This cruise was a sweepstakes win from an online travel agency with offices in Seattle & San Francisco. Although we had been on 35 previous cruises, we had never been on a six star luxury ship. We were not disappointed. The cruise exceeded our expectations. This ship had less than 490 passengers, a nice change from the mega ships.
Our suite was quite large and we especially enjoyed the large walk in closet and marble bathroom with separate tub and shower, as well as the large seating area. Pictures are here: http://travel.webshots.com/album/561591840wFLBoh
We found the food very good and there was always a large selection to choose from, including simplicity foods, salt free foods, and low calorie meals on the menu. The menu could be accessed daily on the television. You were offered the choice of eating at the Portofino's buffet, the Compass Rose dining room as open seating, or private dining in your suite complete with table cloth, crystal and silverware. We opted for the buffet for breakfast and most lunches, and private dining in our suite for dinner. Since my husband does not care for Italian food, we did not partake of the Portofino's evening meal by reservation. I understand the food was quite good and the entertainment exceptional. We usually eat early at home, so the 7:00 PM dining was a bit unusual for us.
Roy, one of the waiters in Portofino's had been chosen by the transatlantic passengers as the Navigator Idol (a take-off of American Idol). They were showing the contest on the TV, and he has an amazing voice.
The ship was much smaller than those we had been on the past few years, but I liked the convenience of not having to walk very far to get to another part of the ship. The elevators were always available and empty, a nice change from the mega ships.
The crew was friendly and most helpful. Although tips are included in the passage, we tipped the stewardess and waiters in the buffet a little extra on the last day. Our reasoning for this was that the dollar value has dropped and they are working for less than they signed on for.
I liked no announcements during the day, other than the noon report from the bridge. I liked the fact that no photographers had a camera in your face every time you turned around. I also liked that the art auction was silent and not in your face.
We visited the ports of Key West, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Belize, Santo Tomas, Coco Cay in Roatan, and over nighted in Cozumel. Weather was mostly good except for some rain in Belize and Guatemala.
We did not take any tours, but just stayed in the port area, as we had visited most of these ports many times. Also, we are returning to these same ports in December on the Veendam. One thing that I didn't like was that embarking and disembarking in some ports was not the best for someone with a disability due to the steep steps. Those in wheelchairs were carried up and down them, but I was on a walker..so they carried the walker on up ahead, and then I pulled myself up on the railings.
There was a lot of local entertainment in the port building in Santo Tomas, which we enjoyed very much. Especially the marimba band which can be seen here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=_GHyD8JLKxI
The internet cafe and library always had availability. A good supply of DVDs was available in the library 24 hours a day.
I was disappointed in the merchandise available for purchase in the online shops. There were very few logo items. However, I understood why when on the last day of the cruise the shop operator said they were leaving the ship and someone else would be getting onboard when we docked. They said this is why they had not restocked the shelves and would be shipping back to their source all the items left in the shops.
The entertainment on the ship was very good. We enjoyed the lectures, movies, and entertainers. The only problem was how late most of the shows started. 9:45 is late for us as we are not night owls.
There were only about a dozen children on this voyage. They did have certain things planned for them to do, but they had no separate space as their own as on other larger ships.
We loved this ship and would certainly recommend it to everyone.