Just returned from 1 week cruising the western Mediterranean on the Tapas & Togas cruise.
Everything we could have asked for, in a “hotel room” style cabin. We chose an outside cabin on C deck with a large picture window. The room consisted of a small bathroom with brilliant power shower, a vacuum toilet (like on aeroplanes) and sink with vanity mirror cabinets for all your bits and pieces. Bath and hand towels were provided. Outside the bathroom was a walk-in dressing storage area with 8 drawers, plenty of hanging space with hangers provided and a large space for you to store your suitcases. An additional cupboard housed your lifejackets and an electronic safe (FOC). Our bedroom had been configured to a queen bed configuration but it was basically two single beds pushed together. A sheet with a throw was provided and extra blankets were available in the room should you need it. The only downside of this was they had tried to put a double fitted sheet on to two single beds and every time you got into bed, the sheet would ping off the corners. A bit annoying as I would wake up some mornings sleeping on the mattress. A bedside table with a lamp contained another 4 drawers and at the other side a dressing table, another 4 drawers and tea/coffee making facilities. The table contained a hairdryer. Be warned, there is only one socket available, but I took a 4 gang extension cable and this suited me fine. A small armchair with coffee table finished the room off and I was very pleased with the size.
Two pools, one for adults only with a swim up bar and 4 Jacuzzi pools. Lots of sun beds, most people caught their rays on the top deck but I found my area on deck 7 panorama deck as when I was too hot, I could pull my sun bed back into the shade. This was difficult to do on the top deck. There are certain areas on the ship that suffer from a lot of vibration and were annoying when I was trying to read a book. The main areas I found were directly in front of the funnel on top deck and at the aft sun decks, much quieter as away from the pool area, but the vibration annoyed me and I ended up moving.
Five bars, Connexions bar, wine bar style with seating in cabaret style. Singers and quiz nights were very good and it did seem to be the main bar to go to. Next door was the traditional pub called the oval bar. Lots of dark mahogany wood with tables and chairs, jukebox and dart board. The 3rd bar was called The Blue Bar and I would describe this as quiet, relaxing with a live piano, the Bayside Club (late night disco) and finally The Marquee Bar (this is the show bar).
The ship also contained a casino and slot machine area, a Sega room for kids to play video games, a movie theatre (very modern and was showing movies such as Avatar whilst we were there – all free of charge (FOC)) a launderette (4 x ironing boards and irons FOC, large top loading washing machines (£3 per wash) and large dryers (£2)
The Village Square contained a few shops, but I found them basic and expensive. Lots of designer handbags, perfume, some t-shirts, but I knew I could buy the same items in the UK a lot cheaper. There was also the Photoshop. The ships photographer is always around and at every opportunity will take your photo. They are developed and put on display in the shop, if you want to buy them (6 x 8) they are £6 each. Personally, I did not find some of the photographs very professional and felt there were expensive for what they are.
Amazing! We ate 6 nights in Plantation and 1 night in Waterfront. The other two restaurants require an additional cover charge. La Luna is advertised as “dining under the stars” but if you eat before 8pm, you are just in a sectioned area of the sun deck with kids jumping in an out of the pool. Not exactly the romantic evening you would wish for. We didn’t utilise the Bistro restaurant, but there was lots of promotion for it, but every time we walked past, it was nearly always empty. To be honest, the Plantation restaurant (24/7 dining) was great. The staff were very attentive, they always insisted on you wiping your hands with alcohol gel disinfectant prior to obtaining any food which was excellent and hygiene was always forefront of their work. The food was excellent, lots of choice, very fresh and hot. A choice of a variety of fresh salads, desserts and many themed nights are available. They would usually have two themes on, for instance if you didn’t like Indian food, you could have Spanish food which was lovely. Continental and full English breakfast is available every morning. Unfortunately, no matter how much you say you will eat healthily, temptation is very great and it’s difficult not to sample various foods. I have definitely come back a few pounds heavier! Tea, coffee and small glasses of tap water (orange juice also at breakfast) are free to obtain, but any other drinks are purchased using your cruise card.
The on board “Freedom to move” team (dancers and singers) are brilliant and we saw a show every night that involved these guys at some point. We also were lucky to see Fogwell Flax, a comedian who also is known for his spectacular sound effects he makes with just his mouth and a microphone. On a different night, he also performed a tribute to Sting & The Police and he played the guitar alongside a full band, he was amazing and sounded just like Sting and sung his greatest hits.
We were also lucky to witness the “Planets” acrobatic display using the rigging on the sun deck. The captain sailed a few miles out to sea, turned off the engines and turned the ship so the funnel blocked the wind to the acrobats. For 45 mins we were bobbing about in the ocean going nowhere whilst we were beautifully entertained by the aerialists and acrobats all with a futuristic theme. (note: If you want a seat, you will have to be sat down about 2 hours before it starts as seating is limited. )However, no matter where you stood, you always had a good view.)
Day 1 – At sea
Day 2 – ½ day in Tunisia – we chose not to leave the ship through recommendations from friends who had been before. We spoke to some people who did visit the market and they looked somewhat traumatised! One gentleman we spoke to (in his 60s) said the taxi drivers were the worst. They would not take no for an answer (same as the market stall holders) and became quite aggressive towards him which he was obviously upset about. We are glad we did not disembark
Day 3 – Rome – We chose to do a trip called the “Best of Rome” It was £95 per person and was the most expensive trip for Rome. The trip to Rome is 1 hr 20mins by coach where you travel with your first tour guide who gives you a briefing about getting lost! He gives you a card with an emergency number. He also provides you with a radio receiver that you wear around your neck and wear an earpiece. He tests them all whilst you are travelling to Rome. You then get off and meet your second tour guide. She is very experienced and speaks into the microphone whilst you are walking around. The tour guides all hold a flag or scarf on a stick in the air and due to the group size (41 in ours) you lose sight of the tour guide and have to keep this flag in sight at all times. As there is a tight time line whilst walking from site to site, you tend to spend more time keeping your eye on the tour guide flag rather than taking in the sites you were meant to see. Rome was packed with people; August is the main time for Italian holidays. We went around and inside the Colluseum (tours are able to bypass the queues) the queue for entrance was amazing long, so if you choose to do Rome on your own, be prepared to wait. It cost £12 to enter the Colluseum if doing it on your own. After the Colluseum we were taken for a three course Italian meal. We then visited the Vatican, the Basilica, the Cystine chapel and St Peters Square, then the bus ride back to the ship. Although I found the sites fascinating, I found the tour very stressful and the fear of getting lost was very great due to the sheer numbers of people. I would not recommend this tour for very young children or people with buggies as steps and cobbles are involved, but the sheer number of people was overwhelming and spoilt the trip for me.
Day 4 – Genoa – lovely town. We chose to do the half day – tour around Genoa (which we loved) and then visited Europe’s largest aquarium. Many went to Portofino and also said it was beautiful.
Day 5 – St Raphael. – We did this on our own and we had been told by friends that there was a market on the promenade on a Sunday and the beach was walking distance. The market was huge with lots of bargains to be had.
Day 6 – Barcelona. Again we did this on our own. We only wanted to see Las Ramblas, but arrived very early. Be warned, it will depend on where the ship docks as to whether it is walking distance or not. Passengers that had been before said they were much closer previously. We chose to use the shuttle service which was £8 return. We strolled along Las Ramblas and then chose an open topped tour bus. The official (green) tourism tour bus cost £22 per person which gave you three circular tours taking in all the sights. Two of the tours took 2 hours each, whilst the 3rd took 40 mins. You could hop on and hop off along the way and your ticket was valid for the full day. Take plenty of sun block though and a hat as we fried on the top deck and abandoned the tour due to the heat.
One other tip – be wary of pick pockets. The ship does warn you that they are rife in Barcelona and very clever. Keep your passport on your person and your money closer; only take with you what you really need.
Well, think that’s about it….I have been back a week now, but missing Ocean Village already and it is a shame that she is going out to Oz in October and a full refurbishment and rebranding to “Pacific Jewel?” – I’ll miss you Ocean Village x