We set sail the day after Thanksgiving from the Port of Miami. I traveled with my Dad age 65 and sisters age 39 and myself age 42. My father is a veteran cruiser has taken about 18 and goes at least once or twice a year. My sisters are also veteran cruisers. All have traveled Princess, Celebrity, Holland America, Royal Caribbean and NCL. I will give a highlights and more details where other reviews did not touch on.
To start we all were coming from long distances, Denver, Guadalajara, Chicago, and Portland. We had stayed at the Conrad Hotel which is fairly close the port. It is about 15 dollar cab fare there. It is also close to the light rail so we were able to do some shopping at Bayside and at the local Publix and Walgreens in the morning prior to embarkation. With the new restrictions on liquids we needed to stock up on shampoo, sun screen, bug spray etc. There was no insect repellant for purchase on board. My sister brought some towelettes she got from REI which contained Deet. Some excursions repellant is desired. The gift shop on board does not have a lot to offer and what it does is pricey. The crew is nice enough to replace lotions shampoos etc if you ask them. The shampoo they offered was drying for my hair but dad thought it was fine.
Embarkation- we went early and they were accommodating and we got on really without waiting in line. We had requested a state room with twin beds. Upon arrival our bed was made as a queen. Our cabin "butler" really a cabin steward did make the adjustments after we asked him. I agree with others that they are more stewards not butlers. We stayed on the 4th floor the lowest on the ship. But close to the 5th floor which the Mosaic and Gambling, and Front desk and main Discoveries Dining are located. I was surprised to see as many folks with physical challenges such as wheel chairs, scooters, walkers etc. I was told by one travel agent leading a group there are several suites which are handicapped equipped. Two doors down from us a fellow passenger had a scooter in the hallway which was sometimes a challenge to navigate. The cabins are small but appointed. I would agree with other reviews if you are a larger person - more than 250lbs the showers/bathrooms are small. The cabins have 2 small closets, a mini bar, a safe a flat panel t.v. dark wood. The beds were comfortable, the linens were nice and down comforters great. The towels swallow you up and were great. If you desire they are for purchase. Laundry service is steep. We had gotten a coupon because my dad is a captains club member. When we went the straight pay per item rate it was pricey. The coupon was fill the bag and have it done for 20. But the problem it came back all wadded up in the bag severely wrinkled. Dad had to take this up with the housekeeping manager. They offered to iron but this would be for another day. The laundry facilities are on the 8th floor and open from 8 to 7 daily. The cost was 2.50 for wash and 2.50 for a dry. Also an ironing board. It was often busy with crew also using the facilities. I guess we were told there was another laundry room for guests but it was not open for this sailing. There are about 4 washers and 4 dryers and one ironing board.
As for the restaurants we ate at the Discoveries Dining room, the Windows buffet cafe and the specialty restaurants. The specialty restaurants were nice, quiet, the souffles in the Aqualina and chocolate fondue in the Prime C were to die for. Afternoon Tea was in the Aqualina with harpist Jacqueline- she was wonderful. There is also a pool side grill with burger and salad fare. We often did the cafe in the morning we usually got there at 7 when it opens and when we went later there was no place to sit. We at one point took our plates from the Windows cafe down to the Discoveries Dining room to have a place to sit. The dining room is on 5th floor. The service was fairly good. We asked for Vincent most of the time and tried to get a table near the Captains Table which has more room to navigate. The food was good. I wouldn't say fantastic but good and really good. The entertainment was o.k to fine. The review shows I did not care for. One entertainer was probably offensive to the mostly 75 and above crowd. The magician was fun and Hyperion Knight was spectacular. WE used the fitness center daily. It is up on the 10 th floor so we often took the stairs as a warm up. The equipment is fine a few treadmills, and ellipticals, and mostly upper body weights and free weights. You have a nice view. I do have to say on one day with 13 foot swells to be on the tread mills added to many getting sea sick. We avoided the Spa it is pricey but prices came down for combo services- i.e 20 facial 20 massage for 69- as the cruise went on. The one hour massage was I believe 198 and from what I heard from others mostly average. They occasionally offer classes on weight loss etc which are mostly infomercials for supplements or selling personal training. My sisters signed up with trainer who they enjoyed but for 85 an hour pricey. There is a private deck with the whirlpool which you have to pay a 100 a week pass price. I noticed from my time in the fitness room many folks would put a book and towel out and expect no one else to use "their" chaise.
Lets move on to the pool. Very small and all the same depth. There are a couple of whirlpools. One woman slipped as did many due to the slippery surface not to the drinks. She ended up having broken her collar bone. The deck has many chaises but often fill up quickly especially on sea days. There is a smoking section on the pool deck and up in the Looking Glass lounge otherwise the ship is smoke free. As for the drinks- pricey. The drink specials don't mean special prices. They ran about 12 dollars for the coladas etc. Many bought alcohol in port as to avoid the steep prices but often when going through security getting back on the ship it was taken and kept until passengers would disembark. Some unhappy campers there.
As for the excursions. On Virgin Gorda we took the island excursion with stop at the baths. It was supposed to include going to little dix bay but this was essentially a tour of the hotel's parking lot. The Baths were nice but crowded mostly with our ship. One man in his 90's got hurt and they were ready with a first aid kit. On Dominica we went down the river in inner tubes and visited the emerald falls. Beautiful!! Grand Turk was the place to snorkel Dominican Republic was NOT! We took the land tours at Tobago and St. Vincent which were nice. But not too many potty stops. We generally stopped drinking fluids at least 2 hours before leaving the ship. The Dominican Republic was not safe to go ashore to the main island we were at the Cay which was a resort but the water was dirty we stayed on the ship that day. Many ports you have to tender in so those with physical challenges oftenwere not on excursions. St Barts we went to shell beach on our own. Did not buy much due to the euro being high against the dollar. Some folks used the internet to plan their own excursions. WE loved St.John and went to Caneel Bay Trunk Bay is also nice. The best shopping was on St. Thomas for those that took the ferry over. And I have to say the people of Ponce Puerto Rico were the most prepared with taxis to town. We took the local tour for 2.50 per person. There is also a mall with typical Gap, JC Penney etc.
My sister did have to visit the Dr. She had to pay for the visit 85 dollars and 40 Gratuity. I would expect those in professional positions i.e Captain, Hotel Manager, not to be tipped and thus not the Dr.
Many of our fellow passengers complained about varying aspects of the cruise. I needed to do a reality check with my dad. It was fine and on par with Princess. They do have some fine tuning to do. I guess I realized you can't make all the people happy when on more than one occasion passengers were at the front desk trying to see if they could get out of paying their tips. The drink waiters get paid 50 dollars a month and they as other staff rely on tips. I just found it upsetting to see people who can drop several grand on a cabin but can't pony up a few hundred dollars for the service. I would go again. But please this cruise ship is NOT kid friendly. They will be bored. There are no kid friendly spaces like on Carnival or Royal Caribbean. When we went there was one infant and one toddler who was the son of one of the officers. The crew was nice and hard working. The ship is beautiful and the drawing room has many books for lending. Happy Sailing