We arrived at the cruise terminal in Ft Lauderdale right around 12:30 on embarkation day. There was a small line (about 100-150 people) and breezed through the embarkation process in about 15 minutes. We were taken to our room to put down our carry on bags and directed to the buffet lunch upstairs. There was a variety of foods on the buffet, hotdogs, hamburgers and fries on the American bar, pizza on the pizza bar, and then the actual buffet itself. Wow!! This buffet had, cold cuts, cheeses, fruits, salads, hot entrees-lasagna, roast beef, pork etc, vegetables, breads and desserts.
After filling our bellies, we wandered the ship. The ship was well appointed even for a smaller ship. The decor was tasteful, and interesting. The ship was immaculate and everything was shining. The casino had a good variety of slot machines and several gaming tables. The library had selections in several languages and tables and chairs to play cards. The shopping area was a little smaller than on the Royal Caribbean ships, but as I found out later, there was ample selections, and a different bargain every day.
There were several lounges or bar areas, a disco and Lord Nelson's pub. The Casino and Lord Nelson's pub were the only two smoking areas inside the ship. The disco, which served as a meeting area for the children's and teens' clubs was non-smoking which pleased me since the club used by another cruise line was a smoking club. Next, we went out onto the pool deck where one side was set up for smokers and the other was smoke free. There were plenty of lounge chairs, all of which had their own little sunshade and plenty of places to put the chairs. I found them quite comfortable. There were two pools and two hot tubs. During the 3 sea days we had, the pool area was quite popular, yet it never felt overcrowded. Over the course of our 10 day cruise, we ate every dinner, most lunches and most breakfasts in the dining room. The staff, and our waiter in particular were wonderful. Warm, friendly, attentive.We ordered tea the first night, and never had to ask again. We also never had to ask for refills. The variety and taste of the food was terrific. I had the steak and ordered it medium rare. What I got was a perfect medium rare. Definitely no complaints about the service or food in the dining room.
Our cabin steward (stewardess really) was awesome too. We had 4 people in our room and she was great about making sure we had fresh towels and when we asked to have our beds pushed together than apart later in the cruise she had it done with no problems. Our room was a little smaller than others we have been in, but it was actually better laid out. The shower was a little small, but serviceable. The problem isn't so much the size, but where the assist bars are. If they were moved to a corner the shower would work much better.
I have heard a lot about language problems with the ship's staff. I am not sure why, as we dealt with people at the excursion desk, reception the shops, etc, and while many spoke with an accent I would say 75-80% were fluent in English and rest understood enough to direct you to someone who could help you. And help you they did. The staff as a whole was wonderful and made us feel welcome.
Next, the shows. There were operas, and magic shows, acrobats and piano concerts. As for entertainment, there was bingo, contests, karaoke, shopping seminars, music and singers. Every lounge had something going on at one time or another.
Even the kids had plenty to do. There were movies and activities going on at different times. There was a game room, mini golf, and ping pong.The kids had several dinners so parents could have adult dinners.
Oh, I forgot to mention, although the ice cream (gelato really) was not free, it didn't seem to bother people. The servings were large, and you could actually get a banana split if you wanted. Besides, there was some type of ice cream for dessert at both lunch and dinner. Also the small cups were only a pain at breakfast and lunch in the buffet. No small glasses in the dining rooms.
We had two awesome late night buffets, some type of desserts or sandwich snacks every non buffet night in the lounges, a fruit bowl in our room and "tea time" every day. No way to go hungry or not find something you like.
Again one of the best cruises ever. So good in fact, we just booked a cruise for Feb 2010 on the Poesha.
PS if you can get Astawa and Edmund as your waiters, you are in for a treat.