I have to say that this was by far the best vacation that my family has ever had.
We arrived in Miami the night before the cruise and stayed at the Holiday Inn, Bayside. This was a very convenient, and reasonably priced hotel. It was very clean and convenient to the Bayside Marketplace. We spent the evening at Bayside, enjoying the food and music. Oh, and the transportation from the airport by Florida Limo was very easy and I feel that the cost was very reasonable for the sedan. I believe it was $64 and took you straight to the hotel. The man would not even allow us to help with the bags.
EMBARKATION We arrived at the ship at about 11 am. We were one of the first 30 or so people in line. Within a few minutes we were boarding the ship and it was very easy, especially since we checked in online. We met many of our Meet and Mingle group while waiting to board the ship as well. It was so nice to know some friends on the cruise, and believe me, everyone was so kind and it really did seem like i have met them before. I would encourage anyone who hasn't joined a group for their cruise to do so. It makes a great cruise, unbelievable. I was truly blessed by everyone.
We boarded the ship and headed to Sorrentos for pizza. It was not busy at all,which was nice, since we had our carryon luggage with us. we also purchased our soda cards. These worked out well for us. We had 2 of them, and with 2 children, it turned out to be a good deal. We spent the time before the cabins were ready just exploring the ship. I was so excited when we found out dining table and it was right next to the window. What a beautiful place to eat a relaxing and delicious meal. ]
Cabins were ready at 1 pm. When we entered, I thought the cabins were really small. We were on Disney the year previous and they seemed larger to me, but these rooms are designed very well, with ample storage space. I added a hanging shoe holder for all of my toiletries etc and it worked out well. I thought the bathroom was a very comfortable size. The decor is very nice as well. We had an oceanview cabin and there were four of us in the room. A little cramped, but who stays in their room anyway? I will bring a pop up hamper next time, as I felt the dirty clothes took over the room after day 2, but other than that, it worked out well.
We had wonderful waiters in the dining room and the food did not disappoint. I also believe that the coffee on the ship was the best I have ever had....maybe it was just because I was on a ship. :o) We later went to the comedy show and it was hilarious.
This ship is amazing. It is so big, but you never feel as if it is that big. The only time I felt the immensity of it, is when we got off the ship at the ports. There was a bit of a wait at that time. The ship is very easy to navigate and the promenade is the most awesome part in my opinion. It was like a city street. I really enjoyed the Bull and Bear Pub. The singer there was awesome and she encouraged audience participation. I will never forget the cruise critic group and the good times there.
My husband and I went to the gym daily and it was awesome. The machines are wonderful and there was never a wait to use anything. The track on the top deck is really nice for a brisk morning walk also. This, believe it or not, was one of the best parts of my day.
Elevators were slow, as they are on ships. I took the stairs as much as I could.
The ice show is a must see. I was amazed beyond belief. Many times I just held my breath. It is a very stunning show, and worth the time to stand in a line to get tickets. If you miss this, you will hear about it throughout the ship, and you will wish you would have seen it.
Adventure Ocean was enjoyed very much by my youngest son. He is 11 and never wanted to leave. He said that it was MUCH better than Disney's program. There was always something going on. My 14, almost 15 year old, did not want to be in the 12-14 group ( I think that is the age range), so I signed a release and allowed him to move up to the next age group. This worked out well for him,because I do not think he would have liked being in the younger group. I was happy they allowed them to have that choice.
The Quest, and I will not give it away, is something that was a highlight of the cruise. It was hilarious and I did not know what to expect from it. It was nothing like what I thought it would be. Go, you will not be disappointed.
One thing to mention about St. Maarten. We wanted to go to Maho beach and for months we tried to decide how we would get there from Phillipsburg. We decided to try their public bus. I had heard good things about it on CC. I have to say that this is a wonderful and very cheap way to get around. It costs us 1.50 pp each way to be driven to Maho. This is by far the cheapest way, and it was neat to ride with the locals. They make stops along the way, but they don't stop for more than a couple of seconds and then they are off again. It took no more than 20 minutes to get to Maho.
We ate breakfast at the Windjammer. This was very good, with a lot of selection. Lunch to me was okay. WE did have dinner there one night and I thought it was delicious. I love the Jade section. I wish I could have eaten dinner at least one more time in the Windjammer, but the dining room was so nice and Glen, our waiter, was outstanding.
We got up early in the morning and I was surprised that we were already in Miami, and it appeared that we had been there for a while. We all got our stuff together and went to the Windjammer for breakfast. We were told that we should go to the theater so we could hear our color being called. This determined when you were leaving the ship. We sat and sat for quite some time in the theater, but never heard our color being called. We asked and were told that all the colors had been called. I thought customs went fairly slow, and I personally think the person we checked in with had an attitude, but after that it was smooth sailing.
Finding our luggage was very easy. It went by the color coding that was given us the night before. We went to that area, picked up our luggage, and headed for the bus taking us to the airport. It all was very easy.
This ship is definitely more beautiful, well thought out, and enjoyable than I ever could have imagined. I had heard many reports that the ship was crowded and there were lines for everything, but I never felt that I had to wait in unusually long lines for anything. I did not feel that the ship was crowded at all. The ships size and deck plans handle all the passengers well...and I believe we were a full ship.