Cast of characters: Me, age 43. Husband, age 49. Two teen daughters, ages 15 and 17. We had two cabins. The teens were in cat 1A, cabin # 6227 and hubby and I were directly across the hall in a Cat 8 balcony cabin, 6225.
Total cost: Balcony cabin $750 pp, which included all taxes and fees. Interior cabin was $500 pp, including all taxes and fees. We spent about $900 on board on drinks, photos, bingo, etc... (not counting the "contributions" we made to the casino.) We also spent about $800 on shore excurisions, which I'll discuss below.
We have previously sailed on Holland America, Disney and NCL.
Embarkation: Embarkation was a breeze. Took a total of about 30 minutes. We openly carried on 2 bottles of wine and a bottle of cranberry juice. We bought some Rum Runners and used them to smuggle on a 1.5 liter bottle of vodka for in-room cocktails on our balcony. We had NO problems doing that.
The ship: The ship was beautiful and absolutely SPOTLESS. It was so clean and the crew worked very hard keeping it that way. We loved having a balcony cabin!!!! I can't imagine anyone would be sorry with going with a balcony cabin. I think we are ruined now and will never be able to go back to having an interior cabin. I've read other reviews that said the ship was gaudy or tacky but I didn't think so. I thought it was great and enjoyed the way it was decorated!
Some random comments about the ship itself. The pools were great. Yes, people saved chairs, but we never had a problem finding chairs if you are willing to go up one deck, which was actually nicer because it had a breeze. They showed Monday night football on the jumbo-tron screen on the pool deck. The slide was lots of fun.
The cabins were great. The beds and linens were really comfortable. My only complaint about the cabin was that it had a great make-up/vanity area with only one outlet, and the make-up mirror was in the bathroom, mounted for someone 6 foot tall. They should have had the make-up mirror near the vanity...it would have made life much easier. Other than that, I found the cabin to be clean, comfortable with lots of storage...and, of course, that great balcony!
Our only complaints about the ship itself were that there no TV's in the cigar lounge, and you couldn't smoke cigars anywhere else except the cigar lounge (except on deck.) My husband found that annoying as he likes to smoke his cigars and watch football at the same time.
Also the library is an "understatement." It had very few books and very limited hours when it was open.
The sushi bar served limited options of sushi, but it was very good. My complaint about that was the hours it was open. (5:00 - 8:00). We had 6:00 dining which meant if we wanted sushi, then we had to eat it at 5:00 before dinner, making us not hungry for dinner, or eat it after dinner when we weren't hungry. It would have been nice if it opened earlier.
Entertainment: I read a lot of complaints about the entertainment on this board. I thought it was fine. The comedians were funny. The singers and dancers put on respectable stage shows. The hyptnotist was great. We enjoyed everything we attended.
Butch, the Cruise Director! I read a lot of complaints about him, but come on! The man had a job to do and that was to make announcements. He's a funny, really high-energy guy. He was really funny at the shows he hosted, like the Marriage Game. I enjoyed his personality and the enthusiam with which he did his job. He really looked like he enjoyed every second of it.
The FOOD! I got such a good price on this cruise that I really wasn't expecting much from the food. I was pleasantly suprised! The first 2 nights were a little so-so, but from then on it kept getting better. You will not go hungry and most everything we ate was delicious. Don't forget to get the warm, melting cake! Words can't describe how good it is.
Harrys...OMG...Harrys!!!! This is a must!!! It's a 5 star meal for $30. It's the best $30 you'll ever spend!! They treated my daughters like princesses. When my 17 yo didn't like anything on the menu, the chef came out personally to discuss with her what he could make for her. He offered her pizza, cheeseburgers, Mac & cheese...absoltuely anything she wanted. She left there with such a big smile on her face because he treated her so specially. And the food there was outstanding.
Ports of Call:
Halfmoon Cay - we didn't get to go. It was too rough to tender so we went to Nassau instead. We went over to Atlantis and had a great time there. They give cruise passengers limited access to their grounds, but for $35 you can buy a pass that lets you go all over the property. We didn't do that this time, but definitly will in the future.
St. Thomas...let me tell you about what we did and it was worth every penny. We hired a private boat to take just our family anywhere we wanted to go for world class snorkeling. We hired Capt. Wilson of Big Blue and he was exceptional! He had a private driver meet us at the dock. He took us directly to Capt. Wilson's boat, "the Big Blue." It was an awesome boat! He asked us what we wanted to do and see and he took us there. We went to a turtle nursery where the sea grass was full of juvenile green turtles...we swam with them to our heart's content. Then to several coral reefs and then to lunch on Honeymoon Beach in St.John. It was a spectacular day and soooo nice not to be cattle-herded with lots of other people. As we were coming in for the day, he radioed our driver, who picked us up and gave us a nice tour of St. Thomas on the way back to the ship.
San Juan - we toured the fort and walked around Old San Juan. Nothing fancy, but still a fun day.
Grand Turk - Grand Turk was the port I fretted about the most because I had never been there before. I took the advise from former reviews and rented a golf cart that's just outside the port ($80.) We toured the ENTIRE island. That poor island...so decimated by the hurricane last year. The people were so friendly and so happy to have us there. No one tried to sell us anything (unlike Mexico). We came back to have lunch at Margaritaville and then hit the beach. The beach was soooo crowded...it was awful. Rocky bottom and 1000 people in a very small area. BUT if you just walk down the beach past all of the crowds, it becomes PERFECT!! The water is crystal clear! The bottom is soft sand. it was wonderful. When you get off the ship, go left and walk about 10 minutes. Don't set up where all of the chair are. It's ridiculously crowded there...go past all of that.
All in all, we had a very good time. I think we got a tremendous value for the price we paid. Yes, is a mass-market cruiseline, which means that you don't get some of the touches you get on Holland. But still, for the price paid, it was a great value. The crew was extremely hardworking and friendly. The ship was beautiful. And while not perfect, we certainly had a nice time.