We arrived in San Juan a few days before the cruise and traveled to Fajardo, PR to go out to the island of Culebra to snorkel. It was wonderful with beautiful beaches and the best snorkeling in the Caribbean. Then back to San Juan to embark on the cruise.
We arrived at the pier at 12:00 noon and this process was easy. We were a group of three couples and were quickly on board the ship and eating lunch in the Windjammer Cafe where the food was very tasty and well presented.
We were in our cabins by 2:00pm. Our ocean view cabin on deck four was surprisingly spacious, but friends in an oceanview on deck two with a porthole were unhappy with their cabin. It was definitely smaller and they reported a lot of noise at night when the ship was moving.
Then we explored the ship which is very impressive with all the glass. Here are our impressions of the cruise:
THE SHIP: This ship is lovely. Everything is well maintained and squeaky clean. The decor is beautiful. We had no trouble finding a deck chair in a quiet spot to read, or in the sun to tan. Even on the "at sea" day, with 2200 guests on board, the pools did not seem crowded. Our favorite place for a drink was the Schooner Bar. I used the gym each morning...what a view and no wait for the machines!
FOOD: We enjoyed most of our meals in the Reflections dining room. If something was not as good as was expected it was quickly replaced by another choice. Definitely listen to the suggestions from the waiters...they know what is good. The prime rib was outstanding as was this lamb. We found the choices were fewer than on other cruise lines, but we made two requests which we had the following nights on the menu. One was for Creme Brulee for dessert. Another night we asked for an Indian entree since the head chef was from India. Our wish was granted and our table was even served special curry dishes with this meal!!
ENTERTAINMENT: Although the cast tried very hard, the two big productions Viblogy and the Broadway musical review left much to be desired. What was excellent were the other musical performers who played through out the ship. We especially enjoyed the classical guitarist Leandro Segarra, a group called Rosario Strings, and also the Latin band, Conjunto Bravo. Don't miss the Farewell Showtime which was very funny because of the great cruise director's humor. On our cruise the guest performers were also worth seeing.
PORTS: These truly make the cruise! We did our homework and knew where we wanted to go at each port. We just got our own taxi, stated what we wanted to do, bargained for a price and had our visit customized. In St. Thomas and Barbados we arranged for the driver to leave us at a beach to snorkel and then return for us, and also take us to points of interest. In St Martin we shopped in Marigot at the harbor flea market and then after a tour of the island, we shopped for jewelry on Front street. Our favorite island for pure beauty was St Lucia. What the captain does with the ship at sunset at the famous twin Piton's is breathtaking!
SERVICE: This was outstanding. Every crew member we encountered was friendly and very accommodating. How they make it seem fresh and exciting week after week is beyond me, but they did and with sincere smiles.
Leaving the ship on Saturday was a long process. Our friends stayed a few days after the cruise in San Juan and were the last to be called to leave at 11:00am! They waited three hours by the pool! We had a flight at 3:30pm and so signed up for the walking tour of San Juan. This was interesting but a lot of walking in the heat and sun. Many in the group could not do the whole tour and waited for us on shaded benches. Because it took so long to go through customs when we left the ship, our tour was cut short and the opportunity to shop in Old San Juan was left off.
The bus took us to the airport where our luggage was waiting for us. Then the nightmare began. The airport was packed. We waited in line for a boarding pass with USAirways for two hours! Then 45 minutes to get through screening. Then once we boarded the plane we were an hour late taking off. We almost missed a connecting flight and our luggage arrived two days later than we did! Our friend who stayed until Monday had no problems and the airport was a breeze for them.