This is part of a series of posts about my family’s two week cruise in the Mediterranean in July, 2012. New posts will pop up every couple of days, or as they’re written, which as you might be able to tell, is a pretty slow manner.
After getting situated in the room and wondering how the hell we were going to sleep four people, we started to sit and figure some things out. Again, we were clueless as to how this worked. There was a king-sized bed, a small couch that pulled out into a twin-sized bed, and about 18 inches between each of them and the walls to walk. We got a little worried that we really were going to have to sleep in some weird arrangement. The Boy volunteered to sleep on the balcony each night, but we were pretty sure that wasn’t allowed. There was this thing in the ceiling that looked like it could open up, but we didn’t have a key to unlock it. Who did we have to call? All that stuff.
As it turns out, there is a room attendant who is hanging around all the time. He handles a few rooms in the hallway where you are and you’ll see him every time you leave and every time you return. So what happens is you have to leave the room sometime in the morning and sometime in the early evening so he can take care of the room. When you leave in the morning, he makes the beds and puts the room back to the “living room” type setup. When you leave in the evening, presumably for dinner, he pulls out the couch bed and the bed that’s located in the ceiling. It’s quite an awesome little setup and I think we all felt like we weren’t going to die when we realized that our sleeping arrangements were as we assumed they would be.
One of the things that I heard from seemingly everyone who had taken a cruise before was that I’d absolutely love the food. Our setup was that we would have a dinner reservation every night at the same time. There are two seatings each night in the main dining room—6:00 and 8:30. We had the early seating and appreciate variety enough to not have missed any one of those. The kids took a few nights off and hit the buffet, which is open just about all day and requires no reservation nor does it have any limits. You could eat there for every meal if you wanted. I would say that of the twelve nights we were on board, Christy and I had all twelve dinner meals and the kids averaged eight each.
Each night we sat at the same table and had the same waiters. There were two of them, and they paired up to handle about 20 people as a team. There was also a head waiter who oversaw several teams like ours. The bar guy was always the same as well. So there were four people with whom we dealt every night at dinner. We got to know them and had some pretty fun conversations about Reno, Jamaica, Mauritius and India as a result.
As for how the food was, I’d say it was average. I think that when people tell you the food is fantastic, they are coming from a different place than I am. First, coming from Nevada, you have access to buffets that are decent all the time. You can go to one whenever you want, 24 hours a day. The number of people at the buffet at any given time was astounding. It was tough to find a table most of the time. So I come to the conclusion that the people telling you how great the food is on ships are people who want to pile up at the buffet. Second, I also have catered meals often due to my work. There are events I attend and simply times that we get free food that rivals anything but the very best restaurants. There are some outstanding dishes that I had that impressed me, but I also have a tendency to judge a place on how well they make a simple New York Strip taste. For that, I say this was average.
However, even with the average (and I mean average, not bad at all) food, the dining experience was pretty cool. Getting to know the waiter staff was fun and made for a way better overall trip than it could have been. My overall assessment is that the ships really know what it takes to make it an good time for the passengers, and they executed that.
As an aside, one of the options you get is to order a wine package. They try to get you to do one before your trip, and if you don’t, they come at you hard on the first night of dinner. Either you’re going to be pounding cocktails (which is fine), you don’t drink or you’ll order the wine. We learned this because we ordered the wine. We got six bottles of our choice, which lasted the entire trip. It amounted to a half bottle each night. Sometimes I had wine, sometimes I had a drink. Christy always had wine. Far more entertaining, however, was the mom and her two younger kids next to us. She was with someone who looked like her mother, and they nailed at least a bottle each night. And the older mom wasn’t drinking much. Good for them.