I booked this cruise over a year in advance and then spent that year stressing about whether we would enjoy it, what clothes i would need, how much drinks were, i read just about every review ever written on it so thought i knew what good and bad stuff to expect. To all those people thinking about booking one - then please read my review to see if it helps!
this was really easy, we parked up removed cases, drove into a car park and walked on the ship - holiday starts now!
we were not able to access our room for an hour or so, but we just went along and had a drink in the windjammer cafe and waited. The weather was pouring so the sailaway party was a bit rubbish for us, we just went inside but all good
We had cabin 9671 for 2 adults and 2 children - we were really worried about the size of it but actually they are ok. The pulldown beds were a hit with the kids but there is not enough wardrobe space - no way! the beds for the kids are put away each morning and brought back out ready for evening - room is spotless and cleaned every day. we had a couple of problems with faulty drain and funny smells but these were dealt with speedily. the inside cabin has no windows and the most comfortable beds in the world!
the h2o zone is the sun deck and pools dedicated to kids - this is where we spent our days on the good weather days - which were few and far between on our holiday! it has a small pool that carries the kids round in a circle which my boys loved. A splash area, and hot tubs (we were never out of those) and two or three other pools - All the pool areas were spotless and good fun. There was adult only areas - these looked lovely if a bit small but we didnt use them at all. I will say that the sunbeds are very close together and sometimes certain parts of the ship got sun and others didnt so it was hard to get the beds you wanted especially around the two larger pools where the kids played.
We ate in the windjammer for breakfast and dinner. This was the large self service buffet restaurant with loads of choice - some of it a bit odd for us (we just eat basic normal food - we are not posh and just enjoy our meals). The restaurant provided free iced lemonade, strawberry juice and iced water, for breakfast it provided tea, coffee and fresh juice all free (something we didnt realise from reading other peoples reviews) this restaurant was open most of the day, closing for a few hours here or there.
We had early sitting - 6.00pm in the Macbeth dining room. This was the part of the holiday i really was not looking forward to. I have two active sons aged 8 and 4 and the thought of dressing them up and sitting for hours at a time eating fine food filled me with dread - however we enjoyed it so much! the waiters were great, the same ones every night for two weeks, marlon and joeriz!!They couldnt do enough, they were great with the kids, so friendly and polite, cannot praise the evening meal enough!!Fabulous
- there was parades with the waiters that the kids loved - at least two per week, really good fun had every night in the macbeth. Not pretentious or stuffy either! my mum said the whole ship was not as stuffy as the p&o - we are not posh, neither were we looking for a butlins at sea type holiday - there were times when i could see why people have said that about this ship but it didnt put me off anything!!
The weather was not sunny the whole time so we did look around the ship quite a bit. My eldest son who usually doesnt like to access kids clubs, loved them on this ship and we had a job keeping both boys out of them towards the end. One negative on this ship is that it just doesnt cater for children after the pools are closed, for example, we are a close family who go on holiday to be together and are used to going to kids discos, kid karoke, all the really annoying stuff that you do to see your children enjoying themselves. This ship didnt really have much to offer in the way of family places after 8.00pm. We went to the shows which were very much adult based and my mum who has been on p&o ships a few times said she was very disappointed in the shows - i enjoyed most of them but my kids were bored! So kids went to kids clubs on most evening in the second week just to keep them from being bored. The shows is one niggle i do have - there isnt enough seating, or they are set for the wrong times - people would go in and sit for an hour to save their seats - this needs to be looked at!!
The rock wall, golf course, basket ball court and flowrider were all used and enjoyed by us - no que and no extra charge so all good. all around the ship there are table tennis, shuffle board and other things to keep people busy. there is a quiet games room for chess and draughts etc which is handy for bad weather days and not the best place for two loud active boys!!
The main promenade is huge and lovely. it has coffee area, pizza area, ben and jerrys and shops etc I will say though that it was nearly impossible to get a seat at any point during our holiday on this promenade and we only managed it once in a winebar! it was permanently full of older people during the day (no offence intended) and was rammed on an evening too
we stopped at various ports, barcelona which you could just walk off, vigo - walk off, palma $12 charge to get bus into centre, lisbon $15 charge, gibralta, walk off and others. all were well organised and no issues really apart from an explosion in gib - will mention later! we didnt do any excursions so cant really comment on them at all, other than they seem pricey
Now, this has caused me wrinkles and sleepness nights for a year - no need really! the formal nights were great fun and most people followed the code. The informal, we felt quite overdressed so think these are more casual than we first thought, again previous p&o cruise was used as a guide! the casual nights, anything goes and no one takes any notice anyway!
A tanker exploded in Gibralta and caused utter panic. I have never experienced true panic until that moment, apparently 10 people were injured on the ship and chaos happened - passengers were shouting to jump ship, people were crying, true panic seen in the movies! but the ship dealt with it well and left the scene in 4 minutes!
40ft waves = rocking boat - yes it really did rock! we went to bed early that night as we all felt terrible, but was only for one night and captain advised it was unexpected!
we bought 5 bottles of wine per couple and this was exacly right - it cost £90 per 5 bottles and we were very happy with this. We considered one of the drinks packages but were hoping to buy just one as i dont drink too much - the staff wouldnt allow this and said we would have had to purchased two which was just two much money really. We bought two soft drinks packages for the kids which were good value. We spent $570 on the whole holiday - my husband didnt drink alot but had a couple each day, and this cost was for trips off the boar, trips to arcade, casino ect so was not too bad really
On the last day we were given envelopes and guidelines. WE had excellent service throughout this holiday and followed the guidelines without quibble - $100 for stateroom attendant - ours was grace and had her work cut out in our messy cabin - little animals made of towels each night is great for the kids - worth the tip
$100 for head waiter and $60 for assistant waiter - worth every penny and not begrudged one bit - i would imagine that people dont always follow this guide but we expected to and was happy to.
All in all
A fabulous holiday, highly recommended if you are a normal family, lookng for something a bit different, happy to dress up, like nice food and seeing different countries. We have previously been to first choice holiday villages so you could get from that what sort of holiday we usually enjoy. I read hundreds of terrible reviews and honestly I dont know what standards people expect - We are either very easily pleased or other people are extremely hard to please - book the cruise and decide for yourselves!!!!!!