I had booked this cruise before the ship was built and was regretting it based on the negative reviews. But, I have to say, while SOME of the negative points were well founded, I did have a really nice vacation. Here's my experience ... Read More
I had booked this cruise before the ship was built and was regretting it based on the negative reviews. But, I have to say, while SOME of the negative points were well founded, I did have a really nice vacation. Here's my experience (as objectively as possible)
My husband and I did a round trip Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona. We had only done one other cruise before (Mexico on HAL) and didn't particularly like it - but thought we'd give it another try as we wanted to see Europe and liked the ports on this trip.
- Embarkation was super easy! Checking in online, from home in advance, will make your life so much easier -- do it! Even if you're not tech savvy, it's easy and you will get on the ship quickly. There were staff floating around in the terminal with computer tablets and I flagged one lady down to ask what we needed to do and her answer was "I can get you checked in and on your way" Just like that. Doesn't get any easier.
- The stateroom was lovely and had tons of storage. We had an ocean view balcony room on Deck 12. Had everything we needed - no complaints. And our attendant, Raj, was awesome. Tended the room twice a day, remembered our names and was very friendly. I had a bottle of wine on the counter, came back in the evening and wine glasses had appeared. Great service. *Heads up, it's true that they do have soap/body wash in shower but no shampoo/conditioner. Need to bring your own.
- The ship is new and clean and beautiful. And, yes, it's huge. It does take some time to learn your way around. There are large interactive maps (touch screen) at the end of each deck by the elevators as well as tablets on the main entertainment decks. These are helpful. You can use the TV in the stateroom to check restaurant menus etc, track reservations/account charges & order room service. There were also channels dedicated to going over many of the amenities on the ship. Anyone that says they couldn't figure out where things were etc didn't really look. *We pre-ordered room service for breakfast several times. Service was great and came in the time frame we'd asked in the morning. **We did not get any pressure for a tip from any staff, including room service, during or trip.
- I liked the food very much. This is a personal thing, I get it. I may not have cruised a lot, but I have traveled and done many an All-Inclusive vacation. Personally, we thought the Windjammer (and the smaller Solarium Bistro) had a great selection and the food was very tasty. The main menu didn't vary much, but they did try and give some high end dinner options (crab & lobster nights, fresh stir fry etc). The main dining room also had good food and the menu changed every night. Didn't go to many of the A La Carte restaurants as I resent paying extra, but I did try the Sushi restaurant (service and food was AWESOME. If you like sushi and are willing to pay for it, highly recommend) and the Sabor Mexican restaurant. It was ok. Most things on the menu were only $5-6 so at least it was a relatively cheap alternative if wanting to try an a la carte.
- The clean police were on patrol! There's probably more hand sanitizer than booze on the ship! And hand washing stations everywhere! The buffet staff even made you wash your hands before going in. I think it's great knowing that if you're going to dine with 5000 of your closest friends at the least the chances of staying germ free are better.
- Service was fantastic. I found 95% of the staff to be friendly and helpful. Some even too much! Seriously, I think we were asked if we needed anything 10 times while trying to grab a quick lunch. A little overkill, but I appreciated the efforts. Better that than being ignored. Pool/deck service was a bit spotty at times - but I have no problem getting off my butt and going to the bar myself.
- Entertainment was really great. We saw 2 different ice shows, an aqua show, several different jazz bands, a swing band/orchestra, 2 musicals (Grease and Columbus), a stand up comedy act and a magician. We really enjoyed all of it. They have some very talented performers and NO, they are NOT lip syncing. One of the shows had mic issues and they had to sing accapella for a portion and they are definitely singing. Basically, if you look for entertainment, you'll find it. *Another tip, book/reserve shows and restaurants online before you go. Way easier than on ship.
- Sports Deck and Pools - Loved the flowrider simulator. Played some mini golf and table tennis. Waterslides were fun (I only went when there was no line - which there was most of the time), pools are pretty small and shallow, but good for kids. We preferred the Solarium (adults only) which had a rain shower to cool off as well as hot tubs.
- Drink Selection was good. The Bionic Bar is a must just for the entertainment value alone.
- Ports were great. Getting on/off the ship was relatively painless. Many ports required shuttles into town but were well organized. Personal favorites were La Spezia and Naples. *We did not go ashore for Rome of Mallorca, decided to chill on the ship and let everyone else go sight seeing ;) We did not use the ship for any excursions.
Of course, nothing is perfect. So, here are some things that could use improvement (if possible):
- Elevators. Yes, the ship is full of people and can get very busy at times. Take your Patience Pills in the evening, for sure. If you're able to take the stairs between decks, do it. The elevators do get busy and stop at every floor. I found myself taking the stairs more often than not. Good way to work off all the food ;)
- Dining. We did the My Time dining a few times. It's a little misleading as a lot of people have reserved for the same time - so you can wind up lined up for a while despite the reservation. I preferred the WIndjammer myself which could also get very busy. We lucked out and only had one day where we couldn't find a table (the one day at sea). This bottle neck of people could be avoided if some of the a la carte restaurants were made complimentary. I get it - there are always the 'for extra fee places' on ships and AI resorts, but they should be the exception, not the majority.Other than the main dining rooms, all the other a la carte service restaurants were for extra charge (even Johnny Rockets diner? Seriously?) *Tip: The windjammer is bigger than it looks though, be sure to peak around corners as it wraps all the way around and often there were extra treats around the back.
- The ever wonderful Towel Game. This was really only an issue when everyone was on board (at sea with no port). To be fair, there are tons of sun beds -- they are crammed together making them hard to get into without steamrolling your neighbor! - but if you want some actual sun or a view you will find a sea of blue towels 'holding' these beds for people from first thing in the morning - and the people often don't come back for hours. It sucks to walk around, looking to soak in a bit of sun seeing 50% empty beds held for Mr. Nobody. *Tip: You do have to 'check out' the towels with your SeaPass card and supposedly you're charged $30 if you don't return it. This wasn't an issue for anyone who doesn't mind being responsible with things they borrow. **I will admit though that I ALMOST took some of those towels belonging to those mysterious sun bed holders so they'd be charged the deposit.... Childish, I know, but I said ALMOST.
- Expensive Drink Packages. It cost us $1000 for the Premium Package which did not include any drink over $13 (and yes, there were a few of those!) or specialty coffee. I do enjoy a cocktail or two and bottled water - which is what prompted us to buy the package. But, at the end of the day, it probably would have been cheaper to just buy a la carte. I found we were ordering more than we normally would to 'make it worth the $1000' I don't know, maybe you're darned if you do and darned if you don't. *Yes, drinks are more expensive than the average bar. So, at the end of the day, make sure you factor in fee restaurants and drink to your final price of your cruise. It's a lot of money!
- Two embarkations. The ship offers both Barcelona and Rome as embarkation/disembarkation points. That's a little strange. So, you get to listen to all the safety stuff over again half way through and have all the luggage in the hallways etc. Not a huge deal - but thought it strange. This also made for 2 formal night galas - so if you want a chance to get dressed up twice, then this is your cruise :)
- Fitness Center. I like the gym, so thought I'd try it out. While it does have a great layout and equipment, the smoke from the casino is indeed pumped into the gym. I'm not a smoker but nor am I an 'anti-smoker' either. Whatever turns your crank. But does anyone else get the irony of going to a fitness centre and breathing in a cloud of blue?? That wasn't my idea of a good workout.
- Enforcing adults only sections. Hey, I like kids. I'm happy to see families enjoying their vacation time. And most of the ship caters to families. Very cool. But there is one section at the front called the Solarium where adults are given a small spa like sanctuary to sit in quiet, should they so choose. There are even "Adult Only" signs. So, I don't think it unreasonable to ask that this space be without kids. But that wasn't the case and the staff did not enforce the rules. Not a huge deal -- but thought it was a little disappointing.
We didn't use the spa or buy from any of the shopping outlets.
If you like having your picture taken, you'll be in heaven. I swear they make up events just so the ship photographers can snap away. Again, not my thing, but whatever works for you.
We did the Express Disembarkation first thing in the morning. Easy. Efficient. No complaints.
On a whole, it was a really nice vacation - but an expensive one when factoring extra (mandatory) gratuities, drinks, and a la carte dining. If you like cruising in general and want a boat that's new and shiny and has lots of entertainment, then this one is for you. If you're watching your pennies or prefer a less busy environment -- than this may not be your thing. Hope this helps! Read Less