Every colour, creed and nationality is represented and the people-watching is fantastic. One man wore a uni-suit to lunch.
Seasoned pros work the buffet in minutes while newbies like us took forever to navigate the vast choice on offer.
There are some not-so wonderful aspects. Meal times start with an alcohol hand-wash before you enter the restaurants, an unpleasant reminder of the aforementioned food poisoning outbreaks. Before the ship leaves port there is an evacuation drill. While displeasing, both are designed to make your holiday incident free.
Cruising gives you a sense of adventure without the element of surprise – except perhaps when you receive your bill. Embrace the waves, but be careful of the hidden extras.
CRUISING DOS AND DON'TS
DO book your excursions and treatments in advance. The cruise-literate all do, which means some choices may be booked out if you leave it to the last minute. The beauty salon offers everything from Shellac manicures for $25 to collagen-boosting Elemis facials, teeth whitening and even fillers, with a medic on board to administer injectable fillers from brands such as Botox and Restylane There’s a large hair salon also.
DO pack your trainers and gym gear. You can use the time to kick-start a fitness regime. There’s a finely equipped gym and a running track on the top deck with killer views.
DO explore the option of a stateroom with a balcony on the port side. A port-side cabin lets you see all the sights as you enter each city. You can take breakfast on the balcony. Sipping a glass of chilled white wine while enrobed by the sea air takes some beating. It is also a place to read your book in peace in serene surroundings.
DON’T stock up on duty-free booze before boarding. You can’t bring on board alcohol from any of the ports you visit aboard.
GETTING THERE: Aer Lingus and Ryanair both fly to Barcelona El Plat but their arrival times may not suit the final arrival time onboard ship, which is about 2.30 pm. You may have to stay the night in Barcelona.
On the return leg of the journey the ship docks in Barcelona at about 7am giving you ample time to catch return flights home.
A seven-night Western Mediterranean cruise onboard Royal Caribbean International’s Liberty of the Seas costs from €5,198 (including flights) for a family of four – two adults and two children – sharing an ocean view family stateroom, if booked before February 28th. The ship calls at Provence (Toulon); Nice (Villefranche); Florence; Rome (Civitavecchia) and Naples, before returning to Barcelona.
See royalcaribbean.ie, or tel: 1800 932 619