Leaving from Charleston saved us quite a bit of money by not having to purchase air fare. We decided to stay in the Hampton Inn right across the bridge because they offered a parking and transportation package. This turned out to be really good for us because we were able to board the ship quite quickly and not have to worry about parking the car. Because we booked a suite we were able to enter the fast line for boarding. The only problem we had was the camera was broken at the check-in desk so when we went upstairs we had to have them take our photo for the sign and sail which seemed to confuse them a bit. The walkway up to the boat is also quite long and steep but hey, I needed the workout anyway.
Once on the boat our room was already prepared so we dropped off the bags that we carried on board and went to the lido deck for something to eat. The standard buffet fair was out, burgers, dogs, chicken fingers but they also had a stir fry wok that my wife really enjoyed. The burger was quite tasty as well. The boat wasn't too crowded yet. We opted in for the cheers package which gave us up to 15 drinks per day. If you are even a moderate drinker I'd suggest looking into this as depending on what you drink it could pay for itself with as little as 5 drinks per day. We got the bubbles package for our 8 year old but it was a waste as he mostly drank water all week.
We checked out the water park before we left port. My son had a blast and the lines weren't too long. They were longer for the twisty slide than the racing slides which turned out to be ok because he said the racing slides were faster anyway. It was windy on deck so there were plenty of chairs available for us to sit while he played. After about an hour we went to back to our room to prepare to muster.
Mustering was much easier as you don't have to lug your life jackets anymore. The only problem that I had was that we had to wait quite a while in the hot sun while the other muster stations actually went to their lifeboat levels. All in the name of safety I suppose! Once we were done we proceeded to the front observation deck for leaving the port.
I'll quickly go through the rest of my experience..
1. The service at dinner was great but the food was just average.
2. The morning brunch every day was the highlight of the food for me, do it!
3. The bingo was fun!
4. The casino was fun and we won a little bit both on slots and black jack!
5. The British invasion show was great but the female lead was off key a bit.
6. The pool area fills up quickly on sea days and there is NO room at all in serenity area
7. You simply must do the behind the scenes tour if you haven't done it yet, great fun!
8. Disembarking in Charleston is bad unless you get a porter, do it!
9. To and from the bahamas can be very rough seas depending on time of year, take your patch.
10. I heard the comedy guys were really good but didn't make it to their show.
I'll go again but will probably try a different deck and cabin.