8 Couples - several newbies- Night before in Clear Lake Homewood Suites- 30 minutes north of Pier- Great affordable , clean, good breakfast, near all shopping for last minute stuff.
Embarkation was good , about normal, parked at Lighthouse Parking, easy. MAKE RESERVATIONS.
MDR - Food was what I expected, good, Chilled and hot soups were all warm oh well. The Lobster was actually really good.
Windjammer- What I expected, I understand they are using leftovers, its almost a game to see what they can come up with.
Shows- Having gone on 11 cruises, I was amazingly surprised, The first comedienne, AJ Jamal was awesome! The Duo Enchantment was creepy,a combo of ballet and body balancing, weird.The Ship singers and dancers came on board at Falmouth and they premiered a new show, all the ships officers and Captain was there. GREAT SHOW!Best I have seen on a ship.Ice Show always great.
Staff- The Maitre D since they are on the new tipping scale , was non-existent and not cooperative , he didn't care at all, with a seating dilemma. Wait Staff was very friendly and totally helpful.
Overall the staff from room attendants to waiters, and bar staff were the best of any ship I have ever been on.
Cruise Staff- I am going to be kind , in my opinion, Cruise Director Steve was the worst I have ever seen, Any interaction between our group and the staff was all initiated by us.I am going to stop there.
The Shopping and Casino workers which are subcontractors were zero personality and seemed generally bored with the whole thing.
Cozumel- rented a jeep from Avis- went around the Island- stopped at Coconuts- awesome Guacamole and Salsa
Falmouth- went to Hilton Rose Hall by Jamaica for the day. great tour. saw the Howard Stern Wack Pack group there. The lazy river and waterslide was totally worth it.Outside the fenced off near the ship area, I felt more in danger and uneasiness than ever before in Jamaica, FWIW
Grand Cayman- did Stingrays with Captain Marvins, they did great job , way better than cruise tour.way better value.
Main thing I learned on this cruise: I have been cruising since 1981 on the old Carnival Mardi Gras, I have cruised 12 times now. This time more than any other I felt I was being nickled and dimed every which way. Examples:
Bingo , hundreds play , less than 200 dollars per game payout, and then the "final" jackpot at the end of the cruise is only 1900 dollars, it used to be in the thousands.
The incessant sales with the mob mentality.
The increasingly lower level of MDR food and the pushing to Specialty Dining rooms
The last straw was the "new" gratuity policy- no more is it broken down into specific people, its for all food service or all room personnel, or all beverage service. Then at the end of the cruise after they have automatically taken out the gratuity, they magically provide the white envelopes to give extra money to specific people. So basically were paying the ships workforce and then they want us to provide
'tips" to our specific staff. I know these are publicly traded companies and they are making money. The great value for the dollar that cruising was seen for is quickly losing its luster.For the first time I grabbed the cheapest cabin I could get $600 and I am glad I did.
Overall very good time, good value, great staff, no regrets.BUT just some things that diminished the experience.
The one thing that the cruise lines have going for themselves is almost all their customers don't know how it used to be.