Having booked this cruise because it fit our dates and we got a great price, we were either disappointed or annoyed almost every step of the way. Granted, we've been really spoiled, sailing SilverSea and Seabourn in the last 3 years, but for some of the problems, that was no excuse.
It started with the 5 day delay between the time I booked the cruise and the time that the company managed to get it together to send me a confirmation email with my sailing number. Mind you, they managed to ring up the charge on my credit card the first afternoon, but it took multiple phone calls from my travel agent to get the confirmation. I was mostly concerned with getting that booking/sailing number, because without it, I couldn't sign in to the "Already Booked" section of their website. Because I'd made the booking only about 8 weeks before sailing, I wanted to make appointments in the spa and book excursions.
Once I had the confirmation code, I did sign in and had to re-sign in each and every time I returned. My computer remembers every key stroke it's ever registered but for some reason, Cunard's website made me sign in again and again. A minor annoyance but in keeping with what I found to be a really mediocre website in general.
The worst part was trying to make a spa apppointment. There was no calendar available on the website, even under the "Already Booked" area, where in theory (and in practice on other cruise lines) I could have made the appointments with a few key strokes. No. I could email them and wait for a response, or call (England) I email. And emailed. and emailed. I got plenty of automated replies but no actual personal email willing to make my reservations. Finally I realized that the automated response email had a different phone number that worked like an 800 number in the US but routed through the England. So, 3 weeks after I started, I called. I had to leave a message. I told the machine that I wanted to make some spa appointments and I gave the two dates that I wanted. I told them morning or afternoon (wouldn't want to get in the way of lunch) They emailed me the appointments - at NOON ! Honestly, by that time I was just amazed. It seemed so British - exceedingly polite but vaguely incompetent. More phone calls sorted it out. The services were expensive but not as bad as Vegas, so I thought okay, bite the bullet.
The excursions didn't look like much and in the case of Barcelona, didn't cover the things I wanted to see. Many tours that should have been half day tours weren't scheduled in such a way that would allow you to take 2 tours in one day. Our last cruise (Seabourn Baltic) had morning and afternoon tours, which would let you come back to the ship at lunchtime and really let you see everything you wanted (plus, I could leave my husband on the ship for an afternoon nap after we'd both been to see something in the morning) I did book an excursion from Livorno which would take us up the coast to Lerici and Portovenere for the day. The price seemed very reasonable $125pp for an 8 hour day with lunch.
I was really looking forward to visiting Cadiz, but as another member's review mentioned, the line cancelled that with very little warning. I tried to find out why they cancelled Cadiz and put in Gibraltar and I got the feeling that it was a business decision - like the port charges were going to be too high or they hadn't sold enough excursions. They kept saying how Gibraltar was an opportunity to shop High Street shops without having to pay VAT. Well, their clientele is mostly British, so I suppose that's a draw for some, but I was very disappointed to not be visiting Cadiz (or Seville)
Cunard has a very rigid hierarchy (Brits ! A Class system ! Love it) that we're not really interested in, but with a balcony cabin, I did expect a little better from the travel docs than a paper tag. I knew the tags wouldn't last through the multiple flights it would take to get me to London, so I waited to attach them, only to find that they weren't self-stick, but needed (so the instructions said) my own tape or staples. Staples ! I thought "that's going to go over well with the front desk".
Check in was efficient and we reached our cabin with no mishaps. My bag was already there and my husband's arrived not too long afterwards. There was a split of some kind of wine in an ice bucket, but no fruit bowl. I found out later that you need to request the daily fruit bowl. I did that once. It was uninspired and I didn't renew my request and no new fruit appeared. Our steward introduced himself. He seemed pleasant enough and we saw him a lot, as his cart was parked next to our room almost our entire stay. The cabin was perfectly nice - all the balcony cabins that we've booked have the same layout.
I went to the Pursers to register my credit card and while there I learned from another passenger that an automatic tip of about $13 would automatically be added to your bill unless you opted out. I have no idea where he came across this information but I was glad I learned about it up front.
In the same way that we're not interested in the special dining areas that a higher priced cabin would have afforded us, we're not interested in the extensive formal and semi-formal nights that seem to be one of the backbones of this line. The first night we did try the Lido's special menu restaurant the first night. It was an Indian menu and quite tasty, but the $10 surcharge seemed designed to annoy more than anything else. Other cruisers we spoke to said that the surcharge is new.
That was really the most niggling annoyance of the entire cruise - the sense of being nickle and dimed to death. Coffee, soda, even the bottles of water as you left the ship - everything was an add-on charge. It made the whole thing feel cheap and like another member said, really like a jumped-up Carnival cruise. Don't even get me started on the wi-fi. In this day and age it's just greedy of the cruise lines to charge you for wi-fi like it was an internet cafe in Krakow in 1990.
The Captain opted to anchor out at Monaco - god knows what that was about. Supposedly another ship had precedence but they arrived after us, so ??? Tenders traveled back and forth but I suffer from some vertigo/motion sickness and there was no way. Ah, well, another port I wanted to see crossed off the list.
On the upside, the spa has a huge indoor hot tub/thalassotherapy pool which was simply divine, the food at the Lido was perfectly nice and featured a new cuisine each night, Barcelona and Mallorca were wonderful and the tour in Italy was great. I'm just grateful that I got such a good deal on the price, because never again.