Saturday, December 17, 2011

Final review of RCI and Radiance of the Seas

It is our last day on board today.
Unfortunately our last port of call, Bay of Islands was closed due to bad weather so we have been at sea ever since we left Auckland. Probably a blessing or we would have had to go through some really bad weather with up to 12 metre seas! It has been rough regardless as we have been trying to go around the bad weather so we have been rocking and rolling in 6-8 metre seas which is enough for me. Our suite is on deck ten and with the strong winds, it has been rough up here. The nausea has not passed yet. It has improved today and for the first time in 14 days we have seen the sun again!.

As we fill out our passenger satisfaction survey, we reflect on this cruise experience and I am changing my original view that RCI is on par with P&O Australia.

It is always hard to compare between cruise lines but when you look at the overall experience, I now believe that RCI is a step above P&O Australia but a step below Princess.

The Good:
Great interactive in cabin TV
Free in suite movies for suite guests, we got our monies worth of these
The Concierge Club with free drinks between 5.00 - 8.30pm.
Fantastic suite attendant and dining room staff who went the extra mile for us
Good response time for any maintenance issues in our suite
Free room service
Great buffet with lots of selection and never had cold food
Eggs to order in the buffet for breakfast
Good kids club with kids dinners and lunches on some occasions
Pets at sea - this was a gift I pre ordered for Michael. He got to choose a pet to make (eg an animal) and then they have a machine that stuffs the soft toy and then the child gets to choose some clothes for it. Michael got a crocodile and dressed him in a tuxedo. This is a novel treat for the kids. Book it through the pre cruise planner! Photo below.
My time dining - this was great! We booked ahead of time for each day and then went at our preferred time. From day one we had a great set of waiters so we asked for that table each day when we booked. We never had a problem. The staff are so friendly. Every time we arrived at the dining room for dinner, they would greet us by name and pay particular attention to Michael which he loved.
Each day our drinks waiter remembered what drinks I liked and on some occasions it was ready when I got there. They also looked after Michael really well which made him happy so our dinner was pleasant too.
I cannot recommend the dining room enough for dinner. Try it and you wont be disappointed. Remember that you can also ask for a main course as a starter, just ask. Whilst the buffet food is nice, it is no comparison to the dining room service and atmosphere. They also had live piano and violin playing in the dining room which is reminiscent of old cruising traditions

Disembarkation - for new cruisers, disembarkation can be confusing. Look for the video on your tv that will explain everything. This is generally shown on the last day of your cruise.
With RCI, you don't have to put your luggage out the night before until midnight so the extra to is really helpful.

Passenger Profile on this cruise:
On this cruise there has been a real mix, from the really really old to the young families. Of course there are people with bad manners on every cruise and we have to try to ignore these!

Grand Suite 1556:
We are really happy with our suite. Very comfortable and lots of little extras that we found really good including the dinner menu updated each day in our suite so that we could decide whether we wanted to go to the dining room for dinner or not. For those not in a suite, you can still see what is on the dinner menu as it is posted outside the dining room in the early afternoon each day. If there is nothing that appeals to you, you can always call the reservations line and cancel your dinner booking.

WIFI using an Iphone or Ipad:
There is WIFI in all the staterooms which is great. There is a little trick to using Iphone or Ipad on the WIFI because they say they do not support these devices as sometimes passengers have not logged off the system correctly and then used up all their internet time. We have worked out a routine but even so, on a 14 night trip we have spent $170 on internet!!
Compose all your messages offline, go online to send them and then download any new mail and then quickly log off.

Procedure for setting up WIFI on RCI using an Iphone or ipad:

Firstly go to the internet cafe and using their self service screens, create your internet account. The cost will be added to your SeaPass account.

Then you can set up your device
Turn on WIFI on the device through the settings icon. On the first occasion it will detect the RCI WIFI and then ask you to login.

Then go to SAFARI and enter the web address for the logout page. Once this comes up, using SAFARI create a bookmark icon on your home screen. this will make logging off each time much quicker.

Then you can start up your email app or facebook etc.

When you are ready to log off, use the icon you created. When you open it, the page should say you have logged off. Then go to Settings on the device and turn WIFI OFF. This will make sure you are not chewing up precious internet time in case the RCI logoff does not log off correctly. Doing it this way we have been able to make sure we did not lose internet minutes.

Just for your information, we used three devices on the same internet package and it worked fine..

When you run out, the page will tell you.

The Bad:
Coffee: The coffee place onboard is a take away service and no table service is provided. I missed that from other lines. Trevor stood in long lines waiting to be served and then waiting for the coffee to be ready. This was the only good coffee place on board so it got very busy.
I soon worked out that it was better to go to the Concierge Club to make a cappuccino up there. Unfortunately this is only for suite passengers and other club members.

No alcohol deliveries to your stateroom.

Lunch in the main dining room:
We found this menu to be a bit restrictive and there was little we would eat on it.

The Ugly
Some rude passengers. You get these on every cruise but it is amazing to watch these people who have no concept of how to coexist on a ship with others. I can't blame RCI for these.

It has been a relaxing holiday. Cold weather and seasickness aside, we had lovely accommodations and great people looking after us. We spent lots of time as a family and saw some beautiful countryside in New Zealand.

We will be back on board Radiance in around 7 weeks for a 7 night cruise to Melbourne and Tasmania.

For all of you who may read this, enjoy your cruising regardless of what line you cruise with. it is an experience that you will always remember!

Until next time, safe passages to all.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tauranga - a shore excursion review of the Lord of the Rings Hobbiton movie set

A few days ago we were in the port of Tauranga for the day. We chose to go on a ship arranged shore excursion for a half day visit to the Lord of the Rings Movie set called Hobbiton.
The Lord of the Rings movies were filmed in many locations across New Zealand. One of these was a farm outside of Tauranga where Peter Jackson had the Hobbits homes built and some of the outdoor scenes in the Lord of the Rings films were filmed here. Also just recently (about 5 weeks ago) filming wrapped up on the new movies to be released in December 2012 about the Hobbits. These are not part of the trilogy but there are supposed two films coming out as part of this new feature on the Hobbits.
I can't post any photos as we had to sign a confidentiality agreement about not divulging the photos until the movie comes out but needless to say, if you are a fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, it is a real treat to come here and see where it was filmed.

The guide was fantastic explaining where all the scenes were filmed and putting things into perspective.

The tour was $139 per adult and $99 per child but was worthwhile. There was a nice bus ride also there and back where we got to see more green countryside in New Zealand.
The day was forecast for rain so we prepared with umbrellas but we were lucky that the rain spared us and the sun even came out for a glimpse for a short while.

Review of the "Samba Grill" on board Radiance of the Seas

A few nights ago Trevor and I decided to give the Samba Grill a try on board the Radiance of the Seas.
This restaurant is a specialty restaurant which is not included in your cruise fare. The cost is $25 per person.

Now I need to explain what this restaurant is all about. It is a brazillian style churrascaria. When you look at the menu, the names of the meals are hard to understand as they are in brazilian but with some imagination you can work out that they are all roast meat type meals. How can you go wrong with roasted meats?

The Samba Grill is located on deck 12 and is only accessible via the weather deck which is the only negative about this place. On the night that we went it was blowing a gale so it was an adventure getting there.

When you first arrive and you are seated, your waiter will explain how it works. It is very different from other places you might have been to.

There are 9 types of roasted meats that are brought out to your table in courses. You have a salad bar that you can help yourself to and they also serve side dishes to your table including steak fries, roasted vegetables and fried bananas! (Trevor loved these).

Ok so here is how it all works.... you have a light at your table that you can change from white to green and to red.
Green means that you are ready fro your first or next serving of meat. Red means that you do not want to be served at that time and white means that you are finished and want dessert.

When we started the meal I was a little unsure as I am a picky eater but I soon worked out that this type of food is very earthy and simple when you think of it.
Our "Gaucho" (the brazilian style meat server) came to our table as soon as I changed out light to green.
Imagine a waiter who brings a large roast meat skewer to your table. He asks you to use the small set of tongs that they give you and as he carves, you use your tongs to grab a slither or small slice of the meat.
This meat is fantastic. The most tender, juicy and flavoursome meat. They do serve a set of sauces to your table and suggest a different sauce with each meat serving or if you don't like these, there is rock salt which goes really well with the meat too.

Now you do have to pace yourself at this restaurant. BIG TIP: have a light lunch on the day you intend to go to Samba because you will need it.

After our first meat serving, we switched out light to red and savoured our food. The servings can be small if you wish, just take a sliver of the meat and then you won't overeat. Don't fill up on the side dishes though or you won't make it through the nine cuts of meat.

After a while, we were ready for our next meat and changed our light to green. Our Gaucho then served us this wonderful chicken breast on a skewer wrapped in bacon. I am generally weary of chicken breast as it tends to be dry but not this one.... juicy and flavoursome with the taste of bacon.

Each meat serving was a another type of flavour yet it was just simple meat cooked on a skewer and slowly roasted to perfection.

Towards serve number seven, I must admit that I was out for the count. I tried number eight but could not tackle number nine which apparently is the best, the filet mignon! Trevor said it was fantastic.

At this point we put our light to white and were ready for dessert. We forced ourselves to try the decadent desserts which you need to leave a little room for.

This dining experience is unique and special and is really worth a try on your cruise on Radiance of the Seas if you plan to come on board. For the cost of $25pp, this was well worth it and in our view the best service and food that we have experienced on the ship.

The waiters went the extra mile for their customers. Half way through the meal, it started to rain outside and the only way to the ladies room was to go out on the deck and get wet and wind ravaged. The waiter took us the back way through the galley and the crew elevators so that we would not get wet and waited patiently for us to come out of the ladies room and then escorted us the same way back to the restaurant.

I think the access to this restaurant was an oversight in the recent dry dock refurbishment of the ship but if you can put that aside, this is a fantastic restaurant but more than that it was an eating experience.

I have posted a few pictures below of the unique table light system that you use to control your courses throughout the meal.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Michael and his many photos

A review about cruising with RCI vs other lines in Australia

Well we have now cruised with the following lines and I thought it might be helpful to do a review of the differences between the cruise lines in Australia now.

We have cruised with RCI on Radiance of the Seas on this trip, Sun Princess in Australia (Princess Cruises), Pacific Star, Pacific Dawn and Pacific Pearl (P&O Australia Cruises and Grand Princess in the mediterranean (Princess Cruises).

Let's look at how RCI does things:


RCI does their stateroom arrangements very well. Similar to Princess line they call them "staterooms" vs P&O Australia call them cabins.
With RCI, even some of the more budget staterooms include a small seating area with a sofa. This is a big plus. Imagine having a hotel room where the only place to sit when you are there is on the bed. It can be quite annoying.
Staterooms here are of course different depending on the category you book, no different to other lines. We got a suite this time just for the extra space that it affords us with a small child. It was worth having the extra space. It also allows us to spend some time in our stateroom in comfort which we like to do. We do find it hard to roam the ship all day long. It is nice to have your own balcony and somewhere quiet to sit and read or something. A note to other passengers who have travelled in suites on P&O Australia, the suite perks are really different on this line. with RCI, suite guests get a range of extras thrown in like:
- Free in room movies on demand
- reserved seating at the shows
- Access to a lounge for suite guests
- Free happy hour drinks at the suite lounge between 5.00 pm and 8.30 pm. - Access to a Concierge to look after your tour, restaurant and other bookings
- Priority embarkation and disembarkation

However in comparison to P&O Australia, suite guests on RCI do not get free laundry service. It really depends where you would spend your money. Some people would get far more value from the free drinks each evening and not worry about the laundry. I must admit we have used lots of in room movies as we have had a few family movie nights in our suite. Even this is a treat for us as we rarely get to do this at home with our busy schedules and Trevor's shift work.

In your stateroom on RCI, you need to know that they do not provide bathroom amenities such as shampoo, conditioner, lotion etc. They do have a dispenser in the shower but I am not sure what is in it. Anyway, not a great loss as you probably not want to use their shampoo anyway! Best to bring your own anyway.

A great feature on RCI cruises in your stateroom is an interactive LCD TV that has a range of pay TV channels on it designed specifically for RCI but also has an interactive menu on it, just push MENU on the remote to access it. Igt includes access to the pay per view movies which are charged at the rate you would expect in a hotel ($12.95). It also includes a feature where you can access your shipboard account and keep an eye on your spending. It also allows you to book shore excursions through the TV which is a big time saver for those last minute tour bookings. Let's face it, when you are on a budget you need to keep an eye on your onboard spending a few times on the cruise and also to make sure that there are no incorrect charges which can happen. This interactive TV is a plus for RCI!! P&O Australia and Princess do not have this feature that I know of, for these services you have to go to the Purser's desk/tour desk and speak to a customer service officer. This can take some time with long lines at times during the cruise.

Balcony furniture on RCI is really nice too.

Power in staterooms requires a converter and we have used a european to Australia converter.

If your stateroom includes mini bar items, they are not free of course. Similar to a hotel, you should expect to pay for these. Some staterooms have a small fridge. It is not great so make sure you ask your stateroom attendant to keep your ice bucket topped up.

Stateroom attendants
For those of you who have cruised before, you will know how great these guys are. I must say we have had great stateroom attendants (or cabin steward on P&O/Princess) on all our trips. These guys work very hard to keep your stateroom comfortable, tidy and clean. Just as with all other lines we have sailed with, our stateroom attendant introduced himself on the first day and never forgot our names from that day on. He has been so attentive to us. An example of this is that I ordered some gifts to be here when we boarded for Michael to play with. I got him a crayola drawing thing that required batteries. Of course I didn't know this and did not bring any. On the first day he made it his business to go an get batteries for it and never charged us either.

Another example is that the basins in the RCI stateroom bathrooms are quite high. It is hard for children to reach and brush their teeth etc. We asked our stateroom attendant if we could get a stool or something Michael could stand on. The ship's workshop got to work and made him a whole set of timber steps, not just a stool. A little overkill but was a lovely gesture.

I must say that on all lines we have travelled, stateroom attendants have been excellent. Make sure you bring a post it note pad and a pen so that you can leave your stateroom attendant notes if you need anything as you don't always see them but as you return to your stateroom throughout the day, you will notice that they have once again tidied up, changed the towels etc.

Like other lines, your stateroom includes a safe if you want to lock up any items.
Our stateroom attendant has been surprising us with great towel animals each day which Michael loves. Some photos below.

Dining on RCI is similar to other lines in many ways.
Included in your cruise fare is all main meals at the following venues:

- The Buffet ("The Windjammer")
- Cascades Dining Room ( the main dining room )

Like other lines, RCI also has speciality restaurants that you have to pay for. The charge is generally a token amount such as $25 per person and that generally includes 3 courses so it is reasonable if you want to try one.

Radiance of the Seas has the following speciality restaurants:
- Giovanni's Table
- Chops Grille
- Izumi's
- Rita's Cantina
- Samba Grill

Don't feel obliged to go to all of them or any of them if you don't want to or it does not suit your budget but worth a try for a treat and to try something different. We have tried Chops Grille and will be trying Samba Grill tonight!

I must admit that the meals in the main dining room have been good. A reasonable selection and I always find something I would like to eat and I can be a picky eater. They have three courses, starter, main and desert so you do need to watch your eating around here. They are also better for portion control.

The Buffet has been good too. I am not a big fan of constantly having to go and get food from the buffet but the food is good and there is a good selection. Breakfast there is really good and they do eggs to order which Trevor likes alot. P&O Australia has been getting worse with their buffets and on the last few trips with them we had cold food in the buffet so that was not nice. You can get food in the buffet at most times of the day so even just for a snack, there is always something to have. Great fresh fruit and salads too so you can eat healthy if you want to. I must also admit that the Princess line buffets were fantastic so those of you who travel on Princess will know this.

Room Service
RCI has a limited room service menu in the Cruise Information Book in your stateroom like the other lines do however theirs is FREE except between 12.00 and 05.00 am where there is a small service charge to bring the items to you but the food is still free.

If you are travelling with small children and would like to bring snacks on board for in your cabin, you can do this. Michael always brings some crackers and other buscuits to last the trip. We just pack them in a hard shell lunch box and buy the individual lunchbox packs so they stay fresh.

Dining Times
We have booked "My Time Dining" which is the option to book our dinner for a time that suits us. P&O and Princess have this option too. We find it suits us more than traditional first and second seating where you have to turn up to dinner at a preset time every night and depending on your tours that can be a rush each day. We like to book a small table and we have never had a problem getting a table by booking in advance.
Be sure to plan your days ahead and make your dinner bookings. You can always cancel if things change on the day. If you cancel the speciality restaurants however there is a charge if cancelled with less than 24 hours notice.

Entertainment onboard is included in your fare just like with P&O and Princess. We have not been to all the entertainment of course but have seen one show in the theatre so far and it was good. They have lots of different shows, comedy, song and dance broadway shows, illusionists etc. We intend to see a broadway show too so I hope that will be good. P&O and Princess do their shows really well and we have always thoroughly enjoyed them also.
To plan your days with all the entertainment and activities on board, it can be easy to miss something you would like to do. Each night a Cruise Compass on RCI will be delivered to your stateroom which includes information on the next day's activities, port of call, dining, dress code etc. I use a highlighter to mark the items we want to do so that we don't miss them.
Princess has the "Princess Patter" and P&O has the "Pacific Daily" which are very similar.

Kids Facilities
Michael enjoys cruising because of the kids facilities. RCI kids club seems to focus alot on science related activities for the 6-8 year olds. Michael enjoys that. He does miss some of the more fun activities that they had on P&O and Princess too. They are all really good programs and the kids have a great time. The kids club also offers the option for kids dinner or kids lunch on a few occasions on the cruise where the kids go to eat together. Otherwise RCI is the same as other lines where you collect your kids prior to lunch and dinner and then they return later.

Shops on board
We have checked out the shops on board and I have already had to attend my shopaholics anonymous meeting due to my indulgence in yet another Guess handbag. Yes, ladies, RCI like other cruise lines has all your favourites:
- Handbags
- watches
- jewellery
- perfumes
- cosmetics
- alcohol/cigarettes
- Svarovsky crystal (see your bank manager before buying!)

Of course there are clothing, souvenirs and general stores also for any last minute items but expect to pay for these at a premium price. They do have sales so watch for those. Very similar to other lines and in fact many of the same brands.

Remember it is easy to spend up on a ship. With the cruise card being your only currency it is like buying everything on credit so be sure to keep track of your spending.

Drinks on board a reasonably priced, similar to what you would expect to pay on land in a hotel or club. RCI has a "soda" package which you can pay for that gives you unlimited cola etc for the trip. 

Similar to Princess and P&O. They also have a wine package. Be careful with this one. Try to work out how much wine you might drink each night for dinner and then pick a package that has the right amount of bottles. Then you pick a wine list you want to be able to pick from. The smaller the list, the cheaper the price, the larger the list to select from, the dearer the price. Regardless, if you manage to drink all the wine you have bought on a package, it is supposed to save you lots on the individual prices of the bottles. We got the Australian/NZ package that RCI has put together for their Aussie passengers. It has a collection of Aussie and new zealand wines to pick from.

RCI also has a water or juice package. I bought the water package. This is where you can pre order so many bottles of water to be delivered to your stateroom at a cheaper price than paying for them by the bottle. The water on board is Evian so it is really nice. Ships water is perfectly fine to drink. They serve it at dinner and it is fine. Bottles are just easier for in your stateroom and to take ashore when you go on excursions.

Radiance of the Seas has a dedicated Cinema and movies are also shown on the big screen over the pool deck and also in the main theatre so if there is a good flick you want to catch, check out the Cruise Compass for screening times.

Pools and Outdoor Entertainment
RCI does outdoor entertainment really well compared to other ships we have been on.
There is a main pool on the open pool deck. On this trip we have been on it has been used little due to the cold weather we have had. Then there is an undercover pool in an area called the "Solarium" which I think I covered earlier. This is a warm space which is supposed to be for adults only and has been used alot on this cruise. It also has its own little cafe and tables, chairs and of course pool loungers.
This ship has a children's pool and waterslide. Again, sadly it has been a little cold for these but if you are on a South Pacific cruise, I would expect that these would be packed out. Opening times are not long so check the Cruise Compass for opening hours.

There is also a Rock Climbing wall on Radiance. Again, not a lot of use on this trip but I would say this would be a popular feature on the ship.

Ports Of Call
RCI does things similar to P&O and Princess. When the ship docks in a port, there will be a dedicated gangway and you can just walk off the ship and go and do your own thing or you will have to assemble in a specific lounge on the ship to go with your tour. You use your cruise card as a boarding and disembarkation pass each time you get on and off the ship so that they can keep track of who is on and who is off. Of course when you return to the ship, you have to also go through security screening with xray machines etc as you are familiar with at airports. This is part of maritime security arrangements to prevent any illegal items being brought onto the ship when passengers go ashore. When you go ashore you also need photo ID so make sure you take this with you.

When the ship cannot dock at a particular port, it will anchor outside the port and then use the ship's boats (called Tenders) to take passengers ashore. This is an involved process. All the lines do this very similarly. On the morning you arrive there, they will be giving out tender tickets for you to go on a tender and then you wait until your tender ticket number is called on the loudspeaker and then off you go.
RCI on Radiance of the Seas did this very efficiently. The tenders worked all day going backwards and forwards to the ship and there was very little wait at all. Similar to other lines, if you book a suite or mini suite, you can get priority tender tickets if you want them.

We haven't disembarked yet as I am writing this on board the Radiance of the Seas but we have been informed of the disembarkation procedure already.
It is very similar to other lines. The cruise line asks you to complete a form about half way through the cruise telling them about your flight arrangements after disembarkation. This allows them to group passengers for disembarkation. We have to appreciate that they can't just tell 2300 passengers to get off at once. It would be chaos! So similar to other lines, they give you a number/colour group related to your disembarkation and an approximate window of time on the day that you might be disembarking. You have to vacate your stateroom early generally by no later than 08.00 am so that they can get it ready for the next passengers who will board in just hours, then off you go with your hand luggage, get breakfast or just wait in a public area until your disembarkation group is called. Suite guests get a special lounge dedicated to them to relax in while waiting and priority disembarkation.

Yes I know, the rude word you don't want to talk about when on holidays but when you travel for 14 nights or more, there is not enough suitcase room to bring enough clothes for that period of time without having to wash clothes. RCI does not have a self service laundry on board which I think is a negative in comparison to P&O Australia and Princess. I can just hear people saying, who cares, you are on holidays....I know but sometimes you need to wash some clothes. Especially if your cruise goes to hot climates, you can go through a lot of sweaty clothes very quickly and you really can only wear things once. RCI offers a laundry service that you pay for by the item.
They do offer a special offer half way through the cruise where they give you a bag and you can fill it with as many clothes (only of certain types - t-shirts, underwear, swimsuits, socks, pyjamas) and the whole bag only costs $25. Not too bad but you can't include pants, shirts etc and if you do they will be charged to your cruise card at normal prices. We found the P&O and Princess self service laundry useful at least for one load of washing throughout a 14 day cruise. Also their laundries include an ironing facility. Shirts can get pretty wrinkled in suitcases. RCI offers a pressing service but you pay per item and have to give it to them the day before you actually want it or you pay a higher price for same day service. My tip is to bring as many wash and wear items you can. For women, slinky tops work great but it is harder with men's shirts!

Tours are all the same with all lines. Remember that the tour operators sell the same tours to all the cruise lines. Yes, they are overpriced but if you are in a foreign place and want the peace of mind to have everything organised for you, then this is the way to go. We have chosen to do two ship organised tours on this trip and in the other ports we intend to do our own thing. Remember if you go ashore on your own and do not make it back to the ship on time, it will not wait for you and you will have the added expense of getting home or joining the ship at the next port. Make sure for this reason that you take note of the ship's agent's phone number when you go ashore on your own so that if you get into trouble, the agent can help you. Take your ID for this reason too. An easy way to take the agent's details with you is to take a copy of the cruise compass paper with you ashore.

Overall Summary So Far
Overall I am not convinced that RCI is better than P&O Australia, just different in some things and it depends if those things matter to you. It is such a subjective thing. From our point of view we found them to be on par with P&O Australia and still think that Princess is a step above both of them but that is because we had such a great experience on Princess.

Check out some of the photos of towel animals we got in our stateroom plus the outdoor areas

Wellington - the port

Another working port here. Logs. logs and more logs!! Interesting gangway arrangements that we have seen in NZ. They all have them. Some sort of gangway thing built on a container.


Yesterday we docked in Wellington. In this port we decided to go ashore on our own and check out the city.
We were informed on the ship that the port authority had arranged for shuttle buses to take passengers from the ship to the city at a small cost. The port of Wellington is a working port but did have a cruise terminal of sorts which basically just had an information booth inside where we purchased our shuttle tickets and off we went. The shuttle driver was great informing us of places to see and explaining that the shuttles were operating all day on round trips back to the ship.

We got off in the city and walked around for an hour or so before getting on the shuttle again and then going to the next stop where we got tickets to get on the cable car that took us iup to a panoramic viewing area. We got some good shots there.
Wellington was a pretty city and is the capital of NZ. 430,000 people live there. One thing that we noticed is how clean and tidy the city is and of course how green it is. Considering that they must get a bit of rain because we have barely seen sunshine whilst we have been here!!
Some pictures of the scenery below.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dunedin - Port Chalmers

A working port that caters for cruise ships....


Our first port where the ship docked was Dunedin. A cold 12 degrees and cloudy day greeted us. We had booked a ship organised excursion for this port. We disembarked the ship and took the Taieri Gorge Train excursion directly from outside the port gates.

Before I talk about the tour, I thought it might be interesting to comment on the port facilities here. With a planned 80 cruise ship visits this season, New Zealand is certainly benefitting from the cruise boom and this has helped tourism immensely. For Dunedin, we docked at Port Chalmers, a working port. With wood chips on one side, logs on the other, there was certainly no band here for the meet and greet. But who cared.... We got off the ship and got onto our tours very quickly. No issues at all.

The tour we took involved a half day trip on an antique railway from the early 1900s. It took us up into Taieri Gorge which was really nice. They served drinks, morning tea and lunch aboard and we had some great scenic views. This tour was really good and worth considering if you come here.
On the way back we could either go into town and catch a complimentary shuttle bus back, return to the ship or join other tours. We returned to the ship instead. What a lovely place though. Unfortunately the sun did not come out until the evening.

Some photos of the view on the tour

Our first stop - cruising through the NZ Fjords

After a rocky few days at sea it was refreshing to arrive in the safe harbour of Milford Sound. This area is a natural wonder. Cruise ships now cruise inside these Fjords and passengers get to admire its natural beauty. On this day we cruised through Milford, Doubtful and Dusky Sound. We enjoyed Milford Sound the most. On this day our balcony came in real handy for Trevor to take photos with his new camera. Here are a few pictures but they hardly do the area justice.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The view from the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Sydney

Here are some photos from the deck of the ship while we were docked in Sydney Harbour

More on Radiance of the Seas - The Solarium

The indoor pool area is really nice. It's called the solarium. It is an adults only area with its own little cafe.

Radiance of the Seas - Bars and Lounges

There are many places to go on the ship. Lots of bars and lounges, during the day some of these are used for activities and at night there is entertainment. There are some good places to sit and relax and look out at sea or read a book.

Getting there is half the fun.....not so much

We have finally got to New Zealand after two days at sea. The first day was very rough crossing the Tasman and the second day was worse. We hit a storm and winds that felt like the ship was going to tip over! Michael and I got sea sick on the first day. I went to the general store on board and got some sea sickness tablets. They knocked me out for a few hours. Michael had to go to the medical centre on the ship for an injection because there was no tablets on board suitable for children. I should have brought some with us.
$115 dollars later, he spent most of the day in bed too but we were both better by the second day.
During these first days at sea we explored the ship some more. Here are some more photos... These are of the main pool deck.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Exploring Radiance of the Seas - The Windjammer Buffet

Well here we are on our first full day on board the true lady of the seas. She is 10 years old and is around 90,000 gross tonnes (I think).
Today we put our walking shoes on and decided to explore. It really is a workout when you explore a ship like this. A tip is to use the stairs both for the exercise and because lifts are slats busy!!

Here are some photos so far.

The Windjammer buffet. This is the buffet area that serves main meals and tea in the afternoon. It is well designed with the food stations in little islands so it does not get congested like other ships we have been on. The food so far here has been good.
Check out the fabulous Christmas gingerbread house display. They really understand presentation on these ships.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Check out our stateroom Grand Suite 1556 deck 10

We have made our way up to our stateroom and it is a little smaller than I thought but very nice. Lots of room for Michael to play. Lovely Lounge room with TV and stereo Bose system. Lots of little extras and a balcony with a lounger and a table and chairs. I hope to use it on this trip a lot. I had re ordered some water and games for Michael and they were all here waiting for us.