We did a reposition cruise from Southampton to Quebec via Bergen, Shetland Islands, Faeroe Islands, 3 Iceland stops, Greenland, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia - 16 days aboard ship. We enjoyed all the stops, choosing to do all our sightseeing on our own rather than booking shore excursions. The ship provided reasonable information about each port which made this a reasonable option. However, the passengers who we talked to about the shore excursions reported mostly favorable experiences. The primary complaint being the usual one - inconsiderate fellow passengers who delayed returning at appointed times.
Overall, we thought this was a good cruise experience. The appearance of the ship and its layout were attractive and convenient. The entertainment in the non-theater lounges was good. The trivia games (which we do not enjoy) were well attended.
We were very impressed with the main dining room that had assigned dinner time and tables. The food was tasty and attractively served, and there were several enticing possibilities for each course every evening. The always available shrimp cocktail, steak and potato would satisfy the simple appetite, while the more exotic fare would be good for others. Vegetarian selections were not interesting most nights, however - not even the curries. Deserts were excellent, including the sugar free (read no sugar added, as there often was fruit in these offerings). We did not try the any time dining room.
The 24 hour buffet was adequate, had some good points, but some real draw backs. The good point was that the food was mostly pretty good, with good selections at all times. The real draw back was how cramped the space was, which made for much confusion at prime meal times. It was difficult to get drinks as the set up of cups, tumblers, and coffee and tea was illogical. Often it was nearly impossible to find seats at breakfast and lunch.
The biggest draw back at the buffet, in our view, was the eggs. Whereas they had a sign warning of the dangers of eating partially cooked eggs, the trays of scrambled eggs were usually runny, no fully cooked fried eggs were offered except as a special order, and hard boiled eggs were not offered. When I did ask for a hard boiled egg, it was soft boiled. There was a cook who would prepare eggs and omelets to order. However, each of the men who were assigned this task were masters of avoiding eye contact, turning their backs to passengers even when not required, and generally prolonging the time to get eggs unreasonably. On one occasion when I was the only person in line, I waited nearly 10 minutes for the buy to even take my order while he stood cooking more sunny side up eggs to add to those already in wait for non-existent diners! Our complaint about this was noted by the restaurant captain, but there was no improvement in the service on this score.
The difficulty in finding seats at the buffet could be because of the very limited availability of the main dining room for lunch or breakfast. Whereas at dinner there are two times of about 2 hours each, breakfast and lunch were limited to early times, and then only 1 and ½ hours total each. The impression is they do not really want you in the main dining room for these meals.
Our cabin was adequate, service there mostly adequate. No more and no less than expected.
Since we left from Southampton, many of the passengers were European, mostly British, although many were French, the destination being influential, I suppose. This presented opportunities to meet people from various places, which is always fun.
On the other hand, Europeans seem to be much more likely to smoke than Americans, and this was a definite draw back on the cruise. Although the theater lounges were completely non-smoking, the other lounges were not, with the primary dance spot, the Wheelhouse Bar, giving the smoking section the center of the room, with the non-smokers stuck around the perimeter. This resulted in non-smokers having a hazy view of the dance floor at best, and a relatively smoky dance venue. The other dance spot was not really a lounge, but part of the open atrium, where a duo performed each night, and dancing was made available by closing off a doorway to make a sort of dance floor in the hallway. Smoking was allowed here as well, but at least the open atrium allowed it to float up and away.
There was no real opportunity for pre-dinner dancing, as the bands in all venues stopped a while before dinner. After dinner, the Wheelhouse had good dancing, in the smoke, but the atrium venue was set up for a trivia quiz from 10 to 11, then a break for the duo, who ran the quiz, then, finally, less smoky dancing was available. At least the duo were very good and responsive to the room.
Karaoke was available many nights, but the equipment was difficult for the crew to operate. They were not always able to turn off the vocals, and the poor amateurs were set to competing with a professional on the sound track. They ran a contest to select 6 people to compete in a final the last night of the cruise. As it turned out, the competition was not limited to amateurs, one contestant stating her occupation as professional singer. This seemed out of place. All was not lost, however, as she lost to an amateur who indicated only a second attempt at singing! Still, it does seem like karaoke should be limited to amateurs. Also, several of the passengers really liked singing, but on preliminary competition nights were limited to one song even if there were no other passengers who wanted to sing. The impression was that the crew did not really like this and wanted to limit the activities. The assistant cruise director even made rude remarks to one gentleman about his desire to have more karaoke.
The captain of the ship was really terrific. He gave lots of information about our itinerary, the weather, our progress, what to expect during inclement weather, etc. His comments were clear and accurate, and kept us at ease even during a bumpy stretch when we neared a tropical storm.
All in all, we liked this ship and would cruise on it again. However, I would not expect it to be a perfect experience, and I would seek out more dance friendly cruises, such as those offered by Holland America.