This was the first time we have cruised on a mega ship with over 4000 passengers. We have always cruised on ships with about 2000 passengers. Embarkation was quick at 12:30. We went to Taste for lunch while we waited for our room, which was ready around 1:00. We ate at Taste (which we ended up calling Tasteless by the end of the cruise) four times during our cruise, twice for lunch and twice for breakfast. The lunch items such as the Cobb salad and grilled chicken sandwich are just ok. The eggs Benedict were horrible. The bagels are your standard frozen type.
When we went to our stateroom, we found they had given us an ADA room. After tripping over the wheelchair ramps three times, I called to see if we could get a regular room. There was a couple that wanted an ADA room, so we were able to switch with them. The balcony state room we had was the smallest I've ever seen on a ship. Over the week we discovered our room steward didn't pay much attention to detail. We had to call for things such as a room service menu (we actually had to call twice), cream, and laundry that was long overdue to be delivered. Other things overlooked were a dirty coffee pot upon arrival, no laundry bags, not enough wash cloths, a dirty medicine cabinet shelf, and other minor things. The water temperature in the shower constantly changed from hot to cold.
We spent a lot of time in the casino. It is supposedly the largest floating casino. There are smoking and non smoking sections. I play slots and my husband plays table games. You would win some and lose some, but lose it all in the end.
The shops were ok, nothing special. I priced a 3.4 ounce Vera Wang perfume at $72, which is not bad since it's $92 at Macy's. I found it at a shop in St. Maarten for $51. This is the first time I've been on a ship going to the Caribbean that didn't sell Tortuga rum cakes, but did buy them in St. Thomas.
We decided to try the Svedka Ice Bar for $20 each which included two vodka cocktails in ice glasses. You are given a parka and gloves. When we went in, we were the only people there. It was too cold for me, so I turned my first drink into a shooter and took my second to go. It wasn't worth the price of admission.
We only ate in Manhattan, the main dining room twice. Apparently, they have the same dinner menu as Taste. We found the food unsatisfactory, but we are foodies and therefore particular. The steak in the dining room was like a breakfast steak you would get at a diner, very thin and tasteless. The salmon was ok. The service was excellent and they really aimed to please. Too bad about the quality of the food. The buffet was, well the buffet. The omelets were good for breakfast and the red velvet cake was good. The ham tasted like spam. The pizza was of your frozen variety. We had breakfast and lunch at O'Sheehan's. Both were really bad. I ordered eggs over easy and the whites were runny. Our toast came halfway through our breakfast and it was cold. At lunch, I ordered the pastrami sandwich and although the pastrami wasn't bad, the bread was soggy. It looked as if they started to grill the sandwich and then decided not to. We dined at Shanghai's one evening, but weren't impressed. The salt and pepper calamari was very good, but we didn't really care for the orange peel beef and the Kung Pao chicken. We booked Cagney's, Le Bistro, and La Cucina for a discounted fee of $52, plus a complimentary bottle of wine for booking on the first night. The lobster bisque and filet at Cagney's was delicious. Escargot, Coq au Vin and Filet de Boeuf at Le Bistro - excellent. We ate at La Cucina twice. The beef carpaccio totally lacked seasoning, but the minestrone, spaghetti carbonara, lasagna, and chicken Parmesan were excellent. The service wasn't great. The waiters were running around like crazy. Seems like they need more help. My thought about the overall dining experience is that it's a shame that you have to go to a specialty restaurant to get a nice dinner.
We both bought the beverage package ($394.45 each) which includes and excludes certain items which I'm not sure I ever totally understood. You couldn't get a Tangueray martini, but you could get Tangueray on the rocks. I guess it was because the martini is two shots. OK - just charge me twice. The package included wines by the glass that are priced under $10.00. You could get the drink of the day, but it didn't include the souvenir glass. You could not get bottled water, what? You could get specialty coffees and soft drinks. We were however, satisfied with the package. They had many great wines by the glass, but mostly in the specialty restaurants.
We went to two shows, the Blue Man Group and Legends in Concert, both had a fee. The shows were wonderful. I wasn't sure I wanted to see Blue Man Group, but my husband did and our daughter has seen it three times and loves it. I didn't think it was my thing, but actually it was entertaining, with unexpected comedy and audience participation. They had the crowd on their feet. We had seen Legends in Las Vegas and were looking forward to seeing it on the ship. The performer portraying Michael Jackson in Legends was outstanding. Seats in the theater are first come first serve for ticket holders. If you are not there 10 minutes before the performance starts, they will give away your seats. The doors open 45 minutes prior to the performance. Cocktails are available up until the performance begins.
The champagne art auctions were fun and entertaining. Paul and crew were great. I've collected a lot of art from Park West and told myself I would not buy on this cruise. However, our daughter collects Thomas Kinkade, so when they offered 10 Kinkades for $1500, my husband said "do it". We also received a beautiful and complimentary piece by Itzchak Tarkay, which was great since we already have many pieces by Tarkay. They have many raffles during the auction. I won a $50 credit in the spa, which my husband took advantage of and $150 gift certificate good toward a $500 jewelry purchase, which I did not take advantage of. Unfortunately it was in my name only, so I couldn't give it away.
We didn't do any shore excursions as we had been to St. Thomas and Nassau many times before. We shopped and lunched in St. Maarten. Don't miss the Belgian Chocolate Box (cruise critics best souvenir) or the Guavaberry Emporium (cruise critics best cocktail). We purchased chocolates for Valentine's Day and Guavaberry rum for whatever. Greenhouse restaurant has some of the best conch fritters we've ever had. In St. Thomas, we shopped at the Havensight Mall and lunched at the Delly Deck restaurant. Try the Caribbean Romance cocktail, it's fabulous.
Disembarkation was what we expected. Since we didn't have a flight out that day, we were one of the last groups called to get off the ship. They estimated we would exit at 9:30 and we went at 9:40. No problem going through customs, very quick. Taxis were available with no waiting line.