Thursday, February 28, 2013

Voyager of the Seas cruise (Pt I), Oct 22 - Nov 5, 2012



This cruise on Voyager of the Seas was booked 198 days out and waiting for the boarding date was, at times, tortuous - like being a kid again, waiting for 'next Christmas' to arrive!

Like my Radiance of the Seas cruise, my previous (and only) RCI cruise, this was a repositioning cruise. I flew to Singapore, where I spent two nights, before boarding Voyager for a 14-night cruise to Fremantle, just south of Perth in Western Australia. You won't be surprised to hear that Voyager was 'chockas' with Aussies and, of the 3,100 passengers, 2,900 were from Down Under and around 2,100 were from Perth/Western Australia!

Unlike Radiance of the Seas, where I didn't know what to expect when I boarded and loved every minute of my maiden cruise, I knew a little of what to expect this time around on Voyager of the Seas. While Radiance and Voyager are both RCI ships and there are similarities, they are also very different (more on that later).

What helped make this cruise so special was I was in a suite. I love writing this travel blog but haven't suddenly become a blogging zillionaire able to go 'upmarket' wherever I cruise (I still have a day job). However, in a rush of blood I initially decided to splash out on a junior suite. Then, closer to the sailing date, came across a great deal to upgrade and ended up in a grand suite. I won't go on here (a large section of this post is set aside for the suite) but the one downside to 'going grand' is that it's a bit like flying business class from Australia to...well...anywhere in the world. Once you've done it, it's hard going back.


I have discovered that this post runs slowly if viewed on Internet Explorer. It's best viewed on Google Chrome or Firefox (not as fast as Chrome).


CONTENTS OF THIS BLOG

- Nautical Terms
- Things to do before you cruise
- Voyager of the Seas stats
- My YouTube clip of Voyager of the Seas
- Grand Suite and Deluxe Balcony Stateroom
- The Royal Promenade
- Sea Pass and Gratuities
- Food and Dining (what's included in your fare/what's not)
- Drinks, Bars and Lounges (including drinks packages)
- Entertainment, Relaxation and R'n'R
- Exercise Options
- Voyager Day Spa
- Shopping
- Child/Youth Facilities
- Internet
- Photo/Art Gallery
- Clothes (what to take) and Laundry
- On Board Newsletter and Information
- Cruising as a suite guest
- Other images from Voyager of the Seas
- Ports of Call

* All prices and information are as of October 2012. Prices are in US dollars (except where otherwise noted) and are subject to change.


NAUTICAL TERMS

Here's a few that may appear in the blog:

Fore - Near or toward the front of the ship
Aft - Near or toward the rear of the ship
Bow - The very front of the ship
Stern - The very back of the ship
Port - The left of the ship, facing towards the front
Starboard - The right of the ship, facing towards the front
Draft - Depth of water measured from the waterline to the bottom of the ship's hull
Bridge - The 'command centre' in the forward part of the ship
Gangway - The stairway or ramp connecting the ship to the shore
Tender - A small vessel, usually a lifeboat, used to transport passengers from the ship to the shore when the ship is at anchor


THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU CRUISE

1) If you intend using your credit card while you are away, tell your credit card provider that you are going overseas, so they don't think your credit card has been compromised and someone in a foreign land has suddenly started making purchases. The last thing you want to deal with when you get home is a cancelled credit card and having to sort out all your direct debits etc when your bank sends you a new one. While it's good that credit card security works this way, it's a hassle you don't need.

2) Similarly to your credit card, contact your mobile phone provider and have your phone switched to international call roaming. The costs are very high if you do make (and receive) calls but it's a security blanket should you need to use your phone in an emergency. IMPORTANT - turn off data roaming on your phone (or get your provider to do it for you). While you may not make calls while you are away, any data that is uploaded or downloaded (emails or app updates, for instance) will be charged at a far, far more expensive rate.

3) 'Dose up'. Being confined to a ship with several thousand people can be a breeding ground for germs and result in colds/flus (how many of us seem to always get a cold when we fly?). I'd suggest a course of vitamins and/or echinacea in the lead up to your cruise. While these might not completely stop you from getting a cold/flu, they may help reduce the duration of anything you might get and, thus, give you more time to enjoy your cruise. And, for those of you who have heard of norovirus, there is nothing you can do ahead of time other than get into the habit of practising safe hygiene.


VOYAGER OF THE SEAS

Voyager was built at a cost of US$650 million and christened on November 20, 1999, embarking on her maiden voyage one day later - November 21, 1999.

When Voyager of the Seas was launched, she was the largest cruise ship in the world and considered the most revolutionary cruise ship ever built. She was often referred to as a floating hotel because of features such as an ice-skating rink and rock climbing wall, both a first for a cruise ship (all RCI ships now feature rock climbing walls). Another of her 'firsts' was the Royal Promenade which, as the name suggests, replicates a street with shops and dining venues.

Voyager also boasts 15 decks, 10 pools and whirlpools, 16 bars, clubs and lounges, and many dining options (my favourite snippet of information was finding out there was a Ben & Jerry's ice-creamery and a Johnny Rockets 1950s-style diner on board!).


STATS

Class & type: Voyager class cruise ship
Gross Tonnage: 138,000
Length: 310.8 m (1,020 ft)
Max Beam: 48 m (157.5 ft)
Height (to top of funnel): 63 m (207 ft)
Draft: 8.8 m (29 ft)
Decks: 15
Installed power: 6 × Wärtsilä 12V46 (6 × 12,600 kW)
Propulsion: Diesel-electric
Two ABB Azipods and one Fixipod
Four bow thrusters
Cruising Speed: 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph)
Capacity: 3,138 passengers
Crew: 1,181 crew

Voyager class ships also have four Brown Brothers Stabiliser Fins that protrude from beneath the waterline during rough seas to help keen the motion/rolling of the ship to a minimum.

More facts and figures on Voyager of the Seas can be found HERE.

In November 2014, Voyager of the Seas underwent an $80 million revitalisation. Before and after photos of the revitalisation are linked to at the end of this post.
The ABB Azipods and Fixipod propel Voyager of the Seas across the Indian Ocean.
The ABB Azipods turn 90 degrees and manoeuvre the ship into position in Bangkok
(that's silt being thrown up from the bottom of the harbour).




YOUTUBE CLIP


My video is in the top half dozen Voyager of the Seas videos on YouTube!

To see what this spectacular ship has to offer, and why my video is so popular, please click HERE 



GRAND SUITE

As mentioned, I had a Grand Suite. These are 32.5 m/sq  (350 ft/sq) with a 9.2 m/sq (100 ft/sq) private balcony. In comparison, Deluxe Balcony Staterooms, which I stayed in on Radiance of the Seas, are 16.6 m/sq (179 ft/sq) and their balcony's are 3.8 m/sq (41 ft/sq).

Grand Suites have two twin beds, which can convert into one queen-size bed, a large sitting area (some with sofa bed), balcony and concierge service. Also included is a minibar, flat screen TV (TV guide in Entertainment section of post), stereo, DVD player*, binoculars, larger private bathroom with bathtub and double sink, vanity area, hair-dryer, phone, vanity table with an extendable working surface for laptops and 110/220 electrical outlets. They sleep up to four people and can accommodate a rollaway bed and/or Play Yard.

If you are booked into a suite (excluding Junior Suites), you are afforded other amenities and personalised services, which are discussed in the 'Cruising as a suite guest' section towards the end of this post.

*My suite didn't have a DVD player. A replacement couldn't be found, so they gave me free access to the paid movie list


This looked like it should have been the kitchen area but was, in fact, the wardrobe/dressing area (hence all the mirrors).
Drawers for socks/undies etc.
The (heavy) curtain was hidden in a wall cavity to the left and could be glided across to divide the room e.g.
in case someone wanted to sleep while others wanted to chat or watch TV.
The balcony.
It took a few days for me to discover that pulling the curtains back afforded me both a spectacular view and tons of natural light.


I realise not everyone will be splashing out on a Grand Suite, so here's a look at one of the Deluxe Balcony Staterooms on Voyager of the Seas (thanks to Cathy and Andrew for letting me photograph their room halfway through the cruise - how did they keep it so tidy? I photographed the suite the moment I arrived on Day 1 because I knew how it would end up!)


The balcony was very wide!


THE ROYAL PROMENADE

The Royal Promenade is the centrepoint of Voyager of the Seas and was one of the talking points when it was launched in 1999, as nothing had ever like it had been attempted on the high seas before.

In short, it is a street, located on Deck 5, that runs around 100 metres (330 feet) and is several decks high (with many inside rooms overlooking it). Lining the Royal Promenade are the ship's shops and many bars and eateries. At either end of the Royal Promenade are centrums stretching seven decks (according to RCI - but they seemed to cover more decks than this). The centrums also house the ship's lifts, several of which are glass and afford passengers a great view of the Royal Promenade as they are whisked away to their chosen floor.



The centrum at the fore end of the Royal Promenade.
The centrum at the aft end of the Royal Promenade.


SEA PASS AND GRATUITIES

You are given your sea pass when you check in at the port before boarding. Once on board, your sea pass acts as your room key and wallet (ship currency will vary depending where you're cruise from). Initially it feels odd leaving your room without your wallet and keys but this is something you get used to and begin to wish it was like this 'at home'.

Bring a lanyard if you have one, or buy one when you get on board (as I did in 2011 for $4.95), then get the guest services desk to punch a hole your seapass, attach it to the lanyard and wear it around your neck. Don't worry about feeling self-conscious, as everyone does this - you'll fit right in. This works well as things i.e. seapasses, have a habit of falling out of pockets and wallets, especially if you've partaken of one of the 15 bars, clubs and lounges! I re-used my Royal Caribbean lanyards from Radiance of the Seas and the end of the RCI lanyards can be unclipped, so you can hand over your seapass if, for example, you are buying something.

I am going to try and make this as un-confusing as possible...

If you are a Gold, Patinimum, or Diamond member you get a Sea Pass that makes your status easily recognised. Suite guests get some added benefits for paying to be in a suite and, to make them easily identifiable, they get a Sea Pass that is coloured gold (see photo below). I just so happened to also be a Gold Member - hence 'GOLD MEMBER' is written on the card - but this isn't why I got a gold Sea Pass (see the 'Travelling as a Suite Guest' section in this post for more info). Children's Sea Passes are punched with star-shaped holes to make them easily recognisable and, if you buy the soda package, you will also get a sticker placed on your Sea Pass so the bartenders won't charge you.

While I am talking about being Gold Members, I received a booklet of vouchers for specials around the ship (each suite guest receives a booklet), including 10% off Day Spa treatments, buy one/get one free drink (beer/wine/soda), 25% off specialty coffee, buy one/get one half price photo, 10% off internet, buy one/get one free shake at Johnny Rockets.

Whatever you accumulate on your Sea Pass can either be charged to your credit card (card details given when you check in) or paid off with cash (US dollars). If you choose the cash option, you must put around $300 on the card before you can use it. When you run out it is then up to you to top up the card. If you choose to have your Sea Pass linked to a credit card, you can decide to pay it off in cash but must do so the day before disembarkation. Your itemised account is left at your cabin the morning of disembarkation and Sea Passes linked to credit cards can still be used if need be (very little is open the day you disembark) and charged after you leave the ship.

When it comes to gratuities, you can either pre-pay with your fare or you can pay a sum at the end of the cruise calculated on guidelines recommended by Royal Caribbean. You can also pay 'additionl' gratuities as you go if you think the service warrants it. I always pre-pay and like the fact it is taken care of and I don't have to worry about it (I still gave my suite attendant a little 'thank you').


FOOD/DINING (what's included in your fare and what's not)

One of the great joys about cruising is the food. So much so that I'm sure a large section of the diet industry runs on people returning from cruises who have spent their time on board saying, "Maybe just one more pastry..." or "Hey, I'm on holidays...".

Contrary to what some (non-cruisers) think, not all food on board is free. Well, on the majority of cruises, anyway. And Voyager of the Seas is no different. There is plenty of good food on offer as part of your fare but you have to reach for the Sea Pass for a few items. Luckily, those things you have to pay for are reasonably priced (in some cases, fantastically so!).
Breakfast with a view.

What's included in your fare?

Windjammer Café/Island Grill (Deck 11)

These are primarily one and the same and are the buffet (all RCI ships have a Windjammer Café). Unlike some buffets, this one isn't open 24/7. Its hours are:

Breakfast: 6 - 10.30am
Example of items on offer: cereals, yoghurt, fresh fruit, fruit in juice, eggs (various ways), bacon, sausages, cold meats, cheese/s, breads, jams, pastries, pancakes/waffles, juices...and more.

Lunch: 11.30am - 3pm
Example of items on offer: pasta salad (and other salads), fried rice with pork and shrimp, make your own burger, cauliflower bake, cold roast chicken, sushi, cold meats and cheese, pizza slices, pasta and sauces, roast of the day, cooked vegetables, bread/rolls, fresh fruit, selection of sweet desserts...and more.

Snacks: 3 - 4.30pm

Dinner: 6 - 9pm
Example of items on offer: salads (including this belter - bocconcini and cherry tomatoes in pesto dressing), chicken marsala, eggplant and tomato bake, ratatouille, pizza slices, roast of the day, bread/rolls, cold meats and cheese (often sushi), fresh fruit, selection of desserts...and more.

I liked the food in Windjammer and it was a regular for breakfast and lunch, especially. The first couple of days I wasn't so sure but I think that might have been because they were using up the surplus from their previous season, which had finished the cruise before and had been Asia-based - with far different dietary requirements (please note that this is pure speculation). Once we'd stopped at Thailand a couple of days in, Windjammer was back on song.

I found the food to always be fresh and varied. One of my favourites, as mentioned above, was the bocconcini and cherry tomatoes in pesto dressing salad I had one lunch. It was sensational. I told myself that, having put on 6-7kg (13-15lb) on my Radiance of the Seas cruise, I was going to be good and refrain from having pastries as part of my breakfast...that didn't last one morning! Their fruit was always plentiful and fresh - amazing considering we're in the middle of the ocean - and, while I didn't try everything, it all looked good and what I tasted was good, too. There was always a good variation to cater for all tastes - even things like having a selection of cold meats and cheeses on offer at every meal.

Okay, if I'm going to be a little picky, the scrambled eggs and breakfast sausages could be a little bit 'hit and miss'. The sausages were small and sometimes lacked taste, especially the turkey ones.

* For the lovers of soft-serve ice cream, there is one machine in Windjammer and one just outside Windjammer as you head onto the pool deck.


Scattered around the ship, and especially in dining/food areas, are these. When you place your hand under the Purell container an antiseptic fluid is automatically squirted onto your hand. The reason they are there is for hygiene purposes and to help prevent the possibility of things such as a norovirus outbreak. Read more about norovirus HERE.


I hate to compare ships but I loved the Windjammer set up on Radiance of the Seas, where several islands were set up around Windjammer, which meant you could walk around and help yourself, rather than queue up like a cafeteria. While queues weren't encouraged on Voyager, the food was presented in such a way that there seemed to be a natural inclination to get your plate and cutlery and work your way along what was on offer. The photo below was taken during a quiet spell but the inclination to queue was especially the case during the meal rush times.
The inclination was to get your plate and cutlery when you walked in (far and of the photo),
then make your way along the food on offer.
The Island Grill at the very back (stern) of Deck 11.

I couldn't figure out what the difference was between Windjammer Café and the Island Grill. They were both buffets and both shared what appeared to be the same food. Island Grill is located at the very back of the ship and you have to walk through Windjammer, located on both the port and starboard sides, to get to the Island Grill. Mind you, this sometimes worked to my advantage and I walked straight through to the Island Grill and avoided any crowds that had collected their plate and cutlery and started queuing at Windjammer.
Some of the hot breakfast fare on display.
It's not all about calories - some of the array of fresh fruit on offer.
And if you feel like rewarding yourself for whatever reason...
An amazing-looking egg curry on offer one lunch time.
Pastries - my breakfast weakness.
"What will I have next...?"


Main Dining Room

Every cruise ship has a main dining room. It's a tradition. And all meals in this dining room are included.

The main dining room on Voyager of the Seas is spectacular and located on three decks, with a magnificent chandelier hanging in the middle of the atrium space. You almost feel the need to get a bit dressed up when going to dinner there. It seats over 1900 people and, while the dining room has the appearance of being one big restaurant, each deck is run as a separate entity all serving the same menu.

Music is the theme of the dining room and each dining room has an operatic name - Carmen (Deck 3), La Bohème (Deck 4) and Magic Flute (Deck 5).

The dining room is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (dinner is when they really turn it on!).

Breakfast is served from 7.30am - 9.30am and is only served in Carmen.
Lunch is served in Carmen from noon - 1.30pm only on 'at sea' days.
Dinner - main seating 6pm, second seating 8.30pm.

My Time Dining (see below) is from 5.45pm - 9.30pm.

Seating - You choose a set time to have dinner each night and are assigned that table for the cruise.
My Time Dining - You ring each day and book a time for your dinner. Or, if you want to eat at one of the other restaurants, don't ring and book. My Time is more about flexibility.

Reservations for dinner are encouraged, although you can arrive without a booking (no reservations are required for breakfast or lunch).
Dress Code for the main dining room: bare feet and tank tops are not permitted for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Nice shirts and shorts are acceptable for men but smart casual is more appropriate for dinner.

The selection was far reaching and every time I ate there. Once again, think 'we are in the middle of the ocean and they are serving well over 1,000 people at each sitting'.

Items on the menu included:

Dinner

Starters:
Prawn Ceviche - Sliced prawns in a cilantra-lemon marinade with carrots, orange segments and crunchy fennel.
Grilled Goat Cheese Polenta - Creamy polenta grilled until golden brown and served with a tomato and white bean tapenade.

Main:
Pappardelle and Fresh Peas - Al dente pasta and sweet peas tossed in creamy sauce and topped with fried prosciutto.
"Not So Traditional" Sunday Roast Lamb - Tender lamb with roasted potatoes, a grilled vegatable tower and rosemary gravy.

Dessert:
Coconut Iced Parfait - Coconut ice cream layered with rich whipped cream and served with mango sauce.
Hazelnut Souffle - Airy egg white and hazelnut pastry cream served with Frangelico sauce.

Lunch
Fennel Roasted Pork Salad - arugula and frisee lettuce, shaved fennel carrots, red pepper julienne, drizzled with a Dijon mustard-honey vinaigrette.
Fish Enchilada - marinated with lime juice and cilantro and served in a crispy tortilla with guacamole, sour cream and salsa.

Sweet Endings
Praline Chocolate Crunch - almost biscuit, hazelnut ganache, Rice Krispies and chocolate mousse.
Caramalised banana mille feuille with pecan ice cream.

Breakfast
Very much a smaller version of what is available in Windjammer/Island Grill. Some of what was on offer included:

Juices/tea/coffee
Selection of pastries
Cereals (hot and cold)
Yoghurts
Pancakes/French Toast

Kippered Herring - capers, onions and boiled potatoes)
Smoked Salmon plate - served with cream cheese and traditional garnishes)

Eggs prepared to order and served with hash browns, toast and your choice of hickory smoked bacon, sausage links, turkey sausage or corned beef hash.
Omelettes - served with hash browns, toast prepared plain or with your choice of ham, cheese, smoked salmon, herbs or mushrooms.

I dined in the main dining room on several occasions. The food was always good and I liked the options. Even though I've now cruised several times and no longer consider myself a 'newbie', I still looked at the menu on occasions and asked myself, "How do they do that in the middle of the ocean?" And the menu changes every day!

Dinner is when the main dining room really turns it on and lunch and breakfast are far more subdued in comparison. Even the menus are slightly smaller, but the quality is still there. The only time I wasn't too impressed with what I had was when I ordered Spanish omelettes for breakfast and they arrived on their own on a plate, with no garnish or anything, and they were a bit rubbery.


Café Promenade

This was the only 24-hour eatery on the ship (not including room service) and is located on the Royal Promenade. It offers 'light/snack' food - small rolls/sandwiches and pastries/pieces of cake - and isn't the sort of place where you'd say "Let's get dressed up and go to Café Promenade for dinner...". I didn't try any of the cakes on offer but the rolls were fresh and delicious.

They also do pizza by the slice and, despite pizza being available at other locations, I found their pizza to be delicious!

Café Promenade also makes/serves non-filtered coffee (expect lengthy queues) and houses the Ben & Jerry's stand, both of which you have to pay for and aren't open 24 hours (I'll talk about these later).

(The rolls/sandwiches come out around 11am)


Lunch BBQ by the pool

Weather-permitting, a BBQ was set up on the pool deck on 'at sea' days. These proved popular and were always well attended, especially by those who had taken up residence by the pool.

The menu was your typical, basic BBQ fare - steak, sausages, chicken, large baked potatoes, salads and bread rolls.

How could you go wrong with BBQ? It was standard fare but fresh and delicious.


Room service ($3.95 delivery fee between midnight and 5am)

Like a hotel/motel, your stateroom or suite has a breakfast menu you can fill out and hang on your door knob, to be collected and then delivered at the time chosen by you (anywhere between 6.30am - 10am).

Some of what was on offer included:

Juices/tea/coffee
Cereals
Fruit selection
Eggs/bacon/hash browns/sausage/baked tomato
Toast/pastries

The 'other' (daytime/evening) room service menu is basic but does the job. There are a couple of healthy options, but think more along the lines of 'comfort food'.

Some of what was on offer included:

Soup of the day
Caesar salad
Turkey and Swiss cheese panini
Fried honey-stung chicken
Beef burger
Pepperoni pizza
Chocolate and pear tart
Raspberry cheesecake

Suite guests are also able to choose from the dining room menu for that day and I took advantage of this on a couple of occasions. I also ordered from the standard menu (sometimes all you want is a burger and fries) and every time the food was great. In fact, I was quite surprised how hot/cold the food remained by the time it arrived. Some days/nights, for whatever reason, you just want to stay in your room and vege out, so having free room service is a great incentive to do so!

* I was having friends over for some 'cheese and wine' on the balcony one afternoon and tried to order a bottle of champagne at 4.30pm. I was told that I couldn't because the restaurant wasn't open and they couldn't get into the cellar fridge, and that I could try again after 5.30pm when the 'cellar person' would be there. I ordered a bottle of white and red wine - this was despite the fact that champagne was on the in-stateroom wine service, which you could order through the TV (I didn't know how long this took and didn't enquire). I ended up going to the concierge and they sent up a bottle from their collection. It seemed odd that you could only order champagne when the restaurant cellar was open. What if you wanted to celebrate something at noon? Room service did ring back 45 minutes later and say a bottle had been found but the concierge bottle had already arrived.
Breakfast on the balcony one morning. The only down side was it was an extremely hot/humid morning - we were
around Thailand/Vietnam - and I had to wolf it all down before it went tepid.


What's not included in your fare?

Several dining options aren't included in your fare. While you have to pay for these, I think the pricing and value for money is so reasonable that you barely notice it.

Portofino

The main alternative dining option on Voyager of the Seas is Portofino Italian restaurant (open only for dinner). Portofino appears on several RCI ships and the $20 per person cover charge - drinks not included - is fantastic value. Portofino on Voyager is located next to Windjammer Café (Deck 11) on the starboard side.
We were in port in Bangkok the first night I ate there, hence the lights outside
the window - normally it's just the moonlight on the ocean.

I roughly worked out that, for similar value in a restaurant 'on land', you would probably pay around $100pp. Bookings are essential and can be made online before you leave. I ate there twice and the first time, made for my third night onboard, was done online. I made a second booking for seven people during the second week onboard and were lucky to get in, as word had spread (as a quick aside, I was surprised that, for such a large ship, there weren't many alternative dining options - I will discuss this at the end of the post).

Your night at Portofino will go something like this...

You are seated and a selection of breads are delivered to your table, along with some accompaniments and olive oil/balsamic vinegar for dipping.
Breads, accompaniments, olive oil/balsamic vinegar and a
glass of wine each to get us started. 

Then, you order...

The two times I dined at Portofino I ordered:

Starter - 
Risotto ai Gambaretti (sauteed prawns atop a creamy, saffron-scented Arborio rice and a garnish of fried onions)
Minestrone alla Genovese (traditional - clear - Genoa-style minestrone)

Mains -
Filetto di Manzo (North American beef tenderloin, grilled radicchio, broccolini, baby carrots and re wine-thyme sauce)
Saltimbocca alla Romana (thinly sliced veal wrapped with fresh sage and prosciutto, pan-fried with porcini mushroon risotto and Marsala jus)

As for dessert, I went the extra yard both times and, after having been so impressed with the 'Tartufo al Cioccolato (layers of chocolate mousse and brandied cherries)' on my first visit, I repeated the performance on the second visit (if you're a chocolate fan, this was made for you!).

Both meals were great. However, the second time we ate there, a couple of the others at the table said their minestrone wasn't hot.

The full Portofino menu can be read HERE.
Spiedino di Mare.
Tartufo al Cioccolato.

Johnny Rockets (Deck 12, stern)

If the 1950s diner/burgers/fries/onion rings/shakes/sodas thing is right up your alley, then Johnny Rockets is for you. You pay a $4.95pp cover charge (drinks not included) and that's it - you can then order as much as you want, if you're up to it.

Everything about Johnny Rockets is fun and positive. When you first walk in, you are greeted by one of the staff shouting out "Everyone say Hi..." and the diners duly oblige. Then, when you leave, one of the staff shouts out "Everyone say Bye..." and, of course, the diners oblige.

Music from the era is the order of the day and every 10 minutes or so the staff line up along the diners' side of the counter and dance to a song. Diners are more than welcome to join in!

Opening hours: 11.30am - 11.30pm.

Johnny Rockets is what it is - a burger joint that serves burgers and all the trimmings. The food is fine and does its job, but it's more the experience that really makes Johnny Rockets.

The Johnny Rockets menu on Voyager can be seen HERE (it isn't as extensive as the one offered in their land restaurants).
Shake your tail-feather! The staff dance up a storm every 10 minutes or so.
(I wondered if they practise in leotards as a group in front of a mirror somewhere)
There's even booths outside (that's the diner on the right)
Fries and onion rings are deposited in front of you not long after sitting down.
Standard fare - burger and soda.
The mini-juke boxes in the booths are for show. As for the shake, think 'thickshake' rather than milkshake (and delicious!)
I'm not sure what this bloke is looking out for but he can be
found at the far end of Johnny Rockets.

Lastly, I hate to burst your bubble but, if you're concerned about calories, the Johnny Rockets nutritional guide i.e. calorie counter, can be seen HERE.


Ben & Jerry's

These two blokes are relatively new to Australia but are slowly making inroads. On my last trip to the USA in 2009 (my 'pre-cruise' era), I had Ben & Jerry's in Santa Monica. This was my first Ben & Jerry's experience and I was hooked. Not surprisingly, I was excited when I found out there was going to be a Ben & Jerry's stand/stall onboard Voyager of the Seas.

By the way, Ben & Jerry's make ice cream. And they do it very well!
Two scoops - Phish Food and Cherry Garcia (one of their all-time favourites...and now I know why!).


The Ben & Jerry's stand/stall is located in the Café Promenade on the Royal Promenade. While Café Promenade is open 24 hours, the Ben & Jerry's part is open from 7.30am - 2am.

I couldn't find what Ben & Jerry's prices were on land but the prices onboard were as follows:

Small cup or cone - $3
(Freshly baked waffle cone - $3.75)

Medium cup or cone - $3.75
(Freshly baked waffle cone - $4.50)

Large cup or cone - $4.50
(Freshly baked waffle cone - $5.50)

All shakes - $5.25
Ice cream sodas and floats - $4.25

Like Johnny Rockets, the full Ben & Jerry's menu isn't available (there are over 50 flavours all up). Some of those on offer included:

Butter Pecan - Rich Buttery Ice Cream with Roasted Pecans
Cherry Garcia - Cherry Ice Cream with Cherries & Fudge Flakes
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough - Vanilla Ice Cream with Gobs of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
Mint Chocolate Chunk - Mint Ice Cream with Fudge Chunks
Chunky Monkey - Banana Ice Cream with Fudge Chunks & Walnuts
Phish Food - Chocolate Ice Cream with Gooey Marshmallow Swirls, Caramel Swirls & Fudge Fish
Vanilla Fudge Chip - Vanilla ice cream, sweetened with Splenda Brand Sweetener, with fudge chips
Half Baked - Vanilla Ice Cream Bar with Cookie Dough & Brownie Pieces dipped in Milk Chocolate

I've spoken about the other dining venues and given a brief run down on what I thought. What can I say here? Ben & Jerry's serves ice cream...look at the flavours above and write your own review :)
Yes please!


* Considering the size of Voyager, I was surprised at the few dining options available. What was on offer was great but Portofino was the only specialty restaurant and was booked out once word got around. Johnny Rockets was a ton of fun but was more the exception than the norm when it came to dining and Café Promenade was 'snack' as opposed to 'dinner'. Voyager is due to get the Royal Caribbean Advantage (refurbishment) in 2014 and this will see many more dining options become available. I noted quite a bit of space around the ship that was under-used and could easily accommodate a few new restaurants.



DRINKS, BARS AND LOUNGES

This is how cruises make most of their money, so it's rare that you have to take more than a few steps (okay, a bit of an exaggeration...maybe) to find a bar or a lounge. And there's quite a few scattered around the ship.

However, before I get to the photos of the 'watering holes', you can order pre-paid drinks packages. These include wine, water and soda.

Water packages:
8 x 1-litre bottles - $36.40
12 x 1-litre bottles - $54.60
16 x 1-litre bottles - $72.80
24 x 1-litre bottles for $109.20

There was also a Minute Maid juice package on offer when I boarded. These were for 450ml (15.2oz) bottles as follows:
6 - $23.20
8 - $29.10
12 - $40.95

The only soda and wine package prices I could find were in Australian Dollars but the US/Aussie dollar is close to parity (as of November 2012), so these are roughly the same for $US.

Soda 'package' - total cost for our 14-night cruise:

Adult: $99.75 ($7.12/day)
Child: $69.83 ($4.99/day)

Wine packages - Gold, Platinum and Diamond define the quality of the wines you purchase.

Gold
5 bottles - $147.25
7 bottles - $194.75
10 bottles - $266.95
12 bottles - $299.25

Platinum
5 bottles - $156.75
7 bottles - $213.75
10 bottles - $289.75
12 bottles - $327.75

Diamond
5 bottles - $194.75
7 bottles - 261.25
10 bottles - $361.00
12 bottles - $432.25

A sample wine package menu can be seen HERE.

There are continuing specials offered on these packages throughout the cruise.


***DRINKS PACKAGES UPDATE***

Royal Caribbean announced an array of new drinks packages, including two new packages, in late 2013. The new drinks packages can also be seen on the RCI blog.



The other big change is that the unlimited alcohol package can be purchased by any eligible guest in a stateroom. Previously, all eligible guests in a stateroom had to purchase a package.

NOTE - all drinks packages include gratuity.

(Image courtesy of Royal Caribbean)


Drinks prices are roughly the same across the board and, surprisingly, I found it cheaper to drink cocktails than wine or beer. And it's not like any shenanigans happen behind the bar - they're all poured straight from the bottle right in front of you. And, Aussie readers, bar staff on RCI ships 'free pour' nips, so you often get more bang for your buck.

The following prices were taken across Voyager and may vary according to the bar/lounge. Use them as a guide...

Cocktails: $6.50 - $10.50
Beers (bottle): $4.95 - $8
Beer by the pint: $6.50
Beer cocktails (Pig'n'Whistle): $4.75 - $9.45
Wine by the glass: $10 - $11

There was also a 'drink of the day' (cocktail) that was $6.75, and you got to keep the glass.

If you're in a restaurant, wine by the bottle starts at around $30 and goes up to...(I didn't see how high they went).



There are 16 bars and lounges. Four of them were designated smoking areas -

19th Hole
Casino Bar
Sky Bar
The Vault

NOTE - this appeared on the RCI Facebook page on November 22, 2012...

As of November 5, 2012, when Voyager of the Seas embarked on its first Australian cruise, the Royal Caribbean smoking policy onboard the ship changed to reflect the smoking regulations of Australia. In essence, this involves strictly no smoking being permitted inside the ship. Smoking is only permitted in designated outdoor areas. Prior to this time, Voyager of the Seas was based in Asia and the smoking areas onboard reflected the local customs of our Asian destinations.

Further to this, there are designated smoking areas outside on Deck 4.


Below are all of the bars and lounges, in no particular order...
The Scoreboard sports bar, complete with its own Morgan convertible, located on the Royal Promenade, open 11am til late. 
The Scoreboard sports bar.
Studio B, located on Deck 3 (open 30 minutes before event).
The 19th Hole, located on Deck 14, open 5pm - 1am (smoking bar).
The 19th Hole 'golf ball' bar stools. 
Casino Royale (Deck 4), 9am til late. This is a smoking area, except for formal nights, when it is smoking free.
Cleopatra's Needle (Deck 5), open 30 minutes before events.
High Notes (Deck 14), open 11am til late.
The Pig & Whistle (English Pub) located on the Royal Promenade, open 10am til late.
The Pig & Whistle (English Pub).
The Pig & Whistle (English Pub).
The Vault nightclub, located on Deck 3, open 10pm til late (smoking area).
Café Promenade, located on the Royal Promenade.
Food is available 24 hours but you can only get a drink from 7am - 2am.
La Scala Theatre located on Decks 3 & 4, open 30 minutes before events.
The Aquarium Bar, located on Deck 4, open 11am til late.
The Solarium (adult only area), located on Deck 11, open 11am - 7pm.
Schooner Bar (a regular on all RCI ships), located on Deck 4, open 11am til late.
The Sky Bar (top - smoking area) located on Deck 12, open 10am - 8pm.
The Pool Bar, located on Deck 11, open 9am - 8pm.
The Champagne Bar, located on Deck 5, open 1pm - 1am.



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ENTERTAINMENT, RELAXATION AND R'N'R

Whether it be group activities or something smaller, there is always something to do onboard a cruise ship and Voyager of the Seas is no different. On any given day (at sea, that is...it's a bit quieter when in port) there can be over 70 activities to choose from, including such things as a table tennis tournament, scrapbooking workshop, ballroom dancing class, bingo, karaoke, or catching a movie - an example of a list of daily events can be seen in the 'Onboard Newsletter and Information' section of this post. Alternatively you can take your book and find a quiet corner, or relax in your room and order room service while watching TV (my choice if I inadvertently have a few too many 'lemonades' in one of the bars the night before).

Space is of a premium on all cruise ships and venues that are designed for one thing will quite often double as something else when not in use for their primary purpose e.g. 8.45am Early Bird Sudoku Challenge in the Pig & Whistle pub (which opens for business as a pub at 10am).

I didn't get to every event on the daily calendar but here are the venues (no particular order) and some of the activities that you can expect to see...
First and foremost, there is the pool deck. Every cruise ship has one and it's always one of the main focal points of cruising.
Voyager of the Seas also has the Royal Promenade (Deck 5) as one of its main focal points.
Here, performers and characters entertain the crowd during the Dreamworks Parade early one evening.
The Dreamworks Parade once again - this time Alex the Lion from the Madagascar animated
movie series sends the (young) crowd wild.
Line dancing lessons on the Pool Deck. 
The 'Peek-a-boo' Bridge, on Deck 11, where you can look into the actual bridge of the ship and see what's going on.
What you might see from the Peek-a-boo Bridge.

*     *     *     *     *


If you like the photography in my blogs, it's because I am a professional photographer. My photos don't merely show something, they tell a story. And visual stories i.e. photos, are more interesting than pictures that merely show something. 

If you'd like to know how to turn your images into visual stories, I've published a book that takes a whole new slant on photography and 'translates' the art of taking photos into a language we all understand.

To read more about my book and see some of its 100+ visual examples, please click HERE.

***I use all the tips and hints from my book in every photo I take, including those in Travel With Giulio.


*     *     *     *     *


Cleopatra's Needle - home to things like bingo, adult karaoke and afternoon trivia (plus a whole lot more).
Permission to cross the equator is always sought from King Neptune. 
A pollywog (someone crossing the equator for the first time) is tended to by the mad doctor.
The pollywog in this instance was one of the ship's officers
(the red 'stuff' is meant to be the pollywog's innards - don't worry, was only spaghetti).
The pollywog is then cleansed i.e. thrown into the pool, by two of King Neptune's assistants.
Deck chairs are everywhere. These are on the promenade deck (Deck 4).
Not to be mistaken with the Royal Promenade, nearly all cruise ships have a
promenade deck that enables you to walk around the outside of the ship.
Deck 4 again, and this passenger has gone all out to get the best view and relaxing position using one of the 'upright' chairs.
Studio B on Deck 3 - the first ice rink on the high seas.
This is from the Ice Odyssey show, which was quite spectacular, considering the size of the ice rink.
Luckily the seas were flat the entire cruise (except the last day at sea) and it all ran smoothly.
The lighting, costumes and choreography were all fabulous.
When not being used as an ice rink, a floor can be moved across the ice and Studio B is transformed into a dance venue.
We were at sea for Halloween.
The Royal Promenade is transformed into a party venue on Halloween night.
Many of the passengers got into the Halloween spirit of things along the Royal Promenade.
One passenger relaxes on a deck chair on the pool deck.
La Scala Theatre (seats 1,350) on Decks 3 & 4 - a spectacular venue with a new show every night, such as...
Broadway Rythm and Rhyme.
La Scala was also used to accommodate large audiences for 3D movie viewings - this one being 'Men in Black 3'.
Here's the 'Captain's Corner' Q&A session in La Scala, with Captain Charles and other ship's officers.
The ship's viewing room i.e. cinema, a 58-seat venue on Deck 2.
If quiet contemplation, or something more spiritual, is what you're after, there's the Skylight Chapel
on the highest point of the ship - Deck 15. 
Artwork is everywhere - hanging in the stairwells...
...and filling the corridors (there was a recurring Egyptian theme in the corridor artwork).
Voyager had its own 'artist on board' - Australian artist, Donald Waters - seen here painting
in the Royal Promenade late one evening. His works were for sale and, by all reports, quite a few sold.
As well as painting, Donald was involved in Q&A sessions and 'meet and greets'.
The photo and art gallery (Deck 3) is somewhere you can spend time perusing many wonderful works.
There are a number of spa pools on the pool deck but this one is a little out of the way, next to the fitness centre (Deck 11).
There are also steam rooms and saunas in the fitness centre that are available for use.
The video arcade on Deck 12.
Gordon, our cruise director, addresses the Cruise Critic meet and mingle in High Notes (Deck 14).
While I am on the subject of 'meet and mingles', Captain Charles addresses the Crown and Anchor Society welcome back party, held in Studio B (the floor was put across the ice rink). 
The welcome back party is for those passengers who have cruised with RCI before.
Like airmiles, if you join Crown and Anchor Society, you receive points every time you cruise with RCI. There are varying levels, according to your point level - Gold, Platinum, Emerald, Diamond and Diamond Plus. One couple, who had the the most points, received a bottle of champagne from the captain. You receive one point for every night you cruise, and double points if you are in a suite, and the couple who received the champagne had accumulated 350+ points!
Sports fan? There's the Scoreboard sports bar on the Royal Promenade. If you're an insomniac, as I was some nights, and you find yourself wandering the ship in the wee hours of the morning, the TVs still show sport when the bar is closed.
The Cupcake Cupboard (Deck 11).
The library is located on two levels (Decks 7 & 8), with internal staircase behind the painting at left and plenty of
good reading chairs. Books can be taken out for the duration of the cruise and there is a book exchange.
I didn't check out all the titles but there was a sizeable amount of books.
Just outside the library is a lovely sitting/reading/viewing area overlooking the length of the Royal Promenade.

Speaking of reading, will you be looking for a good book to read on your next cruise? If so, then how about one - or more - of my three books? Have a look and see which you might like.
There's always fun to be had on the pool deck - this time the characters from Madagascar entertain the crowds.
The Vault nightclub, which can be accessed via on Deck 3 (main entry) and next to the Schooner Bar on Deck 4
(that green thing in the background is an internal staircase). 
The Vault opens at 10pm and parties til the wee hours.
The Vault isn't the only place where you can kick up your heels - High Notes (Deck 14) has 'social dancing'.  
'Jewels' under the floor as you enter Casino Royale.
Casino Royale on Deck 4, open from 9am til around 2am.
When the ship is in port the casino is closed. Even when we got close to the Australian mainland during a
medical emergency at sea (photo later in post), the casino closed until we were far enough out to sea again.
If the tables aren't your thing, then there's plenty of pokies/slot machines to keep you going.
There is an entrance to Casino Royale on the Royal Promenade, directly opposite
the Pig & Whistle pub...tempting!
The Solarium 'adults only' area. It even has its own bar. You need to get there early or you might miss out on a deck chair.
70s disco night, which started in the Royal Promenade and samba-lined its way into The Vault.
It wasn't in the list of 'things to do' but passengers in High Notes (Deck 14) watch a squall pass down
the starboard side of the ship.
Seven Hearts games room on Deck 14. Very popular - probably due to the spectacular views!
I had to include this somewhere and this seemed as good a place as anywhere (the view is relaxing).
This is possibly the ultimate 'loo with a view' (for blokes, anyway).


TV GUIDE

Alternatively, if you're wanting have some quiet time, then you can relax in your room and flick on the flatscreen TV you will find in every stateroom/suite.

I boarded in Singapore, so the satellite channels reflected this somewhat. However, many of the TV channels were English-language. There were quite a few movie channels available but, being in the middle of the ocean meant little/no satellite reception and the movies were on a high rotation basis. 

For much of the duration of my time on board, the following channels were available - 

14 - RCI TV (Gordon, our cruise director, hosted most of the shows, which were repeated during the day)
15 - Shore excursion information
16 - CBS
17 - CNN
18 - BBC World
19 - ESPN
21 - Movies
22 - Dreamworks movies (animated)
23 - Lotus Macau (English language movies with subtitles)
24 - Chinese financial news
25 - Chinese news
26 - MTV China
27 - RCTV (RCI news etc)
28 - CNBC news and stock markets
29 - NHK World TV
30 - Adventure Ocean TV (teen movies, mainly)
31 - Channel guide
32 - Movies (classics e.g. Gone With the Wind)
33 - Boomerang
34 - Movies (many classics also e.g. Singing in the Rain)
36 - Korean entertainment
37 - Australia Network
38 - KBS World (Korean)
39 - Cruise Compass (information)
40 - Voyage map and ship camera on bow
41 - The Style Network
42 - XY music videos

As we neared Australia, some of the channels changed and we picked up Fox8, Fox Sports News, SKY News, Arena, Biography, E-Channel and the Comedy Channel.

Your TV is also interactive and you an access things such as your onboard account, pay-per-view movies, order room service, order shore excursions, in-room shopping, and other guest information.


EXERCISE OPTIONS

There's plenty of options when it comes to working out, especially if you've been having one too many desserts with dinner, lunch...even breakfast! The beauty with many of these is that they involve being outdoors with plenty of wind in through the hair and 360 degree views of the ocean - incentive enough to get 'out and about'.

Some of these could have easily appeared in the Entertainment, Relaxation and R'n'R section, but I thought I'd give them a run (so to speak) here.
RCI was the first cruise line to introduce climbing walls to their ships and now each ship in the fleet has one.
There was a regular parade of people lapping the ship on the promenade deck (Deck 4).
One lap equalled roughly 600-650 metres (650-700 yards) and a good walking pace will
see you do around eight laps of the ship over an hour. A more leisurely pace - around five to six laps.
Voyager Dunes 9-hole mini golf course, Deck 14.
It's not quite 18 holes at your local course, but you often had to battle against the wind - surely a workout in itself.
Plus it was all the way up on Deck 14 at the stern of the ship, so it involved a decent walk getting to and from it. 
The jogging/walking track (Deck 12), especially busy in the morning.
I stuck to Deck 4 so, from memory, five laps of the jogging/walking track equalled 1.6km (one mile).
Some walk, some relax.
One walker enjoys an early morning walk on the track.
Shuffleboard - an old favourite - is still played.
The pools are nice and quiet early in the morning - good for a few laps.
Heading indoors for a moment - Voyager of the Seas is famous for being the first cruise ship to
have an ice skating rnk onboard. Here skaters make their way around Studio B, located on Deck 3. 
The Voyager Fitness Centre on Deck 11. This is a truly impressive set up.
The Voyager Fitness Centre.
The Voyager Fitness Centre weights area.
The Voyager Fitness Centre - large area for classes of all sorts.
The sports court on Deck 12 and one of the several table tennis tables surrounding the sports court.
The building in the background houses the inline skating equipment (photo below) and has a golf simulator.
The inline skating track on Deck 12 at the stern of the ship (right next to the Voyager Dunes golf course).
The other subtle way of exercising is taking the stairs everywhere you go on the ship.
For example, taking the stairs from the screening room on Deck 2 to the Skylight Chapel
on Deck 15 involves climbing well over 200 steps. Considering how many times you
will move between the decks each day, this daily 'step class' will help with fitness.




VOYAGER DAY SPA

Feel like a bit of pampering? Then the Voyager Day Spa is located on Deck 12 (above the fitness centre) and offers a multitude of services.

I had a 50-minute Swedish massage and left feeling thoroughly relaxed. I'm no expert on Swedish massages but having my feet wiped down with hot towels before the massage started was a nice touch. After the massage the masseur gave me a list of the products used during the massage that were available to be purchased. I didn't tell her the massage was purely for research purposes and declined the offer.

A full price list of the treatments on offer at the Day Spa can be seen HERE. This price list is linked to via Google Documents and can't be accessed via Firefox, so I have added a photo of the price list at the end of the spa photos.

The above prices don't include a 15% gratuity, which the spa adds at the end of your session. Also, if you cancel a booking within 24 hours of the appointment, your onboard account may be charged 50% of the treatment cost.
The entry to the Voyager Day Spa from the fitness centre on Deck 11.
The salon.
The waiting room.
One of the massage rooms.





SHOPPING

Yes, there are shops.

Whether it be high end products such as handbags, sunglasses, watches, spirits, jewellery and cosmetics, or more 'low end' purchases such as fridge magnets, postcards, T-shirts and potato chips, then there is something for those looking for a little retail therapy (even window shopping). It might not be as extensive as what you are used to at 'the mall' but it is something.

There was a market stall-type set up in the middle of the Royal Promenade for the duration of the cruise. I'm not sure if this was because the General Store was closed for refurbishment or not but the stall acted as a bottle neck and made one end of the Royal Promenade a nuisance to get through.*

Then, when the General Store opened again a couple of days before we reached Fremantle, it was only selling duty free spirits (liquor). This didn't seem like your usual General Store fare, so I wasn't sure if it was going to be called something else after I got off.

*I've heard from people who cruised on Voyager after us and they said the 'market stall' set up happened on their cruise/s, with the same bottle neck 'issue'. Sounds like it might be a permanent thing.







CHILD/YOUTH FACILITIES

When it comes to cruises, a lot of people ask us 'what about kids?'

For a lot of cruise lines, children/teens make up a sizeable proportion of those onboard. As a result, cruise ships have to accommodate for the younger passengers. They do this by giving them their own area/s - supervised of course.

Voyager's Adventure Ocean has areas specific to certain age groups: 3-5, 6-8, 9-11, as well as tweens and teens, and it is in close proximity to the sports court, Voyager Dunes golf course and the amusement arcade, so there's plenty of things to keep the younger passengers happy. As a result, the kids/teens can head off to Adventure Ocean each day and get up to all sorts of supervised mischief, meet up with their parents for meals, then head off again (a 1am curfew is in place).

For the youngest passengers of all, there is the Royal Babies & Royal Tots programme that offers 45-minute interactive playground sessions filled with age-appropriate activities and toys.

More information on children/teen facilities can be seen on the RCI website HERE.
Adventure Ocean (Deck 12).
Sea shells and other ocean 'stuff' under the walkway entry to Adventure Ocean.
Play area for the Aquanauts, ages 3-5 years.
Explorers area (with mini-climbing wall!), ages 6-8.
Voyagers area, ages 9-11.
The indoor play areas are right next to the amusement arcade.
It's not all indoor stuff - Adventure Ocean has an outdoor area, too.
The adults don't get a water slide, so have to look on with envy!
Adventure Ocean is directly below all this, so it close to the sports court, table tennis, golf and the
inline skating track (out of shot at back right). To the right of frame and out of shot is the...
...rock climbing wall.
If the kids/teens need re-fuelling, then this is right next door to Adventure Ocean!



INTERNET


Internet is available but is expensive. You can get WiFi in selected areas and the ship does have its own internet cafe located at the library on Deck 8.

The Wifi 'hot spots' are High Notes (Deck 14), Solarium (Deck 11), Café Promenade (Royal Promenade), Pig & Whistle (Royal Promenade) and Schooner Bar (Deck 4).

If you use one of the internet cafe computers, or your own laptop WiFi, the rate is 65c/minute. Alternatively you can use one of the prepaid packages:

60 minutes - $35 (58c/min)
100 minutes - $55 (55c/min)
150 minutes - $75 (50c/min)
250 minutes - $100 (40c/min)
500 minutes - $150 (30c/min)

Also, if your home carries supports GPSR, you can use your mobile phone service with a compatible GPRS device onboard. 
Internet cafe in the library (Deck 8).




PHOTO/ART GALLERY 

Starting with photos, Voyager of the Seas has a large team of photographers taking thousands of photos while you are onboard. You get snapped boarding the ship, walking around the ship, sitting by the ship's pool, sitting at your table in the dining room, dressed up on formal nights, with the ship's captain, at each port of call...as well as a thousand and one other times!

Deck 3 is where you will find the photo gallery, with all the photos that have been taken. Other than being listed in the event they were taken at, there is no quick method of finding your photo, so don't expect to pop down there with five minutes to spare on the last day.
The photo gallery (Deck 3). It can be like looking for a needle in a haystack but it can also be fun seeing everyone else's photos.


Photos can be bought individually or in packages.

Individual photos:
25x20cm (10x8in) - $19.95
20x15cm (8x6in) - $9.95 (not all photos)

Photo packages:
10 x 25x20cm (10x8in) - $149.95
15 x 25x20cm (10x8in) - $199.95
All photos 25x20cm (10x8in) - $349.95
All photos 25x20cm (10x8in) + CD of photos - $449.95

Photos 'printed' onto canvas - start at $99.95

There is also the cruise highlights DVD for $29.95.

The photo gallery also sells some cameras and things such as memory cards.

There are also plenty of photo opportunities for all the passengers and, in this day and age, where just about everyone has a camera somewhere on them, everywhere you turn on Voyager someone is taking a photo!
Formal nights are a big night for photos and there are 'studios' set up all over the ship.
Even when it's not one of the formal nights, the photographic staff are on hand for all sorts of photo opportunities.
Even when it's blowing a gale, there's a sunset to be photographed!
70s disco night always a big night for photos.


The art gallery has plenty of works on offer and holds art auctions during each cruise. Don't think you need to bring the 'black' American Express card, either, as opening bids start at $50.

If you're worried about excess baggage once you get off Voyager, RCI ships artwork anywhere in the world. Need more incentive to buy one (or more) of the artworks? RCI offers complimentary framing.

Voyager of the Seas also had its own 'artist on board', Donald Waters, who could be seen working in the art gallery on many occasions.
The art gallery is right next to the photo gallery/shop.



CLOTHES AND LAUNDRY

When I first cruised I over-packed. This time around I referred to my Radiance of the Seas post, where I wrote down what I actually wore, and used this as a guide. Here's what I took:

3 x T-shirts
2 x shorts - long
1 x long sleeved casual shirt/top
1 x light pullover (jumper/sweater)
1 x pr tracksuit pants (for lazing about in the cabin, mainly)
1 x boardshorts
8 x underwear
1 x light sweater
3 x pr white socks
1 x pr dress socks
1 x suit (formal nights)
2 x dress shirt

Shoes
1 x pr flip flops
1 x pr walking boots (doubled as informal footwear for dinner on ship)
1 x pr deck shoes
1 x formal shoes

The one thing I forgot to take note of was the cost of washing/dry-cleaning per item. However, I'm certain the prices were similar (or the same) to those from my Radiance of the Seas cruise. As a result, the examples below are taken from that cruise. Please use it as a ballpark guide.

Wash and press (per item):
Dress - $6
Jeans - $3.50
Shirt (casual)/T-shirt - $2.75
Shorts - $3
Skirt - $4
Underwear - $1.25

Dry-clean and press (per item):
Dress - $8
Long-sleeved shirt - $4
Shorts - $3.50
Skirt - $5
Suit (men and women)- $9

Several times the onboard laundry had wash and fold deals where a bag of clothes cost $15. The clothes in question, however, were limited to socks (pair), underwear, shorts, T-shirts, swimwear and pyjamas. The bag in question is the laundry bag/s supplied by RCI and left in your room.



ONBOARD NEWSLETTER AND INFORMATION

The Cruise Compass is a daily newsletter delivered to your door (the evening before) and is the main source of onboard information. It lists the main events for the day, the important things to know for that day, and things like activities and entertainment highlights. It also includes the opening hours of such things as the medical centre, the shops and the shore excursions desk. The back page is always a chronological list of the days events. Quite often there are inserts with extra information such as any specials that might be happening in the shops or the day spa. The Cruise Compass can also be viewed on your TV.

Front page of a Cruise Compass.
The back page of the Cruise Compass with all the daily activities and the times they are on.


When it came to finding your way around the ship, quite often you didn't know front from back (fore from aft), so there were plenty of ship maps and other diagrams to help you out. Even on the last day I was still getting the hang of 'landmarks' to help us find my way around, so they were useful right until the end.
You are here...
And here...(on every floor outside the lifts).
And here...
These ship maps were located in several places along the corridors with the 'You Are Here' pinpointing exactly where you were.
In the Royal Promenade.
These diagrams on each floor next to the stairwell also helped you work out 'what was where'.


The Guest Relations Desk at the fore end of the Royal Promenade (Deck 5) is open 24 hours and always friendly and helpful.
Always helpful - the Guest Relations Desk.


Voyager has its own inhouse TV channel and all shows are produced in the RCTV control room. Gordon, our cruise director, was kept busy compering most of the shows, and RCTV is a good source of information often presented in a fun and humourous way. Even though the Cruise Compass is delivered to your door, Gordon and Chris, our activities coordinator, went through the Cruise Compass in their morning show (often recorded the night before) that was replayed throughout the morning. This was always a fun option to wake up to.
Hard at work in the RCTV production booth.


Captain Charles kept us all up to date with news and information from the Bridge with his broadcast at noon daily that went around the ship, including staterooms. He also wasn't camera shy and made several appearances on Gordon's RCTV shows. He had a good sense of humour and his broadcasts were always good listening.

While onboard we had a norovirus outbreak and Captain Charles constantly kept us up-to-date with proceedings. He even went on RCTV to quell the many rumours that were doing the rounds concerning the amount of people affected by the outbreak.
I'm not sure if that's Captain Charles on the Bridge, but his broadcasts
were always well-received (this was the view from my balcony).
If you're feeling inspired, you can visit the Loyalty and Cruise Sales Team at the
Future Sales Desk (Deck 6) and book another cruise.
Royal Caribbean has several cruise lines under its umbrella, including 
Azamara and Celebrity, and you can book a cruise on any of them.
Information? Technically 'no' but I couldn't find anywhere else to put it.
If you're needing the use of an ATM/auto-teller on board, this is it - found outside
Cafe Promenade on the Royal Promenade (Deck 5).
Once again, technically not 'information' but it seemed the best place to put it.
This is the Conference Centre on Deck 2.
And, lastly, if you're either super-relaxed or super-hungover, these are placed in each lift entry daily
to remind you what day it is (I could have sworn it was Friday!).



*I'm just going to jump in here and ask/suggest a couple of things...

Firstly, if this post has inspired you to book a cruise on Voyager of the Seas, can you send me a quick email and let me know - TravelWithGiulio@gmail.com - so I can tell Royal Caribbean what a great job I do promoting their cruises.

Secondly, if you want to book a cruise on Voyager of the Seas, you can do so via 'Looking to book a cruise?' at the top right of this post. These posts take around 100 hours to produce and I don't get paid to do them, so making a booking through this blog ensures I get a little something back.



CRUISING AS A SUITE GUEST

Think 'flying business class' (I wasn't in the royal suite, so won't compare it to flying first class). You pay extra so you get more legroom i.e. a larger room, and, in this case, RCI provide you with some benefits, which I will go through here: 

Gold Cruise Card (like the one at the start of this post) for easy identification
Priority check-in when you board
Complimentary Concierge Club service
Reserved prime seating in La Scala and Studio B (seating is open to non-suite members 10 minutes before the start of shows)
Priority tender tickets on selected cruises (not applicable to Voyager)
VIP pool deck seating, where available
Full breakfast, lunch and dinner dining room menus available for in-room dining
Private breakfast and lunch seating in the specialty restaurants (on Voyager and Freedom Class ships)
Mattel® board games available to order for in-room entertainment
Complimentary luggage valet service
Luxury spa bathrobes for use onboard
Complimentary ironing service on formal night
Priority departure with an exclusive suite departure lounge featuring continental breakfast

Suite members were given a tour of the Bridge. A tour of the galley was scheduled but an outbreak of norovirus put paid for that.
Priority check-in.
The concierge club (Deck 9) is open from 4.30pm - 8.30pm each night...
 ...and offers complimentary hors d'oeuvres and drinks (wine/beer/spirits included).
Priority seating in La Scala Theatre (photo taken from suite seating area - middle of the balcony).
Priority seating in Studio B (photo taken from suite seating area).
Priority seating on the pool deck (the tiered areas either side of the Pool Bar).
Private seating in Portofino (Deck 11, next to Windjammer Cafe) for breakfast and lunch.
Board games available from Concierge Club.
The suite also had binoculars...
...toiletries...
...and tea and coffee making facilities.
Suite guests also received a tour of the Bridge
(a tour of the galley was cancelled due to a norovirus outbreak).
The captain's scooter (It has the word Captain written on the front plate). 
Captain Charles was presented with the scooter by port authorities in New York City
to 'help him get around the ship'.
He has been known to use it around the bridge...to impress visitors :)
The man himself (I think) on the lookout. He did come over and say hello but didn't show us his scooter skills.
The view down the ship from the Bridge.


It was surprising to see that some passengers took objection to the fact that suite guests had things such as priority seating, or could get their meals in Windjammer and go into Portofino to eat. Suite guests paid up to five times as much as those passengers voicing their objections, so it makes sense that any cruise line is going to give their suite guests a little bit more. 

It can only be assumed most/all of those voicing their objections flew economy class from Australia to Singapore but didn't try to get into the Business Class lounge at the airport. Or, for that matter, got onto the plane and saw there were empty seats in Business Class and decided to sit in one, or kicked up a stink because their seats weren't as good as what was on offer.

Cruising, for the large part, places everyone on an equal footing, so perhaps they were having trouble relating to this 'separation' of equality. Then again, any group of 3,000+ people will always have 3,000+ different personalities. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of all this was that the brunt of most of these objections were staff trying to do their job yet be as polite as possible to these rude, often aggressive passengers.



OTHER IMAGES FROM VOYAGER OF THE SEAS
One of the towel animal sculptures left in the suite one night.
Growing up on the east coast of Australia, I'm used to seeing the sun set over land.
'Like ships passing in the late afternoon...'
Deck 4 lights up at dusk.
Sunrise.
A couple play shuffleboard one afternoon.
Passing Bali.
Deck chairs lit up during early evening.
Passengers gather on Deck 4 to watch a helicopter land on the front of Voyager (there is a helipad) during the medical evacuation of a passenger who had fallen on the Royal Promenade that morning. 
The chopper came out to meet the ship off the coast of Exmouth off the north coast of Western Australia. 
The seas were flat but the ship still had to come in close to land and turn into the wind (what wind there was).
Captain Charles kept us all abreast of the situation and it turns out the injury was a broken hip.
A bulk carrier  passes quite close to Voyager of the Seas heading in the other direction.
We got to see the shipping lanes in action and, most of the time, we had a constant stream of ships
passing us in the other direction. A few times we passed ships and we even had a few pass us across our bow and stern.



PORTS OF CALL

Singapore (not a port of call but we all boarded Voyager there and spent two nights there beforehand)
Pattaya (Laemchabang port), Thailand
Vũng Tàu (Phu My port), Vietnam
Port Hedland, Western Australia
Fremantle, Western Australia (not a port of call but the ship disembarked there and spent two nights there)

The ports of call we stopped at can be seen on another blog post, which can be viewed HERE.

In November 2014, Voyager of the Seas underwent an $80 million revitalisation. Before and after composite photos of the revitalisation can be seen HERE.



*     *     *     *     *



I hope this post has been of some help and I'd love to hear any feedback or questions you might have - TravelWithGiulio@gmail.com.

Until next time...Bon voyage!

Giulio


See and read about more of my cruise experiences/reviews.

Love photos of cruise ships? Have a look at my 'Ship Spotting' photo gallery.


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All photos, video and text by Giulio Saggin (unless otherwise stated)
© Use of photos/video/text must be via written permission







17 comments:

John Harlow said...

Extremely comprehensive and informative. Thanks guys. Cheers John

Travel with us! said...

Hi John,
Thanks for your message. We intended it to be as comprehensive as possible, so it's good to see it's done its job :)
Ciao,
Giulio & Nat

John Harlow said...

G'day guys, could you please let me know what theme nights you had on your cruise. Thanks John

Travel with us! said...

Hi John,
We had a 70s night, a rock'n'roll night and we were at sea for Halloween, so there were lots of witches and the like for that.
Ciao,
Giulio & Nat

Antique Polishers said...

HI Nat & Giulio, Thanks for sharing your holiday, what a Fab Ship makes me want to book and go on this ship. Enjoyed reading through your stories and the photo's are amazing... Nat keep our Number and Next relocating cruise on this ship next year in 2014 anytime after June let us know and we are on it. Thanks Ross & Jenny

Travel with us! said...

Thanks Ross and Jenny,
Thanks for your kind words. We love being able to share our travel experiences with others.
As for Voyager of the Seas, she will be even better when she has the 'Royal Advantage' refurbishment, slated for 2014. If you time it right, you might be able to cruise on the 'new look' Voyager!
Ciao,
Giulio & Nat

Michelle said...

What a fantastic recap of your cruise and of the Voyager of the Seas, thanks for sharing. My parents were on this same cruise with you, I thought I might see them in the photos but no luck! There are 8 of us going on this ship this coming November for 2 weeks, its great to know a bit more than the brochures give about things to do and see. I have to check out the cupcakes thats for sure! Thanks again happy cruising :)

Travel with us! said...

Hi Michelle, Thanks for commenting. What a pity we didn't get a photo of your parents!! Hope you have a great cruise - we are sure you will! It's a great ship to go with a group.

Angie said...

Absolutely brilliant again, and more in depth than "Radiance".
The info you provide is fantastic and the photo's are breath taking!! Keep up the good work!!!
I'm getting more excited every day and really looking forward to my first cruise in April 2014!!
Cheers... angie

Underneath the Sun said...

Very nice review! Really makes me want to go on the Voyager! I love all the details you include!

Travel with us! said...

Hi Angie and Underneath the Sun - thanks for your great comments! Angie, you must be getting excited now - how many more sleeps? :)
And, Underneath the Sun, have you booked a cruise on Voyager of the Seas?

Ciao, and happy cruising!

Giulio & Nat

Janine said...

Thank you for a very informative summary of The Voyager of the Seas. My husband and I are departing in 14 days time and I'm so excited. I have prepaid for the nonalcoholic drinks package and see it has tripled in price since you stated the prices. I have also tried booking for the Portofino restaurant but it is not allowing me to do it at present. Again thanks for all the exciting information you have given us.

KEITH said...

Great read just booked for next Feb in the Grand suite now after your article cant wait. I wonder what changes were made in the refurbishment.It can only be better

Travel with us! said...

Hi Keith,
I'm glad the post was of help to you. The refurbishment of Voyager is nearly finished and, while I will be unable to see her myself, I will be getting photos of the refurb and posting them on the Travel With Giulio blog, hopefully in the next few weeks - so come back and have a look!
Ciao,
Giulio

Anonymous said...

Just returned from Singapore on the voyager and was not impressed. There were lots of unhappy customers. Running out of duty free booze after two days was not good. 4 hour wait to board started the rot. Overall the worst cruise I have been on.

Kelly said...

Hi Giulio, Was wondering what it was like cruising at the front of the ship? I've only ever cruised mid ship or aft and am worried about the rocking at the front. What was it like for you?

Giulio Saggin said...

Hi Kelly,

Sorry for the late reply. I haven't cruised in over two years now - am hoping to change that in 2017 - and the blog has been neglected as a result. I am going to make more of an effort moving forward.

As for your question, I found the front to be fine. But, to be honest, I never notice if one part of the ship is rougher than the other. That said, I find being higher accentuates movement more than fore or aft. Maybe lower and mid-ship, just to hedge your bets.

Happy cruising!

Giulio