My mother, husband and two 17 year old twin boys and myself just got back yesterday from this cruise. The ship was supposedly given a makeover in 2012, but there were many things that shouldn't have been an issue if this was the case. The first thing we noticed was, the large outdoor screen that they used for evening movies and daytime entertainment had large blackout rectangular bars in it, obscuring the picture. It made watching a movie very annoying--like a block of pixels were dead, only it moved around the screen. The second bit of inconvenience was, the top deck had railing that was missing, so a large section of it was blocked off. This made trying to use the track to jog very inconvenient. The windows looked like they'd never been cleaned since the ship was launched, and the dining room carpet looked as though it rarely got vacuumed. For the first three days of the cruise, the Windjammer restaurant was very crowded and it was difficult to get a table. If I did manage to procure a table from another family leaving, I could not get anyone to bus the table, even though the crew were sanding around not doing anything. In fact, one guy I asked, who was just standing at the dirty dish station gave me a dirty look as though I had some nerve asking him if he would bus the table. Halfway through the cruise, this changed because 600 people had come down with norovirus. Gee, go figure. Then dining did a complete 180. We were no longer allowed to take ANYTHING for ourselves, not even a box of cereal. They had people handing out everything, including butter, salt, pepper, creamers, everything. It was so annoying, because if they'd been more diligent to begin with, it wouldn't have happened. For that reason alone, I will never sail on that ship again.
That was not the only place the crew was a let down. Organizing the port of call tours was a disaster. On the first port, people were lined up at the stairs, and the girl working that station would not let anyone off, even when the captain came over the intercom and announced we could disembark. I can't count how many people called her names, and then she wondered why. People just unhooked the rope and walked around her while she called us rude. We wondered if she was deaf, or did not speak english. In either case, she shouldn't have been stationed at that job. When we took a cruise several years ago on the Navigator, people just got off, and found their groups once off the ship. This ship attempted to organize people on the ship and let them off according to group. It was complete chaos because there simply wasn't enough room. It was a ridiculous way to handle this. In Key West, they assigned us times to get off the ship, according to tour. We utilized this procedure and found our group neglected once outside for almost an hour.
No one knew the correct times for restaurants either. We had a suite and supposedly could dine for breakfast in the Italian restaurant. However the hours for this are not posted anywhere. And when we asked, not once, but three different occasions, we were told the wrong times--BY THE RESTAURANT STAFF. The last time was the return to Baltimore yesterday, and I think they just opened late. We were told 6:30, but when we arrived, they were not set up, and claimed they opened at 7.
The food in the main dining room, the Great Gatsby, was fair. It was what I expected, not fantastic, but not bad either. I was promised a private table for 5, but when we showed up were seated at a table for 10. This would have been fine, had it not been for the one single traveler who was so obnoxious that both our group and the other party of 4 showed up the next morning asking for separate tables. We were accommodated with a separate table, but the service at that table was AWFUL! It was consistently 2 hours for every dinner. We were always the last to get a menu, the last to have their order taken, and the longest for it to be delivered. The last evening in the main dining room, we watched as the waitress spent 15 minutes laying out dessert spoons and serving water before entering the meal orders in the computer. She had three tables, and all three tables received poor service. It was only the second to the last night when the waitress and the guy that is supposed to handle refilling water and passing out butter that they became super friendly and eager to please. When she asked how we would rate her service when we received our email review did it become clear why she suddenly cared. Too little too late.
The other issues were the amount of effort they put into trying to sell us extras. One day at lunch were were pressured to buy a cookbook and a tour of the galley, and I saw similar tactics at dinner as well. This was not a simple, "here is our cookbook, and a tour if you'd like," it was high pressure, stand over your table not taking no for an answer. It was truly obnoxious. The same thing happened when we got a massage. High pressure sales for massage oils for 200.00. Ridiculous.
The gym is very small, which make the out of commission jogging track even more sorely missed. The other thing I don't get is, I had read that the entertainment was very good on this cruise, yet it was almost non existent on our sailing. I think there was one comedy act the first or second day. Other than that, it was mostly contests, and showing movies. It was quite dull.
My other complaints don't really have anything to do with the cruise line; the weather was chilly most of the time--I think there were only 2-3 days that were actually warm enough for a bathing suit, the water is very rough sailing until you get down to Port Canaveral. I think it's the wrong time of year for these destinations--Key West, Port Canaveral, Nassau, and Coco Cay. The water was so cold at Coco Cay the boys asked to come back to the ship--and they can tolerate pretty cold water. Spending the day at Atlantis was probably the best day, but that was a little chilly as well.
The Chops restaurant, and the Italian Restaurant, Giovanni's is ABSOLUTELY WORTH THE EXTRA MONEY. The service is very good, and the food is just fantastic.
If you book as suite, I would take the extras with a grain of salt. They will tell you how worth it it is to pay the extra for a suite because you get all the extras, but the fact is, there really aren't much in the way of extras. If you need the space it's nice to have, but don't be lured into thinking you're going to get something for it in return. The whole, you have your own butler. Personally I don't think it's that big a deal (I mean why does anyone need their own personal valet anyway), I just don't like being told it's a perk when it's a lie. He did bring us a cheese plate on the third day, and filled our ice bag from coco cay for two days after. He was efficient, but twice forgot to leave a compass of the next days activities, and twice did not replenish the shampoo and soap.
All in all, I would not do that itinerary again, nor that ship again.