I chose this cruise based on destination, and there was a course on board that I took part in. I have liked RC in the past.
Southampton: I took the bus from Heathrow to Southampton- very easy to find the bus station in the airport. I used National Express. The station they take you to in Southampton is an easy less than 10 min walk past the popular malls, to Premier Inn- and there are other hotels around here. Premier Inn was a very convenient place to stay based on this and wandering into town. To the pier, it was a confusing walk so I paid 6 pounds to take a taxi. If you walk, be prepared to be confused about how to get into the port, even if you see your ship right in front of you.
Big, well laid out, clean, bright. I really missed having a lounge in the front of the ship. The Viking Lounge provided a nice view but the windows were mostly dirty and it was always crowded- I sometimes would stand for 20 min to get 1 seat. For cruising through the fjords I wish there was a better place to stand (too cold outside). I also wish they would turn out the lights on some sections outside. We could see Northern Lights on several nights, but you had to hang over the edge of the railing and block the lights to see them. We all lamented that there was no one from RC directing people to see the lights, or maybe even a lecture about them. Same with the whales and dolphins, the captain would occasionally announce them, but it would be nice if a naturalist pointed them out with you.
The dinner setting was really crowded. We were packed in and you had to constantly move your chair in order for crew to get around you.
Windjammer was overly crowded, I often had to circle around for 10 plus minutes to find a table, or someone willing to share 1 chair!
The outdoor climbing, golf areas seemed to go unused... the pools were popular even when it was chilly!
Service. This was a return to RC after going to Celebrity and a river cruise, and I was really disappointed here. Stateroom attendant was great- out of the way but very friendly. The dinner crew was appalling- they were really too busy and overworked to pay any particular attention to us. The breakfast and lunch crew at the sit-down restaurants were downright rude. If I asked the coffee guy for water, the response was "I only do coffee and tea". I am not that picky but I found this and the fact that while walking the staff would cut in front of me constantly really shocking. I did find the Help Desk people mostly nice and they easily took away erroneous charges. The Wifi was horrible, and I refused to pay the money after I spent $20 just trying to log on and buy a package. There was no one at the Computer desk to help, and the Front Desk people were not all knowledgeable. I waited for ports to use Wifi. I still contend that if we can get free cable TV, we should have free, or at least reasonably priced Wifi!
Port & Shore Excursions.
Southampton- lovely place to spend the night, walk around town, have a pint. I recommend getting there from Heathrow via National Express. On return, I was going to London instead, so I used a bus group called International Friends. I had a great day of visiting Stonehenge, Bath, and Windsor. The bus driver was a hoot, I could not believe I spent 12 hours on a bus tour and loved it! If you google "heathrow to southampton transfers" you will get a great website called the London toolkit and it goes over all of your options.
Reykjavik- I had an independent bus tour here with my conference. First day we did the "Golden Circle" to see Gulfoss, Geysers, Thingvellir. Stunning scenery, we had great weather so I am sure that helped.
We were told that the walk into town was "15 min" by our guide, so we attempted that, but it turned out to be 45 min! Take a taxi, though from the port, it is about $20. We were also told that the shops would be all closed after 6, but did not find that to be the case. So, go into town if you have the time, it is very nice to wander!
The next day we did the same group tour, this time to Blue Lagoon. We were very lucky because we were the first there, and had a great time. Others came later and had no lockers, so could not go swimming, just watch us. Also, our guide told us that we had to take our clothes off and all shower nude together. This frightened a lot of people into not going (particularly some religious faiths), and this was also not the case- most everyone showered in their bathing suits, and there are a few private showers. If you go to Blue Lagoon, go early. I talked to others that took a local bus there and it took forever and they did not have time to swim. By the way, 1 hour is sufficient to swim and relax. Also, do not wear silver jewelry, and put tons of conditioner in your hair before swimming.
Akureyri- Group Bus tour. Did not see any of the town. It looked small but quaint, so I feel I missed out on at least a 10 min walk. Tour to Godafoss Falls, more thermal areas, lava formations, and a really desolate but beautiful lake area where we had an amazing fish lunch. Our guide was amazing, and we really learned about local culture this way.
Trondheim, Norway- wandered on my own, which I was excited to do after my bus tours. Very cute and walkable town. Unfortunately there on a Sunday and almost everything closed. Free Wifi difficult to find and the crew and passengers swooped in when found! Lots of cute cafes. Do go to the old town, see the bike lift, the wooden houses.
Alesund- beautiful! I took a RC tour. "Path of the Trolls", and this may have changed my mind on ship tours. Our guide looked to be about 90 years old, so I had my doubts, but he was more energetic than anyone! Gorgeous day of winding around fjords, Up and down mountains. An amazing buffet lunch at a place with free wifi and shopping, very relaxing. We did see a little of the town on the way back and had 30 min to wander on our own. People that did not take a tour liked the town, but found too much time to do very little. By the way, this tour and many other popular ones were sold out, possibly before the cruise started- plan and book early!
Olden- Tiny town! I researched going to Briksdal Glacier via the local bus. After waiting 3 hours, we found that it did not stop in September (and possibly part of August). It would have been 90 kroner vs the 350 kroner we had to pay for a "tour" which was a taxi van to and from the Glacier. Oh well, I paid the money and then at the glacier I bypassed the 45 min hike to the glacier by paying for the "Troll Car"- and I am glad I did. I heard the trail was slippery and difficult (and not raining that day, but lots of mist from waterfall). Even with the troll car, I had a 45 min hike to and from the base of the lake. It was difficult for me (partially disabled and use a cane), but well worth it. I saw other disableds doing it slowly. The trail is steep and not paved, the difficulty being in the possibility of sliding. Also, the drive there is beautiful. If you take the tourist train, you will see the lake. If you walk around town, there is not too much to see but the beautiful scenery around you. 300 people live in this town. 3000 on our boat. you get the picture.
Alesund. Great clean city. I wanted to do the Lysefjord cruise but not with the boat. I walked around the city early in the morning then at 9 you can buy a boat ticket that leaves right across the port from our ship. The boat leaves at 10, and I think they added extra boats that day to accomidate everyone as it was a popular thing, and well worth it. The ships were a little crowded. A friend of mine took the ferry and then the bus to do Pulpit Rock. She said it was great, though time consuming- she was 8 min late back to the ship!
I did have time to wander the city- so pretty with lots of statues and flowers. The cafes were very cute, but I heard very expensive, so most of the cruise people ran back to Windjammer for lunch!
Stateroom. 6225. Inside cabin- my first. I really like how dark it was, though I did get paranoid about sleeping in- I had to get up early for my lectures, and 7 am for a lot of ports! Great and roomy for 1 person. I did not like being so forward on the boat. I was sick for 2 days for my first time, and despite a patch. Getting to the back of the boat I would feel fine. In the evenings I could hear music from below, but not enough to keep me from sleeping.
See complaints above about service and crowds. The food at dinner and at the sit down lunch and breakfast was really really good, and I consider myself a foodie. Lots of seafood, yummy veg and fruit. The 30 min brasserie usually took over 1 hour to get served... one morning for breakfast, 50 min! Luckily you have your table to meet and talk to.
I did take 2 bottles of wine on board- this was in our contract. So, I did not buy any alcohol on board, did not go to the specialty restaurants, or pubs. they seemed very popular, but I was happy to save money!
I heard great things. The 4 year old at my dinner table routinely asked to return, finding our table too boring. They used it at several ports, and were very happy. They gave a pager sometimes in case of emergencies.
Kinda boring. A lot of recycling of acts- one of the group singers became a headliner one night. I loved the Group Song/Dance group, but the other shows were just a way to pass the time.
During the day, I found little to do. The Trivia times were taken over by very serious groups that if you were not able to play every game, you were not taken seriously.
I did not stay up for the 10:30 plus game shows, I usually like those, I did not hear much from others. The dance parades were too crowded for me, I tried watching from the balconies, but even then you had to stake out a chair over 30 min in advance.
Getting on and off this boat was very very easy. I did not have much of a line to get on. I was met at my taxi by someone to take my bag, which was nice. My biggest complaint was that you could not get in your room until very late. I had planned on getting on the boat early, taking a swim, but because of this, I had to sit around the boat and wait 20 min to get a seat in the Windjammer. If I had known this, I would have packed my swim suit in a day bag!
Getting off, they finally have caught on to the fact that some of us would be fine with rolling our own bag off without meeting in the lounge, etc. This was very nice, I walked off the boat with my own bag, no lines! RC seemed really coordinated once you got off, they had the buses lined up for the airport, etc.