We chose a balcony room on the basis that we had 3 adults this time (my wife and I plus my 80 year old mother) and could not easily arrange for a fourth person and did not want a room with a drop down bunk -- some of these balcony rooms have a couch that can be made into a bed. I would highly recommend this solution if you have 3 folks and don't want to use a drop down bunk. The only problem was that I think our room steward was lazy and did not ever make the couch/bed into just a couch during the day. My 80 year old mother used the couch/bed and said it was fine.
This went fairly smoothly as we did arrive around 2:00 p.m. that afternoon.
Very nice size Balcony room and the couch made into a bed. My wife and I have never had a balcony room and my mother was a cruise virgin so we really enjoyed the balcony and being able to tell if it was night or day. Bathroom seem very spacous too. We never did see what the couch was like as the room steward(s) never always left it as a bed. If I ever had a situation of going as a party of 3 adults, I would choose this option again of a balcony room with a couch/bed. TV seemed a bit small but I really was not there to watch TV much. LOL We were on the left (port) side of the ship in the back just one level below the Mermaid buffet/grill. It was great to be able to either walk up one flight of stairs or take the elevator if need.
We usually ate breakfast and lunch in the Mermaid buffet and really enjoyed going to dinner in the main dining room on the upper floor with "Your Time Dining" which allows you to go eat whenever you want between 5:45 p.m. and I think 9:30 p.m. We could not get early regular dining so this seemed to be the best way to eat early so we could finish dinner fairly early rather than late. I think we all loved the melted chocolate cake and we were all usually very happy with the choices for dinner. I think lunch in the Mermaid buffet was a bit hit or miss and not much to write home about but the breakfast there was great every day and I missed it once I came home. We also had the good fortune to get the same waiter team each night and they were fabulous and we looked forward to seeing them each night. Gary and his team truly made the dinner dining a truely wonderful time and I would have felt like a traitor if they had set us anywhere else for dinner -- we always asked to be seated in his area -- except the first night or two and I was trying to see if we could get a window table (never happened and we just had to put up with Gary and his team LOL). Also, I came to really love the pizza station in the mermaid grill area.
We enjoyed the shows every night and my mom and I really enjoyed going to see the comedy shows in the Butterfies Lounge -- I think they called it the Punchline. We certainly enjoyed the newly wed game and of course the Quest show. My mom regrets she did not get pictures of me competing in the quests and I am sure glad she didn't get any and it was not on the ships DVD for the cruise. The quests were a bit different from what I've seen before (been on 6 other cruises) and things can get a bit interesting. We spent alot more than a little time in the ship's casino and luckily didn't lose too much. Beware of the golden monkey slot machines and going for all 10 steps as they seem to have it set to give you the lowest of the 5 amounts most of the time -- tip: take the money on step 3 or 6. We did have an interesting experience with the shopping show one night as a person did not come claim their prize (a tanzanite (sp) necklace) and they did another drawing for it and drew my mother's name and then someone showed up and said they were the person and it was suspected it was someone who actually new the person and thus my mom didn't get anything that night but because others complained to the cruise director about it, the shopping specialist did give her something later.
Ports and Excursions:
We didn't take any excursions which is a matter of both cost and than my wife cannot swim and that my 80 year old mom was most interested in going shopping. Our first port was Port Canaveral and we just stayed on the ship as nothing is right there and you need a taxi or an excursion to go somewhere. Our 2nd port was Nassau and my mom really enjoyed going shopping there. She walked so much there (remember she's 80 years old) and thus was too tired to do anything at our 3rd port which was Freeport in the Bahamas other than go take a few pictures and a bit of shopping at the little shipping area right near the ship.
We chose to carry off our luggage and this was very easy and well handled this time and we were off the ship by 9:15 a.m.
Overall evaluation of the trip in my book -- I would say it was a complete success to have my mom experience a cruise for the first time and for my wife and I to experience a balcony room. I am a bit concerned now my wife may want to go balcony rather than inside cabin in the future -- if the price right, I certainly will. Our evening dining room waiter and staff were the best and the room steward was rather poor -- didn't even learn his name and he didn't seem to have learned mine. If you have three folks particularly if they are adults, I would certainly recommend comparing a balcony room with a couch/bed if you can take three folks in a room. It worked out really well with taking my 80 year old mother to have her in our room and no one had to sleep in a drop down bunk. Our room was 8246 and it has this feature.