We flew into Rome a couple of days prior to embarkation. This vacation was comprised of my mom, my dad, my sister & myself (Unfortunately, my brother wastherwise occupied with his university studies). This was to be my 9th cruise, but my first with Cunard. This was also my first European cruise. The name of this cruise was "Greek Isles and Holy Land Explorer", as the ports included were:
- Olympia (Katakolon), Greece- Santorini, Greece
- Haifa, Isreal (2 days, overnight)
- Limassol, Cyprus
- Rhodes, Greece (my personal favourite port. Absolutely BEAUTIFUL. Castles and old architecture everywhere)
- Crete (Heraklion), Greece
- Naples/Capri (Sorrento), Italy
It was smooth and painless, quite efficient actually. They handed out slips of paper which had a number printed on it, showing which group number you were to check in with. Priority boarding cruisers were given smaller numbers so that they would be let on first. Once you had finished checking in, they led you to a mandatory photo op (It was apparently to also get an identification image too). Crew members distributed squirts of hand sanitizer to everyone (get used to it), and you were let on in a jiffy. You were led to the escalator area and directed to your room (which was surprisingly ready already!). After setting down your things, you would continue to eat your embarkation lunch in the Lido.
I found they classical and gorgeous. It gave off a very elegant, high class feeling. The rooms were always kept very clean, and nicely maintained. The atrium is absolutely beautiful by the way. There is often live music played around the area in the evening.
Fitness & Recreation:
My sister and I hit the gym every afternoon for about 2/3rds of our cruise and found the facilities to be wonderful. There was an abundance of treadmills and work out equipment. There was also an area in which you could do yoga (& there were yoga mats) or dance/stretch. My personal favourite was the punching bag & boxing gloves. There were also weights and whatnot in the corner. The gym was connected to the spa, which was nice for those who wanted to get pampered after working out.
Almost everyday, we had a guest speaker (Harvey something?) who had lectures on different subjects in the theater. He discussed and presented things such as "Who killed JFK?" and other interesting subjects. There were also port lectures on the upcoming ports we were to soon dock at. They provided interesting and good information as to where the sweet spots of the city lay, and how to get there.
We had had quite high expectations for the dining, as we heard heard very much about it. To be honest, we were not all that impressed. It wasn't that it was bad, it was just that.. there weren't too many dishes that I would consider ordering for a second time. To put it simply, out of 10 dishes, I would say 3 would be gross, 4 would be okay, 2 would be good, and 1 would be REALLY good. I felt the hit and miss rate was too high. I personally am not picky, but if our family of 4 can reach the same verdict, I think we have a pretty solid consensus. Their soups were often too salty (to my parents at least, my sister and I usually thought they were alright), and their entrées did not have enough salt. (My mom once commented that the soup and entrée chef should switch for a day ^^). The steaks for the most part were quite well done, but the lobster was just disappointing. I recall quite a few lunch options were very good, lunch had a higher chance of having a delicious dish than dinner did. All in all, I wouldn't say bad, I'd just say .. too many "eh"s. We dined in the Britannia by the way. The lido buffet was actually pretty good. It's kind of sad when we sometimes liked dinner in the Lido better than in the restaurant.
I thought the entertainment was quite good, the acts brought on were all very good, and some quite impressive. I left the theater many times, absolutely delighted. There was a trend though, there was a very obvious British theme. I frequently missed jokes and didn't recognize songs because I am from Canada, but it never put a damper on my enjoyment.
We were very disappointed by our dinner service this time. We had a team of servers that did not click at all. Our head server would run around frantically, while our assistant server IGNORED US for over half of the trip. I literally had no idea that we even had an assistant server until day 5!! We found that completely outrageous. This was just our bad luck, because every other lunch team we got (lunch = random set of servers) were absolutely wonderful! It was kind of ridiculous. The other people in our section complained about how our servers were working. We decided to give them a chance before saying anything. That turned out to be our mistake. Our assistant server simply served those who had complained. Seriously? Anyhow, all of the other staff around the ship were great, very professional, helpful and polite.
We only did one shore excursion, in Haifa. This was a Jerusalem and Bethlehem tour that went into the city. We enjoyed it very much. Our tour guide was absolutely fantastic. He seriously went out of his way to accommodate us. He even pushed to have us tour the trove in which Jesus was born, even though it wasn't part of the tour! He really deserved the tip he got.
Value for Money:
We got the cruise on a great deal, so how can I complain? The ship was gorgeous, the service (for the most part) was excellent, the food was alright, the the ports were plentiful! I'd say it was pretty worth it.
Not bad. Yes, I would cruise with them again, but pray to God that I get a better serving team next time. They seriously make a huge impact on the enjoyment of your cruise!
If you enjoyed my review or found it at all helpful, please hop over to my extremely-in-depth trip report over on the Cruise Critic Message Board Forums. It covers my trip from the point I left my house, to my time spent in Rome, all the way to my cruise and back! It is full of (extremely HD) pictures and it depicts the story of my vacation!