We booked this cruise last minute and actually, because it was a New Year's cruise, I was expecting many families with kids running amok. Yes, there were many children but they were very well behaved and we did not have any run ins. Embarkation was very smooth as we had Express booking and waltzed right through without a hitch. Our ocean view cabin was perfectly situated mid-ship and we never had to walk far to anything. The cabin layout was good with a large draw under the foot of the bed for clothing. Our room steward was Kamal and he was not satisfactory. Dirty wine glasses stood in our room for 2 days, we waited 45 mins. for fresh ice and he never replenished even the basics like soap. By the end of the cruise, hubby and I were sharing a sliver of soap. Finally, I figured out if I communicated through notes, I got the what we needed. The shower toiletries were Elemis although I never used them.
DINING: We did not eat at any specialty restaurants but the Lido for breakfast & lunch provided a good selection and plentiful food. The dinner chef had a heavy hand with salt (which I loved!) so expect to return home retaining a lot of water. Our waiter was Yopi and he was very good assisted by Sapu, who was also good but not remarkably so. They all learn your first name and say it like you're their buddy for the remainder of the cruise. Our sommelier was Marcy and she was the best. She really knew her wines and was always at hand to pour and serve.
GYM: The gym is pathetically small and people fight for space. They should repossess the unused rooms from the spa and make the gym larger. The elliptical machines and treadmills were good but don't forget your earbuds since there are TVs attached for watching while you walk.
SHIP FLICKS - a GREAT idea! They give you a book with over 1,000 DVDs that can be borrowed from the ship to watch a movie. If you want the movie right away, be prepared to run down to the front desk. I used it twice in the afternoons to compliments my naps.
ENTERTAINMENT: Worst dance troupe on the seas but fortunately they broke it up with a funny comedienne (Julie Barr), the 4 tenors and a steel drum band that was marvelous! Last night they adapted Dancing with the Stars to the ship and that was entertaining as well. New Year's Eve party was great as we danced, blew horns and celebrated into the New Year. At just before midnight, they cut into the action at Times Square and we all watched the ball drop.
OMG! If you have even an inkling of interest in ancient Mayan culture, do NOT miss the Chochoben ruins. I booked with Native Choice and was not sorry. We were a small group of 12 and got a wonderful tour and feel for what life was like 2,000 years ago. Maybe I have to qualify this by saying I speak fluent Mexican-Spanish, so we got a little preferential treatment, but even so, it was amazing. The jungle is totally cleared and there are 3 pyramids to see and a plaza. Smart idea to wear bug spray. One warning would be that the steep stairs are very slippery and dangerous to climb but the view from below is just as good. The highlight of the tour came when the van halted along the highway and we bought FRESH pineapple from native women. They gave us a special smoke-flavored chile powder to sprinkle to enhance the sweetness. It tasted like PURE sugar. Also, the honey tapped from jungle trees is s'psd to be excellent but I don't like honey so I can't comment. We ended the tour happy and on a sugar high. I will never eat canned pineapple again!!!
DH and I were in the first group to tender in and we immediately hit the beach. Kamal did not leave HAL beach towels in our room so I had to run up to the Lido deck and take 2 towels before we left (true to form). Anyway, Half Moon Cay was bee-U-tee-ful with powder white sand and cool, refreshing water. I struck up conversations with people nearby and everyone was very, very friendly.
As for the bar-b-que, everything was pre-cooked so the hamburgers were very dry. Long lines were discouraging so I just got a little bit and sat down at a picnic table to eat. Many passengers took advantage of the horseback riding excursion and other excursions. They commented that they were very good, esp. the horseback riding along the beach.
Half Moon Cay proved to be a PERFECT beach day and we enjoyed ourselves just sunning and swimming.
I prefer to book excursions separate from the cruise because #1. It is cost effective and #2. we like to experience as much local color as possible so we try to deal with natives. Anyway, DH and I walked out of the terminal and hopped a JUTA van with 8 other people. Clay was the driver and half the group he dropped at the local beach ($5). We remained on board and he asked if, for $15, would we like to tour Montego Bay? Well, of course! So for the next 1 1/2 hours, Clay drove us up and down the mountainous terrain of Montego Bay and introduced us to the flora and fauna. We stopped at Rose Hall Great House and we saw how the rich live and how the poor just scrape by. It was very interesting. At tour's end, he dropped us in town to do a little shopping. We strode up and down the narrow street as hawkers tried to get us into their shops to buy their souvenirs but we never felt unsafe or threatened in any way. Quite the opposite actually and DH commented on how attractive the Jamaican woman are. He wanted to drop us by the craft market but we politely declined and went straight on to the ship. We left with sweet memories of Jamaica. Yea Mon!!!