We recently spent a fun-filled week on Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas cruise ship. We sailed out of Sydney on a South Pacific itinerary that included stops at Mare in New Caledonia and Noumea, also in New Caledonia.
Our overall impression was super positive and we have no doubt that we were on the best Australia-based cruise ship for families. See how Voyager compares to other cruise ships here.
Voyager of the Seas review
After being blown away by our first Disney cruise, we thought we really should give something closer to home a go.
Being able to catch a taxi into the city and spend no more than half an hour going through immigration, security and check-in was amazing. No getting to the airport 3 hours before your flight, no cramped seats on long flights, just wander on being greeted by smiles at every turn.
And when you live in one of the most spectacular cruise ship ports in the world, just sailing through the harbour is pretty special.
If you need a hotel in Sydney close to the Overseas Passenger Terminal, check prices here.
Voyager cruise ship activities
Royal Caribbean encourages an active holiday by packing their ships with as many activities as possible. And we’re not talking shuffleboard and ballroom dancing reminiscent of The Love Boat. Voyager of the Seas is home to high-energy sports like surfing, rock-climbing and ice-skating, or for a slower pace you could play mini golf, enjoy a live show or relax in a hot spa.
Just make sure your travel insurance for cruising covers you for the activities you plan to do!
When you’re cruising in December pool time is high on the list of must-dos. Unfortunately we found the water temperature a little on the cool side, but there were several hot spas, which were lovely.
The cool thing about surfing simulator FlowRider is that it is an awesome activity to both do and to watch. I didn’t have a go, but sitting in the shade at the back of the top-most deck watching braver people than me was fabulous. Especially the surfing sessions. There’s both surfing (min height 1.47m) and boogie boarding (min height 1.32m) sessions.
Some people were amazing!
- Start lining up about half an hour before the session is due to start.
- The force of the water is massive, so don’t wear any jewellery (I heard of a wedding ring coming off!)
- And be well covered with a t-shirt or rashie to avoid revealing more than you intended
This ain’t no baby wall!
The minimum age for rock-climbing is 6 years, and under 12s will be doing super well to get to the first bell halfway up. Alannah made it and I got a little way past that, but you’ll need strength and skills to get to the top. Watching those few who made it was really impressive.
- Get there before it opens
- You’ll need socks and shorts/leggings.
While not seeming particularly fascinating to me, this was Master 7’s favourite activity. He played it over and over with his dad. Maybe I should think about golf lessons for him?
- This is a good one to do while in port, as it can get pretty windy up there on the top deck.
Oh. My. Goodness. How I loved the ice show. What these professional skaters can do on a relatively tiny rink is terrifying! Spins, flips, double triple axel-y things. Seriously impressive.
- Tickets were given out on the second or third day – there were 5 shows over 3 days. Check your Cruise Compass each night so you don’t miss out!
- Line up early before the show as it’s first in best dressed with seats.
- I didn’t find it cold sitting in there, but maybe take a cardi just in case.
Once we made it into an ice-skating session we had a brilliant time. We all had a go and wondered why we don’t do it more at home. Ice-skating is fantastic!
Most people are beginners, so you can’t really zoom around (if you are indeed capable of zooming!), but there’s a wonderfully joyful vibe.
See Hamish giving ice-skating a go here –
- Getting into an ice-skating session was a debarcle. Our worst experience on the cruise. I think they’re still trying to work out the fairest way to run the ticketing for this (demand is waaay higher than supply), so keep an eye on your Cruise Compass. I wouldn’t be surprised it they change this process, but for us you had to line up about 45 min before the first session of the day and they gave out tickets to all the day’s sessions then. I suggest going along during the first session to ask how it works, so you’re ready for another day.
- You will need long pants and socks to participate.
Teens and young adults in particular loved these courts. Hamish did his best trying to get the ball up to the hoop, but that thing is high!
Often there’s seasonal activities on board and for us it was Christmas. There was a massively popular Christmas party in the main promenade with carol singing and cookie decorating. You could meet Santa (much easier than at a shopping centre!). And one night at dinner was a typical Australian Christmas dinner with bonbons, turkey, seafood and pudding.
Despite all the people and activities on board, quiet spots can be found.
Voyager of the Seas cabins
No cruise ship review would be complete without talking about the cabins, and the quality of these really impressed me. This is comfortable 4 star accommodation with an elegant look and a well-planned layout.
We had a balcony cabin, which is more expensive than an outside view (window only) or interior (no windows) cabin. Having our own private outside space was wonderful though. It made the inside of the cabin feel more spacious and the balcony was a lovely spot to sit and relax.
Our cabin had a huge and very comfortable king size bed and a 3 seater sofa which opened out into a spacious queen size bed. The kids don’t like to share, but between the large size of the bed, their exhaustion at the end of each day and the sleeping sacks we took with us, we never had a problem. It was almost miraculous!
Take a video tour of our cabin here –
And our bathroom here –
- Take a light cotton sleeping sack for each child. It will be all they need warmth-wise too.
- There are only US and European power sockets, so take adaptors for both. Power boards are not allowed, but double adaptors are fine.
- Make sure you have a good read of your Cruise Compass each night. A highlighter is useful as there is so much good info in there.
Dining on Royal Caribbean
Main Dining Room
The Main Dining Room (aka MDR) is where every evening meal is served. You will be allocated a table and most likely have to share your table with another family. They seem to match kids ages which makes meal times more fun for the kids.
We found the food and service very good and there was quite a wide range on the kids menu. Kids are also welcome to order from the adult menu.
- Book your cruise as early as possible to get the early dining time – 5.30pm rather than 8.15pm. If it’s already booked out, go on the waitlist and ask at the MDR when you get on the ship.
- Bare feet, shorts, tank tops and t-shirts are not permitted on any night in the MDR. On casual nights men typically wore long pants/jeans and a polo shirt/collared shirt, while on formal nights (we had two) men typically wore long pants/suit and a collared shirt/shirt and tie. Kids can wear t-shirts and shorts.
This was the surprise winner for us. Although I love a buffet breakfast, I’m not thrilled with buffet lunch or dinner, but the quality of food here was just as good as in the MDR. Very impressive.
It’s hard not to eat too much on a cruise, especially when the desserts are so yummy (warm pudding and custard is my weakness!), so as time went on and we started arriving at meals still being full from the previous one, we preferred having dinner in the buffet. Here we could have a quick, light meal whenever suited us.
Giovanni’s Table specialty restaurant
We had a delicious meal at Giovanni’s Table, but to be perfectly honest I wouldn’t recommend families pay the considerable additional fees to eat here (US$35 per adult and US$10 per child).
When hubster and I were checking out the menu outside the restaurant, the maitre d’ approached us enthusiastically, but his attitude seemed to change slightly when I mentioned the kids (who were sitting nearby). They do have a very good kids menu and kids are not expensive, but overall I felt that adults eat here to enjoy the more intimate and quiet environment that it offers.
Best to pop the kids in kids club and have a romantic dinner for two.
- They often discount the additional fee on the first and last nights of the cruise.
Johnny Rockets specialty restaurant
This is a cute one. Johnny Rockets delivers a 50s diner experience complete with a jukebox on your table, delicious burgers and waiters in cute outfits. And only US$7 per person additional charge.
We really had no need of extra food, but the kids and I had talked about doing this before we left home – hot chocolate and cookies before bed. Just adorable and I think the teddies enjoyed it too.
Voyager of the Seas is the only ship based in Australia to include the DreamWorks Experience.
Royal Caribbean DreamWorks breakfast
We did this on our first morning onboard and it got our cruise off to such a bright bubbly start.
A delicious a la carte breakfast in a private area, where we met two DreamWorks characters. Each breakfast is different, but for us it was Gloria and Alex from Madagascar.
Additional cost of AU$13.80 per person.
- Book online before you board. It sells out.
DreamWorks characters on Royal Caribbean
There are meet and greets around the ship with DreamWorks characters from movies such as Madagascar, Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, the character breakfast detailed above, and parades. At 9 and 7 years old and used to seeing these characters at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast, I wasn’t sure my kids would be into them, but they really loved this aspect of the cruise.
- Get to the parade early for a good viewing position. A front table at the Pig & Whistle pub is ideal!
Voyager of the Seas kids clubs
The kids could not get enough of the kids clubs, so they get a huge thumbs up from me.
I must say that I was worried when I first saw them though. After experiencing the Disney cruise kids club, which was practically a theme park, the kids clubs on Voyager are very basic. But when it comes down to it, it is the staff and other kids which have the biggest impact.
The staff are great with the kids and there’s lots of organised games which help the kids to make friends. Miss 9 in particular seemed to make quite a few friends and she really valued this.
There’s a variety of kids clubs on board. My kids were in Explorers (ages 6-8) and Voyagers (ages 9-11), which run three free sessions a day –
The kids club is also open 10pm-2am at a cost of US$7 per kid per hour.
Royal Caribbean cruise ports
Mare, New Caledonia
Yejele Beach, Mare is a stunning white sandy beach with crystal clear turquoise water. There are no port excursions offered, just a bus to the beach.
I loved swimming here with its gentle waves and beautiful warm water.
- Get off the ship as early as possible, because the beach starts off deserted, but gets busier and busier as more people arrive from the ship.
- Take reef shoes as there’s a lot of shells and coral in amongst the sand.
- Take your own snorkelling gear if you want to snorkel
Noumea, New Caledonia
On our cruise Noumea was the day following Mare and the kids were exhausted. While we wanted to get off the ship, we didn’t want to head to the beach, so we enjoyed a relaxing couple of hours touring the sights of Noumea on the Tchou Tchou train.
And finally …
There is something about cruising that makes you feel completely removed from reality. When you’re on a ship in the middle of the ocean (or that’s how it feels when all you can see is water), it’s like a world unto itself. That real life is a long way away.
And that is incredibly relaxing.
Disclosure: A massive thank you to Royal Caribbean for giving us a media rate on our cruise, plus complimentary internet access and meal at Giovanni’s Table. This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of my links then I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Find more information about Royal Caribbean cruises here.
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