Less than expected but "ok" overall
This was my first cruise. We were in Grand Suite cabin 7-299 which, compared to other balcony cabins, provided more space for guests, a separate area off the bathroom that had a small sink and seat and the shower and bathroom were much larger. There was more storage space throughout. It was comparable to a 2.5-star hotel. Unless I planned to entertain more than two guests in my cabin, I wouldn't incur the extra expense again.
The refrigerator did not refrigerate and the mini-bar that I had read about being available did not exist. The refrigerator was empty except for crumbs, dirt, and a brownie that was already there when we arrived.
There were no electrical outlets near the bed, so we had to run extension cords from the bed, across the doorway to the bathroom area where there was only one within reach and behind the tv.
The sleeper sofa made for less the comfortable seating.
The cabin temperature was well maintained.
Steward services were good. I provided a handsome tip on the first day to encourage excellent service. We saw our chief steward twice -- both times on the first day of the cruise. We elected evening service so that we'd be out of the room when they arrived. They provided an extra ice bucket as requested and both were full of ice each evening when we returned. Other than that, there was nothing special about the service.
We took most of our meals in the dining rooms since we are not fans of crowded spaces, wading through/dodging people or standing in long lines to get food. The fare was good, we always found something good to eat on the menu, and they accommodated special requests very well. Since we were part of a Family Reunion group, we did the evening assigned seat dining. Our chief waiter, Frances, and team provided very good service. The food was mostly good. My favorite appetizer was the spring roll. I had the southern fried chicken the first night, which was good. The breast was a bit dry. Another night I had the veal parmesan, which was tough and sinewy although the flavor was good. My favorite meal was a quiet breakfast alone with my wife by a window. Our waiter, Augusto, was very friendly and provided excellent service.
It was very difficult to find our way around for the first 1.5 days until we learned to orient ourselves by looking at the small, dimly lit ship maps at the elevators before finding our way. It also helped to understand that for each deck with cabins, all of the even numbered cabins were on one side of the ship and all of the odd on the other side (unlike hotels where the odd and even numbers are all in the same hallway). In addition, we learned to traverse the ship on cabin level decks to avoid crowds.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the cruise was the casino/games area (Located in the center of the Promenade deck) being a smoking area. So, we did not play any of the games although we would have liked to.
When preparing for our cruise I tried to figure out what I'd most like to do and where to hang out. I selected the Red and Black Seas Lounge because it was designated as a Jazz area with its own bar. It seemed the perfect place for a jazz lover like myself to meet other jazz lovers in a relaxing atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle. Only, there was no bartender there and no jazz the times when I went there. According to the activities directory there was to be karaoke there sometimes. One of my family members said they had the same experience in the sports lounge.
The worse part of the whole trip was the "Muster Drill.” This is the mandatory safety drill, that must be conducted each cruise and everybody has to participate. it requires everyone to go to a designated area (Muster station) and stand facing the lifeboats shoulder to shoulder and back to front. The temperature during our muster drill was in excess of 90° F and when we were all standing that close together it felt like 100° with very little air. The drill lasted approximately 30 minutes. It was a horrible experience, especially for my wife who has back and hip trouble so standing was excruciating for her.
This cruise did not make me want to take another cruise.
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom