Have cruised twice previously in recent years with NCL (Gem) and Costa (Fortuna).
Went with open mind and were happy with cruise and would book again if a good deal came up. Costa and NCL could not match the price we paid for 2 balconies cabins. However you must take into account all additional charges to really work out which company offers you the best deal.
Firstly ship really is "splendid", and the cleanest ship I have been on. If I was made to choose between the above 3 companies I would say my preference was Costa, MSC then NCL. There are pros and cons with each company/ship. Here are a few points:
- Embarkation / Disembarkation -â€" very good -â€" as people get on at many ports it was not busy in Genoa. Had to vacate room by 7.30am which I thought was a little too early as kids still asleep, transfers all went fine.
- Smoking -â€" never a problem, only smoking on open decks and barely noticed it.
- Mixed nationalities -â€" I like cruising with Europeans, probably more so than british, never experienced any rudeness -â€" lifts a nightmare though, you need to be quick or use the stairs!.
- Ship beautifully clean. But very big and not good idea if you have mobility issues.
- Drinks -â€" took the Cheers (forfait) package. Worked very well, especially for children who could get drinks at meal times and around the pool deck whilst buffet was open (12-4pm most days) as a result we only had to purchase the odd drink in a bar. Also Peter Pan tokens very good value as can be exchanged for ice creams or lovely milk shakes. I would recommend purchasing a package or tokens in advance as you avoid the 15% charge.
- Water, ice, tea and coffee available 24 hrs in Buffet.
- Pools -â€" Nice indoor & outdoor pools, - and lots of spas which were all adequately warm, and flume (although more suited to youngsters rather than teens).
- Decks -â€" lots of room on decks -â€" lovely comfy pods on deck 17.
- Staff -â€" No real issues -â€" on such a huge ship you can't expect to get the same level of personal service. My perception was that staff were less friendly and keen compared to Costa & NCL.
- Bathrobes in cabins is nice touch.
- Food -â€" neither good nor bad, adequate (my parents ate all their meals in the dinning room with a wider choice of dishes and better quality).
- Buffet -â€" food fine, never a problem finding a table (tip -â€" go right down to the stern -â€" lovely and quiet -â€" although quite a walk up to the hot food for breakfast!).
- Entertainment -â€" young entertainment staff very good, spoke several languages fluently and arranged fun games for all nationalities.
- Sports -â€" squash court (with tennis rackets) is great, sports pitch was set up as a soccer pitch, table tennis & table football & shuffleboard. Equipment has to be booked out from F1 Simulator which is tucked away at the top of the ship. (Tip, take your own TT bats/balls and equipment for your favourite sport it saves the hassle of having to book out equipment.
- 4D Cinema -â€" 7E for about 10 mins -â€" but children enjoyed it.
- Bowling -â€" 5E for 6 goes -â€" bit of a waste of money really.
- Gym -â€" very busy when I went so I gave up and ran on the deck, although their jogging track is ridiculous and non existent, I ran on deck 7.
- Spa -â€" only paid to go once when it was half price ($8 for hour). Sauna & Steam rooms only.
- Kids Club -â€" Our children didn't use them.
- Shows -â€" all were visual shows which overcame the language barriers some were very good, some not so good.
- Cabins -â€" spacious, balcony lovely, kept nice and clean. (opened up divider between our balconies which was great. Steward a bit elusive, but was quite nice not having him hanging around. When I phoned Reception asking for things a few times, it was never sorted, but couldn't be bothered to worry about little things.
- Ports -â€" Didn't do any of the excursions as too expensive for our family of 5. Also there are usually options to using their shuttle buses -â€" do some research.
- Itinerary -â€" Not very long in some ports, you need to really plan it if you go it alone.
Naples: Got ferry to Capri, but was raining hard by the time we got there, so went up on funicular had quick look around then came back. Ferry journey not much fun with 3 children as couldn't go out on deck.
Palermo -â€" lovely weather so stayed on board
Tunis -â€" camels on portside great, shopping village fun, but nightmare being hassled as we left port. Town very run down, looked for nearby beach but couldn't find it, not much time there so went back to ship.
Palma -â€" took local bus No. 1 into main square, then train to Soller (just opposite bus stop). We all loved the train journey, definitely worth the money. Took tram down to Port Soller. Lots of building work going on at the moment, but nice beach and lots of shops. Got the 211 Express bus back to Palma and then No. 1 back to the port. All very easy.
- Barcelona -â€" Took blue port bus ($2) into town (about 1-2 mile walk). Hoped to do cable car, but ran out of time. Middle station closed for renovation and couldn't work out how to get to the other entry points, by the time we did it had closed!
- Marseille -â€" Long way to town -â€" ship shuttle too expensive for our family -â€" lovely weather so stayed on ship.
To summarise, was impressed with ship & cabin and would cruise with them again, don't go if you like to cruise with English speaking guests and if you except high quality food and attentive service.