We dropped our bags with a porter at the pier and then drove the car to EZ parking (I think... its been a while now!) and took the shuttle back. We only waited about 2 minutes for the shuttle and had a quick trip back. The line for embarkation was somewhat long, but we arrived later than I had wanted due to last minute errands and whatnot. We got in line around 1230 and we got in our room right about 2. I guess the benefit of coming late was that our room was ready when we boarded and we had a few of our bags already! After settling a little bit, we went up to the Lido Deck and had lunch from the buffet and then went up to the top deck to watch us sail away. (For those who have never cruised before, it is VERY, VERY windy on deck - so a sun dress probably isn't the best choice to wear, which I learned the hard way!) We ran around exploring the ship a little bit and finished unpacking before dinner. The room had more storage than I expected (which I had heard, but was skeptical for 2 females!!). The beds were comfy and our steward, Marcoso was great! We would be gone from our room for like 30 minutes during the week and we would come back and everything would be clean and ready! He was great, and very nice although our towel animals were often unidentifiable! ;)
We had the late seating in the Renoir dining room. We're night owls so we had asked for the later seating. Our tablemates were OK. Not necessarily people I would choose to hang out with on a regular basis, but nice enough nonetheless and we can usually get along with just about anyone. Was it the best food I have ever had? No, but it was still pretty darn good for the most part. And if there was ever a dish that I really just didn't like, they would bring me another choice right away! Our waiter was "Goose" and his assistant was Wit. They were both really great!! Very nice and accommodating, never had to wait for a glass or the bread basket to be refilled. Very awesome! Again, this is not luxury cruising and I think a lot of people have their expectations set WAY too high!
The cruise director, Ralph, was probably the highlight of my mom's trip. She LOVED his accent and he was always funny and in a good mood (which I guess is what he's paid to do!) and I think she maybe had a crush on him at the end of the week! ;) He was always good at keeping us informed and getting people involved. Yes, some of the on-deck events are cheesy, but come on, its a cruise people!! We still had lots of fun! The evening shows left something to be desired, but I've been in musical theatre and danced in the past so I guess my expectations/experience made me want more. The shows involving the passengers (i.e. the Marriage show and Legends) were a lot more entertaining!
For debarkation, we were one of the last decks to be called, but we were also able to remain in our room up until about 30 minutes before getting off the ship (though I don't think we were supposed to!). We had no trouble finding our luggage. We had a little wait in line to get through customs, and a short wait for the shuttle to take us to parking - I got the car and brought it back to pick up our luggage. Overall, really not a bad experience with debarkation, except that it meant our trip was over.
All in all, we had a really, really great time!! I'm already looking online for another cruise - although I'm also looking for the funding for it!haha
We chose the Dolphin Trainer swim for this trip. Its kinda pricey and we were the only 2 people from the boat that booked this excursion. It was neat because we got to spend more time in the water with the dolphins than other groups and a lot of one-on-one time. I swam with the dolphins in Cancun before, but this was my mom's first time. We both had lots and lots of fun, but for some reason we both really enjoyed the stingrays more! The dolphins are such beautiful and graceful animals though. It was really neat. Two things - you aren't allowed to wear sunscreen in the water with the dolphins. They don't tell you this in advance and they will make you shower before you get in the water with them, so if you fry like I do, maybe this isn't the best choice (unless you have a wetsuit!). Also, they RIP YOU OFF with the pictures and video purchase at the end! But its really hard to pass something like this up, since you can only say you swam with dolphins so many times!