This was our first ever cruise, and after reading reviews we were rather nervous. However, our fears were unfounded as we had a great time.
As you would expect, there were a few things that grated on our nerves, but these were far outweighed by the positives.
Arrival at the terminal
From dropping off cases to actually boarding the boat took no more than 45 mins. Car park was so close to the terminal, it only took a minute or two to walk.
Once on board, we took the opportunity to look round and make a first visit to the Windjammer. Of course it was busy - why would anyone expect anything different. We found a seat, had a burger and was able to then go to our room earlier than anticipated.
What a great cabin!!! Worth paying that bit extra for the D1 with balcony. Huge wardrobe (able to fit 4 suitcase loads and space under the bed for shoes). Would recommend not ironing shirts - you can get them ironed for a small price and delivered the next day. Bathroom was more that adequate, and the shower was powerful and much better than expected. So much room with a large sofa-bed (three seater sofa for daytime use) and queensize soft, comfortable bed (my husband had the best sleep ever). The balcony was a perfect addition and was ideal early morning or when things were too busy by the pool.
Take advantage of the laundry service for shorts, t-shirts, vests and underwear - a bargain at USD 25 per bag!!
Can't agree with a previous comment on the food, as when we ate in the main restaurant, the food was better than we expected. Our waiter, Fnu, knew how we liked our food and took special attention to make sure our daughter was happy. We are not 'dressy up' people and felt comfortable no matter what we were wearing. However, you can get most of the food from the main dining room in the Windjammer, and if you go about 8pm it's rather quiet. Room service was a major plus, although limited options. Steak sandwich was bigger than expected, and the room service team would always add other options when they called to confirm the order.
We took the soft drinks package, which was OK however the drink was definitely not original coke - more like rola cola. The cocktails of the day were cheap and definitely cheerful, and the shots may appear expensive however you do get a double for your price (USD 7 for a vodka).
Good luck getting a sunbed unless you are out there with your towel v.early. I do think RCI should stand by their promise of removing towels from beds if not used. Luckily, we are not sun-worshippers and were happy to sit in the shade and by the pool bar to have a drink. A little consideration could have been given by those who took up sunbeds and spent the day at shore and then sitting by the pool bar!!
Rock the Boat was the best entertainment on the boat. Would have liked more than one open-air disco, and would loved to have seen more live bands and for longer sessions. Everything (family based) seemed to end close to midnight. I do think RCI should give more info about the guest acts, as we missed a good comedian based on the not so good singer the night before. Daytime entertainment was a bit 'Butlins at Sea' i.e bingo, anti-wrinkle seminars, towel folding, and how to stop bloated feet...W.T.F.
Loved the morning breakfast show hosted by Joff (cruise director) and Sophie. Great combo.
BEWARE - children under 18 are not allowed in some of the bars and casino which mean't we couldn't do all we wanted to as a family.
We didn't take any excursions and chose to either walk or take a taxi to the areas we wished to go - this turned out to be a cheaper option than the shuttle bus. We found there was more than enough time at each port. We took a local excursion at Gibraltar to see the monkeys and that was money well spent. The guide was informative, funny and knew the monkeys personally. You cannot get a taxi to see only the monkeys (which was our first choice) as it is part of a nature reserve.
We seemed to be in a minority group, as most guests were either below 16 or 60+. Be careful of over-zealous use of scooters as injury is possible. We always knew where our daughter was, and what she was doing. Unfortunately, not everyone else is the same......
Overall, the ship was amazing, staff were fabulous at all times (day or night) and the quality, cleanliness and overall atmosphere was second to none. As with all holidays, there are good points and bad points. Our first cruise was so enjoyable that we are looking at the itineraries for next year - let's just hope that Joff is the Cruise Director on that one.