My husband and I booked this cruise with 2 other couples about a year in advance so to say the least, we were very anxious...
Some backround information on us: We are in our mid 20's and LOVE cruising! it's how we spent our first vaction together and even our honeymoon. Living in Florida helps make it very affordable. The two other couples we went with feel the same way. Our idea of a great cruise include plenty of relaxation, sun, drinking and a good time. We have only been on Carnival as a couple, but I have once went on Royal with my family. I love Carnival's party atmosphere. And im not much of a "foodie" so that does not play a big part in my cruise review... On the cruise we did have to sacrifice some of what we wanted to do to apease the group.
The Ship: A-FREAKING-MAZING! There is so much to do I can't even begin to explain. This ship beats anything carnival has to offer. In a way this can kind of be a bad thing for some people. It can cut into some peoples relaxation time because you feel like you have to experience everything the ship had to offer. So many shops, activities, movies, restaurants... My husbands favorite thing was the flow rider.
Free Dining: We had the 8:30 dining time in the adagio dining room. To me food was great, but like I said before I'm not a "foodie". If I don't have to cook it or clean up after it, anything is great. Best breakfast I found was at Johnny Rockets. Best lunch was park cafe. Park Cafe had great sandwiches and salads they toss for you with your dressing selection. The hot dog stand was also good along with the donut stand.
Specialty Dining: We only tried Izumi's sushi, Johnny Rockets for lunch and Ritas Cantina for dinner. Sushi was great. Johnny Rockets was great, but greasy. Ritas was a blast with 3 margaritas and food in a party atmosphere. One of the guys we were traveling with was disappointed in some of the specialty restaurant hours of operation, so make sure to check that out
Room: We booked the Superior Ocean Balcony room 14206. The room was comparable with anyother balcony room I have been in. My husband disagreed and said this one was bigger. The only tiny gripe I had was one opening of the closet was blocked by the couch. It was kind of hard to manuver around. The bathroom felt more spacious than I had remembered on Carnival. The other couples booked interior rooms on the 8th floor. The location for them was great with central park being right there. Personally, I don't mind spending the extra money on the balcony. This ensures me I get the "relaxation" part of my vacation. There's nothing like eating breakfast and reading a book on the open ocean... So peaceful, you feel like you are in your own little world. Having an interior room feels like a dungeon to me and if you want to see the ocean you are more than likely to be surrounded by people. If you can afford it get the balcony... to save money look into rum runners cruise kits ;), works every time. The TV was nice and they played various movies.
Entertainment: The shows were amazing, nothing like a have ever experienced on or off a cruise. Loved all the shows except for blue planet.. just not my style. My husbands favorite was the comedy. Mine is a toss up between Chicago and ocean aria. Try not to miss anything and make sure to pre book them. Beyond the shows though the cruise lacked entertainment. One night they had an outdoor party at the solarium, which was awesome, but beyond that the music the played in the blaze nightclub was disco-ish, not my kind of music to party to. This was a major disappointment for me.
Ports: Labadee, nice and relaxing. Falmouth, not much to say. Cozumel, Beautiful. In Labadee we did the zip line and relaxed on the beach. Falmouth we did atv'ing which was a disappointment in my opinion. If my husband and I would have went by ourselves we would have done an excursion on a beach to relax, but the group wanted to atv, so that's what we did. The view from good hope plantation was beautiful, but you didn't have a break to take pictures and the ride itself wasn't exciting enough for me. We went snorkeling in Cozumel through cozumeltours.com. again not my idea of fun, but it was a beautiful day out and i just layed out and relaxed. after snorkeling we took a cab to Paradise Beach, which was fun. If I were to go back I would just go there.
Summary: All in all, a great time. I cant decide whether it beats carnivals rates and party atmosphere though... Next time I book a cruise I'm going to base it on the ports of call, because nothing can beat this boat