Booked late; just needed some sun after the awful UK weather. The late evening flight with EasyJet departed and arrived on time but seating (perhaps as expected) was cramped and uncomfortable, however it got us there. We stayed at the Garibaldi Hotel in Venice (actually in Maestre on the mainland) which was no more than adequate but with exceptionally helpful and pleasant staff. It had the big advantage of being right by the bus stop (No.2) for Venice which was very useful. The next morning, despite some good instructions about getting to the Cruise Terminal via bus and the new People Mover we took the lazy option of a cab.
Check-in was very smooth and speedy so that we were on board for lunch in the Windjammer buffet restaurant. It was interesting to note that the multitude of drinks waiters trying to sell "Cocktail of the Day" which we had previously experienced on RCI had completely disappeared. Our mini-Suite was spacious and the bathroom lived up to its name by having a proper bath! There were coffee making facilities in the room which was nice. The balcony was, however, a bit disappointing being much smaller than those on Princess, our favourite Cruise Line. Lifeboat drill was done in port which seemed a very good idea but without life jackets which seemed a bit strange.
We were booked into 2nd sitting (8:30 pm) for dinner which suited us, but again would much prefer to be able to arrive when we want for our meals as in Princess "anytime dining". RCI are trying with their "mytime dining" but one still has to book a specific time which seems to defeat the point. There were fewer courses available since our previous RCI cruise on the Mariner (a great ship) but this seems to be in line with many other cruise lines that are cutting back The food was not as varied as expected and the special menus for formal days (lobster and baked Alaska) which we are used to never appeared. The waiting staff tried hard but seemed to be under pressure and the one wine waiter we saw on our first day disappeared when we declined to buy a drinks package, leaving the table waiters to deal with wines as well. They coped with this well and our wine (we bought bottles) was always ready for us at the table. We ordered hot chocolate instead of coffee after dinner on our first evening which was at no extra cost, unlike Princess who now insist on charging for it. A special word of praise should be given to the assistant waiter who thereafter brought us our hot chocolate every evening without our having to ask for it. We did not try any of the "Speciality" restaurants.
The ship was generally clean and tidy and the staff throughout the ship seemed very cheerful and greeted us as we passed by. Our cabin service was adequate but by no means exceptional. There were plenty of loungers for sunbathing and the pools never seemed to get crowded but perhaps that was something to do with the near-freezing salt water they contained. The Solarium for adults only (although there were very few children to try to escape from) was a very pleasant asset with much more comfortable chairs and loungers. We find that on every cruise line the drinks are overpriced but definitely felt that the cocktails we were served on this cruise suffered from a distinct lack of alcohol compared to the last time we cruised. We, therefore, reverted to fruit juice, wine and beer, still overpriced, even without the mandatory 15% service charge, but at least unadulterated.
We felt the entertainment in the Theatre was sub-standard with the Royal Caribbean Dancers & Singers only making two appearances during the ten day cruise doing unimpressive routines which made me think that I may have a career as a choreographer. The Guest Entertainers on the other hand were very good and "entertaining", although we would like to have seen much more of the acrobats than their very brief performance on stage. We prefer to attend a show after our meal and so the pre-dinner shows were not ideal for us. The "new feature" of trapeze artists performing over the Centrum area was a good idea but the performances fell short of expectations and one had to cram around the various levels and also, if one wanted a decent view, one had to stand around for up to half an hour waiting. The Cruise Director's Staff on the other hand were tireless in trying to get the passengers to participate in events but for some reason seemed to get very little response. There were events going on continually throughout the day (and night) but only a few rolled up for the Quizzes, where we generally meet most of our new friends, and getting people to enter the game shows was definitely hard work. This was very surprising and was perhaps a reflection of the make-up of the passengers on this particular sailing.
We had chosen this cruise for its itinerary and were not disappointed. We did not sign-up for any of the organised tours as they, in common with virtually all the other cruise lines, were in our opinion very expensive. We either went ashore and did our own "walking tour" of the town or, if we wished to travel further afield, used the local services which were freely available just outside the dock area. On previous cruises, we had been able to listen to knowledgeable "Port Lecturers" give some history and hints about getting around in our various destinations. We were, therefore very disappointed with the information in the talks on this voyage which seemed to be just a sales-pitch for their organised tours and "designated" shops..
Despite the niggles mentioned, this was a very enjoyable and relaxing cruise and by generally doing our own thing we had a very enjoyable time.