EMBARKATION: We arrived at the port around 2:30 PM on a bus with a group of about 60. We would have arrived about 2 hours earlier but one couple had left their passports at home so TA's hubby drove them home to get them while the rest of the bus went to a nearby Denny's for breakfast.
Lines were short and we were on board sipping champagne in about 15 minutes. We dropped of carryons at cabin, others headed straight for buffet. All in all, despite delay, all enjoyed bus ride and one of the speediest embarkation experiences ever.
CABIN: We were in cat 2C cabin 7301, travelling companions next door in 7303, not adjoining cabins, but we did open the divider between our balconies so we could go back and forth more easily and it felt more spacious. Although brochure stated that all 2C's had obstructed views, we did not see any major obstruction. Views in all directions were fine. Both cabins were virtually identical although in 7301 bed was near bath, 7303 near balcony. Cabins were on port side near aft of ship. Ice maker was just around corner on aft and door was always unlocked so I ducked in occasionally to replenish ice as bucket was small. If a steward was nearby i would ask them to get, but if not I just got it myself.
CABIN STEWARD: Joselitto, our steward was very attentive and always kept cabin very tidy. Our tips were prepaid through our TA's group package but I gave additional tip on day one and receive my request for a pair of goose down pillows, usually only available for suite and CC class and a half dozen wine glasses for in cabin entertaining of friends.
ROOM SERVICE: We used room service every morning for coffee and juice, danish and whatnot, and occasionally in afternoon for snacks. Service was prompt and friendly and a phone call notifying us that our order was on the way was followed by a knock on the door soon after. Very satisfied with this service. The Asian sampler was a favorite with us, I'd pass on the chicken wings though, they did not even look appealing.
SHIP: The ship was in our opinion the most beautiful that we have been on out of 11 cruises. This was by far the most elegant and most tastefully decorated that we have sailed on. It was very easy to find our way around with helpful signage in and in front of all elevators as well as in other areas of the ship. All public rooms and lounges were nicely laid out and accessible and inviting.
On port days pool chairs deck chairs were readily available but on sea days they would be hard to find unless staked out quite early in the morning. The Solarium area was nice and for adults only and the cabana type seating was a nice new touch. The other pool areas were also nice and seemed to be well used. We personally used our balcony for reading and solitude and also and occasional card game with travel mates.
We did not use the spa or exercise facilities but did visit and thought the layout was well organized and the positioning of equipment offered a nice ocean view while using them.
DINING: We had dinner in MDR everynight at a ten top table with all folks from our group. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meals with a few exceptions but basically just issues of personal taste(i.e. trying something new that was not what you thought, no fault of kitchen staff though).
Breakfast and lunches were split between MDR and Oceanview. Eggs Benedict in MDR were satisfactory and freshly made omelets and pasta selections with your choice of ingredients were very good in the Oceanview. I liked the la;yout of the stations in Oceanview as to me it made it feel less buffetish than on other ships. Selections were varied and nicely prepared.
We did not use any of the specialty restaurants as the earliest reservation we were able to ge was at 945PM, a little to late for us. Next time I will book in advance as I really would have liked to try at least one.
LOUNGES AND ENTERTAINMENT: Entertainment was very good and plentiful. Production shows were very good as well as the abundance of live entertainment of all sorts in many areas. Many gathered outside the theater at the entertainment court after the shows for extras by the a capella group and other acts nightly, a nice touch a show after the show.
CASINO: The casino was nicely laid out with adequate tables and slots of all denominations. I liked this one the best of on any ship so far but that was solely due to the fact that this was the first time I can actually say I walked off the ship with the same amount of cash that I walked on with, even after spending some in the ports on tours, souvenirs, etc.
DISEMBARKATION: One of the best experiences we've had in this area. We were in group 14 and were to assemble on deck 4 in Grand Epernay,MDR, at 8:45AM. We arrived right on time and within minutes were called to disembark. We had collected our baggage from baggage claim area, proceeded to our bus and were rolling out at 9:25 with all passengers of our group and all luggage.
SUMMATION: All in all this was one of our most enjoyable cruise experiences ever, although we have never had a cruise we didn't enjoy, and would definitely recommend this line and this ship.