We were travelling with our toddler son from half way round the world and chose this cruiseline because of the reputation of 'family friendly' and childcare facilities onboard. Once there, we discovered there were only a dozen or so children on board and the average age was alot higher than we thought. No biggie - in fact, most people were just wonderful and loved talking to our little person about his daily explorations.
The disappointing factors were frequent and relatively minor but which all added up to one big let down. The food was what I would call 'cafe food'. Fine for a day or two but just plan boring for 12 days in a row. There were huge queues in the Lido deck restaurant and the breakfasts had absolutely no variety on a daily basis (apart from pancakes and french toast being served on alternative days). The decor of the boat was very 'Las Vegas' and american-flashy. Fine for some, but we found it all a bit overwhelming and cheap. I'm sure it'll date very quickly and look old before it's time which will be disappointing for the cruiseline in time.
The 'camp carnival' childrens area was huge but with bored staff who just sat around gossiping. Their idea of childcare was to put the kids infront of a big-screen TV watching a DVD while they gossiped about other staff members! When questioned, they said that the kids wanted the DVD. Well, of course they will! That's what kids always say! What happened to any education or proper stimulation?! They also didn't feed the children morning or afternoon tea and you had to pick them up for lunch...
No one offered us a childs menu for dinner until 3 days into the cruise, no one told us of the splash park on the ship (which, by the way, has ice-cold water running out of it and freezing - even in the med heat!) until we discovered it on day 5, they put a 2 yr old in a bed that came out of the roof (sort of like a top-bunk) with minimal protection from falling from it.... all little points that lacked any real consideration to the children or their parents.
The Cruise Director (John) put the fear of God into the older passengers with stories of purse-snatching, dodgy taxi-drivers, getting ripped off and no way of getting to and from the port to the city unless on a ship-tour - all of which were overall incorrect. People got left in the city on ship-tours and had to pay for taxi's back to the boat (not great at 75yrs old!), tours didn't go for as long as promised, they included sales stops to stores to buy things like cameos for an hour and a half instead of staying in the tour location..... not great. There was also a real 'us and them' mentality of the ship staff as far as assistance onto port. If you didn't do a ship-tour, they didn't want to know you. They couldn't even tell us how to get into Istanbul from the port because it was their first time in that port and they had no idea according to the Pursers desk! How unprofessional and unprepared!!! There was also no history given of the localities that we were cruising through by anyone on board either which was sorely missed by many.
They seemed to forget that repetition for 12 days becomes exceptionally frustrating. Going to the pool and hearing the same singer sing the same songs every day can just about make you want to drown yourself. There are only so many burgers, pizzas and wraps that you can eat before you just can't fit your pants anymore. There is only so many times that you want to hear about the spa specials over the intercom before you just want to walk around with earplugs 'just in case' John comes on the intercom again! How many times do people really want to do 'bean-bag tossing' or play 'are you smarter than a 10th grader?' with a young american staff member on happy-steriods before you just go and rock gently in a corner?!
Their saving grace were the serving and waiting staff who were fabulous. They went out of their way to spend time with the kids and to make the cruise as good as they could. They have a tough life with long periods of time away from their own families and they are often from very poor countries. They really made the extra effort and it was greatly appreciated.
We sat and listened to many other cruisers who were also very disappointed overall, so we know we weren't alone. If you like flashy, pink surroundings and enjoy paying extremely large amounts of money to be herded around like sheep, then this is the cruise line for you. I'm sure the Caribbean is a much different and better place to use them for as they have a great reputation there. We are lucky enough to be able to compare and we were very disappointed overall.