We had great hopes of this cruise in spite of some of the reviews of the ship. And in fact the ship was fine. Our cabin was comfortable, with a small but just adequate balcony, and there was ample room for clothes and general clutter. The whole ship was clean and visually well maintained. And the cabin and restaurant staff were outstandingly good.
There were a number of minor irritations - the lift was frequently not working or not working properly, there was one day when none of the toilets flushed all day and another when they did not stop, the Marco Polo was frequently full and one had to come back later - but there were 3 real areas of weakness which would stop us returning.
First was the quality of the lectures. I gather from people who had been on other cruises with the same ship that their lecturers were fine, but I certainly could not recommend the ones on our trip. Not only were they mostly (we found) crushingly boring and not really aimed at an intelligent but not expert audience, but they were technically badly presented. Many of the seats were in positions where it was impossible to see any illustrations, there were no handouts, and there was no facility to see them on the TV in the cabin or on DVD afterwards. Initially the lectures were full: later they were poorly attended. That speaks for itself.
Secondly the food was poor and tedious. The menus read well, but the food was bland and unappetising, like superior motorway food. The plates were always cold, the puddings were usually accompanied by vile coloured artificial sauces, the soft cheeses were put out straight from refrigeration - nothing seemed to be simple and fresh. There was no sparkling water after day 3.
Thirdly, the administration was frequently amateur verging on shambolic. Although the Whispervox system was excellent, there were rarely back markers in any group, and those who moved slowly got left behind. The staff told us that no-one had ever taken any of the tours before, but had relied on organising them through the internet, so that they had no idea what route the guides would take round sites. That meant that those whose walking was more limited could not take short cuts, missing out parts of the site and catching up later, or rest in one place knowing that the tour would be coming back the same way. Personal safety did not seem to be a priority. One person cut himself and bled badly, and was told that there were only 3 first aid kits and that his group did not have one. We were told they were learning on the job.
And the last night in Cairo was chaos. One of our cases was not delivered to our room, and phoning down achieved nothing. I eventually found it, with dozens of others, still outside the hotel hours later. The woman on the group hospitality desk said that everyone would have a 4am wake up call, and those who believed her and did not return to the desk that night did not see that that had been changed, and everyone had to arrange their own wake-up call. At least one person to whom I spoke later had missed the coach. Everyone was told to make sure that they got on the same coach as their luggage. That proved impossible for most. There was an appalling crush trying to identify luggage and then personally carry each case by hand to the coaches, some of which were parked by a narrow pavement where 2 people could not pass each other. We found our luggage eventually abandoned in the airport, with no-one guarding it or indicating where it might be.
The ship also had problems getting into Leptis Magna. The Libyan authorities would not allow it in on the day we were supposed to visit, so that we had to stay an extra day and missed Benghazi. It was unclear what had happened, but it is indicative of the widespread cynicism about the organisation that we heard numerous rumours to the effect that the ship's agent had been at fault.
So - some good points, but we were overall very disappointed. There are better cruise lines and we intend to go with them in future.