My wife and I and our 3 year old little girl saw a very good deal on this cruise and having been on our first cruise the year before which we thoroughly enjoyed, we simply couldn't pass this up.
There's a lot to recommend about this ship. It is a good size, bigger than Grandeur which we were on last year, and it has a much better finish as well, so it felt a bit more upmarket. The ship itself is in pretty good repair. We didn't notice anything dirty or in need of repair or even modernising, even though I understand it is to be further modernised shortly.
The staff were very accommodating and friendly and we didn't have one negative experience, which added to the trip immensely. Our formal dining room waiters were brilliant and again very accommodating regarding our three year old's whims, and really went out of their way to befriend us and our little girl.
There were a lot of different nationalities on board including Americans, Germans, French, Spanish, Italians, English, Irish etc. with no one group dominating which was great. Everyone was friendly and outgoing and most importantly got along.
The shows in the theater were pretty good, some better than others as you would expect and I suppose not to everyone's liking, but nothing that the average person couldn't sit through for the hour.
The creche was good for the little one's with lots of activities and friendly staff and amazing hours...on port days you could leave your child there from roughly 7am until 10pm for free and then pay $6/hr from 10-2am if you so wished...seems a little criminal to me but the facility is there...but overall I think the creche was very good and there were a good number of children on board who availed of these services.
A few criticisms were the no nappy/no pull-up rule which we thought was too rigid for the little one's who had to deal with a change in routine and diet...there should be some formal system using the mobile phones they give out where they can contact parents to come and deal with any potty accidents so young children can make better use of the activities.
Also the children's pool, which was good overall as it had two slides, one big one and one small one, had a few problems...mainly to do with the surface of the deck around the outside of the pool which would get very hot in the midday sun, but more importantly was very slippery when wet which was all the time. They did purchase and put down a long mat when I drew their attention to this but it really is a stop-gap and they need to fit proper mats around the whole of the outside of this pool to avoid the many falls I saw take place.
Other criticisms/concerns were:
1. Initial boarding of the ship was a bit slow, both in the terminal where the lines were long, and the scanning of carry-on luggage. Luckily because we had a 3yr old in a buggy they let us go to the priority queue, and staff quickly realised the one x-ray machine in operation was going to be too slow for the big crowd of passengers forming behind it so they let us all on board without scanning the bags.
2. Not enough activities were available for those passengers who stayed on board during port days.
3. The excursions through the ship were too expensive. We found it was always more economical to arrange your own excursions either on land or before the start of your cruise. e.g. in Venice, the ship offers a boat that takes you into town but requires you to walk 15 mins to St.Marks Square while right beside it you can get the public service for less money that takes you right to St.Marks. No walking in the heat which was over ninety degrees.
4. The cruise line should give passengers a detailed list of all activities planned for the cruise before you sail or at the very latest when you initially board so people can properly plan the things they most want to do on the ship. The daily "Cruise Compass" you get every evening is o.k., but really doesn't give you the time to plan things in advance. We did see a listing eventually after the 4th or 5th day, but it wasn't nearly detailed enough.
5. Like many others, we found the alcoholic drinks too expensive....$8.50 for a glass of wine/cocktail.... and we also thought the internet/wifi service too expensive...0.65/min and the service is very slow. Combined with the excursions, etc., it left you with the impression that the cruise line was doing everything they could to get more money out of you. It felt a bit unseemly seeing as most people on board had paid well over a thousand dollars for the cruise.
Despite these criticisms, overall it was a good trip with great weather, 90+ every day, and we would certainly do it again.