We live in Central Fl, so our drive took about 4 hours to FLL. Embarkation was very smooth. Since we were in AQ, we went through the Suites line. But even the "regular" line seemed short.
Got on board before Noon, but cabins weren't available until 1-1:30. Took someone's suggestion, and ate at Bistro on 5, which was right on the Embarkation deck. Food was good, service a little spotty, but that's to be expected on embarkation day.
While we were eating, an announcement stated the cabin were available. Since we were on deck 5, along with just about everyone else, getting an elevator was a pain. We ended up walking down to deck 4, and got on an elevator easily. Another option would have been to walk to the forward elevators.
Our AQ cabin was nice, with the beds closer to the veranda than the closet, but we felt the storage was poor. 5 drawers, 2 shallow, 3 deeper, not square/rectangular. The shelves in the closet were not very tall either, and the beach towels took up some space. Didn't like that the closet doors were sliding, so only 1 side was available at at time. I'm glad I brought extra hangars for my shirts/blouses. Someone here also suggested Closet Maid pop-up squares for use in the overhead area. We got 2, and they worked well. Ended up keeping our carry-on bags on the sofa to use for additional storage. The light from telephone was annoying until I figured out that the display could be pushed down so the light pointed towards the celiling. All this is really minor, but feel you should know what to expect in an AQ cabin.
LOVED that there was a wide selection of music available on the TV!
The ship is really beautiful, and very well laid-out. Deck 5 is where the main dining room, as well as the specialty restaurants, including Blu, are located. This is also where the fancy boutiques, Michael's Bar, and the Molecular Bar are.
You'll find the casino, Martini Bar, Wine Room, and more of the main dining room on Deck 4. It believe deck 4 starboard is where the select diners enter the main dining room.
Deck 3 is where Guest Relations, and Shore Excursions are. Every evening, there is a band playing music, and folks will dancing in the foyer area.
All decks above deck 3, up to deck 12, are open up to this atrium. The main elevators face into the atrium as well.
Never saw a crowd at the library or in the computer room, even the last day when folks were getting their boarding passes. The card room saw a lot of action, and there are even several Mah Jongg tile sets.
The food in Blu was good/very good. I tried foods I never would have eaten if I had to pay for them: duck, pheasant, some "white" fish, lamb (what can I say - I'm a boring beef/chicken/pork girl!). I really liked the Kobe beef meatloaf, and DH liked the warm-water lobster. Steaks were a little tough.
Our server, Paola, and her assistant, Hugo, were outstanding. Both DH & I loved the intimacy and atmosphere of Blu. Even if the tables for 2 are close together, you never felt forced to talk w/your neighbors.
After the first couple of days, we started going to Blu for breakfast, too. Lots of healthy choices, as well as omelets, french toast, pancakes, etc.
With the exception of Bistro on 5, we didn't try any of the specialty restaurants, nor the main dining room.
Got room service coffee & juice every morning, and liked both. If, however, your coffee preferences lean more toward Starbuck's rather than Dunkin Donuts, you probably will be disappointed.
Thought the Oceanview Grill on deck 14, one up from the pool, was very good. Never too crowded - seats were always available. DH & I both enjoyed the stir-fry & Mexican foods. I liked the egg salad, too.
Got off for shopping in St. Thomas & St. Maarten. Appalled at the jewelry prices until we realized it had been several years since we bought gold jewelry. Gold has gone up significantly in the past 7 years! LOL!
Spent every day by the solarium pool - very relaxing. The outdoor pool looked crowded only on the last 2 sea days. Never saw any chair hogging, but that's not to say it didn't happen.
Since DH enjoys his cigars, we also spent time up on deck 15, port side. The bar service from the Sunset bar was spotty, but we didn't really care.
I remember someone here was concerned about smoke from deck 15 being felt by folks who have aft cabins. I don't think it's an issue as the wind carried all smoke up, up, and away. I couldn't smell cigar, pipe, or cigarette smoke at all when I was on Deck 15.
The Hot Glass Show on Deck 15 is not to be missed. It's much better at night, but see it whenever you can.
We're not "show-goers", so cannot comment on the quality.
Disembarkation was smooth, too. We had a 9:50 disembarkation time, so we hung out on the deck 11 library chairs. Our paper told us to go to the main dining room on deck 4 at 9:50. When we got there about 9:40, we were told our number had been called already, so we got to go back up to deck 5 to disembark. Be aware that there are no public announcements for disembarkation. Regardless, it was only 30 minutes from the time we walked off the ship until we got into our car at an off-site lot.
We liked the ship so much and had such a wonderful time that we booked an 11 night western itinerary for this coming December!
One final suggestion: if you're planning on booking a future cruise (not an open passage) DON'T WAIT until the last couple of days - the office is mobbed!
Oh, and another thing: bring enough clothes and underwear for the entire cruise. The prices for laundry are exorbitant! $2.95 for a T shirt, and that includes an undershirt! There was a "fill-the-bag for $35 or so", but that was on the second-to-last day - too late for us.