We are a couple in our 40's and this was our seventh cruise. We have cruised on Celebrity, Disney, NCL and Carnival before but this was our first time with RCI. This cruise was an 12 night cruise with 4 days at sea. The cruise left and return to Barcelona (Spain) and ports included Cannes (France), Livorno (Italy), Civitavecchia (Italy), Piraeus (Greece), kusadasi (Turkey), Santorini (Greece) and Salerno (Italy).
This is a nice ship that is well designed so you are able to find your way around in no time. It is spacious and it never feels crowded in the public areas. The "Centrum" area is an open space in the middle of the ship that goes from deck 4 to deck 11 and it is great because when there is a show or a performance on deck 4 you can gather around this place on almost every deck and enjoy the music and the view. In fact, for the "aerial performance" you will have the best view if you are on deck 7 or 8.
The stateroom is nice and very functional so it feels bigger than similar staterooms on other ships. They made really good use of the space. Everything was very clean and the service was meeting our expectations.
The evening shows were good and we enjoyed them. There was a good mix of singing, dancing, comedy, tribute, etc…
The ports of call were the main reason we choose that cruise and they were all great. Moreover, we never expected any delay to get off the ship in the morning. In fact, sometime we were even able to get off the ship earlier than the time printed on the daily journal. We only had to tender twice (Cannes and Santorini) which is also a good point.
The ports were all very interesting but my advice would be to book your excursions off-ship because they are a lot cheaper for the same experience. I will review the port individually somewhere else.
The pool area was a nice place to relax but there were a couple of entertainer that should re-evaluate their singing career! We never had any problem to find a chair on this ship. The staff seemed to apply the "no hog chair" policy and most of the passenger did not reserve a chair if they were not there.
There is really really good soft ice cream in the Windjammer restaurant, and you can always find some good refreshment in the "Park Café". They frequently have "Strawberry" and "Mango" no-sugar added water which is very refreshing, one of the best options when you are thirsty. In the morning there is an omelette bar which offers the best choice.
About the main dining room (Reflections), we had a great waiter. After the first night he would bring us our usual drinks as soon as we sat. He was very attentive and always had a great smile to offer. Bravo Mr. Monsef. However, the assistant waiter wasn't so great and borderline rude. I also noticed that they are not too strict on casual nights and you won't have any problem getting in wearing something nice and clean, even if it is not long pants.
The sports area is great. You have a nice climbing wall, a nice miniature golf and a "basketball/volleyball" court that are fun to use. There is also a running track but the people using it were frequently stuck behind other passenger because lengthy part of it was going between two rows of chairs that did not leave much space to walk out of the track.
The specialty drinks are good and it is even better if you check for the frequent specials (2 for 1, happy hour, etc…)
There were also a couple of language classes (Greek, Spanish, Italian) scheduled before the stop where we could use it and I really enjoyed participating in those beginner classes to learn something along the way. Thanks Tino.
Disembarquation went smoothly and rapidly.
Registration was kind of slow, even if most of the counters were open.
The food was really disappointing. The food in the Windjammer buffet at lunch and dinner did not offer much variety and the taste was just average. It was not bad, but it was not very good either. Most of the time there is a "burger/hot dog/pizza" counter but the patties are bring all at the same time in a big plate and they could stay there for a while so they are never really hot, just lukewarm most of the time.
For lunch in the main dining room things were not much better. Most of the time the fish was overcook, and almost cold when we got it. The bread was really good and the presentation of the main course was good, but it definitely lacked flavour. A lot of people were talking about the quality of the food and were surprised that it was not better than that. The deserts were ordinary and the service was rush for the second seating.
About the speciality restaurant (where you have to pay extra $$$) some really liked it, some said that the service is superior but not the food so it was not worth it. There were even some people that found it so good the first time that they decided to return another night only to be disappointed the second time.
Breakfast was a little better in the main dining room with a great "fruit bar" and sometimes really good "eggs Benedictine", but they were not available every day.
We also do not understand how they could be out of some item four days before the end of the cruise. For example they had very good chips (individual bag) in Park Café, but four days before the end of the cruise they did not have any more chips! And if you are looking for a snack after midnight, good luck. You can always use room service but there is an extra charge at night.
Another bad point is the TV service. First of all, the "room service" menu and the "Your account" menu were out of service for about three days. So it was not possible to review our account in our stateroom and if we wanted to order room service we had to do it by phone, but even then it was complicated because the menu is usually available on the TV… No TV, no menu to order from.
The TV schedule was also a little weak. For example over the course of the entire cruise the same two episodes of "The Big Bang Theory" were running over and over. In English, then in French, then in Spanish. And it looked like they only had a couple of episodes of every show. But then again, we are not on a cruise to watch TV so this was a minor problem.
As for the Cinema, there was limited choice (Chicago, Ender's game, 50 First Date, Lego Movie) but it was nice anyway.
We bought the "unlimited soda" package and that was the worst decision we made. For over 100$/pers, we were served fountain soda that was flat 7 out of 10 times. The choices were very very limited and some were really awful (sprite). We were lucky a couple of time when the "fountain" was empty so they would serve us a can (after arguing), but the soda package is definitely not worth it. You will be better to drink the orange/apple juice or the no-sugar added strawberry/mango water in Park Café and buy your soft drink individually when you really crave it. At least you would be able to ask for the good stuff (cans).
The second thing that bothers me is that you have to check your account carefully. We were overcharged three times during our cruise. 1) For an unexplained reason a tip was charged to our account by a bar where we did not even make any purchase! Just the tip, no purchase ?!?!? 2) I was overcharge by over 2$ for a drink in the Safari Club. I had to show the waitress the price in the menu on the table so she would make the correction. 3) My wife was overcharge for a café latte in the Latté-tudes. The price that was charge to her was higher than the price displayed on the blackboard menu.
All those "mistakes" were fixed when we pointed them out, but this was kind of strange and we are wondering how much money is made by RCI with those "mistakes".
We also had a little problem with one of the assistant-waiter that was borderline rude because some of the people at our table had trouble speaking English. He also always seems to be eager to finish his shift so he would rush everything to get rid of us as soon as possible. But this was the behavior of only one person, so I should go over that since the rest of the staff gave us really good service and we appreciated it.
The last thing that is really annoying is the smokers on board. Why do they accommodate so much the smoking crowd? There is a complete side of the outside decks that is reserved for those smokers and this is a real annoyance. The number of smoker on that cruise was lower than I noticed on other cruise (I guess this had something to do with the "age factor" of the passenger) but even then, it does not take many smoker to stink up a place. I think younger people have understood that smoking is out. Just walking on the smoking side of the deck to go from one place to another was bothering enough to avoid it at all price.
If you choose this cruise for the ports of call you will be very satisfy. You just have to know that you won't be served the best of food, but you won't be starving either! I would definitely consider booking another RCI cruise if they offer an interesting itinerary.