We just returned from a 7 night cruise in the Adriatic on the Esprit embarking in Dubrovnik and ending in Venice. We loved the boat and the itinerary. Here are the details:
Ship: The ship has 5 decks -- marina on 1; entry to the ship and cabins on 2; cabins on 3; lounge/bar and two restaurants on 4; lounge/bar, restaurant and pool on outdoor deck 5. The public spaces are very well designed to accommodate everyone on-board with room to spare. We never felt crowded and were always able to sit where we wanted. Public spaces provided the ability to mingle with the crowd -- which was typically part of the routine during before-dinner and after dinner cocktails -- or find a secluded nook. The main dining room can even fit all passengers at one time for dinner. The decor is plush and elegant, and the seating inviting -- velvet padded couches and chairs on 4, and large wicker chairs and loungers on 5. Colors are a nice mix of neutrals and blues -- very relaxing and soothing. Dining room tables can be configured to seat couples, foursomes or larger groups. There are no elevators, but only 13 indoor shallow and wide stairs between each of the decks 2 and 3, and 3 and 4. Up to deck 5 requires an outside passage up a winding stair. Stairs didn't seem to cause any problems (even for those in their 80s). But the ports visited require a lot more climbing than the ship, so those with mobility issues should think twice about this cruise. For most of the cruise, the boat remained in protected waters (between islands and mainland) and we never felt movement other than the slightest rocking one night during a storm.
Service: With a passenger to staff ratio of about 80 to 60, the service was fantastic. I never waited for a drink refill, to order food, or to get a question answered. The staff was over the top nice and accommodating (even getting a ride for guests to an evening event when none was scheduled).
Dining: The highlight of the evening was always cocktail hour outside or inside (with a specialty drink each night) followed by dinner in the main dining room with specialty wine selections available and multiple options for each of the 4 courses (or more or fewer if you wanted) and dessert. Portions were such that you could actually eat 4 courses + dessert, although most people seemed to eat 3 + dessert. The chefs get high marks for plating, creativity and just plain tastiness. Breakfast was cold buffet with a few hot options; lunch was cold buffet/salads on deck 4 and a great grill (burgers, pizza, etc) on deck 5. We loved lunch on breezy deck 5 -- a few times we scurried back from a tour just in time for 2pm lunch and then some free time before dinner.
Entertainment and activities: If there is a weak spot on this boat/itinerary, this is it. There was one singer each night for the after dinner entertainment, and while she played lots of favorites and on some nights did a heroic job of getting people up to dance and sing along, the variety was simply lacking. An improvement would be to have some alternatives provided -- for those on the 2 week itinerary, I think the same entertainment for 14 nights is a bit much. While the water sport activities should have been a highlight, since the boat is stocked with water toys, they were very limited. Only one port allowed jet skis and we were on a tour that day. Most of the Adriatic ports we visited didn't allow any water sports (even paddleboarding).
People: On our cruise there were mostly couples and groups of four (families or friends). There were also two groups of six. All adults. This is not a boat for children -- the food, entertainment and tours are not child friendly. Ages ranged from 20s to 80s, with most people probably 40s to 60s. Majority of passengers were from the US, but there were also people from Europe, Mexico, Canada and Brazil. People were friendly and fun loving -- most participated in the sing alongs with the piano player at night -- but were there mostly for the boat and their own group, so it was a nice mix of mingling with others but having plenty of time to spend with your chosen companions.
Ports: In each port there were 2 free tours (one adventure type like rafting and one more about seeing the sights), and there were other longer tours that had additional costs. At least 1/2 our boat took the free tours each day which typically lasted from 9-2. Tours were split into smaller groups of 10-12 people per guide. The longer costlier tours had only 4-8 people on them. We docked in each location except for Piran (where we were on anchor) which allowed us to go in an out everywhere except Venice which is somewhat difficult to access from the boat.
Dubrovnik: I would recommend staying 2 nights before getting on the cruise -- lots to do there and beautiful -- walk the walls!
Kotor: get up early and watch the boat sail into this incredible bay surrounded by cliffs; we took the complementary tour which hit the highlights and got us back for 2pm lunch. Split: complementary tour which was great -- had no idea Split would be so special with medieval buildings and Roman walls and foundation. Really stunning city.
Zadar: We took a long tour to Plitvice Park. Gorgeous park with clear green water and waterfalls everywhere and lots of climing to see them all. Haven't seen scenery like this before. But only go if weather is promising (rainy would be bad).
Opatija: Took the tour to the Hill Towns of Istria. This was really a highlight -- saw 3 little towns in a Tuscan-like setting. Drank wine and ate truffle pasta. Wandered through narrow streets with few tourists. Great tour.
Piran: We took the longer tour to Lake Bled. Absolutely beautiful scenery in one direction (unfortunate tourist town on one edge of the lake) but a 2 hour drive to get there, so a hard call on whether to recommend this one. Piran itself is a cute port and the only tender port on the itinerary. If you want a free day and the weather is nice, take this day as your free day. Jet skis are available, and you can spend some time in the water and then go into Piran and wander a bit.
Venice: complementary tour went on walk through Venice and Doge's Palace (did not actually go into St Mark's Basilica although that's how tour was billed). Nice tour, but skip if you've been to Venice before.
All in all, lovely boat, wonderful staff, great ports, fine dining, luxury accommodations, and (at least on our trip) truly warm and friendly passengers.
We had room 222, an S3 category adjacent to the reception on deck 2 and same size as most S2 and S1 cabins. We never heard a peep from reception or the room next door -- very soundproof. A/C did not seem to be controllable from the room, but could be adjusted by the staff. Our room started out on the cool side and we kept it that way. Some started with rooms that were too warm, but the engineer was able to adjust. The rooms were very pretty and had a very comfy king bed with down comforter, deep couch, and plenty of closets and drawers for storage (no walk in). TVs in bedroom and bathroom, complementary mini-bar, espresso maker, dual sinks, and roomy shower. No balcony off the room, but we didn't miss it with the spacious outdoor deck 5.