I, like most others who used this site for its reviews of this cruise, was very hesitant due to the negative reviews for the ship. I had already booked this for an anniversary getaway with my girlfriend and expected it to be pretty bad, but ultimately neither of us had been on a cruise before nor had we been to the Bahamas. If it was going to be bad, we were going to suffer through it together and maybe laugh at it down the road. BUT - SHAME ON ALL THE BAD REVIEWS!
When we got to the port and saw the ship I was pleasantly surprised. It might not have been as big as other newer ships, but it was a decent size! Again, first time on a cruise so what could I compare it to? Embarkation was also a breeze, very unlike what some people here might lead you to believe! Like the airport, they scan your luggage, then you check it, then (carry-on in hand) you proceed to fill out a few forms, get on line, and check-in. Simple! Expect to stop and take quite a few pictures along the way though, some for ID others for souvenir. If you are reading this, I would like to give my first piece of advice: DO NOT AGREE TO SIT FOR THE TIME SHARE LUNCH! I had read in a review to decline any offers for this, but we had not eaten yet for the day and the lady came up to us offering a free lunch. We did not realize, as all of our meals were included, that we could have gotten a free lunch anyway once we got on board. I SHOULD HAVE STAYED TRUE TO MY GUT! It was a complete waste of time (about 2 or 3 hours) that we could have spent walking around the ship and checking things out. Have you ever been to a car dealership in hopes of buying/leasing a car? Well the sales process is VERY similar to this. They will pull out all stops to get you to sign up. I used to sell cars so I realized the "tricks of the trade" right away.
We didn't go in the pool, but only because we didn't have time. The pool is small in a half-circle kinda shape. Not good for Olympic laps but decent enough to hang out in and beat the heat. There were 2 hot tubs on each side of the pool that were always full. Bummer there. The breakfast buffet was decent with your usual breakfast selection. It reminded us of breakfast in the cafeteria in college. Dinner was good too. We didn't realize until the 2nd day that the dinner menu is the same no matter where you go (except maybe the Cove for $25 per person? We did not eat there) the difference is in the way that you are served. In this realization: STAY AWAY FROM THE RIO. The service there was plain awful! Its like half buffet-half sit down restaurant. Um hello, you can't be both! I would stick to the fancier Crystal Restaurant, which is the best overall (look your best to eat here) or the Trattoria Di Gerry which serves your typical Italian spread but is open late. We ate here on two occasions after a night of drinking and fun and we just needed something to eat before we passed out in our rooms. The food here was good as well (ate here when we were sober too!).
After dinner we went to "The View" which is the show stage / night club. The comedians were funny, which to say it takes a lot to make a bunch of cruise people laugh. One of them, Steve Zimmerman, claimed to have tap danced with Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. The other acts I didn't really catch but heard they were good. Once the acts were over, it turned into a club and I gotta say: the light up dance floor was sooooo 80s and sooooo corny! But hey what can you do? The music was good, very accommodating to all tastes although I would have like to hear more reggae/soca/calypso since we WERE traveling to the Bahamas.
The last day at sea was the worse (still sulking about not enjoying the night life IN the Bahamas). The weather also wasn't great. It was cloudy and a bit rainy all weekend and the 3rd day was no exception. Waves were a little rougher as well. Got a bit of seasickness but this is no fault of the ship of course. The activities also weren't great. Night time on the ship was better. Caught a few games of bingo, shuffleboard, foosball, etc. We mostly lounged and drank during the day which is fine by me. The activities were made worse probably because everyone was sulking (about the weather maybe) and did not want to participate. I enjoyed karaoke and the woman in charge of it (the only American on the ship she says) was REALLY nice!
Someone said it best: "Yes, it is a renovated ferry, but I couldn't tell that from the inside - and barely from the outside. Listen people....you paid as little as $199 (I paid $328 all in all for 2 ppl, I think $169 each) for a 2/3 night cruise and you're complaining about the cabin being small, or the food not being quite up to 5-star quality - what is the matter with you!!!" I totally agree, this cruise is what you make of it! OVERALL its a pretty good way to cruise on a budget.