This review will cover the ship & ports that can't be reviewed elsewhere. If you are looking we had Cabin 1012 & were very pleased with it. This review is split into main venues and then each day; it is LONG. We are speciality ... Read More
This review will cover the ship & ports that can't be reviewed elsewhere. If you are looking we had Cabin 1012 & were very pleased with it. This review is split into main venues and then each day; it is LONG. We are speciality dining fiends so most are reviewed here. This is our third cruise and all have been w RCI (Rhapsody, Mariner); just BF & I each time. We live in Sydney & by public transport only an hour from port. We had a prem. bev. pkg. and found this worked for us, only had to have 5 drinks a day (eg 2 before dinner, 2 w dinner and one after) anything more than this and we were ahead.
SHIP: The ship is beautiful and it is true it is the ship of light. All the venues felt larger & looked like they had more area than what we found on Mariner despite the fact it is smaller than Mariner. We only took the lifts on embark/debarking, after a long tour & one evening to experience them. Take the external lifts the height of the ship once to see the ocean go by; it is one of the best lift trips you will take.
MDR (My Time): We book same time as second seating (8:30pm) to fall in line with the scheduling of shows and prefer later to avoid some of the families. If we turned up close to 8:30pm we always received a two top table near many others so if you wanted to chat you could. We often came across nice couples happy to discuss their day. We had some different waiters throughout and our favourites were Suthakar & Leny whom we had a few times. They were well organised and friendly. Food has deteriorated a bit, but then we didn't have to cook it or clean up so were still satisfied. Shame about the number of people in thongs, shorts and hats on when it is not casual night (which I still find unacceptable). Seems the food standard has dropped in line with the dress code standards.
WINDJAMMER: Same old, food is consistent (read: nothing much changes) but what can you expect. The DIY burger station was good for an ok balanced meal if you skipped the chips and had salad. For port days this & park cafe are the only options, and windjammer is not "bad" just not any "good". Freddy at the front door always had bundles of energy and is a great welcoming committee for windjammer. RCI needs to renovate the space "Rita's Cantina" it was mostly used by windjammer patrons for tables. Seating space in Windjammer is enormous with the back deck, use of Rita's and where the Dog House is and the matching space on the other side. This is not the same as on any other ship.
PARK CAFE: Good for a snack, always love the roast beef rolls. DIY salad bar with fruit also good. Gets busy in the afternoon on port days with people returning but the staff are efficient, even if the guests are not.
DAY 1 EMBARKATION(Casual): On Deck 10 so boarding time of 11am. We boarded within 15 min which is perfect, cannot expect better than that. We explored each deck for some exercise & then chilled in the solarium. We saw ppl that had not brought their swimmers so were glad we had packed them. Room was available at 1pm and we noticed some checked bags had begun to arrive. We unpacked what we had and returned to the pool. Did a spa tour which was good, enjoyed sail-away (5pm) on Deck 12 near sky bar for a FB group meet up. Missed the spa raffle set for 5:15 pm, disappointed it was same time as sail-away. Back to room to unpack & get ready for dinner, then enjoyed some drinks in Schooner Bar. Best Schooner bar we have seen, it is huge! Jacintha and the other staff are great, always looking for someone to serve and if not they restock & clean. We came once and Jacintha was so apologetic she didn't have something more obscure we wanted; we were fine with it, we recognise things have to come from storage if they run out. Comedian show by Ray Badran was cancelled due to "visa issues" so we had RCI dancers & singers variety show instead. The dancers and singers are good and they are even better that they can be so flexible with their shows, however the choreography is lame, so we left after the second song, enjoyed some drinks in Quill & Compass before dinner in MDR. On a table of 10, most people lovely, 5 were just pains to the staff, felt sorry for them. Be warned most fish is cooked so it is dry; mass production. People were struggling with sea sickness, myself included so it was an early night.
DAY 2 SEA DAY(Formal): Not great weather so read in Solarium early before it got busy. Enjoyed the Next Cruise Seminar for info on some different itineraries. Bought a new chain for a pendant at the Inch of Gold Sale and the staff did it in time for dinner. Had lunch in Izumi, best Miso ever! The sashimi & roll we ordered were filling, but not the freshest. From some other experiences (see Chefs Day 6) despite the ship leaving from Sydney it seems all the seafood is imported from the US. Despite the buying power RCI has, I would have thought it more cost effective and certainly better quality to purchase AUS or NZ produce when in port. Joined the mini-golf tournament then had to get ready for Welcome Aboard by Captain. Enjoyed pre-drinks in Champagne Bar where the ladies are excellent hostesses; remember your order & again always looking for people to serve, one at the bar, one doing tables and the third doing whatever is needed. We met a nice couple and chatted so much we missed the captain's speech, however we had noticed that he was rather monotonous and lacking energy. We enjoyed dinner with the couple, we all had beverage package so were not upset we had missed the free champagne. Champagne Bar has a beautiful outlook and is a good place to read or watch the world go by even when the bar is closed. We skipped the show since neither of us are much into the band Queen. After dinner went to Starquest that had rubbish 80’s music (as opposed to good 80’s music) til midnight then they were meant to have top 40’s hits, but they were few and far between; big let down.
DAY 3 SEA DAY (Casual/Country): Still not great weather so the poolside BBQ for the NFL was cancelled. Due to the big night previously we did not do much. We skipped the show “Swing, Stage & Soul” with the singers & dancers. We did go to the Crown & Anchor welcome back party in Colony Club which was very busy, the queue went back to the Centrum. Caught a little bit of the “If you know it dance it” game in the Centrum hosted by Marena who was full of enthusiasm; good fun game we had not seen before. You just dance the signature move/s for the song to win for your team. Had dinner in MDR again and an early night.
DAY 4 NOUMEA 8-5:30 (Casual/Rock n Roll): See Noumea port review. We were back on ship by 1pm, enjoyed the pool & lunch in windjammer. Skipped the show again, it was “Jon Darsk” who appeared to be a singer of Rock n Roll. Had drinks in the Schooner Bar before dinner in Chop’s Grill. We still love Chop’s Grill. We are getting better at not ordering too much. BF had mushroom soup, 6oz steak (ordered 9oz, but it is good they gave him 6 oz), I had scallop entree, 6 oz steak and we shared baked potato, spinach, asparagus & mushrooms. Steaks came out med-rare as requested. BF loved his soup and the sides were excellent. You no longer choose what sauce you want, you just get jus. Mississippi Mud Pie was excellent. Always love Chop’s and is our top speciality choice. We hit Starquest again with Michael Jackson til 11:30 and Top 40 after, but it still lacked ïŒ
DAY 5 LIFOU 8-4:30 (Casual/White): See Lifou port review. We were back on ship about 1pm. We had lunch in Windjammer and took a nap because this evening we had Chef’s Table. Pre-Drinks for Chef’s starts at 6pm and once everyone arrives the service starts. Unfortunately one couple tarrived late and drunk; the other guests were good and we enjoyed the conversation with the people nearby to us. The dishes were: confit salmon & poached lobster tail w fennel salad; cream of celeriac soup, double duck consommé, duck brioche sandwich; seared scallops w burnt butter hollandaise sauce, pea puree & crispy capers; veal fillet w sherry reduction & potato; nougat pavlova parfait. Each dish was delicious. NB. The scallops come from Denver, Colorado and have the roe removed much to the NZ couples at the table astonishment; I believe the whole table thought it was crazy the company does not use AUS or NZ scallops. The wines I forget the names of however they were great picks with each dish, standard glass pours and top ups were offered. The explanations from Chef Gregory and the sommelier were wonderful. The interruptions by the late drunk people were offensive and shameful. We enjoyed the Chef’s table experience so much we booked again and would do it on other itineraries. Went to the white party down in Centrum which had good music, then onto Starquest that was also in better shape, or it may have been all the wine at dinner ;)
DAY 6 VILA 8-4:30 (Casual/Island): We organised our own full day tour w Atmoshpere, we were a small group of 6 adults and 3 kids. We did the Marine conservation tour that included: village visit, turtle conservation, swim in lagoon, lunch, pre-school visit & duty free stop. All parts were great, apparently the teachers never came to the school that day so there were no kids to give gifts to. The tour guide kept the stuff and would give it to them next time. Lunch was wonderful in a pavilion over the water. When we look at another cruise through Vila we will look at Atmosphere tours again. We weren’t back on the ship til 3:30pm and after the late night and full day tour we were exhausted ready for a nap. Drinks in Quill & Compass before 7:45pm show “Jonathon Clark” who is singing comedian impersonator. Q&C we had been to a few times, good on the way back to room late to pick up bottles of water ready for port days & for drinks before shows. Pallav and the two women were good bar tenders; again friendly & efficient. The Jonathon Clark show was good entertainment and we were glad to make the effort to attend despite how tired we were. Dinner in the MDR was as expected followed by an early night.
DAY 7 CHAMPAGNE BAY8-4:30 (Casual): See Champagne Bay port review. Back on ship ~3:30pm, had a nap, skipped the Rod Stewart show and had drinks in the Centrum. In Centrum was the “Millionaire gameshow” (read: Who wants to be a millionaire?). Was good half hour entertainment and the lady won the whole prize pool of cruise “crap” as the host loved calling it. It is nice to know they recognise it is junk, thought they could have at least given out a bottle of wine. Centrum bar staff were good with table service. Had dinner at Samba Grill. We went light on the entrée/sides bar knowing that the meat courses would be filling. The meats were all good and once we had enjoyed each of the 11 types we were asked if there were any we would like again. Dessert was nice. Feel that Samba is good for families because it is the most relaxed of the Speciality Dining restaurants we have been to. After dinner went to the Love & Marriage game show (disappointed it was on at 10:30pm, previously we’ve had it on in the afternoon of a sea day). Glad we made the effort despite how tired we were.
DAY 8 LUGANVILLE 7-3:30PM (Casual): See Luganville port review. We returned to the ship at 2pm exhausted and dripping wet, so cleaned up and napped. We left Luganville late due to a helicopter having to come from Vila for a guest that needed a specialist not found in Luganville. We dragged ourselves out of bed and went to the Tango Buenos Aires show at 7:15pm. The guest dancers Walter & Marcela were beautiful to watch along with their special band. Definitely worth watching, shame about the middle aged couple behind us talking and singing throughout. We had an easy dinner in the MDR before an early night, it was also a bit rocky.
DAY 9 MYSTERY ISLAND 10-5:30PM (Casual): We arrived late at 11am due to some yucky weather. The tender system is never good for even 10am arrivals so our plan was to hang out on the ship til after lunch and then go across, not a bad idea since it wasn’t a nice day and we had been before. We found a friend and played some mini-golf, then some pool on the self-levelling pool tables. Lunch in the windjammer. Tender ticket system was still going at 2:15 and the weather had not improved much so we decided to just skip Mystery Island. We live 10 min walk from the beach so it is not awful to skip one port. We kept busy until early evening and upon return to our cabin our stateroom attendant thought we must have been to Mystery Island because he hadn’t seen us since the morning. I feel it is a good sign of how you can entertain yourselves on the ship. We skipped the show w violinist Ian Cooper. We caught some of the “If you know it sing it” game show in the Centrum. Had dinner in Giovanni’s and it was disappointing. We have been before and enjoyed it, but our server was not great, he seemed disappointed we had a drinks package the first time we had experienced that. We had the mezze plate & tomato/bococinni salad for appetisers, followed by mushroom risotto for BF and I had penne. He loved his risotto, my penne was ok, the meeze plate was good as expected. Mains were a fail. BF ordered the lamb cutlets, they came with gravy and chopped corn/capsicum/zucchini. He said the lamb was good, but the vegetables did not suit the dish, I agree it did not look appealing. I ordered the fish, which of course was dry and came with what felt like a potato version of mac & cheese. There was about two cups of it and then some asparagus which was the only positive part. Dessert BF said he loved his tiramisu the only reason we go there really, I had a cannoli that seemed stale and the filling was lumpy. Giovanni’s will be strongly reconsidered on our next cruise.
DAY 10 ISLE OF PINES 8-4:30PM (Casual/70’s): See Isle of Pines review. We were back on the ship about 1pm. Spent the afternoon at the pool watching “The Social Network” the screen was a bit difficult to see except from the pool or spa and sometimes hard to hear. I went a little wild and took up the spa’s 10-20-30 deal and spent the early evening getting a facial before going to dinner. Facial was excellent. We had dinner in the MDR which was nice.
DAY 11 SEA DAY (Formal): Caught the vegetable carving demo in the morning. I spent a few hours in the spa getting hair done and mani-pedi whilst BF had a go at the poker tournament where as one of the final two they split the winnings! We had Chef’s Table booked again so got ready and had some drinks in the Colony Club beforehand. Colony Club was almost always empty unless there was something on so it was quick to get a drink and the chairs are comfortable to watch the wake of the ship. I think it is a very underutilised space. Chefs Table was excellent again but spent too much time talking and not enough eating so enjoyed the wine a bit too much. Afterwards we joined the Quest Gameshow at 10:30pm. It was packed and because we came a little late from Chef’s we couldn’t get a seat or join a team It was still excellent to watch. I think we went to Starquest after for a short dance.
DAY 12 SEA DAY (Casual): After an extremely exciting night it was a go slow day. The poolside BBQ was good. Spent some more time in the spa getting a seaweed wrap and massage that were excellent. Although all the spa stuff was expensive it was good and I would consider doing it again since these are things I never do at home (all DIY mani-pedis and haircuts here). Dinner was good in the MDR with Suthakar & Leny.
DAY 13 DEBARKATION: We did the walk off option and were home within an hour and half from walking off the ship.
We would take Radiance and any in the class again. This was an excellent itinerary and would do it again. Many thanks to the excellent staff.