This was our first cruise.
The previous year we have booked a 3 week cruise in eastern Med, but my wife was taken seriously ill for months so we had to cancel.
We were both very apprehensive, I was desperate to switch off and relax/unwind. My wife with all her aches and pains just wanted to know she would be comfortable, especially as we had to take a wheelchair (collapsible) and use it at times.
Drove to Southampton, lovely lady took our keys and parked our car, porter carried our bag, I wheeled my wife, we were on the boat in around 15 minutes. I was stunned - speechless. Zero hassle. Very very friendly staff at shore (P&O please take note they were great !). Sat in the chair on the balcony, just honestly could not believe we were actually there. Trekked/Wheeled around the boat, no issues at all getting around, just the corridors where the rooms are were difficult to squeeze down with a wheelchair and meeting a trolley laden with towels (regular occurrence) but there's always a way around that.
Food in the evening very good. We swapped to the early sitting (once we found we could do that). Wine started at £15 a bottle and tasted good. Service in restaurant generally very good. Orangery (buffet restaurant) very large, very busy, not so many staff - so did not go there much as we preferred a more quiet time. Crows Nest bar deck 13 at front of ship was lovely, I'd sit in the leather chair, enjoy a beer, watch the sea. Bliss ! Oh, and the breakfast in the Medina restaurant really was excellent each morning. We were in the other main restaurant for the evening meal (cannot remember name).
Room was fine, a little bit cramped, but OK. Wife would prefer the mini-suite but if we booked that it would have been a whole heap more. Bed very comfy. Chap who maintained rooms (Sachin) very helpful. Bathroom surprisingly good (I was not really expecting much there).
Boat sailed at night, which was lovely as it helped you sleep, the gentle slight rock as the boat sailed.
Wife thought bought looked a bit tired - but it is going in for a refit in Nov 2014. I could see what she meant, but to me it was not an issue, I was just enjoying myself.
Did our own thing at Zebrrugge, got the complimentary coach (wheelchair friendly) to the train station, then 6 euros each for a return to Brugges which was just 20 mins away. Then as we had the wheelchair we got a taxi from the station into the marketplace which was around 7.50 euros (I gave a tenner). What a truly lovely place, never thought it would be this good. I you have never been before, pop it on your list of things to do - you would not be disappointed !
Trip back to the boat was just as easy as the trip there. The one coach which was wheelchair friendly offered to be there at the station at an agreed time !
Sailed back to Southampton. Found out we had to be out of our cabins by about 8am (ish), people getting us off from the shore team were stupendous again, and were with us right up to the car as my wife was being wheeled around.
We didn't actually go to any of the events in the evenings, so I cannot say anything to that.
Driving home, past the ship, was fairly sad. Would have like to stay a lot longer.
By the time we got home, I was determined to book next cruise. Found the perfect one, Canaries in January, but the balcony cabins and suites all gone. Gutted. There is only one other company which goes from Southampton in the good old English winter, and it doesn't look like they have any room either (only allow 6 people with wheelchairs - even though collapsible - and wife can walk a bit).
So, there you go. I'm hooked, wife thinks they are fine. I want to book at least 2 a year now - so got to get a few extra jobs ! Especially if we have to book the mini suite type thing !!
Anything negative ? Well there always going to be a few niggles in life. Both in the main restaurant for dinner, and the other for breakfast, if you ask for something out of the ordinary - or at the wrong time (glass of orange say at end of Breakfast) the waiters seemed to think that I'd asked them to walk on water as they had such a look of shock on their faces. Happened a couple of times for things. Waiters up in the Orangery were not exactly a happy bunch, but I get the feeling there were not enough staff there (funnily the main restaurants seemed to be over-staffed !). For new first time people like us, we were totally lost, with the amount of things you had to find out about.Our cabin had been prepared for another couple who had gotten upgraded to the mini-suite, so the format of our cabin was wrong, and the welcome pack and evening bookings were all addressed to them - no mention of us. Sachin fixed the room though, and I found the other people cruising on the boat so friendly and helpful we soon learnt the ropes ! Oh, and on day 2 we seemed to park up in the middle of no-where for a whole day with a bunch of tankers and container ships ? Odd ?
How am I going to wait until April when more ships become available for the Canaries ???
Room was fine. Wife thought a little cramped, I thought not. Bathroom surprisingly good, especially as the boat was due for a refit. Sofa was tired - refit should sort that.