Background: Having cruised a total of 20+ times, 3 with X (Infinity/Solstice/Eclipse), HAL, RCCL, Princess, Cunard, and Carnival (once was more than enough!), I must say that X has classy cruising dialed-in. GF and I are 50-ish give and take, and wanted to get away for a week of unwinding, relaxing, and to recharge the batteries. Mission accomplished thanks to X. We live in South Florida, so a short limo ride to the POM placed us at the curb at 11 am. We booked Concierge Class, so we had zero wait to check in. A quick picture for the Sea Pass card and off we went. By 11:15 am, we were handed our mimosas. Next stop was Bistro on Five. What a great way to start the cruise. We were seated by the window with a fabulous view, and enjoyed a quiet, terrific lunch of soup, panini, and crepes for desert. Oh, while waiting for our soup, I walked over to the beverage package sales area on deck 5 and purchased the Premium Alcohol Package ($54/day + 15% gratuity) This may sound expensive, but in the end was a great deal for us. The most interesting benefit of this package is the psychological feeling of being able to have any kind of beverage, whenever you wanted it. Specialty coffees, sodas, waters, beer, wine, alcohol, etc, etc. Every time we passed a bar, no matter where we were on the ship, cocktail please! After all, we were on vacation and were there to enjoy ourselves. Best thing we did! We highly recommend it. You never have to think about how much the drink you are ordering is and can try any and everything on the menu.
Stateroom: At 1 pm, they announced that the cabins were ready, so off we went, deck 10, port side, mid-ship, CC 1099 (cat c2). Our cabin was located directly between the forward and mid-ship elevators which was perfect. No noise from anywhere as we had cabins above and below. The cabin was perfect in all ways. Bathroom spacious and luxurious with plenty of storage and a fabulous shower with endless hot water and nice pressure. X provides very nice shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion which was re-supplied every day. In CC, the towels were the larger over-sized variety, which were great. Other CC benefits were fresh flowers, fruit, canapes, priority embarkation, reservations, concierge desk, etc. Well worth the few extra dollars CC costs. The balcony is awesome. Had breakfast on it and was a true pleasure. Our cabin steward Desmond took extreme care of us all week and was just perfect. The bed was very comfortable and the pillows were super comfy. Plenty of storage for all of our stuff and all of our luggage fit under the bed easily.
Dining: We ate in the MDR every night and were lucky to have Mr. Froliam Santos as our waiter. He was such a sweet guy from the Dominican Republic. He couldn't do enough for us and by the 2nd day we felt as though we had known him forever. Our Assistant Dennis was equally as good. The food was great, no complaints. The menu has enough selections to satisfy anyone, in fact at times making a choice was difficult. Mr. Santos thought for us and brought us both items without even asking. I like coffee ice cream, which never seemed to be on the menu. Have no fear, Mr. Santos delivered coffee ice cream every night until i had to shut it off. Just fabulous in all regards. Having sailed on X 2x prior, we had already enjoyed the specialty restaurants and didn't bother with them this trip. They are terrific, especially Murano, but to spend an additional $80 + gratuity didn't make sense to us.
We only ate in the buffet once for breakfast. It was fine, but we are the type that like to be pampered to, so it was room service on the balcony or MDR. Remember, X=class. Buffet does not = class.
Activities: Plenty of choices for everyone. You can do as much or as little as you desire. The lecture series on ship navigation and interrogations were quite interesting. We just like chilling so didn't partake in many activities. The casino staff was largely indifferent, which was our only complaint of the cruise (and we won $$$$). The blackjack dealers were like lightening fast robots who would never smile or engage in conversation. Gambling is supposed to be a form of entertainment, but oh well, no big deal. Main pool area was generally crowded, but there are plenty of other places to get a lounge either in the sun or out. (Pool bar and Mast Grill were 2 great hangout spots as was the Sunset bar (great views!). The much-hyped Lawn Club is great but could probably be put to better use as X has done with the new layout on The Reflection (Alcoves and Grill)-Good move X!
Service: Like we said earlier, X has "Classy" dialed-in. The service was top shelf all the way-zero complaints. X has taken all of the annoying things other cruise lines do and removed them from their ships. They provide an engineering marvel full of luxury for you to make your own. In fact, that summarizes out feelings quite well. The Eclipse was "our ship" for the week.
Ports and Shore Excursions: San Juan is no big deal. A stroll around Old San Juan, a stop at the Sheraton Casino, CVS for all of the little things you forgot at home, and back on the ship. If the ship docked in the morning, then a visit to the rain forest is awesome, but with a 3:30pm arrival, the day is kind of short. But, with the later arrival time, you get the feeling of 2 full sea days with 3 port days then 2 more full sea days. This makes it feel like 7 full days. St Thomas is beautiful and historic. A 5 minute, $4 pp jitney ride drops you "downtown" where all of the fabulous shopping is. Lunch at Cafe Amici in the AH Reese "Mall" is a must. A walk up the famous "99 steps", then we took a $20 pp 2 hour tour of the island including a stop at the famous Mountain Top (1500 feet up) with breath-taking views of Magen's Bay and Tortolla. Our guide stopped numerous times to explain all of the local plants and vegetation, even pulling some bananas off a tree for us to sample. St Maarten-Ah, the jewel of the Caribbean. We left the ship at 8:30 am and were on board our rented quad ATV's at 9am and didn't drop them off until 4pm. We toured the entire island, stopping many times along the way including Maho Beach to watch several jets land and take off. This is a must for anyone visiting. The beaches of St. Maarten are amongst the most beautiful in the world. The French side is much nicer than the Dutch side.
Having 2 1/2 full sea days at the end of the cruise is perfect. Plenty of time to unwind and do whatever floats your boat.
Disembarkation: I went down to the Customer Service Desk and requested an 8 am disembarkation time without issue. At 7:45 am we went down to Cafe El Baccio for one last double espresso and pastries and walked off the ship at 8. Down the escalator, scooped our bags on the carousel, had a porter load us up, and off to US Customs we went. By 8:20 am we were curbside and our limo pulled right up and we were home in Boca Raton by 9:15 am.
Summary: X=Classy. Nuf said. We highly recommend X to anyone who does NOT want to be in a floating shopping mall with cattle call party animals making fools of themselves. Remember, $ can't by class, but X delivers it!
Cheers and happy sailing. Already ready to book Reflection 4/13/13 sailing.