Pre Cruise - having booked and inside (not a guarantee) I watched the prices drop and rang a few times to ask about an upgrade or price drop but each time there was some restriction which meant we would lose our free classic alcohol package. 2 days before we cruised the balcony prices dropped to less than my inside and I rang again. This time the answer was YES and they offered me a Concierge cabin for only slightly more than my inside. The agent I rang was excellent. Brilliant customer service.
Embarkation - This was excellent. we arrived about 10.45am, parked the car and left our luggage with the porters in the car park, took a bus to the terminal, checked in with only a 5 min wait and were onboard by 11.15. We wandered around and then went to the buffet. When the room was ready our keys didn't work so we headed to Guest Services, they "fixed" it and we went back. Again it didn't work so back to Guest Services. "fixed " again and back up we went. It didn't work! DH went back and I waited outside until someone came to let me in. The cards worked after the 3rd attempt.
Cabin - This was excellent. As this was an upgrade we had no choice of cabin and were given 9118 which was a great location. The overhang from the buffet on deck 10 would have been a big problem if we had been sailing somewhere hot and sunny as it is so shaded but it was not a problem for us. Our steward was great and we really enjoyed this cabin.
Ship - the inside areas were excellent, very clean and well cared for. The outside of the ship is showing some signs of wear and tear. There was rust on some of the balconies and outside areas. After spending the winter in cold and wet climates I'm surprised that there wasn't more rust visible. The crew were painting handrails and the hull while we were in port and some of the liferafts were being replaced during our cruise. I'm sure that she will be in pristine condition again soon.
Dining - The main dining room was excellent. Food was hot and tasty, lobster on the formal night, steaks and beef cooked as requested. Our servers Manuel and Rosales were great. The brunch on the last sea day was fantastic. The buffet was not so good. Breakfast was not good. The layout makes it difficult to get everything you need as its all so far apart. Pancakes were at the back as far from the rest as possible and were served cold. I asked if I could have a hot one and he put one on a "hot" griddle and pressed it down for a few mins. It was still stone cold. I normally eat tomatoes on toast. They looked good, with a slight browning as though grilled but they were also stone cold and hard - not even slightly warm or cooked. The rest of the time i stuck to oatmeal which was hot. Lunch was OK although again spread out over a large area both sides so you had to walk all the way around to see everything. I think that most of the problems were due to the layout. Bistro on Five was excellent. The food served was hot and tasty and well worth the $5 charge. Service was great here. Cafe Al Baccio was good with decent coffee and nice pastries to eat in or to go.
Drinks Package - We had the classic alcohol package. There was more than enough choice for us and we didn't feel the need to upgrade to premium. We didn't try the martini bar but did have drinks everywhere else. I wouldn't purchase this package based on our low consumption of alcohol but can see how it could be a good deal for some. We had fresh orange juice with breakfast, lattes throughout the day, the odd beer in the afternoon, cocktails before and after dinner and then maybe a nightcap afterwards. This is far more than we normally have. I think that the package is altering the service levels. It was not easy to get a drink in the Theatre. One night we were there on the top tier together with about 100 people and not one waiter appeared. We tried sitting in the lowest seating area and although we were eventually served it took ages with not enough waiters. We didn't get served at all on the last evening. The bars where trivia was held seemed to be purposely closed until after the event was finished. As there was a barman in Rendesvous while we were playing trivia we tried to get a drink but were told he didn't open for another 30 mins. It appeared that wherever we were we either had to wait for ages or go to get your own. We felt that there were a lot less drink waiters than usual and the ones we did see were overworked.
Entertainment - just not our thing, it was all singing and dancing and musicians. No variety type acts. Kimika was OK and Jack Walker was good. The acapella group the Neptunes were good and although they said to look out for them around the ship they dismbarked at our first port of call. Trivia sessions with Nick were enjoyable but when sailing out of the UK with a high proportion of British it might be an idea to alter the questions to be less USA based. The evening Millionaire game in Michaels Club was great fun.
Ports - Norway has stunning scenery and sailing the Fjiords is amazing. We enjoyed all of the ports that we visited. Geiranger was spectacular. Don't miss a boat ride to see the waterfalls close up.
Guest Services - We were considering buying an ipad 4 on board as it was a good price but thought we should check if we would have to pay duty on it at customs in Harwich. We asked at guest services what our allowances would be and they laughed and said "you can take back as much as you want - there's no limit why not buy an extra suitcase and fill it up." On the last day there was a leaflet delivered to all cabins stating the allowances were only 225 (about) of goods. I find it shocking that guest services should mislead customers into spending more than they should. Whilst I accept that it is our responsibility to check allowances it was difficult with the internet access being very intermitant due to the mountains and fjiords effecting the satellite signal. All I expect is for them to be honest, they are sailing to Norway regularly and they must know the limits.
Overall, we did enjoy the cruise but with some reservations.