We had a great time but it's due to the fact that we were traveling with 3 other families. Overall, for our first time cruising, it was a good experience.
Seattle Embarkment: We arrived at the terminal early (11 AM) which gave us lots of time to check-in with no line. There were lots of agents available so the check-in process was very quick. You can even arrange/reserve/or change your dining option before boarding. There was a table with staff to assist you with this. We found out Lobster night will be on the first night so we switched our Cagney's reservation to another night. Note: there was a deal where for $57/adult, you can dine at Cagney's, Le Bistro and Mama's Kitchen (aka La Cucina) which was what our group pre-paid.
Lobster night was average; not impressed. This was on the first night and available at either Tsar or Azura. You get one lobster tail with small steak (tough piece of meat and on the salty side). The lobster taste frozen and slightly overcooked. I asked for second and our server was nice enough to get it for our table without the tough steak.
Our favorite was Le Bistro. The food was excellent and the service was A+. Our server, Dorothy, was amazing and really paid attention to our needs. Don't know if others are aware but for the flat fee, you can order as many items as you want from the menu; as many appetizers, entrees, and desserts as you want. So it is not expensive. Kids 12 and under are half price. The kids in our group were having a feast. They tried everything on the menu and reorder items that they liked several times. Our second favorite is Cagney's. The steaks were excellent. You can decide what sauce and butter to go with your steak. The service here also was very good. La Cucina was average. Service was good but the food was ok; I'd say a little bit better than Olive Garden and close to Macaroni Grill. Note: if you prepaid for dining and there are kids under 12 in your party, make sure to get the refund since it's supposed to be half price. Also check your final statement that the refund took place. There was an issue with one of the restaurants that I prepaid and the refund didn't take place. I had to ask them to fix it on my last day which they did.
We ate at the Garden Cafe' quite a bit. Mostly because of the varieties which made it easy to please everyone. Breakfast had lots of selections. There were cold stuff (cereal, yogurt, milk), hot stuff (waffles, pre-made omelets, made-to-order omelets, eggs benedicts which was good, etc.), juices, and coffee. For lunch, there were burgers, hot dogs, fries, salad, some type of grill meat depending on the day (chicken or cornish hen or fish or beef), and some Asian dishes (stir-fried, curry, noodles). Dinner had more varieties as there'd be one main hot dish (roast turkey or prime ribs, or roast pork). There was also a crepe station every night. There was one day where they had 2 small roast pigs being served at the pool area. It was excellent, especially the crunchy skins. The meat was gone within an hour.
Can't forget the Chocoholic Buffet. This is a must even if you don't have a sweet tooth or like chocolate. I can't recall which night during the cruise but at 10 PM, the Garden Cafe was completely filled with all sorts of chocolate treats. Not to mention there were several ice sculptures and lots of chocolate arts. Even though they said the start time is 10 PM, one of the crew (Rowan aka Washy Washy Guy) told us to be there early. The kids and I got there at 9:45 PM and the place was already filled with people. Be prepared to be push around 'cause it seemed like some people had never seen or eat chocolate. Some items were really good while some are just ok.
Excursions overall were ok; the details are in my individual port reviews. With our big group, we were able to cover most of the excursions. Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour was 3 out of 5. Mendenhall Glacier Explorer was 3 out of 5. Helicopter Glacier excursion got mixed review; the adults liked it while the kids gave it a 3 out of 5. Whale watching was 3.5 out of 5.
There was always a show in the main theater, Stardust, at 7:30 PM and 9:30 PM. Entertainment was good, especially the two contortionists.
Our cabin was 11546, midship mini-suite with balcony. It was small but good. Balcony is definitely a must. There was a bath tub which was a plus so we can bath our 1-year-old.
Daily activities for sea days were not appealing. The last thing while on vacation for me is to hear "how to get flat abs in 7 days" or "how to detox in 5 days", etc. Our kids tried the kids club once for a couple of hours and they got bored. There were some activities that were worth it; Salsa dancing, ballroom dancing, and a fruit carving demonstration.
Overall, we had fun because we were with friends. Bottom line, get the package dining deal 'cause Le Bistro and Cagney's are a must. Do go on an excursion and definitely get a midship cabin with a balcony. Hope I'm not forgetting anything.