This was our first cruise and after reading some dreadful reviews of the similar itinery on the 28th June sailing I was a bit apprehensive to say the least.However we enjoyed the holiday which has prompted me to write this review to address some of the points raised in those reviews.Okay we sailed a month later on the 26th July but I don't think there would have been any major policy changes in that time SERVICE CHARGES we were aware of these and chose to pre pay with the balance of the holiday-we did overhear some people saying they had had these taken off their account as they did not see why they should have to pay them.Okay each to their own but I had no issue with that.The bar drinks had a 15% gratuity but the waiters were very efficient and attentive so I didn't begrudge them their 80 cents!
PRICE OF DRINKS yes these were expensive.6 dollars for a beer or wine and 2 dollars for a soft drink[iced water was freely available] there was a soda package available which was well taken up but I was very disappointed with the wine package-even with the advertised 20% savings a bottle of wine was still 28 dollars
SEARCHES AND SCANS When boarding you passed all bags through an Xray machine which would obviously show up any bottles however I never saw any evidence of "humiliating" searches as most people were upfront about buying it so there was no need to be humiliated unless you were trying to sneak it on!they are very clear about handing in alcohol and have a desk for you to get a receipt for your purches which are given back on the last night of the cruise.You are given the option of taking bottles of wine on board which will incur a 15 dollar per bottle corkage charge .So if you've been to a local winery and bought some really cheap or good wine and don't like the stuff served on board it could still work out cheaper than 28 dollars a bottle, although sitting at the bar listening to the live entertainment was much more enjoyable than being sat in your cabin drinking a bottle of wine anyway!
UNDER AGE DRINKING how? my 17 year old daughters key card had the corner snipped off to identify her as underage so she was unable to purchase alcohol.The waiters were pretty hot on serving to young people-after all it's their neck on the line.So if they weren't able to buy alcohol from the bars did they or their parents smuggle it on board?-see above point on seraches and scans. Teenagers were able to keep themselves occupied and amused without having to resort to underage drinking anyway!
SECURITY Discreet but we did see a couple of incidents where security was involved one involved a teenage boy who was making a nuisance of himself in the adults only jacuzzi and was giving some lip to the staff-security called his parents.
QUEUES For a ship with over 3000 people on board we saw very little problem with queing.There was a reviwer who complained that the disabled and those with babies were queing under a blazing sun in Cannes.He failed to mention that Cannes was the port where the ship was unable to dock at a port and so passengers went ashore by tender.Of course this is going to delay things if everyone wants to come back together.however there was a sheltered area where staff were giving out free soft drinks to alleviate this situation.
FOOD okay you could get a bit bored with the garden cafe for every meal but apart from the staples always available they did have some variation (including some food you would have to pay for in the speciality restaurants!).This is fine if you want a quick bite to eat before rushing off for a show etc.we ate a couple of times in the Alizar, Grand Pacific and Blue lagoon restaurants when we wanted a 3 course meal in a more leisurely and formal environment.With the exception of the Blue Lagoon there were different options availble most nights.we weren't prepared to pay the extra cover charges for the speciality restaurants but spoke to other people who treated themselves and enjoyed them.
KIDS I was surprised at the number of children on the 28th June sailing as that is outside the main British summer holiday period.We sailed on the 26th July so 800 kids were expected.Also surely if the brochure advertises kids clubs you should expect a lot of them! Were they a nuisance? Okay we saw some examples of poor behaviour exacerbated by poor parenting but we saw equal numbers of obnoxious adults-isn't that the case with any holiday resort? We didn't have need of the kids clubs but fellow travellers used them and found them to be good.They were open till after 10pm which gave parents plenty of "quality togetherness time".The curfew for unaccompanied under 18 was 1am which was well after my bedtime anyway!
ENTERTAINMENT This was variable and not everything would be to everyones taste.Personally I enjoyed the shows[abbreviated versions at 45 to 60 minutes long]who had a variety of very talented singers in the cast. We were to be found most evenings in bar city listening and singing along to the pianist and guitarist .personally I've never been one for night clubs discos or bingo but they were always busy. The comedian should have been sued under the trade descriptions act but he left after the third night to join another ship(what a pity...) the spa was good and although found the treatments a bit pricey we bought a couples pass for 189 dollars which gave unlimited aceess to the sauna steam room jacuzzis and relaxation areas .my daughter and I made the most of that!
RUDE STAFF where were they? It seemed to be a rule that whenever a crew member passed a passenger you had to greet them-we saw no examples of rude staff and in fact found them to be very pleasant and hard working-some of the bar staff for instance were seen late at night and then helping out at breakfast still with a pleasant smile and greeting!
EXCURSIONS Now here is where I will agree about them being overpriced.we previously communicated with 2 other couples via the roll call forum and booked private tours which worked out a fraction of the price and got us up close and personal to the major sites before most of the tour buses arrived-eg the leaning tower of Pisa at 8.30 am with no crowds!
in fact if any of the cruise critic members from our cruise are reading this article thank you for your company -it was a pleasure to meet you!