It had been many years since I'd sailed (always with Cunard) and I was truly excited to experience a new ship and new ports. Obviously, either cruising has changed drastically or I picked the wrong cruise line. I was not prepared for very cramped cabin (a friend traveled as well) with little closet space and "secret" drawers under bed and settee (had to store luggage under the beds). Had we not had a verandah, the cabin would have been unbearable. Note to HAL, blackout curtains for white nights are much needed. Nor was I prepared for fellow passengers who seemed to think formal nights included golf shirts or culottes. The food in any dining area was average at best but be advised, it's worth it to pay the extra $'s to dine in one of the "premium" venues rather than be seated at a huge table with people you probably don't want to know in the Rembrandt dining room. That's the only way you'll get a table for two unless you want to eat dinner at 5:00 p.m. The nicest people on board were the stewards, waitstaff and general laborers although one suspects they knew little more English than the rudimentary "good day" or "good night". I found towel animals, with paper eyes, on my bed at night just a little creepy. Beware of wording in brochures. Yes, wi-fi is available but the service is lousy and you'll pay through the nose even if you have your own laptop. Need a bottle of water before going ashore ... sign here and it'll be charged to your cabin. DVD's are available ... at a price. Another word of warning; stay well clear of "bigger" people at buffets. They will flat run you over to get to all that food! The most entertainment I witnessed was a line dancing class by the aft pool which was so sad that it was hysterical. Shore excursions were terribly overpriced for what one got.
Thankfully, as we were continuing on to London from disembarkation in Dover, I had privately arranged a car/driver to show us Dover, Canterbury, Leeds and other sights along the way before taking us on into London. That was a mere $430 compared to what I could have arranged via the ship in the neighborhood of $1000. Need I say, if you want a tour of any kind, arrange it with a reputable company elsewhere. You'll get more bang for your buck and not be stuck with 40 other people who can't keep up or are constantly complaining. In retrospect, this wasn't an "expensive" cruise and I suppose we got what we paid for, but there was no ambience or charm involved anywhere. In fact, the main desk seemed clueless when it came to most things and often acted as if they were doing you a favor to listen to your questions while most answers were totally ambiguous at best . Everyone was more interested in signing you up for another cruise in the future. In most cases, one felt like cattle being herded along and it wasn't pretty. Additionally, what was up with repaneling the "wood veneers" along the hallways for two days (on our cabin level at least) on an almost brand new ship? Work started at 7:00 a.m. and continued all day long - very noisy and difficult to climb over! I'll be reading far more recommendations before my next cruise!