There was lots of postings on the Roll Call and I read all the reviews I could find, so I thank everyone who helped me plan this vacation!
We flew down 3 days early into Ft. Lauderdale and stayed with my dad, who lives about an hour north of Miami. We did not rent a car, so the morning of embarkation we took the Tri-Rail to the Metrorail and then a taxi to the port ($15). We were planning on taking a shuttle (instead of the taxi) but the next one was more than an hour wait. We decided this was too much of a hassle and will do it differently in the future.
We arrived at the port just before noon and there was a line of about 50 people before we could enter the building. We should have been paying better attention to the signage and missed the VIP check-in but still managed to get on the ship within a half hour. We ate lunch in Tsar's Palace dining room with our friends. While we were eating lunch, it was announced that the cabins were ready.
Our cabin was wonderful! Jeffrey, the butler introduced himself and throughout the cruise, he catered to our needs very well.
FOOD With our friends we found it easiest to eat at the Garden Cafe, many times using the extra seating in Mama's for breakfast or lunch. With the suite, we had the option to have breakfast or lunch at Cagney's and really enjoyed it when we did. We had dinner in both of the dining rooms and always had a great meal. We avoided "peak times" as there were sometimes very long lines. We ate dinner at 3 of the specialty restaurants (Cagney's, Mama's and Tango's) and found the serving sizes much larger than in the dining rooms (leaving no room for dessert). I recommend each of these restaurants for the cover charge.
SPA I used the thermal suite for 1 day (won a free pass playing BINGO). If you like hot tubs but not crowds, this is perfect. There is a hot tub, sauna and steam room in the same sex only areas and then a large hot tub in the co-ed area. There are lounge chairs in the large hot tub and the bubbles come up through the chairs. Also I purchased a massage-facial combo, which was nice as a sampler of their services.
ENTERTAINMENT We did not watch too many of the shows but enjoyed the ones we did: Cirque Bijoux, Band on the Run, and a comedian. The cruise director and his staff were great. Bingo packages ranged in price from $19 to $149 per session.
BEHIND THE SCENES TOUR This was a highlight for the men and well worth the $55 charge. Sign up at the reception desk on the ship as soon as possible.
MEET & GREET Thank you to John for organizing the M&G and for arranging the tour of the unoccupied Garden Villa.
LAUNDRY The self-serve laundry rooms were closed but on Wednesday we received an offer to have a bagful of clothes washed for $25. Our clothes were returned Friday evening.
DISEMBARKATION VIP priority service off the ship was great. We took the NCL transfer to the Ft. Lauderdale airport for $25 pp.
I hope this review is helpful!