FIRST of all, I have to admit, I’m a cruise ship novice.
Never before had I set foot on a cruise ship until invited by Royal Caribbean to experience the newly refurbished Voyager of the Seas on the Brisbane to Sydney leg of a 14-day cruise from Singapore.
My “rookie” status was illustrated at lunch on the first day when I sat opposite Cruising: World Wide Cruising News & Pictorial editor/publisher John Treacy and his wife Kerry who, between them, have been on almost 200 cruises.
Yet even the most experienced passenger would have to be impressed by the $US97 million ($A141 million) “amplification” of the Voyager of the Seas aimed at appealing more to the family market.
And there’s one attraction, in particular, that you don’t expect to see on a cruise ship. After all, aren’t cruises meant to be about lapping up the sun and lazing by the pool?
On Voyager of the Seas you can do that and channel your inner Torvill and Dean and go ice skating – yes, ice skating! – as well.
Royal Caribbean’s pitch to families is reflected in the massive upgrade.
New to the ship are a pair of racer waterslides and a glow-in-the-dark laser tag, while a dedicated space for teens and an Adventure Ocean children’s area have been redesigned.
The refurbishment also includes a reinvigorated spa and fitness centre and the addition of 72 new inside and balcony staterooms, each equipped with a smart television. More than half of the staterooms on-board are balcony, ocean view or feature Royal Caribbean’s exclusive virtual balcony.
Voyager of the Seas’ transformation took 41 days and involved more than 2200 crew and tradespeople.
“Royal Caribbean is an innovator in holidays, and the newly amplified Voyager of the Seas is no exception,” Royal Caribbean International Australia and New Zealand managing director Gavin Smith said.
“We are thrilled to welcome Voyager back to Australia, bringing something for everyone with bold and exhilarating new features that create unforgettable experiences for the whole family.”
FOR THE (BIG) KIDS
The Perfect Storm:
If you’re after an adrenaline rush, this pair of waterslides will do the trick. They’re called “Typhoon” and “Cyclone” for a reason!
From a 15m-high starting point, you’ll hurtle to the deck in just 20 seconds. And then want to do it again!
Go from thrills to spills by tackling the surf simulator.
You won’t always stay upright, but that’s half the fun as 113,500 litres of water come rushing at you.
Laze by the pool in the hot sun one minute, strap on your skates for a spin around the ice the next.
Best of all, if you’re a complete novice, there’s someone to teach you.
If you want to watch the experts do it, the ship also hosts spectacular ice shows featuring professional skaters.
Studio B transforms from an ice rink into a glow-in-the-dark laser tag experience. The battle for Planet Z features state-of-the art technology and special effects.
If you’re not afraid of heights, the view from 12 metres above deck is worth it.
For the less adventurous, the ship has a mini golf course and basketball court, a games arcade and a revamped gymnasium for the exercise conscious.
From trivia to karaoke, ballet classes to line dancing, and meditation to tai chi, Voyager of the Seas is a hive of activity from early in the morning to late at night.
If you can’t find something that interests you, you’re not trying.
Original productions, Broadway-style shows, live music, DJs, and special stage performances from comedians, dancers and magicians – it’s all possible on Voyager of the Seas.
On my leg of the cruise, Australian vocalist Chelsea Gibb, of Chicago and Cabaret fame, and comedian Steve Allison were the headline acts.
For a family night out, catch a movie on the big screen by the pools.
Whether it’s rustic Italian dishes at Giovanni’s Table, hand-cut steaks at Chops Grille or Asian delights at Izumi, the dining options are plentiful.
You can also enjoy a VIP experience at the Chef’s Table where the gourmet fare is paired with suitable wines.
If none of the above takes your fancy, join the masses in the Main Dining Room, try the buffet at the Windjammer or relax with a snack and a coffee at Cafe Promenade.
Beauty, fashion and jewellery – if you’ve run out of things to do, you can always browse the on-board shopping precinct.
Walking through the promenade feels like you’re strolling through the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney.
OR JUST RELAX
Pool deck is the place to be to soak up the sun and relax with a drink from one of the poolside bars.
If that doesn’t mellow you out, unwind with a massage at the vitality spa.
It was hard to reconcile that on-board was a full house (or ship in this case) of almost 4000 passengers and staff – more people than the NSW town of Gilgandra (population 2600) that I grew up in – because it didn’t feel that crowded. You were able to move easily about the ship, and there were no large queues for restaurants, bars or any of the activities.
David Miller travelled as a guest of Royal Caribbean Cruises