Having just returned from this cruise, this is our opinion and review.
This was our first cruise with RCI with two previous cruises with P&O on Oceana. We are a family of two adults and two sons aged 21 and 17.
Embarkation was very smooth, a quick lunch in the windjammer buffet and off to find our cabin.
Our first impressions were very impressive. The ship was everything we had hoped for. Our adjoining balcony cabins on deck eight (cabins 8532 and 8530) were far larger than we had expected. We did not have inter-connecting cabins but had the balcony screen doors unlocked so we could walk through to each room. Our cabins consisted of small bathroom with w.c, basin and 1700mm circular shower with sliding doors, which was perfectly adequate, a double length wardrobe with storage and free safe, a large sofa and king-size double bed. The balcony size was about 8" x 6" with two chairs and small table. The cabin had a mini-car stocked with water, soft drinks and snacks (all at same cost as in bars/restaurants) $4.75 for large bottle of water, $2.50 for coke/sprite. On the interactive flat-screen t.v. we were able to book restaurants, change dining times and to check your account. The only t.v. channels we had were the usual BBC world news, ESPN, music channel, kids cartoons and CNBC, along with cruise excursions and also a very funny and entertaining hour long show presented by the cruise director Joff Eaton and Tim Connor. The cabins were excellently cleaned and maintained by our steward and when I mentioned that I had not brought any US adaptors for the plugs, when we returned on the first evening, he had left one for us.
The entertainment was by far the best we have seen, a very funny comedian by the name of Paul Adams, Pete Matthews a comedy juggler, Christopher Caress - Hypnotist who was excellent, and a show from The Eastcoast Boys who performed a tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Neil Lockwood who performed as Elton John and The Bohemians Queen tribute show. There were 3 or 4 shows from the ships entertainment team. Another was a game show similar to charades between the Captains team and the Entertainment team, which was hilarious, plus a Mr & Mrs type show and on the last day a guest talent show which again, was very good. There were also promenade parties, 70's and Rock Britannia, along with deck parties, which were hosted by the entertainment team.
The two ice shows were very impressive & professional and worth the effort of getting up at 8.30a.m. to join a queue for the tickets.
Throughout the day there are various spa talks and demonstrations, there were talks on The London Palladium and The Titanic. Keith Deller (past Darts World Champion) was also on board.
The dining on-board was very impressive from room service for breakfast (which also includes hot food); to the Windjammer buffet restaurant and the formal King Lear main dining room. We had My Time dining which suited us, which was a set time that you chose, you then had the same table every night so you got to know the waiters by name - a special thank you to William and Elpideo who looked after us and to all the staff who genuinely looked like they enjoyed their jobs and were always happy to serve. There was always plenty of choice of about 8 starters, 8 mains and about 6 desserts. We had lobster in the starter twice and when we couldn't decide on what to choose, we would often be brought both dishes to try. We did not try the other restaurants that you had to pay extra for as we felt there was always something on the menu in the main restaurant that we liked.
The ports we visited were Vigo, Lisbon, Gibraltar, Valencia, Barcelona, Majorca, Ibiza and Cadiz. We booked two excursions one to the Benfica Stadium in Lisbon which included a tour around Lisbon, tour of the stadium and lunch, which was very good and worth the cost. The other was a beach trip in Majorca to Palma Nova, although we could easily have got a taxi. In Vigo we wondered around the town, which was easy from the ship. Gibraltar we went into the town and found the museum which for 2 euros each was a very worthwhile visit, they showed a short video on Gibraltar and had a number of rooms full of exhibits. In Valencia we got a taxi to the local beach (10 euros there and 8 back), a beautiful long beach with very warm water. In Barcelona we got a taxi Sagrada Familia, the basilian temple by Gaudi (25 euros) but the queues were too long to go inside, so got on the Hop On Bus for 26 euros each, which included three different trips, red, blue and green line. These were very crowded and had no air-conditioning downstairs, but a good way to see around Barcelona. In Ibiza, we took a taxi to the Aquarium on the outskirts of San Antonio, which really was not worth the bother but there was a boat trip across the bay (4 euros one way) into San Antonio, the boat trip was very pleasant. In Cadiz, we took another taxi (10 Euros there and 8 euros back) to Victoria Beach, which again is a very nice beach.
The only negatives we had were the cost of drinks $33 for bottle of Pinot Grigio, $9.75 for cocktails. We like a drink on holiday and would probably drunk more if the prices were a bit more reasonable. We didn't choose the drinks packages as these were excessive. The cost of wifi/internet is as with most cruises excessive, although the connection speed was quite good, so a quick check of e-mails/internet about 5-10 minutes was around $5. You registered in the internet study and then connected wifi in your cabin and could then choose a package or choose pay as you go at 65 cents per minute.
My 17 year old son, who really enjoyed the club on P&O went along on the first night for the get-together and enjoyed this. He then went the next day and spent a long time trying to find anything happening or anyone - there did not seem many scheduled events each day for this age group, at least, not compared with P&O. There were apparently over 800 children on board, with 1100 joining on the 13 July and 1400 on the 27 July. He went to the gym and was very impressed with all the equipment on offer.
We used self-disembarkation which meant you could leave any time from 6.15 to 9.15 provided you could carry your luggage off the ship yourselves, which we could and this seemed very popular.
Overall, we all had a fabulous time on a very clean, efficient and well-run ship. We would have no hesitation in booking again. The eight ports of call were the main reason for booking this cruise, as we did feel that if there were too many sea days on a large ship with many people, this would not be for us. The mix of people on board from all over the world was a nice change to the mostly British P&O and we met some really nice people.