Embarkation; Coach from Leeds = Less stress. Still a good wait to embark, but only to be expected for that amount of passengers. Although it seemed to go faster through security than other cruises.
Cabin; Pleasant. Good storage under bed for cases. Good hanging space, drawers and security box. Poor lighting, no individual side lights for reading. Nice bathroom/shower facilities. Plenty of information on TV and good supply of free films.
Ship; Poor design. “Promenade” deck 7! Only ship I've known not to be able to go all the way round, so why call it a promenade deck? Stanchions in way of serving hot plates! Have to walk round them to carry on helping yourself to hot food. Sun loungers packed tighter than sardines, with not enough tables or space to put drinks/plates on. Too many obstacles on upper lido decks. Not possible to walk all way round ship even on the upper decks. Hot food left out too long on grill decks, consequently goes cold. Sports facilities ok, although no room to swing a club in the golf nets and the balls roll out from underneath! Could only find comfy seats, (wall bench types), in Brodies, to read. Some unbelievably awful seats abound. I think the problem is that it was a hotel group who designed the furnishings and interior and they've done it as they would a hotel instead of a ship!
Entertainment; Staff did their best to please. They were very efficient in their planning and timings, but could work a bit more on their delivery. Enjoyed the quizzes and the Wii bowling! Casino was well used by others. Theatre nights were good, but one had to get in early to obtain a good seat, or even a seat! Cinema, and I use the word loosely, was a bun fight! Queueing to get a good seat while the previous film is still showing, and if you were in the second or third row, you could only see half the screen! Live Lounge was pretty busy at most times, but again, get in early for the good shows.
Dining; We had freedom dining and the restaurant manager, Mr. Newby I think, was very pleasant and did his best to seat us in a nice place all the time. We had a table for two each night and sometimes needed to take a “buzzer” to be called when our table was available, but never had to wait for more than twenty minutes at any time. Some waiters looked like they would rather be somewhere else, but the majority were very nice and very pleasant. The food was a delightful surprise from what we were served on the Oriana, thank goodness! It was delicious in most cases and if I wanted more than one starter or main, it wasn’t a problem. A lot of people have a tendency to complain about not enough this or not enough that, when all one has to do is ask! I asked for a small pot of gravy or sauce on numerous occasions, not a problem! My wife is vegetarian and the food manager came to us every night and showed us the next day’s menu and the alternative A & B veggie menus and she was allowed to pre-order her food for the following evening, excellent service. Ordering a bottle of wine and only drinking half was the way to go, with the bottle being stored for you to drink the next night.
Excursions; I could write a whole book on the ports we visited, but suffice to say that the best way is to do a lot of research before sailing and to plan well ahead. Excursions bought from the ship are very expensive in comparison to what you can achieve by other means. Most ports, we could walk into the town or use the shuttle bus, for which they may be a small charge sometimes. Hop on hop off buses were really expensive, but a necessity for the less agile. St. Petersburg was an excellent place to visit but can only be done so by group or individual visa. The other excursion we partook in was a trip to Ypres and Flanders Fields. Very emotional and humbling, but a must see on this cruise. The weather was too rough for us to dock in Kristiansand, so were arrived a lot earlier at Oslo than planned. I did hear the deputy captain overshot one of the Ports by a mile and had to reverse!
Disembarkation; What a debacle that was!! Herded together in waiting areas, with other selfish, inconsiderate, unhygienic people, coughing and spluttering, is not a good idea when waiting to disembark! I'm still coughing now, 5 days later! Finding our baggage was a nightmare!! Talk about disorganised. Poor single, frail women were in tears, they had no idea where to look in that vast area, where there were hardly any signs to say where one’s bag may be! (Apparently they were laid out in deck order, but not enough signs to indicate this!)
Sorry if this was a bit long winded but I think I've covered the main points and given other’s an insight into what to expect, i.e. not a great deal really. My favourite so far is still the Emerald Princess.
It was easy enough for us to walk in to the city, so no need for the very expensive city tour buses. Lovely people, awful weather!
The highlight I suppose is the Royal Palace. A very nice city to walk round, made all the better by some nice weather, I'm sure.