Embarkation and disembarkation at Tilbury was quick,easy and efficient.
The size of the ship appealed to us after being overwhelmed by some bigger and impersonal vessels. We read some reviews before hand as well as the information available, so were prepared with information about facilities on the trip. It was better than we expected and we were very happy overall. We are planning our next trip!
ACCOMMODATION Our cabin was spacious, lots of storage (good as I over reacted to the idea of 6 weeks away and took 14 pairs of shoes and 6 bags - all used!)The laundry service is not expensive (shirt c. Â£1.85). There are wash lines in bathroom for 'smalls'. A small fridge would have been nice.
The ship could not have been cleaner, the staff are attentive, industrious, polite, and helpful, and even smile a lot. In the 6 weeks there was only one waitress on one occasion who was less than helpful.
DINING We ate mostly in the Waldorf Restaurant, (more choice) and decided to share our evening dinner table(8 people) which worked out well in our case.Our table mates were excellent company, and we shared some outings and social events together, which were good fun. Buy a wine package, as this reduces the cost.The service in the dining room was exceptional - Gabriel,Georgiana,Aung, and Alexandru, were our team and they remembered and were sensitive to dietary requirements, happy to make suggestions or changes when we wanted and ever patient, and cheerful.We enjoyed the food, which was well presented, and certainly lots of choice - (on some occasions it could have been a little hotter). There were 5 formal dinners in 6 weeks.
There was always the option of having grilled salmon ( always fresh and tasty) or chicken with steamed vegetables ( or chips) in addition to the main menu. Sometimes for speed or convenience we ate in the Buffet and on the outside deck section where pizzas. burgers, crepes, stir fries etc were cooked.There is a wide range of teas / herbal teas and coffee / decaff available from 6.30 am to 10 pm.It may be a good idea to take an insulated cup/flask to your cabin.
ON BOARD EDUCATION SESSIONS The options were FANTASTIC - A range of expert lecturers were on board. Steve Ragnall, a talented Marine Historian, Louise Bonner, a Geologist, Brian Ford a Biologist and expert on a wide range of subjects ranging from WW2 to the amoeba ! There were a range of other lectures / singing sessions /folk music and journalism. ART SESSIONS - Peter Woolley an artist from Yorkshire had 11 different sessions (Â£2 for materials) covering a range of techniques. The results were presented in an exhibition of c.400 paintings at the end of the trip. Other sessions included painting wooden items, with expert guidance, jewelry making, scrapbook making, quizzes, games.
ENTERTAINMENT - Although the entertainment staff numbers are small, the skills and enthusiasm are undeniable. Award winning concert pianist, and violinist, good ship orchestra, excellent dancers and singers. A new singer, Helen Jolley won the hearts of many of the passengers because, apart from having a brilliant voice, she spent time chatting to the older people on board, when off duty, and remembered names .
EXCURSIONS - we were glad we chose to pay for a few of the excursions - Amazon Adventure, Walk in the Rainforest, St.Vincent Botanical Gardens, (and St.Lucia Whale and Dolphin watching - none seen but complementary rum punch toxic) ! Tours are not cheap - but organisation is good if you want to go with the crowd. In a few of the places we hired taxis and negotiated fees to do our own thing, which we preferred. The AZORES islands were really beautiful - in Porto Delgado try Amazing Azores Tours...... Ricardo 45 Euro pp for 6 to 7 hours.
NEGATIVE THINGS - IF you are a swimmer, the swimming pool on the back deck is very small. (There are 3 good hot tubs on Deck 11)
Sometimes people (who in my view, need to get a life) moaned that the bistro ran out of mugs for hot drinks - but staff are very quick to respond and are very prompt at clearing tables etc, to ensure a flow of crockery. One chap complained that they had run out of Weetabix during week 5. One lady commented on the relatively poorer quality of evening gowns compared to Royal Caribbean !
Ships doctor expensive and not covered by NHS - make sure you are insured adequately.
FINAL COMMENT - for us this trip was a wonderful, life enhancing experience,made better by the people we shared it with and the staff supporting us.We could not have wished for better......In the end the experience is what you are willing to make of it.......