We traveled with a group of 19, to celebrate "the grandparents" 50th wedding anniversary. My immediate family drove from Birmingham, AL to Atlanta, GA the day before and flew into Fort Lauderdale. Unfortunately after many delays due to Tropical Storm Andrea ripping across S. Florida, we finally made it to our hotel, Embassy Suites, around 11:00 p.m. Embassy Suites is a great hotel-- especially for larger families that would normally require 2 rooms. It was clean and very close to the cruise port. Breakfast the next morning was great-- and even though the hotel was sold out, it never felt busy. We made our way to the port around 10:30 and the previous cruisers were still disembarking. We checked our luggage with the porters, made our way to check in and were upstairs within 25 minutes. After another 30 minute wait, boarding began. We were on board by 12:30 pm. Our first stop was to purchase the Coke packages for all 10 children and the premium alcohol package for all 9 adults. This took approximately 30 minutes-- very organized! From there, we split up- men went to guest services and ladies went to make reservations for specialty dining. Let me say at this point, this ship is amazing!! It is unbelievably well kept, so much to do that there is no way you can do it all in one week. We had pre-purchased the Chef's Table dining package prior to embarking and had reservations for Chef's Table for night #1. This is also included reservations at Chop's Grille and CP 150. We were easily able to go to these restaurants and make reservations for the nights and times we preferred.
Dining: Chef's Table was the highlight of the trip. If you can afford it, I definitely recommend it! The food with the wine pairings was some of the best we have ever had. The service was the best! Chops Grille: the food was great! We opted not to purchase specialty wine, and our waiter was very rude to the point where I felt uncomfortable. After about 30 minutes though, his attitude did improve. CP 150: We decided to add the wine pairing ($75/pp) which was a mistake. Out of 6 courses, only 2 of the wines were to that standard. The food was good, but not great-- each course did not flow and some of the garnishes were strangely paired. However, the dessert was definitely one of the best we have ever had! At the time of booking this dining package, we did not know that this also included a complimentary lunch to Giovanni's! What a treat! The food, service and atmosphere was fabulous! MDR: We only ate here 4 nights and all of the food was very good. I had a few things that were not perfectly cooked, but when they are feeding that many people at once, the quality is better than it should be! The service in MDR was good, but the staff all seemed to have too many tables. I did not feel it was as personalized as other areas of the ship.
Bars: Since we had the premium alcohol package, I want to comment on this. There are over 25 bars on this ship and I think we went to at least 18 of them over the week. Never once did we have any negativity about having the package. Everything we ordered was on the list. I tried so many different drinks and they were all mixed better than what I would get back home. Our favorite bar was the Schooner Bar-- probably because it was closest to our stateroom. Earl was the main bartender there and he knew our names from day 1! He gives unbelievable customer service and seems to love his job! He definitely got one of our "WOW" envelopes at the end!
State Room: We were on deck 6 in a superior ocean view balcony. We had 3 rooms in a row and were able to have our balconies all opened up for one big balcony-- which was awesome! Our stateroom attendant, Ricardo, was absolutely awesome! He took unbelievable care in all that he did, was so personable, and I really enjoyed getting to know him! This was the end of his 7 month tenure, but it did not keep him from giving great customer service! Rooms are tight, but you aren't in them much. We had a pull out sofa that was huge! One night, the 3 youngest children all slept on it with no problems!
Ports: Haiti was fine-- it's a beach day! We enjoyed the lunch buffet and many "labradoozies" throughout the day. I am glad we did not pay extra for zip lining-- it was over within 5 minutes from what we could tell! Jamaica: our favorite port! We did a private tour where we did Dunns' River and Blue Irie Hole. What an adventure! Nothing like seeing your kids jump off 25 foot cliffs into these gorgeous swimming holes! Everyone loved this tour! Cozumel: We did another private tour of the island, went shopping, and snorkeling. It was fun and beautiful, but I don't think I need to see Cozumel again. Just not enough there to do!
Entertainment: Hairspray was great, Ice Skating show was great, Aqua Theater Show was amazing! We missed the comedy show, and opted not to go to the "Come Fly with Me" show because we were exhausted! I do not have anything to compare this with, but each show is very entertaining for all ages! My 5 year old was mesmerized by all of them! The cruise director was Amy, who I thought was not as annyoing as I had read, and she really loves her job. She is everywhere on the ship and has endless energy.
Adventure Ocean: We used this service on a limited basis-- because we enjoy doing things with our kids during the day! They went during our specialty dining nights and all 4 boys that went (ages 5,5,9,10) loved it. It was very organized and lots of fun activities. I love how they take them to the Windjammer for dinner-- it was quite convenient!
Summary: Overall, this trip was fabulous! It is really hard to find a vacation that would appeal to all 19 members of our family, but this one did! There is absolutely no way anyone could be bored on this ship! My only complaint, and this is minor, is that after 10:00 at night, the only food that is geared to a young child is Sorrento's pizza. After 2-3 nights, that got old. I wished there was something else that was available. On a 1-10 scale, I rate this trip a 9.5!