We sailed with our 18 yr old daughter and her friend to celebrate their high school graduations. This was our first real, weeklong family vacation in over 5 years, and the 2nd cruise for myself and my husband, 3rd for our daughter, first for her friend. Overall we had a great time and would recommend this cruise for anyone whose priorities are good value for the $, fun, quick port visits, and rest and relaxation. We feel we received good value for the cost and I'm happy with my choice of this cruise. We also spent 2 days in the Everglades after our cruise, which I highly recommend.
Ports - these were fun stops, especially for older teens and adults. I don't see the attraction of Nassau and Key West for young kids up to tweens, overall, not for such a quick stop, but Coco Cay was very kid-oriented in parts and I'm sure they would love it. We absolutely loved Coco Cay! Perfect.
Tip: We wanted a cabana but none were available when I tried to book so we got a cabanette, booked onboard, instead. This was not advertised online at all and it was a DEAL. $50 for a clamshell type setup with 2 floating mats, 2 very comfy lounge chairs, 2 big bottles of water on ice and a nice fruit platter. Our own little somewhat private paradise. Very worth the $! We got one for us and one for the girls. Highly recommend, esp if you want to be on the quieter, less kidsy side of the island. You have to book this on the ship on the first day or they could all be gone; there are very few available.
One note: do not pick up anything you see while snorkeling as I did, very stupidly, thinking it was a sponge and got a "sting", itchy hand for about 30 min. No biggie, but I should have known just because there were no warnings didn't mean it was safe. I live in FL, I should know better.
The lunch that was served was really good, BBQ ribs and chicken and sides and dessert, awesome. We took a shuttle with our food back to our "quiet side", as the picnic area was super crowded.
Nassau was a repeat for us from a previous cruise. It is not my cup of tea because I'm not a shopper, so this time we took a city tour with Felton Cox (firstname.lastname@example.org) and he was really good. Very glad we did it. I didn't pre-book any excursions for this cruise. We just found him amongst the MANY guides waiting for customers after we got of the ship, near the pier. Very knowledgeable, trustworthy, educated and well-spoken gentleman. We paid $25/per person (the going rate with the guides we spoke to) and it was money well-spent. Even the 18 yr olds enjoyed it.
By the way, we felt fairly comfortable with these girls staying in Nassau a little longer than we did, and they returned to the ship before dark with no problem at all.
Key West port was a major reason for booking this particular cruise. My daughter and I'd always wanted to visit there. I must say, it was a bit disappointing overall. Duval Street is exactly like Bourbon St. in New Orleans, just dropped on a pretty island, again, not my cup of tea. KW was also our shortest shore visit, disappointingly, and contributed to by the Customs visit that got us off the ship at the late hour of 11:30 am. We did walk quite a ways to a very good restaurant, Turtle Kraals, off the major beaten path (all paths seem somewhat beaten). Then our group split up. We first attempted walking around but it was too darned hot (the ONLY time I was overly hot on the entire cruise and stops) so we got a late start on a trolley tour with Cityview trolley. That was going fine until a young woman backed her car into our trolley and we had to get on a different one. Not our driver's fault, of course. We should have gotten straight on a trolley early on instead of even trying to walk around in that heat.
One thing that we did in KW that was a lot of fun was book parasailing for the girls with Fury Water Adventures. It was around $55/per person, but I could have gotten a better deal booking online before we cruised. Still, worth the money and we paid $10/ea to ride on the boat with them, fun! They loved it.
Cruise in General -
Dinner was very good; I would have preferred earlier time than 9 pm seating but we adjusted quickly. Could have changed it after first day but didn't try, just dealt with it. Service here was excellent and the food was yummy.
Windjammer was "nice cafeteria" style. Food was plentiful. Some people have atrocious manners as far as line courtesy or even how to walk around but it wasn't a major problem. I thought the breads and various salad types were especially good. Coffee and flavored waters were fine for all of us; we did not purchase beverage packages. However, if we were big alcohol drinkers it would have paid off quickly to have one of those packages, I guess. None of us missed sodas.
Our stateroom beds were surprisingly comfortable and we slept very well!
There were lots of deck areas to get away from the crowds and we took advantage of them for some great relaxation.
Service on the ship was without fault; fast, friendly, easy. We had one issue of our toilet not flushing and we called and it was fixed quickly and they checked back with us to make sure it was fixed.
We didn't do a lot of activities, but we did enjoy music trivia and one comedy show. My husband liked the comedian better than I did; I set a higher bar. :)
Lots of sanitation measures were obvious throughout the cruise and much-appreciated. None of our party got sick in any way, seasick or otherwise.
Not enough public restrooms; kind of ridiculous to have only 5 sets and 1 of those was by the pool. Our stateroom was on Deck 2 so a far ways to travel if you couldn't find a public restroom.
I wish our stateroom had been higher up but I booked kind of late (early April) so my fault. This meant a LOT of stairs and /or waiting for elevators to nagivate to activities, dinner, etc.
The carpet on the ship in various places really needs to be replaced if it can't be cleaned better. Just makes it look a lot less beautiful in overall appearance.
The entertainment was just "okay". If there was a nice intimate dancing venue and music for our age group, I didn't find it. There were more opportunities for late night 20something dancing.
The deck chairs on decks other than 11 and 12 were not full on lounge chairs but were shorter and with small "ottomans" for feet. I find these very hard to nap in, though my husband had no problem at all!
Some normal lounge chairs would have been much better.
Both cruises I've been on have done such a big push for shopping including all the kiosks; I'd rather that was non-existent. Both cruises also have blasted music all around the pool and nearby decks 24/7; this is my LEAST favorite thing about cruising!
The pool area in general was very disappointing compared to the last time we cruised. There were 2 smallish pools and 2 hottubs, almost always full of people. I dipped into the pool once; none of the rest of my party ever got in. I got a hottub to myself on the last morning of the cruise because I was there early and everyone had a late morning due to Customs requirements in Key West. I had thought I would get a lot more time in hot tubs and pool. I guess this is due to partly it being a smaller ship than we cruised before.
Because our young adults weren't 21 yet, we had to book them with us each in one room, but then we switched room keys after we got our luggage. This is a dumb policy. I know a lot more 21 yr olds I'd worry about bothering passengers than 18 yr olds who can't legally buy booze on the ship, if you know what I mean!
Embarkation in Miami - we had a problem finding our cruise terminal as Royal Caribbean had provided zero direction and there are no sign designations for the various ships as you are driving into the port area. Had we kept driving straight we would have seen it but the signage that was there was a little misleading and we ended up circling out of the port and coming back completely and I called RC and asked which terminal. That was aggravating and unnecessary; an email could have told us which port on the day of the cruise.
Debarkation in Miami - we did the self-assist, early exit and that was super easy and fast, highly recommend. Take your own luggage off the ship. (BTW, I packed way too many clothes since we lived in our bathing suits for a large part of the cruising.)
Changes I'd Make:
Compared to sailing on Carnival Victory (?) to Mexico and Bahamas 8 yrs ago, this ship seemed a bit more worn, and smaller. I would prefer a larger ship next time, add an extra day, skip Nassau, and a cabin with balcony. We are glad we did both cruises we've done, but we feel like we've "Been There Done That" at this price point and in the Caribbean as far as Bahamas and Mexico now. If we cruise again, we want a little more amenities and luxury and time.
However, overall, this was a great value for what it was and a good choice for us and I am not disappointed. A good cruise overall.