Preface..my 10 year old son and I joined my husband in Miami on a week long business trip over Spring Break. The beach and Marriott pool can only hold the interest of a child for so long, so I booked this quickie 3 day sailing even after reading some frightening reviews. I have never cruised without my husband before but figured my son has enjoyed each of the 9 cruises he has taken, so we gave it a try.
We drove from Miami and utilized the valet parking for $15/day. Very convenient and they took good care of my rental car. The port was a bit further from Miami than I had figured, but we arrived early and made it through check in with the first 100 cruisers. That being said, I was dismayed to find only rather late seating or very early seating for our dining choices. We chose Rios Steak House for our first evenings meal (early) before embarkation and were in board within 35 minutes of the valet taking the rental car.
We carried on our rolling luggage and picked a poolside lounger near an umbrella to,park our luggage and grab a bite to eat. Imagine my surprise to find crisp, cold salads, paella, kick butt fried chickens and two, count 'em TWO full steamship sides of beef. The real deal. Have not seen that on Royal Caribbean, Holland American or even Carnival in many, many years. It was perfectly seasoned and one was rare, the other more well. Melt. In. Your. Mouth. ..Gods honest truth. It was the first of many tasty, well prepared food items we sampled on board. I imagined (based on assumptions and other reviews) that the Embarkation Buffet would be a mish-mosh of cheap cold cuts, burgers and dogs. Not at all. Impressed me from the start.
We perused the ship, easily done, and scoped out the photo spots to later document our "Mommy & Son Solo Spring Break Cruise". I must honestly say- the photographers on the ship were among the best we've ever encountered on a ship. The prices much, much cheaper than on your other commercial lines with better packaging prices, varieties and quality. Another pleasant surprise.
The "see thru" pool and tiny but HOT hot tubs captures my sons attention through sail away. He lamented he did not want to go to,"kids camp" onboard, but once he met some boys in the pool and began talking XBOX & Wii games, it was a sealed deal. He agreed to meet up with them in the kids club after dinner. We went to Rios still full from the overindulgence of steamship beef, and skipped the soup (found a hair in the self serve ladle for the guest in line ahead of us -gross!), picked up one each of the aps to share along with a salad. I ordered the pork choice and my son and his atypical 10'year old palate declined the kids menu and went for more beef. Our 2 table mates we're sisters/teachers in their mid/late 70's who enjoyed the vegetarian and seafood (shrimp skewers) as well. The staff rounded the dining room with skewers of meat which the table agreed to try a bite of each. Everything was above average. Turkey, pork, beef, chicken..very good but a tad salty for my taste. The iced tea was strong and brisk. Service was attentive, no complaints. To be honest, we passed up dessert for the first time ever o. A cruise..just too full. They were self serve and looked tasty & well presented. Son went to kids club, I made the obligatory casino donation and checked out the show. The entertainment was on par with the bigger lines, again impressing me.
We arrived in FGB and opted for the Lucaya Beach with Buffet lunch & Glass Bottom Boat add on. Debarkation for the tours from the lounge was a it chaotic (lack of good communication), but we mustered through. We were bussed to the Lucaya Marketplace and walked to the glass bottom boat. Very clean..nicer than expected. The crew chummed with mahi mahi heads and we saw tons of fish and several shark of substantial size. Great photo ops, and we circumvented a squall on the way back which was also photogenic. We then walked about 10 minutes through the Marketplace over to the Lucaya Resort to the furthest beach away from the main pools and recreation of the resort..kind of the very end of their property. There we gathered our included towels and lunch vouchers and easily found 2 loungers submersed in the infinity pool right beside the water. Absolutely phenomenal view, cool clean water and white sand beaches. We spent the day parked right there, leaving only for potty breaks (spotless resort restrooms) and for the included ship-made basic but satisfying buffet of fried chicken, tuna salad, green salad, local style rice and veggies. ice tea, water & lemonade were provided during the lunch hours of 11-2 in a reserved banquet are offering inside a/c dining of open air covered veranda (fan stirred) seating steps away & overlooking the blue green water. In addition to the long, winding Infinity pool, there was a huge hot tub (20+ seater), croquet court, volley ball and assorted lawn games run by the ships staff for the kids. Also available we're hot dogs & burgers for lunch a few steps from the pool if you preferred over the buffet.
The desserts of chocolate and carrot cake were also good. This was the best excursion I can recall ever taken booked through a ship. We shopped the market for non-US cigars for the hubby left in FL and a fresh cut green coconut with frozen juice for the kiddo. Searched high and low for the free Wifi I read about on these boards. Nada at the resort OR the market. My "neighbor" at the pool was able to get on the resorts WiFi on his MacBook, but no luck with my iPad.
Back onboard, we cleaned up, roared FGB at sail away and headed to the Crystal Dining room for out dinner. I ordered the lamb which was again seasoned and cooked perfectly and my son declined the kids menu telling the waiter he wished for the Beef Wellington, medium rare please. Got a chuckle from the waifsr and our tablemates-a Mennonite couple new to cruising who required our assistance "translating" the menu. Sonny boy & I shared an Indian Curry dish as well and held our chuckles politely when the couple asked our Indian waiter to explain to them what curry was and what it tasted like. We politely offered them first sample of our meal, though they declined. All courses were comparable to those on the big lines and beautifully presented.
Again the son met friends in camp while I again made the donation, had a cocktail and watched the comedian and part of the variety show that opened for a mini Cirque de Soliel style headline show. Again, the band was great, the entertainment I sampled in the various lounges & bars was on par with HAL, CCL & RC. Broken record...I was pleasantly surprised.
Debarkation, as we carried on/off our luggage was simple as we were not required to debark until 10:30am so we didn't rush to line up. Still about an hour to get off, but not harried and enjoyed a nice breakfast before leaving.
Had an enjoyable trip, but had few niggling issues I need to share. I booked the least expensive ocean view catagory cabin possible for this last minute trip. The first night I was too warm and was unable to sleep.. At 1am I called the desk to ask someone to check the regulator on my a/c..engineering sent someone within 10 minutes. They pulled the grate down, wrenched something or other and I immediately heard more of an airflow. Went to bed hoping it would be better only to wake at 4am drenched in sweat. The following night, sporting my fresh Bahamian sunburn, I again called them at midnight as the cabin heated up again as the evening progressed. Again, staff responded immediately, jiggled some stuff and said they would adjust the vent "from above" & left. By 1:30 I called again and told them I has to either sleep on deck or they needed to send a fan. An oscillating tower fan was promptly delivered and I was comfortable enough to get some sleep after my 3rd shower of the night. The rooms are just tiny enough to have the air moved effectively by a small fan. We were in cabin 8486 and it was directly across from the central elevators. The other issue involved bar staff poolside. I wanted to order my son. "sail away" drink. They have the usual ridiculous oversized cup drinks..the Pina Colada in the ginormous Margarita glass caught my eye. $15 for a non-alcoholc drink..but what the heck. The menu said sail away special-3 choices ofmthe full booze laden drinks for $12. i asked the bartender If I could mix the special colada and strawberry in a non liquor version and get it in the big cup, and he said sure. My bill became to $17 before the 15% tip and when I asked why he shrugged his shoulders and said special orders were extra. I explained the full booze version of the same drink was only $12 in the same glass, but he walked away to serve someone else. I waited for his return for the slp and asked again for an explanation of the higher than advertised price and he spoke to his coworker( in creole ) who came over and said "please sign Miss". That ticked me off to the point that I refused to purchase another drink onboard and procured rum on the Island, "smuggled" it back and mixed my own cocktail. Never did that before, burmi did confess to,it on my guest comment card and explained why & attached the receipt with the staffs name indicated. Was the cheapest bar tab I ever had!
In summation, I was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience of this sailing & cruise line. I will say the staff passed in the halls did not go out of their way to smile or greet you, but any service staff that I actually interacted with was cordial and competent. The ship herself was in nice shape,for a repurposed ferry, the photogs were great and the food prep, quality and presentation were unexpected surprises. The next time I find myself in the MIA FLL or WPB area with 3 days and a very few hundred u ks to burn, I would set sail again without hesitation.