As a way of introduction, this was not our first cruise, although our other cruises were on another line, so some of what we saw was in comparison to our prior experience.
This cruise was a little different in that Holistic Holiday at Sea (a vegan group) was doing a special week and they took up about 900 spots on the cruise. They had their own dining (early seating - Michelangelo Dining Room) and were quite busy with lectures and presentations throughout the cruise. Two members of our party were with this group. Wife and I were doing our own thing.
Embarkation - Dropped off folks at the pier while I turned in the rental car. It was a bit of a challenge even with a GPS since construction blocked some streets. Ended up going though the airport to turn around and followed a taxi down a closed street to drop our car at Thrifty. Checked in at suites line and were just told to make our way to check-in desk. There was some crowding and cutting in in the line. The suites line at in-processing was longer than regular line. We did have a very nice cabin, though. Spacious, soothing colors and plenty of storage. There were even two sinks in our bathroom and a jacuzzi tub. The fruit bowl was changed every day, instead of just pulling out overripe pieces and adding items.
Dining - Since there was no coffee maker in the room, we always requested morning coffee from our butler and he was always timely. We tried breakfast in the main dining room once and lunch once. We were not impressed with the service or the food. After that it was the buffet or lunch on shore. We had dinner the first two nights in the main dining room. The servers were good, but we were not thrilled with the food at all. A "rib-eye" steak turned out more like swiss steak (with sauce). One of our suite perks was a free dinner in the Club Conte Grande, a Tuscan Steakhouse aft on deck 11, which is normally an ala-carte restaurant (priced per item instead of one price for entire dinner like other lines). We got reservations there for two nights to start with (Tuesday and Friday) along with our tablemates. We liked it so much that first night that all four of us got a standing reservation for the rest of the week, other than the final (toga) night. We decided that the extra cost was worth it. Jeffry (the host/maitre-d' up there) was exceptional. He should go far with the line. The piano player was great. We were even able to get a time (7:30) that was much more relaxing than our original late seating, even though it prevented us from seeing most of the shows. It was only crowded on one night. We were all amazed that so many of the other passengers (even those in suites) hadn't found this jewel.
The decks were set up fairly well. After an initial orientation period we were able to navigate our way around the ship with no problems. The atrium was fantastic with glass elevators rising about 6 decks. The bar there served a great coffee drink called a chocolate mochaccino that captivated my wife after she discovered it.
Key West - The ship docked at Navy Dock which required that we take a shuttle trolly to town. The line was not set up very well. We noticed crew members cutting their way in line to get on the shuttle. There was an unconfirmed rumor that passengers came to blows because of cutting.
Tours on Grand Cayman and Roatan were booked on our own. We rented a car on Cozumel to drive around the island which is another story by itself.
Disembarkation - We had booked a tour of the Everglades along with transfer to the airport. Getting off the ship was no problem. We even managed to find our suitcases (one had lost its tag and was in a separate location), but then came the customs/immigration line. It was SLOW. Once we made it to our bus we had to wait over an hour for the last folks to make it. I suspect that some of the slowness was caused by the sheer number of non-US citizens. Our tour guide mentioned that it is only going to get worse when the new BIG ships start using the port, since they are not hiring extra agents. The tour was very good and entertaining and we made it to the airport in a timely fashion to pick up our rental car to continue our vacation.
All in all, while we may not cruise Costa again (unless we find a really good place to visit with great rates), any week at sea beats a week at work.