Only our second cruise (first for Hubbie and son). We are a family of four with older teenagers (16 and 17) and we were traveling with neighbors/friends who are older so we were a pretty diverse group.
Embarkation was straightforward, though the pier at Fort Lauderdale could not compare with the pier assigned to the Allure (previous and first cruise).
Ship was very clean and orderly. Crew were attentive and friendly. Preferred that we were actually to report to a traditional mustering station where we actually stood where our assigned lifeboat would be launched, as opposed to aboard The Allure where we mustered in a cafe on the promenade and were shown a movie!
Cabins were nicely appointed and everything was in good working order. Luggage arrived in a timely fashion. Stateroom attendant was great. We barely saw him. I think they only employ Ninja's. No complaints regarding staterooms at all. We had two ocean view rooms.
Dining room assignments were smooth and we were given a table next to the window which was great.
Food was good and waitstaff very efficient. We ate in the MDR every night and about three lunchtimes. All were good. I found desserts to be a little disappointing. They all looked delicious but were somehow missing the richness they promised. Fruit-based desserts seemed a better option than chocolate ones.
Entertainment was excellent. Enough variety for everyone. Our teenagers seemed to find plenty of friends and plenty to do. We barely saw then until dinnertime and when we did run into them aboard, they were always with a group and seemed to be having fun.
Cruise director Jos, and side-kick Matthew were great. Really seemed to enjoy their job and worked very well together. We enjoyed all the audience-interactive shows: Love and Marriage,The Quest etc.
Christmas Eve aboard was special. It was a formal night so most people were dressed up and at 11:30 they had Carol singing on the promenade. The Orchestra played and they handed out lovely song books. it was quite beautiful .
Ports were good. We had been to St Maarten on last cruise so went to French side this time. Wandered around the market and then took the water-taxi back. It is a nice island and a shoppers' paradise, if you like that. Highlight of our cruise was Christmas Day is St. Kitts. We disembarked, having not booked any shore excursions and wondered if anything would even be open. Most of the town was closed and quiet (their big festival starts on December 26th and lasts for days). However, we were approached by a very sweet local lady who asked us if we were interested in going on her tour. She was very polite and not at all pushy and we decided to try it. It turned out to be the best decision we could have made. All six of us climbed into their open air safari-style bus. 10 others joined us and we set off. We were offered unlimited cold drinks- Carib beer, sodas, water and her own home-made rum punch (trust me-try it! it was delicious) Her husband, Sir Walter (email@example.com) took us all over the island, giving us a guided tour that gave just enough information to be interesting but not so much as to be boring. He showed us all the most beautiful spots and each time we stopped, we had a little more rum punch. he played Bob Marley which added to the atmosphere. He took us briefly through the rainforest and we stopped at the Batik factory for a demonstration.The tour was a little over two hours. Perfect. Since we were in an open-air vehicle, the local people all waved and shouted Merry Christmas to us. We felt sorry for the tourists crammed into their air-conditioned minivans, with the windows rolled up tightly. If you go to St. Kitts. look for Sir Walter Tours and taxis. You won't be disappointed. they wouldn't even take money from us until after we had finished and it was only $15 per person. Of course, we tipped them well and it was worth every penny.
Christmas night on board was lovely.
Next stop, San Juan was much nicer than I expected. Reminded me of many European cities only the streets were too small to have the tables and chairs out in the streets like Paris.
Note: we did not book any shore excursions on board, preferring to go it alone and we felt that we did not lose out for it.
Labadee was nice. We got off and pretty much grabbed some beach chairs close to the ship, but our son went exploring and said the beaches were much nicer a little farther afield. We shall try those out when we go this Christmas. Labadee is owned by Royal Caribbean and is quite commercial and I felt a little exploitative watching the "local" dancers. Food is brought off the ship and a bar B Q is set up (quite professionally) under cover, beach side. Not as good as on board but more than adequate.
Disembarkation was a breeze. We chose self disembarkation.
In summary, everyone in our party enjoyed the cruise so much that we have already booked for this Christmas. Also, teenagers that ours made friends with aboard, with who they have kept in contact, have also booked for this Christmas so others obviously feel the same way. No better recommendation.