We have just stepped off our 10 day cruise to the Southern Caribbean out of Fort Lauderdale. We had overnighted at the Kira Mar near the waterfront leaving us a very short taxi ride to the port.
Embarkation: Went quickly when we arrived at 11 am.
Background: We are over ten cruises now and while our favourite is Celebrity, Royal Caribbean is not terribly far behind. This cruise was suggested by a friend. By the time we sailed there were 10 of us on board. We are coming from a long way away so we added two weeks in Orlando before the cruise and took the Amtrak down the night before.
Cabin: We were traveling on deck two with a window and found our cabin large enough for our needs. We travel light so the storage was just fine as well. Our room steward Jose was great and we never lacked for anything. We miss having a fridge and the ancient TV needs replacing. I would also think it is time to let us access our accounts though the TV.
Entertainment: The entertainment was varied and we really can't complain about any of the "headliner acts". WE enjoyed some more than others. We found the first big production show very disappointing. We did not like a number of the arrangements of songs, the selections of songs, and the choreography. The second production show was excellent! The dancers both times were strong and put their souls into their performances. After having sailed on a HAL ship with a small packed theatre we were pleased by the size of this one. Except for the first couple of shows there was no problem getting seating. The seats are showing their age as they are soft and comfy, but tend to slide you forward, not a good thing when you are trying to stay awake. The Orchestra was awesome and the dance band C Wind had improved since we last saw them. Lots of dance opportunities. The Piano Bar guy was just okay. He had a loyal following, but he lacked the range of songs that would be more in line with the wide age spread on board.
Other Activities: There is lots to do. We enjoyed the educational speaker, the trivia, various game shows, dances, and pre show slide shows by Topi and the Activity Manager Hannerup. Yeah for the decent shuffle board deck. We found ourselves up there late at night when we needed fresh air and a change of pace. The rumba lessons were great as they built on each other rather than a different dance style each time.
Dining: We eat a light breakfast. I found the fruit less than great. Often the melons were tasteless or soggy and the pineapple was less than ripe. I enjoyed the smoked salmon and cream cheese and my husband had the porridge each day. We did the Windjammer or Solarium at lunch. The food was okay, but the salt content was too high for us. The fries were good, the one hotdog I had was anemic, the sandwiches were good and the salad bar was great as was the pizza. We had a table for 8 for the evening meal. Carmen our Waiter and Savio our Assistant Waiter were both very nice and very very busy. Jillian the manager managed to stop by most nights and chat. This ship did not have a Sommelier. Our wait staff had to take care of all the drink orders as well as the meal. This sometimes had us sitting for 20 minutes and even into our meal before the beverages arrived.
Ports: We do our own planning and were very happy with the excursions we arranged. The only Island we didn't really like was St. Vincent. In Antigua we had arrange a kayak trip. We had a great guide who was knowledgeable about the flora and fauna of the area and would stop to talk to us every little bit which also allowed those who lagged time to catch up and catch their breath. In Bonaire we used Bonaire Vista Tours a family run tour. Bryan our guide was great and we learned so much about this beautiful Island. In Aruba we had arranged our very first Segway trip. I was a little nervous, but Danny our guide had me driving it with confidence in minutes. The other party on our tour was a no show so we had a private tour. Can't beat that! On Saint Lucia we arrange to go with Cosol Tours. We were lucky enough to have Cosol as our guide and we were education, entertained, toured, fed, watered and our 5-6 hour tour ended up being 7.5 hours. A whirlwind tour! We booked Calabaza Sailing Cruises in Barbados. It was a wonderful day with ten guests on a catamaran. Gina, Nick and Andrew treated us to a couple nice snorkel sites, beverages and a tasty lunch. We could see the overcrowded Catamaran across the way full of passengers from the ship.
Public Rooms: The public rooms are OK, generally we can find seating anytime anywhere and adjust the location to our needs. The library is small and unmanned. The internet station is unmanned as well. You have to go down to the front desk to set up your coupon access. It is slow, but you can print off your boarding passes as needed. There is the usual hoarding of seats in the theatre and outside. In the morning you will find all the chairs in the solarium next to the pool with towels and books on them and not one person using them. Again why are people so selfish. We use a chair and then we leave it for the next person. If everyone did that there would always be nice places to sit. Oh well, I'd rather go find a quiet spot away from the pool.
Spa and Fitness: I saved my money for a massage when I got home although a couple in our group indulged and were happy. I walked the deck while my husband switched over to the treadmill mid afternoon when it tended to be quieter in there.
Smoking: I hate smoke. I react to cigarette smoke. So... the casino had a couple times they were smoke free so we actually went in. Normally we duck outside to walk to the other side of the ship. We choose not to do a balcony as there is smoking allowed there and all you need is to pay the extra money and be stuck next to a smoker. The Library is also used as the nightly cigar lounge. Really?