Just returned from a short "sampler" cruise on IOS, the third time on the ship for us but the first time with the two couples who came with us. All in all a good time was had by all, as usual RCCI got most things right first time but there were a couple of issues that they could do with sorting, and I am a little concerned that The IOS is going down market.
We chose this cruise as we wanted a short break and our newbies were keen to dip their toes into the cruise holiday. It seemed a good chance to combine the both and see what they thought before possibly joining us for a week or more next summer.
Getting on board. Booked ABP port side parking this time as when we went on The Eclipse in August the off port parking with Cruise Parking was a nightmare. As usual ABP got it right and apart from a small traffic jam getting into the port all went smoothly. I am unsure about the change from luggage drop off at the terminal and collecting in in a van from the parking area but all went smoothly. One first point about the down grading here though what is it with RCCI's policy of guests printing their own luggage labels. Cheap skates or what!!
As we arrived at 11:45 we expected it to be busy but the queue to get into the terminal building was really long. Luckily they were allowing C&A members to fast track, and bring our first time guests with us, ideal!!
So on board, directed to MDR for lunch and sat at a table in 1 hour from getting in the queue, not bad at all. I like the idea of pointing us in the direction of MDR once on board as it must have taken a bit of the strain off The Windjammer. Good buffet lunch.
Cabins ready in good time so once we had a quick look around we headed there. The ship has had a bit of an up grade since we were on her last with some nice touches, outdoor pool big screen and interactive screens throughout to name a couple. As we expected everything throughout the ship was spotless and our cabin (Balcony 9688) well appointed, roomy, comfortable and with plenty of storage. One down side here again though why oh why do they think it is OK to put Travel Inn shampoo dispensers in the shower with just a couple of bars of soap. Yes they get you clean but cheap and tacky come to mind :-(
On all days the food was superb (as always), good selection, quality etc both in The Windjammer and MDR. A couple of point of note here though. The Windjammer is soooo busy and soooo cramped for breakfast and lunch they really need to open the MDR more at breakfast and lunch to take the strain. We had dinner one evening in The Windjammer and it was so quite....ace. The other is the way the group next to our table on MDR found it acceptable to put all their children on one table next to ours while the parents sat on another and left them to it, poor waiters. Again something RCCI need to clamp down on or loose cruisers like us.
Entertainment was really good with two first class guest acts, a good stage show (Once upon a Time that we have seen it twice before and needs changing) and a superb up dated and changed Ice Show. Game shows and quizzes were also good and of course The Quest good fun. Sadly the cruise director was a bit bland and his staff uniforms again looking down market (catch it before it slips too far RCCI). We had Joff as director last time on IOS and he was superb, puts all others in the shade. They did put some effort into Halloween which was entertaining.
Ports of call were a bit bland with expensive transfers, I am sure they could have done better, St Peter Port for example. A map of Le Havre would have been helpful instead of Paris which was supplied but only of use if you went there or took an excursion. Strange decision. Stayed on board at Zeebrugge.
It only comes to say about coming ashore at the end. With a ship of this size it will always be bust but generally it went smoothly and we carried off our own luggage. ABP Southampton do need more that two lifts though.
All in all a good time was had by all and I think we have a couple of converts to cruise with next year!!