We chose this cruise as it was in the UK half term (hence the title of the review). We travelled expecting to have to queue, not to get to do all the things we wanted to and for their to be a LOT of families with kids on board. This trip was done on a tight budget as we/the kids have lots of other travel this year - we didn't take drink or wifi packages or book ship tours, making the most of the loyalty perks we got in respect of this. The one extravagence was that both my partner and I got the thermal suite package although we never got the chance to go there together, we made sure to use it for an hour a day each and actually had our evening shower there most nights to save congestion in the room.
Our family of four (DS 14, DD 9) had an obstructed view balcony which we paid around £700pp for booking about 14 months out. As we live in the south of England we made the three hour journey to the port by car the day before departure and parked in a multistorey car park in town which was £35 for the eight days (see southampton.gov.uk for options of where this is possible for cruise passengers). We visited the Westquay Shopping Centre and had dinner there at a chain restaurant using Tesco Clubcard deal vouchers before getting an early night. Our hotel for the night was the Leonardo (cheap one in town as oposed to the fancy one overlooking the port) where a family room cost us £100 for the night including breakfast. Booked through Hotels.com using more Tesco Clubcard Vouchers! The morning of the cruise we enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and some play time in the nearby park before the 25 mins walk with our luggage to the port. Check in was a dream, we arrived early hoping to dump our bags and wander but were waved through and we were onboard before our scheduled arrival time of 11am.
During the day we made the best of all the ship had to offer in terms of free activities - quizzes, scavenger hunts, family festival and booked our complementary slots on everything we could. DD loved Adventure Ocean and went most days for one session. There was only one day where they were at capacity and we couldn't sign her in. We swam most evenings in the indoor pool as this gave us more space to play and have fun along with doing roller skating, laser tag or bumper cars. Both kids had lots of daytime fun in the whirlpool/child soup pool and a couple of days we managed to get chairs on the upper decks, once on the main pool area when we were up early for Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile. We didn't use any of the entertainment venues for music or theatre as both our kids are quite active and we also stuck to a 9.30pm bedtime for DD who is not fun after a couple of late nights. Cabin was plenty quiet enough of an evening to make that work. DD went mad for the TikTok dance class and the silent disco. DS was a regular guest at the flow rider and climbing wall where he found the staff to be helpful and friendly but not one for the teen club so can't comment on that.
No idea on cabin category but it was an abstructed view large oceanview balcony. The kids had the queen bed seperated into singles and we had the sofa bed with a matress topper and two extra duvets that we requested from our room attendant on the first day. Our other travelling interests include touring in our motorhome and camping so we are very used to living in close quarters - I fully appreciate this wouldn't be for everyone. As we were using the bed daily, our attendant still came twice a day although the evening visit was just to make up the sofa bed. The only use we made of the balcony was as a waiting area while getting ready in the evening.