54 Southampton Gay & Lesbian Cruise Reviews

Basically used as transport from the UK to the Caribbean, we had time to take this trip as part of our itinerary to reach home. Southampton check in -very quick and efficient the only flaw was NCL’s oversight in prebooking information ... Read More
Basically used as transport from the UK to the Caribbean, we had time to take this trip as part of our itinerary to reach home. Southampton check in -very quick and efficient the only flaw was NCL’s oversight in prebooking information in failing to advise that documentary proof of ESTA is required. Ship-We had anticipated some shortcomings as this voyage was essentially a shake down , however it was interesting to see how the latest cruise ships have evolved with a lightly built, full bowed hull outfitted with low maintenance Internal modular units obviously designed for a refurbishment a few years down the road. Despite its huge size the vessel reacted like a much smaller one encountering some poor but not particularly rough sea states, surprising that it is classed for “winter North Atlantic” service. The internal ambience is very understated and the internal decorators have done an outstanding job in both layout and decor. Cabin-Mini suite on deck thirteen, was a little on the narrow side and the balcony, unused due to the weather, extremely small. A large amount of storage, more electrical points would be useful(US standard only). The king bed was comfortable and located inboard of the seating area, apparently the sofa converts to a double bed, it would be adequate only for small children. Bathroom was large with excellent shower, but poor quality toiletries. Restaurants-complimentary, were somewhat limited as Taste, Savor and the Manhattan Room have exactly the same menu which changes little from day to day. The Garden Cafe cafeteria was generally a better choice, being large, beautifully laid out and with an good selection, the carvery and Indian sections were the high spots. -specialty, Ocean Blue(seafood), very disappointing , Food Republic basically sushi with a rather annoying tablet menu, a little better, Le Bistro, worth a visit for a change, Cagneys, by far the best and really the only one worth paying for unless the very reasonable Free at Sea package had been purchased. Bars, although cumulatively quite large in number only the Observation deck had a lounge quality with adequate seating. Again the Free at Sea package is almost essential even for moderate drinkers as the per drink prices are high, a plus point is that only the excess cost is charged over the base prices for premium drinks. Wi Fi-worked well but the very reasonably priced unlimited use add on is essential as the basic 250minutes was consumed by an apparently arbitrary log in and out algorithm. Service-Generally good(vessel only 50%occupied), but could improve particularly in table clearing and cabin areas. Entertainment-Two free professional level productions but not continuously available meant that tickets were scarce. Smaller general acts very similar to other cruise lines. Excessive emphasis on trivia and TV type game shows indicate a Bingo rather than Bridge orientation. Outside facilities, did not use due to weather-vessel is geared to tropical cruises. Value-exceptional,even including Free at Sea and extra Wi Fi costs Disembarkation -An utter shambles, not the fault of NCL, or indeed the immigration officers who struggled to cope with 2000+ passengers using outdated technology and without the self clearance machines used at US airports. They were fortunate, as were we, that the crew were not permitted to disembark.Customs clearance on the following day was much easier as the officers basically just watched passengers collect luggage and leave. High spot-The sea approach to New York under the Verrazano Bridge , past the Statue of Liberty and up the Hudson to the terminal berth was stunning and could have been more so had the ships entertainers been used to provide NY music during the transit. Fellow passengers-mix of American , British, Canadian and some others. Many hugely overweight and large numbers of mobility scooters, walkers and wheel chairs, generally in 50 to 70 age group and preponderance of return NCL guests. Overview-A relative bargain on a new ship , perhaps a half star lower than Holland America or Celebrity but quite enjoyable. Read Less
Sail Date November 2019
We have cruised with this cruise line several times. We had always had a good experience but since our last cruise I am a vegetarian and can only comment on the lack of vegetarian options are atrocious Lack lustre curry stir fried ... Read More
We have cruised with this cruise line several times. We had always had a good experience but since our last cruise I am a vegetarian and can only comment on the lack of vegetarian options are atrocious Lack lustre curry stir fried vegetables fried rice , or salad were the only option for meals and so the only meal worth looking forward to was breakfast There are no vegan options either. We met really lovely people, entertained by the Acoustic Soul brothers excellent!! And the piano virtuoso Ian West who tinkled the ivories like a legend. Some of the stops were by tender and can be slightly precarious for older persons however the staff were always helpful, some of the stops had very steep slopes so looking at the shore excursions need to be considered before booking The ship itself had a good variety of entertainment great swimming pool and cheerful staff. Read Less
Sail Date October 2019
We chose this cruise because of the price and cabin. Having sailed with Princess before and in a rear-facing cabin which we loved. The only thing that was not as expected was the restaurant. We normally opt for Any Time dining and usually ... Read More
We chose this cruise because of the price and cabin. Having sailed with Princess before and in a rear-facing cabin which we loved. The only thing that was not as expected was the restaurant. We normally opt for Any Time dining and usually eat late 8.30pm and have not had much trouble getting a table for two, but on this cruise, everybody seemed to want to eat at that time and tables for two. The system when this happens is that you are given a pager and they call you when a table becomes available. This worked very well as the bar is adjacent to the restaurant and was handy for pre-dinner drinks. I think the longest we had to wait was 15 minutes, no time at all. The shows were a bit low on the quality side and having cruised with Princess many times we have noticed that the resident dancers seem to be doing less and less. Read Less
Sail Date May 2019
I boarded Britannia for its France, Spain and Guernsey highlights. Embarkation was smooth for all guests, luggage attendants extremely helpful. And check in staff to security personal where to the highest standards. On boarding ... Read More
I boarded Britannia for its France, Spain and Guernsey highlights. Embarkation was smooth for all guests, luggage attendants extremely helpful. And check in staff to security personal where to the highest standards. On boarding Britannia I was greeted by friendly onboard social hostesses, who dealt with enquires in a very pleasant manner. The overall appearance is a finely and articulate ship with the grandiose it expels. The room steward kiran was trained to be more of a butler than a steward, one in which I would of expected to see on a Cunard liner. Absolutely excellent service from this young man. However it was not long Until you could hear the grumbles of passengers. From freezer packs not being delivered at appropriate times for medicine to be administered for a guest who had informed p and o re medical conditions. I can confirm the ship dealt with this on day of departure. Hopefully to the guest satisfaction. Then there was an issue with the drinks package!! 96 year old female told to pay the fee even though didn’t drink so her son could get his drinks package. I can confirm this was dealt with and he did receive his drinks package and the elderly lady was not charged and training was given. There was another incident on board on the first formal night when the photographer asked two gentleman, as they set to pose for photographs if they were father and son. One of the gentleman replied “no he is my partner” the photographer then replied who is the man and who is the woman” to many passengers in the queues horror and well as the two upset gentlemen. I can confirm there complaint was dealt with. The received compensation of 100 pounds on board credit alongside a meal in one of the fine dining rooms and the photographer was moved to a different area of the ship. However, they are still seeking more than this as they feel money or restaurants don’t compensate it is more to the fact of training and his attitude towards their sexuality. Now to bilboa this was pretty horrific as to disembarkation and boarding for disabled passengers coming off deck 6 rather than deck 5. It was far to long for passengers to try and walk and if a dla assessment officer was watching he/she would have been shocked as people who struggle to walk was actually beyond any Disablement entitlement. If a photographer took a photo. However because of this many were left physically exhausted and one passenger falling, injuring her ankle. Other passengers complained regarding the heating in rooms either being to cold then to hot in the evening. Then came the niggles and the freedom dining. Personally was pretty horrified at the times you had to wait your buzzer not going off, which I did complain about. Then the finest champagne not being open correctly and spilling out over the table. Which was reported. Now to your personal order of drinks bill being given and asked to sign before you had your dessert. I can confirm that this was reported and everything was taken extremely serious and action was taken.many passengers were disappointed not docking in Guernsey. This was down to storm Hannah and I back the decision as passengers and staff safety should always come first and the captain did although to the frustration of some. Disembarkation was delayed due to highs winds in the morning again adding to further frustration. This was out of both P and o Cruises control and ground staff. Unfortunately an act of god is beyond anyone’s control. Safety always has to be paramount. I understand people’s views and expectations are all different whether dining, dressing to entertainment. So yes this cruise didn’t meet a lot of expectations however, look carefully at itinerary of your cruise, and dress codes etc , every ship is different but at the same time it’s like a box of chocolates full of different varieties with a glossy coating. One thing I will say I think I am Amongst the majority that found the captains announcements came across a little condescending “ladies and gentleman boys and girls “ and tatty bye. Not how I expect a captain to address his public. I can confirm that every complaint is taking extremely seriously, and that Britannia staff will do their upmost to sort the situation out. Don’t wait to get home and complain it’s important to address it whilst on board. I would like like to add the bar team in the live lounge were of the highest standard and worked together extremely well. They served immaculately and presented themselves well a proud team supporting Avalon and his Assistant manager, and P and O Cruises. So yes the company needs to keep on top of training to impress the quality of service and fix things as soon as they arise. Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Short jaunt around the Bay of Biscay. Bipolar weather and last stop aborted so no guernsey sadly. I love Britannia. She’s a big ship and handles the rough and tumble of the Bay no problem. I met some lovely people on board who made ... Read More
Short jaunt around the Bay of Biscay. Bipolar weather and last stop aborted so no guernsey sadly. I love Britannia. She’s a big ship and handles the rough and tumble of the Bay no problem. I met some lovely people on board who made my holiday very special indeed. Grateful to Pete and Clarke for this. I also met some horrors too. If people can be nasty bigots in a public venue, I’m the antidote. These creatures were summarily dealt with and I moved on. P&O should DNA check some of its passengers. Embarkation and disembarkation were a breeze. Very efficient and the staff were amazing. I simply couldn’t fault them. I love P&O for this. The ship is due for a refit this year and, although she’s a lovely vessel, she needs a bit of a makeover as my cabin bathroom stunk of urine! Not good when I’ve complained about the very same thing on Ventura before. I get that a few thousand people all using the bathroom is a monumental thing on a ship, but P&O must sort this out. Soon. In summary, I enjoyed my journey and Britannia is lovely, apart from her toilet habits!! Safe journeys y’all Read Less
Sail Date April 2019
Fred Olsen Balmoral – Xmas/New Year 2018/19 – Canaries All in all, this was a most enjoyable cruise and a great way to spend both the festive season and celebrate my husband’s birthday on Christmas Eve. This was our first time ... Read More
Fred Olsen Balmoral – Xmas/New Year 2018/19 – Canaries All in all, this was a most enjoyable cruise and a great way to spend both the festive season and celebrate my husband’s birthday on Christmas Eve. This was our first time with “Fred”, although we’ve cruised a lot since getting the bug a decade ago. Compared with other lines, we were delighted that there was no constant hard sell, ship wide announcements were kept to an absolute minimum and queueing was practically non-existent. Of course the ship photographers were there as you ate at the gala dinners, but not always as you got on and off the ship - perhaps by the time we disembarked, they were on the excursions looking for material to go on the DVD. We always buy one and are looking forward to watching it on a snowy day – they’re really a great way to remember the cruise. One morning, I saw a photographer having breakfast, so took a photo of him, then told him it would be ready the next day! I thought it was funny, but have no idea what he must have really thought - he simply smiled very politely, then got on with his breakfast! Embarkation was truly straightforward, as was disembarkation (we cannot fathom why people sat on the stairs waiting to get off the ship when there were plenty of places to sit and wait). The only time we could have queued was at the Captain’s Receptions, but even then, we sat nattering to other passengers and waited until the queue had gone down. That really is the beauty of sailing on a smaller ship. I’ll get the one downside (British Night) out of the way so we can concentrate on how lovely everything else was. With the way politics are, perhaps something more neutral might be more appropriate. Why on earth would you travel abroad and bring that horrid jingoistic nonsense with you? We’re there to see the world and be ambassadors for our country, not to tell people we rule the waves! We were on second sitting, and rather tired that night, so watched the show from our cabin. We were astonished that the Boomtown Rats (Irish), Debbie Harry and Meatloaf (both US) were featured as the “Best of British”, not to mention Riverdance! And don’t get me started on the bit where they all dressed up as school children. Anyway, that was the low point of the cruise for us, and I’m sure other opinions are available. I made my own little protest by wearing a blue shirt with a yellow bow tie which surprisingly got some very positive comments from those who had cottoned on to the colours of a certain flag it resembled! I also wore a red, white and blue rosette (or was it perhaps bleu, blanc, rouge?) We bit our tongues on the “B” word and tried to forget that many of our fellow passengers had probably voted for the mess the country has found itself in. Such a shame, as we’ve never met such a friendly bunch on a cruise ship. It is sensible to steer very clear of any mention of politics, not wanting to ruin our holidays, nor anyone else’s! Anyway, before I lose you completely, let’s go back to all the positives, and that must start with the cruise highlight - the pantomime. This will be etched in our memories forever. It was definitely worth Andrew Robley (the Panto Dame) bringing 14 suitcases aboard, even though his mum was found clambering over them in her cabin! The theatre entertainment overall was a high standard and very enjoyable. Inside Cabin 4154 The cabin was small and the L-shaped layout of the beds made the best use of the space available, although the unit housing some drawers and the console for lights, announcements etc went behind one of the beds, just giving an extra shelf (which came in handy for my husband’s birthday cards to be displayed). The console itself had a button to turn off ship announcements, with a handy red light to let you know that one was being made. Our cases were on the very large side, so didn’t fit under the beds, especially as there was a wooden plinth in the middle. One case went in the wardrobe, the other between the chair and the bed. My husband has a habit of bringing extra coat hangers, not always necessary, but it’s not particularly a battle I care to fight. Thirty years together has taught me to agree to disagree, and if packing too many coat hangers is the worst thing, then we’re not doing badly! An extra couple of hangers might not have gone amiss, but he’d managed to pack over 30, so we had far too many! I’m sure they’d have brought us some extra, had we asked… The layout of the cabin meant one bed didn’t have a bedside lamp or table, which was a little bit disappointing – I suppose we could have asked for the bed to be made the other way round, so the drawer unit could be used. Being two men of a certain age, neither of us have much hair, so having not one but two hairdryers in the cabin made us laugh as did the fact that our Christmas crackers both contained combs! Daytime activities (especially after 5) are extremely low key (or non-existent), so we enjoyed the interactive TV’s on-demand film and TV programme options which we were very pleased to find came at no extra charge. The cabin was towards the back (I’m sure there’s a technical term for the blunt end), so when the ship was coming into port, the engine noise was fairly loud – and when moving in high winds, it did tend to creak, so earplugs are very much recommended. Having said this, for most of the trip, it wasn’t a problem. One cabin we would advise avoiding is 5143 – there was a really loud vibration noise outside, not sure if it was audible inside that cabin, though, but it would surprise me if not. We were delighted with the kettle in the cabin. Perhaps a little saucer for used teabags wouldn’t go amiss, but we used one of the glasses to put teabags in. We brought our own redbush teabags, but they were available in the tea station, along with a large selection of other teas and infusions. Our cabin stewardess came from Thailand and was very good and thorough. We didn’t get any towel animals, but perhaps, like the baked Alaska parade, also missing, that’s another thing of the past. We had a couple of very minor issues with the cabin (both of our own making). They were dealt with very speedily, with a short note afterwards to say they’d fixed the problem, but reminding us not to hesitate to get in touch if the problem hadn’t been rectified to our satisfaction, or if there was anything else they could do. A very nice touch, we thought. Dining – Table 301, Spey We’d asked for a table of 8, but were given a table of 6, but were only 5 diners – pleased to say we got on exceptionally well with our fellow travellers, three solo women. We were tucked into the corner by the door and it was very noisy at times, which apparently is unusual for the Spey. Being next to a serving station made it even noisier, cutlery and plates were thrown into bins by the waiters. Once we’d had a word with our servers it was better - we did this a couple of times during the cruise, simply saying that the noise levels had increased again. Had our table mates not been as brilliant as they were, we might well have asked to be moved. Service was impeccable – no problem with menu variations, for example having a starter as a dessert. With a couple of rare exceptions, we were very happy with everything we were served, although we did wonder why the rather tasty soup called borscht didn’t contain any beetroot! On the one night things really weren’t to our taste (the burnt nut roast incident), alternatives were found very quickly. We immensely enjoyed a late breakfast in the buffet sitting outside by the pool (heaters were on when it was cooler) – and rarely used the Ballindalloch main restaurant. One tip - for breakfast and lunch, all three restaurants have both a waiter served menu and a very similar buffet, but the menu items aren’t available in the main buffet. At breakfast, I very much liked the selection of nuts (Brazil, cashew and walnut) along with the goji berries. We didn’t partake of the sparkling wine at breakfast on formal nights, but I poured the orange juice into champagne flutes to give a sense of occasion! Much to my husband’s disgust (being on second sitting we’d not long had dinner), I liked to have a “look” at the midnight buffet, which was varied and certainly not at all leftovers from dinner! Needless to say, this “look” generally turned into something landing on a plate and into my mouth… Portions at dinner were on the meagre side - I’m sure double portions were available but we never asked - a couple of times we had two main courses, or an additional one to share. There’s no way anyone could go hungry! Christmas/New Year The ship was wonderfully decorated throughout and at guest services, we thought it was a lovely touch that you could help yourself to satsumas and nuts. Christmas Eve had a carol service after which port, sherry and mince pies were served in abundance. We got back to the cabin to find that instead of a chocolate on our pillows, we had a small bag of chocolates to share. Christmas Day had a deck party in the morning, with a free egg nog station, which helped things along rather nicely! Lunch was just a normal sea day – they actually forgot the lunch I’d ordered from a waiter – I asked several times over 30 minutes - but I did get a free glass of wine to compensate! I just thought it was hilarious as we were on an all inclusive package. But as they say, worse things happen at sea, and I certainly didn’t go hungry for long! In the afternoon, my husband had a sleep and I went to see the Queen’s speech which we all ended up listening to, as something was wrong with the technical setup. I very much applauded her sentiments against tribalism and the need to get on with ones neighbours, but bit my tongue! The entertainment team then played a game of charades, which was quite funny. We slept the rest of the afternoon until it was time to dress for the Captain’s reception. One of the entertainment guys was dressed up as Santa in the Captain’s parade on the way in, so I told him “all I wanted for Christmas is EU”, in quite a loud voice! It was Christmas, and I was well behaved for the most part! We thought our waiters seemed a bit rushed on Christmas Day, until we understood that they were all trying to synchronise and sing a few Christmas carols, which was another nice touch. We were very surprised to see that cocktail parties for certain loyalty level guests made up the main entertainment on Boxing Day, leaving very little to do for first time guests like us, or people who didn’t want to drink at 11am, but it did mean we got seats at the quiz, which was usually oversubscribed if you didn’t get there early enough. New Year’s Eve was great. There were two alternatives – one in case of rain, one for dry weather. The weather wasn’t too kind and we were glad to have brought rain ponchos with us which we put over our dinner suits. It’s a very comfy cruiseline and there isn’t any obvious stuffiness and pretentiousness we’ve found a couple of times on other lines. We were comfy and enjoying ourselves, so that’s what mattered! After dinner, we went to the show, then before we knew it, champagne (well, fizz) was flowing and the fireworks started which were absolutely fantastic and every bit as good as Sydney where we were lucky enough to see them on our honeymoon. One thing we didn’t hear, however, was a countdown, that’s not to say it didn’t happen. The festivities lasted long into the night and I knew it was time for bed when the conversation turned to football and all I could think to say on the subject was that some years ago, we’d really enjoyed seeing the Beverley Sisters – one of whom was married to a footballer. As I said, it was well and truly time for bed! I was very fragile the next day (one of the waiters even asked a couple of days later if I was still fragile!), we finally surfaced and went to brunch in the Spey at around 11.45am, after watching the ex-policeman’s talk on airport security on our cabin telly. We were surprised that it wasn’t really a brunch, but breakfast simply morphed into lunch at mid-day. After lunch, we went back to the cabin and watched a great film called What I Did Last Summer. After paying a visit to the future cruise desk, we sat at the back of the ship with a cuppa watching the most magical sunset, in a nice warm spot thanks to the outdoor heaters. Ports We’d been to most of the ports before - and all of them were very easy to walk to from the ship, as long as you’re able bodied. None of the ship excursions took our fancy, but we were most impressed with the booklet and maps that came before the cruise, although they could have done with a little more information about the ports themselves. The destination guide, Graeme, did a good job of giving some hints and tips and not being too centred on the excursions. However, his appalling pronunciation of place names left a lot to be desired! As a linguist I picked up on this and his pronunciation would probably have confused local people if you were asking for directions. For some reason, exact docking timings weren’t given until the day before, which made it a little difficult to plan too much in advance, but having said that, we did seem to be in port for longer than other cruises we’d been on. Lisbon We did a Free Walking Tour (you just pay a tip at the end) of the Alfama and Mouraria districts – you can easily book in advance online – they did stipulate a €2 deposit for not showing up, but were very accommodating when I said we were on a cruise ship and it depended on the weather if we could dock. The tour was excellent, even though we’ve been to Lisbon countless times, and I’d even spent a month here in the 80s, we learned quite a lot from our guide. The tour ended near to the Church of Graça, where there is an amazing panorama of the city, along with a wonderful little outdoor café serving light snacks and sandwiches, the ideal antidote to the fancy meals we were having onboard. Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Our extended stay let us go a little further under our own steam. We went to Vegueta, the old town, on the number 12 bus for a couple of Euros, taking about 20 minutes. The architecture around the main shopping street, Triana, is beautiful and rather reminiscent of some parts of Old Havana. We visited the Museum of the Canaries which was a bit old fashioned and apart from a room full of skulls, not overly interesting. After a nice lunch, we went to the Christopher Columbus Museum (my Yorkshire upbringing and infantile humour still makes me giggle when I see the word “Colon”, his Spanish name)… It’s a fascinating place, with lots of old maps of how people thought the world looked, and housed in a beautiful old building. Highly recommended. After getting back, we still had time to go for a walk along the beach front and have a quick look around town, and even to the shopping centre by the port. One little tip – the port wifi reached into the ship, so on returning, I had a quick look at my emails, although we had taken advantage of free EU roaming earlier in the day. Gran Tarajal (Fuerteventura) It was too windy to dock, so we diverted to Puerto del Rosario, the capital. Not the prettiest of places, and with the exception of a very small museum dedicated to a philosopher who escaped from Franco and a shopping centre, we didn’t find too much to do here, so went back to the ship for lunch. Santa Cruz de Tenerife Once again, we were in port until very late evening, so we went by tram to the charming little town of La Laguna (the tram stop is called Trinidad and at the end of the line, making it very easy). After visiting a museum, we went for lunch at an old Canarian Restaurant (Patio Canario) which is housed in an old building. Far from being a tourist trap, most of the clientele were Spanish - the food and service were excellent, as were the prices. The tram ride cost a couple of Euros and was a very pleasant journey taking about 20 minutes. San Sebastian – La Gomera We hadn’t been here before, and I was intrigued that they have a whistling language, so was delighted to see that a local troupe do a demonstration of this, along with local dancing. Apart from that, we didn’t really find much else to do – we were only docked for the morning, so enjoyed a coffee in the main square with two of our table mates before heading back to lunch on the ship. Funchal - Madeira All aboard was 4.30pm which still left us time for a leisurely breakfast. With 11 cruise ships in port, we were very lucky to dock at the most convenient location possible. Funchal was understandably busy, and our attempt at visiting a Madeira wine lodge was thwarted by hoards of people. This was the only day where the weather was unkind with rain on and off, but we still managed to have a walk round. When it threw it down, we had a simple lunch (forgetting how large Portuguese portions were!) Walking round, we found parks wonderfully decorated for Christmas, and stopped by the lovely Christmas market, where we just had to have a ginjinha (cherry liqueur) in a chocolate cup, followed by a Madeira wine in a chocolate cup, then another just in case. And perhaps another, but I can’t really remember. We got back to the ship and slept it off until it was time for the Captain’s Reception and Gala New Year’s Eve dinner! La Coruña This is the one place I’d love to have spent some more time exploring. I’ve never really understood why you’d want to be off the ship for 8am when shops don’t tend to open until 10am or so, although if you’re on a tour to Santiago de Compostela, you would need to set off quite early to make it worthwhile. It’s a real shame we left La Coruña so early at 1.30pm as it was a lovely place for a wander around. We found a very quirky café and I enjoyed a black coffee while my husband had the most delicious thick hot chocolate. No wonder he didn’t have room for the midnight buffet! Walking round, it looked like there were a lot of interesting places for lunch which hopefully we’ll try next time. Ship activities We’d both been very busy before the cruise, so were very glad of time to relax. To be honest, we didn’t see too much of the daytime entertainment staff – there were no napkin folding/cookery demonstrations etc, but we did enjoy the talk with the dancers and singers explaining how things worked backstage. What daytime activities there were had a tendency to clash, for example the quizzes and the speakers. Most evenings there was very little to do after 5pm until dinner - that said, bridge players or dancers were probably very well served. That said, one night, there was a Mr & Mrs competition. We were going to join in, but by the time my husband said yes, we were pipped at the post by another couple. Probably just as well. Our meals meant that we missed the 10pm quiz, as it would have been too much of a rush to get to the theatre show afterwards. I’ve already mentioned Andrew Robley, who not only was brilliant as the Panto Dame, but also entertained us a few times during the cruise (both on and off the stage as he was around and about the ship quite a lot). There was also a comedian, a singer and a magician (to whom I joked that the passengers do a brilliant magic act – they can make food disappear at an amazing rate!) One thing we were surprised at was the suggested themes weren’t adopted by the waiting staff – we thought they should also wear a touch of red, tartan etc. We had a lovely and relaxing time and we’ve already put down a deposit on a future cruise, so that says it all, and we’d have no hesitation in recommending our cruise to the right demographic of mainly over 50s. It’s definitely more hip-op than hip-hop, Fred Olsen definitely know who their clientele is and look after them exceptionally well. Read Less
Sail Date December 2018
Having last sailed the TransAtlantic crossing on the Old Girl the QE2 in 1993, our trip to Europe from NYC coincided with the QM2's early November sailing date, so we decided to take the ship instead of flying. The Old Girl was just ... Read More
Having last sailed the TransAtlantic crossing on the Old Girl the QE2 in 1993, our trip to Europe from NYC coincided with the QM2's early November sailing date, so we decided to take the ship instead of flying. The Old Girl was just so amazing, and she was missed. And we decided that the only way to go was the Queen's Grill, as we had done before on our last Cunard cruise in 2008 just before the Old Girl went out of service and was packed off to Dubai. It mystifies me that the QM2 was designed with the lifeboats hanging from Deck 8, just below the Queens's Grill Deck 9 suites. So all the views from the most spacious and consequently expensive cabins on the ship have partially obstructed views of the ocean below from their windows and balconies. Not so bad in the winter when the balconies are too cold to be used, but for a sailing the rest of the year, this is just nuts. Partially obstructed cabins usually go for a large discount. Apparently Cunard learned from this huge design mistake, and the later built Victoria and Elizabeth do not have this problem for the Queens Grill cabins, nor for the QG or Princess Grill Dining Room, as discussed in the next paragraph.. Furthermore, the Queens Grill Dining Room is on Deck 7. The outdoor walking track that goes all round the ship is on the perimeter of Deck 7. So all day long the Queens's Grill diners, and the Princess Grill on the other side, get the pleasure of a constant stream of walkers and runners by, looking in often on the diners, and distracting to the fine dining experience. My wife and I found this most disconcerting. Again, why did they design the ship this way? The QG food is way above average, with caviar and foie gras on request at dinner all the time, with a little notice, plus special orders, but one does get tired of the featured standards like Orange Duckling, Beef Wellington, Tenderloin steak, Broiled Lobster and Dover Sole. More variation would be good. Appetizers need more creativity. Vegan selections boring. Sandwiches at lunch few and boring. Waiting staff excellent. Lunch menu choices could use a little sprucing up. The Maitre De takes very good care of his precious guests. Nice wine offerings. Staterooms in the Queens Grill category other than the view problem are very nice. Large bathrooms, although I would have preferred a stall shower rather than this tub/shower. Better in rocky seas for safety and just leaning against the shower walls when necessary for stability . Beds very comfortable. Large walk in closets and lots of storage space. At over 500 sq ft the Queens Grill stateroom is very nice and comfortable indeed. The last of the Ocean Liners is large at over 125,000 tons and sails very steady and mostly smoothly, even in strong winds and bad seas, but when strong winds slice across the ship's path, it is going to get rough, as for any ship. So it was on one day of the seven days crossing the pond from NYC to Southampton and a night or two. I am not a great sailor, not like my wife, but most days the rolling I can take. It is the combination of the rolling and pitching in the North Atlantic that does me in. As this one bad day proved, once again. The ship is large - 2600 passengers, although today there are the many 4,000- 5,000 passenger behemoths that have destroyed European ports such as Venice and most of the Caribbean Islands. We prefer the small Seabourn size ships, of 450 passengers and took this cruise mostly out of convenience to get to Europe. Three formal nights out of seven is just excessive to our way of thinking, but most of the Brits on board loved it that way. A really big dress deal for both men and women. Not at all the casual dress style growing so fashionable on so many other smaller ships today, such as Oceania, Seabourn, Silversea and Regent. Dress standards are very important to maintain, but so many other cruise lines have dropped standards and let people take advantage these days. It has gone in the other direction. No tuxedos for me however, so it was dark suit and tie these formal nights. Other nights it was a pleasure to wear a sports coat and tie, as were all the other gentlemen for the most part in the Grill dining rooms. A handsome crowd of men and women, elegantly attired. The main Theater has very bad seating, whereby people crowd in next to each other on long couch type seats. Not too many rows of seats have a separate seat for one person. Too many bodies get crammed in this way, but not to my liking. Just when one thinks he or she is settled in, along comes another person or two and they just push their way in. Very tight, and with coughing and sneezing, not good. The other large entertainment and lecturing room Illuminations, has very nice separate seating and is much more comfortable. Lectures and performances almost non stop all day long. Most very good. Whether about the Cold War and submarines in WW2, being kept captive in Lebanon or piano performances. The only planetarium at sea has some fantastic shows. The QM performers team put on at least one extraordinary production number. Fourteen dancers and singers, with many costume changes, and a fine orchestra. We enjoyed immensely the large collection of Hollywood and Broadway passenger celebrity photos on the old QM and QE displayed in many areas throughout the ship, and many photos of the old fleet itself. It will be a while before we take another Cunard cruise, and I do not think it will be on the QM2, although we enjoyed this one very much despite its shortcomings in QM category cabin and DR placement. Read Less
Sail Date November 2018
The embarkation process was smooth, arrived and checked in within 30 mins. Our cabin was indoor, c366 and was as expected. Not a huge amount of hanging space/storage but for a short cruise was adequate. It was a port intensive ... Read More
The embarkation process was smooth, arrived and checked in within 30 mins. Our cabin was indoor, c366 and was as expected. Not a huge amount of hanging space/storage but for a short cruise was adequate. It was a port intensive cruise. We visited Gijon, it was meant to be la coruna but due to poor conditions the port was changed. A nice coastal resort worth walking to park and headland opposite old town. Bilbao we didn’t do an excursion we got the shuttle to town. Did an independent walking tour, took the funicular up for views. Took the metro to areeta, walked back via there to ship 3.5 km - nicer than central Bilbao. La Rochelle was lovely. €9 to enter all 3 towers. Loads of eating choices. No need for excursion if forecast is good. Cherbourg we went to mount st Michael. Our guide was rather eccentric and got only an hours free time after excusing ourselves of his company. Journey was 5 hours. Organised ship excursion and the most disappointing Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
We’ve recently returned from a 14 night cruise of Spain and the Canary Islands. It’s our second time on this ship and our fourth with RCI. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy this holiday because I did, but there were a few issues that ... Read More
We’ve recently returned from a 14 night cruise of Spain and the Canary Islands. It’s our second time on this ship and our fourth with RCI. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy this holiday because I did, but there were a few issues that prevent me from giving this a five star review. The ship and the staff are incredible. Despite being very busy we didn’t encounter any of the over-crowding problems mentioned in other reviews. It never took more than a couple of minutes to get a drink, even at busy times. The food was generally good. The main dining room seems to have slipped a little since last year, but it’s still good. The speciality restaurants are all excellent and not too expensive if you pre-book a dining package before you get on board. I enjoyed all the bars and felt we received great service from the staff right across the ship. The delux drinks package is well worth having, with a great selection of spirits and cocktails. What lets it down is the quality of the wines. The reds and whites are pretty poor and the “champagne” is awful. It’s a non-descript sparking French wine which smells like a clogged drain. Our cabin, a balcony on deck 6, was okay. It looked a little tired in the places and the carpets and curtains were outdated, but it was a good size and kept clean and tidy. I slept well every night, even in rough seas, so the bed was very comfortable. The entertainment was excellent. There’s a first-rate production of Grease and the ice shows are stunning. The themed nights on the promenade are good fun though they do get very crowded and hot. We had a party under the stars one night on the upper decks which was fun too. What let the holiday down for me was the large number of children and teenagers onboard. We deliberately went during school term time but this seemed to make no difference. I know the Scottish half term took place during this fortnight but most of the kids were English, meaning they’d been kept out school for this trip. It resulted in all the issues raised in previous reviews: kids running around unsupervised, playing in the lifts late at night, etc. We were also unfortunate to encounter a lot of Diamond class snobs on this cruise. They bragged about the Diamond lounge like it was the holy grail, then proceeded to moan about it: how small it is, how common it’s become, how there are too many diamond members on the ship and they were forced to mingle with the “riff raff”. We had four of these people on a table of eight at dinner and I found the constant moaning to be a drain, especially in the second week. Not RC’s fault, just the luck of draw for table seating. I wouldn’t like to think I’d ever go on a huge, beautiful ship and spend most of my time sitting in a single cafeteria-style room, not matter how many points I’d achieved, just to feel special. The itinerary was good, with a nice balance of sea and shore days. I always enjoy the sea days with plenty to do across the ship. We had a bit off iffy weather on the way back: 5 metre waves and 60 mph winds, but the ship handled it well and with the stabilizers engaged it wasn’t too bad at all. It took about six hours to get through the worst of it, which we spent on a low deck, midship with little to worry about. So, to summarise, Independence is a wonderful ship with lots of do and enjoy, let down by the odd issue here and there. But with the recent refit designed to appeal to families rather than couples, I don’t think I’ll be sailing on her, or any RC ship, anytime soon. I’d rather book with an adult only company and guarantee a child free, more relaxing cruise. Read Less
Sail Date October 2018
One of the best cruise experiences we have ever had. As it was a long cruise we splurged and had an Aft Suite. Paying the extra was totally worth it. Having your own personal Concierge and Butler was awesome. Our Concierge (Carlos) was ... Read More
One of the best cruise experiences we have ever had. As it was a long cruise we splurged and had an Aft Suite. Paying the extra was totally worth it. Having your own personal Concierge and Butler was awesome. Our Concierge (Carlos) was absolutely fantastic. He truly took care of everything from getting us shore excursions, dinner and show reservations, and the best part, priority embarkation and disembarking. We truly never had to wait for anything. Our cabin steward (Ian) was also amazing. We called him the Ghost, because it seemed like as soon as we vacated the cabin he was there to tidy everything up! The ship itself is very nice and the specialty restaurants are delicious. Our favorites being, LeBistro and Tampanaki. We enjoyed both so much, we ate there twice. The cruise ports were also terrific. Our favorite being Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Just beautiful and the people were incredibly kind. We can’t wait to take another NCL cruise. Just a great time and experience. Read Less
Sail Date September 2018
All in all, we really enjoyed it, but Princess would do well to take a few statistics classes. When we checked in at Southampton, woo, hoo, we’re platinum, you know. This is our eighth Princess Cruise (and could be our last if the ... Read More
All in all, we really enjoyed it, but Princess would do well to take a few statistics classes. When we checked in at Southampton, woo, hoo, we’re platinum, you know. This is our eighth Princess Cruise (and could be our last if the keep playing those godawful reworded 70s Love Boat theme-song safety messages - thank GOD they stopped after the first day) so roll on the bennies! Let’s skid sideways through the special quickie check in lanes and get this party started!! The line for elite/suite/platinum/not-sure-what-else looked like Disneyworld suddenly decided to throw a half price sale. The Princess person guiding people in apologetically said they had a rush of elite guests. Um...maybe. Or the boat is loaded with them. I’m no idjit. Where’s the steerage lanes? Waaaay down ther...I waddled with increasing speed towards the line that could’ve had tumbleweeds blowing through it. Then I started doing my “come hither” dance at my other half. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done. Splaying limbs, expressions of a Maori warrior communicating half the British armed forces are bivouacked over yonder hill, I’m certain I’m adorable in all my middle aged glory. So my beloved and a few other canny people moved to the unimportant people line, which ended in the same place. I figured, even if they sent ten premiums through for every one pauper, hell, we’d still be in our stateroom hours ahead. We joined the remarkably short queue of commoners. As did several people from the premium lanes when they heard what we were doing - and those bods were halfway through the line already. Ducking under the rope that separated their highnesses from the likes of us, they now had mere feet to get to the head of the line rather than wrapping around like the Haunted Mansion awaited them. The young woman in the Princess uniform at the front was trying to send more premiums than commoners through, but as we inched forward, the guy behind us cried, “We’re platinums!” I couldn’t help myself, I could see this young lady pulling him from the line ahead of us and hell, it was my idea in the first place, I was the Moses who lead this line of premiums into the General Area. Which, as I write that, sounds really snotty. Yes, we did jump the premium line, but honestly, it was set up in such a way that anyone could. You just had to think about it. So I snorted and said “so are we!” Well, that rattled her some...elite passengers from all directions, so she didn’t stop to think we’d walked through the almost empty third-class lane. “Oh, of course. Please, step this way,” much, I’m sure, to the annoyance of the next up in the elite lane. This, in turn, got us earlier tickets to get through the security checkpoint. I kinda feel bad but really, it was there for anyone to do. Next comment: The other thing Princess would do well to change about this cruise is the ice cream. Last cruise, the ice cream bar by the pool had sugar free which they happily dispensed at no charge along with the sugary soft serve 12 hours a day. I skip dessert at night...no hardship, sugar free mango cheesecake didn’t sound appealing, but a bowl of ice cream sure did. I’m thankfully not diabetic but after my bariatric surgery I find I can only tolerate small amounts of sugar. So we get poolside, only to be informed if I’d like sugar free, they’d be happy to help me at the gelato bar** on deck five. Okay. Couple issues with this. 1. The Royal Princess is one of the largest ships in Princess’ fleet. And Princess doesn’t really redesign their ships, they more accordion them - they stuff extra decks in. I try to limit my elevator usage to one per day. The pool is on 16. Gelato is on 5. Bed is on 11... 2. The gelato bar** is always followed by asterisks. Just like the Crown Grill**, Sabatini’s Italian Resturante**and the snooty tooty Lotus Spa**. Yep. You guessed it. “May I have your cruise card for a moment, please?” Cha-CHING! Smarmy smile, as that automatically incurred a 17.5% tip on toppa the cost. Thank you, madame. We can afford the charge, of course, it’s the idea of the thing. But I’m especially cheesed off for the child diabetics on these cruises who can’t just sneak an ice cream like any other kid can. Instead, they have to choose to either mess with their blood sugar or have their folio rat them out - they can’t even pay cash outta their allowance. What fun is that? So for my sugar intolerance, I get an extra $50 charge (yes, fifty bucks. Don’t judge me. I don’t judge YOUR dessert consumption and two scoops are nearly $3 each. Over 15 days, that’s what? One a day? Like YOU have ONE dessert a day? Please.) This will get too long if I add everything that happened, so if you’re a glutton for punishment, I kept a semi-regular log at examiningmisadventures.com. Read Less
Sail Date September 2018
This was our honeymoon cruise we told the cruise line this having been on other cruises I knew what to expect it was my wife's first cruise I told her what to expect however the small touches were missing lots of corners cut simple ... Read More
This was our honeymoon cruise we told the cruise line this having been on other cruises I knew what to expect it was my wife's first cruise I told her what to expect however the small touches were missing lots of corners cut simple things like chocolate on your pillow bed turn down I don't expect these things to me done but on past experiences it has been done and always think it's a lovely little touch.ive always syayed in interior cabins and I knew what to expect but the cabin was very grubby. I did not like the dining experiance we were only offered 6.30 or 8.30 dining didn't get offered my time dining when booked Going to dinner on the first night and being sat with 8 people we didn't know and this would be our table for the next 14 nights we had never been so uncomfortable I do not like eating in front of people I don't know we was on our honeymoon and wanted our own space. We went to customer services and ask them to help us out was told to speak to restaurant manager which we did the following evening we was told he has 3 sheets of paper of people asking for tables for two may be Royal Carribean should look into share dining a bit more a lot of people we spoke to did not like the share table and choose to eat in windjammer which is a shame because fine dining is all about the experiance of a cruise.ship very dusted in public places bar areas broken chairs other passengers who have been on this ship a few times said its the worse it has been lots of corners being cut. We all knew it was going to dry docks in January but it's not a excuse for cleanliness. Staff also seem very sparse but they did work very hard and always very polite and friendly but maybe a bit short staffed Read Less
Sail Date September 2018
We chose this cruise because it was sailing to the destination we desired and because of the raving reviews. We can fault NOTHING and praise EVERYTHING. From the luxurious and stylish design of the ship, to the amazing, warm and sweet ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it was sailing to the destination we desired and because of the raving reviews. We can fault NOTHING and praise EVERYTHING. From the luxurious and stylish design of the ship, to the amazing, warm and sweet service we received, to the food, oh my God the food was amazing. To the room, cleaned twice daily. To the itinerary, the entertainment (thank you Eddy!) To the bedroom and bars. We had awesome servers in the MDR- Jerry kept filling my husband's glass with wine, Myo and Rajni were so attentive to us! Filip in the Sunset Bar was great, Gina, our room attendant, was the best. Eddy, the cruise director and Jayne Curry with her wonderful voice and amazing personality. We loved every second of it and although it has been a few days since we returned home, we miss it. My husband opted for the Standard Alcohol Package which offered him quite a variety of house wines, beers and spirits. I had the standard non alcoholic package and enjoyed treating myself to lush teas and premium coffees. The food both in the Ocean View Cafe and MDR was amazing. We did not try any speciality restaurants because we were super impressed with the MDR food. All in all, this was one of the best holidays of our life. We are in our mid 30s so we have def changed our view that a cruise is for the older generation! It was full of young and young at heart 40, 50 and 60 year old holiday makers. Read Less
Sail Date September 2018
We chose this cruise this cruise because we liked the itinerary its was my 60th Birthday I have always wanted yo visit St Petersburg .The negative part of P&O Britannia was the bar staff I found some very homophobic bar staff which ... Read More
We chose this cruise this cruise because we liked the itinerary its was my 60th Birthday I have always wanted yo visit St Petersburg .The negative part of P&O Britannia was the bar staff I found some very homophobic bar staff which made very rude gestures to my partner in the bar that as karaoke .I was not told by my partner until we returned to the UK. He never told me because I would have been put off the ship. The cabin we was in was E251 the cabin steward really looked after us it was very clean to be fair the whole ship was very clean . The lifts was a nightmare at peak times . The buffet restaurant the food was ok nothing special . The late night buffet was the food left over from the evening buffet .We really enjoyed the limelight club Claire Sweeney was great what a voice . We went to the Indian restaurant on board ship the food was excellent you try it . Read Less
Sail Date June 2018
Apologies this review is huge (over 9000 words) please see section headings if you don't want to read everything! Reasons for choosing this cruise: I chose this cruise as I wanted to be able to take my two (grown-up) children ... Read More
Apologies this review is huge (over 9000 words) please see section headings if you don't want to read everything! Reasons for choosing this cruise: I chose this cruise as I wanted to be able to take my two (grown-up) children for their first cruise and it was a bargain price which meant I could actually afford four adult fares for two cabins without breaking the bank or taking out a loan, ha-ha. I very quickly realised you get what you pay for. A pretty poor experience overall and had it been my first cruise would certainly have put me off cruising again! Thankfully I have far better experiences to compare with having previously travelled once each with Princess and Norwegian and twice with Royal Caribbean. So, it won’t put me off cruising again, but I would not book MSC in future unless I was convinced they had made radical improvements. The itinerary: Rating 3 stars – average – good selection of ports. Southampton, Le Havre, Zeebrugge, overnight in Amsterdam, Hamburg, return to Southampton. However, this cruise realistically began and ended in Hamburg, Southampton was the first stop on the itinerary for those who boarded in Hamburg, as evidenced by the 'Welcome Aboard Party' held on our finally stop in Hamburg for those starting the new itinerary... We chose this itinerary as, having previously done two Mediterranean and two Norway cruises, I wanted something different, and thought this sounded an interesting selection of destinations. Booking/web check-in Rating 1 star – terrible. Before travel we already experienced problems (and it is hard to say how much of these were down to MSC themselves and how much due to our agents). The web check-in was fine, for my cabin, but I was unable to access for the other as I kept being told I needed another booking number, which I did not have as I had only been given one, eventually it was MSC that managed to get me access to check-in my children for their cabin. The MSC website also has a habit of glitching badly if your computer stores cookies so I had to clear the cache frequently to use my account. As my son had Epilepsy and Autism we had completed a special needs request form to request our cabins be close to each other, this was sent to both the agents and MSC. I never actually got a response to this request and after initially seeing we had been allocated cabins on decks 8 and 12 I contacted both MSC and my agents, the agents said the cabins were booked on a guarantee basis so could not be chosen, when reminded I had filled in a special needs form their response was 'oh did you, you'll have to wait and see what MSC say' whilst MSC stated (as it says on the website) that it is for the agents to manage this is you booked with one, when told this the agents said it was down to MSC so I was going round in circles. About 3 weeks before we sailed both cabins were listed on the web account as deck 8 but opposite ends and sides of the ship, by two weeks before sailing the cabins were back to deck 8 (starboard, aft) and 12 (port, fore), so still opposite ends of the ship 4 decks apart, not great when you have special needs. The only good thing was we had been upgraded from inside cabins to an outside partial view (lifeboats blocking windows so outside view pointless really) and a balcony. I would have been happier to keep inside cabins that were next to each other as the distance was a problem once on board as other issues arose. I was also starting to panic about getting our embarkation tickets as two weeks before we had not received them, and after speaking to our agents the tickets for my cabin were sent out, but again they were asking for another booking number for the other cabin, and did not answer my question about if it would be a problem that the tickets they had sent me were not for the same cabin number as was showing on our account on the MSC website. The other tickets finally came a few days later, but I never got an answer or replacement tickets for the ones that were wrong. Port Parking: Rating 5 stars- excellent (but no relation to MSC) We had booked port parking at the same time as booking our cruise. The parking was a little way from the docks (10-15 minutes drive) but the parking agency, Air Lynx, seemed efficient, we received a call from them about 5 minutes from arriving, checking if we were on our way. Once we arrived we were unloaded into their shuttle minibus and taken straight to the docks. Embarkation in Southampton: Rating 4 stars – very good Very good, quick straight on board. Thankfully, the luggage porters were able to give me new luggage tags for the ones we had the wrong cabin number for, and at the check-in desk they also said it wasn’t a problem that the tickets were wrong, and we should just go to the cabin number we knew it should be on board, and if there were any issues then go to guest services. However, our tickets had stated that our embarkation time was 17:45 which I found very late, there was no way I was leaving it that late to arrive, so we actually arrived earlier (around 16:15 and it seems everyone else must have too as there were no other passengers waiting to board. I think we could probably have arrived even earlier without having any problems with the time not matching our tickets. Once on board – initial thoughts. Rating 2 stars – Poor. Once on board a series of signs directed new boarders to the Tiger Bar, where you are pounced on instantly by people selling drinks packages, not really the welcome you would like. We don’t really drink alcohol, and there was no way any of the ‘all inclusive’ packages for that would suit us, they seemed very expensive unless you are an alcoholic. We did end up buying water (14 bottles), speciality coffee (I think it was 14 drinks again), and soft drinks (14 drinks) packages, which were in the form of vouchers you can use as you please during the cruise, for a total cost of 178.25 euros including the 15% service charge, it worked out as just a small saving (1-2 drinks per package) on what you would pay buying them individually, it did feel like a high pressure sales tactic to be accosted this way as you got on board, and it clearly worked as I bought! We then went straight to our cabins, which were open and ready, this was good as often with earlier embarkation there has been a delay in getting to the cabins for me on cruises. However, it later became clear that this was due to the cruise having already started the day before, and there were also people embarking at disembarking at most ports from what I could gather, something I haven’t experienced before. Our cruise cards and a daily planner were waiting for us in the cabins, which were actually the cabins we were expecting them to be at least. In my son’s cabin there was a letter that acknowledged the fact he had additional needs, it stated someone would be in touch to support during the evacuation drill, but this didn’t happen, and I was unable to support my son during this myself as again, due to our cabins being so far apart our emergency meeting points were separate (D and G) at opposite ends of the ship for the drill. In a real emergency situation there is now way I would have allowed us to be separated in this way, so I don’t know what would have happened! Thankfully we didn’t have to find out… The drill itself consisted of sitting in a bar whilst being shown how to put on your lifejacket was explained in around 6 different European languages and that was about it. I’m not convinced I would actually know what to do in an emergency situation based on this drill. Cabins – Rating 3 stars average On deck 8 we had an outside cabin for my son and daughter to share. On arrival this was setup with a double bed, despite having asked for twin beds (they did fix this quickly once we went to guest services, at least). This cabin was an outside partial view, with lifeboats outside the window, to be honest I don’t know why they bothered with the window, it seemed pointless as the view was fully obscured by the lifeboat. The cabin was clean, tidy and compact, nothing to get excited about but nothing to complain about either. On deck 12 we had a balcony cabin, again at first glance, clean tidy and compact. Later, we noticed that the sheet on the bed had stains that had not come out in the wash, and there was a rip in the quilt that had been concealed under the sheet. I was glad I hadn’t bought my usual big ballgown for the Gala/Elegant nights as there wouldn’t have been enough room for me to put it on in either of these cabins, so they were a bit smaller than others I have had. The cupboards and drawers did not have handles and most of the drawers were stiff to open. The showers were okay, pressure a bit low but I think that’s par for the course really, it just makes washing your shampoo out of thick hair a bit harder. As always power points were limited (and being European on this ship) and due to the shape and size of travel adapters you could only use one power point at a time as the two points available are very close together, so you can’t plug in two adapters at the same time. They were also too close to the desk making larger items such as camera battery chargers, impossible to plug in at all (we bought a European extension lead in a supermarket in Le Havre to enable us to use the power points more effectively). Having a kettle, with tea and coffee was a good addition that is growing in popularity on ships, milk rather than cream would be better here and just 2 milk cartons is not enough, we would have to pick up extras at the buffet to bring back to the room, but anything used did get replenished when the room attendant came by. The room attendant was not as attentive as we have experienced before, we did not see him more than once or twice, I don’t even recall his name. And no folded towel animals!? Every cruise I have been on these have been a feature I have grown to look forward to seeing, it was disappointing that there were none, and then they did a demonstration on the final sea day so it’s clear that these do happen on MSC too, so not sure why we didn’t see any? Cruise Card/onboard payments – rating 3 stars average Your cruise card is your onboard ID and payment system. It is in your cabin upon your arrival and requires activation within around 24 hours (up to 23:00 the day after embarking). On previous cruises I have provided my credit card details before going, or at the cruise terminal so this was a bit different. Whichever way you to chose to pay when you activate can be changed until the day before disembarkation, the options are credit card, debit card and cash. You need to take the card to one of the activation point machines located near guest services. Before doing this, I spoke to guest services as I was worried that it authorises 250 euros straight away, and I would be linking my card to all 4 people, I didn’t want a 1000-euro charge, thankfully they said it would only be the 250 euros for all of us and I could link all payments to the one card, but as with so many things on this cruise the original information was not clear so if you didn't go and ask you wouldn't know how things really worked, they could save themselves a lot of unnecessary trip to guest services if information was clearer at the outset, you shouldn't have to go and ask for it to be explained. You can check your account at any time at guest services or on the interactive TV in your cabin. This proved useful as I found that our onboard credit was not being used against my card and charges for a donation to UNICEF had been put against my card, both of which was able to resolve quickly at guest services. Having the cruise card for onboard spending is the same on all cruises I have done, and it is good, but also you can easily run up a big bill if you don’t pay attention to what you are doing (just like a credit card really). At the end of your cruise a bill is delivered to your room for you to verify the amounts charged (or go to guest services to resolve any discrepancies) before you leave. The ship – rating 3 stars average The ship itself was nice looking, inside and out. No spectacular staircases or highlight spots like some cruise ships. It did feel a bit claustrophobic at times as there isn’t much open space, it’s very closed in on all decks except for the uppermost open decks 13-16 (with 14-16 not really being full decks as such, rather bits of deck on top of deck 13). Signage could be better, even though it was smaller than most of the other ships I have been on I found it much harder to find my way around. I don’t recall seeing a single trash can (bin), and the toilets were difficult to locate. It turned out (I discovered on talking to crew later in the week) that the reason bins and toilets are not well signposted is that the wife of the owner of the cruise line considers these things to be private and advertising them ‘trashy’, that isn’t a helpful explanation and ignores that fact that being able to locate a toilet quickly is an accessibility issue for disabled passengers, who may need to be able to locate one in a hurry, not to mention that if you are seasick you might also need to do this! When you did manage to find a toilet other than in your cabin they had this automated flush feature, not that might sound handy, however it seemed to malfunction on a frequent basis. Often the toilet would flush as you sat on it, providing an unpleasant suction sensation you would rather not experience whilst being sat on a toilet! Then it would not flush when you had finished so you had to locate the tiny button to flush it manually. The frequency with which toilets seemed to be closed for cleaning seemed high and unnecessary as I went in and found the cleaner in one cubicle but all the others could be used, it might be better just to put a ‘cleaning in progress’ sign up to make people aware someone is in there, but not close off completely as you can often walk half a ship before you can find another toilet, and then find it is also closed for cleaning! MSC seem to have favoured quantity over quality, cramming as many people in as possible with low fares to entice you onboard, smaller cabins and less space overall. Information and communication are generally lacking in every aspect of the cruise and often misleading in my opinion, you will see more on this in other sections. First Evening/Medical – Rating 1 star terrible if it was possible to give zero stars I would! After the drill, we popped back to our cabins to return the lifejackets, and our luggage was already there, another bonus point for MSC having waited many hours for luggage on some of my previous cruises. We then decided to head up to the buffet for something to eat as it was coming up to 6pm and we hadn’t eaten since leaving home at 12noon. Before we got into the buffet my son starting acting oddly and I knew a seizure was coming, he was already having a complex partial seizure and we were trying to get him to sit down before it developed into a grand mal seizure (it is always difficult to get him to sit down as he is virtually unresponsive in a complex partial seizure, and will just be asking for the nearest toilet) staff began to panic, and people started crowding round and I tried to explain he was about to have a seizure and let us deal with it, but if they were worried then send a first aider. Myself and my daughter caught my son and lowered him to the floor when he went into the main seizure phase. Then what I presumed was a first aider arrived along with a huge crowd of people in uniform. People were speaking to me in German and other languages I didn’t understand, I said that we speak English and I know what I’m doing. Someone was filling a syringe with something and I had to shout at them not to try and stick a needle in my now sleeping post-seizure, severely needle-phobic son! A doctor had now joined the collection of people and was saying he needed to give him something to calm him down, again I said no they couldn’t do that, his seizure had finished he just needed to rest now. I wanted everyone to just back off and leave us alone, but now the doctor was there he insisted on getting a stretcher to take my son down to the medical centre to check him over. The ability of anyone in attendance to speak good enough English to manage a medical situation was inadequate to say the least, they did not understand what I was telling them, and I did not understand them. Once done in the medical centre they again wanted to poke my son with needles which he did not need and kept touching him despite me saying they needed to stop as he doesn’t like being touched, it was only once I said he was autistic that they seemed to understand that word and backed off a little. Whilst he was still coming around the doctor was pestering me for his cruise card, so I had to dig through his pockets to find it. As my son woke up we just wanted to get him back to his cabin, so he could rest and recover fully, but when we tried to leave we were told we had to wait for the doctor to check him over. One of the doctors’ aides returned with his cruise card and a bill for 140 euros, before we were eventually granted a wheelchair to take him back to his cabin. Later, I went to guest services to enquire why I had been billed 140 euros, and to contest this as in my mind nothing had been done that constituted being paid for. I was informed that it would be investigated but that there are fee’s for using medical services, to which I responded we had not wanted, needed or received anything I felt warranted this bill. The bill itself was not clear about what exactly we were being charged for, merely stating ‘Epileptic crisis Examination out of the Medical Center’. I was told I should claim it back on my travel insurance (later in the week I received a call upholding this opinion. Once home I enquired with my insurance but given to value of the excess to be paid it ended up not worth claiming as I wouldn’t get much back, so I am out of pocket 140 euros for nothing. EHIC cards also do not cover cruises so I can’t claim it back that way either). Dining for the whole week - rating 1 star - terrible: We don’t usually bother with the main restaurants as we don’t like taking several hours to eat a meal and having specific times to eat. For us the buffet restaurant option gives the flexibility to eat what we want, when we want. So, I can’t comment on the main dining rooms, and I never buy speciality dining meals at an additional cost, I don’t see why you would want to pay for food onboard when there is all you can eat available for 20 hours a day? Oh wait, quality I guess might come in to play here as you will see… I did hear one passenger mention that being gluten free they were disappointed that, due to having to wait so long for their food in the main dining room, they ended up eating separately from their family, and I think if you had any specific dietary requirements you would need to eat in the main dining room as these were certainly not catered for in the buffet. Once my son was feeling up to it we went back to our original plan of getting something to eat in the Sahara Buffet restaurant by now it was around 8pm. We felt the selection on offer wasn’t great in comparison to other ships I have been on, lots of bread, and cold meats/salad but limited choices in cooked foods. Pizza and fries were available pretty much consistently throughout the week and as they were often the only edible option we were sick of them by the end of the week, although for an Italian ship the pizzas were nothing like an Italian pizza, more like a frozen one I might get back home. Having several fussy eaters in our group we thought we might have better luck on other nights and that it was maybe just this first evening where the buffet options seemed to be catering to a more European palate, specifically German, and there were also a lot of Indian/Asian cuisines (possibly due to the chefs and galley staff being more from that part of the World). Unfortunately, as the week progressed there was no improvement in the food and being a bit fussy (e.g. two of us not liking seafoods) was clearly not to blame. What we did eat seemed to also be bland and of a lower quality than what I am used to. The only vegetables most of the time were raw/cold. The cooked breakfasts were the only meal of the day worth eating but even those seemed heavily greasy. The mugs for hot drinks were always filthy, dishwasher residue white smears on the outside of the blue mugs, and rims you needed to wipe before using, I presume this was a problem of the dishwasher machine? The selection of desserts was just a bad, we didn’t have any most of the time. It was laughable that they promoted the ‘Traditional British Sunday dinner’ when all they had was beef and Yorkshire pudding, no roast potatoes, and no suitable vegetables, and if you don’t eat beef, there was no alternative like chicken or pork, I ended up with Yorkshire pudding, with greasy, slimy, green beans and a preformed, plastic turkey burger (from the grill), and no gravy. MSC really need to have better look at English meals if the want to cater more for the British market as they claim. I was very hungry for some decent food, especially cooked vegetables when we got home! On board entertainment – first night: rating 2 stars - poor Obviously, the events of the early evening meant we hadn’t really had chance to look at the daily program yet. When we did we were disappointed to see that for the first night aboard there was no sail-away party on deck, or in any of the lounges/bars. The only entertainments available were two dance classes, a Bee Gees & Abba tribute and cocktail demo (at the same time in different locations), a gap of around one and a half hours or so with nothing on and then at 10.30pm trivia. In the theatre a Mime show with ‘poetry, comedy and talent’ was repeated at 19:00 and 21:15 for the different dining times in the main restaurants. But except for the latest theatre show and trivia we had missed everything else, except for some very generic (think karaoke level skill but supposedly professional) singers in the bars, giving us nothing to do on our first night, except try and explore the ship then go to our cabins as we were pretty exhausted. Please see further comments on onboard activities/entertainment for the rest of the week below. Rather than give a minute by minute report on the rest of our week I’ll turn now to the different facilities and activities etc. Onboard Activities (inclusive) – rating 3 stars average For included on board activities, besides the pools, there was shuffleboard, two foosball (table football) tables, two table tennis tables, and the sport deck (deck 16) - a netted sports court for tennis/basketball. The sports deck was very high, windy and cold so we didn’t go out there after an initial visit to find it. The table football and table tennis were always occupied, so even when we collected a ball from the Virtual World centre (where all sporting/game equipment was available to loan) we ended up taking it back not having had a turn, they shouldn’t loan out more balls than they have tables for. With such a limited selection of activities it’s no wonder they were so busy when people were onboard, I imagine if you want a chance to use them you need to stay onboard when docked, but then why are you on a cruise to different ports if you aren’t going to explore/visit them? Other Activities (chargeable) – rating 2 stars – poor So, they have a 4D Cinema, this is not what you might expect, I was thinking IMAX, I was wrong. I was looking forward to watching a movie onboard, as they don’t have the free movies under the stars I have enjoyed on each of my previous cruises I thought this would be a nice alternative, I was wrong. What they have is a set of simulator chairs and a projection screen where they show simulation experience shows (think pretend roller-coaster) behind a curtain in the ‘Virtual World’ on deck 14 and it costs 7 euros per person to watch/ride/experience this, needless to say I didn’t bother spending cinema ticket prices for a simulation. There are no movies on board at all unless you also want to pay 7 euros to watch one on the 19-inch TV in your cabin (which, by the way, has virtually no English language channels). Virtual World was the ‘entertainment hub’ where you could loan games and sporting equipment and swipe your cruise card to play at additional charge air hockey, a motorbike racing game, or two arcade games (a crane toy grab and one of those where you push something in a hole to try to win). Then there’s Mini-Bowling, I made the mistake of swiping my cruise card on this two-lane rip off machine! 6 euros down the drain, as before you have chance to even think about adding other players a 20 second timer pops up for you to start playing, you then get 5 rounds of two balls, each with just 20 seconds to react and boom, game over! No instructions, no warning this is going to happen, how they call this bowling I don’t know, and I learnt the hard way why no-one else was using this game, hidden away in the nightclub that doubles as a teen place right next to the children’s club room, because it is a con, that’s why. On deck 7 in the Sports bar there is a self-righting Billiards/Pool table, now this we did use a few times. At 6 euros for an hour it was probably the best value, paid for, item on board. As we enjoy playing pool this activity was popular with us and kept us occupied for an hour here and there, especially on sea days as there wasn’t much else to do. Even if the self-righting mechanism kicked in at some strange times, wobbling the table unnecessarily causing you to have to wait for it to stop jiggling so you could take a shot. Onboard entertainment - Rating 2 stars poor The daily planner received in your cabin each night for the next day details all the entertainment that will be available for the upcoming day, this is the same on every ship I’ve been on, even if they call it different things. As mentioned, when we boarded the first planner had very little entertainment listed, we which put down to it being embarkation day… until we saw the next one… Again, we didn’t think it too much of an issue that there did was not much on during the day as it would be a port day, but the evening looked rather lacking considering we would all be back on board then. Unfortunately, this was actually the standard for the whole week. Virtually nothing on during the day, so if you were only ashore for part of the day (morning/afternoon only excursions for example) there was not much to occupy you when back on board (and of course as is always the case a lot of other things, such as shops and the casino, onboard are also closed whilst in port due to Maritime law etc). If you wanted a dance lesson, you were in luck, these seemed to be the main feature of the daily entertainment program, with several different sessions each day. There seemed to be a few kids and family activities each day (for those with younger children), the occasional game, and trivia, and that was pretty much it on port days, with the odd additional item in the evenings, the nightly theatre show and a late-night disco. Trivia was our favourite activity, and probably the only thing that was of regular interest to us out of the limited choice available, we attended as many trivia sessions as we could (and even won a couple of t-shirts - when they mega quiz buffs weren’t playing who always won, ha-ha). Even Trivia though had a confusing element, being called different things on different days, and a feature comment one day in the programme about joining the ‘biggest trivia event at sea’ but it didn’t say where, when or how to join in. There was a single craft activity (papercraft) on each of the sea days, but there could have easily been many more of these type of activities – scrap-booking, knit+natter, crochet the list of ideas goes on and on, being a crafter myself! There could also have been activities put on (unhosted) that just gave likeminded people a time and place to meet up – reading group/book club meetup in the library, puzzle/crossword group, chess club – literally anything goes. I saw a single item in the programme about Masterchef at Sea, but no further information was included so unless you went to guest services to ask for more information you couldn’t join in. There were also very long gaps between activities, such that in many cases there would be two or three things happening at one time, then nothing for a couple of hours or more. The majority of entertainment also seemed to only take place in the Tiger Bar, despite there being numerous other locations around the ship (bars/clubs/pool deck etc the ship has 17 Bars & lounges in total) that could also have hosted activities. Heck, even the theatre could have been utilised to show movies seeing as there was no-where else you could watch them on this ship… As for the theatre, the shows seemed to be mostly musical/dance themed items, that I guess were chosen to avoid too much of an issue of the many different languages of the passengers. We only went to one theatre show (Sophisticats) and it was of a below average standard (to me, being someone who attends several theatre performances each year back home). There was also a British Vocalist/Humourist, Paul Fredericks - who was an average voiced singer and humourless - who walked off the stage when an announcement interrupted his performance, very professional (unless that was meant to be a joke!? But it wasn’t funny…) (BTW, never heard of him before, he is not what I would consider a well-known British performer). A noticeable missing item was Karaoke, and when this did appear on the bill it was at 11pm for 45 minutes on the Saturday night – I later found out this was due to a new Karaoke machine having been delivered whilst docked at Hamburg on the Saturday, so maybe it will feature more in future… Spa – rating 3 stars average I’ll be honest this rating is based purely on the pricing as because it was so expensive in comparison to other cruises I have been on I did not use it, despite wanting a massage. A couple’s massage was 230 euros and the only offers came in your daily planner at 9pm or later and if you tried to book the following day you were told it was only valid for the previous day. The offers that did come up were not great and as such I didn’t get to find out if the facilities or treatments themselves were any good. It's a shame as I really could have done with at least one hot stones massage! I'm also a bit of an Elemis snob when it comes to my spas and they don't use Elemis on MSC Magnifica... Fitness centre – rating 3 stars average Again we didn’t actually use the very small fitness centre, any classes were at an additional cost, but I couldn’t see how a class would be possible as the space was so small, unless there were only 2 people attending, or there was a hidden room I didn’t see!? Pools – rating 3 stars average The undercover pool and hot tubs seemed popular and were often busy. I don’t recall seeing the outdoor pool used, when it was open, most of the time it closed as you got back on board after a port stop and seemed to be having work done on the hot tubs must of the week. It felt too cold to use the pools really, so we didn’t bother. They looked small and I could imagine if it was warmer they would have been heaving with people. WIFI – rating 3 stars average Another rating based on costs. You would think by now cruise ships would be starting to bring their prices down for this facility, it’s not really a luxury nowadays but is still priced as one. Art Gallery – unrateable Okay, so apparently there is an Art Gallery (as with every ship I have been on), there are signs for this on deck 7, couldn’t find it anywhere!? Is it hidden behind a wall? If so where is the door? It’s a mystery we didn’t solve… Casino – rating 3 stars average Smaller than other ships but the same sort of set-up, poker tables, slot machines, electronic roulette and a handful of coin-drop machines. We had a couple of games of roulette, which as anyone who has played knows is a game of pure chance so nothing much to say about that. The coin-drop machines used MSC tokens of no currency or face-value, you inserted euro notes in a slot and were granted a number of tokens to play with (20 tokens for 5 euros, giving them a value of 25 cents each). Unless you are an avid gambler, who really knows what they are doing, Casino’s (a staple of all ships) are just a big waste of money, the only reason we played at all was to try and fill a little of the dead time, I guess that it what they hope for… Library – rating 2 stars poor I’ve yet to find a cruise ship that has a library that I would actually consider to be a decent library. My own library at home has more books than all 5 cruise ships I have been on so far! There are sections for each of the languages most likely to be travelling, so in this case many European languages. Each has a handful of shelves. The English language section didn’t have anything of interest at all, good job I bought some books with me (I never travel without a few books). There were a handful of trays with puzzle sheets in different languages, the English one was a crossword. I’m not sure if there were meant to be new one’s daily (on other ships there have been daily puzzle sheets) but on at least one of the days we nipped in to pick one up and there were no English language sheets at all. I’d love to see more happening, even un-hosted, in ship libraries, they would be great meeting points! Photography – rating 2 stars poor I’ve always enjoyed getting professional photos on my cruises and was looking forward to doing the same again on this one. I knew I couldn’t get my kids to run from one photographer to another all night on the formal night, as I would normally do in my Cinderella ballgown, so opted for just visiting two. We chose a plain black background and the staircase. I had already enquired about packages and felt uncomfortable with the lack of transparency in pricing and packages (being used to plenty of detailed information about the range of deals you can get on print and digital images, discounts for more purchases etc). I was told to choose what I liked then I would be told how much it was as it was all done by barcodes…? So, we spent ages going through the photos, easily discarding a large amount as they were blurry, or eyes closed. We narrowed it down to two piles, four must have photos and a larger number of extras that would depend on the deals available. Upon showing these to a member of the photography team, I was told it would be 30 euros per large (12x8) photo and 20 euros for the 8x6 size, discounts only begin at 10 photos, which would be 10% discount. This didn’t seem like a great deal, 10 photos would be a minimum cost of 200 euros, I’ve had deals for less than $200USD where you get EVERY photo taken on board (one time this was almost 200 photos!) so I decided as it was so expensive we would just have the four. I explained that we didn’t want the four favourites in the 12x8 size they had printed them in as it was too big, we would prefer the 8x6 size, to which I was told I couldn’t choose what size I wanted (another never-before-experienced shocker). I couldn’t understand why it was not possible for them to just print the size I wanted and was told the files are locked when I asked, ‘do you not have the original image?’. It all seemed rather strange, and I just said to forget it, what a rip off. Later, after having complained about this, I was told that it is something to do with the system (outdated system by the sound of it) that if they amended my photos to the smaller size it would ‘ruin’ all the others as they would also be changed (errm, you’ve already printed them, don’t offer people the chance to choose what ‘they’ want, and don’t offer additional prints or digital versions so what difference would it make changing it now???), but I was offered the chance to have the files on CD for 10 euros per picture which I accepted despite still feeling it was far too much really. When I got home I found these images were not the originals, but as printed, so two of the four were black and white, so in the end I was still not happy with the result and had to then go and print them myself. MSC really need to look at updating their system so people can have the photos they want, in the size they want, colour, black and white, print or digital and a better range of offers, 10% off 200/300 Euros is the only offer, and it really isn’t much of a ‘deal’ (they also do not offer the CD option, I only got that because I had complained). Not really sure why they felt it was acceptable to print blurry images and attempt to sell these either!? Shopping/Public rooms/Bars - rating 3 stars average Signage on board was poor (as mentioned before in relation to toilets) small, vague maps of your current deck hidden away on walls, bar names identified by seat colour in many cases from what I could tell, and god help you if you happened to get in the wrong lift and end up at the rear of a closed restaurant, trying to navigate to which floor you could then actually get round to the stuff you were looking for was bonkers. I normally only take a few hours to get oriented with where everything is on a ship, but I still wasn’t sure which way to go for anything, other than the most frequently visited areas, by the time we got off this one! The public areas on the whole are very difficult to navigate. Onboard shopping is always a bit of a gamble on cruise ships. Depending on the exchange rate you can either be getting a bargain or totally wasting your money. MSC is no exception to this rule. It’s handful of shops include a few of high end watch, jewellery, fashion and bag shops, a mini-mart and their signature logo store. No duty free on this ship, not really sure why, location or onboard currency being the Euro I guess? Not much to say about the shopping as we didn’t really buy much, prices were a bit high in comparison to when the US dollar is the onboard currency on a ship. The main atrium where the shops and other public rooms are mainly found is the most open part on the inner ship with a waterfall feature and staircases connecting decks 5-7. Guest services, future cruises, the excursions desk and internet cafe are amongst the public rooms. Bar service is slow, you can often wait 20-30 minutes for a drink even if it’s not that busy. In most bars there are staff floating round who might eventually come to your table, or you can go up to the bar yourself, neither gives a quicker service than the other, many bars seem to have a number of floaters but only 1-2 people actually behind the bar making/preparing the drinks. There is no self-service launderette, but you can use the bag in your room to send things down to be washed, ironed etc, the prices seemed about average for individual items, however you should buy a package before boarding if you want more as the price difference is quite a lot, the deal to buy a laundry package beforehand was really good. Of course, you might not need any laundry doing or are happy to wait till you get home, but if you do be aware of when you want your items for as it requires being sent off before 10pm the day before you want to receive it after 5pm… Staff/Crew – rating 3 stars average (entertainment team 4 stars – good) The entertainment team are a credit to the ship, they make everyone feel welcome, encourage participation and are a lot of fun, they also try to remember names. Elsewhere the staff are fine, but not as interactive as some places, only one bar member was actually up for a bit of conversation and we hardly saw our room attendant (and never got any towel animals). In some cases, there were those that seemed a bit rude or ignorant, but it might have just been another indicator of the language and cultural differences (although I’ve not experienced this on other ships that are just as diverse). Cruise critic and Crew Coffee & Chat meetings – rating 3-4 stars average to good There were two opportunities on board to voice your opinions/give feedback about the ship and your experiences, one for Cruise Critic members (with cake) and a crew coffee and chat meeting. These seemed to only be attended by a handful of British passengers who didn’t interact with each other much. Several senior crew members attended each meeting and I had the opportunity to mention most of the things that I have included in this review. The response in relation to the medical issue was not great, but at least the people I spoke to were aware of the situation so that shows there is communication between the staff. Most of the rest of my feedback was well received, even if nothing ever comes of it. The entertainment director seemed the most enthusiastic about taking on board our suggestions in relation to entertainments, such as the karaoke and virtual world (cinema). Most other British passengers I spoke to either at these meetings or elsewhere on the ship had the same concerns as myself in relation to the toilets, food, and lack of entertainment on board in particular. I think these meetings are helpful for passengers to feel listened to in their concerns and ideas for helping MSC improve to meet the needs and expectations of it’s guests and good because I have not seen them on other cruises I have been on (although they may have been there but I didn’t feel the need to attend being much more satisfied with my experiences) It remains to be seen if anything actually comes of it… Obviously, there are many different types of individuals, couples, and groups who travel on cruises, as a youngish couple this was the first time we had travelled that wasn’t just the two of us and I would certainly say it is much easier when we don’t have the kids, even if they are grown up themselves. A few group types require a bit of a mention as to the suitability of this MSC Magnifica cruise for them, as far as I am able to comment: For families with children/under 18’s – rating 3 stars average Not having younger children I can’t say much, but there did seem to be adequate activity for the younger children in clubs, I’m not so sure teenagers would feel as well catered for on here as they would on ships with more adventurous activities such as rock climbing walls and bigger video game arcades. The ship did seem family friendly and there were always a few family activities on the lean activity programme. For solo travellers - rating 2 stars - poor I didn’t see anything for solo travellers mentioned on the daily programme, and I heard someone mention they had struggled with the pricing and packages when booking as a solo traveller. Having been a solo cruiser in the past, I would say Norwegian Cruise line were far more geared up for solo travellers, with solo cabins, special prices and a host of activities/meet-ups specific on the programmer for solo travellers. LGBT – Rating 2 stars - poor My youngest identifies as non-binary and was pleased to see an LGBT meetup on the programme, not once but twice during the week. Unfortunately, this was short lived as it appeared either no-one else turned up or anyone else attending was as clueless as they were as to if they were in the right place, if anyone else was there for that meet-up or were just sitting in the bar having a drink. The bar in which the meet-up was scheduled to take place was split over both sides of the ship and although the programme indicated left/right for those unfamiliar with what would be the left/right of the ship it was not easy to work out if you were in the right place, a better location would be one of the bars with a clearly identifiable meeting point. At one of the crew meetings we asked why these meet-ups were un-hosted and suggested that maybe something could be done to identify the meetup point. It was explained that there had been complaints about being too ‘obvious’ in the past but they liked our suggestion of just putting a small rainbow as a discrete indicator of the meeting point and it is un-hosted as although there are crew who identify as LGBT they didn’t necessarily want this identified to passengers, which is understandable, but at the same time shows how much improvement is still required in the general public in relation to diversity and equality. Hopefully other LGBT passengers find they have a better experience and feel more welcome to be who they are in future. For those with Disabilities/special needs – rating 2-3 stars poor to average (depending on disability I guess) As already mentioned we faced a few issues having a member of our family with autism and epilepsy on this ship. At times the constant flow of announcements in 6 or more languages is overwhelming even for those of us without sensory issues, I feel this persistent flow just after we boarded may have been a contributory factor in my son’s seizure as it could have been a sensory overload for him. In addition, I noticed accessibility issues for disabled passengers with things such as the toilets being difficult to locate, and the corridors being too narrow to get a wheelchair down when the room stewards/cleaners were about (when they were not then it was just about wide enough for wheelchairs, but there seemed to be obstacles more often than there were not). Being aware just how much the medical charges would be for things would be very helpful, apparently these are listed in the medical centre itself, but we didn’t see them there. And of course, we had completed a special needs form to request close cabins which we did not get any response to at all. There was a note in my son’s room when we arrived but other than that we did not get any other acknowledgment or support for him on board. For smokers – Rating 3 stars average As with all ships now, no smoking on balconies and cabins (it doesn’t stop everyone, but I can’t say I’d want to be in a cabin that smells like an ashtray!). For now, at least, there is still smoking on one side of deck 13 and one side of the casino (only when it is operational), these areas are quite well marked so if you do want to smoke you can easily find where you can, or if you want to avoid it you can clearly see and smell where to avoid! Disembarkation – Rating 1 star – terrible I know it might not have been the ships fault that we docked late (although it might have been for all I know, we seemed to be in the port at around the expected time but didn’t dock for ages, so who knows what was going on) but what a shambles! Information about disembarkation was left in the cabins the night before giving luggage labels and a time for attending your meeting point – no option for self-disembarkation, but on asking at guest services I was told we could do this. Our meeting point was the theatre at 9am but we had to be out of our cabins by 8am, (and the clocks needed changing back to UK time which wasn’t mentioned in the information, and we forgot that they had changed when we left!). We kept our luggage to take off ourselves as we didn’t want to get stuck in the terminal waiting to pick up our luggage, and I’m so glad we did this as when we eventually got into the terminal most of the luggage had not been unloaded. In the morning we got up early, went for breakfast in the buffet, then collected our luggage vacating our cabins by 8am. We went straight to the theatre to wait despite it being an hour before our allotted time, expecting to be able to get off at 9am, what else can you do when everything is closed on the ship due to docking and you have all your luggage (which they did have an option for leaving in the ‘Poker lounge’ but then you would just be stuck waiting to get it out of there instead of the terminal). Unfortunately, getting off at 9am wasn’t to be as we hadn’t fully docked yet. In fact, it was around 10 am before we could join the ship long queue of people waiting to get off. You see, by the time we had docked (now very late) and the ship had been given the all clear to allow disembarkation all the other groups were also waiting as their allotted time had come and gone. During the waiting there was a series of short comedy clips playing on the theatre screen, of which we saw the same clips at least 4 times during the wait. Other than that there was nothing to keep people entertained, announcements were infrequent (but repeated in multiple languages as always, and only provided minimal information that we were waiting to be cleared – stating the obvious) and only one member of staff in the theatre to guide people, so you can imagine it was just a free-for-all once they finally said we could get off, no-one paid any attention to being told it was ‘pink’ group to follow the staff member to the exit, everyone just started heading there (those who hadn’t already gone straight for the exits rather than join the rest of us in the theatre. It was such a relief to get off the ship after 2 hours of being stuck, we were lucky as we just had to get on a shuttle back to our port parking, but others missed connections as result of the chaos. Worst disembarkation I have ever experienced, and as Southampton wasn’t even the main stop on this cruise it was definitely the largest number of people getting off, we hadn’t seen hundreds waiting the morning before at the start/end point of Hamburg. Ports/Excursions – Rating 2 stars – poor Most of the ports were heavily industrialised and you needed to head away from them to find the local town or anything of interest, but this is not uncommon around Europe, so isn’t a problem in itself, but if you are looking for picturesque ports you might want to consider Norway instead, or other destinations where you won’t be docked in freight ports! The distance to the local town varied greatly for each port, Le Havre just a 10 minute short walk, Bruges 30 minutes away by coach/shuttle, Amsterdam 30 minute walk, Hamburg 20 minutes coach/shuttle. To be honest I’m not a fan of cruise excursions, they often cost far too much for what in many cases is just a coach ride to a location, but sometimes a necessary evil as it can be hard to work out how to get to some places yourself unless you have been before, or it isn’t far. As such I organised my own excursions/activities for each port and highly recommend others do the same. I will write about those separately and have given them reviews on TripAdvisor. The options available for each port were limited, over-priced and in some cases so far from the port it seemed crazy that people would consider it an ‘excursion’ at all, for example in Le Havre you could get on a coach for around 3-4 hours to go to Paris, with the same length journey back to the ship, you would be lucky if you got 3 hours in Paris itself for your 6 hours plus sat on a coach – no thank you, there are far better and cheaper ways to visit Paris. It’s a shame the focus of excursions is generally to take you away from the port in which you have docked, Le Havre has a rich history of its own that could easily be explored with a guide, walking tour, or as we did a Segway tour (booked privately at a fraction of the cost a ship excursion might charge for such a thing) but there were no options for this. We had to book a ship ‘excursion’ to get to Bruges from the ship, I pre-paid for this before we travelled, and it cost far too much for a 30-minute coach ride to Bruges, and back to the ship. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to have the guide on the coach talking a little bit about Bruges, but it wasn’t worth £41GBP per person. And in Hamburg there was a shuttle bus to the town centre which was 15.90 Euros per person, cheaper but no better value for money and the return was chaos as the shuttle only ran every 45 minutes. We got to the pick-up point to find that it was already full and had to wait for the next one, and by the time that arrived there was already enough people to fill two coaches so half of them would have to wait for the next one again. I suggest looking up local tours, activities, museums etc before you go, buy your tickets online direct or via TripAdvisor and print your self a map of the dock/port area so you can plan out how to get to your chosen activity from the ship once docked. Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
If you want dance lessons then this cruise is for you . Cos thats your entertainment .I felt on the first day i was sat in a waiting room all day .Very bad if your english speaking . I found the staff ignorant . I got more sence out of our ... Read More
If you want dance lessons then this cruise is for you . Cos thats your entertainment .I felt on the first day i was sat in a waiting room all day .Very bad if your english speaking . I found the staff ignorant . I got more sence out of our cleaner . He was good at his job. Each port looked like a chemical plant . Excursions are very dear . We also found that they take money from your account with out asking. In hamburg they was charging 16 euro for the bus in to the city .If you went on the street behind , were msc had there buses .you could get to the city for 2 euro.and we was told by an msc crew member about this . Fine dining was ok , but the canteen on the top deck was horrid , food was oily and cold .If im totaly honest MSC dont cater for the English . Read Less
Sail Date April 2018
Chose the cruise due to the ship and destinations. Embarkation and disembarkin went well. Allthough gangway failed on disembark. So we were lead to another. We had cabin D440. Balcony and central. Xavier our steward was brilliant. ... Read More
Chose the cruise due to the ship and destinations. Embarkation and disembarkin went well. Allthough gangway failed on disembark. So we were lead to another. We had cabin D440. Balcony and central. Xavier our steward was brilliant. Nothing too much trouble. We had the select price with freedom dining. Exellent. We ate in the Meriden most evenings. Waiters are exellent We had Philip and Amol. Great guys. A credit to the company. Food was excellent. Plenty of good Fish dishes. Wines reasonably priced. We didn't see any shows. Not really our thing. We did go to a couple of talks and the Crow's nest bar, which was good. Ports were good. I'd been to Bilbao Gijon and Cherbourg before. It was nice seeing them from the sea. I found it particularly heartwarming that there were many disabled people of all ages on board. All obviously enjoying every minute. Booked another cruise whilst on board. That says it all !! Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
Pool was closed for all but one day of the holiday. Understaffed. Ran out of most drinks on board. So much was broken, lifts, toilets, etc. Activities scheduled on deck, knowing there was bad weather - massive cop out. Staff were so ... Read More
Pool was closed for all but one day of the holiday. Understaffed. Ran out of most drinks on board. So much was broken, lifts, toilets, etc. Activities scheduled on deck, knowing there was bad weather - massive cop out. Staff were so unhappy - you could see it throughout the ship. Numerous staff were criticizing P&O, telling us how tight they are and disgusting how they dont even give customers correct reasons for problems. The captain rarely made any announcements on board about the journey, weather etc. Reception queues for over an hour. and wa sonly way to get a bill. (Just what you want to do on your holiday!). Some entertainment was like watching a school play! Having cruised 10+ times, it is back to RC we go! We have never had problems with the American service. Was offered a part-refund for part of our holiday, to be told one day before we left the ship that it would be given as onboard credit, once again lied to and fobbed off by them. Gym equipment was broke. Computer systems were down for last three days, so we couldn't access our bills. High level management are protected by low level staff. PLEASE NOTE: Not one customer (I spoke to close to 100) was happy with this cruise!!! This cruise was a reflection of where P&O is going, ie, eventually nowhere! STEER CLEAR! SPEND YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY SOMEWHERE ELSE!!! Read Less
Sail Date March 2018
My partner had done the QM2 Transatlantic but I had never cruised before so it was all new to me and I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. We had a wonderful time on the Queen Victoria over Christmas last year, i'd thoroughly ... Read More
My partner had done the QM2 Transatlantic but I had never cruised before so it was all new to me and I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. We had a wonderful time on the Queen Victoria over Christmas last year, i'd thoroughly recommend it for anyone looking to get away over the festive period. We chose a deluxe inside on deck 1 and were very pleased with our cabin. There was plenty of hanging space, the bed was very comfy and our room attendant (I can't remember his name) was very good, our room seemed to always have been done whilst we were at breakfast. I thought not having a window would bother me, but as we spent very little time in our cabin I honestly didn't notice it. The food in Britannia was delicious; we ate in there every evening and a couple of lunch times (we found the lunches better than the dinners on some days). We also enjoyed breakfast in there each morning as buffets aren't really our thing. My partner and I are both in our 20's and were at the younger end of the scale on the ship, but this didn't bother us. There was plenty to keep us occupied and we made some great friends whilst on board. The ship was done up beautifully for Christmas, and we all received a lovely Cunard Wedgewood plate on Christmas morning, which was a nice gesture. The officers did a Carol Concert one evening which was enjoyable and there were other festive things one could get involved. My only slight negative from the whole cruise was the prices in the bar (as pointed out by many other people), meaning we didn't drink as much as we usually do when we holiday in other places. If they lowered the prices just slightly, I think the bars would be much busier in the evenings. We purchased a FCD whilst on board and have already booked again for October. This time we're going to try an Ocean View and see which we prefer moving forward. Read Less
Sail Date December 2017
As a solo traveler this holiday was amazing. Embarkation in Southampton extremely well organised. Cabin 5006 lovely, food good sometimes outstanding.Top tips. Talk to strangers, there are some amazing people onboard. FOD, LGBT+ group at ... Read More
As a solo traveler this holiday was amazing. Embarkation in Southampton extremely well organised. Cabin 5006 lovely, food good sometimes outstanding.Top tips. Talk to strangers, there are some amazing people onboard. FOD, LGBT+ group at 5pm each evening was great. Spa pass brilliant. Flowers in my room, bottle of gin and some of my own wine made all the difference in my cabin. Also fresh coffee, melon and yoghurt with honey in my room at 7am. The passenger choir was great. Like any holiday it is going to be what you make it, if you sit in your room and sulk you will have an horrible time. Drinks very pricy and wifi, best lived without (kind of the point when two days from land.) Some of the entertainment was not quite my thing and I did not use the gym. Deiembarkation was slow, but so what. Overall an amazing holiday and busy saving up for my next trip. Read Less
Sail Date November 2017
A good 2nd RC cruise, generally. The ship is lovely; there's lots to do. The food is great, the staterooms nice and the staff/service are amazing. Sadly it's getting quite Butlins. For the price, it's less swish and ... Read More
A good 2nd RC cruise, generally. The ship is lovely; there's lots to do. The food is great, the staterooms nice and the staff/service are amazing. Sadly it's getting quite Butlins. For the price, it's less swish and luxurious than you'd imagine, especially compared to other lines. Whilst it was fun, it was over-crowded, and quite ropey in-parts, where activities/entertainment were aimed at families/young children. It was quite low-brow and populist; endless Bingo and Karaoke, people going to dinner in hoodies/tracksuits. There were children everywhere, and this was encouraged by nature of the activities/entertainment. It felt more like a holiday-camp than a nice, posh cruise, which seems a shame, given it's marketed as a luxury. Also, facilities couldn't accommodate the number of passengers. The Windjammer was over-capacity, bars were full; you couldn't find a seat anywhere. Too many people packed-on without thought of how they would spend their time on-board. Read Less
Sail Date October 2017
This was a back to back with the Mediterranean cruise. The ship was great. All the amenities we required. Smaller than Indy but that did not detract. We moved from a standard cabin to a disabled access cabin It was great to get the ... Read More
This was a back to back with the Mediterranean cruise. The ship was great. All the amenities we required. Smaller than Indy but that did not detract. We moved from a standard cabin to a disabled access cabin It was great to get the extra room for the scooter and the wet room The couple who had this cabin before had cleaned it from top to bottom as they were very disappointed with the standard of cleanliness That gave the cabin steward a good start but edges and corners were not cleaned until well into the cruise. We stock with the windjammer due to poor experience in dining room on previous cruise. Windjammer was very good, great selection, lots of vegetarian options., We loved the food and service in Johnny Rockets and dined three times in Sabor, the specialist Indian cuisine Best Indian meal ever. Stage shows did not attract us in as we had seen them last cruise, same with ice shows. Service in the Diamond Lounge was great Hats off to Kevin, Concierge, Alexandrou and JJ, bar staff. They made our visits feel personal and welcome. Ports were good but very naughty of RCI not to tell us that there were no disabled shuttles and no suitable infrastructure in Morocco We got a note on our beds late the night before we docked. Some of us had cruised because we wanted to see Morocco. For one it was on his Bucket List. They should have told us when we booked disabled access cabins Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
The destinations were what we were wanted to visit. Having already cruised with this company on the Adventure and Explorer of the Seas we were happy with the standard. They all carry approximately 3k passengers and there is plenty of ... Read More
The destinations were what we were wanted to visit. Having already cruised with this company on the Adventure and Explorer of the Seas we were happy with the standard. They all carry approximately 3k passengers and there is plenty of room in the various areas of the ship, although when the weather is inclement seats are at a premium. Entertainment is good as well as all the staff, especially in the restaurants and bars. They all work very hard, long, hours and are very appreciative of praise when given. Food is of a very good standard and very plentiful; you can always ask for more if you feel unfulfilled. It is worth taking out the premium drinks package if you enjoy a few glasses of wine and spirits per day. Otherwise you have to pay for all drinks, even bottled water, and they are expensive. We opted to not pay gratuities up front and spoke with customer services once we were on board to make sure we were not charged the daily charge. We chose to show our appreciation of service personally to those who deserved it over a god spread of staff. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
Booked the trip as my mother in law wanted to celebrate her 50th on a Norwegian Fjords Cruise. P and O was reasonably priced. being in our 20's we were concerned it would be full of 'old' people. However was pleasantly ... Read More
Booked the trip as my mother in law wanted to celebrate her 50th on a Norwegian Fjords Cruise. P and O was reasonably priced. being in our 20's we were concerned it would be full of 'old' people. However was pleasantly surprised as we were not the youngest ones there. The ship itself is lovely, it's 7 years old and still looks quite up to date. easy to get around, not too big as to get lost. The shows in the evening were performed by a group called headliners, they started off good, but then got a bit screechy. not the best shows we've seen, but not the worst. The best nights out were the comedians, John Clegg and Mark Zany, great shows really funny and both had 2 different shows. On sea days, there is plenty to do, the entertainment team put on a hilarious radio show, and the sail aways were great fun. Especially the Olden, was so lovely to see everyone in Olden wave the ship off. With regards to the ports, we visited Stavenger, Flam, Olden and Bergan. Flam and Olden were by far the best ports. I recommend getting up early on the Flam day and going up to the top deck and watching as you sail through the Fjords, An experience i probably wont have again. Food was great, we had fixed dinning at 8.30 in the Oriental, There was something for everyone on there, Veggies may struggle but i'm pretty sure they would cook whatever you wanted. Dinner was 3 courses with a cheese board at the end and at the end of the cruise you get to keep all the menus. I'd avoid the buffet in the evening, food was no where near as good as the restaurants. We did pay extra to eat in the speciality restaurant, the beach house, £7.50 pp. Well worth it, amazing food!!! Drinks were not too expensive either, cocktails £6, Small Wine £4.50, Diet Coke £2.95. Would recommend Planet Bar for drinks, amazing view and lovely to sit and watch the world go by (literally). Read Less
Sail Date September 2017
It had been 8 years since we had taken our first ever cruise which was on Independence Of The Seas on a Mediterranean trip from Southampton. So this trip was a bit of a nostalgia visit on a similar itinerary with the same participants, ... Read More
It had been 8 years since we had taken our first ever cruise which was on Independence Of The Seas on a Mediterranean trip from Southampton. So this trip was a bit of a nostalgia visit on a similar itinerary with the same participants, me, my husband, Mum and Sister. This isn't a port review, there is a lot of port info elsewhere for those needing it. Boarding We arrived at Southampton at about 11am and used the official car parking service. We were onboard within 10 minutes mainly as Mum was in a wheelchair with dedicated check in desks however the other lines were pretty short as well. We were greeted with champagne on boarding, something we've only experienced on Celebrity before. We went straight out on deck as the weather was very pleasant and sat and had our first drink. We got the free Deluxe Drinks package as a perk and started to test it out....... We got a few small plates of food from the windjammer which included the first plate, of many on this cruise, of delicious large shrimp and took them back outside with us. Cabin Cabins were ready at 1pm and we had two Deluxe Balcony cabins close to the centrum lifts on deck 6 (6626/6628). These were classed as interconnecting but strangely the sofa in one cabin blocked the interconnecting door and it had been taped up on the other side, not that we wanted to use it. Having been on Anthem and Oasis since our first Indy cruise the decor struck us as a little more dated however in practice the cabin layout works very well. There is a good circulation space, lots of storage, a good sized balcony and all round the cabin was well maintained. After the first night however I realised the bed was way too soft and I took a look and found an old sagging mattress with egg crate foam on top and two mattress toppers. If you like to sink into a bed you would love it but it offered no support. Anyway we got this swapped out for a brand new mattress on day 2. The location was super convenient for the lifts and stairs and was probably the quietest cabin we have ever had. No creaks or rattles at all. Dining We had Mytime Dining in the King Lear level of the main dining room. It is nice to enter this big impressive space with the huge Chandelier. I had pre reserved 7.30 times for each night in advance online. In practice this worked out really well. We could have pre dinner drinks just after people had vacated the bars for early dining then arrive back into the bars after dinner whilst early diners were at the show and late diners were still eating. This gave us a free choice of where to have a drink and we mixed it up every night though the bars all became packed later. Our favourite place was the Olive or Twist bar up in the Viking Crown lounge with its superb views. We had booked the BOGO dining offer for the first two nights and chose Chops for both evenings. This was extremely good value and made a nice start to the holiday. It was a shame the menu had been changed recently and had less choice (no scallops for instance). After these first two nights we took up our reservations in the MDR. On the first night we were seated on a table for 4 at the back near the exit from the kitchens. This wasn't great as there was a constant stream of waiters passing by and it felt uncomfortable and less than relaxing. When we exited I mentioned this to the Maitre D' who said he would seat us somewhere else the next night. The next night he did seat us somewhere else, on the next table to the one on the previous night, by the corridor for the waiters and next to a serving station. I returned to the Maitre D', had a moan and we got a table in the centre of the floor from that night onwards. Our waiters were superb. Nothing was too much trouble and on the whole we were fairly picky eaters. I asked for some extra vegetables on the first night and the sharing vegetable plate they provided grew larger each night with lovely snow peas, asparagus and French beans. The menus were less interesting than our experience on Oasis in Feb/Mar which was trialling the new menus which were a lot better in our opinion. The choice was wide but there were some strange combinations (who needs a choice of 2 onion soups on one nights' menu). The food overall was nicely presented but we had several instances of cold food, some sauces that had no taste at all and some deserts that sounded nice but in reality were not great (pecan pie for instance was very dry and hard and Crewe caramel that wasn't crisp but was runny). However we enjoyed the experience more than the food and our service made up for the menu/food issues. I have to mention breakfast. I don't know if we missed this 8 years ago and on our Anthem and Oasis trips, but the choice was excellent. Of course there was the windjammer which had a great choice of options but we struggled to find a table easily. On Deck 5 they had the waiter service a la carte breakfast which we tried once. Very nice but a bit lengthy for us. Then on Deck 3 they had a buffet breakfast but with waiter served drinks. This suited us very well. No problem getting a table. A much more relaxed environment and a good choice of options, though of course less than in the windjammer. To have a choice of full a la carte in the MDR, buffet breakfast in the MDR and full buffet breakfast in the windjammer is a great feature. For lunch we ate in the Windjammer each day apart from one sea day in the MDR where we had the buffet lunch which was excellent. My Mum loves shrimp and the windjammer had shrimp about every third day and lobster 4 times during the cruise. This was such a treat. There was a good choice of curries (for the Brits) which were excellent. Lots of roast meats, the usual burgers and hot dogs and delicious chicken burgers. The choices changed each day and you would have to be very fussy not to have enjoyed a great choice and nice food up here. On the next to last day we had the bottomless brunch. This was a freebie because of an issue we experienced onboard. You gathered on the deck 4 dining room, had a glass of champagne, signed a health waiver and then were taken into the galley in groups of 20. The tour made me realise that any switches we requested via our waiters each night must have added a lot of hassle for them when selecting our choices in the waiter line up. After the tour we sat at tables with antipasto laid out and then a three course menu option. However they said they also had (off menu) a surf and turf of lobster and fillet minion which the majority went for. The champagne was free flowing. A lovely lunch and would actually be worth the fee if you want to enjoy a galley tour and a hearty brunch. To add one note that affects all Dining onboard, any dish marked as vegetarian suitable but which contains cheese isn't vegetarian as the cheese used contains animal rennet. This is common across American cruise lines but for any UK cruisers used to relying on vegetarian symbols on menus being accurate this might be an issue that affects you. Drinks. We had the free Deluxe Drinks package included and we made good use of it. From Coffees in the Promenade Cafe and fresh orange juice with breakfast to bottles of water for trips ashore and of course pre dinner cocktails and wine with dinner. The choices were varied and bar service was very good. I would say over 75% of the passengers had the 'free' package but that didn't impact on the service. On deck by the pool the service was amazing. Not a minute went by without a waiter passing. Clearly Royal have incentivised the waiters to provide drinks (albeit free) and it shows. We've never had such good poolside bar service. Being an ex UK cruise the Dog and Badger pub was the busiest venue, pretty much all day and even served potato chips on football match days. We had a bit of an issue with canned soda as some venues said it was included, others said they had to open the can before they gave it to you and others said the package only included fountain soda. A conversation with someone from food and beverage confirmed sealed, canned soda was included in the package so eventually we managed to get just that (useful for the mini bar fridge and trips ashore) Pools We had great weather on this cruise. Apart from the first and last days. The decks got busy, especially the prime spots, but we got up early and grabbed good positions. There were warnings in the cruise compass advising not to leave sunbeds for more than 30 mins and we did see them logging reserved beds and even removing some belongings. I would say they seemed more proactive earlier on when the beds were filling up but less visible when the pool decks were full. They had films on the outdoor screen twice a day. There were 160 kids on this cruise which was a pretty low number and we didn't see them at all, presumably the kids clubs kept them entertained. As a consequence the H2O pool area was the quietest area on deck, no kids and no bands playing. The pool sunbeds looked pretty new and were much better than the rubber strap type that they previously had. In fact the balcony furniture looked pretty new too as did the chairs on the deck 4 outside Promenade deck. They had a couple of poolside buffets, one was a massive paella dish with so much meat and seafood and another had shrimp, lobster, burgers etc. A nice addition but as they were not in the compass it was pot luck if you happened to spot them, luckily we did. Lifeguards at every pool must be reassuring for families. On a couple of hot sea days staff came round the outside decks with melon and strawberries. Don't remember this previously and it's a nice little touch. Entertainment It's been our view for a while that Royal has good entertainment. From a packed programme of quizzes and talks to golf, climbing walls, flowrider. The cruise director was Joff Eaton. Perfect for a U.K market and this cruise was 95% British. His Quest hosting was about the best we've seen and his morning tv shows were very quirky but fun. We didn't see a lot of the theatre shows. We went to a magician but from the upper tier you couldn't see a thing. Joff said the act didn't like cameras and tv screens and perhaps then they shouldn't book him if half the audience cannot see his tricks. Royal seem to have stolen The Liars club idea from Celebrity and we went to that. Instead of crew members on Celebrity it was the entertainment staff and was fun. Grease was on twice on the third to last evening and on the last sea day as a matinee. It was excellent. Perfectly suited to a cruise ship performance. Great vocals with outstanding dance routines. We went to the 6 o'clock show and when we exited at 7.30 there were queues for the 9 o'clock show. We went to both ice shows, although the fast forward show was the same as 8 years ago (really?). Very good, professional and a great choice of music to accompany the skating. Disembarkation. We had requested the earliest disembarkation slot and got it. We exited exactly on our 7am slot and were in our car by 7.10. Very smooth and easy. So how to summarise our return to the Independence. Overall we enjoyed it. Lots to do, friendly staff, great bar service, great entertainment, good dining room service, variable dining room evening food, excellent windjammer options, great breakfast dining choices, good sized cabins but slightly dated and a 10 yr old ship which is being kept in good shape. However, having been on Oasis, and more so Anthem, Indy feels slightly less sparkly and modern. It was lovely to sail on her again but I'm not sure we will be back onboard again. Also whilst we like the Royal Promenade, you are made to feel the volume of passengers onboard when using this thoroughfare and Celebrity's S Class ships spread the passenger load out much more efficiently. Indeed evenOasis with its massive passenger load felt less crowded. This was also a very British cruise. This may sound strange from a Brit but we have come to enjoy meeting people from elsewhere on our cruises and like a mix of cultures but clearly Indy is very much loved by Brits and there were so many repeat guests with some who have only ever cruised on her and never wanted to try another ship or cruise line. Read Less
Sail Date September 2017

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