Having cruised last October on Tui Discovery I had no hesitation in booking this cruise on its new sister ship Tui Discovery 2, and was not disappointed.
I travelled with my four children (aged 19, 17, 14 and 8) and all five of us had a fantastic time.
Embarkation (and disembarkation) were smooth and swift, which always helps on a cruise! And, on boarding, our luggage arrived at our cabins in a very timely fashion.
The ship itself was clean throughout and easy to navigate (as I say I had already sailed on the Tui Discovery and this ship's layout was identical). This is a mid-size ship (previously a RC ship), which is perfect for first time cruisers or families as it does not take too long to get your bearings.
We had two different types of cabin - myself and my two youngest were in a deluxe balcony and my two eldest were in a standard inside. Both cabins were clean (and constantly kept that way by the super efficient staff) with comfy beds, adequate storage and standard size/facilities as for most cruise ships. I booked specific cabins so that we were close to each other and so that we were mid-ship and not near any noisy/busy areas of this ship so was very happy with my choices.
Dining was very good with plenty of options for all. I did not bother with the speciality restaurants (as they cost extra and because there were so many other places to eat). Breakfast can either be taken at Islands buffett (good selection, good food, was a little busy on disembarkation today, but apart from that never a problem finding somewhere to sit) or in the main restaurant (this was more civilised and a more leisurely affair, as the main hot options were waiter service with a small cold buffet selection). Lunch can be taken again at the buffett or a set 4 course at the main 47 restaurant or you can just grab a snack at the snack shack (burgers, hot dogs, mac cheese, sandwiches, salads etc) or there is also food at the indoor pool. In the afternoons you can get ice-cream and from 3pm - 5pm afternoon tea at the buffet was very good (great selection of tasty sandwiches, cakes, cream teas etc). Dinner can either again be in the buffet or in the main restaurant or the Italian above (we had 5 meals in the main restaurant and 2 in the Italian, all of which were really good - although the Italian menu does tend to be the same every night). We only had to wait to be seated on one evening (you are provided with a buzzer and you do not have to wait long). All in all very good food and very good service.
Bar service was in general good although there was often a long wait at the pool bars (they could do with more staff) and occassionally waiting time at the other bars in the evenings. The new all inclusive package was ample for us and do not see why you would want to pay any extra - all your standard drinks - shorts, wines, beers and cocktails (and they were good quality labelled brands) and good selection of non-alcholic drinks and mocktails too were included - you just have to present your card.
Evening shows were good quality (although one was identical to a show we saw in October which was a shame, also there were no real plays, which I usually like and one night there was a comedian but it was unclear whether this was suitable for young children so we did not attend just in case) we did not go to any of the films this time as they were either not things we wanted to see or things we had seen. All the bands/musicians/singers around the ship were really good and provided good entertainment. Did not use the casino (it is tiny!!). Never had a problem finding a seat in the theatre (we went to the 8.30pm perfomances each night).
Day time entertainment was OK (although a little tacky at times). Kids club was good (although I would have preferred more or longer sessions or drop in sessions).
Climbing wall was good (you need to book a slot) my middle and youngest boy enjoyed this. We also enjoyed the mini golf and shuttle board and table tennis. My 17 year old used the gym every day which he said was not bad. The main pool is tiny and crowded (full of kids) is more like a glorified children's paddling pool, but that is often the way on a cruise ship. The inside pool was better and had an adults only time period, but who wants to be inside when there is sun shining outside?
There was not usually a problem finding a sun bed - apart from the day at sea when we could not find one at all!! So had to all cram onto our balcony!! They are supposed to impose a 45 minute rule (whereby if a sun bed is empty for more than 45 minutes they remove the items on it) but I never saw this being implemented. Likewise you can never get anywhere to sit in the adults only section (had the same problem on Tui Discovery in October). Also finding any beds that are in shade (for my 8 year old) was impossible so had to use our towels to form a tent for him!
It was a shame that only about 50 - 60% of the passengers bothered to dress up for the "dress to impress night". I always love this night on cruises and it makes it so special - however when you and your daughter are dressed in a cocktail dress and your boys are in suits and you are seated at dinner next to people in t-shirts it does rather spoil it. I think if there is a formal night or dress up night reminders should be sent to travellers before the holiday (so they can pack accordingly) and maybe if they don't want to dress up for that one night they can be seated in a more casual dining area.
Ports of call were all very good: In Barcelona we got a hop on hop off bus tour and managed to see quite a bit. In Palma we did book one trip through the ship (the train in Soller) which was OK but nothing special. At all the other ports (Ibiza, Almeria and Ceuta) I had already researched in advance where we could go and what we could see so we were well prepared to do our own thing (as I always find the maps that you get from the ship are a bit basic).
All staff were excellent - polite, efficient, friendly, courteous, helpful ..... perfect!!
I did have two small issues - Firstly I ordered a photo (for £14.95) and before I went to collect it I gave £20 cash to reception to add to my account to cover the photo - however later that evening my card was refused at the bar and during dinner when I asked for wine and both times I was told I owed money (the drinks were all inclusive anyway so did not understand the logic behind this) - this was embarrassing (as I did not owe money) and had to use my eldest boy's card instead just to have wine with my dinner. When I went to reception they said my account was in credit and they did not understand why there had been a problem. (To their credit, the next day, as way of apology, I was sent a bottle of wine to my cabin so have to say I was more than happy that they acknowledged and acted on the issue). Secondly on leaving the ship I was told I owed E1.50 for a premium drink (that had somehow been added to my card) It was only a small amount but out of principle I said i did not want to pay for somebody else's drink. I then was kept waiting for almost 10 minutes (when I needed to disembark) for the matter to be resolved.
However, these two tiny issues did not spoil what was an excellent holiday over all and I would definitely sail on this ship again.
Clean, decent amount of storage, comfortable beds.
Have been to Barcelona several times before but was the first time for my 4 children so booked a hop on hop of City tour bus prior to the holiday which was an easy walk away at the top of La Ramblas and gave us the option to see quite a bit of the city. Was disappointed that we could not get into Sagrada Familia or the main bit of Guell park (as you have to book in advance now, which you never used to - in fact the Park used to be open and free) but we did get into La Pedrera. If you do want to visit inside Sagrada Familia or Park Guell I suggest you book in advance or go on an organised tour.