Having cruised before on the 19 deck Ventura we were skeptical about this smaller ship. The journey via Cardiff Airport-Thomsons flight-Palma-coach to port was smooth and easy. The only slightly negative point for us was that this was first we had flown in 20 yrs and the only time with kids. We just followed every else and made out most of the signs. We would have appreciated a rep to guide us from arrivals to baggage and coach. The ship is slightly worn internally in places but this is expected on an older ship. I woulds argue that it is budget as it was much more expensive than P&O; it was summer hols but P&O do free and cheap kids places.It is of course more relaxed than other ships as there is no formal dining or dress code.
The weather was scorching!!
The pool was small though! one section was 6/7 ft deep and then a smaller section was 2/3 ft deep. As there were a lot of kids, swimming was out most of the time. it was mostly splashing kids; my son included. It is a salt water pool. Sunbeds were awful. Although the staff and daily news letters asked people not to hog sunbeds with towels for longer then 45 mins or you'd get a "ticket" they were not checked and many selfish people left them empty for over an hour. I was not brave enough to remove any towels that had been there a long time so so had to sit on the poolside many times. It is quieter in the morning and after 4pm.
The inclusive beers, vodka, cocktails are great.
The Cabin was an average inside size but had more storage options than we had had before and with 4 sharing for 2 weeks this was important. The room was clean and comfortable. The only negative was that i wasn't aware that there were no free ironing facilities on board. Unfortunately and lazily i just thew my clothes in expecting to iron them when needed on board.I was gutted on arrival to find no laundry room and irons allowed in rooms. We hung our clothes up straight away and many were fine but we paid for some things to be ironed for the last few days of our holiday. it averages about a 1 a item but always ask you room steward to get the best price i.e kids clothes aren't priced and i didn't want to pay the same as an adult shirt. don't forget European plug adapters.
The food was excellent, plenty of choice, although not always the healthiest,(sauces, roasted, dressings) then again i could probably asked the chef for things without butter or dressing but chose not to. There was always plenty of fruit, a simple salad and a carved meat available. You could also order a variety of children's meals from the waiters in all restaurants, nuggets, fish fingers, spag bol, pizza etc. There was breakfast, dinner, afternoon tea dinner and midnight buffet and hot food served lunch time by the pool(burgers etc).The food changed daily with plenty of choice.
The staff were excellent, from room, bar, restaurant, entertainment and childcare.My 15yr old went the teen meet and we hardly saw her for 2 weeks and my 9yr old went to the 8-12 club and had lots of fun. I wish it was on for longer periods as we found some times one of us had to leave some of the shows a little too early to fetch him as the end of show and end of club collided.
The cruise was run on the same standard format as P&O with talks from the beauticians, dance classes, sports etc our favorites were the animal towel folding and cake decorating. We enjoyed all of our animal towels, they are great fun, my son has learnt some and thoroughly enjoyed practicing them.
Most ports were fine. We only booked trips through the boat to Pompeii and Pisa as with 4 of us these become quite expensive. Sometimes locals offer cheaper trips but most ports didn't this time. Pisa was great but Pompeii was disappointing as there are no artifacts there anymore; they are in Naples Museum or the touring display in the National History Museum London.There are only 2 body casts there so we were disappointed (my daughter is studying volcano's in GCSE Geography).Be warned Pompeii is hazardous to walk on if you have mobility problems; 2 people off our ship ended up in hospital with broken leg and arm so the boat was late sailing. If your not going to ST Tropez, Nice or Monaco ect then Vilefracnce and Toulon have nothing much there. There is nice beach and park play area in Toulon; we took the tourist train that picks up from the boat (20 euros for 4 people).
Villefrance and Calvi have tenders to shore which are great if calm but lookout if it is windy!! coming back from Calvi was like a ride at Alton Towers!!
All the entertainment was good, Tony Mac and Ross were stars and all the show team were amazing singers and dancers.
Overall i would go back on board again and recommend it to others. Is it Butlins on the sea? Maybe, but then i like Butlins. It's not as refined as some boats with the casual attitude but it is the friendliest ship i have been on. When ever we went to the sit-down Island rest. other customers on our table always chatted away, it was lovely.
Thank you Thomsonsxx