This was my first cruise. Didn't know what to expect but reading sites like this really helped. We flew into Venice from the USA (Chicago) on the day of embarkation and so that meant that we've been up for close to 24 hrs in real time. Registration was fairly simple. We boarded the ship around 11:30 AM so our room wasn't ready yet but the bar was open on deck 9 and we hung out there. The Windjammer dining area opened up around noon and we grabbed something to eat. I was worried about the quality of the water on the ship but was relieved to find out it tasted great and so didn't have to purchase bottled water. Afterwards, we went to our room and took a short nap. Remember the bottled water and canned sodas in your room are not complimentary. A liter bottle of water was like $5.50 and canned soda was about $2.50.
Pros: - Rooms were clean -Housekeeper checked room multiple times throughout the day -Lots of activities on board -Food was average to above average. We tried the My Time Dining in the King and I dining room a few times but found we liked the buffet style dining at the Windjammer better because it was just more convenient. -Not a lot of beverage choices if you don't buy purchase the soda or alcohol package. Mornings had cofffee, tea, orange juice, apple juice and water. Lunch and dinner had lemonade and a flavored water (Mio, crystal light). Would have been nice to have juice for lunch too. -Staff was pretty nice.
Cons: -Everything closes up by 2 AM. Meaning you couldn't get a snack or beverage/water until 6:30AM. There are people from all over the world with different sleep patterns so it would have been nice to at least have a station where you can dispense juice and water 24/7. My suggestion is to get a water bottle and fill it up in case you get thirsty in the middle of the night. Or I suppose you can drink the water from your bathroom sink. -Excercise room was pretty small and hours were limited also. -Dining staff in the Windjammer wasn't very serviceable. They were very good at clearing the tables but did not seem to want to offer other services like getting beverages. If I wanted a beer or soda, I'd either have to go order one from the bar outside the dining hall or try and flag one of the staff members. Sodas and alcohol beverages are not serviced inside the the Windjammer. I had the alcohol package and wanted to make use of it during all my meals. I don't recall being asked once if I needed anything. My thought was maybe it's not part of their job to be of service in the Windjammer but rather to be just bus boys. -Chops Grille: Made reservations there and arrived at designated time; 8:30. Was escorted to table by host and sat there for about 15 minutes before anyone came by to greet us and give us menus. Took another 10 more mins before water came and poured us some water. By the time the waiter came by to ask for our order, it was a little after 9:00. By the time appetizers came out it was about 9:30. Main course was probably 15 minutes after. The food was excellent. We ordered a couple of appetizers each. I guess I just felt like the service was really slow and the waiters weren't very attentive. We (2 people) spent about 2 hrs in their for our meal. Maybe some people enjoy the slow service but it's not for me.
Ports: My suggestion is to do some research and do it on your own instead of purchasing the excursions through the cruise line. This will save you a lot. Most of the ports are pretty small towns and you can explore it by yourself. Dubrovnik and Santorini have buses you can take to get around. The only port where I thought it was wise to get a guide/driver was in Athens because it's so big. You can hire a taxi in Athens to drive you around for cheaper than the excursions, especially if you have 2 or more people in your group. My friend and I were approached by a taxi while walking to the metro train. He took us to 4-5 different spots (Acropolis, Plaka, Stadium, some mountain overlooking the city, parliament) for 30 euros each.
Overall I enjoyed the cruise but would probably try another cruise line on my next cruise just to see the difference.