We flew in to Rome on the morning of the cruise (the flights were included in the package, so no option to arrive the day before). Flights, transfers and embarkation all went smoothly, and we were soon exploring the ship. It was a very favourable first impression. Our D2 balcony stateroom was comfortable, and spacious, and it was well positioned just before the hump, sandwiched between suites. It had everything we required, and the stateroom attendant was efficient. We had extremely noisy neighbours in one of the suites next door who smoked and talked very loudly on the balcony until 3 or 4am most nights, and this did bother us I have to say.
We found the food to be of a high standard, but possibly not quite as outstanding as on previous RCI cruises. The variety and quality of food in the Windjammer was good, but it could get so busy and difficult to get a table at lunchtimes. The waiting staff in the MDR was friendly and efficient, but perhaps a little lacklustre this time. We actually felt that the crew throughout the ship generally wasn't as upbeat and happy in their roles as we have experienced previously with RCI. We noticed this particularly in the shops and at the Pool area.
I wondered if this difference in service levels was a result of the automatic upfront gratuities policy which has been adopted? We didn't buy the Drinks package. We just don't drink enough to merit it. We enjoyed the variety of bars and lounges on board, and spent some time in most of them I think. The Two Poets was a bit smoky for us,so we didn't sit inside but it was nice to 'people watch' outside the pub while having a drink. We enjoyed Boleros and also the Schooner Bar, where they had a nightly singalong. It was good fun, but the pianist/singer could perhaps broaden his repertoire, and he isn't a great singer. It was the same stuff each night and got a bit repetitive, although if you hadn't been before it was good fun. There are plenty of alternatives around the ship though if it's not your cup of tea.