EMBARKATION: Sweet. We had no checked baggage and, with SetSail passes in hand, were on the boat within 15 minutes of arriving at port -- at 11:30 am. Truly, by 12 noon we were in the Windjammer lounge drinking pina coladas.
FOOD: Perfectly acceptable, given that it's a three-day 'shortie'. (If you want gourmet food, go to a landlocked restaurant. It's a hotel on water, people!) The themes are kind of laughable -- why make a waiter from Turkey struggle through O Sole Mio?
SERVICE: Just okay. It seemed the staff in general was struggling to keep up with the masses -- our boat seemed nearly full. Interestingly, the PA system in the rooms konked out as we were leaving port -- while it made hearing announcements difficult (we had to open the door of our cabin), it did mean that we weren't blasted out of bed when they announced port embarkations or art auctions!
ROOM: 2003 -- interior cabin in the bow of the ship -- definitely felt more pronounced movement of the ship as a result. Not for the motion-sick-prone.
SHIP: Clearly needs refurbishing, but what do you expect from a 15 year old girl who is on three and four day party jaunts?
COCOCAY: As I missed this port due to rough seas the last time 'round, I can finally attest that the stellar reviews are spot on. It's a lovely island, not too Disney-fied, that still allows for quiet enjoyment of the beautiful surroundings without having to hike halfway across the coast. We had picture perfect weather and spent the day at our leisure, collecting shells and doing our best impressions of beached whales on the shoreline.
NASSAU: Decided to walk to Ardastra Gardens (not for the meek or out-of-shape). Despite the damage suffered by Ivan and Wilma, a wonderfully un-touristy, uncrowded place to spend the day (which was cloudy and so not inducive to beachifying). Recommendation: skip the marching flamingos and instead do the lorrakeet feeding.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: Can't say. Didn't do any of 'em.
DISEMBARKATION: About as painless as it can be given a full ship and lots of people cranky about having to leave. Seemed more smooth than the last time -- more immigration/custom folks around to process people.
KUDOS: ----> Cococay. RC could make a mint just doing two or three day cruises to this island alone. But the thought of two ships there at the same time is horrendous -- it would ruin the place in no time flat.
----> Ardastra Gardens. Very overlooked by most cruise ship passengers, but worth the effort to get there on one's own and be unhurried. We only wish we'd had more time to explore Fort Charlotte, too.
----> The phalanx of RC staff pushing things on you as you cross the gangplank threshold into the ship. For heaven's sake, people, let us put our luggage down first, at least! Ugh!
----> The family/friend groups who feel the need to congregate en masse in hallways, stores, elevator areas, etc., to discuss . . . . well, anything, it would seem, at any hour of the day or night, and are so frantic to get to dinner that they pushed through the crowds once the doors to the dining room opened (forgetting that they had reserved seating!). Actually, this cruise was FAR worse in terms of hordes with no idea that there were other people around them. We deliberately avoided the 'big' events (shows, etc.) just to steer clear of it all.
----> Miami International Airport. Everything about that airport is visitor-negative, from the lack of signage and individuals who can answer questions in English, to the boorish security individuals manning the TSA gates, to the ugliest waiting areas known to humanity. We may never cruise out of Miami again. Ugh, ugh, ugh.
IN SUM: If you want a quick getaway for a reasonable price and don't have to fly thru MIA, a good way to go. If you want a more refined, less crowded, or more elegant experience, try a newer boat and/or a longer itinerary.