We have just returned from our first ever cruise and thorough enjoyed it. Admittedly being first timers we are unable to make comparisons, but from our own experience and comments from our fellow passengers, I feel that the comments made here are very unfair.
OK so this bit was not enjoyable. Due to previous Norovirus problems, we were given a later boarding time and there were queues. This was compounded by IT/Scanner problems which meant queuing for around 2 hours. However these things happen and this was far less stressful than many previous airport experiences.
We had an inside stateroom on Deck 9. The room was compact but had everything you need, including plenty of storage space (in both bedroom and bathroom) and certainly many more clothes hangers than you'd get in a 5* hotel! What surprised me was how quiet the stateroom was, we rarely heard anyone else and slept like babies in the very comfortable King size bed. The room was always spotless and our attendant was wonderful.
We were on my time dining in the King Lear restaurant and found the food to be of a very high standard. The waiting staff were pleasant and attentive. We were always able to get a table for a time we wanted. We had buffet breakfast in the Romeo & Juliet restaurant - again a very good selection and good service. On our first evening we dined in the Windjammer, which should have been self-service but was staffed to prevent infection. This did cause queues, but with a full ship and most people choosing this option I'm not sure what people expect! The food however offered plenty of choice and was hot and replenished quickly. We very rarely bothered with lunch, but enjoyed A La Carte in Romeo & Juliet on one occasion. On others we would grab something from the Windjammer, or just a cake/sandwich from the Cafe on Royal Promenade. We also ate in Johnny Rockets twice, which was a fun experience. All the food on the ship was fresh and of a very good standard - particularly the seafood.
The gym is the best equipped I've ever used and the choice of classes was superb. The instructors are very good and ensure you get the most from your workout - I joined a Pilates class most days and also endured my first Spin Class for a while. The Spa offers an excellent range of treatments and although not cheap they are first rate. We also enjoyed table tennis and basketball and took part in several quizzes. The adult only Solarium was always very busy on sea days although staff ensured that people kept to the 1/2 hour rule when leaving towels on sunbeds to ensure there were enough to go around. Unfortunately it was generally impossible to actually swim in the pool due to the number of larger people bobbing about/standing around - I think you'll find that's what the huge hot tubs are for.
Generally of a good standard, although the guest performers were far better than the ships own. The orchestra are excellent and we enjoyed their Big Band show. The Rat Pack were also superb and the much touted Ice Show was fantastic.
Vigo - stayed on board and made most of excellent weather/half empty ship
Lisbon - booked through independent tour company
Gran Canaria - again stayed on board to relax, although did comtemplate the whale watching trip
Tenerife - took ship's excursion to Pyramids of Guimar for something different - did not disappoint - lovely little old man was our guide for the day
Madeira - just used the shuttle bus into town
La Coruna - again stayed on board but did consider trip to Santiago de Compestela.
Overall the ship offered a broad range of well priced excursions but it is just as easy to do something yourself
Alcohol was more expensive than we'd imagined but the wine in the restaurant and the cocktails in the Champagne bar were of high quality and overall you get what you pay for.
Other passengers - there was a very high number of elderley and disabled passengers on this cruise (suspect due to time of year and ease of embarkation) which made getting around sometimes a bit fraught - especially on sea days. There were also a large number of people who would have been better suited to an all inclusive holiday in Benidorm, but as they tended to congregate in the Windjammer or Dog & Badger (Irish Pub) were easily avoided.
We really enjoyed our time on IOTS and would definitely cruise on this ship again.