Although not exactly "seasoned" or "veteran" cruisers, we have enjoyed several trips to Mexico and Alaska, plus Hawaii, Norway (Arctic Circle), European River and, finally, this - our first cruise to the Southern Caribbean. What a great way for snowbirds to escape northern winters! Our first discovery was that you can't fly and same-day sail if you live in the western US - flight schedules cannot accommodate arrival in a Florida airport in time to get to the ship prior to departure (unless, perhaps, you fly from LA, SF or Seattle). We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Pier 66 - in one of the outlying motel-type rooms - and were reminded very quickly that Florida-coast moisture takes a severe toll. The room was not acceptably clean, had a tile floor that collected dirt and mold, and reeked of the 'forties. We did not see any of the tower rooms, which might be more attractive.
The boarding process - as is the case in any cruise - is simply a time-consuming ordeal with lines after lines and delays. In truth, we have to admit that the cruise lines have been doing this for a long time, and they probably have the process down to the best it can be, all things (nearly 3,000 passengers, etc.) considered.
Generally speaking, the ship was clean and attractive and the crew was very accommodating. Our dinner at specialty restaurant Tuscan Grille was very disappointing, as the food quality was only fair and the service was extremely slow. We did not realize until a few days later that illnesses had caused a personnel shortage in the kitchen and serving staff. Apparently, about half-way through the cruise, crew (and some passenger) illnesses forced drastic changes in food distribution - particularly in the buffet lines. Cruisers were no longer able to collect their own silverware and food. All servers had to wear gloves and many used tongs to pick up food items, and passengers were cordoned away from the serving tables and had to tell the servers (or point to) what they wanted to be placed on their plate. These changes were necessary, it was explained to us, in order that the ship not be stopped at some Caribbean port mid-cruise for more drastic cleaning action. We have experienced similar precautions on other cruises, and know of no other way to stem the spread of the Norovirus or other foodborne-disease outbreaks on board ship.
Otherwise, the food was excellent and the shipboard experience was very enjoyable. We enjoyed several lectures by Howard Bayewitz and Diane Buffalin in the Beyond the Podium series. Senior staff members informed us of ship propulsion and navigation and the talented glass blowers from Corning wowed us a number of times with their demonstrations.
The ports of call were well chosen and very enjoyable for walking, touring and shopping.
Entertainment on board ship can be either good or bad, depending upon the ship, the cruise line and your personal preferences. We were fortunate that Sue Denning was in charge, and that we were able to attend performances of very talented vocalists, groups and musicians.
Our favorite was Perry Grant. Perry is not for everyone. Sadly, a few who do not care for his show - for any of a number of reasons, stated or implied - have panned his performances and left online doubts as to his talent and his ability to entertain. I would simply like to express my own personal opinion of Perry Grant and my impressions of him as a person and as an entertainer. My wife and I first met Perry on a 2012 Constellation cruise from Amsterdam to Norway and the Arctic Circle. Frankly, we found him to be hilarious, extremely entertaining and a joy to watch. In fact, we chose our 2014 Southern Caribbean cruise primarily because we discovered on line that Perry would be performing in Michael's Club. As it turned out, the cruise was fantastic in all respects. In addition to meeting some wonderful new friends and participating in many shipboard activities, we attended almost every single Perry Grant performance - 2X per night in Michael's Club, plus a couple of shows on the big stage. The man is a terrific entertainer - great voice and poise - with a swiftly-growing fan base. Further, he is a kind, gentle and caring individual. We anxiously await further word on Perry's future affiliation with Celebrity or any other cruise line, as we look forward to being able to enjoy future performances.
All in all, our first Caribbean cruise was a very enjoyable and positive experience.