This was a lovely cruise experience overall. We were fortunate to have sailed on the Encore last year and so can offer a comparison. Briefly, we found that while still very good, there were a couple of areas where things were not quite as good as on our previous cruise. There seemed to be a greater number of new staff who clearly were getting up to speed with their jobs. They were doing there best but sometimes made mistakes with orders and didn't quite have the warmth of engagement which comes with confidence of your responsibilities. For instance, in the Observation Lounge, the resourcing seemed stretched compared with last year and the standard of the cocktails variable. Also, I was somewhat disappointed to find that the house champagne had been 'downgraded' to a different and lesser brand from the "Nicolas" label which the company had used for several years. I don't believe that was a sensible move, although I recognise it must have been driven by cost cutting demands.
As for food, the quality remains first class in all outlets; but I personally found the menus more pretentious than last year--perhaps due to the ideas of the Chef, who was different from last year. Also it's disappointing to see foie gras still heavily featured when many companies are following a more ethical policy of withdrawing this cruelly produced food from regular menus.
The internet service remains patchy. I fully understand and accept the technical issues that make internet provision difficult at sea. But then to charge hefty fees for its use is somewhat exploitative. This policy and pricing should be reviewed.
The Cabin was fine in all respects except in the following relatively minor respects. The balcony is smaller tha most making it a bit of a squeeze for two people to sit outside. Then there is the location pretty much directly under the pool area. This meant that noises of of tables and chairs being moved could be kheard at night and in the early hours. Not loud, but enough for you to notice. On one night there was a party event on the pool deck with dancing and a live band. That was REALLY noisy and made sleep impossible till around 11.20pm. That wasn't good--but fortunately it was the only night in the whole cruise when this happened.
Some concerns about the health and safety implications of interacting with the dragons