We agreed to join some friends on this cruise from Barbados back to Southampton as we hadn't tried a relocation cruise before with its many days at sea. We were slightly concerned by some of the comments about the ship looking tired and in need of a refit but need not have been. It sounded from some of the views to be like a floating shed but honestly there were no threadbare carpets or second rate feel to it but was lovely throughout. Probably the most obvious area is the carpet in The Plaza restaurant area which was stained in many places and needed a deep clean though when it can be done would be difficult as this area is in use about 18 hours a day. Indeed, we thought that this was probably the best designed and run ship we have ever been on.
The flight out using Thomson in Premium seating was very good (except they ran out of a choice of meals which is one of the features of Premium) and we arrived at Barbados totally relaxed having had the extra legroom, though the temperature was a bit of a shock having been scraping ice of the windscreen in the morning. Bags went straight to the cabin with no queuing for immigration only an amazingly efficient boarding system and we were onboard in no time and off to find a drink until our cases arrived.
We only had an inside cabin but it had plenty of room for us, sparkling clean en-suite and a lovely steward, Grazie. Once I worked out that the corner shelves in the wardrobe folded up, there was plenty of hanging space and so many drawers in the beside cabinet and desk unit that we did not fill them all. The cabin was quiet as far as ship noise was concerned though the air conditioning unit had air flow noise and the thermostat needed to be put up as it was chilly.
We would have rated the ship excellent but for the draughty and erratic air conditioning in the public parts of the ship. It tended to blow cold air down on you (one day the lady in front was wearing her NorthFace fleece in the theatre) and this could be in the restaurants or other venues, but another day it would be off and hot. It also seemed to me to be obtrusively noisy in Starlight or Footlights for lecturers and piano concerts so the AC is an aspect that needs attention. Remember that it can be cold and take a wrap.
There seemed to be an amazing number of spaces on the ship to sit, not quite all with a bar attached. The library was small, no doubt to make space for the cyberspace area. Deck space was also large and split up into many smaller areas with lots of loungers. Despite some very hot days early on, I never saw all the areas full though there was competition around the central area. This was the area used for the sailaway party which seemed to me was something out of Butlins but I happily accept that it is not my thing and on the ship of its size easily avoided.
This brings me to the entertainment. The Headliners, the ships song and dance company of 13 very fit boys and girls performed routines of a good standard and were enjoyable. However, the other cabaret acts were less good. Andre, the comedy magician, had some inappropriate material for the age range in the audience and you can always tell when the audience is not happy with it by the slightly nervous laughter. The age of material was largely ancient - I could not believe he used the gag of a message for Joe who is 111 - Oh no, he's ill. That must be circa 1956. He also used some Tommy Cooper routines eg the wooden duck choosing a card but he does not come near to Tommy Cooper but sounds like Jim Davidson mucking about with old tricks.
It did not get better with the singer Rob Linacre. I sat spellbound as to how anyone could be so bad and be paid. It was like watching Adrian Chiles singing with his face screwed up with his eyes like slits with someone holding his privates to get the higher notes - indeed as he tastefully put it "To reach those notes my bum cheeks were so clenched you couldn't get a credit card between them". I couldn't take much of the female singer Jessica Lloyd either though part of that was the sheer volume that was coming at me. The classical pianist Simon Weale was competent and pleasant giving perhaps rather perfunctory performances some of which did not even manage 45mins. The guest lecturers were Professors, one specializing in Conspiracy theories and cover-ups who was good and popular and the other going into the history and structure of crime fiction who was interesting but a minority taste. I did not see Eddie the Eagle's after dinner talk. These are of course only my opinions and to others the acts were obviously popular.
The weather stayed generally calm for the crossing and indeed the ship rode well up to the Force 7 we had, though there was more cloud and rain than we hoped. The sea days passed easily and the holiday did what we intended it to be as a relaxing break and back for spring.