I do have to give myself kudos for my logistical planning as far as arriving at the port and getting back home but our experience on board the Armonia was AWFUL. I read as much info/fine print as I could about the cruise and this ship but ... Read More
I do have to give myself kudos for my logistical planning as far as arriving at the port and getting back home but our experience on board the Armonia was AWFUL. I read as much info/fine print as I could about the cruise and this ship but was sure that the bad reviews weren't accurate; I was wrong and wish I had saved our money to do a Disney cruise instead.
Children are free to stay and it certainly shows in the limited choices of children's activities on board. Our tickets were fairly cheap since I booked through a 3rd-person site which gives big/awesome discounts for military families. In all, mine and my husbands tickets were just under $700 which we thought was amazing for a cruise! I did read in the fine print that there were surcharges for services on board but I was NOT expecting to pay around 8euro every time we bought coffee, ice cream or had anyone hand us something that we couldn't get ourselves...on top of the price of whatever we bought.
I would highly suggest, if you do decide to use this particular cruise line, to do some research on your destinations and book your own excursions instead of booking through the ship. I researched our destinations (Marseille, Palma de Mallorca, Corsica) and wrote down the addresses and places we were interested in seeing. If you can help it, take a taxi versus using the transportation services provided by the ship. They charged almost 20euro for adults and 12euro for children to use the bus for transportation to and from the dock at every destination but we ended up paying way less by just paying for a taxi ride. Once inside the cities, utilize the hop-on/hop-off buses or the little tourist trains which are minimal in cost and you get to see all of the highlights of the place you're in. If you have business to attend online, the wifi charges are absurd. We bought one hour of time for almost 17euro to check our email periodically since that was the only line of communication with family/work. You can't honestly tell me it costs that much money to have wifi aboard a boat, especially at the prices they charge for everything.
When we arrived at the port, we registered fairly quickly since we had already checked in online and printed a confirmation. They wouldn't allow us to keep our passports, which made us very uneasy since we are a military family and have always been told to NEVER allow our passports to be out of our possession. They in turn gave us a key-card for our trip which would get us on/off the boat and was linked to my husbands credit card to pay for anything we got on board since NO CASH is taken (which is stupid because we pulled out almost 1,000 euro in cash specifically for this purpose). They wouldn't allow us to take our luggage with us when boarding (which were only small carry-on suitcases since we traveled with Ryanair and didn't want the hassle of checking-in suitcases). We sat in our room waiting for our luggage to be delivered to freshen up after a 6 hour commute (which was just sat outside the cabin doors and several people lost their luggage due to thievery this way). Since we were starving by this time, we just left to get something to eat.
Our first night of dining was horrendous. After traveling all day, waiting on our luggage to be delivered and searching for the dining room, we were turned away at the door to the Marco Polo dining facility because we were "first seating" and arrived literally 15 mins late even though the itinerary says from 7-9pm. We were starving and our 5y/o child (who almost never eats) was crying he was hungry. No one pointed us in the direction of the buffets upstairs even after we told them that we had traveled all day and hadn't eaten since 11am that morning. We didn't get to eat until almost 10pm that night; that in itself was upsetting. The food was the biggest portion of our trip that I was looking forward to because it was a Mediterranean cruise, I'm expecting fabulous seafood and new dishes that I hadn't tried before! What we got was mostly fish, some extremely chewy sliced leg of lamb and veal. Since the menu is set up to be a 6-course meal, the portion sizes are very small and we figured this out the first night when I left still hungry! The only dessert choices are all COLD and consisted of ice cream (my son had no qualms with this choice), cold chocolate cake which was more of a brownie consistency and a very runny "coconut/pistachio cake" which didn't even hold it's form on the plate. The breakfast choices weren't much better and consisted of cold waffles with NO syrup, "raisin/cinnamon" french toast which had NO raisins or cinnamon and came out burnt with some sort of runny excuse for syrup and literally consisted of one piece of bread with the crust cut off. The juice is so watered down, it tastes like juice-infused water, my son wouldn't even drink it. It's almost as if they water it down just to make it go farther. The coffee is HORRIBLE!!! If you're a coffee connoisseur like I am, you will not appreciate this mud-water. It tastes like coffee flavored water with a slightly burnt aftertaste. I feel like they do this just so you will pay to buy coffee from the coffee bar on board. Oh, don't forget that 15% surcharge for a 4euro cup (literally 1/2 cup) of cappuccino with 2 inches of foam on top, so about 5 drinks of actual coffee...still makes me mad.
We didn't find the upstairs buffets (on the 11th floor) until 3 days into our trip. The best food was the freshly made pizza buffet which was open at all hours. The Brassiere was okay, most of the choices were cold meats/cheeses/breads with a few "hot" items like rosemary potatoes, green beans or some sort of sausage/onion mix..we spent most of our meals at the pizza buffet. They have mugs and mud-water (coffee) and hot water with a selection of tea bags. The only FREE water you will get on board is the tap water in the machines at the buffets upstairs. You have to pay for every.single.thing. you drink except in these areas.
Activities on board:
For adults, if you like to gamble and drink, that's all there is to do. But this, of course, entails spending more money which they highly encourage. The shops (pharmacy, gift shop, clothing store, toy store) is extremely overpriced and has a very small selection of what you need. Almost every bar area allows smoking so the fact that a "cigar room" was in one of these areas was confusing if smoking was allowed in almost all areas of the boat. My husband and I couldn't enjoy our drink while watching the live band one evening because smoke was being blown on us from the casino which opened into the area we were in. Smoking areas are designated but aren't followed or enforced.
We signed my son up for the daily activities for his age group but the only things for him to do in this small room was play with Legos, color printed out pictures and watch movies in a language that he doesn't understand. Needless to say, he went twice for about 2 hrs each time, and said he didn't want to go back. It broke my heart because I wanted him to enjoy our vacation but he ended up staying in the room with us, watching cartoons on the laptop and playing on the iPad.
The nightly shows were all the same, just different costumes and music. It also would have been nice if the theater played movies during the day since they had the capability to do so. We didn't use the spa services because frankly, we couldn't afford it after discovering all the hidden charges that were forced upon us.
The public areas were kept clean but all looked alike. The ship is full of glitz/glam but lacks real substance, in all honesty.
Photographers were set up all throughout the 5th and 6th floors in the evenings and harass you as you walk by to take your picture. After the 3rd time, we just flat out refused and walked away, leaving them talking and begging us to take more pictures.
The very small children's water area was extremely slippery, my son fell on one occasion and hit the back of his head. Some of the water toys didn't work and there was no actual kiddie pool for the kids to play in, just water streams to run through. The adult pool was no bigger than a king size bed, and that's no exaggeration! I never saw anyone in it other than a couple of teenagers jump in and climb back out. The two hot tubs were the only points of interest for everyone and with so many ppl getting in and out, I passed. I don't like sitting in other people's urine.
The staff we encountered were very nice and all spoke English. Our waiters were always wonderful to us so we have no complaints with those who worked on board. Our biggest complaints would be the poor food served, the many surcharges that we were left with after it was over and being kicked out of our room at 8am and sitting around for almost 3 hours to disembark. Our bill that was left on the door was over 300euro and more than half of those charges were just surcharges, which is absolutely pathetic to me. After being kicked out of our room, we were told to sit in one of the lounge/bar areas until our designated time to meet (according to floor number) to leave the ship. Luckily, we held onto our luggage instead of letting them transport it for us back to shore so as soon as we walked off the ramp (couldn't happen fast enough for me) we grabbed a taxi and went straight to our train station.
Overall, our experience was horrendous. The only reason I give this rating a 2/5 is because of the cleanliness of the boat and the friendliness of the staff. Other than that, it was a sorry excuse for a first-time experience in taking a cruise as a family vacation. Read Less