This is our first cruise ever! It was an amazing trip. We've been planning on it forever. I nailed the cruise deal, ship, and date research while my girlfriend researched all ports activities.
The ship was huge for first timer, 12 floors hotel to be exact. Although we didn't really dig their decor (very old school casino feel, gold color bling bling every where) but the service was very personal. All staff were very professional and friendly. Our house keeper call us by names daily (we tipped him extra).
We stayed at Empress level. It was quiet deck to stay at. High enough from busy casino and restaurants downstairs and two decks away from the pool upstairs, without all the pool deck noise. I think cabin location on a ship is the most important part of the cruise. We loved our room, cause it only took us few flight of stairs we were at pool and drinking martinis. But aft facing room was quiet a walk every day to the elevators. There is laundry mat on every other floor if you need to do laundry.
Entertainment was fun, I mean not top notched, but I was on a cruise ship, I didn't expect much. It was good enough for me. What was the best experience for us were food and spa. The dining was nothing like I imagined. I thought all inclusive cruise dining must be some kind of lame joke. Turned out the food was gourmet restaurant level food. Dinner became something we expected every day on the ship. We were the first ones waiting by the door every night lol.
Cloud 9 Spa was nice. We paid around $200 cover charge to use their thalasso pool, steam bath and thermal suite for the entire length of the cruise. I don't know, I think it was well worth it, we were there almost every night. What I should have done was I should have booked a cloud 9 spa room...
Downside? yea, the "fun ship" had too much fun, there were many young kids on board, running around and screaming in the hall way... I guess that's ok, but not too cool with college drunks back flipped into the swimming pool with baseball cap and cargo shorts... sometimes even with beer in their hands... that kinda killed the mood. Get off the ship was a nightmare to us. Both at ports and last day, especially if you have a plane to catch or what not. To us, we were so nervous at Cabo when the tendering ship taking forever to unload people one group at a time, we almost missed our tour. (I guess that's the downside for booking the tour outside of the cruise line)
Overall it was great experience. We can't wait until our next cruise to Alaska.