The good ....
We booked for the sailing on 13th February , we travelled by train on the Sunday to Southampton Central, a ten minute walk from the dock and stayed at the Premier Inn ( A five minute walk from the dock ) , we would definitely recommend the Premier Inn, it was a great hotel, nice rooms with a lovely bar and restaurant area, and the staff were fantastic, definitely got us all in the relaxed mood for our sailing the next day , and if you book early enough , the rooms cost Â£39.00. I'm pretty fussy, and even I was impressed .
We walked to the port the following morning, check in says arrive at 1.pm, but we got there at eleven and check in had just opened as we knew it was going to be busy, and it was, but within the hour, we had checked in, and were on board and in the Windjammer Cafe, which was jam packed ! My initial feeling was if it was like this for eleven nights , it was going to be hell for me ... it didn't stay that way often .
Our rooms would be ready for 1.pm, and they were, I have seen elsewhere on here about no directions to rooms etc and no assistance to them etc , there are maps everywhere, and they pin point exactly where you are , and if you are on the wrong corridor, it will take you minutes to find where you should be, I think the problem is that this ship is huge, and the corridors to cabins seem very very long , but we didn't find this a problem .
Luggage can take up to 10pm to arrive at your cabin ( stateroom ) , ours arrived around 7 ish, where we also met our room attendant Yogi, he was lovely , he gave us the times he was available should we need him, but we didn't need to call on him once during the days on ship, he would attend the rooms in the morning, then attend them again in the evening, to soften the cabin lighting, close the curtains etc, it was nice .
Our Staterooms, My husband and I opted for a balcony room , it was my 40th birthday, so we decided to splash out a little more , was it value for money .... I'm not sure, maybe if you are a lone couple, or several older couples possibly, we were a party of eleven , 3 families with five children between us ( three teenagers and two under 10's) , our children were busy on the decks and we were with them, so our use of balcony was very limited , our children had an inside cabin directly opposite us, and it was perfectly nice, except that waking up in the morning, you have no concept of what time it is because its pitch black, a minor thing, which wouldn't put me off if I got a really good deal on another cruise, our balcony became useful for all the wrong reasons, but more of that later ..
DRINKS PACKAGES .... we read many things about the drinks packages and really changed our minds on whether we would buy them several times, $49 for beer and wine package, and $59 for complete package ( including frozen cocktails and spirits ) , in the end we decided to buy the Wine package for dinner , and this suited us, now we are not tee total by any means, but had we bought either one of these other packages, we would not have even broke even , had we been on board with no children , then quite possibly , we read that drinks were very expensive, we didn't think they were that bad and we are northerners !! The bottom line is, this cruise will cost you as much as you want it too, if you like a glass of wine in the evening but are not fussed in the day, then you probably wont get your moneys worth from any other package other than the wine one, the soda package was well worth it for my two children, and also they could get a drink wherever they wanted without us having to be there .
FOOD ...We opted for My time dining, this was great for our family as we didn't have to rush, and as there were eleven of us, we met around 8 for a drink and sat down each evening together, we were on table 522 in the king Lear dining room , and what a wonderful experience that was , our waiters Menchie and Vergel were just fantastic, if you have a big party, ask if they are working at this number table and book it, they were wonderful .
Breakfast in the buffet areas, was acceptable, nothing to write home about, but it was ok, we liked the waiter service breakfast, the breakfast was much nicer as food is also freshly cooked for you, but you do have to be there early, with many people on board, the buffet breakfast gets very very busy, and if you have a family with the morning grumps like mine, it can be hard work, best to let everyone have a sit down, cup of coffee and relax and wake up a bit.
Lunch, we spent most times having lunch at Sorrento's, having the anti pasti which was changed each day, this was nice if you didn't want something full on, the windjammer we only used once on holiday, but when we did , the food was good, Evening dining was just wonderful, we had lovely food, lovely service and is one of the things that made for a wonderful holiday, the food is not repeated twice when on board apart from the steak and chicken , the food really was excellent, and we didn't find it bland at all, I think you would have to be extremely picky to find fault, and I'm the pickiest person going when it comes to food and how its cooked etc, I had no complaints whatsoever, it was excellent.
On board .... If you have a family, you cant go wrong, with it being my first cruise, I was worried about pleasing members of my family, a 17 year old son, and a 10 year old, I was worried about the safety with so many people on board etc etc, I needn't have, I was assured and felt secure ( as I could be ) that my children were safe, you cannot walk more than 10 seconds without bumping into a member of staff on board , there are no dark corners , corridors to speak off where my children could disappear ( being dramatic, but you understand what I mean ) and although there were over 3000 people on board, it never feels like that, this ship is huge, and there are areas for children, for teenagers, and Adults, which are for these ages only, basically if your names not on the door, you aint coming in !! ( and they mean it !!)
Entertainment and On board activities ....... You can chill, or you can get busy, My 17 year old had an absolute ball on this holiday, he did rock climbing, surfing, had his own zone which he was adamant he was never going to visit before we got on board, kids clubs were not for him .... but its not a kids club as such , its an area to hang out without the "oldies" where he made friends, granted he was with his cousins, which helped but still, I would be very surprised if a teenager didn't make a friend to hang out with .
We watched fantastic shows, Ice shows, all to excellent standard . There really is something for everyone .
There is a huge indoor promenade, which has fantastic street parties in the evening, if you have a groove in your shoes, this is the place to come to, fantastic fun, where people of all ages, came together, had a good dance, and really good fun , even if you didn't like the music, you couldn't help but soak up the atmosphere, its brilliant .
Staff .... Just wonderful, for those travelling, you will meet Wayne who cleans the promenade, he boogies on down with everyone, and sings in the Dog and Badger pub at eleven, give him a mention on your end of cruise questionnaire, he is trying to move up in the ranks, and he so much deserves it :)
Clientele ....... I read a review about guests being " football shirt wearing , chip eating guzzlers " ..... nonsense , there is a real mix of people on board, it would be an absolute minority who I spotted wearing a footy shirts ( to stereotype a person ) , plus there are so many different areas on board, piano bars, cocktail bars, champagne bars, sky bars etc that you end up where you want to with the type of people who enjoy the same things, there is room for everyone :) ....... or so you would think, but more of that in a minute
In general, it was an amazing ship, but we did have a blip, so now onto that ...
The Bad ..... And its only a little bad point, and to me, this is a ship that is for everyone, if you want an adult version cruise, with no children, then choose another ship ( I believe celebrity cruises are the same company but adult only ) , or travel when it is not half term which is when we were on , a few, and it really is a few people complained that there was too many children ( there were just over 400 in total, so a minority) , and one person even pointed out that children should not be on a cruise, and should not have a seat of their own, and should be on parents knees, and should not be heard , she was about 60 on holiday with her mother ..... and probably ( although I should not assume) that she does not have children ..... I mean, to book a ship that has a rock climbing wall, a surf simulator , an ice skating rink is going to right up her adults only street, I mean would a family with children want to take part in any of these activities or book a cruise with these facilities on board ..... NOOOOOO I hear you shout ( sarcasm is the lowest form of Wit, I shall tell myself off :):) ...) I'm having a vision of her on the flow rider by herself , yelling at the children to back off .... its hers !! ( hee hee )
The Ugly ...... Norovirus :(:( .... Enough said, what else is there to say about that, apart from some members of my family were struck down with it on board, but were treated extremely well by the hospital facility on board which is excellent , but this is where our balcony was a god send, fresh air when you are feeling ill is a must, its winter vomiting season in the UK, and hard as they try, and they really do try to control it, it got us, and its not pleasant , also our compensation for spending two days in isolation in the cabin .... Money of our next RCI cruise, not good enough in my opinion, another member was taken ill with an unrelated illness and had hospital treatment, make sure you have good medical insurance cover if you have any pre existing conditions, as believe me the tills were shouting kerching when it came to the bill ( but still, excellent care was given) .
Overall ..... Apart from the sickness blip, we could not fault it, Norovirus is one of them things , it spreads like wildfire ... would it put us off another cruise, honest opinion, No, ... its unpleasant, but for all the wonderful things we did on board and the wonderful places we saw, the good, and fantastic stuff far out ways the bad and the ugly :):) Read Less