My wife and I are in our 50's (no rug-rats), and we have cruised before. This time, we were just looking for a quick weekend getaway from our mundane 9-5 jobs. This inexpensive weekender appeared to offer just the right amount of sun & fun that we needed. This review reflects the thought of us both.
HOW WE DID IT: So as not to keep you hanging... Its not the QEII, folks. Its a 3-nighter, ad it was fairly cheap. So we kept things in perspective. But in several ways it did exceed the mediocrity we expected, and we managed to find ways to enjoy what was offered.
GETTING TO THE PORT: We live about 6-hours from the Port of Miami and could have flown in from Jacksonville, but chose to drive a rental car one-way to and from Miami (~$40/each way). We thus avoided wear & tear on our vehicle and parking-fees at the port. Thursday night, we drove to Boca Raton (near Ft. Lauderdale). On Friday about Noon, we dropped the car at the rental lot near the Miami airport. We were about to board the shuttle to the airport to get a taxi there when luckily, a taxi pulled in to drop off a passenger just at that moment.
EMBARKATION: Your taxi pulls into the drop-off line, a porter takes your bags, your tip and points you toward a door. There, a guy glances at your passports and ticket. Once inside, you go thru a metal detector and head upstairs to check in. Here, you need to show your passports and both copies of your ticket. One copy they mark and return to you, along with your key/charge card(s). From there, its a quick walk to gangplank and the obligatory embarkation photo.
BOARDING: They welcome you on board with a small flute of champagne (not great, but acceptable). We immediately reserved dinner for that night at Le Bistro, which along with Cagney's and Il Adagio, carry a cover-charge. It was not yet 2PM, so we chose to have a sit-down lunch at the Palace (one of the main dining rooms). We thought it was an auspicious start, as the food there was actually fairly good. We later tried burger at the buffet on Deck 11, but were disappointed. While I thought the meat tasty, the buns were stale, and neither of us finished our plates.
STATEROOMS: We found our stateroom at about 2PM. It was inside on Deck 10, as far forward as one could get (#0101). This made it both quiet and a long-walk aft to where most of the action was. The A/C was worked great and there were no obvious odors. Our luggage arrived by 3PM and while storage was limited, we made do with no problems. Although the closet and lavatory was tiny, we thought the size compared well to a similar room that we had on an RCI cruise. Later, I noticed a slight sulfer-type odor, but my wife did not, and it was so brief and slight, that its barely worth a mention. The bedding was too firm for my wife, but it was fine for me. All in all, we were both well-satisfied with the room.
DECOR & LAYOUT: The decor is low key, which we liked, including the left-over Hawaiian stuff. But they could use better signage for the public restrooms which are less than obvious. It took a little time getting a handle on the layout. The atrium is fairly far forward, and both dining rooms and most public rooms are aft of that.
DINING: Our dinner at Le Bistro was quite good, but service was charitably in the European-style, that is slow. It took about two hours total, but still well-worth the time & charge. Breakfast at the buffet was marginal... there was a decent selection, but the hot stuff was lukewarm and the coffee was too bitter (we had hot tea instead).
Dinner on Saturday night in Crossings (the other main dining room) was fine. The lobster was actually quite good. Dinner there on Sunday was strange. The salad we were served was not as described. There was a group of loud older-teens at the next table who managed to generate a number of complaints. Lastly, the piped in music included "The Morning After" from the cruiseship capsizing movie, "The Poseidon Adventure."
ACTIVITIES/ENTERTAINMENT: The only on board activities we participated was the Meet+Greet nicely organized by a CC'er for her fellow CC'ers, and the evening entertainment in theatre which was limited, but well-done for what it was a very good band, energetic dancers and a very funny comic. We cannot comment on the late-night parties, as we were usually asleep by then.
SERVICE: As many other CC'ers have attested, the attentiveness and enthusiasm of the service personnel, from the room stewards to the waitstaff, is excellent. They actually do try to help and it does overcome some of the other shortcomings.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: We did this independently. On Saturday, we did one of those 2 1/2 hr. driving tours of Nassau with a stop at Atlantis. Then, we walked over to the British Colonial for a day-stay, and just hung out there. On Sunday, we spent the morning on the island, ate the BBQ, and then spent the afternoon by the pool back on board. We were looking for relaxation, and that's what we got.
DISEMBARKATION: It was simpler than embarkation. We got our colored tags the night before by the Reception Desk, and when our color was called, we were off in a flash, although the Customs guy wondered how we could spend only $50. A porter helped us with our bags and to a taxi.
SUMMARY: The food is hit-or-miss, or the service slow, there may be some comfort issues, but they try, the entertainment is entertaining, and the horror stories seem to be a thing of the past. Its a 3* ship and not a white-glove cruise, but then you are not paying for that, are you? Keep this in perspective and you can find ways to enjoy yourself. Factoring that in the mix, I'll say that its actually a 4* cruise.