I booked this back to back cruise of Aegean Adventure and Gems of the Aegean for its itinerary and dates (for a belated landmark birthday). As I booked early all inclusive was thrown I for free.
It was a joy to check in at Manchester for our flight the evening before - as the queues on the day proved. We had a good flight and, despite a long wait for the luggage, an easy transfer to Marmaris. One niggle - as one of the first off the plane, the ground agent giving out visa waiver forms was not to be seen when we got to immigration so some confusion incurred until she appeared and we could get our hands on a form from her. I can't understand why these are not given out on board the flight.
All the formalities at Marmaris port took minutes and we were soon escorted to our cabin. After exploring the ship we settled in to cruise life, which included plenty of food, a wide range of drinks on the all-inclusive list (a glass of water is free but bottled is not - just ask for a glass) but lack of sun beds and sun bed hogging. I can't see why the sun bed policy is not enforced -- selfish people ruin it for all. The sports deck is a wasted area and would help solve the problem if given over to sun bathing. The decks behind the funnel were very dirty from whatever the funnel pumped out. But apart from that we had no complaints about the 'old girl'.
We were advised Mykonos was to be replaced by Bodrum as the weather was too bad to tender. Although slightly disappointed (having never visited a small Greek island), the communication about this was good. Ditto for a return to Bodrum in place of Didim the following week -- but we were very happy to go back.
I had to use the medical centre which resulted in a procedure and follow up visits. The care was excellent and the cost unbelievable -- on the low side that is!
Food - Most of the time we found this excellent. Lots of choice and all hot and nicely presented. We did tend to eat in the Lido as we found the service in the main dining room (MDR) rushed and I don't like ordering my desert with everything else. We also liked the themed nights in the Lido. We found the standard of the meat of the main courses in the MDR was not as good as the carvery in the Lido. We did have breakfast in the MDR once for the eggs benedict and kippers/smoked haddock. We were disappointed with the fish but the rest was fine. It appeared not many used the MDR for breakfast. Waiters will bring yu tea and coffee at breakfast in the Lido. All our lunches were taken at the Lido. I wanted to try Mistral's a la carte restaurant. The menu the first week was totally uninspiring but was better for the second week, so I booked. Where the MDR is fast, this was OTT slow -- 2 Â½ hours and that was without coffee. Again the main courses were disappointing -- my husband's scallops in sauce were bland and my grilled lobster tough. The service was excellent though and there is a nice touch with desert.
We always go for an outside cabin on the lowest deck and as forward as possible so pre-booked 814 as it had a double bed. It was huge! We could've had a party in it! Not sure if it had been refurbished at all - not having anything to compare to. Only niggle was the air-con did not work very well. We did report it but it did not improve. But this may have been due to the size of the cabin. I could not see a UK socket -- we always take European and US adapters with us. The bathroom was a reasonable size with a powerful shower that was roomy enough for me to bend over to pick up shampoo bottles we stored on the shower tray and not wet the bathroom floor. There was some slight evidence of some of the mildew problems I'd read about. I saw some other cabins on most floors (being nosey when doors were open) and our cabin was bigger than all bar the suites. If you want a cheap outside I recommend this cabin - be warned, it is low down - which does not worry us.
The staff are outstanding -- nothing less. Everyone had a genuine smile and was willing to help go the extra mile. Our cabin maid (Lorena) brought me a plate of petit fours when she found out I needed medical treatment and made an extra towel animal too. Denis was the star of the bar waiters.
Entertainment - We did not take in any shows. The classical duo in the Lido in the evenings was lovely. Tomas and Maris were excellent - we'd seen them more but the Horizons bar was so cold from the air-con. It's a lovely, laid back bar for the views but not great for lounging in as it's so chilly. Hemingway's had a buzzy atmosphere but we mainly took advantage of the weather and had drinks outside.
During the day there was plenty going on. The deck activities were repeated each week -- down to the same 'off the cuff joke'. All good fun though. I must say the team is surprisingly young but great hosts, approachable (other cruise lines take note) and friendly.
Bar a trip up and down the Bosphorous we did our own site-seeing. This was a good trip with good commentary and well organised. Good quality maps and lots of information for DIY visits of the destinations with the on-board team happy to give advice.
I like that you're not booted out of your cabin at silly o'clock on the last day -- by 10am is lovely. The disembarkation process and transfer back to the airport was as easy as starting our cruise. Shame about the tyre blow-out on the way back to the airport. Nothing could be done about it and we were soon on our way again on a new coach and were only hanging around the airport for 30 minutes before it was time to board -- result!
Some niggles, but overall we had a great time -- probably our best cruise but the fantastic destinations really make a difference and add to the experience.