My very first cruise experience; so didn't know what to expect.
I was pleasantly surprised. Very diverse crew; very few Americans as it is Middle East and they don't go to that part of the world. Lots of fun Brits, South Americans and other Europeans. People very friendly and chatty and willing to go all out and join in the events to have fun. Children were well behaved and had their own areas.
The entertainment staff were wonderful; Paul Lancaster, Jerome and Lisa were flawless in their quest to make sure everybody had a good time and we loved the Morning Shows they produced on TV.
The on board experience was great; definitely worth getting a room with a Balcony. The rooms are serviced regularly. That was one thing that annoyed me. We had rooms on two floors, on one floor the laundry carts; rubbish bags, hoovers and general crap were always littering the place. On the other floor the corridor was usually left very tidy. Quite a few people commented about how much crap got left everywhere for long periods.
The ship was clean, however they did have a problem with passengers getting sick (Vomiting and Gastroenteritis) and all passengers were evacuated in Dubai so the ship could be fumigated. It's not surprising as there is a lot of food left out in Windjammer Cafe in buffet style and tons of people round, so germ heaven.
Formal Dining room (Minstrel) was very good and my advice would be to avoid to eat well at Breakfast and dinner, where it's Al La Carte and civilized, and avoid the lunch where everybody is shoveling in their piles of food and fighting for tables. I eat there once and got food poisoning from the Paella. Chops bar was very good if you are a big meat eater; Portofino was poor and not worth the supplement charged. Overall you won't go wrong staying in the main restaurant. They do small tables - 2 & 4 which you can order. Sitting with a load of strangers at dinner is not my idea of fun.
For you Brits - Tea on Board is just AWFUL. Take some PG Tips and some of those "taste like Real Milk" sachets. The milk on the ship is UHT and tastes foul, nothing fresh. As the ship is American they use hot water and have no idea how to make tea or how to boil water.
Spa and Gym area were well managed and well worth visiting, not over priced and good quality for massage and other treatments. Christy and Joseph from the Gym will do a customised Fitness Programme for you. We did Boot Camp which was fun and nearly killed me, but I look great now :) You will get yelled at if they ever see you drinking diet coke.
Bars and drinks generally were a little pricey; Pre-purchased Wine Packages are a good deal - I got the Platinum one - all the wines were very drinkable. Disco was fun but a bit dated. Think revolving bar and Spectrum in Saturday Night Fever. Also very smokey.
The excursions and Ports of Call are not up to much. I did the Wonders of Dubai; where you get dragged from one Hotel to another to take pictures of the outside (yawn) and then chucked in a few Malls for an hour with a million people and then see the Fountain display which lasts exactly 3 minutes, get crushed in the crowd on the way back, lose a load of punters who had to take a taxi back to the ship. RUBBISH!