We had a great time on this cruise; good food, entertainment, and ports of call. Although there were large numbers of people on board, the staff did a really good job of keeping crowds organized when leaving for excursions or tenders, and there were lots of small venues for some quiet time with fewer people. We were worried about our teen finding things to do, but he quickly made friends in the teen club and ended up having a blast. The ports of call were fabulous, even though it was a bit exhausting having busy days in new places almost every day. It's a good problem to have, though! We were really pleased!
Food and Dining
5 out of 5
We never ate in the specialty restaurants because the regular dining room food was so good. The buffet food was good too, but the atmosphere is a bit crowded and chaotic.
3 out of 5
Many of the activities seemed a little cheesy for our taste, but some people seemed to enjoy them.
5 out of 5
We really enjoyed Livewire, a husband/wife Celtic duo, while in Ireland. We saw them twice, and each show was different. We also liked Jonathan Carter, the piano player; Jumari, a standards singer with a bit of a Brazilian/samba flavor; and the Whitney Houston tribute singer.
5 out of 5
Our son had a blast in the teen's club. He is typically pretty introverted, but they coordinators somehow got everybody socializing together, and he ended up winning the "Popularity" award at the end of the cruise. He still keeps in touch with the friends he made.
Service and Staff
5 out of 5
5 out of 5
I liked that there were so many venues to choose from. We were tired of crowds from our days on shore, and we were able to find some small areas that were a little quieter to listen to music, such as the Wheelhouse Bar or Crooner's Lounge. Housekeeping was excellent - ship seemed spotless! It was way too cold to go swimming as the pools are not heated. It was also too cold for the "Movies Under the Stars" - it's a great idea for the Caribbean, but not the North Sea! Wish there had been an indoor movie theater.
Cabin / Stateroom
5 out of 5
Room was a decent size for a ship, and the balcony was great. We had our son sleeping in the berth, so it made for a tight squeeze to get by when the berth was lowered and the ladder was attached. The space for clothes and suitcases was surprisingly roomy. The bathroom could use some upgrades, but overall not too bad. Our duvet had some stains on it, which was kind of gross, but our room steward replaced it quickly when asked. I just wish we didn't have to ask. Bed was very comfortable!
Get the anytime dining! We sometimes got back late from our excursion or wanted to eat early to catch a show, and the flexibility was great. We were usually seated right away, and while usually asked if we wanted to share a table, we were always given a table for two right away when requested.
If you take the Blarney Castle excursion, skip the long line to kiss the stone and explore the gardens instead. We had only two hours there, and those who wanted to kiss the stone spent almost the whole time in line. I am so glad we went through the gardens and wooded trails instead; it was unbelievably beautiful (even on a misty, rainy day) and just what I expected Ireland to be like. I almost expect to see fairies and leprechauns in the mossy glens and leafy trails.
It is not an official excursion, but I highly recommend visiting Kilmainham Gaol, just an easy taxi ride from city center. We learned so much about Ireland's struggles for independence and got to see where so much history happened. Also, be sure to eat lunch in a pub and have a pint of Guinness!
The Titanic Experience was excellent! Also, be sure to go to Victoria Square, just a short walk from the Visitor's Information Center downtown. It is a typical shopping mall, but it has a glass dome on top that you can climb up to and get a gorgeous 360 panoramic view of the city for free!
We skipped the drive into Glasgow and did one of the highlands tours instead, which was a great decision! We especially enjoyed stopping at the woolen mill and seeing the herding dog demonstration. The scenery is dramatic and stunning!
Absolutely go to Skara Brae and Skaill House - one of the most amazing archaeological sites in the world! Dress warmly if you go; it was July when we were there, and the wind coming off the water was bitterly cold.
Edinburgh is beautiful but so crowded in the summer. We didn't even try to go to Edinburgh castle when we saw the hoards of people waiting to get in. The Mercat Edinburgh Underground tour was really fun, but you will want to get reservations early. Also, leave the ship early because it takes forever to get into Edinburgh since you have to wait for a tender from the ship and then get a shuttle bus or train from South Queensferry. We had planned to take the train, but they were on strike, so we were stuck with the shuttle bus. The last bus left Edinburgh at 4:30 pm, so our time in town was limited. The independent shuttle was still way cheaper than the ship's excursion bus for doing Edinburgh on your own, though.
A lot of people say to skip the long drive to Paris, but I disagree if you have never been to Paris. Yes, it was frustrating to have so little time, but we were able to see the beautiful city, and we had a really good tour guide who provided interesting information on the history and local landmarks along the way, so it wasn't a boring ride at all. Our afternoon there let us get a sense of the city and helped us to decide whether we want to try to go back (a definite yes!) So if you have never been to Paris, definitely do the excursion.
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