We booked this Cruise fairly early as a "Ruby Wedding Anniversary" present. As part of the booking there was a free flight from Glasgow to Southampton.
The flight down was straightforward, though there was a long delay in our suitcases being delivered to the carousel. This seems to be the "norm" at Southampton and can surely be rectified by better planning.
Transfer to the docks was by bus and took no time. A little confusion on where to go next was even more alarming on entering a large area that can be described as a "Hanger". There were queues of people stretching from a large desk to the back of the "room". However, we were led to a queue that had few people and had our papers very quickly processed, photo taken and "Seapass" issued. So straight to our stateroom on Deck 8 Cabin 350. A quick look round to establish where everything was and then a first visit to the "Windjammer/Jade" Buffet. As expected it was busy, but the lay out of the tables around the stern of the ship and of the Buffet serving areas, combined with quick clearance of tables by staff, meant little waiting.
And so to sail away, not much happened other than people watching the Isle Of Wight go by.
To the Cruise.
THE SHIP:- 15 Decks high and with 4,000 guests and 1.500 staff, all the main public areas are busy, though there are a few quieter places to find. The lifts are always in action.
On Deck 11 was where to find the Pools. On Sea days they were very busy and all the usual sunbed horders had their towels out and then stayed away. Unfortunately the Staff did not take action as per "Rules". However, this did not detract from taking in the beautiful weather. The H2O Zone was ideal for younger cruisers, with lots of water spouts.
The main pool now has a Giant, really Giant TV screen on which either current films or live TV was shown. How good it was on Sunday, 7th July to watch LIVE tennis from Wimbledon. Thank you Andy for giving us the perfect present for our Ruby Wedding Anniversary.
The Solarium Pool was mainly adult and definitely had better sunbeds, with mattresses and again was at a premium. Other open decks had plenty of sunbeds around the ship, whilst the Walking/Running track was well used by those trying to keep fit ???.
On Deck 5 was the Royal Promenade, a street in the middle of a ship. Running the length of the deck, it contained all the shops, two coffee/pizza outlets and the Dog and Badger Pub.
The Staterooms all seemed to be of similar standard and were maintained by very hard working attendants. Our own attendant, Leroy, seemed to know just what was needed and replaced the bath towels at every attendance. The Towel animals were nice touch, especially the two swans on Sunday !!.
RESTAURANTS:- Having opted for "MyTime" dining, we used both main dining and Windjammer Buffet. We found that the Windjammer, though busy, never had waiting for a table, whereas MDR had a wait if you wished not to share, though being at separate tables meant nothing as the tables on either side were almost touching.
The Menus for the MDR could be checked on the Interactive screens at the lifts and so choice could be made on which to use. The food at both were varied, well cooked and plentiful.
Breakfast in both were the same, whilst we used differing places for "Snack Lunches".
All in all we enjoyed any place we used.
ENTERTAINMENT:- A lot to cover as all of the drinking places had individual acts, though the main acts were in either the Alhambra Theatre or the Pyramid Lounge. The Alhambra Theatre could be the envy of all London Theatre, with very comfortable seating for 1200 people and a Sound and Lighting System to match any Concert venue.
Most of the shows were performed by the hard working Ship's Company, with other nights having a Comedian (not too funny), a Juggler (very Clever), a Hypnotist (could have done more) and "Tribute acts to Frankie Valli, Elton John and Queen.
However, probably the best (for last) was the Ice Shows in the ship's own Ice-rink. Colourful productions and story-lines and excellent skaters. "Strings", the story of Violin, was the highlight of the shows, a definate must see.
There was also two Parades down the Royal Promenade and a Finale of playing "UK Music" from various eras as a "Street Party" on the last night. More could have been done with these.
PORTS:- Most of the ports needed either transport into town or on arranged tours and as such we only went onto those walkable.
All had there own places of interest and everybody has their own likes.
OVERALL:- On such a massive ship, with so many people, there are going to be areas or events that could raise complaints, but apart from moving some of the events forward by about 15 minutes to allow people wanting to attend to get from one part of the ship to the other, the only other area of concern is the "Selfish" folk at the pool with their "Booking Towels" on sun beds.
As a first cruise with Royal Caribbean, we enjoyed ourselves and would recommend it.
P.S. As at Southampton Airport, all the luggage from the flight seemed to be forgotten at Glasgow Airport and only after MANY complaints to the Baggage Handler's Office did the luggage arrive some 45 minutes LATE. Please sort this out Glasgow Airport.
Not much has not been said about Barcelona. again having visited on several occasions, only did the "Rambla" walk to see the "Living Statues and do some souvenir hunting.
Though walkable from the dock for the fit, the Shuttle bus was again very expensive for a fairly short journey.
Having been before and "done" the tourist trip round the rock, caves, and been annoyed by the "Barbaries", took the taxi from the dock to town. Walked the main street foe shopping at "M & S", but despite what is said, the prices are cheaper at home. Did the People watch again and took taxi back to ship.
Again another shuttle journey to town. Not too much to do, though certain "Old Town" buildings to see.
Again docked fairly near town, but use of shuttles again proved expensive (think the repetitive nature showing). Several interesting places to visit, especially the Cathedral.
The fourth port was in fact Valencia. This was IOTS first call to this port. It is unfortunately docked some way from the town and can only be reached by shuttle bus or taxi, both at quite expense. Therefore did not visit, though other who did felt it was like all other big cities.
Though docked within walking distance of the town, it is reached by a rather steep incline and may not be suitable for those with walking difficulties. The town itself has all the usual main and souvenir shops along with plenty of smaller squares where you can sit in a pavement cafe to "people watch" and sip a tea/coffee or beer.