Booked our first cruise to take our 2 young children (6, 4) on a vacation along with my parents and grandparents. We took a 5-night cruise out of Galveston stopping at Progresso and Cozumel, Mexico.
Being our first cruise, I was pleasantly surprised at the size of the room and bathroom. The bathroom was adequately sized for 1 person to take a shower and another to use the loo or sink/vanity. Everyone on the ship was abundantly pleasant. My children absolutely loved the magic show. My 4 year old son begged to go back to camp every day (until we offered to take him swimming, of course).
The bed(s) were terrible. It was like sleeping on the floor. My back hurt every single morning after waking. Also, there was no temperature control to be found in the room other than the ability to open/close the room vent. Each night the room was warm when trying to go to sleep but we could do little to cool it down. Of course, through the night into the wee morning hours the room would become almost cold.
Our bedroom space was quickly consumed with the "trundle" bed that was placed out for our youngest which was essentially a cot. Once the cot was laid on the floor there was hardly a 6" pathway from the bathroom entryway to the main beds. The staterooms looked very dated with lots of pink and peach tones with gold accents.
Our stateroom was serviced twice a day, once in the early afternoon and once before bed for turndown. This seemed light for the nearly $15 that the steward received in gratuity each day. The trundle was never placed away during the day, and only on days 4 and 5 was it stacked on the couch-bed which provided more space in the middle of the room but rendered the couch-bed unusable during the day for sitting.
The dining room service was very disappointing. We were travelling as a party of 8, from 3 rooms, all sitting at the same table for early dining. We would all arrive between 6pm and 6:10pm, yet everyday too few place settings and menus were provided. There was an extremely long wait each night to receive our food, sometimes nearly 45 minutes and it was extremely difficult to get the attention of the service between the initial seating, when our orders were taken, and food delivery for things such as drink refills and bread. On almost every night, 2 people who ordered the same entree would receive different dishes with one missing some accompaniment (side item, sauce, etc). We also routinely had someone receive the wrong starter dish or not receive a side-item which was ordered. The food itself was incredibly pedestrian. Only one night did the menu contain a quality item, a chateaubriand, which was only offered medium-rare or medium-well. My excitement was over when I received my "medium-rare" cut cooked well to oblivion. Another night I ordered "jumbo fried shrimp" and received something that resembled pencil-thin shrimp "sticks". I waited 20 minutes to receive a side of tartar sauce which did nothing to make them more edible. Overall, the meals themselves were hardly worth more than the $30 per day that I paid in gratuities for myself, my wife, and 2 children.
We were seated on the upper level of the Paris dining room behind a waiter's station. We were unable to see any of the performances without leaving our table and walking across half the floor.
I was disappointed how few activities there were to do with our kids on the boat. Most of the daytime activities were held near the casino (full of smoke). The Camp Carnival was available, however there we wanted to share some activities with our kids for some of the day. Secondly, the camp for kids over the age of 5 was held in the nightclub, one of the only smoking-permitted areas of the ship and we couldn't drop our asthmatic 6 year-old off. We mostly just took them swimming in one of the pools. However, the pools were small and it was hard to allow our children to really swim around without interrupting some of the older guests who were relaxing in the pool.
Disembarkation was very disappointing. The disembarkation process started almost an hour after planned. We were left to sit on the Lido deck for almost 3 hours before our zone was called. This wouldn't have been so bad if the buffet hadn't been completely shut down before the disembarkation even started. My 2 children were left to sit with nothing to do and nothing to eat until almost noon when we finally disembarked.
Overall, I felt this was cruise was a learning experience. I definitely can see that you get what you pay for in a cruise. I also will go for a longer cruise, 7+ days, and will choose my next cruise for better ports of call.