We've tried to review this cruise while noting comments that reflect general information and separate those conditions that were solely due to the ship being at 40 percent capacity due to flights grounded by the volcanic ash cloud. We are a married couple, ages 64 and 69, who are reasonably fit, not gourmet dinners, not sun worshipers, who enjoy a variety of activities and who choose a cruise for its destinations. This is only our third cruise, so we have limited previous experience to draw on.
Our major goal on this trip was to see Dubai and the Pyramids, and that was accomplished. We enjoyed the cruise, found the ship met our needs, and the staff for the most part to be helpful, and all were friendly and cheerful. We feel they took adequate precautions as we traversed the "sensitive area" where the Somalia pirates are active, and were kept well-informed by the Captain. Plus he has a delightful sense of humor, giving daily briefings, and was often seen about the ship, even eating in the Windjammer!
Ship info: Not new or state of the art, but nicely designed and decorated. Layout was convenient, except the elevators in the Centrum. There were 5 elevators in the area but it was difficult to see them all at once. If you were waiting by one, another could arrive to pick you up at the other end, and could depart before you got aboard. Not bad as we were less than half full, but it could be a problem when the ship was full. WiFi Services: Only a few of the Wifi "hot spots" were actually functioning, and capacity there was limited to use by less than 20 cruisers. Also no staff member monitored those areas, so problems meant joining the line at Guest Services. Fitness Center: Nicely designed, with lots of equipment, but I'm not sure that would hold true when the ship is full. Nice and cool for workouts, and they do have a water fountain. Excellent view from the treadmills! Jogging Track: Fairly narrow, with deck chairs encroaching on the path at several points. Lots of guests use this - they should have more space! Deck Chairs: They're everywhere yet those in prime locations are "reserved" in spite of RC policy. And so close together you needed to back into them. Could be a problem with a ship full of sun-worshipers....... Shuffleboard court: Same problem as jogging trail. Cinema: Adequate capacity, quiet setting, but railings blocked some of the screen in the upper seats. Nice selection of recent, general interest movies. Miniature golf, rock climbing wall both were enjoyable, well located. Shopping Area: Like on any other cruise ship - with mix of inexpensive promotional items and high end goods. I wish they had carried some souvenirs of the various ports for those of us so busy seeing the sites there was no time to shop in port. Pacifica Theater: Nicely designed and comfortable, not too crowded with our reduced load, but who knows when the ship is full. Casino, Bars: We didn't spend much time in either but the Casino was large, and there were lots of bars, but sadly a lot of lonely bar-tenders on this trip. Other activities: We took advantage of dance lessons, enrichment lectures, trivia games, demonstrations, and the like. They had numerous activities with a good mix to appeal to many interests, but it could easily get crowded if the ship was full! Entertainment: We saw most of the shows, and enjoyed each one. There was an effort to vary the entertainers but maintain broad appeal. Some were sensational, but you can't hit a home run every night! Embarkation / Disembarkation: Smooth on both ends for us. Stateroom: We initially had one of those stinky bathrooms - smelled like urine although it was clean. We complained, they cleaned it again, but once the bleach smell wore off, the odor was back. We complained again. They sent the maintenance worker who acknowledged he smelled it too, but couldn't find the source. He replaced the shower curtain, which of course didn't help, then suggested shampooing the carpets.... Since the ship wasn't full, we were permitted to move down the hall. One thing we did notice in the new room was a working vent fan which we don't remember from the first room. Could it be that simple? This is a complaint that has been noted before on this ship, and could ruin an entire trip if you couldn't relocate. This needs to be addressed by RC, pronto. The good news it that the room had a real KING size bed, or 2 full size twins. The cabin was small but adequate. The bathroom however is the smallest of the 3 ships we've used, with a flimsy shower curtain "enclosing" a 2 foot circle. And forget amenities - there's only a bar of soap and a shampoo dispenser. Excursions: We booked one with RC online months before sailing, and one while onboard. Both met our expectations, and staff was helpful. They are pricier than most so we did book a couple of successful tours with a private operator. This is one place were you need to be careful - these are not locations were you would want to be stranded - especially in Egypt. Dining: We found the Minstrel Dining Room nicely appointed and the staff very helpful and accommodating. The menu however seemed to cater to vegetarians and featured at lot of Asian and curried selections. Not appealing to us, but the food we did order was very good. The Windjammer menu didn't vary much but was adequate though basic. Toast was hard, some hot foods weren't, but when you cook for a crowd, these things happen. I loved the made to order omelets! We gained enough weight to attest to the available quantity / quality of the food. We did not try either of the 2 "specialty" restaurants. Oman: This port was a surprise! We took a private tour of old forts but had not realized it involved a drive to the interior (Nizwi) of more than 2 hours. The forts weren't worth the long trip, but our guide filled the trip with interesting info about this country. Like prior to 1970 there were no paved roads and they all rode camels. Muscat is now a new, modern city with a liberal Moslem population where I wish we had been able to spend more time. Those that did seemed to enjoy the stop. Safaga: It's the gate-way to any trip to Luxor. The city itself is a dump, there's nothing to see there I wouldn't recommend getting off the ship without an organized tour!!! It's a 3.5 hour trip to Luxor but worth the long drive to see the Valley of the Kings, etc. It was HOT - bring a umbrella for shade - but fascinating for its historical significance. Guards armed with machine guns are everywhere - barricades, check-points abound, there's even a guard on the coach. We did feel safe but the poverty in Egypt was difficult to witness. Sharm el Sheikh: A very nice resort, not typical of Egypt. We enjoyed a Jeep Safari and a camel ride of about 20 minutes to a Bedouin camp arranged by RC. Pricey but fun. Other guests had good experiences on other tours. Worth getting off the ship for any reason. Alexandria: Another very long day on the guarded bus, but worth it to see the pyramids!!!! Distance wasn't as long, but they put speed bumps every 5 to 10 miles which makes the traffic all but stop - and a top speed of about 60 km/hr on this main thoroughfare from Alexandria to Cairo! The vendors are like mosquitoes - they're everywhere, and they are insistent! Sometimes no isn't enough but when you see where and how they live, you understand their desperation to make a sale! We encountered a friend on a different coach who was robbed at the pyramids that day. Be very careful there but go - it's worth all the aggravation! Barcelona: It rained all day so our sightseeing was greatly curtailed. We'll have to come back to have a better look.