I HIGHLY recommend this cruise! The most impressive thing to me was the staff and crew. I was on a cruise a couple of years ago where gratuities were built in and so many of the staff had the "I can't be bothered" attitude. On this ship everyone I met seemed genuinely interested in helping. I tried to give a server a cash tip and she told me she had to put it in the tip pool. They get rewards from the ship based on comment cards and I hope good reviews like this. If something isn't quite to your liking, let someone know, politely, and they'll instantly take care of it. The ship didn't get their full order of supplies in the Canary Islands, and about 3 days out from Miami they ran out of diet Coke. Olga at the Porch went to bars on three other decks looking for more and spent the next 2 days apologizing that she only had Coke Zero to offer me. The people really cared.
We were on deck 11, forward, port. This is the Aqua Spa level. The cabin was a mini-suite. It was a little smaller than some, but overall nice. WARNING: the only electrical outlets in the room are on the desk (one in the bathroom, too). I think there were four 110 and either one or two 220. You might want to bring an extension cord if you want something on your nightstand. There's some storage space in the bathroom. The shower head was on a hose and there were side jets at waist level. The benefit to this level is that you have more access to the spa. Many things there are extra, but the steam room, sauna, and a few other things are free. I was having back pain and they had these great heated lounge chairs that helped a lot. I was there several times a day.
Spa: Since I'm on that subject, I'll tell you what I know. They do all types of massages and treatments. My wife had several and reports favorably. They also had an acupuncturist who worked miracles on my back. I don't think I'd have enjoyed the trip without her expertise. There's a nail and hair salon. The fitness center is also connected and I think there's a fitness trainer available. I'm not into the seaweed wrap type stuff, but it seemed to offer the same services as a very nice day spa.
For those of you new to cruising, tap water, regular coffee, iced tea, and the juice drinks in the buffet are free. There's a charge for everything else. I can't live without Diet Coke, so I bought a soda package. If you don't, they are $2+/can. I drank my share--the ship ran out a couple of days before the end and I had to suffer Coke Zero. My wife had a drink package that included bottled water and specialty coffees. She also had a bottled wine package.
The main dining room and the buffet are included in the price, but there are a number of specialty restaurants with anywhere from a $20-$40 cover charge. There are also package rates for the specialty restaurants.
Murano: EAT THERE FIRST!! It's the most expensive place, but more than worth the money. It's billed as French, and the ambiance is very up scale, but it's not like any French restaurant I've been to before. I had the lobster bisque both times and it was incredible. The first visit I had venison and the second steak medallions. They were so good that I wanted to order more but restrained myself. For dessert I had the Grand Marnier souffle, and I showed no restraint here and ordered two. My wife had this Snowball crepe which was made tableside. I thought she was going to lick the plate. The staff was very attentive and very knowledgeable. I know staff changes a lot, but ask for Ema. The menu is fixed throughout the cruise, so you'll need 2-3 visits to try things.
Qsine: (mostly Asian--cover charge) Their gimmick is little portions of lots of different things. When you order soup, for example, you get three different types, each 3-4 bites. If you find one you like you can have more, but the idea is that you end up eating 20+ different things during the course of the meal. The menu comes on an iPad. The concept is interesting, the food excellent, and the presentation entertaining. I recommend this as a group experience.
The Porch: ($5 cover)This was my favorite place to hang out. It's up on Deck 15. It's open air, but it has wind blocks and radiant heaters in the ceiling. It was a little cool in Europe but was very nice as the temperature increased. It has a limited menu of soups, salads, paninis, and sweets. It wasn't very crowded usually, so I could sit and admire the view and be attended by the best people (thanks Olga, Michelle, and Danily)!
The Lawn Grill: (Cover charge) Also on 15, open air with windbreaks and heaters. This is billed as an interactive experience. You start with flatbread pizzas which you toss yourself (don't wear black--many people ended up wearing flour). You also have the option of working with the chef and grill master in preparing your meal. We had Chef Michael and loved the experience. You must save room for the soft, warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie with ice cream.
Tuscan Grill: (Cover charge) An Italian steakhouse. This was good, and the service excellent, but it wasn't that much better than the steaks in the Cuvee (main seating) and I didn't think it was worth the high cover.
Blu: This is a specialty dining experience for the fitness crowd. We ate there once (no cover for Aqua class), but I did not go on a cruise to get a dessert menu where everything starts "sugar free...." Good food and service.
Grand Cuvee (main dining room): It didn't matter when we went or where we sat, the service was excellent and the food superb.
Buffet: I thought it was good, but not that different from other buffets I've experienced on other ships or at casinos.
Casino: I'm not much of a slots player, but there seemed to be a good variety and they had several tournaments. There were 2 single deck BJ tables. Most of the other BJ tables were gimmicky, with dollar side bets for poker hands or spin the wheel for a 21, that kind of thing. Minimum bet was only $6 (the extra dollar could be the side bet or you could just bet $6). Hand shuffled!! There was one tournament with a lot of qualifying rounds. I know there were other table games but they aren't my thing. Great people!!
Shopping: Nyeeh. Ask my wife.
Internet: The ship is wireless and the price ranges from $0.30 -- $0.75 per minute, depending on the package (prepurchased minutes). I was teaching an online class so I had no choice, but never had connection problems. I also got access on my Droid tablet. If you only want to check email occasionally there's a Mac cafe. The ship has an arrangement of some sort with Apple.
Entertainment: The main theater is like a concert hall. The shows were great with many different acts. There were also a number of small musical acts throughout the ship. I won't go into details since these change frequently.
Activities: I chose to be lazy, hang out on the Porch reading books on my tablet, and have the lovely Olga and the other wonderful people there bring me a continual string of diet coke and snacks. For those who wish to be active there's plenty to do. There are a couple of pools. One, in the solarium on deck 12, is adult only. I'm not sure if that has clothing implications. We met a couple that used this area as their hang out. They said there's a small food place there. This same couple attended many of the lectures and loved them. The activities staff always had something going on. There's a movie theater but I had never heard of most of them. There are several places to dance. There's a library and game room. My complaint about these 2 is that they are open to the atrium space, and there's music being played most of the day so they aren't really quiet. There's also a community board for the passengers to organize things like bridge groups. So whether you want to be a sloth or a hummingbird, there's plenty.
Kids: One of the reasons we chose this trip is because it was early December which we hoped would mean the kids would still be in school. We were right. I know there's a kids club, but can't tell you anything about it. If you want to escape children, this is a great cruise.
Disability accommodation: I don't know the whole story on this but I thought I'd put it out there. Early in the trip I heard a woman crying in the elevator. She was on a scooter. What I gathered was that the staff decided she couldn't keep the scooter in her room or in the hallway outside her room because it presented an evacuation hazard. The ship was full so she couldn't move to an appropriate room. The ship had lots of wheelchairs, and I saw several in my hall at night, but they folded. I don't know the outcome, but if you plan on taking your scooter you might want to check on accessibility.
I'm a disabled vet and I have severe tremors, almost like Parkinson's. Everyone was very accommodating. I don't do well with spoons, so I was served cold soups in a glass and hot soups in a coffee cup. I need a straw to drink, which apparently are not available at fancy French restaurants, but Ema went out to the bar to get one for me. Everyone on the ship was extremely friendly and polite and respectful and they seemed to go the extra mile to make you happy.