Cruised with son and his wife, but I was in a solo cabin with portholes way, way forward. Couldn't find a ready reference to these forward porthole cabins, so here goes. Arrived at the dock at 11 a.m. Many passengers were still disembarking, but a porter was ready at hand and took our bags away. We progressed through the boarding process seamlessly, and were on board by noon! Longest wait was perhaps 20 minutes. There was no real inspection of the carry-on baggage, and my experimental small rum runner in the bowels of the backpack was not noticed (or, if noticed, was ignored).
Boarding takes you right into the lobby, with the glass elevators and impressionist murals. Very cheery, very colorful. Only one guy hawking the Fun Ship Specials, and he wasn't aggressive at all. 'Snatched one up and headed for the elevators to the Lido Deck: Objective: Sur Mier! Son and DIL headed for the buffet, but I would not be deterred and Special in hand found Sur Mier and secured fish 'n chips. Okay, Sur Mier is all its hyped to be! I'd put it on the same level as Papas seafood.
Went down to inspect the cabin at 1:45, and all was ready! The forward porthole cabins are officially double occ. cabins; but, its really a single. One twin bead, sofa chair, table, built-ins. Standard size bathroom with a shower. I'm a big guy (read FAT) and had plenty of room. Lots and lots of storage space: I used maybe one out of five of the available drawers. Two large suitcases fit comfortably under the bed and out of the way. Bed is firm and most comfortable, with no visible wear or indent from use. Pillows are semi firm. There is one plug on the built-in opposite the sofa, nowhere near the bed. I brought a strip plug three prong, which fit the wall plug, and two extension cords: needed both 10' cords to get to the bed still stay out of the way and not hang all over the place. Luggage didn't arrive until after 6, but the booze in the checked luggage all made it to the cabin with no trouble. Motion or turbulence were not issues in this cabin. There was a very, very slight side to side motion a few times, not apparent other places on the ship, but not annoying at all. Some anchor noise one morning (Cayman Islands) while docking, but that's all. I'm a smoker, and there were plenty of places to smoke without apparently bothering anybody. Duty free cigarettes are available over the counter on board, so don't bring yours in bulk: get 'um on board after ship leaves U.S. waters.
Food: 'Was much better than I expected, and I enjoyed each and every meal! Sur Mier is excellent! Ate lunch at the Lido several times. I expected Luby's and found the food at the Lido better! I especially enjoyed the Indian food: Chicken Tika, Paneer, bread, rice, and, best of all for me, five or six condiments (Mango pickle, riatia, and more). The food itself was tame, obviously spiced for 'da gringos, but the garnishes were the real thing and allowed the food to be as spicy as you wanna be! Purists would be put off, probably, but I thought it was great! Other examples included roast turkey, roast beef (often) au jus, with REAL horseradish!! Only down side to the roast beef was doneness: NO rare/medium rare! I did find this a pretty common problem with meals at Lido and the main dining, too: Only occasionally was rare or medium rare available. Other observations about the Lido: mixed salads seemed to be available every day, with some surprises at each meal, like: a SUPER shrimp salad one day; tiny whole squid in a noodle salad on another (which very few folks seemed to try... imagine that... ) Lido breakfast was the same or very much the same every day: eggs, scrambled or cooked to order at an omelet station; breads of all kinds; variety of pastries, but I didn't seen donuts anywhere. Grits, oatmeal, yogurt, fresh fruits. Bacon was available, but rarely as crispy as I like. DS ate at the grill several times, BIG burgers and hot dogs, chili, all kinds of garnishes. The deli station makes some killer sandwiches, too! DIL favored the Chinese station, and I samples a couple of her dishes and found them quite good, too. Everybody seemed to like the pizza but me. I don't care for doughy crusts, preferring thin or crispy: no thin or crispy crusts available! Bar service at the table in the Lido was basically non existent: didn't seem to bother anybody, as there are bars close by wherever you might be. Room service was prompt, courteous, and tasty. I had a BLT once, and a friend enjoyed the shrimp salad sandwich which I tasted, and found to be very good, too! Room service breakfast arrived within 15 minutes of the time requested every day! Nothing hot or fancy on the menu (fruit, cereal, yogurt, bread and pastry, hot coffee and/or tea). I soon discovered breakfast at the Monet, one of the two main dining rooms, and ate there every morning but one. Very few passengers seemed to eat there, preferring the buffet; but, the service at the Money was great, bacon is available CRISPY, the tables are right on the windows overlooking the stern/back of the ship and great views! NO LINES! The individual servings could be small (for example, hash browns were two tater-tots size patties) but multiple orders were available if you wanted, say, eight slices of bacon instead of only four, or six hash brown patties or whatever). I can't say enough about the main dining.
Staff was very efficient, courteous, and helpful. My expectations were not high, considering the price and serving thousands of diners over two hours. I was very surprised. Every dish was beautifully presented. One steak was a bit chewy, but otherwise every dish was quite good. Fine dining? Well, no; but certainly better than a yuppie chain. Some dishes: prime rib (two nights) fish (a fish dish every night, examples perch, mahi mahi, salmon [available every night]; free range chicken; baby back ribs (available at least twice). Seafood newburg was as good as I've ever had. Wine list is adequate, and reasonably priced for a restaurant, but nothing spectacular. We brought wine four nights, and were not charged a corking fee (I did tip the waiter [$10] and assistant [$5] before we produced our first bottle of wine, but don't know if that had any effect). "High Tea" is offered at 3:30 on each of the three sea days. First day, I was nearly alone; second day it was full; third day was SRO, with many not seated who arrived late.... word got around. Try the scones with cream....
BARS: I enjoyed Alfreds. Cigars are overpriced, though. Bring your own. Jazz trio or quartet. Relaxed, quiet, comfortable, understated... Just what it should be. The Thaiti bar off the casino is nice, too. Seldom crowded, the place is colorful. Its a sports bar, but the staff keeps soccer on the tubes, to the obvious dismay of the many Americans. The lobby bar has classical trio sometimes, and a duet singing in the evenings (the gal is GOOD, too!!) Piano bar and Degas, aft on the Promenade deck, were lots of fun. Piano bar is very, very loud, so that conversation is impossible. Not good for solo/single/divorced dads on a ship FULL of ladies!
Ports of Call: I didn't do any excursions. Jamaica is a waste of time, I should'a stayed on the ship. Cayman Islands as fun, clean, and expensive. Make sure to check out the unique KFC on Cayman. Cozumel was great: I learned on this forum about Pancho's Backyard, and it was great! Lots of tequila tasting, duty free shops of all kinds: if you're shopping for friends and gifts, as I was, save it for Coz.
Stuff I brought I didn't need: iPod and portable speakers for it: never used. House slippers, extra bathing suit, two extra shirts (I brought a tropical shirt for each day, two white shirts, four pairs of shorts, two pairs of trousers, a suit, shoes, and two ties, and three "extra" shirts) I did use one extra shirt. At that, I bought too much. Next time, I'll bring less and send out some laundry on the third or fourth day. Didn't use: antacids, aspirin, motrin. Didn't eat any of the peanuts or jelly beans I brought, either.
I brought a cheap collapsible "six-pack" cooler. Steward kept it full of ice!
SHOWS: I didn't see all of them, but magic show was fun, juggler was VERY funny and fun (yeah, really, a juggler!) I saw one of two comics, and enjoyed it. Dance bands and groups/trios were all fun for me. Recent movies are available for $9 a pop. I didn't watch any, but they're there. Adult movies are available, but you gotta ask the purser to turn the service on. I don't know what they cost.
I was continually surprised at the absence of lines and congestion! I believe the longest line I stood in (other than boarding and disembarkation) had seven people in it. Lots of cozy places, even in the entertainment venues, that offer some privacy, or at least a sense of space.
The only real disappointment was the disembarking process. Went fairly smoothly until you're off the ship, but then the wheels fell off the wagon for sure. Must have been two thousand people in line, with there luggage, going back and forth in line (EIGHT TIMES back and forth across about 75 yard loops) dragging bags and kids. The process was one of the most truly stupid bits of nonsense I have ever seen. I cannot imagine a way to organize the process which could antagonize and anger passengers more, short of random beatings or use of tazer on old ladies.