Before I write my review I’d just like to say that we are a married couple in our late 20's doing their second cruise. We cruised last year with Royal Caribbean and said that we would never do a cruise again. We hated it, "Butlins at Sea" "Hi-De-Hi Campers" and "what have we done?" where all said on our first day. However we saw this cruise come up which gave us a very good deal and allowed us to visit a lot of the places on our "places to see list". We booked the cruise with the approach of let's just put up with the ship, enjoy the abundance of food and enjoy the excursions.
The service was fantastic, we checked out bags in at Gatwick next time we saw them they were outside our cabin on the ship. The Thomas Cook charter flight was as you would expect nothing to write home about but good enough for the two hour flight to Venice. On arrival in Venice we went straight though immigration and were guide to the bus waiting for us. After a short wait we were off for the short drive to the port. There was a bit of a queue at the port the check onto the ship but considering we landed less than an hour ago it wasn’t an issue. There are thousands of passengers turning up all wanting to get on board, what else would you expect. I did notice there where a few passengers who were arriving with their own luggage so it may only be people who book to travel on the P&O Charter flight who get the smooth airport service. We were on board by about 11:30 and were told our cabins would be ready by 1. We milled around and explored the ship while we waited for our cabin. It was ready before the time they gave us which was good so we promptly headed to our cabin and got changed. We hadn’t received our main luggage yet but had shorts etc in hand luggage to cover us for the first day. I’m not surprised we had to wait for our luggage we were probably at the ship before it had even left the airport. We heard some people complaining that the didn’t have their luggage but if you think realistically about the logistics of getting several hundred suitcases from the airport to the ship and then delivering them to the cabins it’s going to take time, I personally wasn’t expecting to have mine until 7ish that evening. We got a water bus into Venice for the afternoon and when we returned at about 5:30 our luggage was waiting for us outside our cabin. The process was similar on the return we were given our boarding passes and luggage tags a day or two before departure. We placed our bags outside our cabin the night before we departed and didn’t see them again until we collected them at Gatwick. People where again head complain that you had to be out of you cabin by 7 the morning of departure but if you think about the logistics, all the cabins need to be cleaned at prepared by 1 that afternoon for when the new passengers turn up. Yes it’s an inconvenience to be out of your cabin at 7 and have to wait around until your specified departure time but cruise ships aren’t like ordinary hotels as all of the guest turn up at the same time on a cruise ship. Except the process that the crew have to go through and realise the world doesn’t revolve around yourself and you won’t have to many problems
Now to the nitty gritty of the cruise, it was mainly older passengers and there were very few younger people and hardly any children. We did find a lot of the older passengers looked at us with a “what are you doing on here?” and wouldn’t sit next to us in the bars even if the only seats left where next to us. In the second week when more passengers arrived there were more children and families but they didn’t cause any problems and in general everyone on the ship was very friendly, you get the odd rude person but you get them everywhere. The Ports where in general very good, like I said earlier there were lots of places to visit that where on our “list” however some of the transfers from the ports to the cities you where docked to visit where long so you didn’t get a great deal of time to explore i.e. Civitavecchia to Rome is about 1 hour 30 minutes, Livorno to Florence is about 1 hour. The highlight of the trip for me was Kotor, a lovely little medieval walled city with fantastic views of the bay from the top of the mountains. You had to pay for all shuttle buses into the towns which where about £3 per person each way so even if you didn’t do any organised excursions and just wanted to explore on your own it could become very costly. There was nothing to stop you walking or getting a local taxi in most ports though.
The entertainment was poor, there where good acts that I could watch over and over but most of them once was more than enough. The tribute acts where pretty good, we saw Gary Barlow, Phil Collins, Whitney Huston and Tom Jones. Gary Barlow was by far the best, he looked and sounded just like the real deal. The comedians where in general poor in the first week Manuel Martinez did two shows which were hilarious the second week we saw two comedians and both where awful. One even managed to empty the room he was performing in. For a company that says it gets some of the best performers out there this should not happen. The Theatre Company put on a very good production but if you are a fan of West End musicals or have done Latin & Ballroom dancing you will be very disappointed with the dancers. However the bars where very nice each has a different feel, so you will be able to find one that suits your taste. Some of the venues which they have evening entertainment on in could do with being better laid out. There are a few places which have restricted views. I would say that the rooms were designed for their feel and their use was an afterthought. The bar staff did a good job of taking your drinks orders. The amount of order they take at a time I’m surprised they manage to get the right drinks to the right people. The venues do fill up so we would always get a seat no later than 30 minutes before the show would start.
All that can be said about the food is fantastic, Breakfast, lunch and dinner can either be in a formal sit down served restaurant or from the buffet. We always had breakfast from the buffet as we like to eat and get on the go rather than have a leisurely breakfast. Selection was great cooked breakfast, cereals, pasties, hams & cheese and fruit and quality was fantastic. Lunch again from the buffet was fantastic with a good selection of very tasty food. We sometimes ate at the poolside grill and pizzeria if we didn’t fancy a meal at lunch and again the food was great. The only thing that I would say is seating in the buffet restaurants is a bit of a premium especially if you are there during the peak times we did occasional spend a little while trying to find a table and a couple of times we had people ask to join us. I think the restaurant could be laid out better to utilise the space available. For dinner we were on Freedom Dining. We were assigned a restaurant and could just turn up any time between 6 & 9.30 and be given a table either a table for two or sharing with others. If there isn’t a table available they give you a pager and call you when a table is available. We would go and get a drink whilst waiting and never had to wait more than 30 minutes. The Club dinning has sittings at 6.30 or 8.30, 6.30 I believe is too earlier as we often got back to the ship around 5.30 so unless you can get ready for dinner pretty quick I don’t think it leave enough time to get ready and the 8.30 sitting would only give you one hour to eat you dinner before the evening shows start at 9.30, especially as the whole restaurant has sat down at the same time to have up to 5 courses I don’t think this would be regularly achievable. The food like everywhere else on the ship was fantastic but did get a bit repetitive over the two weeks, each night was a variation of meat and two veg. don’t get me wrong the food was fantastic and wasn’t just pork, chicken and beef.
My only gripe would be that there weren’t enough sun loungers around the pools. Around the ship as a whole there were plenty but not around the pools especially on sea days.
In summary this cruise was fantastic and if viewed as a floating hotel which takes you to lots of different destinations you will have an amazing holiday which can be as relaxing or tiring as you want. This has changed our opinion of cruising and we are already looking at other cruise that will visit places on our list.