First, I want to start off by saying that upon reading all of the horrible reviews my husband and I expected the worst. However, the only REAL problem I had to deal with was my husband getting a little to drunk both nights. We went on this cruise to celebrate our first anniversary, so it was a rather special time for the both of us...and I think celebration did an outstanding job in helping us celebrate.
I am not going to sugarcoat or lie on here to make the cruise line look better because there is no benefit for me in doing that. We got to the port at around 10:30 and went through the entire boarding process in less than 20 minutes. We boarded the ship PROMPTLY at 11:30 just as we were told we would. From there we went to the front desk to open a cash account because I was terrified to allow the ship access to my credit card...again because of all the bad reviews. I was told it was a minimum of $100 per person, so I gave them $400 total because I was prepared to pay for extra expenses.
We went on to have lunch at the Rio which, all in all, was very good. My husband absolutely loved the seafood salad....I hate seafood and because of that it looked unappealing to me, so I refused to try it. We both enjoyed the coconut chicken and indulged in more than one helping. The sausage rice was another dish worth more than one helping, but the chimichangas were not worth bragging about. After two bites I gave up on them...maybe sour cream would of helped, but there wasn't any, so I'll never know.
During lunch my husband purchased the drink tickets which allowed me 10 drinks for $60, as long as the drink wasn't more than $8.75. The drink tickets lasted me the entire cruise....and just for the record, as long as the drinks were not purchased in the Taxi Pub they were better than average. The Taxi Pub drinks tasted more like the mixer than the alcohol. My husband purchased the bucket of beer, which was 5 beers for $23....he drank several buckets throughout the cruise....people referred to him as bucket guy, but that's another story for another day and in no way has any reference to the standards of the ship.
Our next stop was our room. OK, we were mislead to believe that we had one large window, but there were 2 smaller port windows instead. The bathroom is small, but not the worst I have ever seen. My biggest problem was the shower...not because of size because my husband and I had no problem with that, but the water had to stay on for over 10 minutes just to get warm. My husband was fine with that because he hates hot showers...but for me this WAS the WORST part of the entire cruise. The bed was fine for both of us...we slept great both nights. In my personal opinion, and it is only my opinion, but the people that moan and complain about the room size have issues....get real....who really goes on a cruise to spend ample amounts of time in their room anyway??? Seriously, we spent a total of 12 hours in our room from Tuesday, which was the day we boarded until Thursday morning, the day we disembarked. The room was just fine for the amount of time we spent there.
I got an appointment with the hairdresser for an updo right after we boarded and the girl fit me right in. I also booked an appointment for the next day without any problem. The charge of the updo for both days was $45 plus the service charge which is about what I pay for the hairdresser I go to here in Florida. I will say this.....the hairdresser the first day was nothing short of amazing...people complimented my hair all night long...with my hair and my outfit I was compared me to the likes of Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy which is nothing short of a compliment. I never felt more beautiful....and thank goodness my husband and I have professional pictures to prove it. A picture is worth a thousand words and I wish this site allowed me to upload the professional pictures the photographer took to prove it. The hairstylist was so worth the money that I wanted to bring her home with me....unfortunately, she refused, so I gave her a generous tip above and beyond what the ship charges you to begin with.
On to our anniversary dinner at the Rio. OUTSTANDING is the way my husband and I can both describe the food there. I had Mahi Mahi with rice.....and I devoured ever last bite. My husband opted for the crusted chicken over linguine and practically licked the plate, which he never ever does, especially when he is drinking (which he was). He wanted seconds, but never asked because out came the waiter with an anniversary cake for us to eat. Two waiters sang an anniversary song and toasted us in honor of our first anniversary. After sharing that wonderful dessert, neither of us had any room left in our clothes to do anything but change into something more comfortable....but not before the incredible pictures that I previously spoke about.
I was hesitant to take pictures because I was afraid of the outrageous prices, but to be fair, the pictures were standard prices that were comparable to the high end cruise I took on Royal Caribbean a few years back and might I add well worth the money. I only purchased a few pictures, not because of the cost, but because I have major self esteem issues, so to me, I looked like a fat comparison to the lovely Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy. I did not understand what all the other cruisers and staff were talking about when they said I was a dead ringer for her. My husband stole each and every picture with his beauty. I would of bought every last picture and cut me out because of how GQ he looked, but he would not allow that. He loved more than half of the pictures that were taken, but I would not purchase them because I felt that I ruined the picture...again, this was not the cruise ships fault, but my insecurities fault.
After pictures we changes into very comfortable clothes and went on to the Taxi Pub where we enjoyed the live music....the ONLY problem there was the lack of alcohol in the drinks....and it was a SERIOUS LACK OF ALCOHOL...enough to make my husband voice his opinion on the last night on my behalf. I ordered a vodka and Sprite and if I didn't know better I would say that all I got was a Sprite. I said nothing and just enjoyed the show.
The next day we woke up ready for the fun filled excursion the ship bragged about at their exclusive Lucaya resort. However, we were taken to the Wyndham Resort....what a MAJOR LETDOWN that was. The drinks sucked, the beach was dirty and the food consisted of a lot of rice and pasta that was comparable to cafeteria food. All in all the day was a disaster because of that excursion. The DJ type girl from Italy, Laura, was the best thing about the excursion. We could not WAIT to get the hell out of that place, so we decided to get on the 2pm bus. The problem was that the bus did not pick us up where he dropped us off, it was a totally different bus company and.......the bus driver left us feeling stranded at the marketplace without any indication or clue on how or when we were getting picked up, which left us all feeling uneasy. The people that traveled to that place were equally disappointed and were so freaked out by the lack of information on the return trip to the ship that they opted to spend $55 on a private cab to ensure their safe return. My husband and I were a bit more brave, especially since he knew that I was familiar with Freeport, so we figured out the bus schedule and returned free of charge.
On to my salon appointment. The hairdresser that did my hair on the second day, was extremely loveable, but completely and totally unadventurous...to be completely honest with you he seemed intimidated to try anything new...he convinced me to leave my hair down and settle for a simple blow dry and style....which again was compared to the like of Jacquelyn Onassis Kennedy (not complaining), but also not worth the money I spent the first night.
My husband and I decided to go to the Crystal, but had 2 hours to wait before our reservation, so we got some of Italian food and went to the Taxi Pub to wait the time out. The Italian restaurant is awesome....every food, every dessert is beyond delicious...free or not. What I did NOT like was the fact that the menu boasts decaffeinated and fat free or low fat drinks, but when I ordered one (for a price) I was told they do not do decaffeinated. I was disappointed, but not enough to care. The early and late entertainment at the Taxi Pub was excellent. Neelah the late night singer could belt out any tune whether requested or not ...her sidekick (sorry don't know his name) was as good of a jazz player as Kenny G. My husband and I enjoyed our time there....however, it was rather boring the second night during the late night act because it was like watching a rerun on TV.
Dinner at the Crystal was a mixed review for us. I loved...I mean loved the beef wellington. My husband took two bites of the Asian pork and refused to eat anymore. He asked me if there was any possible way we could return to the Rio so he could eat and I told him no because we did not have reservations. It was at the Crystal that he made a scene about the drinks at the Taxi Pub (drinks from the Crystal come from the Taxi Pub). The waitress asked if we wanted a drink, by then my husband knew that my drinks consisted of nothing more than Sprite, so he asked for a double shot for mine. The waitress wanted double tickets and that's when all hell broke loose. My husband said that the drinks were nothing more than soda which the waitress quickly replied that they are limited to one shot and one shot only unless you give double tickets. My husband would of been OK with that response had Maria, the other waitress (who I might add has my same name and personality) had not given us double shots for free the previous night and earlier that day for free. Needless to say, we left the restaurant, before dessert, with my husband being totally dissatisfied and blaming the Crystal for the bad experience. Had it not been for his inebriated state and the waitresses attitude, I bet he would have enjoyed his dinner more.
Disembarkment was almost a breeze, but not because of the ship. My husband is a TOTAL neat freak, so he filed the disembarkment papers amongst some other papers that we had. When we got off the ship and into the customs line another traveler informed us that we needed that paper in order to disembark the ship. Luckily she had an extra. Disembarkment was at 7:30 and we were off and on our way to Benny's on the Beach by 8 am.
All in all the trip was excellent. I would say in order to make the most out of your trip AVOID the excursions and ENJOY the ship ( do not be lead to believe that you HAVE to purchase an excursion because you don't and several people we cruised with said they avoided that nonsense and had the time of their lives staying on-board), DO NOT ever and I MEAN EVER purchase booze for the astronomical rate they try and sell it for before you board the ship. GO TO THE GIFT SHOP AFTER 6:30 when the ship leaves West Palm...booze sells for the AVERAGE PRICE you would pay for in your local liquor store (OK if you live in certain states it may be more expensive and in others it may be cheaper than that), but overall a fair price (there is the extra service charge, of course, but its still comparable to the prices in the stores). Our regret was not going that route, but unfortunately we found out too little too late. Put yourself on a budget and stay within that budget. We ended up getting a refund of $11 out of $400. The additional charges the cruise line charges for fuel, gratuities etc... for the 2 of us was $80 and the rest was spent on 2 trips to the salon, pictures, booze, gift shop items and a very delicious dessert from the Italian restaurant. We were beyond satisfied.