Having read some of the reviews on this site and never having cruised before we were a little uncertain what to expect from our first cruise. We can only say that from the moment our cases were checked in at the airport it was a pleasure. The flight going out was comfortable, food reasonable and service excellent (Thomson), the process of plane to ship was easy and ran very smoothly. We chose an inside cabin as you need to create a benchmark somewhere. The cabin was small as expected but well designed so that the available room was put to the most effective use. It was quiet and the cabin steward was brilliant, he couldn't do enough for us.
The ship is very large and we would frequently go in the wrong direction as there are no indicators as to where is forward. This was no great problem and to be honest was part of the fun.
We chose Freedom dining so that we could plan each evening around any shows we wanted to see. This was the right choice for us, not only did we meet some lovely people (only two exceptions), but we managed to take in some good entertainment as well. The standard of the shows was very good.
Food - very good. There was always a good selection and the service was brilliant. The food in the buffet was also very good and a good variety was offered. We've seen comments that the the food in the buffet restaurants was repetitive and boring - we couldn't disagree more.
Specialist restaurants - we tried Sindhu, this was easily the best Indian food we have experienced.
The passengers - always a worry no matter what type of holiday you chose. We experienced a few very snooty, having done dozens of cruises, people and also a number of the 'Benidorm' set who seemed to be inseparable from the poll areas, but by far the vast majority of passengers were quite normal, friendly people. With a passenger list of over 3000, you will find all types but that's life.
Only a couple of negatives: There is a policy that you can't save sunbeds, if you are not on them then they are free for anyone to use. This policy is good but is not policed in any way. As a result of this large swathes of beds near the pools were unavailable on sea days. The other negative is the habit of smokers to gather near to the entrances of the buffet restaurant or just outside the doors on the promenade deck. So although they are following the rules they also create a very unpleasant and unhealthy atmosphere in these specific areas. However, this is also true of public places and work places in normal life.
Putting the two negatives to one side overall the cruise was brilliant, the food and entertainment excellent, service second to none and we can't wait to book another trip.