This was a family cruise for us with myself, my wife our 15 year old daughter and my mother-in law. The cruise started on November 18 and ran through the week of Thanksgiving. We live in the Fort Lauderdale area so it was a short cab ride for us to the port. My mother-in-law has some mobility problems so we bought a wheel chair with us but even with that getting on the ship on the first day and getting off on the last day was easy. It took about 30 minutes to get on board on the first day and about 45 minutes to an hour on the last day to get off the ship. It took longer to get off because we had to go through Customs.
The ship is certainly very impressive with its array of shops and restaurants and we really liked the variety we had when choosing where to eat. We had read a lot of reviews about how bad the Windjammer Cafe was, but that was not our experience. We ate at the Windjammer Cafe three times, once for breakfast and twice for lunch and we found that there was a good variety of food choices and we were always able to find a table. Is the food gourmet? No, but we found the food quality to be good and the service was also good. If my mother-in-law needed something (a drink or a food item) she would ask an attendant and they would get it for her.
We ate at four speciality restaurants during the cruise. 150 Central Park, Chops Grille, Izumi and Giovanni's Table. 150 Central Park was absolutely awesome. We were served a six course meal and the staff would explain each dish and its ingredients. The presentation of the food as well as the taste of each dish was excellent. The size of the portions of each course are small, but after six courses you will not walk away hungry. I thought it was one of the best meals I had ever had.
Chops Grille was also excellent. The steaks were of high quality and they were cooked properly. The side dishes were also excellent. The mashed potatoes were made from scratch and were great. The vegetables were seasoned well and not over cooked. Another great meal.
Giovanni's Table was also very good. The meal was five courses and after three courses we were already pretty full. The food quality again was excellent and the service was very good.
I personally liked Izumi, but two people in our group are not big sushi fans and they struggled to find something that they liked. We did try the "Hot Rock" and it was fun to cook your own meat. But if you are not into all that effort just order something that they cook for you. I think Izumi is a good restaurant choice but make sure the people in your party like sushi or Asian food. If they don't they may be disappointed. Overall I thought the speciality restaurants were well worth the extra money that they cost.
The other restaurants that we liked and ate at often were the Solarium Bistro and the Park Cafe. We ate most of our breakfasts at the Solarium Bistro and loved it. They offer a lot of healthy choices and a lot of fruit selections and it was never too crowed. We also loved the Park Cafe for lunch because you could build your own salads and they had a good selection of soups and sandwiches. The panini sandwiches were great and I loved the famous roast beef sandwiches. I am a meat eater and I ate many of those roast beef sandwiches during the cruise. Here is a tip for all of you roast beef sandwich lovers. Tell them to put double meat on the sandwich. They don't care and will do it for you and you get twice the beef.
We went to all of the shows. Our typical schedule was to have dinner and then see a show. All of the entertainment was excellent and was far better than any of the shows we have seen on other cruises. Chicago was a true Broadway caliber production with excellent singing. Oceanaria is a great water show that is nearly on par with a Las Vegas show. Blue Plant is another great show with again excellent singing and an impressive stage and props. The Comedy show was also good and funny but it was R rated. Nothing too bad, but just know going in there is some sexual content and swear words. The Headliner show was good. It was four singers and dancers that performed Motown music. I liked it but some people did not and my 15 year old daughter had never heard any of the songs. It as a good show but maybe not for everybody.
They also had 3-D movies every day throughout the cruise at different times and we enjoyed that. On Thanksgiving day they showed Rise of the Guardians that had just been released. We also had an absolute blast at "The Quest." The Quest is an audience participation game show where they split the audience into groups and ask for various items that the people may have. Each team gets points for who gets the item first. It sounds simple but it was very funny and a great time for everybody. There is something going on all the time and if you check the schedule you can always find something to do or some place to go. One week is not enough time to do it all. But you will have fun.
We had two ocean view cabins that were side by side on Deck 11, cabins 11698 and 11700. Deck 11 was great, not noisy at all. We loved the ocean view rooms and we often would sit on the balcony and just enjoy the water. We found the room to be fine for two people with enough room. Once you unpack and put your suitcases under the bed there is plenty of space. If you put more than two people in the room it may be a little tight. Also I have a bad back and the bed was great. The mattress was firm and I did not have any problems.
THE PUBLIC SPACES:
The public spaces on the ship are great and you often cannot believe you are on a ship. Central Park is a lot of fun and you can hear birds chirping and singing all the time. Also at night they often had someone performing music in Central Park. Sometime it was classical music other times something else. It was great.
The Royal Promenade on deck 5 is really amazing when you see it with the shops, bars and restaurants all in one place. It is a great place to have a drink or a cup of coffee and hang out and people watch. At times I felt like I was sitting in the middle of an upscale mall but it was all fun.
We did a lot of eating on this cruise in many of the restaurants but we also ordered room service late on several nights. We got cheese plates to go with wine or sandwiches or extra desserts because we just felt like eating more. The room service was reasonably quick (within 30 minutes-they would tell us it may take longer but it never did). The food was excellent. One night I ordered a steak sandwich and it was literally a real steak on a bun-not just some meat thrown on a bun. The cheese cake from room service is also very, very good. It has excellent flavor and it was not too heavy like some cheese cakes. I ordered the cheese cake more than once. Also, they told us almost all the food is made from scratch no canned items.
We had excellent service throughout the cruise from our room Stewart, to our waiters or anyone else we encountered on the ship. If we needed anything all we had to do was ask and we had what we asked for within a reasonable amount of time.
We went on this cruise during Thanksgiving week so I assume the ship was at or near full capacity. But we never felt crowed on the ship. We did have a person using a wheel chair so sometimes we had to pass on an elevator because there was not enough room to fit the wheel chair. But that is to be expected and even then it was never a big problem. If we waited a little bit we would get an elevator. Even at the Windjammer Cafe that we had read many reviews saying it was crowed we did not have a problem. Was the Windjammer busy at times? Yes. But not so busy that you couldn't get your food or find a table. Crowds were never an issue for us on the ship.
In conclusion, this cruse lived up to all of our expectations and then some. We had a great time and would do it again in a heartbeat. We loved our cruise experience.