The pools are too small to do any proper swimming in. You don't need to dress up in the buffet restaurant, but you do in the others, that is smart casual at least. You have to pay for all the drinks except the tea and coffee on deck, but if you bought one from the bar you would be charged. They operate a cashless system, so you leave them your credit card number and they charge it to your cabin number, then give you a statement so you know what your final bill will be.
I've sailed from Barcelona before but I don't like flying so took the train down overnight which was fun and stuck an extra night in Barcelona before and after the cruise as there wasn't much chance to see the city if was the start and stop point and it's a city we love.
Don't make the mistake we did of thinking we could walk from the cruise port gates to the ship - if your ship is in one of the far berths it can be a looooooong way especially with luggage!
Sitting here wistfully dreaming of the time that ds2 will have stopped his tendency to climb over anything in sight so that we can go cruising without worrying he's about to climb overboard! Another year or two maybe....
GwendolineMaryLacey, yes, I have been cruising for about 15 years.
The first 2 cruises were Caribbean cruises with Princess. They were great fun but I found the ships a bit too large for my personal taste.
My late DH and I then did a few transatlantic crossings on the QE2. We then discovered the Caronia and went on 3 or 4 cruises on her and a couple of more crossings on the QE2. DH died in 2004 and about 2 1/2 months after he died, I went on my first solo cruise - again on the Caronia. I very much wanted cruising to continue to be something I felt I could do, rather than become something we had done. When I told the crew that I had lost my husband, they all sort of adopted me and made sure I was well taken care of. Carnival (parent company of Cunard) sold the Caronia to Saga about 6 months later.
From then on (with one lapse with a P&O cruise and one crossing on the QM2) I went solely on the QE2 - usually two or three times a year. My last cruise on her was about 2 months before she left for Dubai. I'm not really surprised that your parents weren't particularly impressed with her in her last year or so. The decision to sell her had been taken and Carnival more or less stopped doing anything other than the bare minimum to keep her legally afloat. She became a faded shadow of her former self.
For the last couple of years my lovely new DH and I have gone with the smaller companies I mentioned upthread.
Katy - you can sign up to the drinks when you embark, think we paid about $30 a day, although we only got a drinks package for ds and I... They never check they do beer and wine packages too, depends on whether you are big drinkers or not?
Taxi about £35 from airport, you could get a bus from right outside the airport which will take you to Playa Cataylunya, and then a taxi from there would be about £10?
We are going to Maderia, which we know so won't be paying for an excursion - we just need to get to shore (& a rather nice cake shop); we 'know' Tenerife as well. Arrecife we will probably wander, same in Malaga
Barcelona; Funchal; Funchal; Santa Cruz De Tenerife; Santa Cruz De Tenerife; Arrecife; Arrecife; Malaga (Granada); Malaga
To be honest unless there is something very special, we are unlikely to bother; the holiday is to relax rather than rush about to 'see' things iyswim
We did Royal Caribbean last year and paid for the fizzy drinks package (flask they could refill at any bar/pool) for the kids - we needn't have bothered though, the ice cold squashes and water were fine. Have a great time - we loved it
Katy I was on the NCL Epic in May this year. I don't know which ship you are on but we had a great time. Drinks are expensive but if you are tee total then you should be ok. Tea and coffee are free all over the ship but if you drink soft drinks I would recommend the drinks package. For one person 11 day cruise was $80 but at $2.20 - $2.70 per soft drink plus 15% gratuity on every bill it is worth it. Also you are charged $12 per day per person for service charges, you can reduce this down to whatever amount you want you want on the last full day of your cruise just go to reception. We cancelled it completely and tipped in cash those that gave us great service. Don't be intimidated by the look of disgust you get for doing this it but it can be an unexpected expense on your cruise.
Other than that dress is casual during the day ie swimwear shorts etc and as formal as you want in the evening. If you are on the Epic the only place that they ask for a suit and dress is in le bistro which is an extra charge French restaurant other than that there isn't a strict dress code.
I've done cruising with NCL, Royal Caribbean and Yachts of Seabourne. All fab. The freestyle cruising with NCL is great if you have kids and don't want to be tied down to a sitting. Royal Caribbean also great, a little more formal but not overly so. Neither of them take the P on drinks prices - just be canny about what you choose. We've done the wine drinks package with Royal caribbean and that was good value. Seabourne is all inclusive but doesn't have children's facilities (but if you want pure luxury......). You won't be able to take your own alcohol on board. They'll confiscate it although you get it back at the end of the cruise. The very formal cruise has gone by the by now. For the formal dining rooms, they will expect long trousers and collared shirts for men (polo shirt fine) but you don't have to get completely dolled up. Usually there's one formal night per cruise but if you don't fancy it then head off to one of the more casual dining rooms. I suppose with the drinks packages the key is to work out how much you'd go through each day and cost that. Between, water, soft drinks and wine etc we'd probably expect to spend about £50 per day so on a 12 night cruise that would be £600 so £500 for the drinks package would be good value. YMMV. Enjoy your cruise!
There will be more classes than you can shake a hairy stick at! Each night you will get a booklet in your cabin which will give you all the info for the next day... Port, excursions, classes, food, entertainment, basically everything.
Try and go to the formal dining room - it's wonderful. We ate in the buffet restaurants for the first few nights as we had ds(3) and thought it would be too posh...Not at all. They assign you a table, we were with another family with a ds the same age as ours, had the same table and waiting staff for the week, they went out of their way to help, brought ds's food first, came round with the fresh bread basket about 10 times, brought smaller portions of our meals if he wanted them. Totally wonderful!
I remember one morning waking really early, so I went for a wander and left the boys to sleep. Was up on deck about 6am, amazingly peaceful. Sat with a cup of coffee and watched the sun rise over Naples. Magical.