Celebrity Cruises – Celebrity Edge

Reviewed by: Clive Heath

Date: May 2019

Cruise line and ship: Celebrity Edge

Cruise name or itinerary: Reviewed on her Inaugural sailing from Southampton and first European cruise – to Rome, via Spain and Portugal

Passenger capacity: 2,918

Year built: 2018

Size of the ship: 130,818 gross tonnes

Where the ship cruises: Europe and the Caribbean

Currency onboard: USD

Main features/highlights: The ‘Magic Carpet’ – predominantly designed as a platform to expedite shore embarkation when in tender ports, this moving platform has multiple uses. When not in operation for its prime purpose, it becomes a sunset and sail away venue on either Deck 14 or Deck 5.

Passengers are not allowed on the platform when it moves from one deck to another so it can be a little annoying when you find a good spot to then be asked to leave for moving time.

Most suited to: For Australian clients, this is the much-loved Celebrity Solstice taken to a whole new level. It would suit all age groups with options for all. The mix on our cruise was considerable and shows the broad positioning for these luxury ships aiming for the affluent traveller who like large ships. 

Atmosphere: Following on Solstice’s sleek lines and non-cruise ship feel, this cutting edge ship is a luxury hotel coupled with diverse dining and entertainment areas.

Staterooms: As with all large ships there are numerous cabin grades on Celebrity Edge.

  • Inside cabins – more square than any of the ocean facing cabins these have exactly the same appointments, sleek bathrooms and amenities as outsides and balconies.
  • Oceanview (outside) cabins – Like Balcony grade cabins these tend to be long and thin stretching more into the width of the ship but with smaller exposure to the ocean than on other ships. All beautifully appointed.
  • Balcony cabins – Either in Balcony, Concierge or Aqua grade these cabins are the same in size differing only with the amenities offered in the cabin. There are limited traditional balconies with doors and external seating. Most balconies are ‘internal’ or ‘infinity’ with similar slide down windows used on river cruise vessels. These can be automatically closed by the bridge in bad weather. This adds floor space taken away by the narrow cabin. There are no curtains but automatic blinds that can be lowered as required to provide a blackout at night. The bathrooms have a large walk-in shower but no bath. Guests requiring a full bath will need to look at the Sky Suite grades upwards. The walk-in shower is the largest I have seen at sea.

  • Concierge – This grade offers some additional benefits such as a dedicated Concierge for bookings, afternoon canapés, fruit bowl and a bottle of sparkling wine one day of your cruise. Concierge services for shore tours and restaurant bookings are supposed to be exclusive but with only two desks and thousands in that grade, it is not always helpful.
  • Aqua – Aqua guests have access to the exclusive  ‘Blu’ dining room, offering more healthy food options. Additionally, Aqua guests have access to the Spa’s facilities. Other grades (excluding suites) pay $50 per person, per day for this access.
  • Sunset Verandah cabin – These are at the rear of the ship facing backward offering a larger balcony and have altogether more space.

  • Sky Suites – These entry-level suites have access to ‘The Retreat’ and are located only on Deck 15 (more on that later), they are a larger cabin but represents excellent value given the additional amenities offered.
  • Celebrity suite – This is the first traditionally ‘true’ suite with a separate bedroom from the entry and lounge area.
  • Edge suites – These are located on Decks on 14 & 15 and consist of a bedroom upstairs and a lounge downstairs with a private plunge pool on the balcony. These are superb for a private retreat experience and unique. My favourite pick!
  • Epic and Royal suites – The benefits of these are too numerous to describe. Suffice to say they are spacious and OTT!

Dining: Edge has numerous dining options which are skilfully managed by the app available for your iPhone and Android devices. Overall the quality in all the restaurants was of a high standard. Apart from your normal main dining option, you can book online any specialty dining venue by date and time reducing that run around for the best venues.

  • Main dining – there are four main venues. You will be assigned to one but can eat around if space permits. They are Normandie, Cyprus, Cosmopolitan and Tuscan.
  • Specialty restaurants (with a surcharge) – Eden (degustation), Fine Cut Steakhouse, Raw on 5 for seafood & the Rooftop Grill BBQ. Check the surcharge in advance as these can be up to USD$60 plus per person.

Other Activities/Offering:

  • Main pool and spa – The main pool is on Deck 14 with spa baths cantilevered over the pool area from Deck 15 presenting great spots for a sailing viewpoint. The pool has a bar (of course) and the Mast Grill – churning hamburgers and hotdogs at an impressive rate. Always hot, freshly cooked with great choice of salads.
  • Cabanas – On the port-side midship you’ll find private cabanas that can be hired by anybody by the day. Apart from a menu of elected dishes served to your cabana on request, they come with a bottle of champagne or vodka, towels, soft drink and a waiter.  They line the side of the pool area next to the ‘Magic Carpet’ when it resides as a bar on Deck 14 for sail away. Over the first 7 days of our cruise these were not occupied however come a ‘hot’ Caribbean or Mediterranean sailing I can see these being popular.
  • The Retreat – This area, towards the front of the ship, is reserved for Suite guests only and includes pools and the spa as well as exclusive Luminie dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Absolute Highlights: There is a lot to like about this ship but here are my main likes:

  • Artwork is everywhere, it’s priceless and deserves attention
  • The main atrium is the best at sea – just an amazing feel
  • Plug and adaptor box in every cabin aims to keep all your electronic devices charged and together. Alas mine looked like spaghetti junction in 5 minutes
  • Cabin appointments are the best at sea for this grade of ship
  • Food is always hot even room service – a first for me on any ship
  • Adequate bars and nooks and crannies to get away
  • Hidden gems like the sunset bar behind the hidden garden on deck 15 (don’t tell anybody)
  • Variety of main dining without supplement – 5 venues
  • Coffee! Amazing for an American ship they make good coffee!

Ponant – Le Laperouse

Cruise Express’ Kathy Fossati, recently spent time onboard Ponant’s Le Laperouse. This was Le Laperouse’s much-anticipated inaugural visit to Sydney and she positioned herself at Point Piper on Sydney Harbour. Below are Kathy’s thoughts on this beautiful ship.

Reviewed: February 2019

Cruise line: PONANT Yacht Cruises & Expeditions

Size of ship and passenger capacity: 10,000 gross tonnes | 184 passengers

Maiden voyage: June 2018

Where the ship cruises: Seychelles, Asia including Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand and the South Pacific.

Currency onboard: Euro

Most suited to:  Retired or semi-retired clients. Being the first ship in Ponant’s new expedition class known as Ponant Explorers, this ship is especially suitable for those who love expedition style travel, but want to come back to luxury and amazing food at the end of the day.

Unique feature: So many to mention but it has to be the much anticipated Blue Eye Lounge, the world’s first underwater multi-sensory lounge space. This space has portholes that allow passengers to see directly what is below the water line – whales and dolphins, turtles and fish, sea lions and whatever else is on offer!  To top it off there is an aquaphone that picks up subaquatic sounds up to three miles away and projects them back to the lounge.

Atmosphere: Felt very homely with, as you’d expect, French elegant yet understated decor, neutral tones, soft textures and finishings reflecting the destination. I didn’t hear announcements however I have been told they will always be first in French, then English – showing that no matter where they are in the world the French DNA onbaord will always be strong – not that this is a bad thing!

Encounters with service staff: Friendly, unobtrusive yet attentive multi-lingual staff who strike up a quick rapport with passengers.

Staterooms:  All interior-designed cabins have private balconies, a king-sized bed (2 singles) and a complimentary mini-bar. Additionally, as you’d expect from Ponant, a flat-screen television with satellite TV and video on demand, an iPod dock, safe, hairdryer, bathrobes and fine French bath products, Hermes.

At 19m.sq, 79 of the Staterooms are for two guests, five Deluxe Suites at 27m.sq can accommodate up to three guests. Four Privilege Suites are larger again at 32m.sq. and cater for up to four guests.

The Grand Deluxe and Privilege Suites have a bath instead of a shower and all of the suites come with a butler. There are also two wheelchair accessible staterooms, and apparently, these do go quickly.

Dining options: Being French-owned, it’s no surprise that the meals onboard have a strong French influence. The main panoramic restaurant (with inside and outside seating) on Deck 4 is a buffet style offering of salads, cheese (of course breakfast, lunch and dinner) and desserts. If you would like a- la-carte ranging from vegetarian to seafood, just ask your waiter.

The Grill on Deck 3, was not open on our visit but again we were informed the all-day dining menu focuses on grilled meats, salads and desserts.

Teas, coffees and pastries are always on hand, and most drinks are complementary.

Drink options: Ponant includes drinks in its fare, although these are restricted to house wines, which like anywhere can be limited. Naturally, premium wines and drinks can be paid for as you go, or you can purchase a Premium Drink Pass for 20 Euros per day, per person. The stylish lounges and bars are comfortable areas to relax with any time, day or night.

Room Service: Room service is available free of charge for all cabins, 24 hours.

Onboard Entertainment: Seating 188 people, the theatre is state-of-the-art and although Le Laperouse isn’t about all the show bells and whistles, they do have several class-performances. There are also a few dress requirements and ‘formal’ nights onboard so please make sure you are aware of these and pack appropriately.

Being an expedition ship, their focus is really on destination-appropriate presentations by naturalists, lecturers, experienced guides and specialists. Another entertainment option is the on-demand videos available in-room.

Offshore Entertainment: Your on-shore activities will undoubtedly be exceptional and slightly spontaneous as real adventures are!

Zodiacs and adventure equipment will be provided, and a hydraulic ‘Marina Platform’ with adjustable height provides easier embarkation and disembarkation for expeditions or access to swim. The platform can also rest just above the water for those wanting to use kayaks, paddle boarding or even snorkel.

Spa & Fitness Facilities: The ship has salon facilities (no surprises) and uses the lovely product, SOTHYS of Paris. The ocean view fitness room is significant for a small ship, offering equipment and classes.

Families: The appropriateness of children onboard depends on the destination (and the children themselves!) Ponant generally accepts children 8 years and older and while younger ones aren’t denied travelling however there is no formal kids programs or facilities.

Azamara Quest

Reviewed by: Noni Lawson

Dates: March 2019

Cruise line and ship: Azamara Quest

Size of ship: 30,277 GT (9 Decks)

Passenger capacity: 690 (390 Crew)

Year built:  2000 (modernised April 2016)

Where the cruise line cruises:  The British Isles & Western Europe, Europe, Asia, Alaska, South America, Baltic Sea, Africa, Eastern & Western Mediterranean, Middle East.

Currency onboard:   US dollars

Main features/highlights: A contemporary style ship with a casual atmosphere, classic inviting spaces, neutral colours, and elements inspired by nature. Quest is a small ship that is destination focused with many itineraries that offer longer as well as overnight stays in ports.

Most suited to: Azamara Quest is for those who appreciate luxury travel, good food and who are well travelled, as her smaller size enables passengers to access smaller, rarely visited remote ports.

While the atmosphere is premium, it is all very down to earth. Great for travellers who prefer a less serious dress code. There are no formal nights, a more simply elegant, smart casual dress is acceptable. Suits customers whose priority is about the destination not the overstated facilities, waterslides and entertainment.

Atmosphere: A contemporary style 5-star ship with a casual atmosphere, open spaces, and the atmosphere of a premier boutique hotel. There are many areas to sit down and read a book and to relax and enjoy your holiday while not in port.

Encounters with staff: Staff are friendly, efficient and attentive, they seem to genuinely care about good service.

Stand Out Areas of the Ship:

  • Observation Deck – (The Living Room) An open feel setting with large comfortable seating, artwork and large ceiling to floor observation windows. Snacks and drinks are available in this lounge area. A separate card room inside the living room is also available to guests to play games and access computers.
  • Library – A beautiful setting with traditional wood paneling, leadlight ceiling and a fireplace.
  • Gym – A good size and well-equipped gym, consisting of walking machines, exercise bikes, free weights and fitness machines.
  • Pool – A good sized area for a medium ship with sun beds, lounges, a pool bar and the Patio cafe.
  • Shops – A small selection of shops offering practical fashion items and stunning jewellery.
  • Casino – There is currently a small casino onboard the ship, however, it is being removed in the near future.

Staterooms: As you’d expect these are luxurious and the 2016 refurb modernised the design. Ultimately, being a 20 year old ship, she doesn’t boast the biggest of cabins or bathrooms (unless you go for a suite). However, each cabin does offer the best quality linen, plush cotton robes and slippers, French bath products, fresh flowers, turn-down treats, and 24-hour room service. The two spa suites include a bathtub and a shower with a view of the open air.

Many cabins have their own balcony and are between 13 to 16 square metres in size, but there is limited space for storage compared with many of the new ships. The suites feature an English butler service, preferential embarkation and disembarkation, and a variety of premium drinks. The size of the suites varies between 25 and 52 square metres.

Azamara

Spa & Fitness: There is a large modern and well-equipped fitness area, a sauna and swimming pool, there are of course numerous treatments available in the Spa.

Entertainment: Azamara Quest offers shows in the evening, dancing and live music. Unwind at the casino or enjoy a cocktail at the bar.  

Dining:  The food onboard is delicious, with a variety of menus on offer to accommodate a range of tastes.

  • The Patio – A poolside cafe serving burgers, sandwiches, wraps & hot snack food ie chicken strips, buffalo wings and french fries
  • Aqualina -Speciality dining restaurant (A cover charge applies. Complimentary for suite guests)
  • Prime C – Serving steaks and seafood (A cover charge applies. Complimentary for suite guests)
  • Windows Cafe – This buffet offering is described by many as one of the best at sea! A larger casual dining restaurant serving breakfast, lunch & dinner, offering sushi, a smoothie bar, themed dinners, and an amazing selection of gelato
  • Mosaic Cafe – A small cafe serving specialty coffee and teas (fees apply)

Family Facilities: Quest is not a family-focused ship. There are no dedicated activities for children or child minding options onboard.

Inclusive:

  • Complimentary AzAmazing Evenings® event (on most voyages)
  • Select standard spirits, international beers and wines (premium drink packages available for purchase)
  • Gratuities
  • Bottled water, soft drinks, specialty coffees and teas
  • Self-service laundry
  • Shuttle service to and from port communities, where available
  • Concierge services for personal guidance and reservations

Crystal Cruises – Crystal Serenity

Reviewed by: Michael Davis-Smith

Date: 13 January 2019

Cruise line and ship: Crystal Serenity

Itinerary: Mexican Riviera from LA to LA

Passenger capacity: Only 980 – a low number for a ship of this size so the result is spaciousness. There are 655 crew so the guest-crew ratio is excellent too.

Year built: 2002 (refurbished 2018)

Size of the ship: 68,870 Gross Tonnage / 250 metres long

Where the ship cruises: 115 voyages exploring various parts of the world

Currency onboard: USD

Main features/highlights: Outstanding food, 6-star service, ridiculously beautiful public areas, entertainment all class and something for everyone.

Most suited to: 60+ year olds but everyone should experience this for pure indulgence.

Atmosphere: Guests look to relax and unwind in true style. There isn’t a party atmosphere onboard.  The Avenue Salon is the main late night attraction as well as Pulse nightclub.

Encounters with service staff: Exceptional. I don’t think there is another word in English that can give as much credit as is deserved. They are professional yet familiar without being over-the-top.

Staterooms: The cabins are spacious with really comfortable queen beds that can split into twins. The bathrooms are large with a hair-dryer. The room has a safe, bathrobes, a sofa and a desk. The mini-fridge contains complimentary water (still and sparkling). If you prefer to stock your fridge with alcohol, that is also available on request. 

Entertainment: I met many of the cast. They were extremely pleasant and always willing to give up their time, even after a strenuous performance. The Crystal shows were thrilling – always entertaining with loads of variety and genres. When the Crystal team were not performing, there were guest performers brought onboard – the solo organist, Hector Olivera, was spellbinding.

Dining: The specialty sushi restaurant, Umi Uma, showcases the inventive Japanese-Peruvian cuisine of masterchef, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa. The experience blew me away.  The talk of the ship was their lobster tempura. You need to indulge at least two servings! Everything else on the Umi Uma menu is a wonderful dream.  It’s complimentary for one visit each 7-night cruise. Being on a 14-night cruise, I was entitled to two visits. However, that wasn’t enough and I paid the additional (unbelievably reasonable $US30pp) for a third visit. This is what food must be like in heaven.  

Prego, the other speciality restaurant (Italian fare), was also very nice. Waterside – the main dining area – was innovative with fellow passengers always hovering out the front to view the daily lunch and dinner menus. Silk (now complimentary), offers traditional Chinese comfort food, adding variety with dumplings and a few other yum Asian dishes.  Trident (from juicy ordinary burgers to salmon burgers, tuna melts, hotdogs and fries/sweet potato fries) was always a reminder that Americans like the comforts of home food. Ice cream was hosted by Ben & Jerry’s, I think they could do better such as Connoisseurs from Australia!

Activities:  I could not keep up to the program – there was always so much to do.  I particularly enjoyed the daily afternoon tea extravaganza – it’s an eloquent, must-do. The staff dressed in tails and it was an indulgent pleasure I will always remember at 3.30pm wherever I am in the world

In terms of shore excursions, we decided on taking the whale shark experience and it was incredible to share the waters with these mammoth creatures. We arranged our own Los Cabos catamaran experience and loved it.  It is at your own discretion to arrange excursions onboard or separately. Most passengers, I would say, thought it easier to stick to the ship arranged tours – I heard mostly good feedback from my fellow guests.

Family facilities:  There are kids clubs but on my cruise, there were only about six children amongst 700 passengers.

Inclusions: Fares include fine wines, champagne, premiums spirits, gratuities, unlimited Wi-Fi and 24-hour room service.

Exclusions: Shore excursions, all the superior branded gift shops and some vintage level spirits and bottled wines.

Self-service laundry: Available on each floor – free and plentiful with two ironing boards.  They even had a TV to pass the time.

Insider tips: US plugs.  In terms of dress codes, there are three formal nights on a 14-night cruise. I like to dress up so this didn’t bother me.  Most guests dressed stunningly with diamonds, pearls and gorgeous dresses and suits.

Uniqueness: If you haven’t been on Crystal, you are missing a lifetime opportunity to be spoilt beyond compare. I so want to return and will do so. Think lobster fountains, caviar, fabulous entertainment, perfect service, a beautiful stateroom and did I mention Umi Uma? – my palate is still in heaven! Great memories.

 

Royal Caribbean – Ovation of the Seas

Reviewed by: Kathy Fossati

Date: 10 January 2019

Cruise line: Royal Caribbean International

Capacity: 4,905 passengers

Year built: 2016

Size of the ship: 168,666 GRT (18 decks)

Where the ship cruises: Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific, the USA and Canada

Currency onboard: USD

Embarkation / Disembarkation: Despite boarding with nearly 5,000 people, this was relatively seamless. Embarkation was a bit longer than we would have liked but at 11.30am we hit ‘peak-hour’ for boarding so that’s to be expected.

The embarkation and disembarkation tenders were unbelievably quick and well organised, there was literally no queue worth mentioning at any port. Back in Sydney, with no queue, we were farewelled off within minutes – too easy.

Main features / highlights: Being one of Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships, Ovation is the second largest in their fleet (Oasis-class is the largest with a capacity of 6,680 passengers), she is truly incredible in size, elegance and offerings.

So many features and highlights it’s hard to identify, but definitely one would have to be the artwork – with 12,000 pieces throughout and the only moving art-installation at sea, it really adds such elegance and joy everywhere you go.

Loved SeaPlex for the kids – offering dodgem cars, roller-skating, rock-climbing, x-boxes, fusball, air hockey, table tennis and much more.

Most suited to: Families and couples. Although travelling out of school holidays would make a difference to the number of children, it really is a ship geared towards keeping children entertained so parents can relax. Having said that, there are numerous areas where only adults can retreat to including the multi-layered ‘Solarium’ oasis with spas, pools, deck chairs, a restaurant, and a bar.

Atmosphere: It is a terrific blend of family fun and adult/solo relaxation – the choice is yours. There is a buzz of movement throughout the day and night as the daily itinerary is jammed pack with entertainment ranging from trivia and bingo, to silent discos and comedy, wine and whiskey tastings as well as great sales and other presentations at the shops in the Esplanade.

Having said that, there were many days when you could walk around the ship and see people reading their books or sleeping in the super comfy day beds and deck chairs.

Encounters with staff: As with most ships, the staff were terrific and super friendly, but a few of the wait staff really stood out. Our waiter in Silk was amazing with the children, he played magic and card ‘tricks’ and even taught them how to make animals out of serviettes – all this while attentively serving dozens of adults their meals and drinks – never missed a beat and remembered us every time we went back.

Entertainment: Pixels is a great show of sound, light, robotic screens and aerial performers, and is held every day in Two70 at the rear of the ship on Deck 5. This open two-level space offers 270-degree unobstructed views of the ocean and entertainment , including the not-to-be-missed ‘Dancers in the Box’ on robotic screens, and it was here we had our first whale sighting.

The Royal Theatre is where you will find the production shows including the Vegas-style ‘Live, Love, Legs’ and the stunning ‘A Beautiful Dream’ – all with an early and late seating as well as a later day matinee for those who missed the evening performances.

The Bionic Bar (dubbed the Robotic Bar) is novel fun – enter your drink order on a tablet and watch this incredible technology get to work! There is a casino and other venues including the Music Hall, the Schooner Bar, Boleros and The Amber & Ale. We really enjoyed the ambience and staff at Vintages, predominantly a wine bar but also great for aperitifs and cocktails, and although it wasn’t working during our cruise, there is a self-service wine tasting wall.

Staterooms:  We had a large balcony cabin on Deck 11 (centre ship) which was a good size and stylishly decorated in shades of blue and light browns. The storage space is great, with room under the bed for several suitcases, drawers and floor to ceiling hanging cupboards (with lots of hangers) and storage above the bed. The bathrooms are elegantly designed, with shelving and an automatic night light. I personally don’t like liquid dispensing soap in bathrooms so I’d recommend you bring your own soap, shampoo and conditioner.

75 percent of cabins on Ovation are balcony and the inside rooms have ‘virtual balconies’ which are floor to ceiling HD flat screen TVs that offer real-time views of what is going on outside. While I believe nothing beats the fresh ocean air and the spaciousness of a balcony, the virtual balconies are the next best thing for views.

There is a full-length mirror, desk, kettle (with tea, sugar and milk), hairdryer and mini-fridge (no mini-bar) as well as several USB ports in the room which is what most of us require for charging devices these days. If you do need a powerpoint adaptor, bring one for the USA (or a universal one). There are no coffee facilities in the room, so you may want to consider bringing your own plunger (nothing electrical and no powerboards!).

The rooms are serviced twice a day and you may even encounter a few clever towel-animals on your bed upon your evening return – this is where you will also receive information and programs for the next day’s activities.

Not surprisingly there is no smoking in staterooms, but there are two areas onboard including the port side of Deck 11 by the pool and a smaller ‘alfresco’ area on the starboard side of Deck 5.

Dining: There is no Main Dining Room (MDR) as such, instead Ovation has four restaurants – Silk, American Grill, The Grande and Chic – all offering the same menu just in different environments to spread passengers throughout. The Windjammer offers great food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, usually with themed nights, including Asian, Greek and even Chocolate!

Cafe Two70 was one of my favourite outlets, with great light food options, the best beef rolls ever, and speciality coffees (including Irish and the like). The speciality restaurants have either a set cover charge or à la carte pricing – if you are lucky you could be offered a dining package for three venues for just $99 – it depends on the cruise, time and destination. Jamie Oliver’s ‘Jamie’s Italian’ was a big hit with us (we even went back a second time), the food was out of this world and a nice change to the MDRs and Windjammer.

Wonderland is described as a feast for the sense and doesn’t disappoint! The decor and atmosphere is really unique and with the themes of Sun, Ice, Fire, Water, Earth and Dreams, you don’t have any idea what is coming out next, but it was always tantalising, delicious and fun.

We missed out on Chef’s Table as it was booked out and ran out of time to dine at Chops Grille but were told it was also fantastic and worth going to. The quality of food at the Japanese Izumi was really impressive although not every dish was great but good value for money and worth trying.

The Bottomless Brunch was an interesting morning as it starts with a behind-the-scenes kitchen tour, followed by several courses in the American Icon Grill, and as implied, bottomless sparkling wine with your meal.

Drink Packages: Unfortunately, being in USD, these are currently expensive for Australians. The Deluxe Beverage Package (at the time) was approximately AU$74 a day but it does include speciality coffees and teas, fresh juices, Evian and sparkling water as well as, of course, alcoholic beverages including cocktails (approx US$14 each) – so once you have 6 or more drinks, you’d be surprised how easy it is to reach! It also covers the 18 percent gratuities. For non-alcoholic drinkers, there are alternative drink packages such as unlimited soft drinks – it all depends on your budget and remember, standard tea and coffees, water and other drinks are free onboard.

Family facilities: There are almost too many to mention, you are guaranteed never to have a dull moment! Try Flowrider (surfing/boogie boarding), the rock climbing wall or Ripcord by iFLY skydiving. Three swimming pool areas (one complex being for adults only in the Solarium), 24/7 pizza at Sorrento’s, limitless hotdogs at the Dog House from 1pm-5pm located in the two-storey indoor family entertainment centre called ‘SeaPlex’ which houses dodgem cars, roller-skating, Xboxes, ping-pong, air-hockey and fusball facilities.

The Kid’s Clubs naturally cater to all different age groups of children. The Royal Babies and Tots Nursery for 6-month to 2-year-olds is the only one that incurs a fee of US$6 an hour. Aquanauts (3-5), Explorers (6-8), Voyagers (9-11) and Teen clubs in ‘The Living Room’ on Deck 14 are all complimentary and full of activities throughout the day and night.

Spa and Fitness Facilities: The gym is located at the front of the ship on Deck 16. It is large and has all that you’d expect of a modern gym including daily health and wellbeing presentations (free), yoga, aerobic and cycling spin classes (for a relatively hefty fee compared to land-based activity costs).

Vitality Spa is excellent if you are after a little holiday indulgence, offering massages, facials, mani and pedis, hair, waxing and even tooth whitening – again being in USD with gratuities these services are relatively expensive for Australians. While there are special offers, especially on port days, the currency conversion may make most think to wait a week until home!

Laundry: There are no laundry facilities or irons available. It all needs to be sent out to the ship’s laundry for a fee with the option of wash and fold, iron or dry cleaning. A great option is the US$35 bag – where you can fit almost everything you would like washed! Although this is good way to go, there are a few restrictions on what can be included, so read the information in your room.

I recommend bringing a hangable ‘peg’ rack for the balcony to dry swimmers, socks and delicates overnight without the worry of it flying off the balcony!