We are so appreciative of the reviews we read about this cruise before we went on ours. We are first-time cruisers, so we had no idea what to expect, other than what friends had told us. We are seasoned travelers, but we were afraid of getting seasick, and that it would not be much fun, so we never cruised. After reading other people's comments, we decided that it was worth the risk. That knowledge enabled us to have way more fun than we would have otherwise. Hopefully, we will share something that will make another family's vacation a little better.
DW (4?), DD#1 (18), DD#2(15), and DD #3 (12), and I (4?) left Dallas for Galveston at 6:30 am and arrived at EZ Park at 11:45 am. We were on board and eating lunch on the Lido deck by 1:00 pm. Our cabins were ready immediately after lunch, so we moved in.
We were on the upper deck (6), in rooms 6-386 and 6-388, port (left) side balcony, slightly aft of midship. The ship was very clean. The lavatory in our cabin had a vague unpleasant odor, but not unbearable. Muster was a huge hassle, but did not last too long.
We were assigned dinner in the Monet at 5:45, but changed it to the 8:00 seating, so that we were not rushed in the late afternoon. We had to go to the first seating the first day. Sadly, our servers there were far better than those we had on the balance of the cruise. Also, our initial seating was in the very aft section of the dining room, and it had a very disconcerting engine/propeller vibration. Our table for the rest of the cruise was in the front of the dining room, and had no vibration. Our servers were not as good in the later seating. The staff were very helpful in accommodating DD#2, as she is vegetarian.
Food: I will write about this in some detail, since the reviews are very inconsistent, and left me wondering what to expect. First, the Lido buffet was far better than I expected in terms of quality. I think that some people are not very adventurous, and are more comfortable with meat and potatoes, and the Lido buffets seemed to have a more international twist (especially the themed buffets). Dinner items were either very good or very average. Some items sounded great, but were not executed very well. Like the famous melted center chocolate cake- made with cheap chocolate and not cooked enough, or the flavorless vichyssoise, or the very tough beef Wellington. Not to get too technical, but it seems that they relied on desserts made with puff pastry, genoise, and butter cream, and had absolutely no taste. The Grand Marnier soufflE the last night looked great, but, you guessed it, tasteless. The lobster bisque and smoked duck appetizer were very good. I suppose that it is hard to feed that many people at once (over 1,000 in Monet and over 700 in Renoir). We only had Lido breakfast, and that was pretty much like the thousands of Marriott breakfast we have eaten. The pizza place was very good, and had a nice selection. It did get crowded sometimes. Sur Mer was also very good. There was no line the first couple of days, then word got out. The last day, it took me over 30 minutes to get bouillabaisse and fish 'n chips. The Point is excellent. They describe it as a steak place, but it is more of a high-end restaurant, with the amuse bouche and mid course sorbet drill. Even the desserts were outstanding.
Frankly, it made the regular Monet dinner look bad. The sushi place near the casino was just OK, with nothing really interesting there, although a good place to go for a sake fix.
Entertainment: Mark Price is really funny, and you read about him time and again for good reason. He is more entertaining than some of the entertainers. What is up with the Bingo before any show or presentation? Lots of people were into it, it seems. The Carnival dancers, singers, and band were very good. The comedians were not funny (compared to Mark) nor was the magician very good. DD's liked the "bottom dancers", what they called the Carnival dancers, since they wear thongs. The other bands that played in bars and around the pool were very good. There is a ton of stuff to see and do.
Jamaica: Arrival in Jamaica was surreal. It was early, and there was some fog in the mountains. You could smell the smoke from fires 20 miles away. Perhaps it was the fact that we had not seen land for a couple of days. Island Marketing set up our excursion to Dunn's River Falls. We went with another couple and had a blast. Since the group was small, we controlled the schedule. I would not try to see Jamaica unescorted. Dunn's River Falls was a mob scene, though it is very scenic. The drive from Montego Bay was long, but we got to see lots of the country. Our driver took us to some nice places to shop, where we were not hassled, like you are in the markets. We also went to a killer jerk chicken place for lunch. This was our favorite shopping spot.
Grand Cayman: Tendering was a major hassle. Getting off the ship was OK., and we had no waiting. Island Marketing set up a private charter with a guy with a boat. This was cool because we were not on a boat with a ton of people to go to Stingray city and snorkel. We also went to lunch at a place on Rum Point. We saw a shark, barracuda, and lots of lobsters, and other stuff. Pretty cool. Very hot day and we were exhausted. The tender line was very long and hot. We sought refuge at Margaritaville ($10/per drink!) until the line went down. Yuk!
Cozumel: Walked off the ship and caught a cab. We could have booked an excursion, but we just wanted to hang out on a beach. We asked him to take us to a beach club. I still have no idea the name of the place we went to, but it was awesome. The beach, food and drinks were all excellent. Not too many people there. We talked to some other people from our ship, and we agreed that it was like a beach in the Corona commercial. Snorkeling was great right there. We had never been to Cozumel before, and we want to go back. It is way better than Cancun. We went to Senor Frogs before we left. Warning: Senor Frogs is a pretty wild place- kind of a spring break environment. DD’s loved it, but it is not for everyone. As we left Cozumel, we saw a family getting off the ship with bags and everything. We hope they are OK. Also the ship was about 10 feet from the pier and came back and got two guys who were late!
Sea days were fun, but around the pools and on the decks, it was crowded. For us, the most relaxing place to read a book was on our balcony. Mark said that there were over 1,300 kids on the ship, and you could tell. We were so glad that we got cabins with a balcony, and we would do it again. The gym was better than we expected, though wee used it only on sea days. We got an answer on why the divider is closed: it is to cut down on the wind so the furniture and other items do not blow away. It is the same reason you see the glass walls on the upper decks. We did meet lots of really nice people and families while on the upper decks and pool area. Most from the Dallas area, like us.
Debarkation: Another major hassle. They suggest self-assist getting off for good reason. Do not over pack, so that you can get off this way. We woke up, ate breakfast on the Lido deck, and were called down at 9:00. We had packed the night before, so it was kind of a leisurely morning. If not for a rather long wait for the EZ Cruise bus, we would have been off the island by 10:00. The owner of EZ cruise is a nice lady, and said she was short a driver that day.
With nothing to compare it to, we thought this was a great cruise. We will certainly go on another one. We are curious if you get more for you money on some other cruises, because this is not a cheap way to vacation.
1.We brought certain beverages with us. Driving to the ship, this was easy, but not practical if you fly. Checking in, there were people with cases of sodas and water. We figure we saved over $500 doing this. 2.Bring a power strip and extension cord. There is one plug in the cabin. 3.Bring soap and shampoo. 4.Bring cash if you are using Island Marketing for excursions. 5.We still do not get the whole shower curtain problem. We had no problems with it. It is small, so if you are large….. 6.Nobody wore tuxes at formal night. We counted 10 out of 1000 people. Suits or sport coats are fine. DDs said “This is so civilized!” Lots of people did not even go, but it is fun. 7.Bring feminine hygiene products with you. Fussy women will have a tough time on board or in ports finding the “right” product. ‘Nuff said. 8.Bring your own mask and snorkel. You can rent fins. 9.Even the most seasick prone person will do fine with the patch. DD#2 and DW are that way and did fine. 10.Backpack for excursions.