First time cruisers we took advice from as many people as possible but the proof was always going to be in the eating. Embarkation was relatively easy. I was aware that irons were not allowed to be used not that they would be confiscated. I had to get my suitcase from security around 1700, around four hours after my partner got hers. We were misled by the announcements that some luggage would be delayed getting to cabins. I did initially blame guest relations but found subsequently they had left a voicemail on the cabin phone.
The room was a good size with a balcony(veranda) and ample wardrobe and drawer space for two people. Both cabin assistant and his deputy were first class, very courteous, friendly and efficient and a few days made towel animals which was nice. In hindsight I might not have paid the extra for the balcony cabin, we prefer to people watch, there was always sufficient pool chairs. We had breakfast on the balcony once but the foot wasn’t hot off the stove I guess because it had to be transported from the kitchen.
We were allocated 2nd seating for dinner and put on a table for 6 with no other guests. At first this was slightly uninviting but as we got to know the waiter and his assistant, the sommelier and the barman, for my vodka tonic, we were quite content. The maître de made a few appearances toward the end of the week and was very engaging too. The food in the main dining was nice, sometimes we had to eliminate what we had had or didn’t like to come up with options but on the whole excellent. The buffet restaurant was good for lunch, the main restaurant superb for breakfast; we were too late to book for the recommended speciality restaurant(tried on Wednesday fully booked) Maurano but didn’t feel we had missed out too much, it probably would have been nice.
The theatre entertainment was so-so, we did one show but were too tired to appreciate it though to be fair it probably wasn’t to our taste The bands were all very good the Miami DJ top notch, with a great percussionist but they did too few nights at the Martini bar(2) where they got the joint jumping! The club on the 14th (observation lounge) had the potential to be a good place for a drink and a dance but the crowd was sparse but for one night when there was an 80s do. Poolside entertainment good Zumba and games my partner partook of the former but did complain about being jostled by some of the older ladies lol. We got up most mornings by 0700 so the gym wasn’t too packed and this was first rate. I don’t do classes so the fact that these had to be paid for did not make a difference to me, my partner can take or leave them too. Although the martini bar was sometimes busy and not helped by only having one or two staff more concentrated on doing a martini pouring demonstration the casino bar wasn’t too far away.
Recommendations. If you think you will both have around 10 drinks a day including nice coffee then get a package either as part of the price or on-line prior to the trip. It is surprising how easy it is to drink that much and we thought we might not drink so much on the days the ship docked(3) but this wasn’t the case. We spent about $900 on drink mainly wine and vodka but did go thru the cocktail menu. We foolishly paid $129 for the soda package but find American pop too fizzy. The professional photos are great if you are not going to be a regular cruiser, get the package($240) if purchased in the first 3 days as the individual shots are expensive, $22 each, then make sure you get as many pictures taken as possible, we had around 60(I did see a lady taking a photo of one of her professional photos to avoid paying I guess) Book early for at least one speciality dinner at Maurano. A balcony is not essential unless you prefer your own company for reading or looking out when docking. Guest relations are excellent until you have a problem outside their remit then they can be quite abrupt e.g. promised $200 cabin spend, which they subsequently honoured. It will be very difficult given comments made by people we met and our own observations to find a better cruise experience if you want a sophisticated trip.