Last minute cruise over New Year's and based on some reviews of this ship, we were a little concerned but we were pleasantly surprised. This ship is not one of the glitzy new ones, but it has been nicely updated in all the places that matter, with attractive and well maintained public areas that retain some of the charm lost on the newer "floating cities". We loved all the little conversation groupings throughout the ship. We had a veranda room that was more spacious than other ships w/abundant storage space. We chose flex dining and never had to wait w/party of 3 and this was even with a fully booked cruise. The food in the main dining room was good to very good for a cruise ship this size (I think some people forget that serving 1800 dinners is not the same as made to order meals for 100 diners). We splurged on the Ocean Liner restaurant one evening and it was well worth the upcharge given the quality and outstanding service and ambiance. The New Year's Eve celebration was terrific, with options to suit everyone's taste. Other than the magician, the entertainment was good and getting a decent seat was rarely a problem.
Given that this was a full ship, it was sometimes hard to use the fitness room or pools when you wanted, but spots always opened up. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised that we could always find several nice spots to lounge about w/o feeling overwhelmed w/people. On board activities were a bit thin, especially for at sea days. The exercise and dance classes were good, and the galley tour was worth the time, but not much else other than trivia contests, art auctions and the casino.
Lectures and port presentations were really sales pitches. It would have been nice to have a presentation on the Mayan culture prior to Cozumel, for example. Given that this was only a 5 day cruise w/2 days in ports, this wasn't a huge issue, but I'd definitely want more intellectual options for a longer cruise - perhaps that's the case. I can't comment on the shore excursions as we didn't book any. We're familiar w/Key West and in Cozumel, we opted for a highly rated, local tour guide for the Tulum ruins to have a more indepth experience. Embarkation and disembarkation was always smooth, even better than experiences we've had on more elite lines. The real standout on this ship is the crew. Everyone, from the captain on down, was visible, accessible and went out of their way to make your trip special. They emphasize being a team and it showed in so many ways. I'd definitely recommend this cruise and this ship.
After reading the reviews, we booked w/Shore Excursions Group for a tour of the Tulum ruins rather than use the cruise line's excursion. We wanted a small group experience that would give us an in depth exposure to the ruins. We weren't disappointed. It was a 10 minute, inexpensive taxi ride from the ship to where we would catch the ferry to the mainland. We were greeted b/the tour coordinator Angela, our tour guide Audi and provided with a much appreciated bottle of water. It's close to a 45 minute ferry crossing and can be choppy, so prepare if you're subject to motion sickness. Audi however provides special care for those who experience the problem. Once ashore, it's a 25 minute ride to the ruins with a group that usually tops out at ten (so much nicer than the large tours that descend on the ruins). Audi provides an excellent tour, which lasts @2 1/2 hours. He majored in both history and cultural anthropology and has done extensive research on the Mayans, thus bringing their story to life. He's also very conscientious of your schedule, ensuring that you arrive back in Cozumel w/enough time left over for a local meal or shopping in the city before needing to be back on board the ship. This tour is focused on maximizing your time at the ruins, so there is no lunch break; some might find it useful to bring along a snack. This is a well organized, very informative tour of the Tulum ruins and is well worth booking.