Somewhat value conscious. Traveled with 2 sets of non-English speaking in laws. That cut down on some of our food and entertainment options, but overall, a good first cruise experience.
The Good - Very good entertainment, shows, music in lounges, games in lounges late at night. Fire and Ice was really rocking with their Motown set, and Jeff "The Juggler" Tavvegia had a fun lecture on WC Fields and a juggling workshop. Friendly, informative, and timely housekeeping staff. If you can schlep your own bags and are an early riser, very fast disembarking ( Disembarking started at 7:45, members of our party caught a 8;19 train from Penn Station)
OK - Inner cabin, small library, gym, and card rooms. Food in non-premium rooms get very old after 5 days, getting a bit bored days 6 and 7. The exercise classes tend to start late and end early. Could not make one of the ports as the water was too rough for the tender ships.
Bad - Buffet room staff at times More
lackluster on attending to things: cold drink and coffee cups, silverware and condiments on tables. In one case, a coffee machine was out for twenty minutes despite two staff members being informed.
Weird - in the Tsar's Palace, when asked for catsup, the server squeezed the catsup on each person's plate. Never saw that in 40 years of dining out. That only happened once, I did mention that to the maitre d.
Main takeaway tip:
1. Keep your expectations realistic. You're not going to get a perfectly cooked medium rare steak in the standard restaurants, they're serving 2000 people per meal. There are going to be times when something you want is not immediately there. Grab a waiter, or better a maitre d'and point out what's needed.
2. In case you don't know, the food servers work 13 hour shifts with an hour break. They like us can be grumpy and less than efficient after a long day.
3. That being said, for persistent bad service/food, escalate immediately. We informed the maitre d', customer service desk, and finally to the restaurant manager. The restaurant manager was very open to improving service, and I saw that several small improvements that I brought to the manager's attention.
4. Do your research beforehand if you want to save a few bucks on excursions Less