We recently returned from our Western Caribbean cruise from 1/26/2014 to 2/2/2014. My wife and I are in our late 30’s and we were with a larger group of about 180 people on the ship, but had 5 couples that are close friends. We had a blast with friends, nearly perfect weather and greatly enjoyed this ship. This ship is absolutely beautiful and I can say that we will be looking at this class of ship as our first option for future cruises.
We stayed at Hyatt Regency Pier 66 for one night before the cruise. The location is perfect if you are going on a cruise and fly into Fort Lauderdale. Your impression of the hotel will vary greatly with your room location. If you get a room in the tower, then you will really like this hotel. If your room is in the garden/marina section, then you will likely have a worn room. I went for a run toward the beach in the morning. If you are a runner or walker, get up and go the morning before the cruise. It is a gorgeous view along the beach about a mile from the hotel.
We arrived at the port around noon and the lines were not as long as I was expecting. We were in concierge so that helped cut the lines down quite a bit. We were on the ship in less than 30 minutes. It probably would have been closer to 45 minutes without the concierge lines.
We had cabin 1120, which was a concierge veranda. It has a great location and one of the largest balconies on the ship since it is on the hump. The cabins are by far the nicest cabins we have had to date on any ship. The bathrooms have so much storage and have a spa feel to them with the décor. There is over the bed storage that you will likely need to use. The closet is not near the door to the cabin which makes it better when using the bathroom. But this does make it a little difficult to get to everything in the closet with the sliding doors instead of the normal hinged doors. I like the setup of the closet in this cabin better. The television setup is fantastic. It has on demand movies and pay movies if you would like to watch any. I managed to watch one movie throughout the entire cruise with bits and pieces at times. They also post your pictures on the television to view.
The food was good. We had late main seating and we did not go to any of the specialty restaurants. The items that stand out in my memory are the barbeque salmon and the beef tips. We selected the beverage package as part of the 1-2-3 promotion. We then upgraded to the premium. This was our first cruise with a beverage package and I have to say it was very nice. We did have some issue with wine ordering and refilling on the first two nights at the main dining room, but it improved after that. We never had issues getting drinks anywhere else on the ship. There were sometimes at the pool bar where it was crowded and you had to speak up to not be passed over by new comers for your drink. I don’t know if I will pay full price for a beverage package in the future, but I will likely think about it.
If you like a bite in the afternoon, the Oceanview Café starts closing things down mid afternoon. I think around 3 or so. It has a very limited selection from then until 5:30 when the sushi is opened up with a couple of other things.
We visited several of the bars throughout the week. The Martini bar was liked by several in our group. We also really enjoyed Micheal’s Club with their beer selection. There is also a bar right outside of Micheal’s for those that want something other than beer. The Mast bar on deck 14 by the pool was our normal hangout on the sea days. There is a smoking section right there, but I wasn’t bothered by any smoke at all and I am fairly picky with this. None of us really loved the Molecular bar.
I ended up winning at the casino for the week which was great. I don’t play slots so I can’t comment on them. They normally had 2 to 4 blackjack tables and a 3 card poker table during the day. Later they would have a craps table and cash poker at night. They had several cash poker tournaments on the sea days. I think they were all the same with a $60 entry. First place got $300 and second $200 with all 10 spots filled. They also had a blackjack tournament on the last sea day with a $25 entry. There were not as many entries for this as I have seen with blackjack tournaments on past cruises. They did have single deck blackjack which for those that know how to play will provide an opportunity.
Overall, the majority of the staff was friendly and great. It did seem that there are a few that we would encounter that really didn’t seem to enjoy being there. This was most evident in the Aqua Café. I appreciate being greeted. I don’t want to feel like I am interrupting anything to say hello and ask for something.
We booked private excursions in Cozumel and Grand Cayman. We got off the ship for only a short time in Jamaica and booked two cabanas in Haiti. We really enjoyed the over the water Cabanas. I did find out that you can now request certain cabanas at the guest relations desk so I would go there as soon as you get on the ship if you want a specific cabana. I’m not sure if you can request even earlier by contacting the cruise line before the cruise, but I doubt it. We had a little issue as we did not have two that were connected by the entry stairs. Gareth in guest relations assured us that they were, but I knew from researching them that they were not. Once we got to the cabanas, our attendant, Mickey helped us get it resolved. The drink service from the attendants is pretty slow and the beer selection is pitiful on the island. We would definitely look into the cabanas again when stopping without our kids. It gives you some shade, free mats and a lunch that includes seafood kabobs, lamb shanks and steak on top of the normal items.
We flew out of West Palm Beach airport in order to get home earlier so we did express walk off. They tell you to go down at 7:15, but we were done eating and got down there at around 6:45. If you are really in a hurry to get off the ship be sure to get down no later than 6:45. By 7:15 there were probably 80 people behind us. We were off the ship and through customs by 7:15.