Sorry about the length of this but we have a lot to say!
It was clear from the start that the ship has medical problems - and not brought on in Istanbul by the current passengers as was suggested. Gel being dispensed everywhere, all food and drink being served, continual hand washing instructions,no library books, cushions glasses ice buckets info folder all gradually disappearing from the cabins, etc. In spite of this many passengers and crew came down with the virus throughout the cruise - people did throw up pretty much everywhere - pool, busses, dining room, lifts, but the crew worked very hard continually cleaning and clearing up so the ship did stay clean.I did wonder about the instructions that if you got it you had to make your way through the whole ship to the medical centre on deck 1 - surely they should have stayed in their cabins and been visited by the doctor? We didn't get it (noro) but it felt like the sword of Damocles was hanging over us all the time.
A couple of points - The hard working but "brassy" CD Sue Denning gave a daily briefing, but it was really the same every day, "Thank you and keep washing your hands". She continually said that she would tell us the truth, but the one thing wouldn't tell us was how many people were affected. We understood that it was 400 - 500 people. Also I wonder how much the crew are involved in spreading problems. I saw one of the panini servers wearing plastic gloves pick up a handful of crisps, put them in his mouth and then go on serving, cutting and spreading the bread. I immediately reported this to a manager but don't know what action was taken. To be fair I also saw an idiot passenger use the restroom and then go out without washing his hands!
Ok, on to the rest. If you take trips in Israel my advice is to arrange your own. If you take ship tours it may say "shopping time" but you won't get it at the many interesting little shops you will walking by, no, you'll get it at the end in a very large isolated store where the tour guide gets 35% of everything you buy (and it's not cheap!)- get the picture? This happened on all 3 trips for us and we didn't like it - so no tip for the guide, they get quite enough!!
Finally the best for us was the variety and quality of the music / entertainment. This was the best we have ever experienced on a cruise. There was music happening all over the ship including -
The ships Song and Dance company - It was the last 2 weeks of their service and they were great. The shows were fantastic.
Ship's Orchestra - they were excellent performing and backing other acts.
Jefferson Ang - Guitar and singing in the coffee bar.
545 Express - acapella group and very good.
Arabesque Trio - 2 violins and piano. Lovely classical music in one of the lounges.
Great Ideas Party Band - fantastic atmosphere every night. To see the boy and girl singer both perform footloose (?) was really amazing. Pity they didn't have a CD to sell - I would have bought it!
Perry Grant - singing and piano. Very entertaining, but I couldn't face seeing the same performance and comedy every night although quite a few did!
The visiting entertainers - were all good but the absolute highlight for us was SAMANTHA JAY. What a talented lady this girl is. She plays the oboe, violin, saxophone and piano in a wonderful fast moving show with popular and classical music. She also seems a genuine and modest person - a real star! If you get the chance go and see her.
So we did enjoy the cruise in spite of everything and hope that the deep clean (again)in Barcelona where they made everyone leave the ship (including back to back passengers)will do the trick. I think they are worried about not being allowed to dock in USA. I somehow doubt it will be enough though.