Our family of 5 have never cruised before so we have no comparison. We drove from Houston area to New Orleans. That was worst part of the trip. Tons of traffic and took us 10 hours. Not a great way to start. We stayed in New Orleans overnight and enjoyed our very brief time there. It seems like the earlier you arrive at the port the faster you get through the process of registering. We decided to explore New Orleans a little since we arrived later than we wanted the day before. I thought the process was a little chaotic at the port. We did park at The Julia St. terminal which was very convenient. There was a back up to get in the gate of the parking lot since you pay when you arrive. Plus there is a ton of traffic all around the parking lot. Once parked we walked over to the port and started waiting in lines. Overall it wasn't horrible but probably about 1-1/2 hours to get through security and then check in. They tried to move the lines pretty fast and had a ton of workers checking people in.Once we got onboard our rooms were ready so we went right up there. We met our room steward Mariel. We then got lunch at Market Cafe since other places were closing down. It was perfect for a snack. We then headed to the pool deck and got settled for departure. They had a BBQ on the pool deck so we snacked on some food there since we didn't have much for lunch. Sailing the Mississippi is very fun esp. if you have kids. My 8 year old son loved watching all the activity on the river and watched for a long time. It was chilly so kids hung in hot tub more than the pool.
I will talk about food since it seems like that is a big topic. The 1st night we ate in Aqua. The wait wasn't too bad. I knew about the surf and turf so we ordered that. My husband and I both thought it was good. My daughter loved the steak. Our waitress was very nice and sent chocolate covered strawberries to our room. We only ate in Aqua once because the line was pretty long other nights. We really enjoyed Aqua. They were super nice. I thought that Versailles was very snobby. We felt like we were an inconvenience. Our waiter was super rushed. The food was good but didn't feel they needed to be so snotty. The restaurant is very noisy, big and busy. Liked Aqua much better. We ate at Blue Lagoon 3 times. I thought that was a nice quiet restaurant. We had breakfast, lunch and a dinner there. All were very good. Service was good and food was good. The night we had dinner there was the White Hot night and we ended up with a great view of the singing chef and workers singing and dancing. It was a great place to be. We ate at La Cucina one night. It is a very nice restaurant. The food was very good. I had a shrimp risotto that was delicious. My husband was going to order the Lobster fettucine but the waiter told him that there are no chunks of lobster in it but more of a sauce. He told him he would let him sample it with his dinner. I forget what my husband ordered but the waiter sent an entire plate of lobster fettucine to him. He was right no chunks. I thought service there was very slow and waiter seemed preoccupied. He charged us $7.50 for kids meals which were off of ship wide kids menu. They should have been free. My husband questioned it but was going to pay it but manager came over and realized the mistake and took them off. Not a huge deal but another table had the same issue. Our last night we ate at Cagneys. I was nervous bringing kids with us since I know it is a a nice steak house. Was not a problem at all. They were really nice there. We were able to watch chef make desserts and he was giving my son thumbs up after my son ate his dessert. Waitress was very nice. Food was great. My husband and I both had 5oz filet with bernaise. My daughter had NY strip. All were cooked perfectly and melt in your mouth. My husband added lobster for $8 and it was great. Very good meal and great service. The rest of the time we ate at the buffets. We mostly had breakfast and lunch on pool deck from the grill. The food was good and they were making omeletts in morning. On cruising days they also had big grills going with lunch on the pool deck. My kids loved the chocolate buffet one of the nights. We ended up having a chocolate dinner which my kids thought was so cool and then went to other side of buffet and had some regular food. Lots of chocolate options. My kids loved ordering room service for breakfast and then again late night.
Our weather was not great. We had planned mostly beach excursions since we are beach lovers.
Costa Maya - Tropicante. Very pretty beach area. Steve the owner is very nice. Cute beach town. People are very nice. Overcast and drizzly but still enjoyed beach
Belize- Beach Island Break (through ship). Very nice private island. Pricey for what you get. However great shells and clear water. Our waiter Harold was awesome.
Roatan- Supposed to go to Little French Key but it was pouring rain. Ended up taking private tour through Victor Bodden. Our tour guide Issac was super nice guy and got to see entire island. Great way to get around in Roatan
Cozumel -Adventure Park zip line and snorkel combo (through ship). That was really fun. You zip line & snorkel for about 3 hours and then can hang at beach club rest of the time. Very fun but water was very choppy.
We loved our pool waiter Guirmello. Tipping goes a long way on these cruises. He knew us by name and would always have drinks for us, more ice, and find us pool chairs when it was crowded. We had a full cruise with quite a few college Spring breakers. It wasn't a problem for us and no one got too out of hand. Our room steward was extremely nice. Again tipping makes a difference. We tipped him a few times throughout the week and he would do nice things for us and took care of us. We thought the beds were comfortable and didn't have any problems with them. Rooms were nice and seemed a little bigger than we expected. Didn't do too many shows but ones we saw were good. Husband liked the casino and spent some time there. He ended up losing money but all our drinks ended up being comped and our meals at pay restaurants so we probably broke even or maybe a little ahead. We didn't expect that so that was a nice surprise on our bill.
Getting off the boat was easy. We took our luggage with us. If you do that then you can get off boat as soon as it is cleared. By doing that we missed the crowds. We breezed through customs and then walked to parking. It was a little clumsy hauling our suitcases but you would have to do it once in the port and before customs anyway. So it is a just a little further walk. Car was safe and we breezed out of parking lot. It was before 9am.
Overall a fun time and would do another cruise again. We didn't see wear and tear and felt like ship was very clean. Staff was very nice and always said hello and went out of their way to the guests. We like the free style option since we are very casual and like to go to dinner when we want. Not having a set time though can lead to lines since we ended up at dinner at a popular time.