This is our first ever cruise. We were excited to be off. We left Calgary in minus 30 Celsius and arrived in Fort Lauderdale later in the day. We were travelling with two great friends who had been on a number of other cruise. They spent some time filling us in on what to expect and how to check in efficiently. We arrived at the dock together and check on was quick and efficient. We were stepping onboard before we knew it and then spent the next hour in amazement as we explored the ship. The main lobby was absolutely beautiful and the greetings from crew made us feel welcome.
Check into our cabins was an hour later but we felt no delay due to our exploration. The cabin was way larger than what we thought from the virtual tour. We were in an outside cabin one level below the veranda. I called it Irish first class as it was probably a step or two above the steerage my Great Grandparents had travelled from Belfast to Halifax in 1907. I wander!The decor looked gaudy on the virtual tour> Typically Italian we thought. Nothing was further from the truth. We were on the cruise looking to escape our everyday life, to experience something different and the ship was different. The gaudy on the virtual tour in real life seemed fantasy like. Bright, golden and colorful was everything we needed for spring break. We all teach high school and it was a transport back in time and age for us. No kids around, ours are just leaving university or just recently married, just us and the romance of Italy all around us.
I have read other reviews of this ship and was personally surprised at the somewhat flat reviews or even critical reviews of the buffets,both breakfast and luncheon as well as the dining for evening. We found the many choices between the hot and cold buffets were exactly to our tastes. Variety was way more than we needed and yes there was no lobster but the Italian cuisine was wonderful and the service at our table even better. The captains supper was a blast and the baked alaskan evening and the toga night were wonderful. We purchased the wine package and the wines were presentable at their price and let us enjoy them wherever we were on ship.
Service by the crew was friendly and Sanjay our waiter was a gem. He had the knack of keeping away and letting us visit and get to know the other guests at our table and being there when we needed something. The fitness center was empty at the time we used it which was early. I exercised to eat and we made a pact never to use the elevator which made for a 9 story walk for breakfast. It was so much fun and took us by the amazing Ricardo Biavatti sculptures present on every floor. Some of the evenings entertainment was not great but Sasha was definitely a treat. We did not expect top notch entertainment and we did not get it but it was fun every evening regardless as it gave us a chance to be out with new and old friends. Stephano was the best. I loved his sense of humor and great command of 5 languages. He really grew on us and became like a brother to us. The Captain was great. We talked with him on many occasions and he always was pleasant and never seemed like we were a bother. The pools were fun and the dance areas were fun at night. The disco atmosphere was not to my taste but then neither is disco. The lounge entertainers were nice especially the piano bar with the violinist. The tours were bought were great and the destinations were awe inspiring. Visiting Roatan really made us realize how fortunate were are to be born where we were born, Canada! I saw people haggling over a dollar or two that back home would not have bought a beer but that dollar or two would nave made a great difference in tat ladies take home money. Our taxi driver, not a ship tour, took us to a number of requested out of the way places like an orphanage and a number of schools. We are so lucky and it put any complaining of treatment on disembarking that day in perspective. That brings me to my only heads up about this cruise ship. It Roatan if you had a ship arranged tour a passenger disembarked earlier that those with private tours. This was announced a number of times and apparently not believed by a number of groups of english speaking people. Their nationality I'll not disclose. Those groups seemed to think they could jump the queue, so to speak, and bully their way off. The young gal who was handling the lineup off the ship did an amazingly patient job of holding her ground. It was so aggressive we decide to go back upstairs and wait till all was clear. We were invited up to one of the staterooms by a couple who dined at our table. You talk about luxury. Larger but the same beautiful decor as our cabin. Who goes on a cruise to stay in their cabin? Definitely a step up on ours though. Wonderful people, english speaking same nationality as the vocal group at disembarking. Goes to show you should only judge people by their actions. Our new friends, absolutely a lovely set of ambassadors for their country!!! Beautiful ship, beautiful romantic locations, Western Caribbean, amazing time. We would use this cruise ship again in a heartbeat. Our new guests had been on over 50 cruises taking their entire extended families a Christmas. They considered this cruise rated as amongst the best they had experienced. Different but just as fun. I agree!