I took my 77 year old mother on a cruise this spring. Neither one of us had cruised before so my review is based upon a limited experience.
The ship was beautiful and spotless even with 6,000+ people onboard. We flew in the night before and stayed at the Best Western which had a shuttle service. *** VERY IMPORTANT*** given 30,000 people arrive into Ft Lauderdale. We also booked the shuttle to pick us up after the cruise because we were worried about catching cab afterwards. On Saturday morning we took the early shuttle that left at 10:30 am.
We arrived at the port shortly after and easily checked out bags. *** I brought a black sharpie to write out my tickets*** The porter was busy and one pen was being passed around.
We quickly made it through check in and they routed us to a spot to sit and wait. This was very easy for my 77 year old mom. She was able to walk the whole distance easily. She did have to ride an escalator and walk up an incline but that was pretty easy.
We waited maybe 15 minutes before they let us board the ship. This process was super easy for my 77 yr old mom. I debated whether we may need a wheelchair since she can't stand for long periods.
My advice is if you are bringing your mom, dad, grandparent... get there early and avoid the long lines.
The ship and our room was great! We had an interior room on the front of the boat on Central Park level 8th floor. I was worried about her being able to get around the ship and then if she would have trouble in the shower. The room was perfect. We had our beds separated and there was still plenty of room.
The shower was very easy for her to get in and out of. There is nothing to step over like a tub. You just walk straight into the shower. The room was very quite and our attendant was great. He picked up the room constantly and was very attentive to us.
The food was great! We did not eat in any of the specialty restaurants. We ate breakfast/lunch in the Park Cafe which was very easy and mostly not very crowded. It is open late for breakfast and long hours for lunch. The coffee was actually quite good. I did end up getting Starbucks in the mornings when I craved some higher end coffee. We had a dinner time of 6:00 pm on the 4th floor and our servers were Vita and Sun Li. They were awesome! We purchased a wine package and the wine selection was very good. The Pino Gris was fabulous! They have many options for those who are gluten free which I found very surprising.
Shows-wow.... Hairspray was amazing and I have seen this in NY when it first came out. Jim J Bullock played Edna and was amazing. The lead Tracy was fabulous. Come Fly with Me-was absolutely amazing. This was the best show! The stage set up was incredible for a small space. They had a full size airplane that cast members tap danced on the wings. There were acrobatic performers that were wonderful. I have no idea how someone can do what they did!
Frozen in Time-olympic level skaters on a tiny rink doing amazing spins and skating. The dive shows-wow! How do they hit a tiny pool from the 16th floor of the ship when it is very windy?
The belly flop competition was a riot and very fun to watch! The comedian's were very funny and we went to several shows to kick back relax and laugh!
Excursions- We went on 3 and it was very easy to get on and off the ship. The only port that was busy was Nassau. We did stand in line quite awhile to board and it was very hot in the little building they route you through. My mom did have some issues standing and we cut the line to get through quicker. Everyone was very nice to let us through. My advice in Nassau is board earlier and avoid the rush.
We did the bay/submerging boat/city tour. This was $39 a person and the best of all the excursions we did. The guides were great! They talked to us about all the homes on the harbor. Then we transferred to another boat that had a glass bottom. The guide on this boat was great took. He took us to some reefs and we saw tons of fish, turtles... Then we boarded a shuttle and they took us on a city tour. This was nice too.
St Thomas-Sapphire Beach and City Tour- Good tour and the beach was the best. We snorkeled and saw tons of fish. This was a great value trip. Fins/masks/snorkel/chairs on the beach all included. They also gave us one free drink. We stopped for photo's and they dropped us in town to shop after the tour was over. We had lunch at Jen's Cafe and the food was pretty good. It wasn't super expensive. We caught a cab back to the ship for $4 a person. This was a very good day!
St Martin-Jeep and Beach tour-This was a terrible tour. It cost us $109 a person and not worth it at all. It was a full day tour. We got paired up with a couple which was fine but my mom had some difficulty getting into the jeep. That's probably my fault for realizing this.
we drove through tons of traffic and it was hard to keep the whole group together. They stopped at a beach near the airport that was crowded, stinky and gross. There was not a spot to do anything because there were tons of people. Then they took us to go shopping and had to park all the jeeps quit a way from the town. Everyone on the tour passed on shopping because it was to much of a pain to get back to the shops. Then we got to the main beach on the french side and this was where it when from marginal to bad. We were routed into a restaurant Palm Island I think. They said we needed to order lunch to get a chair on the beach. So we ordered lunch and after lunch went to the beach. We grabbed a chair and shortly after were kicked out of our chairs. We were told these chairs were for those who bought lunch. I argued with the manager who told me I was to sit in the chairs for the "Jeep Tour" which were crammed all together and back from the ocean. I showed the manager my receipt-I spent $50 on lunch so you would think I could just grab any of the open chairs right? They gave the chairs we sat in to a group that arrived when we did that sat right next to us and ordered basically our same lunch.
The beach was ok, it had alot of seaweed and wasn't as nice as the beach were were at in St Thomas.
My recommendation is to avoid this excursion-it's a rip off, not well organized, food is marginal, beach is so-so and guides totally unhelpful.
They told us if we got split from the group to just head back to the boat. Many ended up getting left behind because traffic was horrible.
Fitness- The workout center was really nice. Lots of bikes, machines and treadmills. My only compliant is they need to expand their spin classes. They fill up on day one and the wait list was big enough to run others classes. The running track was great. I ran everyday 5-6 miles. They only issue with this is casual strolling people that do and sometimes are clueless that folks are actually running. I ran in the afternoon before dinner and found few on the track at that time.
Common areas-Central Park was amazing and we spent alot of time enjoying this area. 5th Floor was grand central and always busy. The top of the boat was very busy and we avoided it. The back of the boat on the 5th floor on the running track was our favorite spot. Very quiet and a great spot to read, chill out, have lunch... We hit this spot daily.
Gambling- The Casino looks great but we lost our money allocated for gambling on the 1st day in 30 mins. Then our Cpass cards didn't work. I am not sure what the deal was with this but we had to go get new cards after 30 mins in the casino.
Departing- We did the self check out/carry our own bags. We had breakfast at 6:00 am sharp in Central Cafe and by 6:10 were down on the 5th floor standing in line to get off the boat. It took us 30 mins to get through customs which was very easy for my mom. Again I was worried about standing with my mom but by getting up early we beat the lines. Our shuttle met us 15 mins later and we arrived at the airport by 7:15 ish.
If I had to do it over, I would have just grabbed a cab and we could have been there even earlier.
The airport was super easy since we were so early. We had 3 hours to kill at the airport.
In summary-great trip for a mother and daughter!