Background information first…
My wife and I made our first trip "solo" for this cruise - no kids (all grown) and no friends (too busy). We were at first apprehensive of heading off to again to the Caribbean, but for me, the highlight of this trip was supposed to be the ship itself, and I wasn’t wrong.
We began our trip on a stressful note – flying out the night before with many East Coast thunderstorms, but luckily we were able to finally arrive and stay at the Marriott Courtyard. That particular one offers free shuttle from airport and to the cruise terminal the next morning. Although the lobby was packed with people, it was very organized. We left the hotel at 11:30 and about 20 minutes later, we were at the terminal. It seemed no one was there! We gave the porter our luggage, walked inside, got our Sea Card passes, and in less than 15 minutes we were on board!
We enjoyed a quiet lunch at the Solarium and at 1 PM our rooms were ready. A few weeks prior to the cruise I upgraded us myself with $$$ to a junior suite. It was the biggest cabin we had ever been in. We were on part of the hump on the 11th floor and our balcony had 2 chairs, a small round table and two lounge chairs. There was also a huge walk in closet. All in all – very satisfied here!
I found the service to be about on par with the other mainstream lines. A little spotty here and there in the Opus dining room, but certainly people seemed genuinely wanting to please their guests.
We ate in two specialty restaurants – twice at Giovani’s and once at 150 Park Fare. The first night at Giovani’s was wonderful. The second time around no so much. It was so noisy in there, I could almost not hear my wife. There was one large group at one end that had all of the kids sitting at one table with one adult, with all the rest of the adults at another table. The kids were hitting each other and the poor woman just couldn’t control them all. I guess the parents had checked out and this was vacation time for them. On the other side of us was a group of 3 adults which brings me to another point. The male of that group (and this was one of the formal nights) was wearing the following: jeans shorts, a white t-shirt open with another shirt on top, and a baseball cap. Personally I would have liked to have been dressed in a similar fashion (without the cap). I really think it’s time for these cruise lines to give it up and just make every night casual like NCL does. If people want to dress up, have one specialty restaurant where a full tiara, beaded evening gown, white gloves, and opera glasses are mandatoryïŠ. Then let the rest of us dress as they chose.
The entertainment on the ship is spectacular – but LOUD! I am not kidding but I think there are some serious noise damaging volumes in some of those venues. We saw Hairspray (excellent, but loud), the Diving show (Very Good), the Ice Show (Excellent – please do not miss this), and Comedy Club ( It’s OK), and Come Fly With Me. Come Fly With me is a total mash up of acrobatics and very loud singing. It my opinion it is the weakest link on the ship and I hope it gets replaced in dry dock. We also saw a current 3D movie (How to Tame Your Dragon 2)
I used the jogging track each day. It takes a little over 7 laps of the ship to go 5K. My wife was happy that they offered water aerobics each day in the morning.
Some words about the ports-
Haiti – the Private Island was nice. We parked at Columbus Cove for a few hours. Nice sand and water. We didn’t want to eat the buffet so we returned to the ship to eat in the early afternoon.
Jamaica – We booked through RCI the “Best” of Jamaica. This was the worst excursion I have ever been on. Everyone was complaining and is in my opinion a big waste of money. I will provide a separate review in the appropriate part of the boards. Jamaica is very poor and I can now understand why so many people want to come to the US to live.
Cozumel – We took a taxi to Nacchi Cochum, (spelling might be off) the private beach club with previous reservations. Had a fantastic day there – Great food, good drinks and only 40 people there the whole day!
A couple of words about the ship. It is in tip top shape. I was impressed with the build of the doors, lots of steel. Rooms show little wear for a 6 year old ship. As others have said, there were very few times were you felt there were 5000+ people on the ship.
Leaving the ship was a breeze. We opted for the luggage valet (you get your boarding passes on the ship and you don’t see your luggage till you get to your home airport). We ate breakfast and left the ship at 745. We went through the immigration queue and in 17 minutes we were outside hailing a cab. 20 minutes later we were at the airport. You can’t ask for better!
In summary, I’m very glad we went on the ship. It really is a marvel. We have had enough of the Caribbean, but if one of these super ships starts sailing to other ports, we certainly would give it a try again.