Being a first time cruiser we were very nervous that we would be disappointed with this vacation. We purposely decided to begin with a four night cruise, just so we could break it in gently. We had no trouble figuring out where to go for embarkation, or what to do next, there were plenty of staff members greeting us and helping with any questions we had.
We were initially disappointed with the ship. We immediately sought out the pool deck and found a very small pool filled with kids and parents. It seemed very unsanitary and dangerous with the size of the pool being about 20 feet by 10 feet and at least 60 persons in the water. It was complete mayhem with kids of all ages running around and parents shouting orders to behave. We found the second pool in the solarium in somewhat lesser disorder and all the hot tubs occupied with youth. There were no crew in sight, no waiters serving beverages.
We proceeded to the Windjammer Cafe for lunch as we had not eaten all day. We were lucky to find remnants still left as we were late to board at 3:00 in the afternoon. The servers were quick to remove plates and clear tables for new patrons. There was salad and cheese and fresh fruit remaining which was all we really needed as dinner was not far away. On this ship you can have your meals in the Cafe buffet style and open seating, or in the dining room with menus and sharing tables. (Or in your stateroom with room service.) There is no "restaurant" as on some other ships.
We found our stateroom with our luggage delivered within 90 minutes of boarding the ship. The room was tastefully decorated, bed comfortable with a 5 inch extra firm foam mattress, clean cotton sheets and sanitary pillows. The vanity had a numerous drawers and shelves well lit and a desk chair to sit on. There were two US electrical outlets, and two European outlets. I wished I had brought my Euro adapter so I could use the two extra outlets for my laptop and phone charger. There was a travel hairdryer about 1000 watts. A complete wall of mirrors gave the room a very spacious feeling. The window in this cabin filled the room with daylight which made it enjoyable to be in. The window was about 4 foot square, but some cabins had much smaller windows and some were portholes. The 13" TV had an acceptable selection of channels. There was a small loveseat that converted to a bed that when in use would fill the entire cabin making walking to the bathroom impossible. The bathroom was small and efficient with a handheld shower mounted on a bar so you could adjust the height up to 6 ft. I was very happy with the stateroom overall and the size was perfect for two adults. We were not in it very much, only to sleep and shower.
Walking around the ship we were very impressed with its beauty. Glass and marble and teak were polished and sparkling, chairs and sofas freshly reupholstered. Carpeting was clean and in good shape. I'd expect a need for re-carpeting in 2005-6. The pool deck carpeting was soiled and well abused, but not horrible.
Dinner was excellent and service was superb. Selection of entrees very diverse and meals served very quickly. A glass of wine was about $6. We requested a large table but were seated at a private table. We really wanted to socialize on this first cruise and asked to be reseated to a table without children. Our head waiter was very quick to move us to a table with a very nice group of couples all from different regions of the U.S. Conversation was enjoyable and it was refreshing getting to know these people. I noticed on the second night there was a line of people trying to get moved to other tables. Obviously they were not as lucky finding tablemates.
I was very pleased with the shore excursions and found the prices reasonable. Many people chose to walk around town near the ship and really didn't have as much fun as the people who went on an excursion. A two hour ride on a Catamaran and an hour of snorkeling, unlimited beer, wine and beverages= $44 each adult. I found that an acceptable price.
The only dislikes for me was the excessive number of kids on the ship but being Easter break perhaps this was unusual. It was difficult finding soft drinks or water service, however we could go get it ourselves in the Cafe, providing it is open. On sea day, deck chairs had towels on every one of them by 9 am, but no occupants. A pool attendant didn't show up until noon so many people wandered about until then, very frustrated and unhappy while others dined and went to demonstrations, etc. knowing their towel/shoe was on a chair waiting for them on deck.
I would definitely cruise on this ship again, but I would love to try a cruise with more over age 30 shipmates.