We went as 2 friends in our early 30s. My 4th cruise, his first ever. Both first time with RCI and we were very impressed. Here are some general overviews of the highlights, various observations, and with tips on how to get the most out of ... Read More
We went as 2 friends in our early 30s. My 4th cruise, his first ever. Both first time with RCI and we were very impressed. Here are some general overviews of the highlights, various observations, and with tips on how to get the most out of the ship. Longer sailings are just better!
Demographics: Full sailing of around 2200 guests. Probably 80% Australian, 10% New Zealand [like myself], 10% all other nations. A few dozen each of Canadians, Americans, British, Japanese. Age wise, skewed to the 55+ owing to the length. Also a good number of families with children/teens as summer break has started down under. A very well behaved crowd; I didn't see any drunks or disorderly conduct.
Schedule: 13 night South Pacific, from Sydney to Auckland, with main highlight being the inaugural visit by RCI to the Kingdom of Tonga!
Island of Pines, New Caledonia
Lifou, New Caledonia
Embarkation: From Sydney's overseas passenger terminal. Easiest way is to take the airport train to Circular Quay with a 5m walk afterwards. There's a Cole's supermarket nearby to get essentials; a liquor store is also nearby. Give your main luggage to the porters and get your card upstairs. We came at 2PM and were onboard in less than 20m. Remember not to store your card near anything magnetic! Learnt that the hard way, especially with very long lines at guest services the first 2 days.
Stateroom: We had interior 3075 to save money. Quiet area. Well kept but the bathroom was rather cramped. Room attendant Diez was good and we saw him on the first day. Make requests when you meet them initially - writing it down or a typed note is best. Ice you do need to request. I'd recommend an oceanview or above.
Ship status/general amenities: All decked out for Christmas! The tree was up and there was a lighting ceremony. Radiance is the perfect size - not too large or small. She's been well maintained; her last drydock was in May. Smoothest ride I've ever had as we didn't encounter any rough seas, and she handled herself well at 18-19 knots during sea days. The busiest area of the ship is of course the centrum; everyone uses the elevators or stairs here and several parties are held here. Lido deck was quite packed on sea days, as was the solarium. Interestingly the big screen was never used to broadcast news etc. Smoking areas were on an area of the lido and promenade [note due to Australian law, even the casino prohibits smoking]. Best place for sailaways that avoid the crowd is the helipad, accessible from the forward promenade. Minigolf, video arcade, and the climbing wall were sparsely used. A lot of glass, perfect to watch the sea from - even better in Alaska I hear.
Dining/drinking: We had the 8PM late seating; this is on Cascades deck 5 [4 being reserved for MTD guests]. Waiters Wit and Nova were excellent. Service was fast and efficient - we were generally done by 9:15. It seems the early seating was much more popular by my observations of the theatre shows. Lunch and breakfast in the MDR were also good - the lunch menu in particular impressed me. Other than a few dishes everything was to my liking - I'm not a picky eater. Dress codes were rather relaxed [shorts were allowed]; most did dress up for formal nights. Pepper mills not on the table, haha! If there's sufficient interest I'd be happy to post menu/food pics in a few days time. Windjammer food was largely unremarkable. There are 2 duplicate serving stations for mains and desserts as well as one for deli/salads, pizzas, and burgers. Sometimes there'd be a chef serving made to order items in the center. My advice is to head to the aft tables thru Rita's and dine al fresca. There's a single chokepoint for WJ entry but you can get in thru the back on deck 12. For snacks, head to Lattetudes on 5, the hot dog place, or the park cafe. Didn't do any speciality dining [Chops, Giovanni's, Izumi, Chef's Table], but I'll note that Rita's Crab Shack was closed the entire journey. I'm not a drinker so I've got limited advice in that field. Beverage packages seemed popular on this sailing. The drink of the day was $12. Wine bottles around $40 and up?
Theatre entertainment/music: Most shows had an early and late seating, although a few had a single show at 7:15 or a late late show at 10:15. No problems with saving of seats, at least for the early show. 3 production shows [City of Dreams, Pianoman, Tango Buenos Aires]. Live orchestra - much better than canned music! Other entertainers were mostly Australian [and told Australian jokes]. There's usually other live music happening in the evening, be it at the Schooner bar or Starquest. Karaoke was on every other night approximately at the pub. Our cruise director was Steve Davis and he was excellent! A singing/dancing machine. Other members of the CD's staff were highly enthusiastic as well. Theme nights included disco, tropical, rock & roll, and Australian. The guest talent show was very well attended.
Shops/casino: Selling the usual overpriced goods. The liquor duty free selection is quite small but reasonably priced [a better deal can be had if you visit Port Vila, this sailing didn't]. Casino is of course the best place to lose money. Photos were $20 apiece [packages were available].
Activities: Plenty to keep everyone occupied during the days. The usual art auctions, trivia, etc. Dance classes [leading up to the guest performance] were good. The discussions with the staff heads was enlightening. The Radiance has a cinema showing quite recent films which was quite busy especially sea days. Quite a few Christmas activities as well, like Santa photos or storytime with the Elves. I kept all the Cruise Compasses and can scan the activities sheet later on if there's sufficient demand?
Shore excursions: Didn't take any ship ones excepted the much lauded All Access Tour - which was unfortunately disappointing for $150 and lasting 2.5h. It was my understanding that our group would meet/chat with the captain and get a photo op [Captain Tyrm FYI] - that didn't happen. We also didn't visit the theatre at all. So all you get out of it is the lanyard with AAT on it. Can't recommend this at all! I can provide more detail on what was visited if requested. As for the port stops, it's easy enough and much cheaper to arrange tours independently, especially in Fiji. I'll keep this topic short as my review pertains to the ship.
Disembarkation: NZ sends customs/immigration agents onto the ship to screen you onboard on the 2nd to last sea day. Have your passport, card, and immigration forms when you meet with them [time varies by deck]. This means you can walk off the ship in Auckland quickly.
Overall a fantastic trip; I'd recommend RCI and would certainly sail with them again! Bon Voyage! Read Less