Preface: My mom (60 y.o.) and I (30 y.o.) have gone on a couple cruises now together. We both like relaxing and reading in the sun, shopping for local goods (NOT name brands or jewels), and seeing the sights. We don't dress for formal night (at least not in cocktail gowns) and are pretty laid back.
Arrival: We arrived the night before and stayed at the Airport La Quinta which was nice. The hotel had a free shuttle to the port. We arrived at the port around noon and check in was very quick, no lines to speak of. But then they took us onto busses and we had to wait in another building while the Coast Guard was checking the ship. One representative said they were taking us for sandwiches and refreshments, but all they had were little bottles of water, chips, and cookies from Aramark. We waited in folding seats for a few hours until they called us by our group number (assigned when we left for the busses) and bussed us back and we re-screened our carry on luggage. Got on the ship, went to our room, and went to a late lunch in the Windjammer. Even though everyone was there getting something to eat after our wait to board, there was no problem finding a place to sit. We sat, as we did every other meal from then on, in the very back where there were outside tables covered by canopies. Got our luggage later in the day after the required emergency drill. Explored ship most of the day.
The Ship: The ship was big but very easy to navigate. The elevators listed everything that was on each deck (on the outside as well as the inside). There were also maps at each main elevator bank. There were three types of elevators: inside ones, glass ones that looked outside through a large window to the sea, and glass Centrum elevators. There was a lot of interesting art (paintings, photos, statues, glass pickles). Our deck had an animal theme.
Pools/Sunning areas: There were three pools: the main outdoor pool, the kids pool with a slide, and the adult pool in the Solarium (enclosed with a glass ceiling). The main pool had a two covered hot tubs and the adult pool had one hot tub. The main and adult pools were 24 hours (which I had never seen before on a boat). The main pool was closed a couple times for cleaning. The one day we had sort of rough seas and they put up sides to the adult pool because it was sloshing so much. There were certain times of the day when you could not find a deck chair next to the pools, but other times of the day it was fine. Overall, there were lots of places to sit. If you ventured over to the climbing wall or kids pool area, there was always somewhere to sit in the sun. On previous cruises it seemed you had to fight for a place, but on this ship there was no problem. There were also plenty of places to sit in the shade. There were always places on the 5th deck to sit outside in the shade. The pools had really shallow areas along the edges so you could sit in the water, which was really nice.
Spa: There was a nice spa area where you could get all kinds of treatments as well as a sauna and steam room. There was also a Thermal suite which you could pay to use which had heated tile recliners, steam room, mild steam room, aromatherapy room, and tropical/ice showers. I bought a three day pass for the Thermal suite and it was very nice to go in there where it was quiet and few people were. I do have to say that I also used the free steam room and there was never anyone in there, but the Thermal suite had windows which was very nice. I had an excellent head and shoulder massage in the salon. My mom would not recommend the Fire and Ice pedicure which she said was expensive and not very good.
Rooms: We had a room on deck 3, just a regular outside room with a window. The shower was much nicer than others we have had, it was round with doors. I would say that compared to other rooms we have had, it had less closet room. Our stateroom attendant was nice and had excellent towel folding skills. This was the first time we had towel animals! We did have to ask for more pant hangers, which were happily provided. It was very quiet at night.
Restaurants: I have to admit that we only ate in the Windjammer and Seaview Cafe. We prefer the buffet style to eating in the dining rooms. There was never any problem finding seating in the Windjammer, especially because we ate in the very back outside. The other place we ate, the Seaview Cafe, few people seemed to know about. It was upstairs from the Windjammer in the back of the boat. You could eat inside or out. All the food was free, including fish and chips, brownies, and other items. You ordered and then sat down to be served. We also got snacks at Latte-tudes, the coffee shop. The snacks in the glass case (cookies and cakes) were complimentary. Overall the food at meals was pretty good. They had different desserts each night. In general the breakfasts were always the same (although there were tons of things to choose from), the lunches were the same every day, and dinner was the same every day. Lunches were different from dinners. There was always a lot to choose from and there was some variation in the meats. The food was not fancy, but it suited the eating style of my mom and I. The best dessert was the warm banana surrounded by brownie and flaky crust.
Entertainment: My mom went to the shows in the Coral Theater. She only walked out on one (a magician). She reported that they were "ok". The only one she seemed to be impressed with was the tenor performance. We went to movies a couple nights in the little movie theater. The focus was a little blurry and wherever you sat, you were close to the screen. For a couple movies, the sound was too loud for the speakers to handle. But they had a wide range of movies, although when you saw the times in the daily newsletter, it didn't give a summary of what it was about! To give you an idea of the movies, I went to: Julie & Julia, Duplicity, Obsessed, Land of the Lost, and Angels & Demons. I was super excited that the boat had a cinema, but was disappointed that some days only one movie was showing (some days there were two). We went to some of the arts and crafts classes. The teacher was terrible, but the projects themselves were good. We also went to origami and napkin folding. There was a library so if you finished all your books on the trip you could get a new one to read and leave the ones you finished if you wanted. Departing: The disembarkation process was very easy. They put you into groups based on your flight time. Our flight was at 3:30pm so we were on one of the last ones to get off. We had time for a shower, breakfast, and sat in the Coral theater until our group was called at 8:45am. We had arranged through Royal Caribbean for a bus to MIA and it was well organized and were happy we planned ahead.
Overall: I may have complained a bit above, but we had a great time and the ship was really comfortable feeling. There was always something to do or somewhere to go, on the ship or off. The ports (see my reviews) were amazing and 11 nights was definately not too long. I could have stayed longer!! We had a mixture of weather, some overcast, some rain, lots of sun and plenty of heat. Just a note on our fellow passengers... there were very few children and the majority of passengers were older (70+), there were several wheelchairs, etc. In otherwords, it wasn't a party atmosphere (which was fine for us!)!