Summary: Not a bad cruise, very energetic, very active and full of entertainment. It is a cruise for fun and activity, not for leisure and gourmet. Overall, the food is fine and good. It is just not 4 star or 5 star that will get on other cruise lines at a much higher price. Worth the price and a lot of fun for a quick vacation escape.
Day one: We stayed one night at the Miami Hilton downtown which was a perfect location. Close to shops and restaurants and also very close to the pier. It was a simple 10 minute taxi to the pier at 12:30 for $15. Boarding: Being VIP makes it very fast and very convenient. It only took about 15 minutes to get through the security line where they examine every single bottle. They literally look at every single bottle of water and make sure it is sealed and actually water. They are super diligent to make sure no alcohol is brought on board in any concealed method. Each person can take on only one bottle of wine each in their carry on luggage. They even checked the bottle to make sure it was wine and not hard liquor. Be prepared! (and the drinks on the ship are expensive...$8 - $10 each when you include the gratuity). This is their focus and source of income...Our one complaint when getting on board as a VIP is our cards were not activated ? We then had to immediately stand in line for 30 minutes to get our cards "activated" for some reason. This was not fun right after boarding and still don't understand what caused it...
Fun: The cruise is full of activities from dawn to ...? People are up all hours and there is always something going on. There is a lot of great bands and singers everywhere. It was a fun atmosphere. We really liked Mikey that sang and played acoutic guitar on the 9th floor Lido pool. There are people in line for the pizza 24x7 to say the least...the shows on the ship were OK. They were no spectacular with amazing dancers and singers that you would see on the more expensive cruises. However, the comedy shows were very good and well attended. The "live band" Karaoke was also popular and fun for many people. Maybe we were lucky, but there was not too much smoking on the ship and the casino was limited smoking -- it was nice that we did not need to wash our clothes if we stepped into the casino, etc.
Food: On the food front, the "Emile's" buffet is a nice layout with a fair number of choices. Never felt too crowded. Nothing fancy, nothing extravagant, but it was always decent. The Diamond Steakhouse on the first night is a great idea...you get a bottle of wine with some very good service and attention. Highly recommended -- comparable to most 4 star restaurants on land. Worth the money. The highlight of the entire cruise was the Chef's Table one night. We went into the Galley with the head chef during dinner. It was amazing to see how things were working and being prepared during real time during dinner. It was amazing to see how much food is prepared and served so quickly. We then enjoyed a 7 course delicacy designed and prepared by a team of 6-7 chefs with precision and amazing flavors. They even had an amazing magician come into the room and entertain everyone. It was worth every penny of the $75 we paid and we would have loved to do it again. More than once we enjoyed the "Guy's Burgers" which were VERY good and tasty. Almost addictive with lots of calories, so be careful. The wine list on the ship is OK, not bad, but not great. Set your expectations...not high priced, but limited choices. Blue Iguana fish tacos and breakfast burritos were great and a good choice for something different for breakfast or lunch.
Ports: The one tip we can suggest is that if you do not have plans or a tour on any of these ports, you may be challenged. These are not like European cities where there is lots to do and see by just getting off the ship...