I was little concerned about some of the reviews I'd been reading on Cruise Critic. I'm happy to say our experience was much different. Overall, it was a fantastic week. The people (and crew) were friendly, the food was good to downright superb, and the boat offer more activities and events than we could possibly do in a week.
Here are some tips from our cruise:
1. Bring a case of water. You'll go through it and save some $$. If you don't want the hassle, bring a bottle or two and refill them on the ship. Every bartender will give you ice water on request. If you're getting a lot of them, it's not a bad idea to tip them a couple of bucks upfront.
2. Arrive early to get on board. We got there at 9:30 and were on board by 11:00. You'll beat the crowds and get access to the Vibe Beach Club, which is $80 per person, per week, and it fills up fast. The benefit is that it's not crowded, offers more comfortable chaises and is away from the hustle bustle of the ship. If you're interested, go to Guest Services on Deck 6 right away to pay for their spaces. Otherwise, they'll be gone.
3. A good alternative is "Spice H2O", which is an adults only deck on the aft of the ship. It's on deck 16 I think, and we found that while it got crowded, it wasn't nearly as frantic as the chairs near the pools.
4. Get out early and put a towel and a book on your chairs (like 7 AM on at-sea days). It's officially discouraged but everyone does it. After an hour with no-one there, they remove your belongings but I only saw it done once.
5. Eat at the two "included" restaurants Taste and Savor for breakfast. They have limited hours but I found the food to be better than at the Garden Cafe.
6. The Manhattan Room was excellent.
7. We ate at Le Bistro ($20 extra) and the food was excellent/superb. Stay away from the swordfish though. Two people at our table had it and were disappointed. Escargot and the steak were both outstanding.
8. Le Circ show was great; amazing even.
9. Tip extra for good service. A buck or two for ice, a towel or a drink goes a long way. (It's extra, I know, but we found that it was worth it.)
10. If you can't book a restaurant over the phone (they're filled, or whatever), try going to the restaurant itself and speak with the person out front. We did this twice and got tables for 12 both times.
Bermuda is stunning. Horseshoe Beach is accessible by cab and bus. The "Special" (express) bus cost 50% less and arrives there in almost the same time. The only real difference is that you have to walk up and down a rather steep hill with the bus.
11. Check out the sunsets on the boat they are AMAZING.
12. Try and set your clock to wake up when you arrive at Bermuda we got there at about 7 AM and were greeted by a full rainbow.
13. Church Beach is supposed to be good for snorkeling. Bring cash; it's $25 (US) for a snorkel, fins and a mask. You can take the special bus here as well; it's one of just two stops.
14. The Casino was the only place on the ship that I didn't like. It was smoky, crowded, and everybody in our group lost except for one of the boys.
15. Internet was spotty. But in the end, it was a great thing to be disconnected from the world for a week!
16. Our stateroom (12704) was great; beware of the sill between the bathroom and the bedroom it hurts! Our solution was to leave the bathroom light on and close the door.
17. If you need to make calls, texts or send emails, get an international plan on your cellphones before you go. Otherwise your great cruise vacation could cost you thousands (not kidding) in roaming costs. See this link for more: http://www.snydeysense.com/2010/04/13/verizon-data-roaming-nightmare/
Our solution was simple: the kids left their phones at home. My wife got an international plan and I turned off my data roaming, cellular data and 3G on my iPhone and then turned on "airplane mode". I haven't gotten the bill yet, but according to the AT&T rep, there should be no problems. I hope he's right.
I would give our trip 5 stars. It was one of the best vacations I've ever had.