ABOUT US: First let me say we are experienced cruisers. This was my wife and my 12th cruise (Disney Magic, Norwegian Norway, Carnival Paradise, HAL Zuiderdam, MSC Opera, Disney Magic, Norwegian Star, RC Adventure of the Seas, Norwegian Spirit, MSC Orchestra, Disney Wonder), so we're veterans.
BOOKING: We had 11 (6 adults, 5 children 6 and under) people ending up in four staterooms. We booked Monday, Dec. 21 for a Saturday, Dec. 26 departure. When I called, all staterooms were same price -- $499 per person -- regardless of room. I booked three balconies in wellness class and a four person ocean view, that was only used for storage. Amazing deal by waiting until the last minute. Booking flights was another issue. Most of us flew to Orlando and drove down.
EMBARKATION: Easiest process ever. 5 minutes after arrival at terminal, we were on the ship. You check in at a desk and they send you aboard. While walking on the ship, they take your picture. Keys are in the room. You arrange your credit account at kiosks around the ship at your leisure. Amazing.
THE SHIP: It's older, but very well appointed. It shows wear and tear, but it is very nice. The atrium is beautiful. Glass elevators in the atrium and windows in the decks 4-8 hallways to look into atrium. The layout is pretty good, but you have traffic congestion around the atrium stairs when pictures are being taken and around the dining rooms at dinner times. Also, there were lots of smoking areas, so sometimes it was hard to get away from. It never felt crowded on decks, either. There are four pools and a water slide. They don't allow children under 12 in the hot tubs, but didn't enforce that until day 3. Didn't enforce that on the last day either.
THE STATEROOM: All three balconies were very large with plenty of storage. We slept five in a room for three (two adults, a six year old, a three year old and a 1 year old). We didn't even use all the space. Of course we stored our large items in the other stateroom. Balcony was cramped, but nice. The oceanview room was amazing. It was on deck four overlooking lifeboats, but a glass door opened making a view to the world possible, like a balcony without the balcony. The three balconies were in the Wellness class, more on that later. All of our clothes were at our rooms by 2 p.m.
DINING: We got to our rooms and had first seating cards in the balcony rooms and late in the quad, so we went to the maitre'd. Little did we know that the balcony rooms could dine in the semi-private Wellness Restaurant with open seating between 5 and 8:45. That was perfect. We arranged to have our table for 11 seated at 8:15 every night. They held the table for us. There was a special menu for this restaurant as well as being able to order from the main dining hall. It was nice to dine in a room with just a dozen others than hundreds. A French family with children near us had the same idea as we did and had the other large table in the restaurant. The three year old at their table played with our kids (our six year old went to a french speaking school for two years which helped bridge the communications gap). Food ranged from average to simply amazing. Never hungry, never disappointed. Lunches same way. Buffet was always ample, serving breakfast until noon and lunch until 6 in some way. Pizza was great. Burgers were good. Most food was very good except breakfast. Little redundancy.
PERKS: The Wellness rooms also apparently come with four spa treatments per first two people in the room. So we got treatments as well. I had a facial, a Swedish massage and exfoliation, all for just the price of tips. The fourth treatment is a Body Fat Analysis. I already know I'm fat, so I skipped that. There are also shampoos and body gels in the wellness rooms that aren't in the regular rooms which were good too.
TRAVEL: We were supposed to depart at 7 p.m. from Port Canaveral but didn't until 9 p.m. due to some late arriving European flights. Therefore, muster drill wasn't until day 2. We got to our first port, Key West, two hours late, but stayed two hours longer. We tendered here using lifeboats. Very slow. Took an hour from time tender no. was called to actually get on land. Only had two hours in KW, then back in tender line. Grand Cayman was packed. Five ships. We got tender no. 21 and they were on 11. An hour later, no additional numbers called. A couple of people tried to make the crowd revolt. About 11 people were angry, requested the captain, wanted their money back, etc. We told them to stop ruining our vacation, they said their vacation was ruined. They let excursions off first so all the line cares about is money (what line doesn't let excursions off first?). No announcements made in that hour. Veterans of cruising I figured Cayman stopped accepting guests, which was right. We got that announcement later. Anyway, we went to the pool for an hour, ate, then went for land at 2 p.m. with a back aboard at 3:15 p.m. Walked a little and got back in the hour long line back for the tender. While in line, it rained. The people in line were given ponchos. Nice touch. Roatan was stop three. Been there twice before and never liked it. We pulled to the dock at 11 with a 12 p.m. time allowed to get off. As we pulled in, I see an empty beach right next to the dock. Turns out, we weren't docked in Coxen Hole, but it some other area that has been open for just two months. It basically became a private island day. A perfect beach with shallow waters for 100s of meters. Two ships in port, but not crowded. Roatan shot up my port ratings. Last stop Cozumel. Docked at Puerta Maya pier, a 10 minute taxi to downtown. We did that and ate at a great restaurant.
ENTERTAINMENT: Didn't go to any shows.
DEBARKATION: Pretty smooth. Didn't have to leave the cabin super early. We left the ship at 9:30 and only about 1/2 the passengers were off. Debarkation continued to 10:30. Customs pretty easy, only problem was line at taxi was long and took nearly an hour to get a cab. Not usually the case at Port Canaveral.
PROS: Very little deck games, never crowded, great rooms, fantastic service, well above average food, itinerary, easiest embarkation evern.
CONS: Smoking, rude passengers, very few announcements (led to mis-communications), late seating for main dining room at 8:45, not 8:15, limited time in ports, struggled with tendering.