This cruise actually started in Valencia, Spain-but that was not an offered port. That being said-this was an odd cruise having 2 starting ports, Malaga and then Valencia. The cruise was 95% Spanish speaking-making it necessary for all things done by the cruise director to be in 2 languages. The entertainment suffered as a result. There were no comedians, I assume because it is too difficult to do in 2 languages. One night they had a guy balancing plates that was a 5 minute gig stretched into a 40 minute gig, and another night a Brazilian tango dance couple-that seriously did a terrible tango. The ice skating was great. The other nights we opted to skip the entertainment.
The food was the absolute worse we have ever had on a ship. Meats were over cooked. Chicken one night was served raw inside to one of the people at our table, another night-our entire table didn't eat the chicken dish because it was served so dry and inedible. Cold soups tasted like jello-way too sweet too sweet to be a soup. The hot soups were flavorless. It was very obvious to us that nobody bothered to taste the food before serving it. We decided to do the breakfast in the dining room every morning, which was great. The waiters were exceptional. We steered clear of the buffets because it is usually the same food over and over, and not always good.
Our cabin was nice, a bit tired, and on the 6th floor which has a solid bottom on the deck. Which means you were not able to lay on the bed and look out. It felt a bit closed in for me. I am sure most people wouldn't mind-but I wouldn't book that floor again. Our cabin steward was wonderful, and kept our room very clean.
The SMOKING on the ship was everywhere. I had no idea that people would be smoking in the bars and the casino-even on non smoking night. It seems Europeans still are big on smoking. I have to say-for a non smoker it was disgusting watching smokers flick their ashes on the carpets in the casino, blowing smoke in people's faces at the tables, stepping out their cigarettes on the floor. I felt like I was in a time warp, back 50 years ago, before people knew the hazards of smoking. I will be sure to check the smoking policies on any ships I go on from now on. Based on all my other cruises, I would have never thought it to be an issue.
The other shock to me was babies in the bars at 2 am in the morning-smokey bars in their strollers. I am not talking about 1 baby, but many, most nights 10 or more babies in the bar. I have never seen this before, but was told it was because their parents take "siestas" during the day and stay up late at night. Children were running up and down the halls way past the 11pm curfew. It was mayhem. I have never witnessed that either. It seemed that the crew on the ship wasn't big on enforcing any rules. Perhaps it was to avoid confrontation with people-but it made the cruise almost unbearable. Babies in diapers were in the adult solarium pool-I complained about that after there were in there for over 20 minutes and nobody said a thing. It is a health issue, and very disgusting to boot.
I have never been on a ship that ran out of pool towels before-they did. As usual there were no sunbeds to be had on sea days because towels were left all day-even if the sunbeds were never used. Nobody enforced the time limits-even during the 2 hour "siestas", sunbeds were left empty while people walked around and around looking for a place to lay.
Communication was very poor on this cruise. When I had booked with Royal Caribbean direct, I had told them we had a special occasion, my daughter had just received her Master's degree and we were celebrating with a cruise. They asked me what night I wanted to do a celebration, and I asked them to do it first formal night. It never happened. Another couple at our table had a birthday that she told them about, it never happened. I requested a diabetic menu-it didn't happen-I requested our beds apart-it didn't happen-I requested a sharps container for my cabin-it didn't happen. Every time I called Royal Caribbean they would repeat all the information, and I would agree. I am talking about 5 or 6 times, I was shocked that they never communicated any of this with the ship.
Since this was a 2 port cruise, on day 6 when new people were getting on in Malaga, we were told in the main dining room which was not used by new people getting on, that we had to redo the muster drill. One of the couples we were with have done many back to back cruises and have never had to do a second muster drill. We thought perhaps the waiter just didn't know this, so we went to customer service, and was told that we had to do it. It was mandatory to do a second muster drill-and so we were prepared to do it. Our cabin steward asked us where we were going him, we told him the muster drill, he laughed and told us we didn't have to go it again. My point is these people don't communicate with the crew, which could be very bad in a crisis situation. When we went back to tell the woman at customer service, she checked with her manager-and replied "I was wrong-so hit me". Yikes. Not the attitude I wanted to see. It was a bit rude.
As to the itinerary- none of the ports are listed below so I will give you my impression here. I had no idea Europe had ugly industrial ship ports that the cruise ships pulled into. Civitavecchia-was a pit. We had to stand in the blazing sun for almost 35 minutes to get back on the ship after our ship tour to Rome. No icy towels, no shade, just baking in the sun and 95 plus degrees.
It was so bad, that they were pulling elderly people and people with small children to the front of the line to get them out of the heat, which made the wait that much longer. Livorno-was another industrial port that smelled like petroleum products. Not the beautiful ports of my imagination. This is the one cruise that I never used my deck while in port. Since I had never been on a Mediterranean cruise before, I asked if all ports were like this, and was told, no. Ajaccio was pretty, Malaga, user friendly, Valencia, industrial, and believe it or not-our cab driver to the port had no idea of where to drop us off. I am thinking this is a new thing there-but it wound up costing me 12 euros for a 6 euro trip because he tried to drop us at the wrong place instead of the terminal, which had very poor seating for the amount of people getting on.
I wouldn't suggest taking this cruise if you don't speak Spanish, or if you like good food on a cruise. I found most of the guests to be rude, arrogant, and extremely pushy, and coming from NY I have seen people that can be all of the above-just not hundreds together at one time. 900 plus children that haven't been taught manners are a bit overwhelming.
In conclusion, I felt sad having wasted one of my vacation weeks on a very lack luster cruise. I don't plan on sailing with Royal Caribbean again, I will stick to their sister company- Celebrity-who does it right.