My family and I cruised LA to Canada on the Mariner (RCL) in 2009 and the Carribean with Carnival in 2010. We had balcony rooms for both trips and while they were both enjoyable trips they were also very expensive because we live in Sydney (Aus) so we had flight and motel costs to tack on the overall bill.
When we decided to book a 2012 Christmas cruise departing Sydney on the Radiance (RCL)we decided to upgrade to a Grand Suite and we will never cruise any other way in the future. The whole 'suite' experience starts at the embarkation hall where you have an express lane, you are issued your gold seapass and walking around the inside of the ship within five minutes.
We read reviews beforehand concerning the balcony in Suite 1060 and without comparing it to others - it is definately big. There are no noise issues, there are no privacy issues, it is a great cabin with a big balcony. Our suite attendant was truly wonderful and was always smiling and helpful. There was plenty of hanging space, a real bath and comfy lounge. We had a lovely family dinner on the balcony one night and it is simply a great spot to read or relax.
The shows were 5 star entertainment and I rated the other activities like trivia, kareoke, movies, pub songs, the casino, bingo, nighspot, various musicians and venues, poolside games etc as all being top shelf. My son found the gym (I didn't look) my wife and daughter found the spa and beauty spot (I didn't look) and they all tell me they were also excellent.
While everything above was enjoyable, the best place of all was the Concierge Club. Juan-Carlos and Vanessa are brilliant and run a great room. We met some wonderful people from all around the world who truly love cruising. They told stories of their adventures as we shared a pre-dinner drink or a nightcap and it you wanted a secluded place to read and enjoy a fair-dinkum coffee of a day - the machine was always on and another perk of being in a suite is that you are invited to dine with the Captain one night and have a guided tour of the bridge.
Our cruise was for 10 nights and being a Christmas cruise the whole ship seemed upbeat with everyone smiling and happy. There were decorations everywhere, Santa arrived by the inside glass lift and his team of helpers helped him to hand out presents and take photos, etc.
We had breakfast each day and a couple of lunches in Windjammers. We dined in the main dining room five times (twice in formal gear), one night on our balcony and the last night at Azume and I rate all the food at each venue - top class.
We didn't really care that we were only going to places we have been before, we wanted a nice family trip away at Christmas so I haven't rated the ports we visited.