We're not the type of family to vacation together. It was a surprise and treat that my 82 year old father offered to take myself, my two sisters, and my mom on a cruise. I am 38, sisters are 48 and 54, mom is 78. This cruise was probably the last time we will vacation together due to some health reasons. My father learned about this cruise from a local travel agent. She printed up flyers about this brand new boat and it being a European line looking to expand into the US. The flyer talked about this being an "Italian Feast" themed cruise, with cooking demonstrations, opera singers, and gourmet Italian meals. Since the line was just expanding into the US, they were offering 'great' discounts off of retail prices. My parents booked a room for themselves, one room for my two sisters, and a separate room for me. The logic was that even though we're sisters, it doesn't mean it's a good idea to cram three women into a double room, having one of us sleeping on a pull-down bunk for 7 nights. As usual, we were charged an absolutely RIDICULOUS single occupancy 'supplement', or should I say 'penalty'. They were completely unwilling to negotiate on this, even though my family had bought two other rooms. If the quality of the cruise had been what it should have been, the 'supplement' wouldn't have irked me so much. A good segue...
I'm going to get right down to it. I'm dumbfounded by any good reviews of this cruise. Dumbfounded. Now, I've only been on one other one, Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas 10 night from Barcelona. Night and day, apples and oranges. Regardless of your socio-economic, demographic, or geographic background, it doesn't matter. This cruise was not good. It was the perfect reminder that you get what you pay for. Period.
First day lunch: I was reminded of my college cafeteria at a state school in Illinois. Basic salad bar, cold fries, overcooked fatty meats, drab pasta. Nothing but water and iced tea included.
All dinners except 'Gala' night: We had the early seating which the travel agent told my dad was at 7pm. It was at 5:30, every night. We were rushed to sit down, rushed to order, and had to order everything, all at one time. Our table was the closest to the door, and it faced the servers stations. We had about 7 servers and bussers standing next to us while we ate. Not even time to have a glass of wine and peruse the menu. And yes, I get it. I know they have a late seating to keep on time for. I don't care. We were beyond rushed. There was no nice wine list, just a xerox piece of paper with wines on it to order from. That was it. My dad likes to have a cocktail before eating. It was an ordeal. They had to call a bartender from an outside bar to come in and take his order. The food was poor. All meats were drowned in sauce, a sign that something is trying to be covered up. All fish was previously frozen, and most night's vegetables were the one's from bags from the freezer section at the grocery store. Fruit for dessert was 3 slices of melon, from the lunch leftovers. No berries, or high priced fruit. All watermelon and honeydew for the most part. Another tell-tale sign.
First night midnight 'buffet' (and I am not exaggerating): Finger sandwiches. Yes, finger sandwiches. Minced ham paste on leftover dinner rolls, a slice of salami and cheese on crustless white bread, and pulverized tuna spread on bread. And of course, watermelon.
Water: There are no drinking fountains on the ship. There was no water in the gym. I did not get water after my massage (the massage that, halfway through the masseuse left to vomit from sea-sickness and then came back and tried to finish it after spitting into the sink in the room). They do not allow you to fill up your water bottles in the cafeteria during meal times. You can of course purchase a refreshing fruit juice at the juice bar if you'd like however. You will also find the OJ dispenser in the cafeteria taped up with duct-tape after breakfast is over so you cannot get any.
Breakfast: So-so. Powdered eggs. Stirofoam cups for coffee (environment, anyone?). Eggs benedict hollandaise sauce from a can. Decent buffet items. And of course, melon. My suggestion would be to eat a lot if you can at breakfast, but not as much as the child I saw eating a bowl of bacon.
Gala Night: Average. They save up their spending for this night. On paper it's what you read about and expect. Execution wise, average.
Room service selection: above-said finger sandwiches, tuna fish soup, salad. Water and other drinks for purchase.
The 'complimentary' soft-serve ice cream during the day was a nice touch. It's sad when ice cream needs to be pointed out as complimentary, however.
One of the things we looked forward to was that at least they had a sushi bar/restaurant (not included in cruise price). I read the menu, and it had about four different fishes that made up all of their sushi dishes. Tuna, salmon, eel, crab stick. Surrounded by water, and that was it.
The ship itself was fine. Nothing to write home about. There were some very very nice crew members, and some not so nice. The spa was aggressive trying to upsell you. See my above note about vomit-inducing massage, for which, after I mentioned that she was sick for half of it, they reluctantly refunded me, for yep, half. There were two whirlpools inside the spa area which were open to everyone. If you like college spring break, you'll like those. Loud, crowded, and sloppy.
Other random: -Excursions were well organized -Nighttime shows my parents really enjoyed -Casino was fine, my sisters liked it -Very nice wine bar
The positive was being there with my family who I don't spend enough time with. Some of the ports were nice, planned in advance for those, always. Montego Bay? Skip it. Do NOT go into town. Moral of the story: You get what you pay for, period. By the time you add up everything you will be nickeled and dimed on, I recommend taking the hit on sticker price shock of better quality cruise lines that will actually give you water for free. I understand that cruise lines have been hit with the economy like all of us, but charge what needs to be charged and provide decent food and services. If you decide to go, I'm sure you'll make the best of it as we did. Just remember: You Get What You Pay For. Period.