Don't do this in the summer. We were hit with temperatures in the upper 90s and higher, with humidity around 100-percent much of the time.
Other than that, and the chairs scraping noise from the grill above our stateroom (see cabin review below), this was a wonderful cruise.
The ship is on the small side, only 684 passengers. You begin to recognize folks a few weeks into the cruise.
There are only two specialty restaurants, along with the Main Dining Room (MDR), the buffet, and the poolside grill. We found the food to be outstanding, especially at the buffet. The offerings changed daily, although there were always certain standard items such as steak and lobster. The food was served to your plate by the staff, rather than passengers handling the spoons and tongs. We appreciate this good sanitary practice.
The MDR usually offered a "Food of the World" at lunchtime, specialty items from one different country each day. It arrived on a lazy susan and was delicious.
The two specialty restaurants were Polo Grill (a steak house) and Toscana (Italian). Their menus didn't change, and we got pretty tired of them after eating at each of them twice.
The steaks were enormous and usually cooked to perfection. If not, the servers insisted on taking them back and trying again. Essentially, there was too much food. I gained 13 pounds overall.
Don't take Insignia if you value entertainment. The main lounge doesn't really have a stage and there's not enough space to mount a full-blown production. You mainly get vocalists and solo musicians. Furthermore, there was only one nightly performance at 9:30, which is kind of late. There was a lot of grumbling about this, but frankly, we cruise to see the world around us, not to see acrobats and Broadway-type shows.
The ship is relatively old, built in 1998 as part of the Renaissance fleet. It was fully refurbished in 2014 and looks really good. The dark wood paneling and rugs look brand new, and there is wonderful artwork throughout the ship. We did have some chipped paint on our balcony, but nothing major.
The staff was unfailingly polite and friendly. We loved our butler and room attendants, and spent lots of time chatting with them. They were generous with the little Bulgari shampoo and conditioner bottles, ice, and (free) bottled water. We don't drink alcohol, so our refrigerator was always kept fully stocked with diet sodas.
The enrichment lectures were so-so. Some were very interesting, but others were obviously just cribbed from Wikipedia. We watched many of them when they were replayed on the ship's TV system, but then they only showed the slides. This doesn't work well when the lecturer uses a laser pointer and tells you about a particular place on a map.
On our first day passing through the Suez Canal, we encountered a massive swarm of flies that got into everything. It was terrible. The poolside grill had to be shut down and sanitized. But the pesky flies even got into the buffet (and everywhere else), and everyone was constantly waving away those pesky insects. Luckily they didn't bite, and their lifespan expired after a few days. Obviously this wasn't the ship's fault, and they responded as best they could.
I would recommend this cruise for couples approaching seniorhood and older. There were a few younger couples, but I think they may not have had a very good time. We did.
This cabin has one major problem. All of the Penthouse class cabins are on the Deck 8, so they are under the buffet, pool, and grill area. We were under the grill, which has a wooden floor. Service began around 6:30am and that's when we would be wakened from the sound of chairs scraping on the floor. I don't understand why they don't put glides on the chairs. That would alleviate the problem.
The room location is otherwise good, conveniently close to the stairs and elevators, but not so close that the noise is bothersome.
We had a problem with our toilet flushing spontaneously. Not fun when you're sitting on it. They installed a new switch which didn't help, but a second switch a few days later did the trick. Maintenance guys were very responsive when notified by the Reception Desk, but not so much when we asked the room attendant to tell them about our problem.
I would not stay on the right (starboard) side of the ship again for this particular cruise because most of the ports had better views on the left (port) side. But in general, we got to see a lot and enjoyed the cruise a lot.
I posted extensive reports on each port we visited in a travel blog, which you can read at: http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog/newsbob/4/tpod.htmlView All undefined undefined Reviews