This was for me and my wife plus our girls (aged 9 & 14). Thanks to the comments and tips on this site, including the forums, we learnt a lot, and virtually avoided all newbie cruiser traps!! As the title says planning is everything.
We arrived at the dock around 11.30 (would have been earlier but the M27 was a car park!). Very easy unload of baggage, and then car parking virtually next to the ship made this a breeze. The actual check in desk was well organised, and quick, and we were on-board just after 12. We all stood in awe of the scale and glitz on the ship!!
First stop was My Time Dining on Deck 5. We had tried to book this on the RCCI website, but were on a waiting list. However, in less than 5 minutes we had cancelled our 18:00 table and opted in to My Time, and then booked our table for Saturday night.
My Time was excellent - we booked for 19:00 each night and were promptly seated. We did see queues when we left at 20:30 each night, so early booking was definitely beneficial!! Our waitresses (Katarina and Ana) were excellent each night, and great with the girls. Food was amazing every night. We order a bottle of wine a couple of times ($22 +) and the waitresses would cork it over night so you didn't have to drink the whole bottle in one go!! This worked out better value than an individual glass (around ($6 +).
Entertainment was a bit mixed. We queued at around 8:45 for the ice show tickets; the queue was long as described, but moved quickly and I had 4 tickets in my hand by 9:05. We went to the early session of the ice skating and got on the rink for 9.00. A comfortable hour of skating followed with perhaps 20 others on at the same time. Rock climbing - again we arrived early at 9:45 and were kitted up and climbing by 10:10. Mini-golf was easy to get on with minimal queuing. The evening entertainment was OK, but not really suited for our 9 year old. A young disco would have been good but we didn't find one (no doubt someone will tell me were it was!!). Crazy horse were quite poor - the act was too long, should have kept the comedian on longer.
Food - amazing always - Windjammer excellent, although finding tables could be a challenge!! Were seated in Chops once, but left as too far from food!! Johnny Rockets - excellent - well worth cover charge. Our waitress from My Time was there again (Katarina) and organised some good impromptu dancing to include our daughter with the waiters and waitresses!! Amazing portions as well, especially the chips and onion rings on tap!! Didn't realise until day 2 or 3 that the pizza etc. at Sorrento's and the snacks at Cafe Promenade were included as well!!! Girls had the soda packages - good value; even better when we realised you didn't have to use the 'flasks' provided, and could get drinks in glasses as well. We used this to get some drinks for us adults as well!! Beer was OK priced - Becks $5.50; Miller Genuine Draft (330 ml can) $4.50 etc.
H2O was amazing, and weather kind to enable visits on 3 of the 4 days.
Organised our own tour of Ireland via Butlers Coaches (www.ecoach.ie). Took us the Blarney for 2 hours (Castle and/or Woollen Mill - our choice), coach tour of Cork, and then 2 hours in Kinsale, plus some good commentary from the driver, and all this for 20 Euros each - much better than RCCI's excursion prices!!
Room, sorry cabin, sorry stateroom was good. Had a balcony, great for leaving Cork and waving off. Size was comfortable. It has two American style sockets (two flat pins) and one European (round pin). We took only European adaptor, but coped. We could have bought a US adaptor on-board for $6 if it was a real issue.
Dismemberment was a breeze. Had an 8:05 slot but went to Windjammer first and left the ship around 8:30; was in our car by 8:40, shocked at the speed of ship to car - bit different to a plane!!
An amazing cruise overall, we are still full of it over a week later. Keep looking to book a longer trip for 2010 or 2011 but the prices are scary!!