My wife and I are in our mid 60s. This was our 20th cruise and the second in Europe. It was our 5th on a Royal Caribbean ship. We made our own air arrangements and flew into London a week ahead of the cruise.
We purchased Royal Caribbean's transfers from London to the ship. There may have been a better way. We were instructed to meet at the Victoria Coach Station in downtown London. The situation at the bus station was a disaster.
The cruise line representatives did everything they could to keep people happy, but they were fighting a losing battle with hundreds of hot and unhappy people crowded into a very small waiting area and no buses to remove them from the station. The last bus was supposed to leave at 11 AM. We finally left at about 12:30 PM for the 2 ½ hour ride to Harwich.
The embarkation process was quite smooth. It may have been because we were late getting to the ship and most of the passengers were already on board.
Spectacular! The multistory lobby/atrium was the most impressive we have seen on any ship. The décor in the public rooms was beautiful (especially the Schooner Bar and Safari Club). The theatre had excellent seating with very good sight lines and few obstructions. The main dining room was similar to other Royal Caribbean ships except that we missed the two story windows that are found on the Legend of the Seas and her sister ships. It was difficult to enjoy a view to the sea unless you had a table directly next to a window.
Unfortunately, the ship does have some design flaws. There are only two groups of elevators. Most ships this size have three. The central group near the atrium is on one side only, which may make it necessary to cross the ship each time you want to use an elevator. We also found that they were frequently very crowded around mealtime when people wanted to reach the Windjammer Café or were returning to the ship from shore. The worst flaw is the lack of a forward observation room and open decks forward of the passenger cabins. The only enclosed place with a front view is from the fitness center. Although very impressive, the Viking Crown Lounge atop the ship is a poor place to enjoy any view except to the sides of the ship. The view to the front from this room is completely blocked by forward structures. This ship would not be a good choice for a Panama Canal cruise where several open decks are needed to accommodate passengers wishing to enjoy the view as the ship is entering and leaving the locks.
We had cabin 3618 on deck 3 to the rear of the starboard side. The location was excellent with very little motion or vibration. My wife got a little concerned when the window was covered with white water during a storm south of Plymouth. But, that is to be expected with 50-mile winds and 30-foot waves. The cabins on this ship are not as well appointed as those on the Legend or Splendor. There are fewer drawers and less closet room. However, the round shower enclosure with two sliding doors is a huge improvement over the plastic curtains found on most ships.
The food was a disappointment. It was not up to standards of the other RCL ships we have been on. Fish, meats, and vegetables were all overcooked. It made no difference how steaks were ordered. They all arrived well done. We had a wonderful waiter and assistant and they made every effort to please. Their hard work made up for the improperly prepared food.
La Havre: We took the tour that visited Honfleur. What a wonderful place! We had visited it on a previous cruise in 2001, but did not spend enough time there. On this tour, we had more time available to explore and shop. It is probably one of the best stops on this cruise.
Plymouth: We hit an unexpected storm when approaching Plymouth and the Captain felt that we would not be able to safely tender into the port. We skipped the port and spent the day cruising in the bay south of the city.
Cork, Ireland: In Cork, we took the tour that went to Killarney and Muckross House. This was our first time in Ireland and we both enjoyed the beauty of the southwestern part of this country. I was particularly impressed with beautifully maintained farmhouses and their manicured surroundings. The pub lunch was great and they had the best cheesecake that I have tasted in years.
Belfast: The cruise was supposed to go to Dublin, but they changed the itinerary a couple of weeks before we left and we went to Belfast instead. We were not unhappy about the change, since it gave us an opportunity to see my wife's great grandfather's house about 12 miles south of town. We hired a taxi for about three hours and had a nice visit with the current owners of the house that was built in 1826. After that, we had the taxi driver drop us off in Belfast, but we were disappointed with the downtown area. It was dirty and uninteresting, so we took a shuttle back to the ship.
Greenock, Scotland: We docked in Greenock, but took a shuttle into Glasgow. Because of heavy rains, it was difficult to fully enjoy this city. We did take a hop-on, hop-off bus around the city and saw most of the better-known sites from the bus. I am not sure it was worth the one-hour ride each way between Greenock and Glasgow. We may have had more fun if we had just walked into Greenock, which was not that far from the dock.
Bergen, Norway: Bergen was beautiful and the weather was wonderful, sunny but not too hot. The Bryggens Museum offers a tour of the area around the museum including the Hanseatic houses. Our tour had an English-speaking guide. The Fish Market was great fun.
Geiranger and Flam and the Fjords leading to them can only be described as spectacular. A number of tours are offered at both locations. People from the ship who had taken tours said the scenery was wonderful. We took hikes in both locations and thoroughly enjoyed each day. In Flam, RCL had a cook out for the crew and they had a wonderful day ashore.
Amsterdam, Netherlands: In Amsterdam, we took the Sightseeing & Canal Cruise. It was raining rather heavily most of the day and the boat had a leaky roof. Amsterdam would have been a pleasant place to walk the streets on a dry day.