While The Love Boat is one of my favourite tv shows, it has never made me want to go on a cruise, largely because I’m prone to motion sickness and I always wondered what I would do if I hated it. I mean, it’s not like you can just get off the boat when you feel like it! However, I’m a sucker for cheap deals and when a deal for a 10 night South Pacific cruise on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines came up on Groupon late last year, I figured, why not?
We sailed on the Rhapsody of the Seas and at just under 280m long and carrying 2,000 passengers, it is one of Royal Caribbean’s smaller vessels. While it was missing some of the cooler features of the line’s newer and larger ships, there was still plenty to do, from rock climbing to splashing about in the pools to trivia and spa treatments.
A schedule of events is delivered to your cabin daily, and there was a pretty overwhelming selection of activities! These included concerts and shows in the theatre, themed party/dance nights, napkin and towel folding demonstrations (don’t laugh, the things they can make with towels is mind-blowing!) and various competitions/game shows. All of the interactive events are loads of fun and the cruise director’s staff are excellent at getting people involved and entertained.
All food was included in the cost of the ticket, except for at three specialty restaurants – Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table and Izumi, where you pay a ‘cover’ charge. Drinks, except for water, some juices and coffee and tea, are not included, however beverage packages are offered or you can just pay as you go (which is what we did). I was quite impressed with the standard of food, considering the thousands of meals that are served daily. As my boyfriend will attest, I love to try out new food, so being able to order multiple entrees or desserts when I couldn’t decide what to get was amazing; indeed, towards the end of the cruise, our regular waiter in the Main Dining Room would often recommend I just order every dessert on the menu!
After reading numerous reviews on how tiny cruise ship cabins are, I was pleasantly surprised with the Oceanview Stateroom which managed to fit a double bed, bedside tables, television, wardrobe and dresser/vanity, plus a bathroom into 14 square metres, without feeling too cramped. I will admit, the bathroom was tiny and by the end of the cruise I was very much looking forward to get back to my regular-sized bathroom at home!
Ports of call included Isle of Pines and Noumea in New Caledonia, Vila and Mystery Island in Vanuatu and Lifou in the Loyalty Islands, however we skipped Mystery Island due to dangerous conditions. We had booked shore excursions at a couple of the islands through the cruise line and while many reviews recommended just booking tours with local vendors, it was far more convenient for us and allowed us to make the most of our time ashore.
Isle of Pines was stunning, although we were only there for a couple of hours before torrential rain hit and we spent the majority of our time on the island getting drenched while waiting in line for tender boats to deliver us to the ship.
We did a stand-up paddle board excursion at Noumea, which took us to a beach further out from the city which was stunning and I deeply regretted not bringing a camera. It was a lot easier to balance on the board than I thought it would be, however, I realised how lacking I am in core and upper body strength, as I managed to get swept away by the current a couple of times, necessitating the instructor to chase after me and tow me back to shore! We still had time to wander around the city afterwards, with the highlights being a group of guys practising parkour in a park and our highly entertaining cafe waitress who managed to be extremely accommodating while also making sure we knew exactly how she felt about us making special requests!
Lifou was also beautiful and fortunately the weather was much nicer. We abseiled down the Mele Cascades at Vila, which was an amazing experience (full review here).
Overall, I really enjoyed my first cruising experience. The staff were fantastic and definitely made you feel at home and I had no complaints about the food. I did get slightly seasick in the first couple of days when the ocean was extremely choppy, but sitting out on the decks in the sea breeze did make me feel better. I didn’t get too bored, however I would probably not be able to handle a longer cruise; I was pretty ready to get back to land after 10 days! I would definitely go cruising again, although next time I’ll be trying out a larger ship with more facilities and activities.
- I can see why people love cruising – value for money, convenience and being able to have either a lazy, relaxing holiday or an actvity-filled one. Oh and it’s loads of fun!
- A smaller ship is a good place to start for first time cruisers
- Shore excursions booked through the cruise line will be more expensive than booking yourself, however it does save you time
- Get involved in the activities; they make your cruise far more entertaining and you meet a lot of people
- Admire the towel animals that your stateroom attendants leave on your bed. Seriously, they are awesome and will make you smile 🙂
How was your first cruising experience? Or are you a regular cruiser? Leave a comment and let me know!