This was the first cruise that me and wife had taken. We took a cruise to the Bahamas, St. Thomas, and St. Martin for 7 nights. Getting on the ship was not bad all; it seemed like it was an easy process. Getting off the ship was little hectic, but I think that will be the case for any cruise you take.
We stayed in a Mini-Suite which had a balcony with mini-bar and full bath. In my opinion we paid about $200 extra for a mini-suite when we could have just gone with a regular balcony cabin. That extra money we spent would have saved us money on the shore excursions. Getting a balcony was great because you get to see the islands and ports of call from a distance and get to see great views. I would be fine with getting just a simple indoor room, since you will not spend that much time in your cabin anyway. Save all the money you can for a chance to do some nice excursions on your trip.
The food for the buffet was not bad, but not great. Breakfast was the best meal of the day. We ate at Cagney's two nights on the ship which is a specialty restaurant that is a nice steakhouse. Had the best filet there, and the best waiter on the ship named Anil. The Italian restaurant was good, but the French restaurant was not great. Food there was good but portions were so small that I had to get food after at the buffet. Had many bars for those who enjoy the night life; as well as many night life events. In one bar call O'Sheeans they had a big screen TV that took up a two story wall that broadcasting all the NFL games and sports games.
The shows that they had were the Cirque de sol le, blue man group, and more. These shows were good entertainment. Pay the extra $20 for better seats so that way you get a full view. The Spa was a little exspensive as we would normally pay less than half at home for a massage. The Spa did get cheaper on days when we were not at sea and they also were cheaper by the end of the week. They had a great wine tasting which we attended three times and felt that it was great information about the wines, and the staff made it a great activity. They have water slides, teens only night club, and many things for kids to do.
The ship itself was a huge ship and made other cruise line ships look small. The only thing about this is the bigger the ship the more people there are and this made the pool overcrowded and the buffet. The service was very good. All the waiters at the restaurants were very attentive and took interest in their customers. The ship steward that we had was very good as well. Would do everything we asked (provided extra towels, exchanged our pool towels, etc.).
The port and shore excursions were good, but sometimes not long enough. It seemed like they could have given you an extra hour or so, but in my opinion the shore excursions and getting to tour the different islands is what cruising is all about. From a travel standpoint cruising can give you a great sample of Island that maybe you would like to go back and visit.
The price for everything was little bit more than what we bargained for. I would recommend getting the "Food package" which will let you eat the restaurants as many times as you want (basically making the trip all-inclusive for food on board). The cost for this was about $119 per person. The beverage package ran about $350 for unlimited alcohol for one person on the trip. Unless you plan on spending a lot of time at the bar (which me and wife do not) then you might want to get. But if you only have a few drinks a day then you will actually lose money. In total I think me and my wife spent a total of $220 and this included three bottles of wine for dinner throughout the week. If you buy wine at a restaurant they will re-cork the bottle for you and you could have it for another night. Buy wine by the bottle and not by the glass, this is the cheaper route and more value for your money. Plan to spend about an extra $1,000-$1,500 on everything besides the actually cruise. This includes shore excursions, specialty restaurants, activities, alcoholic beverages, spa, etc. Like I said I would save money on the cabin and use that for the spending money and as well as not fly in the night before and pay for the hotel. That would be an extra $500 in savings for your trip in regards to spending money easy. In my opinion the whole point of cruising is about seeing the ports and islands. Invest in the shore excursions.
Overall gave the cruise and ship and average rating. There were pros and cons. Would probably go with smaller ship next time, or at least have less sea time on cruise.