Arriving at the check-in area was very easy and you can drop off your luggage right away, although it took a couple of hours for it to be delivered to the room. Getting through the lines and security was no problem and very efficient. However, when checking into the cruise we happened to get the extremely slow woman who did not know how to use a computer, although we were in no rush because people weren't getting on the boat due to weather issues so this was not a problem. The wait time to get on the boat was very minimal, there were barely any lines and we had no trouble with this either. The crew on this ship were very friendly and helpful and the guest services did a very nice job dealing with the difficult customers as well as the people with simple questions.
When first getting on the cruise the only available eating area was, "The Gathering", which is the buffet. The food is average although very crowded since everyone on the cruise ship was trying to eat there all at More
once. I recommend the pasta bar above the buffet very much, it is rarely crowded and very very good. We tended to only eat in the dining room since we usually had lunch on the ports, and the dinners were excellent. There was something to choose from every night and our waiter was outstanding and always looking out for us (He would often recommend the best dishes and bring us extra food so we could try other things). The Steakhouse was very good, not too sure it was worth the extra $35 a person, but it was very tasty. The Indian restaurant near one of the pools was also very good, although the line went into the buffet one day at sea when everyone was trying to eat there. We never got room service but it is complimentary for those who want to stay in their rooms. Overall, the food was very good and our family enjoyed it a lot.
We stayed in a balcony cabin (and our 2 daughters were in the balcony room next to us). The cabin was very nice, and the towel animals they made for us after dinner were a nice touch. This was our first cruise so compared to hotel rooms they are a tad small, but getting a balcony is definitely worth the upgrade if you want to be outside but avoid being in crowds. The only thing about staying on the part of the ship we did, was that every single night you could hear the loud music below you. It was so loud that you could figure out what song it was and hear the individual words. It usually stopped after 12 but good luck sleeping before then.
The ship was built to hold 4500 passengers, but designed to hold probably 3000. Especially on sea days it was crowded in most places. No matter what day it was the elevators were extremely slow and we ALWAYS had to wait for them. We were on the 6th deck so we often took the stairs which was not a problem because we got some exercise out of it. The pools were also tiny, they could probably fit 20 people in them at a time and in order to get a chair you had to get there very early, but you could usually find some away from the pool. There were loads of places inside the ship to sit down and relax and always something to do. We recommend the comedy show, but not the first guy, he was absolutely terrible. They got better after him but the first one we saw got barely any laughter and it was just awkward. The casino was also very fun as well as the shows at night, which weren't bad for a cruise ship.
Overall, as a first time cruiser we thought it was very fun and definitely a good experience. The only downside was the amount of people that didn't follow the no smoking rule. It is absolutely horrible to be sitting outside having a drink and inhaling smoke as you relax. The people in the balcony next to us were also smokers so we were forced to go back inside if we wanted to breathe normally. Aside from that, it was a relaxing, fun, and interesting experience on a cruise. It attracted all different people, families, couples, groups of friends, and there was even a wedding. I would definitely recommend this cruise to other people. Less