Hubby and I have cruised three times before with Princess back to back Caribbean and French Polynesia. We are cruising next year the Greek islands with Thomsons.
We flew to Miami from the UK and stayed in Marriott Courtyard Miami Beach. This hotel is OK for one or two nights but very basic rooms and if you do stay there, go out to eat!
We sailed on the Freedom of the Seas from Miami Florida to visit Haiti, Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Mexico. The ship is huge, great for families with juniors and teenagers, also for young adults. Although the ship has 4,000 passengers the only time we felt overcrowded was on sea days when you could only find standing room in the pools. Effectively it has only one pool adults only because the other is geared up for children with jets etc., also they have sacrificed the back pool because they have put in a surfing flowrider section and a miniature golf course with two full size basket ball courts. They have Jacuzzis which jut out over the sea that they make a lot of fuss about but unless you stand up and look over through the glass you would not know you were over the sea.
The theatre is on a par with Princess Cruise theatres as is the nightclub, the activities remind me of a holiday camp, bingo, belly flop competitions, a game they call quest, you can watch this on you tube. They also have an ice rink in which they do shows and a full size Mall yes I know down the center of the ship, which has various shops and food outlets, food is of course free so you get the feeling of something for nothing. They have american parades a couple of times a week down the mall and also a thing called party in the street which is the ships dancers dancing to various eras of music a couple of nights a week. It is very well thought out and other than the gimmicky things they have it runs of course like a normal cruise ship.
The cabins are very spacious and have brilliant power showers with proper little cubicles instead of that silly curtain. The balconies are spacious and the service on board is very good. However, I do think you lose something with such a large ship as we found the food although plentiful and well displayed was rather bland in taste. Except the soups which I rather suspect they buy in. I had a portion of lime mouse in the Windjammer self service and asked my husband who hates the taste of limes to blind taste it, when I eventually persuaded him to taste he liked it and asked was it vanilla! The tours were it seems secondary on this trip because if you didn't want to swim with dolphins, stroke stingrays, or kayak to some island etc. It seemed that you could have pretty much been anywhere hot.
In Haiti it is too dangerous for a trip in fact the consulate website says it is a no go island. I tel RCL re this before we went and they said, we will still go there as we rent part of a beach on the island and all visitors would have a beach day. We stayed on board and took advantage of an emptier ship as quite a few others did. There some Haitians on board who were hoping to visit their relatives they have to get permission for this. Jamaica well I don't think anyone comes out of their hotel much in Jamaica. I was really looking forward to seeing this island. It was a pretty island but at no time on our tour were we allowed to walk around on our own. We got off at designated spots for tourists. I don't think I would like to go there again, I like to see the places I visit. Grand Cayman is lovely and a very organized island, lovely beaches and lots of banks of course diamond shops clothes shops etc in George Town. Mexico - Cozumel - intriguing, would like to have looked around there a bit more but had to catch a ferry over to the Yucatan to see a Mayan village. Very very hot 95 degrees and high humidity good trip though and the cruise ship to our surprise laid on a very nice picnic lunch. Was informed that the weather was best in April but hell because college kids go there to party as it is cheap.
On the whole we enjoyed the cruise and the service but we felt you do lose something with so many people to cater for and amuse on sea days. The kids seemed to be having a hey day so that is important.
Our second week we flew back to Grand Cayman and stayed in the Marriott Beach Resort which was a nice hotel and right on the beach. Had three lovely relaxing days snorkeling and swimming - then hurricane Gustav hit us but hey no sweat the hotel were marvellous and looked after us all very, very well.