Myself, husband and two children aged 14 and 11 returned almost two weeks ago from our first cruise. Here is our review..
We booked this cruise on advice of our travel agent based on the requirements we gave her. Although this cruise was a good match for our needs on reflection we did overpay.
The night prior to embarkation we stayed at a hotel in Southampton as we had to travel from Manchester. This proved to be a good decision as it was very exciting for us to leave our hotel in the morning and see our beautiful ship in dock. It is extremely impressive!
ARRIVAL....We arrived at the docks at approx. 1030am and from arriving to boarding was a painless process taking about an hour. We were satisfied with this and soon we stepped foot on this glorious ship. We headed for the windjammer and secured a window seat to have a bite to eat while waiting for our cabins to be ready.
CABINS....At just after one we got the go ahead to enter into the cabins. Both were clean with everything in that you could need. They are small however and with only 5 coat hangers (Not sure why). We originally booked for us all to be in one cabin and I am delighted we paid extra at a later date for two. Being an inside cabin the rooms are wonderfully dark when the lights are turned off making for an excellent night's sleep. However I feel the colour scheme used could have been better as dark greens added to the overall gloomy feeling. This is just a personal choice however and overall we quite satisfied with the accommodation and lovely stateroom attendant who worked so hard.
THE SHIP....Breath-taking is the only word I can use. I never got tired of looking around. Everything about this ship is lovely and so so clean.
FACILLITES...We loved the Royal Promenade area and the nightly sales. Not that we bought much but did enjoy a browse. The gym was very impressive and puts our gym at home to shame. The casino was good fun, even though we lost! However they seemed to only open two 50c roulette tables and often it was packed. Hardly anyone seemed to use the card tables and most huddled round the roulette. Maybe some reconfiguration there? The flow rider and the climbing wall and sports courts were very popular with our kids and looked great fun.
ON DECK....Oh the Brits and their sunbeds yes you guessed it... problems! We were fully aware of the 30 minute rule so on the first sunny day we went our lunch and removed our towels so someone else could make use of them. Needless to say we didn't do this again as 2 hours later no chance! We walked around for an hour with no luck at all and ended up giving up. We walked past endless beds with towels, flip flips guarding them and no-one removing them. So you do sadly have to play the game of up early stake your claim and guard them with your life thereafter. Sad really as I was hoping this wouldn't be an issue. The pools on deck are lovely but far too small. Why is this? the area for the pools is a decent size but a large area is taken up for a shallow area (Ankle deep) so the proper area is tiny. You can't swim in it as they are too crowded. But that said they are clean and look lovely. The deck area however leads to the worst part of the cruise and I know it sounds petty but it really annoyed me. That is the loud speaker tannoy announcements! Fair enough for emergencies i.e. missing children etc. but endless BING BONGS for art auctions, bingo and even belly flops competitions gave a Butlins feel to it. Shame as the overall experience is NOT a Butlins feel. The worst was the hourly automated message about not reserving sunbeds or teens jumping in the pool. No-one appeared to be listening so maybe the staff should police this rather than BING BONGING hourly about it. I lost counts of the amount of times I was woken up with calls to join Anton for the art auction or Mark for Bingo! NO MORE... I hated this tacky aspect.
ENTERTAINMENT..... We are not massive joiner-inners but did really enjoy the ice shows and some of the theatre productions. Very high quality. The cruise director Joff Eaton was always visible and worked so hard doing a marvellous job.
FOOD.... IMO the best aspect of the holiday. We stuck to the windjammer for the first few days but then thought we'd try the MDR. Once we did we went in there almost every night thereafter. The service was second to none! Although we were on MTD we always sat in the same section with the same waiter and having mentioned we would like a window seat on the first visit we got one every night thereafter. Our waiter, assistant waiter and head waiter were second to none and made our holiday an even better experience. The food was wonderful in all parts of the ship. Couldn't go wrong!
PORTS...We did our own thing and just happily pottered about. Excursions were very highly priced and no way was I prepared to be ripped off. For us the ship was our holiday and a potter around the ports was an added bonus.
ISSUES... Apart from the tannoy announcements which is a personal preference I guess the only thing that I could actually pick fault at was the drinks. Alcohol was very highly priced however we were prepared for that. We did buy a soda pack each before we boarded and I was very disappointed with this. The 'Fountain soda' offered is of poor watered down quality. Worse than your average 'rolacola' taste. Numerous times the drink of our choice Sprite ran out and for the last 3 days all that was available everywhere on board was coke. The ship had ran out of everything else! Now how a ship can run out of a product like soda is frankly not good enough. We paid for a product that was sadly not available for us to have.
Also we were misadvised in the photo shop (Long story) but basically our CD wasn't available to us, and by the sounds of the shouting the last morning lots of other people too. Shame people ended up finishing their holiday on a negative. It really shouldn't have happened. We just quietly took their offer to have the photos instead of the CD and left. Not worth making a scene on the last day. It was however not good enough.
CONCULSION...When you bundle everything together it was a great holiday. Not perfect but far far far more positives than negatives. The staff work so hard and the ship is perfect. We did enjoy ourselves but unless we got a better deal on price we wouldn't go again. We would love to though as cruising is great fun and we did feel very well looked after. Thanks for reading.