This was a third cruise for my 5 year old and I. We have previously cruised Carnival magic in Alaska and the old Monarch of Seas in the Bahamas.
Embarkation was fairly efficient and we had a chance to explore and have something to eat before lifeboat drill. The ship is large and presents very well. We had a terrific stateroom on deck ten midship. It was an accessible interior large enough to cartwheel in! We don't need an accessible cabin but as this one was spare and we were able to have it we did enjoy it. Plenty of storage, big comfy bed. It was kept immaculate by our friendly (possibly a bit long winded) cabin assistant. Being only one floor down from windjammer was great. There were no robes provided and I did miss this as they are included on carnival. My son also missed the chocolate in the pillow - also a carnival thing. We both enjoyed the towel animals.
Kids club was a huge hit for my son. He made great friends and wanted to be there as much as possible. This was terrific as it gave me a chance to see the ports and shows and eat in a relaxed fashion in the evenings.
I saw every show offered (ice skating one twice) and enjoyed all of them. It is certainly not West End or Broadway quality but it is very entertaining and the performers work hard. The dance party is the promenade was also fun to watch.
We ate breakfast and lunch in Windjammer each day. This buffet is fine - not fancy and some foods are better than others but you would have to be pretty fussy to find nothing you would enjoy. Generally I think it is better than the Carnival buffet though the fresh made pizza and omelettes were better on Carnival. It is great to sit out the back of the boat and eat here - beautiful views. The staff were so helpful in helping us find a table and entertaining my son. I usually got him early dinner here too.
I ate dinner in the MDR each night. I had my time dining and just turned up when I was ready. Mainly I worked around shows as these were my priority. I never had to wait and was able to always get a table on my own. I hate making small talk at dinner! Service was very friendly. Food is good without being exceptional. Carnival food in the MDR is much better. Drink service was hopeless in MDR - very slow. Cocktails much better on carnival. Royal's were watered down and tasteless. Drinks are reasonably priced. I only had one alcoholic drink per night and drank water the rest of the time as we do at home.We did not try the specialty restrurants or room service.
We did go to the special breakfast with the characters but we were bored and left early. Service was slow, food was cold when it got to us. There were waiters very sneakily offering fresh oj and not letting on that it had to be paid for separately - I saw several people get caught by this.
We did not do any royal excursions but arranged our own. We did have a near disaster in Phuket when a tour I had booked ran much later than we had been told - I had checked twice by email and we were lied to twice by the Thai company. Thank goodness the ship waited for us as we were only wearing swimmers and had no ID with us at all, little money and my son did not even have shoes.
We are very active and took part in lots of activities such as ice skating and sports. In fact we ran out of time to try everything we wanted. Wish we had stayed on the ship more and spent less time in the ports. Great recreational facilities. I went to the gym every day and also did a lot of walking around the promenade deck to try and work off the food. We spent a lot of time in the pools.
The photographers were annoying and difficult to avoid. I don't like feeling we are being forced to have photos - especially as they are all posted publically for everyone to see. I literally had to push away to avoid being photographed at times.
A cruise is a great value holiday. I love that so much is included. We never spend more than $100 extra. For a single Mum and son it is perfect and it gives us time together as well as time separately, wonderful service, entertainment and activities. It is a real holiday and we already have three more cruises booked in the next 12 months to look forward to.