So this was my partner's first cruise - so the bar is set very, very high for future cruises!
We boarded the ship in Athens after a quick cab ride from our downtown hotel. There was a strike that day - so we were worried about getting on the ship and getting out on time. It all worked out great. We boarded about 12.15pm and went upstairs to the lunch buffet at the Windows Cafe. Lunch was pretty good - but it was a buffet. An announcement was made at 1.30pm that our cabins were ready (very nice surprise as they originally told us we'd have to wait a few hours).
We did a quick tour of the ship. Our itinerary had one sea day - so we wanted to book our spa visit for that day. The spa was really nice. The gym was great too. (Throughout the cruise we only had to wait once for use of any equipment and that was the first morning when people were still on USA time and woke up early!) They had classes for those interested in that sort of thing.
Our cabin was a balcony on deck 6. As previous reviews have mentioned, they are kind of small. The bathroom is tiny but we made it work. Amenities are from the Elemis spa and were nice as well. The TV had a few news channels (BBC, Sky news, and -ugh- Fox News - would have preferred CNN...) plus CBS on Azamara (think the kind of programming you would see on an airplane ride). There were also a few movie channels but never really watched TV. The balcony was nice with a table and two chairs.
The small refrigerator was stocked with whatever you wanted. Sodas were free and everything else was like a minibar. We asked for extra Diet Cokes and they were happy to oblige.
Room service was complimentary. We ordered breakfast one morning. It was late and was just ok (one of the few areas we noted for improvement). They also had a form for complimentary sweets and savories each late afternoon in your cabin. We didn’t take advantage of this – but heard from others that it was quite nice.
There were plenty of options available for food. We really liked the Discoveries Restaurant. We ate there every morning except for two for breakfast. (one day we ordered room service, the other we slept in and the dining room was closed – enjoyed the buffet that day). The breakfast menu stayed the same each day – but found the food quite good and service excellent. There were very few people there each day for breakfast. We chose to eat here with a ‘regular’ portion versus overloading on the buffet.
We ate lunch in town each day – except the sea day – so can’t comment on lunch service. There was a BBQ on the sea day where the officers served ‘American’ bbq items. It was ok – not great – but service was impeccable.
For dinners, we ate in the dining room five of the seven nights. Discoveries was very good. The menu includes a list of ‘regulars’ available each night (steak, Caesar salad, shrimp cocktail, etc for those that don’t like the day’s offerings). The menu changed each day with a variety of nice things. The salads were excellent as were most of the vegetables. Entrees were nice and appetizers were creative. Very upscale. The wine pairings (complimentary) changed each day and were nice. They weren’t cheap wines and really didn’t sink to the level of making us consider to upgrade and pay for wine. They were very generous with their pours and frequent refills.
We ate in Prime C one night and were disappointed. They billed it as a premium restaurant and we found the steaks in the main dining room to be better. Service was excellent and the wine just a good as downstairs. In our opinion not worth the $15 service charge.
We were going to skip Aqualina based on our experience in Prime C – then when we looked at the dining room menu one night thought we’d give it a try. They were very accommodating with a last minute reservation and we were very happy with the meal. Service there too was fabulous. The lobster was really, really nice. Great salad and appetizers. One of the best chocolate soufflés I’ve had – which was a huge surprise at sea!
Entertainment on the ship left a lot to be desired. The entertainers were all very nice – including Lloyd the singer/comedian who was hilarious. But bottom line, the shows weren’t good and the lounge singers were something out of a Saturday Night Live skit. Again, they were all super nice and very charming people so it pains me to pan their performances but I calls it likes I sees it.
They had a guest lecturer onboard who gave talks on the ports. Not the ‘go on this excursion’ talks but rather on the history of the location and the people and culture. Very, very good talks and informative.
We signed up for a cruise critic roll call (highly recommended!) and they hosted a complimentary cocktail party during sail away from Athens. Very nice. They hosted a second one the last night of the cruise. They were very interested in our feedback and comments. All officers attended and were very engaging.
Service on the ship was absolutely amazing. Tips are included, so we expected good but not great service. They shocked us with absolutely amazing service everywhere, all day. For example, the bar waiter at the pool happily brought you sodas, bottled water, etc. which were all complimentary. No tips or revenue for the ship but they kept coming and coming. They also got to know you and brought you your ‘regular’ before you ever asked.
Overall the cruise was really great. I mentioned a few areas for improvement but can’t say enough how small they were and they didn’t ruin even a nanosecond. I was amazed that there wasn’t a line anywhere ever. Dining room at peak time had tables. Tenders to and from the ship – no lines. (By the way, the shuttle buses from the port to town are an outstandingly nice touch to allow you to enjoy your day in town.)
Disembarkation was very smooth. We had only carry-ons, so they basically told us we could get off the ship whenever we wanted. We got off about 7.15am and walked to the train station. Made a 7.59am train to Rome Termini.
All in all – very, very happy. My partner got on kicking and screaming that he would hate it. He got off kicking and screaming that he didn’t want to leave.