Flight to Athens was uneventful. Arrived on time, and took a cab to the Intercontinental Athens for one night. Hotel was beautiful, but, is in the middle of nowhere. They had a shuttle bus that takes you to and from the square in Athens every half hour or so, but, we did not feel comfortable waiting for the shuttle at the square for the return because of all the beggars and vagrants. Next time, will stay somewhere closer to the Plaka district, even if the rooms are smaller.
Embarkation was a breeze. For some reason, they said do not arrive at the pier until 3:00 pm. We got there around noon and were one of the first few people to board. We heard the line was very long later in the day as the Israeli immigration officials were checking everyones passport before boarding the ship in Athens. This cruise included a stop in Ashdod Israel.
Upon boarding, we bought the soda card for 5.00 a day which turned out to be well worth it. Headed up to the buffet, had lunch and then headed to the cabin.
The ship is quite nice. All the public rooms seemed very comfortable, and adequately sized. Everything looked new and clean. The one thing we found odd was the Lawn Club. It went unused most of the time and in my opinion, that space could have been put to better use. Maybe miniature golf or something would have been better.
We were in a balcony cabin, deck 6 in the rear of the ship. The room was nice, and had plenty of storage, with a huge flat panel tv on the wall. The offered pay per view, and free for view movies, but the free for view movies did not work during our trip. There were plenty of other channels to pick from anyway. The balcony was large, but went unused because when we looked down the only thing we could see was the roof of the lifeboats. We usually like to watch the docking procedure, but that was impossible on this ship. When we sat down in the furniture on the balcony, you could hardly even see the water because of the life boats. I don't know why they did not recess the life boats like many of the other ships I have been on. I think most of the cabins are this way unless you book a hump cabin.
The entertainment was very good. We did get to see the Equinox singers and dancers a few times which was enjoyable. The only entertainment we did not like were the musicians at the sunset bar at the back of the ship. Not only were they not entertaining, they gave us headaches. They played some Greek instrument for hours on end really loud, and was quite annoying. It sounded like some high school kid practicing in his garage. This was one of two areas which allowed smoking. Both areas were crowded, windy, (especially while at sea) and noisy. Some times we could not even find an ashtray that was not being used. When we asked the bartender for one, he just shrugged and said he did not have any more. Apparently you used to be able to smoke on deck 5, port side which would have been quiet, but they no longer allow that.
The casino was nice. The machines seemed to pay better than any other ship I have been on, and there was quite a variety of them. The casino was empty whenever we went there, during the day or even after the shows, and you had your pick of the machines, and no waiting at the tables.
The food was quite disappointing. We are not picky eaters but the food on this ship has to be the worst food of any cruise I have been on when comparing to NCL, RCCL, Carnival or Costa in the main dining room or buffet. We did not try any of the specialty restaurants. They did serve ice cream in the buffet which was very good.
The ports were great. The highlight was the Dead Sea and Massada tour in Israel. There was a historical tour to Massada, and then on to a resort in the Dead sea for lunch and a swim. I would not recommend this tour for anyone who may have trouble walking far or may have trouble being in the heat. I could see how the heat could be overwhelming for some folks.
The worst tour we did was the Mt Etna tour. This tour consisted of a two hour hot cramped bus ride to the base of Mt Etna, where they drop you off at a small crater (large black rock filled hole)on the side of the mountain where there is a snack bar for an hour and a half. On the way back, the bus stopped at a small village which is just one souvenir shop after another. We would have been better off staying on the ship.
Disembarkation in Barcelona was very easy. We put our luggage out the night before and waited until our number was called then picked up the bags on the carousel in the terminal. We took a short cab ride to the Eurostar Grand Marina hotel where our room was waiting for us. I highly recommend this hotel. It is within easy walking distance of everything and the hop on hop off bus stops right at the door. The front desk has discount tickets for the tour bus which we enjoyed for the rest of the day.
In summary, we had a nice time, but I would not book this ship again.