Upon boarding the Classica I was pleasently surprised. I was expecting a ship in rougher shape after reading all the reviews. We were assigned cabin 6004 from our inside guarantee and I will say that the front cabins Certainly, 6000, 6001, 6002, 6003 and 6004 must be the worst cabins on the ship. Every morning when docking it sounded like a jackhammer was going off in the cabin. Avoid these cabins like the plague. I complained to the desk and we were moved on the third night to a nice oceanview cabin 6050. It was a very nice upgrade and made up for the shocking waking call the two nights before. The ship had quite a large number of empty cabins.
There was quite a mix of passengers on the boat, about a dozen kids or so, a decent mix of under 30, mostly in the 30-50 range with a fewer older passengers as well. Many spoke english, but I heard a lot of different languages onboard. The cruise director's linguistic ability was amazing.
If you want a sim card for your phone, get it at the airport. We spent quite a bit of time tracking one down afterwords. They are quite expensive compared to most contries, at 50 Dirhams... 1 GB of data was 100 Dirhams with varying other levels available. We were here for 10 days, so having it was very helpful and worth it to us.
Also, I missed the first safety drill, by accident, and I might suggest this as the second drill at 6pm was much quicker than the first one.
My fiance is gluten free and the breads and gluten free choices were excellent. An assistant Matrade was at our table every night to make sure the gluten free options she had were not messed up. The desserts were good, but after the first couple nights, it was always the same cake for the Gluten Free.
The normal people food in the dining room was the one negative on the ship. The first 5 meals were lackluster. It is not that they were terrible, just could have been much better. Tough meats were the norm with the exception of the last two nights, where a nice steak and really delicious chicken were served. The pasta was decent most nights, with the pesto standing above all the rest.
The buffet was average to below average. The soft serve ice cream they serve is the best soft serve I've ever had. They should make it available more however.
The shows were a big highlight of the cruise. The dancers were very good, and the illusionist that they had one night was absolutely stellar, the best show I've seen on a cruise ship for sure, and close to the top show I've seen anywhere. Incredibly impressive.
We did all the ports on our own.
In Muscat, Oman, we took a taxi to the Palace and walked around, and then headed back to the ship. You could not get inside the palace, but it was a really pretty walk around the area. On walking back, we saw kayaks going out and very much wish we had rented kayaks for the day instead.
Khasab, Oman was my favorite. No need for the ships excursion here, get off the boat, turn right without going outside the port and walk to the dhows. Negotiate. We paid 125 durhams each for a three hour cruise. It was worth every penny but was had by some for 20 Euro. We were the second ship out of the port, which was very helpful as we saw a ton of dolphins cruising along the boat. The swim stop was good, but I'd recommend having your own snorkel gear, as our boat didn't have any onboard. Afterwords we took the provided shuttle into town and went to the castle, which I would highly recommend. It was very well done, and for 1 Omani Rial per person (about US$2.50) it was highly worth it.
In Abu Dhabi (which we stayed in for two days pre cruise) we took the bus to Ferrari World (The same bus will take you to Ferrari world and you can shuttle to Yas Waterworld which I would highly recommend. Get off the boat and look for the bus stop for bus 56 (2 Dirhams per person). Tell the driver where you are going and he will stop in a bit where you can transfer to bus 190 which takes you there(4 Dirhams per person). You can normally buy buy one get one free coupons for Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld on Ebay for around US$10 each, which I would recommend, or buy the full Entertainer book, but it's quite a bit pricier for the entire book.
In Fujarah, we walked along the beach that was to the right of where the cruise ship docked. It was a bit of a walk, but a nice lazy cheap day.
Back in Dubai we headed to Taste of Dubai. It was alright, but I wouldn't head back. As a note, from the cruise port, there is a 25 Dirham fee just to get in a taxi... whoops, should have waited for the free mall shuttles and taken the metro from there. A full day metro pass can be purchased for 14 Dirham, which is a good value and an easy way to see many of the sites of Dubai.
The cruise terminal in Dubai is nice, but the supposed Free Wifi didn't work and was very disappointing.
We had an early flight the next day and left the ship about 3:30 am. There were plenty of taxi's available even at that time. Our Taxi fare from the airport to the ship was 60 Dirhams and back to the airport was about 70 Dirhams. Most likely could have saved a bit taking the metro but was not sure of the operational times and didn't want to carry the bags.
All in all, I'd highly recommend the cruise. At US$616 for a weeks cruise for two people with all taxes and fee, and the what translated to 72 Euro shipboard credit as a CCL Shareholder, it was a very good value. Tips are 7 Euro per person per day on this itinerary. Drinks are expensive at around 5 Euro per beer, so if you are a heavy drinker, the drinks package at 19 Euro per person per day would be a good value. I was not a fan of the Carlsberg draft they had on the ship, however I like it out of the bottle, so not quite sure what to make of that.
As a side note, for the point junkies that may be reading this, the Casino charged no fee to get chips from your costa card, that will eventually end up on your credit card, which allowed us to get Euro's that we needed for later in our trip, and get some extra miles to boot!