Myself, my wife and four children (aged 10 to 14) cruised in the
Eastern Med, starting and ending in Savona, Italy. This was our
fifth -- but worst -- cruise.
Embarkation Embarkation was a nightmare. We were kept waiting
for ages in the terminal building. There was a numbering system, so
you knew when your number was coming up -- but had no way of
knowing how long it would take. After waiting about an hour, we
went through the worst boarding process imaginable, with far too
many steps and lots of duplication involved -- e.g., four separate
Cabins & Attendant Once on board we found we had been
incorrectly allocated cabins. The root cause of the problem was the
travel agent (Cruisedeals.co.uk - more on them later), so the
reception desk stood their ground and refused to change our
accommodations -- not very flexible of them, but admittedly not
their fault. The cabins themselves were very clean and about the
same size as on other cruise liners we have sailed on. Our cabin
attendant was marvelous, a real gem -- sympathetic about our
problems, very meticulous in her work, and
always cheerful. We canceled the ridiculously high standard
gratuity charge in favor of giving it all to her in cash at the end
of the cruise.
Food & Dining The dining experience was not great; in fact,
it left a lot to be desired relative to other liners. The worst
part was having to dine at set times. The service was poor and
slow, even by European standards. You could eat buffet style
outside of the main restaurants, but were offered nothing more than
bland pizza and salad. The wine waiters were slow and sometimes
forgot your order altogether. I think there were far too few
waiters for both food and drink, which caused the problem.
Entertainment This was fairly limited. It needed to be more
visual than verbal due to the number of different languages spoken
by the passengers on board. Generally the quality of the acts was
poor. The kids' entertainment was marvelous, however; my kids
really enjoyed the activities and they ran to the club for long
hours each day.
Reception The reception desk was slow, with long queues. It had
an unfriendly staff who could pretend simply to not understand when
asked something difficult -- very, very poor.
On Deck There was plenty of space to sit, and usually we did not
have much trouble finding deck chairs -- except for days at sea,
but that is standard on most ships. Waiters out on deck were few
and far between, and seemed to wait for you to approach them rather
than walking about asking if anyone wanted a drink. I tended to
give up and walk to the bar myself. Again, there were far too few
of them compared to, say, a Thomson cruise.
Itinerary The itinerary was marvelous: Savona, Alexandria,
Cyprus, Rhodes, Izmir, Athens, Katakolon -- great places to go, and
a very well-thought-out route. We spent two days early on cruising
to warmer climes, giving everyone time to find their way about;
then we had a port stop every day, other than the last day when the
ship was heading north again.
The Ship Overall, the ship was very good. It's the exact same
ship as the Carnival Glory, but with some different uses for
various rooms. The gym was very good, and not too busy other than
mid-morning (especially on at sea days).
Overall Summary The cruise had too many downsides. Compared to
other cruise ships, it was definitely the worst in our experience,
so we would never sail with them again. It didn't help that the
reception desk staffers were not interested in our initial cabin
problems; but even after that it was not the best of cruises.
Regarding the cabin problems, a quick word on Cruisedeals.co.uk:
I booked the cruise asking specifically for two cabins capable of
sleeping three people each, i.e. expecting two cabins each with
four berths. When the tickets arrived, I saw that they allocated my
wife and I to one cabin and my four kids (the oldest 14) to the
other. I assumed this was a nominal allocation and that we could
reorganize ourselves into two rooms of three (girls in one, boys in
the other) upon boarding. However, just to be safe I called
Cruisedeals to get it sorted out.
They did not fix it, and it transpires by their own admission
they didn't even log the call on their system. I called them
several times from the ship, but they refused to fix it, stating
that our booking matched what their system said. I formally
complained in writing on my return but was fobbed off with the same
line. Beware !! I would never trust them with a booking again.