We took our three teenage daughters on their first cruise this past February (2005) on the Opera
, and they loved it, especially chocolate croissants each morning and afternoon tea virtually every afternoon. The oldest of the three, who was 18, got hooked on bingo(!), mainly because the disarmingly charming and witty Paulo called the numbers and shared funny, marvelous anecdotes. He also offered afternoon chats on Italian history, which were informal and wonderful. The staff went out of their way to pamper the girls, who felt very self-conscious about all the fussing over them -- for the first day or two! It didn't take long for them to graciously accept all the attention. Our waiter, Antonino, had daughters of his own back in Italy, and he adored ours, bringing them extra cheesecake and ice cream after each meal, remembering their special likes and dislikes, and greeting them warmly when he saw them during the day.
We liked to have our before-dinner drinks in a certain lounge, and found a wonderful staffer, Florian, who quickly learned what we liked and had it waiting for us each evening, as well as special 'virgin' concoctions for the girls. All of this without ever asking.
The price was right for all five of us to travel, and we weren't expecting Neiman-Marcus for Walmart prices. The decor was relatively spartan, as we expected for such a reasonable price. But the breads were wonderful, as was the risotto course each night at dinner. Soups were a mixed bag, as were some of the fish dishes. But the iced tea was brewed, excellent and always available, and the girls raved about the freshness of the pizza, which was also available most hours of the day and night. My husband and I like European style breakfasts, and there were a plethora of Italian cheeses to choose from in the buffet line, lots of fresh fruit, wonderful breads and Italian coldcuts.
The staff were gems, and I daresay that by the end of the cruise, all our staff had exchanged email addresses with us and remain in loose contact with us still.