Background information This was our ( me 41, partner turned 40 on board, daughter 4) first cruise. My partner and I had been to all the ports so were looking at the cruise as a resort at sea.
We arrived by shuttle bus about 12, dropped off our bags and were ready to have a walk until 1.30 ( our allocated boarding time) but there was only a few people waiting so we asked and were told to line up. The process went very smoothly with min waiting. Cabins weren't available until 1, so we found some of the many comfy chairs and waited the 15/20 min.
Our cabin 7550 was clean, very quiet and had a lot of storage for a small room.. We loved having a balcony. We were disappointed to find that the sofa bed was only a single and was very uncomfortable for an adult to sleep on but OK for a young child. We didn't pull the sofa bed out to it's full size to allow us to walk from the front door/bathroom to the balcony. We did find the room small and would book a bigger room next time. We had problems with the sink leaking from day one, they came to fit it each time we reported it but it wasn't until day 3 or 4 that it stopped leaking completely. Our toilet blocked a few times, the 2 cabin beside each other share the same plumbing so when one blocks they both block. Each time they were fixed quickly but we used the public toilets after day 4. We overheard another family in the MDR mention blocked toilets and they were surprised when we guessed they were on deck 7 (same as us)
We settled in to our room then went exploring. We had lunch at the buffet. Staff served the food at the buffet for the first 3 days. We found there was a good variety of food and all at a good temperature. We began the trip by taking our plates through to the Izumi area or the back deck as the buffet area was very crowded. As time went on we ate in the buffet area as it became less crowded.
We ate most evening meals in the main dining room at 5.30 as this allowed our daughter to eat with us before kids club and I got to see the 7pm show. The staff at the MDR was very friendly and most nights I found something on the menu I was keen to try. The meal sizes were on the small side but that meant that we could enjoy all 3 course with out leaving the table feeling stuffed.
We ate at Chops to celebrate my partners birthday. It was a lovely restaurant. The steaks were beautifully cooked. I was slightly disappointed that when our waiter was told it was a special birthday it wasn't recognised with anything more than him saying happy birthday. I did notice later that the MDR had birthday candles at the front deck.
We only had one breakfast in the MDR as we preferred the buffet. We only had one lunch at the MDR, I would have like to go back again for one of their lovely salads but the buffet was so much more convenient for our family.
Our daughter attend at least one session of kids club each day. She really enjoyed spending time with other children. I did notice that kids club was good for children that were happy to be there. Staff didn't offer a cuddle etc to children that were upset, but this no touching might have been part of the ships policy. Santa was on board and each child received a present. It did seem towards the end of the cruise that there were lots of young teens ( 12-16 ish) just "hanging around"
I went to 7 shows. The Aussie boys were great and I really enjoyed the Radiance singers and dancers but the other specialty acts weren't as good. The theatre was very comfortable and all seats had a good view of the stage. I also attended the behind the scenes tour, Mark the stage manager as well as the sound and lighting team were very happy to answer questions and gave a very informative tour.
I went to the line dancing class twice, Deb was a great teacher. I would have attended more if the timing was better. I would suggest that activities could have been better timed eg family Christmas craft was at 5.15 when most families were getting ready for dinner. All dancing etc was after 10 so parents missed out if they wanted their young children to go to bed.
Main pool was very salty and I couldn't touch the bottom. The adults only pool was nice but again I couldn't touch the bottom so it wasn't very relaxing for me. All the spa pools were very hot. Kids pool was small and only 50 cm deep so our daughter felt very comfortable. Parents often sat on the edge with their feet in the water. The water slide was very slow, with lots of adults getting stuck half way down, but was a great introduction to water slides for our daughter.
My partner did climb the rock wall and our family had a few games of putt putt.
The photographers were everywhere. Unfortunately they didn't get one nice photo of my partner and me, but we did get a few nice ones of our daughter. We did get a lovely family photo of us with Santa. Others have recommended trying all the photographers and I would totally agree as the same girl seemed to take all the photos in the MDR and they were bad ( eyes closed, tongue out or just plan unflattering)
Our room attendant Norman was wonderful as well as our MDR waiters Kush and Michael. On the whole I found most staff on board to be friendly and helpful. I did have to interpret a lot for our 4 year old as she didn't always understand the staff especially if they spoke quickly.
We use the $15 laundry bag offered about day 4. This was very good for us, but be prepared it wont return to your cabin until the following night.
It took me a few days to get used to cruising and if I had been told we could get off on day 3 I would have done so happily, but by day 5 I loved it and felt very sad to leave. I think even though I had read a lot on the Internet and others reviews, the ship was so big and everything was so new that it was overwhelming.
We would cruise again and probably with RC