Prior to this trip, my cruise experience consisted of a night on board the Spirit of Tasmania almost 30 years ago, and watching every episode of The Love Boat, so I really have nothing to compare this trip with, so I can really only base my review on my virgin experience.
The whole check in, boarding process seemed very streamlined and efficient, however, once on board, there was staff everywhere, but none seemed to offer anyone assistance to direct boarding passengers or to help find lifts/cabins. We needed to find someone and ask.
We had a mini suite and we're very happy with it. The bed was comfy, the room clean. The Lotus Spa toiletries were okay, nothing to write home about....no better or worse than the toiletries you get in any 4 star hotel, but they were a one off....they were not replenished throughout our trip. The room has a nice double balcony and the bath was in fact a spa, which was unexpected surprise.
Our luggage was very quickly bought to our room.
We went off to explore the ship, and I was a little surprised, it seemed smaller than I'd expected.
The majority of fellow passengers were elderly, and there were quite a lot of seasoned cruisers.....like the 'groupies' of the cruise world, wearing their badges, lanyards, tee shirts and caps from every cruise line, to show off their 'I'm an authority' cruiser status.
We arrived at our allocated restaurant sitting to find that our request to be seated alone at a table for 2 had been ignored and we were placed at a table for 6. We spoke to the staff and we're told there was no possible way to alter this arrangement. (I didn't expect preferential treatment, but I was extremely annoyed to find that a woman who had paid literally 75% less for her (inside cabin) cruise than I'd paid (mini suite) was able to get a table for two. ) So rather than eat with strangers, we chose to eat in the Horizon buffet. The food at the buffet was reasonable. Typical buffet food, but I found it lacked the large selection that you typically get in buffets.
We enjoyed the hot dog/grill. We didn't eat at the pizza restaurant, but we walked through it and it smelly divine and looked very inviting.
The entertainment was clearly aimed at the mostly elderly clientele, which is as it should be. There was efforts made to entertain all age groups, which would be a difficult task.
Almost every staff member we dealt with we're awesome. Very accommodating. There was really only one who must've been having a bad day, I chose to ignore it.
There were constant references to tipping. Whilst I happily tip in countries where tipping is a part of the culture, I absolutely abhor it being pushed on me in Australia, and to have the cruise director making constant references to it on his cruise TV show just plain pissed me off.
The other irritating thing was the sloooooooow slooooow lifts. It was quicker by far to walk up the stars rather than to wait for the lifts, which were invariable chock-a-block full of old people.
In all, after the novelty wore off and the excitement of exploring the ship had passed, I became slightly bored. I think the only saving grace for me was that we had a mini suite, so we were able to spend time relaxing in our cabin without feeling claustrophobic.
I did enjoy the trip, but I'm not sure I'll rush out and book another cruise in a hurry, so I doubt I will ever get the platinum badges and achieve a 'cruising authority' groupie status.