Lets start by saying this my first cruise. We decided on this ship because we could drive to the terminal and it was a new ship. We learned as we went along.
We were on the ship by 12:30 - and, like everyone else made our way to the buffet. I must admit, it was GOOD! lots of choices and good quality; certainly better than I expected. it was so good we ate breakfast and lunch there everyday. We walked around the ship for a while before heading to our room. When we got there, we were told it would be a while before our bags would arrive. I wasn't happy about that because I was dressed nice, and wasn't able to participate in any activities on board in what I was wearing; rookie mistake! Our bags did finally arrive around 4:30. The bathroom in the room was big! Great showers!! 6 different jets! Double sinks; there was plenty of storage in our room for all of our stuff - and, As a typical woman, I packed way too much! Don't bring an iPad- it won't fit in the safe.
One problem - NO TV! UGH - for those of you who want to watch a program or 2 at night before bed, or a sporting event, unless its European Soccer, forget it! There is only 1 TV channel in the room and it is on ESPN FC 24 / 7. They will not change it. Its the same thing throughout the ship. They did play the NFL 4:30 game on Sunday, the Sunday Night game, and Monday Night Football. Other than that, NO baseball Playoffs, NO Thursday night NFL game, NO college football on Saturday -nothing! It rained on Saturday, and when it stopped in the morning it was freezing outside so everyone on the boat was INSIDE looking for things to do; it would have been nice to sit at the bar and watch a college football game. Besides, my husband was upset he missed the premier of The Walking Dead. NO, we do not own a DVR. Just sayin'. I don't believe its a crime to have 1 TV show you must see, even if you are "on vacation."
They did have a movie channel planning movies 24 / 7. They were pretty good / recent movies. I watched Thor 5 x's! They showed Captain America, Lincoln, Rocky, Stupid Crazy Love; there were more but I just can't remember.
There were plenty of chairs on deck 16 all week (deck 16 overlooks the 1 pool). Everyone was complaining about the lack of pools on the ship. I have never cruised before, so I have nothing to compare it to. It was tiny and ALWAYS packed. Wall-to-wall flesh...as 1 senior put it. The chairs immediately around the pool (there were maybe 30 total) were "taken" by 7:30 in the morning with "towels." Don't know why anyone would want them though, your sun is partially blocked all day. The 4 hot tubs were always full. especially at 7:00 in the morning.
Fitness Center - AWESOME! All the latest equipment, and plenty to go around. NEVER had to wait for anything. The cardio area is separate from the machines, free weights (TONS of free weights), BOSU balls, kettle bells, medicine balls (all weights), ropes, etc. This was a definite plus. They offered kickboxing, some kind of cycling (TRX?), and boot camp classes for $20 each or 3 for $45.
Entertainment - saw Rock of Ages - it was as good as the Broadway production, except they cut an hour out of it. Book this as soon as you get on the ship, every showing was sold out within a day or two. If your going to a 9:30 showing, get there by 8:30 or so and get the front row. The Newlywed / Not-so-Newlywed Game was hilarious! They did everything they could to embarrass the contestants. Didn't catch any "dance" shows because that's not my thing.
Food - We dined at 4 specialty restaurants - good thing, because the food and service at the 3 "free" places was terrible. The food at the buffet is actually better then the food at Savor / Taste / Manhattan Room. Your choices are minimal. They did at least enforce the dress code for the Manhattan Room - Men must have long pants on. The menu in the 3 restaurant is EXACTLY THE SAME.
O'Sheehan's was terrible. Nothing but GREASY FRIED food. Went once to try it, never went back.
The buffet was really good - lots of choices and always a place by the window to sit!
Tappanyaki was excellent. too much food! I had the seafood combo - 2 lobster tails, 6 shrimp, and squid.
OCEAN BLUE was the best restaurant on the boat - BY FAR! its also the only restaurant you can't order as much as you want. 3 course meal - 1 of each, that's it. We thought we would still be hungry when we left - we were wrong! I ordered an iced tea - the square cubes in the glass are frozen tea - this way when the ice melts you don't dilute the tea. How genius! The pull-apart piping-hot fresh-out-of-the-oven bread was fabulous! My calamari was excellent (and a large portion!), and my crab and mushroom risotto was to die for! The portion was so large I couldn't finish it. I seriously sat there for an hour until I came close, it was that good. My husbands pan-fried scallops were just as good. They were HUGE with pork loin (of some sort) served under the scallop. You got 6 scallops about the size of your palm. It literally melted in your mouth. I swear he would have licked the plate clean if he could. Desserts weren't the best - hey, he's an Iron Chef NOT a PASTRY CHEF!. They were just OK.
This place was definitely worth the $49 pp.
Moderno - Good - the meat quality wasn't the best, but the salad bar was fabulous (as is the case with all Brazilian restaurants). Service was great. If they see your not eating a lot, they ask what they can specifically bring out for you. I waited for medium rare filet mignon. I also didn't care for either of the 3 dessert choices, they offered to make me whatever I wanted - kudos!
Our last night we dined at Cagney's - The quality of the food is like dining at a Longhorn Steakhouse. This place is so overrated. The "fries" are fries - the ones served in the buffet are better (they're McDonald's fries!). Shrimp cocktail appetizer - you get 4 shrimp. I had the potato soup - it was pretty good because it was pureed, not chunky. I tried the filet mignon because I wanted to see the quality - (like I said, it was my first cruise). Not very good. You are not getting a steak like you would at Morton's or Peter Luger. They did have the BEST DESSERTS on the ship. The chocolate brownie sundae was awesome! My husband also enjoyed his Oreo Cheesecake.
There is NO NEED to book Specialty restaurants before you board the ship, with the exception of LeBistro and Cagney's. They were sold out pretty much every night. The other restaurants had no one in them.
Did try Carlo's bake shoppe and the Gelato. Both were very reasonably priced. At Carlo's the only thing fresh is the cannoli and the lobster tails, I tried both! Excellent. The chocolate gelato was equally as good, even though they didn't have dark chocolate.
Tried for 2 days to get sushi for lunch (extra charge) but both times I went every seat was taken.
Port days - Florida: Not many people got off the ship. The sun didn't come out until around 1:00 - then it got HOT. If you want to go to a "beach" you have to take the shuttle for $12.99 pp. The shuttles also goes to Walmart (I guess a lot of people forget things). If you want to go to Ron Jon Surf Shop, the shuttles drops off / picks up right next door.
Great Stirrup Cay: The BEST DAY of the cruise. Tender (boats) was easy - on the beach by 9:30. BBQ lunch was served starting about 11:30. Since it was the first time they were doing this, it was chaos! NO one had any idea where to go or what line to get on. People pushing into lines. Terrible. But, I'm sure they have it figured out by now. The BBQ food was mediocre at best. chicken, ribs, HD's, hamburgers, corn-on-the-cobb, etc. We rented the wave runners ($89 pp single rider). BEST THING WE EVER DID! Super fun. You go about 40 MPH and you go so far out you can't see land. It was definitely an adrenaline rush!
Nassau - a lot of people got off the boat to shop or go to Atlantis. There are lots of stores and its safe. Right off the boat is a Starbucks, Hard Rock Café, Subway, McDonald's (the largest one I've ever seen), etc. There is also high-end shopping (besides all the "diamond" stores they try to push on you); Rolex, Fendi, Tag Hauer, GUCCI, etc.
All in all it was a fun cruise. As someone who likes to keep active, there wasn't enough for me to do. The ropes course was fun, but once you do it, there's no need to do it again. There was never a line at any point. The slides were hardly used - and we had great weather. If you walked up the steps you could slide right down, no wait at all.
Would I rush to do another cruise, no. But I would recommend the ship.