First, we paid $469 for a balcony for this 7 day cruise. We got our money's worth. Definitely. I read a great idea here on CC about tipping your cabin steward on day 1 to get a little extra attention. We never actually saw/met our attendant until day 6. Most days we had cabin service once a day instead of twice. Some folks might care, we didn't. Our mini bar was never restocked, but we only drank the 4 sodas that were in there.
We drove to the port. It was super easy access and parking was very very very close. Embarkation was a bit delayed due do the ship's late arrival at port, but we were in our cabin by 2 p.m. and had our luggage by 5 p.m. Debarkation was quick and easy. We were in our car around 9:45.
It took two calls to get an extra pillow (note: there are drawers under the couch with extra pillows and sheets), and two hours to get a bucket of ice. 3 days we had to call to request the breakfast request door hanger for a.m. room service. Minor inconveniences, really. I understand, they have to make cutbacks on personnel to compensate for the low pricing.
Our cabin was a "partially obstructed view" balcony, which meant that we had a lifeboat at floor level. Our view was only obstructed if we looked down. Straight out was a beautiful view.
3 closets, 4 drawers, 2 cabinets, 7 shelves in the bathroom - plenty of space for everything we brought. There is only one 110 outlet in the room, so bring an extension cord, if you think you'll need it.
Room service was usually delivered within 30 minutes. Food in the Normandie dining room was routine, and special requests were always honored. Asparagus Vichyssoise was exceptional. Mahi Mahi and a selection of unidentified broiled fish were overcooked and tough. Our waiter practically insisted that I order something else. Vegetarian dishes were interesting. Food in the Mermaid Grille on deck 9, got old really fast. The midnight buffet was a Mexican taco bar, we skipped it.
The entertainment was pretty good - costuming was exceptional, singing (along to the prerecorded tracks) was excellent, the dancers ranged from talented to half a beat behind everyone else. The live musicians were all very very good. We had 4 different comedians that performed 20 different shows. All were pretty funny. Go early, the club fills up fast for most shows.
The casino didn't seem too smoky to me and I am allergic. I won a grand on a slot machine and they bought me a drink. Yay.
The gym is well equipped and crowded on sea days.
They have about a dozen computers for internet access, which is really slow, so watch your online time.
Ports: We didn't go ashore at Port Canaveral and just made quick trips at Freeport and Nassau.
I intended on staying on the ship, reading, seeing the evening shows and participating in 0 activities. But, as usual, the music trivia contests pulled us in and were fun. The director, Kirk and his assistant, Adam, have a morning talk show on channel 27. I called in and they sent me a bottle of champagne.
One nice addition was the availability of movies on demand in the cabin. They cost about $11.
I agree with most of the reviewers that the ship's decor is abysmal and dark. And a little disconcerting, riding up on the atrium elevators and coming face to, errrr, face with the statue of David. Difficult not to giggle. There was a definite vibration all over the ship. It was noticeable not matter which level we were on.
Tips to the staff are now charged to your account and distributed without having to stuff an envelope. This makes it a little more difficult to tip more than the recommended amount. Especially when you never see the guy who makes your towel animals.
I really can't complain about anything - it's a discount cruise. I got a lot of reading done and was sad when it was over. A perfect vacation.