Rhapsodic cruising experience
THERE seems to be no stopping the cruising phenomenon as more and more people plan their annual holiday around boarding a ship.
And why not?
With as much food as you can eat, entertainment day and night, and a once-only unpacking scenario, it's no wonder the cruising industry is burgeoning.
On board Royal Caribbean's Rhapsody of the Seas as she cruised the South Pacific recently, it was obvious every one of the 2300 passengers was getting the most out of their cruise package.
Cha cha, tango or line-dancing lessons? With ballroom dance champions if you don't mind.
Poolside fun? How about the world's sexiest man competition? Or a belly flopping war? (Both strangely enjoyable).
Napkin and towel folding? It goes without saying. Ditto for bingo.
Rock wall climbing? Out the back on deck level 10 if you're up for it.
A spin of the roulette wheel? If you're that way inclined.
A lazy afternoon at the spa? Yes, please.
Destination lectures with the experts? Very informative.
Cooking classes? Always ready to learn new skills.
Duty free shopping? Some bargain jewellery and cruise wear would be nice.
Entertainment? Every night in the multi-tiered theatre, from comedy acts to boy bands and Vegas-style shows - and with stewards ferrying drinks as you sit back in the plush seats. Or how about some tinkling of the piano in one of the many bars, or the DJ doing his thing on the deck? Or at the heart of the ship, the six-level Centrum atrium, the Royal Caribbean aerialists, singers and dancers will give thrills aplenty?
What about the all-important eating, surely a vital part of any cruise?
From buffets to challenge even the heartiest of appetites, to the Edelweiss a la carte restaurant, an all-day cafe as well as four speciality restaurants, Rhapsody of the Seas spoils for culinary choices.
At Giovanni's table, feast on traditional pastas, at Chops Grill the giant steaks are the finest cuts, at Izumi it's all chopsticks and spicy Asian fare, and for the ultimate on-board dining experience, the Chef's Table in an elegant private dining room sees the executive chef presiding over a multi-course dinner matched with premium wines.
Rhapsody of the Seas is also a floating art gallery. On at-sea days in the Shall We Dance Lounge, while the complimentary champagne flowed, more than 300 works came up for auction at bargain prices.
With something to do every moment on board Rhapsody of the Seas - and the kids entertained in the kids' club while the teenagers do their thing in their own space - it's no wonder Royal Caribbean cruises are so popular with families as well as couples both young and old.
The heart of the ship is the spectacular Centrum, a six-level atrium where aerial performances feature the Royal Caribbean performers.
At first boarding it seems you'll never get to know your way around this mighty ship, but with user-friendly touch-screens at the elevators on every deck you'll be ship-savvy within hours. A tap of the screen shows your location, another how to get where you want to, another brings up the day's myriad activities and shows menus for all the restaurants.
Fortunately, the ship has a state-of-the-art gym to work off all the excess, and the promenade deck on level 10 takes you a full circuit of the ship and tells you how many kilometres you've walked with each round. (We managed five easy kilometres a day and with 360-degree ocean views, a daily walk had never been so beautiful.)
All this and with ports of call including Isle of Pines, Vanuatu, the Loyalty Islands and Port Vila, this 10-day cruise is arguably the best value holiday deal you could find.
And it's like that for the 2014 itineraries. With low fares (all-inclusive if you don't hit the bars, shops, spa or speciality restaurants), you would be hard pressed to find a better holiday deal.
The writer was a guest on board.
Prices and bookings
Fares start from $1009 per person for a seven-night South Pacific sailing onboard Rhapsody of the Seas departing November 8, 2014.
Fares start from $1349 per person for a 10-night South Pacific sailing onboard Rhapsody of the Seas departing November 15, 2014
Visit: royalcaribbean.com.au or call 1800 754 500
Royal Caribbean International is hosting the world's first Instagram film festival
Everyone is invited to capture their "WOW moments" in 15 seconds of video footage and upload to Instagram via the hashtag #InstaFilmFest to go into the draw to have their film screened at a special VIP event and win a cruise
For more details, visit the InstaFilmFest microsite: instafilmfestival.com.au