We headed to Southampton on a bright autumn afternoon - looking forward to our 16th cruise on our largest ship to date.
We entered the port of Southampton via dock gate 8 - dock gate 8 is near the holiday inn - it can be tricky to find as the sgins are not clear.
AB Parking were on duty at the city cruise terminal - as it was a short cruise it was self parking - we got a great space close to the terminal. In my opinion the staff were not as jolly as the CPS (cruise and passenger services) staff who service the carnival ships (p and o etc ) There were no porters around to take luggage - as it was just 3 nights we carried our bags on with us.
At City Cruise Terminal security is done first then check in - so there is a fair bit of queing in the first instance but once the security is out of the way check in and embarkation were swift with the whole process taking less than 45 mins.
We had a balcony cabin on deck 7 and we had ordered the anniversary room decorations which were in place for our arrival - I think RCI are the only cruise line to offer room decoration packages for special occasions and they were great - we got pillow cases, beach towel, photo frames and more to take home. We had pre ordered the soft drink package and the souvenirs cups were waiting in the cabin for us.
The cabin was lovely and the bed comfortable - this was one of the nicest cabins we have had in our cruising "career" even the hair dryer was acceptable and the shower had proper shower doors rather just a curtain.
We met our friends in the Windjammer buffet and enjoyed lunch - be careful of the burgers that have sat around .... I was sick on the first night after eating them and had to miss dinner ... Something I have never ever had to do.
There was a strange and unusual mix of fellow cruisers as two separate companies were holding their annual conferences aboard, on embarkation day the vessel seemed very over crowded - and the crowd very over excited. INDIE as she is known by regular cruisers is really more suited to warmer climates the indoor venues are too small for the vast number of bodies on board. For Northern Europe I would recommend ships with sliding roofs over the swimming pools.
Dinner reservations made on the online system for our two parties for my time dining had not made onto the ships system - they accomadated our party with a table for 5 second sitting in the king Lear restaurant deck 5. Food was acceptable but nothing special - not a patch on Fred Olsen for example - however they are cooking for a vast and wild number of people. Lobster etc is at a surcharge. Staff were very friendly, attentive and helpful possibly more so than any other line we have been on, possibly because of the very wide range of nationalities (our waitress was Chinese)
Johnny Rockets was a lot of fun at a surcharge of £6.95
Sorrentos pizza was FAB.
The ice show and GREECE were both amazing, the best we have seen on board ships with on pitch singing at all times !!
We had an elderly lady of 88 with us using a "whizzy" small compact mobility scooter - it was accomadated everywhere.
At The port of zeebrugge my friend and I used the Cruise Express into Brugges which was accessed by taking the port shuttle (free) at the bottom of the gang plank to the port gate - this is provided by the port not the line - we pre booked our tickets using Viator website. Be wary of using the other bus service to Brugges which waits at the bottom of the gang plank as it is unreliable and there were many worried people clutching raffle tickets waiting for it in Brugges.
My husband went on a private battlefield tour with Andre from The Dugout BnB in Ypres - he collected my husband and gave him a private tour for 150.00 euro - the ships battlefield tours are usually very interesting too.
At the port of Le Harve - we took the RCI transfer to Honfleur - a beautiful little Norman town well worth the visit - don't stay in Le Harve it is an industrial port town flattened in World War Two, but the Norman countryside including pont du normandie are well worth seeing.
Disembarkation was swift and painless - we choose self disembarkation before 7am - I recommend this if you are able to carry your own luggage.
In summary - an enjoyable "cruise fix" at half term and a useful insight into how large resort ships compare to our usual choices of adults only medium - small size ships.
Probably not a great reflection of RCI cruises - the short cruises never give a true picture and the conferences on board may have affected the demographic.
Nappy changing in the spinnaker bar during the evening quiz (which we won) was revolting and there were rowdy noisy balcony antics in the early hours of the morning - but this might be down to the conferences and relatively low price - regardless of this it was great value for money and our whole party enjoyed themselves.
Great - best yet!
Excellent value for money reliable shuttle service into BruggesView All undefined undefined Reviews
A transfer to Honfleur via coach travelling over the pont du normandie - just be warned for "whizzy" users (mobility scooter) it's ver cobbly but the shops are wonderful and the ambience in the town is lovely, it was our 3rd visit and we never tire of it.View All 53 Honfleur Reviews
Just be warned RCI do not advance ships clocks to local time in Europe and the causes great confusion.