This was our 1st cruise and we are a family of 4 (2 boys ages 5 & 7). We are English speaking but have been living in Europe for over 10 years. We sailed during the October school holidays so the ship was at capacity and there were lots of families - primarily Italian, German and French.
The ship - Lovely but VERY big! I was constantly getting lost. The decor is glitzy and everything is kept sparkling. No complaints about cleanliness of the public areas. There is smoking on board and the Grand Bar Palantino was always very smoky. There are rules about which pools the kids can use but these were not enforced.
Food & Dining - The food in the MDR was good but not great. Try to get a table in the Restaurant Duca di Borgogna. This is in the middle of the ship and much quieter than the Duca di Orleans which is at the back. This was a full cruise and so both the 6:30 and 9pm sitting were always full. The self-service is a good alternative if you want to do your own thing. There were always plenty of choices. There were plenty of areas to get food but seating was tricky. My one complaint is that they need to clean off the tables faster in the self-serve.
Kids Program - Awesome! We had a hard time getting our boys OUT of the club. They have daily contests where the kids can earn Squok Bucks to trade in for prizes at the end of the cruise.
Room - Great! Very comfortable bed, plenty of room, loads of storage, good size bathroom. Housekeeping was impeccable. Loved the balcony!
Embarkation/Disembarkation - Very smooth. We dropped off our bags about 10am in Venice and spent the day sightseeing. Our bags were in the cabin when we boarded at 4pm. No lines anywhere! The last day was well organized as well. Disembarkation is color coded and as we weren't getting off until 11:30, we could even drop off our hand luggage for the morning.
Entertainment - Very good considering that they have to say everything in 6 languages. The kids loved the variety show. The fitness center is well equipped but go early or late as it did get crowded.
Overall we had a great trip and look forwarded to taking another cruise in the future!