Check in - EASY! No queues or lines when we arrived. Luggage handed over, car parked in RED zone, Mike brought back to the terminal by shuttle and in we went. S health questionnaire to fill in ( Hum!) passports checked. Photo taken. Room cards provided and off we went up the gangplank.
Passengers - 2104 . Mostly the grey haired brigade or should I say silver surfers? I did see some wheelchairs and a small electric chair but nothing like the number on our last cruise on the Independence of the Seas. Perhaps they had many more disabled cabins. There were some families with children of all ages but well behaved and no problem.
Crew - ample unless you are looking for a wine waiter after 7 in the Lido Restaurant - forget it!
Two swimming pools - on the Lido deck - one aft behind the restaurant and surrounded by loads of loungers, chairs & tables with umbrellas. Appears to be a favourite area for the officers to eat. Smoking is allowed here.
The other is in front of the restaurant and has a very useful retractable roof. Three hot tubs are available but the pool is not really big enough to swim with any conviction. Again ample seating for Al Fresco dining if you wish.
The Lido Restaurant is self service - which I confess I don't like. I hate queuing for food which is often not hot by the time you get it especially if you have large appetites in front of you. You know who I mean I'm sure!
The choice is good from salads to meat to fish to Chinese to Indian to Italian to Japanese .................... etc etc. Plenty of desserts, fruit ice cream et al. Burgers are available outside on the deck along with hotdogs and special events are held from time to time. We had a BBQ the first night and then a German Beer fest on the night we were in Germany. We did not try this food though.
Although drinks such as tea and coffee are available most of the day in the Lido - food is not. It is emptied after breakfast and again after lunch and you are lucky to find a biscuit to go with your afternoon tea if you want it. We only dined there on one night after watching the Wimbledon final as we were too late to go for dinner. It was looking very untidy in many areas, and the food was cold. Desserts appeared to have been fought over by the look of some of them and I struggled to find a simple cheese and biscuit.
IMPORTANT NOTE RE TEA - so important to us Brits. The tea which is given as the norm is some God awful tea which I reckon has been recycled - more than once. It bears no resemblance to tea as we know it. BUT, if you ask and look around you can find either Tetley teabags or PG tips. Fantastic - made my day when I found these. Of course there is every other tea under the sun on offer but I like my PG tips best.
Cookies are all soft so if you like a digestive or a ginger nut with your afternoon cup of tea - bring them
No wine waiter anywhere! Did I mention that earlier?
The staff in the Lido only seem to clear away and lay tables. They do not offer to get anything for you except the occasional drink. They could be put to better use as often they seem to not be doing too much.
Umpteen themed bars all of which seemed rather quiet in the early evenings but I guess they liven up later but we are not night birds. Bed by 9 most evenings. An excellent Country singer in the Crows Nest bar - a Scottish guy with a good repertoire and I'm not a country fan.
Happy Hour 5 - 6 helps with the alcohol bill and the best place for cocktails is the Ocean Bar. Buy one get one for a $ is pretty good along with a plate of appetizers/ assorted nibbles and peanuts which you really need just before dinner.
Main Dining Room - on two levels, an elegant place to dine with a good ambience and service mostly good. We asked and got a table for two so did not have to chat to other guests which can become a bit of a pain. We always seem to find the bores.
Wine - not cheap as I'm sure you know but I found a sexy little Shiraz from South Africa for under $30 and this lasted me two days - well, mostly it lasted - honest. As Mike is off alcohol that wasn't too big a hit on our budget.
A choice of 4 courses but more if you really wanted to be greedy; various appetizers such as fruit or shrimps followed by choices of salads or soups. Several cold soups on offer - I'm not convinced by them at all but perhaps they are OK in a hot climate.
Main courses - ample choice again. Best so far - Surf & turf with lobster tail and fillet steak - out of this world. Every single steak we have had has been superb - tender moist and flavoursome. Every type of poultry, veggie dishes - something for everyone. Desserts - OK if you like sweet things - I'm not bothered. Finally we finish with coffee.
Dinner has two main seatings - 5.30 and 8 but there is the option to dine anytime if you want.
Theatre shows are geared around the main dining times but we have not seen anything worth reporting about yet. Mediocre sort of sums it up.
Staterooms - we have an outside balcony and well worth the extra money. Nice to have natural light and somewhere to escape the constant drone of the air/con.
Bedroom is a reasonable size - not as big as on the independence and a bit of a squash here and there but OK for a couple of weeks. Bathroom well kitted out, a bath and a shower but more storage would be an advantage.
Shampoo, conditioner and shower gel by Elemis are all provided so no need to bring with you.
Main room has a comfy super king sized bed just as we have at home with good quality cotton sheets and pillow cases - smooth and silky. Decor - umm, not my taste - lots of browns , green and grey walls with some very odd paintings. Limited editions it says - just as well.
NO TEA AND COFFEE FACILITIES! THAT IS STUPID - WE KNOW THERE IS 24/7 ROOM SERVICE BUT YOU WANT A CUPPA WHEN YOU WANT ONE - NOT IN 20 OR 30 MINUTES.
Two 220 volt sockets and two 115 volt over the main desk and there are glasses and an ice bucket on a silver tray.
A hairdryer and an enormous magnifying glass are also available.
A fridge with a choice of drinks - useful to keep any extra fruit in for us.
TV - all the normal News channels BBC World, CNN and Fox. Several film channels but we have not managed to work out when they start.
A DVD player and a choice of over 1000 FREE films including some BBC classics like the Tudors , Harry Potter, Bourne Trilogy - excellent service this but we have not needed it so far. Maybe on the long way home.
Excursions - Very well organised getting on and off the ship - and the coaches all appeared of reasonable to good quality.
Guides very informative but of course, some better than others.
A more than adequate gym I would say ( not being an expert on this you understand) and a good choice of beauty treatments and massages etc . A rather exclusive spa pool if you want it at a price - looked nice but at $199 - too much money.
Would we come again - definitely YES ! Preferred the less manic atmosphere on a smaller ship. But, by no means small I hasten to add.Also we are not interested in climbing rock walls or surfing the waves - plenty of other things to do if you want. Some interesting talks and demonstrations, an excellent library and internet cafe with help on hand for those who need it.
Food in the dining room and room service excellent. Self service Lido - not our thing but very, very popular.
Lifts / elevators - fast and rarely crowded.
Decor - beautiful in parts some interesting art.
Cleanliness - superb everywhere apart from our cabin which was a bit dusty.
Hygiene - excellent.
Staff very friendly, mostly from the Philippines or Indonesia.
Facilities - everything we want except TEA & COFFEE in the room.
Checkout was as efficient as check-in. We were called on time, descended to the terminal. found our cases within a couple of minutes and left the building. A shuttle took mike to pick up our car and were on the way home in less than 15 minutes. Brilliant.