We flew into Venice mid-morning and were immediately directed by a snake of RC staff to the coach for transport to the Cruise Terminal. The transfer took about 20 mins. On arrival we left our cases to be taken on board and headed into Venice for a few hours sight-seeing. The "People Mover" is very close to and visible from the Cruise check-in terminal. It is a monorail which takes you direct to Venice in less than 5 mins at 1 Euro for a single trip.
When we returned the queues had died down and check-in was a cinch. We were on the ship within 10 minutes. We went straight to our cabin and collected our cases which were in a pile outside as we were near the elevators were they had been left for later transfer to cabins.
This was our 3rd cruise and our first with RC after 2 Princess cruises.
The cabin was smaller than expected and had no fridge which surprised us. There was no draw space in the cabin except small draws in the table suitable only for underwear. The balcony was also very small. The bathroom was ok but the shower was very weak. The TV was very good and the bed was comfortable.
We went down to the Schooner bar and signed up for the Premium Drinks package. At $55 per person per day for all soft drinks from the fountain, beers, spirits, cocktails and house wine we reckon this saved us a fortune when you take drink prices into account. $6 for a beer, $7-10 for a cocktail and $8 for a glass of house wine - all plus 15%. This package is valid in all bars and restaurants within the ship. If you are not a big drinker it may not be worthwhile for you.
I have mixed feelings about the bars. The Schooner bar was very pleasant but there were problems. 1) There was often no waiter service in the afternoon. 2) When you have gone for a quiet drink after a hot day ashore you often find yourself invaded by a host of quizzers for the trivia most of whom make a lot of noise and don't even buy a drink. 3) The bar is not of a sufficient size for the amount of people wanting to frequent it in the evenings.
The Viking Crown lounge at the top of the ship was a bit of a disaster staff-wise. it was staffed by a girl who had been in the job for less than a week and was clueless and a very arrogant unhelpful bartender. Most of the advertised late night events never seemed to materialise in this bar.
The pool bar was ok during the day but there was only one evening event here in 7 days. There was generally something going on in the atrium all evening but very little seating available.
As a holiday-only cigar smoker I was very disappointed to find that the only place you can smoke cigars is on one side of the ship on some decks outside in wind-tunnel. I didn't bother but it did somewhat take the edge off my evenings. I will stick to Princess in future where most ships have a cigar bar / Speakeasy.
FOOD. I though the Windjammer buffet was excellent although we often found it difficult to find a table between 9 and 10 for breakfast. Afternoons were better. Never used it in the evenings.
The King and I dining room was our evening destination. We were on 9 pm sitting which I wouldn't do again as everything has either finished or is packed out by the time you have eaten. However, the food and service were excellent. The only criticism I could level here was that sometimes the food was not as hot as it might have been by the time you got it. Some people on Premium drinks packages have said they had trouble getting wine served in the dining room but we had no such problem. The bar waiter was always within sight and was very efficient.
There was also often a risotto demo or BBQ on deck late morning which looked good.
The Chops Grille was ok but not $30 better than the food you have already paid for.
The ship itself was very well decorated after it's recent refurb.
Entertainment : We never visited the Top Hat bat or the Theatre so I can't comment. The entertainment in the Schooner Bar was all very good I thought. The band in the Atrium was poor and the poolside entertainment ranged from puerile to nauseatingly naff.
Staff - Service
Apart from a few abrupt or just deadpan members of staff service was superb in all areas.
Disembarkation was very easy and well-organised.
I preferred Princess marginally in all departments except that RC do not constantly try to sell you stuff. It's there if you want it but no hard-sell like Princess.