number of passengers with all seats filled with 1/4 of an hour to go till the first show started. The second performance usually had a little more space. The shows were generally around 30 minutes long, which was about half the length of those on the other cruises we have done, but they were very fast paced and well choreographed. Personally, we didnt like ANY of the invited guest performers, but I guess that was just us. I havent mentioned the shops and wont, other than to say there were less shops, less variety and very little value in any of them, which surprised us a LOT. Cant really explain why they would be so much worse than on all our previous cruises, but there you go, Princess Cruises saved us a bit of money we WOULD have spent on board, so thanks! So in summing up, the ship is in great condition, rides the waves very well due to her size and offers plenty of variety for dining, drinking, entertainment and pretty much all the sorts of activities you would want on board. I would recommend it to anyone who doesnt mind large numbers of people around them and a fair number of kids. Again speaking personally, I would rate the Celebrity above the Diamond Princess but there again you pay for that difference - our Mini Suite was about $2200 each with a few on board credits included, where as our ordinary Balcony suite with Concierge class service was $2500 each, and that went to the much cheaper destination of the Pacific Islands and Fiji compared to New Zealand and at a lower season time of year. Diamond Princess is however miles ahead of P & O which has slumped from its once average to poor level of service, to its current dreadful state with ancient ships, and a policy of trying to suck money out of every passenger on ANY excuse once they get on board. We really enjoyed the cruise which seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. Met some nice people and would not rule out travelling with Princess in the future if Celebrity arent going where we want to go! Read Less
Sail Date December 2015

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