We flew in the day before and stayed at the Sleep Inn in Orlando. Nice, clean and Lauras Shuttle is on site. We weren't supposed to catch the shuttle until afternoon but they said they had a full van and would be leaving about 10:30. That was great with us. We got to port, unloaded our luggage right there (the shuttle made it SOOO nice!) and got in line with our tickets & passport. Went thru security, then upstairs, which probably took a total of 45 from time we arrived at port to when we stepped on the ship. It was very easy, no hassle.
We stepped on the ship and was a bit overwhelmed, not having any idea of what to do or where to go. We stopped at the pursours desk and got our S/S card punched and put on lanyards. OK, some people hate them but I have to say the lanyards totally rocked! I'm a bit OCD, so I always knew where my card was - no worries! Only time I didn't wear it was formal nights (in my purse) or on the islands (didn't want to flash "tourist") I got a nice bead lanyard so not to stand out too much. :)
Made it to the lido deck, grabbed our first DOD, and took a seat. Had one small suitcase, and with all the people, we just sat up on deck. I went down and got us some lunch at the bbq place. Good hamburgers & hotdogs with fries.
So, here are my observations for the ship smell: yeah, very slight though and just once in a while. Kind of weird how all of a sudden you smell it. Definitely not a big deal though.
adult serenity deck: We looked at it the first day and everytime we went back it was packed. Never got to use it. Maybe they should have tripled it in size. Those 1/2 moon chairs were pretty cool. I'm betting the people who had them got up early and staked their claim.
Food: did the steakhouse the first night for our anniversary. Nice, had the surf & turf, but not sure I'd do it again for $30. The regular restaurants are so good. The highlight was the massive piece of cheese cake at the end that was probably the best I've every had. Yummy!!! The regulary restaurants were good, always something you'd like. Breakfast was usually buffet, and it was ok. Just ok. Had breakfast in dining room one day, and it was ok, but it was a bit of a hassle. Just easier to grab something at the buffet, and food about the same. Tried the burrito bar, indian food (did not like!) buffet, pizza, hamburgers/hotdogs, and everything was very good. It was nice getting pizza at night when you wanted something to snack on. Room service was awesome! Very quick, which was a pleasant surprise. When we were on St Maarten we had a boat trip, and when back to the ship to clean up before venturing out again. Called roomservice why we showered and it was there in no time. Saved some $ on food! The desserts were very good. I swore I'd have ice cream every day, but I think I had it twice. There was just so many other wonderful things to eat. And I only had the warm melting cake once. I just wanted to try everything. And the best thing is I came home with only 2 extra pounds!
Drinks: priced about the same as home. We did buy a couple bottles from bonvoyage and took some soda on with us. Saved some $. Soda card: my hubby is a big soda drinker so he bought one. total waste! He hardly used it, choosing to buy beer. :) Wouldn't do that again, just buying a few as we go. I choose water most the time. The water on the ship was ok. Not great like some people have reported. If you got it really cold there wasn't much of a taste. But it wasn't so horrible I couldn't drink it. I took a bottle with me and filled it at the gathering place with ice & water. I never did try the lemonaid.
Room: We had a inside on the first floor. It was quiet, not very big, but those kids cleaning the room are awesome! We took a small cooler and didn't even have to ask for ice. It was kept full the entire trip. They come in 2X a day and clean up, fresh towels, ice, anything you need. They work their butts off! I left an extra $20, because I think they earned it.
Loved the comedy club. Very nice addition. Bingo sucked! What a rip off. Played a couple times. Once they did 5 games. Twice just 1 game, but a big prize. Odds are terrible and the ship makes $20 off of each person! Never again! The casino is kind of small, but fun. I won $160 on a quarter machine the first night and hit the same machine for $60 later. That was the only machine I did ok on. My husband one on roulette and came away ahead. Over all we lost about $75, so not that bad. Dancin in the Streets was a wonderful show. Saw a hypnotist, ok, nothing spectacular, and also a magician. Entertaining.
I didn't know what to expect on the cruise, but its basically like being on a big floating hotels. We usually took the stairs, because it was just easier. They are large and open. I think I had in my mind they would be dark and narrow. Biggest problem I had was I was turned-around the whole time and didn't know which way was which. I'm usually pretty good with directions but not on the ship! My hubby thought that was pretty funny.
I really liked where our cabin was, and went straight up to get to the aft pool. Spoke with another couple that were directly under the pool and they said they heard them moving the chairs all night long. I think deck 1 is a great place to have a room, as it was super quiet. That extra flight of stairs was absolutely no big deal. Inside cabin was not a big deal, but I could see having a balcony would be nice.
The downside for me are the amount of people. Getting a chair by the pool means you are right up against someone else. After the cruise we had a condo in Orlando and I went to the pool and was able to sit way away from everyone. I have to say the closeness of everyone on the ship was probably the biggest problem I had with the cruise.
I'm sure I'm missing a ton of stuff but I think this gives a really good view from a first timer. :)
We did have about an hour before so walked into town. Didn't like all the vendors bugging us, but what you gonna do? Went to the tent/flea market and bought a knock off purse and some T-shirts.
I have it a "3" because the town wasn't that great, but I loved the beach!
Got back to the ship and cleaned up and then ventured out for a bit of shopping.