We were first-time cruisers, and both of us are in our early 50's.
The Embarkation: Getting on the ship was not nearly as difficult as we were told. We were told to avoid at all costs arriving at the ship between 3:00 PM and 4:00 PM, and of course, because of running around Old San Juan in the morning and mid-day, we arrived at 3:15. The whole process probably took 5 minutes at the most, and it was easily understandable as to where we had to go, and what we had to do.
The Cabin: We were booked in a Concierge Class cabin. Our stateroom attendant, Virginia, was there to greet us, as was the assistant attendant, Moses. They took great care of us all week, always called us by name, and were instantly available whenever we needed anything. Everything was accomplished with a smile. Pros: The cabin was larger than we thought that it would be. The cabin was spotlessly clean. The bed was as comfortable as the one at home. The fresh flowers, the daily appetizers before More
dinner and the chocolates on the bed at night were all very appreciated. Cons: The first hallway light next to the closet developed a bad ballast on the first day, and flickered. Moses removed the bulb so it wouldn't be so annoying, but it was not repaired all week. Consequently, it was difficult to see into the closet. The refrigerator was never cold enough to be of any use. After we mentioned it, engineering came, and declared that it was operating correctly. We found out from our table mates at dinner that this seemed to be a problem in their rooms too. Virginia made sure that we had an ice bucket filled all week for our wine to chill.
The Ship: The ship shows less wear and tear than I would expect from constant cruising for 7 ½ years. If you dwell on the nit-picky, you will find some frayed carpets and upholstery if you look carefully, and all of the varnished wood may not be glistening, but all in all, it exceeded my expectations considering what some reviewers had stated. Ship's staff were always cleaning.
The only negative comment that I would make about the condition would be in the access routes to the Cosmopolitan Restaurant. There are several soft spots in the floor that are serious enough to be a fall hazard to the less mobile.
All of this may be a moot point, however. We were told that the ship is going into dry dock in February for a reconditioning.
The casino was somewhat disappointing from the lack of open tables at any one time, but then again, it didn't seem to get a lot of players. They offer Blackjack, Craps, Three-Card Poker and Caribbean Stud games, plus slots. There were several Texas Hold-Em tournaments.
The Entertainment: We went to 3 shows, on Saturday, Tuesday and Friday night. The production numbers by the staff entertainers were a bit above high school level, but not much more. The guest entertainers, specifically the aerialists and the pianist were first-rate. The entertainment in the lounges is what you would expect back home at the Holiday Inn.
The Food and Beverage: We had room service for breakfast on our balcony 3 times. I would highly recommend it. The food comes exactly when they say that it will, and was always at the proper temperature. Even if it is not on the menu, they will prepare it.
The Waterfall Cafe (the buffet) on the 10th deck is several steps up from the Golden Corral-type buffet back home. There were always more selections that looked interesting than I had the gastronomic capacity to sample. One note: The omelet cooks don't multi task very well, and were the only foodservice staff that got a bit testy at times. Don't miss the morning waffles, and the pizza at lunch and dinner.
The Cosmopolitan Restaurant (the main dining room) was phenomenal. The food and presentation was as good as you will get in any 4-star restaurant. Frankly, unless you demand a more intimate setting, don't waste your money on the extra-cost Normandie. A helpful hint for wine drinkers: Order a bottle of wine, rather than by the glass. They can re-cork the remainder of the bottle for you, and the wine steward will bring it back next day. It's far less expensive, and you have a greater selection.
There are burgers and hot dogs available at the grill next to the pool, and also nachos. They were all o.k., but nothing special.
Debarkation: This was not as well organized as I was expecting. We received 2 sets of communications directing us to 2 different locations at 2 different times. When I pointed this out to the Guest Services personnel, I was told to start at one, then move to the other! I found out that the mixup was because we had preferred debarkation with our Concierge Class room. The actual debarkation was very easy, but there were a lack of porters to take the bags to Customs. Less
A lush tropical island that has not been spoiled yet. Don't expect marvelous shopping. This is an income-poor, but resource rich island. We took a tour not sponsored by the ship, and explored waterfalls, hot springs, nature preserves, and local handicrafts. Get off the ship, and see what this island has to offer before the developers get here.
Still recovering from hurricanes in 2005 and 2006, this is another locale that isn't full of trendy shops or megaresorts. We took a tour on this island, and it was welll wort the time to learn about the ecosystem and culture.