First ever cruise so chose a large "Family Friendly" ship. Adventure of the Seas. Quite a few poor reviews read after we'd booked ! so were very worried...but all was ok....read on for more..........
Travelling with 2x kids aged 10yrs & 2yrs. Youngest has a Dairy Allergy. We made this known at time of booking and was advised this would not be a problem. We emailed a doctors letter to our booking company which allowed us to check-in with our luggage a MedicalBag with her own soya margerine/milk/puddings/biscuits etc.
Room: Sea-view balcony. Not large but comfy queen bed, large sofa bed for the kids to share. Was worried about this @ booking as RCI don't provide bed-guards, so we took our own travel one. Didn't use it as the room attendant made the bed up so our youngest slept along the wall one side and our eldest slept on the open side. We put pillows down the middle and they slept fine all week ! Result. Bathroom a bit dated but good sized shower, clean, plenty of fresh towels. Balcony chairs could have done with updating but serviceable.
Used our mini-bar fridge to store our daughters milk/margerine & juices. We asked our Room Attendant to remove all other items as we wouldn't use them & didn't want to get charged. She was happy to do this.
Food: We booked MyTime Dining and ate same time @ same table all week (Mozart Room) for evening meals. Food was fabulous ! our Waitresses Karim & Adrienne really looked after our kids and made us all welcome, asking the chef about the dairy content in the foods and cooking off menu or amending dishes so they were dairy free for our daughter. Again was worried about this but the staff were more than accomodating. Brekfast & Lunch in the buffet Windjammer had a lot of choice, food areas very clean re-stocked continually and food hot. Only down side was that the Spanish eat late so 10.00am onwards was very busy trying to get tables but we always managed to get one after a short wait (10 mins). Again lots of plain food to choose from for our daughter. Our 10yr old son was also very happy and ate all kinds of things he doesn't normally choose.
Smoking: again a big concern of ours as we are non-smokers with 2x kids. Yes ...there is smoking on the ship...but only is designated areas. The smokers (mainly Spanish) seemed to adhere to this. So 4 bars, the Casino & one particular side of the pool. It didn't bother us , we stayed away from these areas. You soon know where the smoking areas are and just stay clear, it's not a problem. There is definately NO SMOKING in the dining areas and we didn't see anyone going against this. There are tannoy announcments to remind smokers about where/where not to smoke.
Pools: Very clean although salt water so we'de advise taking goggles for your kids. Babies & toddlers can't go in the pool with SwimPants/nappies on ! there are crew around the pool all of the time checking this and they will make you take your child out. As our 2yr old isn't potty trained yet she wears swimpants and is always fine but RCI dont allow it for whatever reason so when it is hot it's a bit awkward. They can paddle but not go into the pools.
Babies: One big draw back is that although RCI cater for all ages with even a 6month-36month parent accompanied toddler club, there are NO BABY CHANGING FACILITIES on the ship ! not a pulldown bench or anything! not even in the disabled toilets. So again this was really awkward with a 2yr old in pullups that needed changing. I had to do it on the floor of the disabled toilet (loos were always spotless) on our travel mat as she is too big to change on our lap or in her pushchair. Please comment about this on your comment cards after your cruise if you go and have the same experience.
General: Spanish seem not to know how to wait their turn ! if you are waiting they will push in front of you and seem very rude. Take no prisoners, barge back, its the only way ! A couple of days in we got fed up of their rudeness and basically you have to be as pushy as them as you'll nver get to the front of the queue ! The ship is very large, there is lots to do, our 10 yr old was happy with rock-climbing /ice-skating and the shows etc. Takes a while to know your way around, English tv for kids available, food around the clock, so you'll never go hungry.
Excursions: Velencia - Shops closed Sundays so we stayed on ship. Rome: is a commercial port so a good walk to the nearest station. We hired our own private tour guide to avoid queues and long bus journey. Expensive but worth it. Florence/Pisa - again same as Rome & we pre-booked our own tour guide. Corsica - Port is next to a beautiful Marina, a short 10 min walk to a small but lovely beach good for kids, local market & cafes on way. Worth getting off ship @ this port. We recommend pre-booking your own tours at home before you leave to avoid long hot bus journey & too much walking especially if you have little kids.
Ship: seemed to be well maintained always cleaning it in Port stops, staff always cleaning inside. Yes, in places it could do with a bit of updating but certainly no worse than any other European hotel you may stay in.
All in all a good experience and we would do again (when we've saved up !)
Not at all what we were expecting after some of the reviews we had read.