We sailed from New York on 6/5/06. The ship was awesome, if not a little overdone with the urn theme. Seemed a bit like a Vegas hotel, but we really liked it. Our room, a balcony, was very spacious with a ton of room to store everything. The bathroom was large enough and very functional. The ship was exceptionally clean, and our room stewards were excellent. It was great to return to the room twice a day and find the bed made with crisp clean sheets. The bed was very comfortable, we loved the bedding!
We thought the food was awesome, and there was always a steak (prime rib, filet mignon, chateau briand, beef wellington, etc.) on our dining room menu each night. Chicken and fish were on occasionally. The jumbo shrimp one night were huge and delicious. Be sure and get the "chocolate lava cake", they call it something else, and actually use the word bitter in describing the chocolate, which caused me to not want it, but someone at our table ordered it and then we all had to have our own, it was great! The wait staff was awesome, and we were sure to tip them extra on the last night. They work so hard, never having a night off! The Unicorn cafe was ok, we enjoyed most of our meals in Truffels, lunch and breakfast included. The desserts were great in all dining areas, and the pizza, as mentioned numerous times was great.
We did not feel nickled and dimed on this cruise. Yes, there are photographers everywhere, but for a nice formal family picture you can't beat the convenience and price. I told some of the photographers on disembarkation for ports no thank you and did not have a picture made. We did buy a few of our pictures as they turned out great.
The shows were good overall, but I think they could have had a little more variety. The comedian/jugglers were the best, we thought. Our children laughed their heads off! Otherwise, the vegas-style shows were all very much the same. The orchestra was good, and they had jazz themes and big band themes, and a country guy one night who was very good.
The ports were good, we thought. Unless you want to go to Virgin Gorda or do the dolphin swim thing, don't buy excursions ahead of time. At every port you will find a taxi driver to drive you around to a beach or shopping or whatever you want very cheaply. Our son actually lives in St. Thomas and there were 7 in our group. We hired one of the open air taxi drivers for $100 for the entire day. He drove us to our son's house, to two beaches, to lunch and then dropped us at the shopping by the pier. We did tip him $50 and bought him lunch, but what a bargain that was!
I highly recommend Coki beach for the awesome snorkeling. Bring some dog bones (milk bone) and drop pieces in the water. The fish will swarm you and you don't even need a mask to "snorkel". It is like you being inside a fish aquarium! (I hope the dog bones don't hurt the fish!).
San Juan was interesting. We found a tour for $20 a piece that took us around new San Juan, Old San Juan, a short beach stop, and a tour of one of the forts. You could actually walk to the fort from the pier and walk to Old San Juan shopping areas without any trouble. Be sure and stop at the restaurant that invented the Pina Colada - free samples!
We liked Tortolla the best. It was a beautiful island. For $20 a piece you can also get a open air taxi tour of the island. Up steep cliffs with breathtaking views! The beach there was great, fine powdery sand beach and beautiful water. We did some shopping there by the pier and found some bargains.
We did feel like the "at sea days" were a bit too much, would have liked more time at ports. It would be nice to have a stop off at the Bahamas going back to break things up.
Embarkation was smooth, but getting off was a bit of a mess. Be sure if you are going to take off your own luggage (which is best), to line up in the casino. We were one of the first ones down and settled in the area of the lounge as instructed by the signs. When disembarkation actually began, we were told that we were not in a line at all, but in a area for non US citizens. This was not posted at all, and as a result, had to go to the line behind most of the ship. We couldn't even get to the line at this point as it was being filled from the other side of the stairs/elevators. It was very frustrating, and when I mentioned it to the staff, they said "sorry". We were afraid we would miss our flight and finally just reversed our direction and merged into the line that was leaving. Luckily no one accosted us, and we did explain what had happened and that we had been the first ones to show up in the first place!
Once off the ship you only go through a brief check point and your are off. It was much easier than any other ship we have taken before. The only other thing I can complain about is that my daughters luggage did not show up at all! She had a back pack with some of her personal items that we checked at the pier with our other luggage before embarking. It never showed up for the entire cruise! We asked about it the first day and they said it would show up, the stewards were looking, they would put a flyer in all the cabins to alert other guests, etc., etc., We waited patiently and it never showed up. We asked about compensation and they kept putting us off again and again. Finally on the 6th day they said, we usually give $25 a day to buy replacement items and to come back later in the day to speak with the "head purser". Well, we came back, and he wasn't available, but the person helping us said that since it was a "carry-on" they weren't responsible! I was upset at this, and my daughter started to cry. I said it was not a carry-on, that they took it at the pier, it was her luggage! He said, well, it could have been a carry on, so we give you nothing! Well, we didn't settle for this, and after numerous discussions with the higher ups, they finally gave us a $200 room credit. Be aware though, in the fine print on the ticket, it states that they are only responsible for $50 PER PIECE of luggage or $100 PER CABIN if they lose your entire set of Louis Viuttan luggage filled with your designer clothes! This is absolutely ludicrous and I told them so. I reminded them that the airlines pay appx $1200 per piece and they said, well they only have 100 people in a plane and we have thousands in a ship! This makes no sense, as airlines send luggage in a million directions with connections and fly 100,000 people daily! I think that all cruise passengers should stand together and fight this policy. When you check your bags at the pier, they are responsible and should reimburse fairly! We are still hoping for it to show up and have a claim filed with the home office, which they will only leave open for 30 days!
All in all it was a great cruise and we would go again!