Food & Drink
We thought the main restaurant (Northern Lights) in which we ate every evening was very good. We opted for the flexible time dining option and found this suited us well, as some of our excursions didn't get back until quite late. Both the food and service in the restaurant were good, I especially enjoyed the lobster and shrimp on the Elegant night, and the steaks. The melting chocolate dessert was fantastic too.
We ate at lunchtime in the Lido on the days we were not on excursions, this area was pretty busy some days, but the food always plentiful. The quality was not as high as in the dining room, but there was something for everyone. I particularly enjoyed the Tandoori Kitchen, Burrito Bar and Mongolian Wok counters.
The wide selection of food available at breakfast was fantastic, we preferred the buffet at the Lido to the more formal sit down breakfast in the Southern Lights restaurant. I loved the French toast, and the eggs Benedict, along with the continental cheese and ham selection.
Soft and hot drinks were available for free all day on board which was a nice surprise. Alcoholic drinks were reasonably expensive but not astronomically priced, in line with other decent hotels and bars. We found the 8% VAT and 15% service charge bumped the price up noticeably from the price on the menu, making the drinks more expensive than you would expect at first glance.
We ate at the Steak House on our final night which was amazing. We had fantastic steaks and lobster and very large delicious desserts of which we could only manage a small bite. At $30/person, the charge for the Steak House is not nominal to us, however definitely worth it for this treat. There were many good and affordable bottles of wine here too, and we tried an excellent Tuscan wine.
We tried several of the bars on board and particularly enjoyed the Red Frog Caribbean themed pub, and the sushi bar where we ate complimentary sushi accompanied by a very reasonably priced carafe of sake.
Itinerary & Shore Excursions
We thought the destinations on this cruise were an excellent selection, however did find the itinerary very busy in practice. It would have been good to have a sea day midway through the week. We had a little rain in both Barcelona and Monaco, and a heavy thunderstorm on arrival in Rome, however the weather then dried up and every day was about 28/82 degrees and lovely and sunny. After the first couple of evenings the temperature out on deck was very comfortable with just a light breeze.
We booked shore excursions with Carnival for all of the ports before departure. Only one of our trips (St Paul de Vence from Monaco) was cancelled due to lack of interest, so instead we went sightseeing in Monaco independently, as the ship docked right in the Harbour. The other tours we did were The Best of Rome, Leaning Tower of Pisa with Tower Entrance (Livorno), Pompeii and Amalfi Coast boat trip (Naples), Mount Etna (Sicily), Barcelona Highlights and Spanish Village. My favourite day was Pompeii and Amalfi, and the Rome tour was very comprehensive, however 12 hours of sightseeing was quite tiring.
We stayed in an outside cabin on deck 2 and were very lucky with our choice. We were in a room which was much larger than many of the staterooms in this class, and had a bed which looked out to sea through two large windows - a lovely way to wake up in the morning! Our steward was very friendly and efficient and kept our room spotlessly clean. At turn down he created a cute towel animal for us each evening. We were close to the back of the ship so did feel some quite strong vibrations as the ship was manoeuvred into dock each morning, but other than that it was a very calm voyage.
We did a spa tour on the first day and were very impressed with the facilities. Treatments were reasonably priced and very varied. Sadly we did not get time to use the spa though, as we were so busy with excursions.
We used the gym once during our cruise. It is large, has much hi-tech equipment and was not too busy.
There was plenty of evening entertainment on board, although we found the timings to be strange as they did not fit well with the dining times. We found the general cabaret and magic shows to be a little weak, however enjoyed the comedy club (although some of the jokes were very US centric - the comedians did not always adapt their acts to the international clientele).
The bingo sessions were well organised and had decent cash prizes. The pub quiz we took part in was also fun.
We enjoyed playing the slot machines in the casino several evenings.
We also loved the idea of the open air cinema in the evening (with pizza, popcorn and ice cream all provided!) however did not find a film on at a suitable time to suit our tastes - as with the shows, the movies seem to start at very strange times which did not fit in with the dining, excursions or other entertainment.
The hot tubs on deck 5 were much quieter than those by the pool area, which were full of kids. We enjoyed the adults only serenity deck at the top of the ship, although this was always busy during the day and at night the hooded double seats which should have been so cosy could not be used as the wind had broken most of the hood mechanisms - I think a redesign is necessary here.
The electronic door keys/charge cards that we were all issued with were very convenient, and also enabled us to board/disembark the ship very efficiently. Being able to check our room bill via the TV was also very helpful.
As first time cruisers we had not realised we would need to pack our suitcases by 11pm the night before disembarkation, which was a pain, and we would make sure we were more prepared with a larger hand luggage bag available next time.
Neither were we prepared for how early the ship would dock in most ports and the early starts for excursions, so we found the cruise exhausting rather than relaxing, although very enjoyable. Again this is something we will note for future cruises and feel we want to share with future new cruisers via this site.
The ship felt very crowded on the outside deck on the sea day with every sun lounger taken, despite there being thousands. We spent most of this day taking advantage of entertainment inside, such as the pub quiz and bingo.
Boarding and disembarkation were both very quick and easy, and on arrival at the ship we were allowed aboard hours before departure and went up to the Lido deck for lunch whilst we waited for our stateroom to be ready.
Overall, we had a fantastic time on this brand new ship. We explored some amazing destinations and enjoyed a great time on board with cuisine that exceeded our initial expectations. With regards to entertainment and facilities on the ship there was something for everyone.