February 2015 - Radiance of the Seas to South Pacific - Australia
While I do like to cruise, I will be more discerning on our next cruise. The ship was fine, the crew were great, the captain was a true professional and did an excellent job keeping us out of Cyclone alley. Where the problem lay was the 'extras.' Used to be that when you cruised a 'small' upcharge could grant you access to the special dining rooms, now that charge is substantial. In addition, if you did pre-book the special dining, it is quite irritating to see the dining packages 'discounted' onboard. One dining venue was a la carte - after you were seated you got to see the prices (but they do not tell you this when you book it online.) Drink packages were obscenely overpriced, but then so were the drinks. We drank lots of water. We noticed that the once filled lounges were sparsely visited and the casino was empty most of the time. Many other passengers on our cruise said they abhorred the nickel and diming and in protest did not buy drinks or gamble - it showed. There was lots of confusion over the Wine packages, which were unavailable just weeks prior to the cruise suddenly and then being sold at check in. We are not big drinkers, but we just could not see spending that kind of money on drinks we could never drink in a day. The people I really felt sorry for were the wait staff, it was not their fault a glass of wine was $12-19 per glass, but they bore the brunt of the non-drinking because as a result they got no tips.
Trivia games were popular as were the cultural talks and the art classes. Many of the 'games' were not geared to our group's age and the music, oh and sometimes the music drove us to our rooms - again probably an age thing, but most of us would have much preferred classical, country or what is now referred to a classical rock. We hated the rap and other 90's noise. We did find good music sometimes, but you never knew. We did have some fun, we met some wonderful new friends onboard. The Chef's Table was a great experience; the food and wines were wonderful.
The odd choice of stopping in an industrial port was interesting - if you wanted to see ore dug from the ground I guess it was OK. Most of the ship seemed to be Australians which was fine by us. With the political unrest and recent troubles in Indonesia we chose not to disembark at Bali, where the ocean waters were filthy with trash. The highlights were the stops at Airlie Beach, Brisbane, Darwin, Port Geraldton, and Perth. More excursion choices would have been nice.
I wonder if too many passengers knew that the room stewards gets paid ONLY the gratuities per room - no hourly wage and they share that with all the other non-seen crew. Our room steward told us that they work every day for seven months with no day off. I left with a bad taste in my mouth for Royal Caribbean. If you knew that you will be spending an extra $2000 or so onboard maybe it would have helped me in my planning.