The antidote to these ships is Seabourn. We left Barcelona on April 21 for the cruise of a lifetime. Everything about the Seabourn Legend is upscale. The experience spoiled me so that I won't consider a big ship again.
Seabourn solves every problem I have with big ships. First, there are never, ever any lines. No lines at the purser's desk or excursion desk. No lines embarking. No lines disembarking. No lines going to dinner. Just forget about ever having to queue up.
Secondly, the lounges always have room. They are well utilized but there is always a cozy spot waiting for you. No need for the ridiculous seat saving that sometimes goes on at megaliner's show lounges. The performers were exceptionally talented and exactly right for the intimate setting - jazz, show tunes, 50's-80's hits. I've never heard better on a ship.
The food is not banquet hall quality but gourmet continental cuisine. The Legend offers fine dining that is innovative and prepared with the freshest ingredients. Because of the ship's size the chef can prepare what looks best in local markets rather than buy mass quantities.
Excursion groups are small and there is no lining up in the show lounge for half an hour before your group number is called.
Finally, I find it refreshing to cruise with a company that pays wages to its staff so they do not depend on the kindness of stranger's tips. The staff is professional and seems not at all taken advantage of, which I am not sure is always the case on the bigger ships.
I just loved everything about this cruise. The suite sizes were so comfortable with the large picture window, sitting area, and marble bathrooms with tubs. The complimentary champagne, wines and other drinks were good quality.
The service was professional and attentive. I appreciated how even the buffet breakfasts and lunches have wait serve for the main course.
We were on a Mediterranean itinerary that included Tarragona, Palamos, Port Vendres, La Louvendou, Marseilles, St Tropez, and Monte Carlo. Most ports we were the only ship in town and could be in smaller harbors that large ships can't utilize. The weather was perfect and Europe being Europe the scenery spectacular. The food was so excellent on the ship that I didn't mind not eating in these Mediterranean ports and since the dollar hit a low against the Euro, it felt as though the cruise was reasonably priced considering the quality.
I think cruising with Seabourn is what cruising used to be before the megaships offered cruising for the masses. Being part of the masses myself, I understand price point is a huge part of planning a family vacation. But from here on out I intend to waylay gratification and only take a third as many cruises to afford the pleasures enjoyed on the Legend.