Full disclosure - The sailing was a charter for a club run out of Brussels called La Demence. This is a gay club and so (obviously) it was a gay cruise.
My parter and I have been together 12 years and have never been on such a cruise but thought if we don't try it now we never will.
The trip was themed around the club with a host of DJs and an impressive pool deck lighting and sound system - it was a party ship!
Boarding in Marseille should have been the first sign that this was not to be the best cruise experience. Firstly signage on what to do and when was very poor. In the event you had to leave your luggage on the ground floor (queue up rather than be greeted and have it taken as has been the case on previous trips), then queue up to check in. We queued around 40 mins and we were near the front! There were only 7 check in desks with no pre-check in facility so EVERYONE was filling in credit card authorisations etc. After this we had another 90 mins to wait until we could board. In this time there were no refreshments - just a stuffy room.
Once on board we could go straight to our rooms. We had an inside on deck 6 near the back (near the engines - more later). The room was a good size with TONS of cupboard space and a good shower. It looked dated but then the ship is 22 years old. There was no room service menu and the in room safe was locked. We reported the safe and left for lunch in the buffet on deck 11.
Food as a whole was very disappointing. The buffet had a small selection every day (lunch and dinner) 3 salads, 3 hot dishes, 3 veg and a roast. There was also pizza and pasta. There was an outside grill but this closed during evening dinner time. The food generally tasted better then it looked but I never went back for more (unlike all other cruises I have been on when I have been an absolute pig as there are just too many good things to eat!).
The main dining room had open seating in the evening. The meal was efficient and FAST. In and out in under an hour (they gave NCL a run for their money). Portions were small but again nothing was ever good enough for me to order more.
Every day there were 2 main parties around the pool. 6pm - 9pm was a T-Dance and Midnight - 4:30am was the main party. The lighting and DJs were first class.
My fellow passengers came from around 60 countries! Most announcements were in French, Spanish and English - but English was probably the most commonly used.
Sorry gay clubbing community but the people on board were my biggest problem. Fairly rude and behaving like children. Dress codes were "liberal" with just a top needed to dine in the main dining room in the evening - but even this was too much effort for some. If I am going to a full service restaurant, with light ambient music and an attempt at a refined atmosphere then I would hope the diners would respect this and at least wear a smart T Shirt and Smart shorts / jeans. People coming in to eat in bathing suits and laughing loudly, ordering the waiting staff around and "wearing" napkins on their heads as hats is not what I expected. During the rest of the day my partner and I hardly spoke to a soul - so different to conventional cruising where we have made some lasting friendships with people from all over the world.
Public rooms were nice enough but again very dated. I am not sure where the re-fit money went. No room had any wow factor. However, the layout of the ship was very good and I imagine on a conventional cruise it works very well.
As CDF offer an all inclusive cruise experience, alcohol selections were very limited and bottom end brands.
We visited 3 ports - Naples, Sicily and Ibiza. Ibiza was an overnight from 2pm to 9am the following day. Any chance to get of the ship was welcomed and I enjoyed all 3 ports.
Entertainment apart from the parties was provided by bought in "talent". La Diva was a singer (actually a surprisingly good singer) that had a good rapport with the crowd and did 3 shows over the week. Koka was one of the worst drag acts I have EVER seen. Put me in a dress and I would be more convincing. Add in that he mimed to songs and I have no idea why the other passengers seemed to like him! Nicky Nicole was a further drag act - I have no idea what he did though apart from manage to walk in high heels. Finally there was the ship dances (who seemed capable) and a ventriloquist (v. funny).
In addition to the nightly show there was a gay film festival. Not sure why just because I am gay I have to be subjected to worthy but badly acted and directed films, but there you go. Personally I would have been happier watching The Avengers or a good comedy.
Finally the cabin. We were in 6169 and in terms of comfort no issues. Bed was good, sheets were clean, shower good. BUT - we did not meet our steward for 2 days, there was no room service menu, the safe was locked (2 days to unlock it despite repeated requests) and the engine noise was deafening!
In summary then the ship was average, the food was average, the service was average, the fellow passengers were a huge pain (I would go into some of the things they did but this has gone on too long already) the parties were excellent and the additional entertainment was largely poor.
When I tell you that the list price for an inside cabin was â‚¬1500 per person (based on 2 sharing) I think you will agree that this was horrifically over priced.
Compared to other companies I have cruised with (overall rating):
2) Royal Caribbean
5) CDF (with reservations as this was a charter and the normal offer may be better).