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 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 passport checks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.