We flew in from UK on the Thursday to Orlando (cheaper flights), then drove to Fort Lauderdale where we stayed with friends for 2 nights until embarkation on the Sunday. Embarkation was very slick, no issues at all. (However, a quick note here, Virgin Atlantic managed to LOSE the battery to my mobility scooter, causing me huge problems, they claim to be still looking for it, four weeks later)! We were four people, myself, my adult daughter, and two young granddaughters aged 8 and 5. The cabin was great, a better size than I'd expected, with a double bed, a single pull out sofa bed, and a bunk that came down from the ceiling. Nice to have a balcony although we never actually used it apart from looking out each morning to see if we'd docked!
We took the kids up to the relevant kids clubs, the one for the slightly older children was great, but the one for the younger ones I didn't feel was very good, we stood by the doorway to see how she was getting on , and she was in a corner crying her eyes out alone, no-one went to her until the carers spotted us. So we took them out and didn't go back.
The food was quite good, the kids preferred the Windjammer because they could just pick what they fancied and then go back for more or something different - they couldn't do that in the other restaurants. Food was ok in there until the last night (Saturday) when the impression all over the ship was 'we've had your money, it's time to go, just finish off the leftovers'. The specialty restaurants are good, great food, the Chops Grille was really nice even though there was very little for a younger child on the menu, they did go up to the main restaurant and bring us a plate of fruit to keep everyone happy. And when the little one fell asleep - typical - they boxed up her dessert and gave it us to go. It was expensive though if the children don't enjoy it as much as the Windjammer!
The waiters and waitresses in the Windjammer and the dining rooms were fabulous, went out of their way to get what you wanted. We didn't like the 'anytime' dining at all, all it meant was that whenever you went to the dining room you had to wait, and time is precious on a cruise. And generally the food in the dining room was the same as that available in the buffet upstairs, so we ended up just going up there and being casual, with the exception of the formal nights.
One thing we noted, if you had paid the $25 a day for the soda package, you got refills from a machine. If you had not and paid for each drink as you had it, you got an actual can of real Coke/Pepsi. Worth thinking about!
The pools were great, and the kids loved the splash zone. We never had a problem finding a sun bed until the last couple of days, which were at sea. Those two days the pools were very full two, the rest of the time there was loads of room and plenty seats. The ice cream machine by the pool was a lovely touch.
The ship itself - well, it's fantastic, you need to see it to appreciate the size and everything that's available. A week isn't enough to experience it all.
My 8 year old was upset that she wasn't tall enough to use either the zip line or the flow rider, although she's probably a lot fitted and more agile (and has more sense) than a lot of the people who were on them. They were upset too that they couldn't get to ice skate. They had to wear long trousers socks and shoes to skate, five times we went to the cabin, got them dressed, went to the rink only to find a huge board that said 'closed for rehearsals'. We made a point of going past there half a dozen times a day, always closed. When we went to customer services we were told very pointedly and rudely that RCI advertise ICE SHOWS and not ICE SKATING. I stated that this wasn't true but the guy just kept repeating himself as though he didn't understand what I was saying. In my opinion, if they say that there's an ice skating rink for you to have fun skating on, that should be provided. I think they definitely misrepresented that. The guy also said that the skating times were in the cruise brochure that is left on the bed each night. So I handed over that day's version and asked where. He pushed it back towards me and said 'it's definitely in there'. Thanks for that.
So far as the disabled access goes, it was excellent, there was help to get on and off the ship at every port, no problem at all. We did try to book one trip and were told that the bus did not have access and we couldn't go, however we just had a little wander around the port at St Thomas then got back on the boat and had the pool to ourselves for a few hours!
The entertainment - I hadn't realised that all the shows had to be booked beforehand and so we either couldn't get in or had a slot at 10.45pm. With a 5 hour time difference from the UK, the kids absolutely couldn't make it much past 9pm so unfortunately the shows we got to see were the 'sail away' party at the Aqua theatre, and we dropped on an ice show 'How to Train Your Dragon' by chance one day, the kids enjoyed that.
The ports themselves, in Nassau we took a trip to the 'Blue Lagoon' where they had a beach and loads of water toys for the kids. It was pretty good, amazing beach there. They didn't tell us that on top of the price of the trip, anyone going into the sea to use the toys had to have a life vest. And taking your own with you was not good enough. I had to remove my 5 year old's top quality life jacket and pay $50 for two hours hire of a cheap rubber one, so that she could use the toys, which seemed very stupid and grasping to me. I did think that the use of the equipment should have been included in the cost of the tour, especially when it was only a half day stop and we only had two hours at the beach.
St Thomas, it's changed a lot since I was last there, all those lovely shops had gone at the port, just a handful of tourist gifty shops now and as we couldn't get disabled access trip, we only spent half an hour or so off the ship.
St Maarten, a lovely place. We wandered through to the market and then intended to take the kids on the beach, but it was extremely hot that day and we decided yet again to go back to the boat and the quiet pool with shade. Boring, you say, yes I know - but without a trip, and only really jewellery shops, too hot for the beach, there really wasn't anything else AND we enjoyed that quiet time on the ship very much.
On the last day, we expected to have to be off by 10.30, but our tags came and despite our having no flights to catch, we were told our disembarkation time was 7.00am. So no breakfast, no coffee, bags had been collected overnight so you couldn't really hang around on the ship. Most things shut anyway. We were straight off and through customs, picked up the baggage and outside the door of the port building before 8am, a leisurely drive to Orlando for the last week, even with a stop for breakfast we were in Orlando by 11.30!