This was my first ever cruise although some members of our party had cruised before. My state room on deck 7 had a balcony and was adequate for our 12 year old, my wife and I. Others in our party had a state room which overlooked the central promenade, which was ok but the inside room without windows was dismal. Once on board the first call was for life boat drill which seemed quite chaotic, very hot and uncomfortable.
The centre 'Royal Promenade' seems impressive to start with but you soon realise it's really just overpriced shops selling to captive clientele. When there are activities or shows this area becomes jam-packed and it is very difficult to see or enjoy anything unless you can grab one of the view points higher up.
Outside the main 2 pool area is usually very crowded and noisy. There are 'fun' activities if you feel like dragging out your orange Speedos and dancing to Aga-do or entering the belly-flop competition (and no I'm not making this up). During our 'At Sea' day there were around 3000 passengers all vying for sun-beds and a dip in the tiny pools. There is an adults only area which has another tiny pool and a couple of hot tubs but don't think you can relax here either.
On a positive note I found solace in the excellent gym and once I had my IPod plugged in I could watch the world go by with a view out of the windows. My son loved the Adventure Ocean no parents allowed teen hang out areas and would disappear for hours to 'hang-out'.
Our first port was Messina (Sicily) where we joined the tour bus to Mount Etna and Taormina. Both good choices with a knowledgeable guide. Then on to Athens where we made our own way to the Acropolis and the Parliament building but we wouldn't choose to return here. Ephusus in Turkey was next but we chose the full on detailed guide and found the depth of information and the heat overwhelming, this was followed by a trip to a carpet shop, enough said. Finally we stopped in Souda Crete making our own way to Chania on the local bus which stops next to the ship. Unfortunately we were not in port long enough to fully enjoy this very pretty town.
Back on board the Windjammer buffet restaurant has an impressive and well presented selection of food but was very busy with lots of families and a fair amount of pushing and shoving often difficult to find a table. We chose the Coppelia dining room and the assigned early (6 p.m.) sitting. The waiters were fantastic, attentive without being overpowering but the food was mediocre and sparse with little in the way of vegetables. We didn't try any of the other areas as they required extra payments.
After dinner we had high hopes for the shows in the main theatre The Metropolis. What a disappointment, the shows here were awful and we were not the only ones to give up and walk out, far better was the Ice Dancing show in Studio B. There is the Casino Royal but this was full of cigarette smoke and slot machine noise. What a relief then to discover Schooners Bar and Phil Anderson on piano, great guy with charm and wit the only downside being the overpriced drinks, but that applied to everywhere onboard. We had a disabled passenger in our group and while everywhere was accessible we found pushing a wheelchair round difficult because of the number of people, especially trying to get into the lifts.
Finally, we used the Guest Relations desk a couple of times and they were fine for taking bookings to things but when we approached them with a problem we were experiencing it seemed the default position was to deny any fault or blame on the part of the company. Our issue was resolved eventually but it took some persuading.
Overall not a great experience and maybe not one I would wish to repeat.