Since this was our first cruise we have nothing to compare to and we did not try to economize (hence the suite) as we were celebrating a birthday and anniversary and that's the way we like to travel.
Embarkation -- the first suite perk we experienced was at embarkation. After driving into the city, parking the car (very easy), dropping off the luggage and having brunch in the city with our daughter and son-in-law we got back to the terminal about 12:30. The regular line looked incredibly long, but I have no idea how quickly it moved. Going through the check in line took about 15 minutes then we were delivered to the waiting area to be escorted on board. 15 minutes later we were in Cagney's having lunch, which was also our first experience with the theme of food wherever you turned. During the embarkation phase the crew was extremely friendly, but they definitely knew where they wanted you to go. Freestyling didn't kick in until later.
The concierge Ryan was the person who escorted us to Cagney's and he was great the whole cruise -- reservations, questions, directing us to tenders, etc. I don't think we took full advantage of having a butler and Randito was not assertive at all but any request was taken care of immediately. The entire crew was genuinely friendly and helpful through the whole week. My husband asked a hotel officer a question about the equipment on the forecastle. The officer didn't know the answer but called the bridge to find out. Sinan the cruise director was very high energy and very funny.
Our room was ready very shortly after lunch was done so we found our way to the room (slightly surprised they left us to find it on our own rather than being escorted) and enjoyed the view of the city from our balcony/deck. The room had plenty of storage space and was nicely laid out. During the course of the week we didn't hear any of the neighbors, the forward view was delightful, our steward was fabulous, the room temperature controls took the room from warm to cold and back again very easily (which was great for sleeping), the bed was very comfortable and we slept great from the start. There were several electrical outlets so a power strip was not needed. A nightlight was very nice to have and we wished we had brought a small flashlight for checking for lost items in dark places. The balcony was incredible. Since it faced forward there is a bulkhead door that is pretty ugly, but there is also a very nice interior door. Even when we were underway we had the bulkhead door open all day and could sit out on the balcony. Heading south we were moving at about 23 knots and it was very windy standing up, lightly breezy sitting down. When we headed north we were moving at about 15 knots and it was very nice sitting or standing and watching the ocean pass by. We will definitely book a forward room again.
Dining -- we ate at 3 specialty restaurants during the week, once because it came with a bottle of wine at no charge then once for the birthday and once for the anniversary. The anniversary at Le Bistro was my favorite. My steak was excellent and they treated us to a complementary bottle of wine and a cake (for which we give credit to Ryan). For the other specialty restaurants, the food was just as good at the main dining rooms so I think we will stick with the MDRs the next time. A note on the dress code for the Grand Pacific -- one evening my husband wore dress shorts to dinner and he was politely but firmly told that long pants were required. Not sure why ripped jeans were ok, but whatever. Overall we rated the food a 3 compared to a 5 star restaurant, but we weren't there for fine dining and were not at all disappointed. It was never a problem eating when and where we wanted with little to no wait. One of the perks of the suites is dining at Cagney's for breakfast (with coffee freshly brewed in a French press) and lunch. The food was very good but the service was usually incredibly slow so we only went there a few times. The chocoholic buffet was Thursday night -- a whole lot of chocolate that was just a bit scary, but quite tasty!
Casino -- we got lucky the first day -- did very well on the slots and hit a full house on Let It Ride. We then gradually gave it back during the rest of the week. But it's always fun playing with house money. The casino was rather smoky at times -- ventilation could use improvement.
On board activities were fun, mostly low key. You could tell they have this down to a science as most of the venues were perfectly sized for the number of people that attended the activity. We did a whiskey tasting, did a TRX class in the gym (major soreness the next two days), took a waltz lesson, learned to juggle, watched a few game shows and danced at the White Hot party. The entertainment was fun but not over the top. As others have noted Second City is rather lame. We caught the last half of the crew talent show one afternoon and were very impressed at the level of the talent. The events that were held in the lounges had waiters circulating to take drink orders but there was absolutely no expectation that you would order a drink. The waiters smiled and said enjoy the show when you declined the offer.
We attended the Meet and Greet, which had a great turn out of both Cruise Critic members and crew. We ran into Cruise Critic people all over the ship, starting with our next door neighbor.
Excursions -- in Port Canaveral we did the air boat alligator excursion which was interesting but once was enough.
The day at Great Stirrup Cay was cloudy then rainy then nice and we were glad to have a cabana during the downpour. Important note -- bring bug spray, they are not kidding about the sand bugs. The bites don't show up for a day or two but are pretty itchy when they do. Our very least favorite thing about the whole trip were the tenders getting to and from the island. There was a very long wait while they filled the tender to capacity going in both directions and the lower level was very hot with no air circulation.
In Nassau we did the Sea Horse catamaran snorkeling excursion -- very fun, beautiful fish and on the way out we were treated to viewing a water funnel, which the captain of the catamaran avoided getting near.
Disembarkation -- because it had to end sometime. Again the suite perks were great -- we met at 8:30 am and waited in the Stardust theater's comfortable seats until customs was ready for us. We left the theater about 8:45 and were in the car about 9:15. I think the whole process was easy and well organized for the first wave. I could see how it had the potential to turn bad pretty quickly the further back you were in line.
Now we are home and while I write this review my husband is researching our next cruise, which will be on Norwegian and will be in a suite.