We did a 10 day cruise out of Sydney Australia to the South Pacific. We chose Radiance of the Seas for the departure date and itinerary offered. Unfortunately this itinerary started changing immediately after we booked (prior to Coronavirus) and continued changing right through our cruise. Understandably we were on the ship with week Coronavirus starting making news and quarantining other ships , so I can't imagine logistical nightmare the company was living.. We were to visit Mare, Lifou and Isle of Pine (which was on and off the itinerary a couple of times since I booked)- it was first cancelled as there would be too many ships in at the same time, and then added to our itinerary through the cruise with the cancellation of other ports.
We completely understood the reasons for the closures, but it led to a lot of last minute research on the ports as the original ports were easy to do on our own.. where the other stops required excursion planning.
Anyhow this was a circumstance out of our control and we were very grateful not to be quarantined. Here is the review of what we did:
Ship: As others have said some areas look a little tired, but I enjoyed the size, the detail (many pretty areas) and ease of getting around.
Cabin: We were in 8024 a balcony room. I found the room to be small compared to other cruises I have been on, but it suited our needs. The bed was comfortable.
Dining: The buffet (Windjammer) got old for us pretty quickly, but we loved our meals in the dining room. The menu could have used a little more variety but what we had was always good and the environment was great. We had a table for two that was situated close to two other tables for two and we thoroughly enjoyed our company.
Entertainment and Activities: We saw most shows and I felt they were well done. The singers on this ship were amazing. The theatre had lots of seating and great bar service.
There weren't many activities on this ship that we wanted to take part in..I think that was mainly due to the size of the ship (variety of activities less)
Service: Here is the big reason for my rating. We experienced excellent service in the dining room by all waiters and assistant waiters. The service in the all of the bars was slow- although the staff worked very hard.. Royal Caribbean has the waiter take the drink order and then make the drink, and then deliver... it was very inefficient and the passengers were getting frustrated, which in turn, stressed the waiters out and the whole thing did not seem to run smoothly. The bars were understaffed so waiting for a drink at a bar usually had one bar tender working as fast as they could to accommodate about 10-15 people waiting.
Ports: To the best of my memory with all the changes..
Noumea- and we were here twice d/t port changes.. we booked a private excursion before leaving home with Dal Ocean Charters. Do not hesitate to use this company..they were amazing with communication before hand, arrival at port and the excursion itself. The first stop we planned a trip to Signal Island. About 12 of us on an inflatable speedboat which was very fun. Skilled driver.. the island is stunning and has amazing snorkelling (bring your own). We took a picnic from the supermarket right where the ship docks and the price was right for the trip. When they heard our ship had been rerouted back we received an email offering another trip to a different island. We took the same type of boat to Largenere Island and this was a highlight of the whole trip. Only about 20 of us on this island with printine waters, excellent snorkelling, a beautiful beach and great swimming. There were huts and picnic tables for shade. We were so pleased with Dal Ocean Charters. Paid Australian cash prior to the boat ride.
Port Villa Vanuatu- We had booked a private excursion with Yumi tours. Excellent communication with this company as the port date changed as we were on our cruise. The owner was at the gate and took us to our driver Moses. We had an amazing day at the Blue Lagoon, a turtle sanctuary and a cultural experience at a village. We were well taken care of throughout and again I would really recommend Yumi tours.
Mystery Island: This was a tender port and we didn't have to wait too long.. the process was very efficient. A great beach/ snorkel day. lots of places to swim and a nice walk around the island. Markets on the island and a bar if you want.
Luganville: This was added mid cruise d/t port closures and it was the first time this ship had been there. 6 of us hired a driver (lots at the port with air conditioned vans with seat belts) and we went to Champagne Beach (about 50 min from the port) such a beautiful drive and then to a blue hole. There are several. Champagne Beach is where cruise ships used to tender to but they have changed things so it was very quiet when we were there.. excellent swimming.. no snorkelling here.
All together we had 4 days at sea and these were good. Lots of seating top deck over the pool.. most people wanted to sit in the solarium or right around the main pool but that was too close quarters for us.
This was our first time cruising the South Pacific and I would go back to see the ports that we had cancelled d/t Coronavirus. The people of these islands were lovely and there are many islands to see. Let's hope the Coronavirus is contained and visits to these islands can commence once again.
Happy Travels Everyone!
Rooms and balcony smaller that we have seen before but well appointed. Nice to have a little couch.