We spent our first night before the cruise in Miami in a Marriott Hotel in Coral Gables. Really beautiful area. Getting there the day before makes things easier in terms of not missing any check points, and gives us a bit of extra time to enjoy a well deserved vacation.
We arrived at the Port of Miami on embarkation day at about 1 PM. Checking in was easy and smooth, however, due to a stomach virus on the previous cruise, the crew had to do an extra thorough sanitation of the ship. All of the passengers were taken by bus to the nearby Hilton. We were placed in a ball room and given sandwiches and drinks. This was a bit disconcerting, however we struck up a friendly conversation with some people at our table, which helped pass the time away. Even though we were a bit frustrated, one must give credit to the ship for taking extra precautions to ensure that the ship was clean enough for the new passengers. We finally got back to the ship a couple of hours later and the ship ended up leaving port by 7 PM.
The ship is really beautiful. Brown and beige hues throughout, and no gaudy decoration like the Carnival ships we have been on. Our room was fine; a bit small for a family of 4, and we are pretty small people. There is a top bunk over the head of the master bed and then a chair beside the bed which opens up into a bed. Considering the fact that we didn't spend too much time in the cabin, the small sized room was not a problem. The balcony was a good size, which was good as we really enjoy sitting out there and looking out at the vast water.
Our meals were good. Not amazing in the dining room. We do not have high expectations of the food, as with about 2000 people sailing, one cannot expect absolute gourmet. Produce and protein were of good quality and we always left feeling well-satiated. My husband and I did eat both in Portofino's and Chops as well. During these evenings, the kids ate with the kids' club. Both meals were good, however, Chops was definitely the stronger of the two. The meals on the ship were more about atmosphere and the experience than the food. Eating in the dining room with our kids was a really special time of the day for us. The waiters were very friendly and we struck up conversations nightly with our neighbors at the table beside us. The atmosphere at the specialty restaurants was really nice. We were treated really well, and took our time to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and higher gourmet quality of food. All desserts were great on the ship. We tried the dining room a few times for breakfast and lunch, but ended up preferring the buffet in the Windjammer for these more casual meals. The food in the Windjammer and the dining rooms is the same. A nice feature about the Windjammer is that one can eat outside as well as in.
The nightly shows were fun. Again, we don't have high expectations of the entertainment, but singing and dancing was all that was needed for our kids, who got more out of it than us. This is not Broadway and we were happy with what was presented. Our son really enjoyed the kids' club. As there were not very many kids on board, our 2 kids were grouped together. The activities were more geared at boys from the ages of 6-10. Thus, our 7 year old son had the time of his life. Lots of boy stuff - Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc. Our daughter didn't really have as much to do. She was fine to go to the club when she felt like it and would spend time with my husband and I lounging, playing mini golf, rock climbing, etc. There really is something for everybody to do on the ship.
The gym was a favourite place to hang out in the mornings. I attended a yoga class and a spinning class, both which were great. The exercise machines are great as well as the weight machines. I did not partake of the spa. I find that it is really costly and one can spend the same or less at home at a nearby massage clinic. The weather was amazing. Not one day of rain. Spent the afternoons reading at the pool. The pool is really nice with a whole border around the deeper water to sit in and keep cool.
I invite you to ask any questions about the ship. I know that I appreciated all of the answers that I received before leaving for our wonderful cruise.