Dh & I booked this cruise as a quick, last minute getaway as his plans fell thru with his best friend. It was our 2nd cruise; but we didn't expect it to be the same. Our first was on RCCL Navigator during it's inaugural season and we were awed by everything.
Embarkation - we drove from Tampa so we dropped our luggage curbside then did a semi circle back to valet park the car. We prepaid the parking and went in to embark. It was pretty quick - but we were there around 2pm and the woman who checked us in said that they were missing alot of passengers. Got our S&S card and was disappointed to see that we were bumped from the 8pm dining that I had confirmed to a 6:15pm. Planned to talk to the purser's desk once on board.
We went straight to our room (empress E80 inside) which was right down the hall from the computer cafe- very easy to find. I was disappointed in the the furnishings- it really looks worn and rather out of fashion- lots of oranges in the cabin which seem more like the 70's than the 90's and seem off key with the bright white down of the bed linens. I didn't think that it felt bigger than what we had on RCL but I know the square footage is larger. The bathroom was a 'semi' handicapped- had a folded metal chair and the water would have wet the entire bathroom floor when I showered if I didn't lay the large beach towel on the floor at the shower opening. It was a comfortable size room, very comfortable bed- loved the linens and pillows. Also enjoyed sleeping in till almost 8am every morning since the room stayed so nice and dark. It was kept neat and clean; found two towel animals and enjoyed the chocolate mints during the turn down service.
We explored the ship after settling in the room- found that the worn look continued throughout the ship in hallways -although the atrium was lovely it seemed like it really made a disconnect of space on the ship.
We found the Lido deck and looked around the buffets- then realized we had to change our dinner plans. We went back to Empress to check in at the purser's desk to make those arrangements when we saw that there was a sign welcoming Carquest- apparently they had a convention which took up half the ship-we found this out at the Info desk when they had to tell us we couldn't have dinner in either late seatings since Carquest had both completely booked.
We returned to the room to see if our luggage had arrived and to change for dinner-it was now just after 5pm. We unpacked and dressed rather casually for dinner to test the waters..
Dining- we were in Imagination 6:15. Our dinner companions were great company and we really enjoyed dinner conversations. I found that the appetizers were usually the best part of the meals. The filet mignon on the first night was good, but most side dishes were lukewarm if not cold. We also found that other than the warm melting chocolate cake that the desserts looked good but didn't really taste like anything. This was true for the Tiffany buffet as well. Lobster was fine a bit tough but that's usually the case for the smaller tails- I ordered two- but Dh's prime rib was pure fat. Problem is that we felt we were inconveniencing the wait staff any time we asked for something different from the menu or extra. They forgot my cappuccino twice.
The pizza was fine- apparently it's preformed because they were not able to give me a calzone with only a cheese filling. I tried the deli- mozzarella & arugula and the roll was horrible. The salad bar was ok, I ate that most lunches DH made due with the burgers. The turkey on the first day was the best, but the beef/hams served the rest of the lunches were very fatty.
I ordered one room service meal- vegetable platter, brownie and cookies and hot tea on sea day since I missed the grand tea. I enjoyed the veggies-crisp & fresh but they forgot to bring cream or lemon for the tea and two small cookies and half a brownie seemed very small for 'dessert tray'. I again felt like I was inconveniencing them when I called to have cream sent to me.
The midnight buffet was neat to look at- great ice sculptures, prettily displayed fruits/veggies but the dishes seemed to be left over from the day's offerings in the salad bar! The same salads, one single tray of cheese/coldcuts and that seemed to be all except the pretty, tasteless deserts.
Entertainment- well, this is the Fun ship but it seemed like alot of the staff is rather new or unorganized. Bingo never started on time, and was over very quickly. Only once did they actually sell the scratchoffs and collect 2nd chances for the raffles like they advertised. We got a kick out of tv theme trivia, newlywed not so newly wed games, and the hairy chest contest. Stuart the cruise director is very entertaining- he was actually a lot funnier than the 1st comedian who emptied the Mikado during the 'clean' show. Less than 25% stayed for that show. Steve Miller was better for his R-Rated show which seems to be more his thing. But the 2nd comedian- Mike Macy was fantastic. Really enjoyed the show.
Our day at sea was cut short by a rush into Nassau at top speed for a medical emergency- a man had a massive heart attack- we docked for an hour around 11am on saturday then wandered the ocean until 7pm that night since there wasn't room for us to dock long term. Really felt the ship rocking on saturday and sunday night.I took Bonine and didn't get ill but felt it rocking a lot.
We didn't book any excursions as this was to be a low budget trip so we went to Our Lucaya Beach and rented waverunners- awesome! $60 each for 1/2 hour and they give you so much space to roam!
We were glad we did it there and didn't wait for Nassau since at Nassau it was so crowded and the water was full of waverunners.
Went to the beach and Straw market at Nassau during the day as we had explored Atlantis early on Saturday night.
Our last night we were packed right after dinner and watched a movie as we did it-Casino Royale-. Were told to put out luggage before midnite on an announcement but the capers said 9-11pm so we followed the Capers. Glad we did as many people hadn't and had to self debark.
Went to the r- rated show and as I mentioned it was great. Met up with one couple from our dining table and joined them for drinks in the Drama Bar until 3:30am. I was feeling horrible (even though I had nursed one cocktail the whole time) but it was probably combination of the rocking and the alcohol.
Debarking was quick and we were grateful we were called early as we got thru customs quickly.
All in all we had an enjoyable cruise, would do it again for a quick getaway or with a group of friends for some fun but it wasn't the amazing experience we had on our first cruise. If we planned a cruise as a major vacation we would save our money and plan it for a Mega ship- because that's the experience we really enjoyed.