About us: 30s couple, no kids, traveling with five others. We like to balance quiet mornings with fun afternoons and evenings. We love adventurous food, but also like flavorful, well excecuted comfort food. How we are treated is the most imporant part of cruising. Good service can make up for some shortcomings.
Pre-Cruise: Stayed at the Country Inn and Suites on Magazine Street. Nice hotel. Staff were courteous and kind. Skipped the free breakfast and ate at The Ruby Slipper both mornings-excellent food,coffee and service. Easy walk to the Quarter. Used the Riverfront Streetcar line to get around when not in the mood to walk anymore. Did a cocktail tour of the city through a Groupon deal. Didn't love it. Watched football at Huck Finn's-lots of tvs on the edge of the Quarter.
Embarkation: Arrived around 11:00 (later than I'd hoped). However, we quickly got through check in (less than 15 minutes) and got a higher priority boarding number than those not with Latitudes. Embarkation was delayed more than usual. I think we didn't start non-suite/VIP boarding until around 12:30. I've read this was due to some guests vomiting in public rooms upon disembarkation and needing to clean and santize more than usual. Lots of staff milling the waiting area to answer questions.
Food: We ate at the buffet for breakfast every day. It was great. Lots of variety. Bacon wasn't too limp and other food was nicely cooked (aside from one eggs benedict my DH had that was over-warmed and the yolk cooked through. Mine were perfect). Omelets and waffles were tasty. Always found a place to sit. Treated myself to chocolate milk many days. :-) We only ate lunch two days-once in Versailles (MDR) and once we had sushi and noodles at Ginza (ala carte pricing). Both were very good. The portobello mushroom app and shrimp salad sandwich with sweet potato fries were great. Dinner was varied: Versailles, Aqua and Moderno. MDR food had more ample servings than in pre-2012 cruises and quality was better (temps perfect). I noticed this on the Dawn last year, too. Avoid: the risotto and it's weird cheesy sauce. Also don't be surprised that there is Krab (yes, with a K) in the gumbo, not real crab.
Entertainment: Best energy of any cruises we've been on previouly. While still an older demographic, there seemed to be a lot of people our age (20s-40s). Sean Burns in the Red Lion was our usual choice and we closed the bar down most nights. Sharkbait was awesome. Second City was good if you've never seen their cruise show, but a lot of the material is recycled from past years. White Hot Party was good, although the big bar in the middle of the lounge almost set up a barrier to the dance floor. The "angels" only did a short routine, which was a little disappointing.
Staff: The officers treated our cruise critic group like royalty. They were extremely visible, including the chef who we talked to at dinner almost every night as he made his rounds. Bar staff was decent. Dining room waitstaff was very good and attentive. Our room steward was great and friendly. He often opened my door when I was digging in my purse for my key. :-) Towel animals daily and fresh towels were NEVER a problem. Remember to use your "wheel" outside your door to mark "make up room" or "turn down room" to help them know your needs.
Rooms: Adequate inside. 9593 is next to the room steward "closet" and thus there is a lot of noise in the mornings. I recommend earplugs (really a good idea no matter where your room is, just in case). Our friends had a deck 12 suite by the library and it was AMAZING. These are the new rooms and you can tell. Gorgeous and tastefully appointed. Even the insides on that floor are beautiful (though no bigger than others). Wish our deck 9 had the updated flat pannel tv. Beds were comfortable enough. Sheets were decent quality.