First of all, let me apologize for my english. Sometimes it can sound funny or unusual, given it's not my native language.
Background: I am a married, 32 years old male, soon to be a father of a little girl (wife is 31 and expecting a beautiful girl for early october). We live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and traveled to US on vacation.
This was our 3rd cruise. The other 2 were Majesty of the Seas (4 nights in Bahamas - May/2012) and MSC Lirica (8 nights in Mar del Plata - Jan/2010).
We really enjoy being on a relaxed atmosphere, having the chance to have great dinners, play a few bucks at the slotmachines, watch a few shows and enjoy other entertainment options onboard. Despite living in a sunny place, we are not really into going to the beach. MIL lives fairly close and she has a pool at her home (which we prefer over the beach) so we are more into relaxing than beaches and sun. Of course we love the caribbean scenery beaches and snorkel aswell but that's not the main idea for us.
As I said, our main goal with this cruise was to relax after 10 days in Orlando, shopping baby clothes and also visitng a few theme parks (wife had to watch me ride on almost everything since she could only ride a handful of attractions).
That said, let's go to the group: we were also travelling with other family members. Wife's sister, her husband and 2 years old daughter. My mother-in-law and father-in-law. Also her cousing with husband and 3 kids (18 years old boy, 11 years old boy and 10 years old girl). And a couple of friends. A total of 6 staterooms with lots of different interests. We usually did different activities during the day and got together at night on a big single table to speak about the day and have dinner.
Our arrival at Ft. Lauderdale was really easy. We left Orlando around 10 AM and drove through Turnpike for the next 3 1/2 hours following our Garmin GPS'es orientations. We stopped once for restrooms and coffee. One quick note here: roads are large, flat, very well conserved with not so many turns, no ups and downs and nothing to be done other than avoid sleeping. We were on a convoy of 3 Dodge Grand Caravans and 1 Chevrolet Trailblazer rented at Hertz and decided to head straight to the Hertz local branch at the Crowne Plaza, the closest to Port Everglades. From there we had our luggage loaded into the van and in less than 10 minutes the kind porters were helping us.
Following advice from CC, I printed my labels in plain paper, folded and used 3M heavy duty clear tape bought at Walmart from less than $3. The other guys didn't do so, but porters helped them and since it was already 2 PM there was no rush at all at the embarkation. Gold C&A lanes weren't even needed since there were a lot of employees available.
The only unexpected thing at this moment was the request for a doctor's letter stating the ammount of weeks of my wife's pregnancy. Apparently, pregnant women can only cruise if they have this letter and they're above 3 months and below 7 months. Our travel agent didn't say anything about that but we had the letter since it's also required by the air flight company - but it was in brazilian portuguese. The nice lady only asked to see the number of weeks and trusted my reading with subsequent translation. She also photocoppied the letter for archiving purposes. The whole thing was quick. Less than 10 minutes in total, including the letter reading/translation.
The cruise (finally) begins...
At around 3 PM we were onboard, just in time for a 10 minutes walk, getting to know our cabins (no luggage still) and leaving for the mandatory drill. No time for eating now, but we already knew this would probably happen when we left at 10 AM and had a good breakfast back in Orlando.
After the drill, we headed straight to the Park Cafe to try the famous roast-beef sandwich. YES, IT IT REALLY THAT AMAZING. and also walked around the Boardwalk, Central Park, the Pools in the upper decks and back to the cabin, where our luggage was waiting for us.
Our cabin was a large interior room on deck 3, 3836. It's location was perfect in our opinion. close enough to the elevators but in a middle hall with no waling traffic or excessive noise. The choice of an interior room was made based in three aspects: 1 - price; 2 - no need for fancy cabins since we stay out of it during the whole day and return just for showering and sleeping; 3 - complete darkness.
The 2 only complaints regarding the cabin: safe should be bigger, to fit a laptop. I think it only fits an iPad. And the movie selection on the Portuguese channel of the TV was really poor. we only had The Amazing Spider Man and The Dark Knight Rises rotating in a proportion of 70% Spiderman and 30% Batman. And from Day 7 to the end of the cruise: premiere and non-stop runs of "Disembarkation Instructions".. Since wife does not speak english, we pretty much abandoned TV on the cruise (which is good from a switch-off perspective). Our stateroom attendant was William. He was really outstanding! Always smiling, ready to help and quick to answer our demands.
Let's separate in topics 'cause this is going sooo long by now:
Food: we never ordered any food at the room. Cannot talk about that. We dined at MDR evey night and except for one only night (I guess Day 5) I ordered two starters and two entrees. Overall impression is that food was good, fish and seafood was spetacular and meat overall ok. I like medium rare and everything always came cooked to my preference. Wife prefers well done and a couple of times they have to reorder. Our waiter was Anthony, from Goa, India. Assistant was Hugo, from Peru. They were both amazing. Anthony insisted in bringing plates we didn't ordered so we could try different things. A few people could find that pushy of his part, but that was his way and we actually enjoyed because a few members of the table did not speak english and most of the times were sticking to common well-known plates - that was their chance to try something different and tasty that otherwise they would never order. I am more like a foodie type and loved to try everything that was unusua at the menu (at least plates that aren't usually served in Brazil). During the course of the week we had breakfast at the MDR at times and also at the Windjammer. We prefered the Windjammer for having more fruit options. At the MDR we always went on buffet because this is quicker than a la-carte. Most of the afternoons had a visit to Park Cafe for a couple of the roast-beef sandwich.
Drinks: we had the soda pack. really good value for the money. coke machines were more than enough and I never had to wait for more than one person in line. I don't like carrying the souvenir cup around but did that sometimes to try new soda flavors. but most of the time I stick(ed) to the regular coke served everywhere, from casino to pool bars. I enjoy premium beers and have quite a few of them. A couple everyday to be more reallistic. I never repeated and the Pub (something Atlas) at the Promenade has a very good selection. There was also a skinny black waiter there that was so funny. I can't remember the guy's name but his from Saint Vincent and loves to chat. I really enjoyed being that, drinking and chatting with him. Other times there was live music when everybody was singing together and I was not (only because I didn't know the lyrics - lol).
Sports - zipline and flowrider are really funny. flowrider can be tried by anyone with or without experience. any bodyshape included (I'm 1,75m w/ 110kg - 5'9" w/ 242 pounds). My family and friends are so sure that I was going to fail really big that they were already laughing and with cameras set to record, but that never happened and everyone (including me) was surprised with my performance. I tried again one more time and it was really good! Instructors are patient and help everyone withouth the need for paying classes. I didn't see anyone having classes so I cannot say for sure that it's really not needed. But I think that you should try without the classes before.
Entertainment - our Cruise Director was Ricky. He is 11 out of 10. Genuine fun. Not the fake forced usual jokes but ones that everyone was always laughing. Ice show (frozen in time) was excellent. ocean of dreams also spetacular. From Ricky, the best performances were the Bellyflop Competition presentation and also The Quest. Two epic moments of the cruise to say the least. Casino was very good with plenty of options for those who like slotmachines. I had a "cap" of 5 dollars per night and managed to finish 2 nights above 10, but managed to lose it all on the next night. lol. Still funny, tough. 9 sun and Cleopatra are the best machines in my opinion.
I also went for the Comedy show and returned to my cabin with my whole body aching. I laughed so hard and so many times. If you are into standup comedy, don't miss it!!
Ports of call - I'll go straight to the point and sorry if anyone is offended but we didn't like Labadee (Coco Kay is way better!) or Falmouth. Fallmouth consist of a fenced small neighborhood in the middle of nothing. We regreted not hiring and excursion. I even tried to walk outside the fenced area by mylself for a couple of blocks. All I found was a lot of pushy people trying to shake your hand, be your best friend and offer you something that was either sex or weed most of the times. I was approched 8 times in two blocks and shouted at least 6 more that I ignored. Labadee is more beautiful from the ship (great photos) than there. Nothing special in my opinion. I did the Wavejet Excursion as rider and appreciated a lot. The sea had a lot of waves, different from Coco Cay where the seas is flatter.That was what saved the day. Cozumel, on the other hand is EPIC. We did the Chunkanaab and Discovey Mexico tour and we felt that every penny was worth it. Stunning scenery, honest prices, not a single pushy vendor and trully happy smiling people.
Disembarkation - We picked the 9 - 930 AM slot and were off the ship on the parking in around 15 minutes. Really well organized. Our group (24) was called earlier than expect so we we're still having breakfast and left at 915 AM.
Overall, a GREAT CRUISE. Looking forward the next one. Quantum? Brilliance @ Europe? Who knows...
Well, if you are still reading, thanks for you patience. Sorry for being confuse some times and I won't re-read the text to find mispelling so, sorry about that too.
If you have any questions, fell free to ask. I will happily answer
Best for all and happy cruises.