I always like to preference reviews by a bit of background about the reviewer so the reader can have a bit of insight. We are in our mid-40's, first X cruise, but our 11th overall. Have cruised RCCL, HAL, NCL and Carnival. Our least favorite was Carnival. Probably done the most of HAL in the last few years and really enjoyed it but the average age on HAL is quite a bit above ours. We are from San Diego so the time change to the East plus the additional hour lost on the cruise was a bit of a problem for us - late mornings!
We choose this cruise because it was a new ship and we liked the perks offered (beverage package and gratuities) - it was so so nice not to have to "worry" about how big a bill we would have at the end. We had the Classic package included and thought we would upgrade, but after listening to the recommendations on the CC forums, we waited until we got on the ship - great idea. We never felt the need to upgrade and found lots of reasonable options within the confines of our classic package. Now if you need Grey Goose, then you should upgrade, but let me tell you after a few days when the bartenders all knew us we were poured whatever we wanted, including premium. Of course, we do tip, so maybe this helps??
Anyway, embarkation was smooth. Port of Miami was easy to get to from FLL (we flew in the night before) and had family drive us done. Got there about Noon and was on the ship no later than 30 minutes and headed to lunch.
The ship: wow! I had read some reviews about how ugly the ship was - were we on the same one I wondered? The ship is beautiful. Clean and modern. Now even if you don't like modern, I certainly wouldn't say the ship was ugly. What???
There were a lot of pretty cool areas to check out during the week and we kept finding more as the week went on. The hideaway was cool and the game on room, as well as the ilounge for the internet. We finally wondered into the Cellars Masters and REALLY like that area as we are wine drinkers. Didn't realize they also served wine by the glass and not just the enomatic system - cool! The lounger was so soothing and relaxing and we visited several times once we found it.
The coffee area was great though usually really busy. Had some good teas and coffee drinks, plus they also serve wine if you ask. Never tried the gelato but it looked good.
Really liked the Ensemble lounge and the bartender Vicente was very good. Nice cool atmosphere, good place for an pre or post dinner cocktail. Like to piano music and the trivia games there. Michael's Club, the beer bar, was cool as well, but should open before 7pm for drinks. On sea days it stays closed - what??? X should rethink that. They are open for TV viewing (i.e. NFL football and College football!!!), but no drinks. Finally they did bring a waitress in when there were at least 100 of us in there. X needs to rethink some better sports viewing options during the football season. The casino bar has sports viewing but TV are a bit small and limited seating (maybe 10 chairs?).
Cabin: we have a standard balcony cabin on Deck 7 - so glad we upgraded to the 7th as the 6th appears to be partially obstructed. 7th was great. We were aft. No real complaints at all. Bathroom was one of the roomiest we have had a sea and I LOVE the extra foot bar in the shower to allow you to shave your legs. Brilliant!!!! Lots of storage in the bathroom.
Storage in the closet was a bit tight, but OK. Over the bed (odd feature) cupboards worked if you brought the storage cubes recommended on the forums. Great idea and worked well. There are 3 drawers in the desk area and several slots on the night stands. A small fridge that we had our stateroom attendant John clean out so we could put our water and other items in it. John was great, kept the room spotless and was patience that we were always late to exit our room! He kept us well stocked with ice. The amenities included bathrobes. The hair dryer was not the best and next time I might bring my one.
The balcony was nice and had two chairs and a table. The chairs were adjustable and actually fully reclined, which was nice. We enjoyed the time spent out there.
The TV was a nice flat screen with a good variety of channels including 2 ESPN, which made the hubby happy. You could also order room service from the TV which was convenient.
Entertainment: Much better than I anticipated after reading the forums, I thought everything would close at 10pm - no so! Plenty of live music and different kinds of bands, we loved Kenosis (sp) - they played in the grand foyer and also up on deck one night which was so much fun. There was an 80's party in the Sky lounge the first night which was a blast. Jazz music, piano music, DJ music, sail away music - lots of fun.
We went to several shows in the main theatre and enjoyed them. To be truthful the singers were a bit underwhelming (I'm too used to the Voice and AI), but the acrobatics were excellent) Tried to see the comedy show (Sin City) 3x without success, it is in the smaller venue and unfortunately it fills up fast. X should do something about allowing you to make reservations for it. We were disappointed as we heard it was so good.
Dining - our wait staff was amazing. We had Alexsander, Roger and Toto (wine steward) - late seating 8:30 p.m. table for 10 on Deck 3. Great time and great service. No complaints. WE loved meeting all our fun table mates. Food selection was very good and so was the food. We felt no need to try the specialty restaurants for dinner. I'm not a steak fan so the cost would be lost on me. Only thing in hind sight was the 5th night menu was just so-so, perhaps I would go to Tuscan Grille on that night. SEveral in our party tried Qsine - one like and one didn't. I had read many raves about the specialty restaurants, but frankly when we checked out the menus, weren't that impressed. We enjoyed the selections in Opus and if you wanted anything they were always accommodating.
The Buffet was actually much better than I anticipated, though I did not care for the pizza. Good selection of choices. LIke the options of the stir fry, pasta bar, panini bar, etc. Loved Opus for formal lunches, sometimes better than dinner. Service not as good at lunch tough in Opus. We forgot to try the Porch for lunch or Bistro for 5 but they both looked good and next time would try them, price is reasonable.
Other than the 1st day when things were hectic at the bars, we never had much problem getting service. I do have to say wish X had more pool waiters, at least for sea days. This was a common complaint we heard from others.
Pool: we really really liked the Solarium. This is something that we were familiar with coming from HAL. It is a great venue and so relaxing. Spent 2 days there and just felt so relaxed. The lounge chairs are very comfy and the piped in music soothing. Aqua Spa is overlooked by many - it is great. Yummy smoothies and great salads for lunch. It does close at 2 on port days and 2:30 on sea days.
Snacks - I found X to be lacking in this area versus other ships. As we had late dinner there was a long time between lunch and dinner (at least in cruise time - LOL). They did put on sushi at 5:30pm in the buffett, but room service menu (without charge) was not that great and the other snacks offered limited (as I did not care for the pizza and didn't want a bowl of pasta as a "snack"). Anyway, not a big complaint, but just an observation.
The sunset bar is great for sailaway - though a bit windy. Nice area to hang during the day as well The lawn is a cool idea, but I barely saw the cabanas being used - maybe they should repurpose them? I liked the bocce ball and other options - fun and different from other ships.
We only got off at one port (St. Martin), so won't go into port info. We really just enjoyed exploring the ship and spending time on it.
Casino - was great fun, though we won and lost some. Slots were tight, but they had some fun slots (Hangover and Sex and the City) that were fun to play. Black jack dealers were good and we had some fun nights there.
I loved the Zumba on deck and the line dancing classes. Never checked out the art studio. There really were a lot of options during the days of things to do. A not miss is the Galley tour - take a later tour number and the head chef - Chef Thomas, will answer your questions - very interesting. Gym was nice, but a bit small IMO for 2900 on board. Though I went on port days, so it wasn't crowded.
Cleanliness - amazing. Every public restroom I entered always had a staff cleaning it. I always saw them vacuuming and cleaning all over the ship. No complaints here.
Overalls, wonderful time and great ship.