Embarkation was a breeze. Very well organized. When we got on the ship, my first thought was WOW! This is GORGEOUS. From Central Park to the Promenade to the Boardwalk and other areas, the ship is beautiful. I felt like I was on EPCOT at sea. The pool areas were also beautiful. They have a gorgeous children’s pool as well as pools for people of all ages. There is an adult only area, the Solarium, which has glass over it, making it unbearable hot in June. Maybe this is a good idea in the winter, but it was terrible this time of year. The fitness center and the spa were fabulous.
The first thing we did is try to arrange the shows. We booked late and were unable to book the shows online. Fortunately, we arrived at about 11:30. If we arrived at 2PM (as the cruise line suggested), the line would have been enormous and we would have been shut out of some of the shows. We managed to book everything that we wanted, but the times were not great for us. We booked some things in the afternoon and some as late as 10:45PM. You really have to book the entertainment and then work the rest of your schedule around it.
We then got on line for MyTime dining. We managed to get 8 o’clock each night. We also decided to book one of the specialty restaurants (Giovanni’s) to see how the food compared.
THE CABIN: We were able to get to our cabin at 1PM. We had a Central Park View on the 9th floor. The cabin really had no view. It has a porthole, but when you look out of the window, all you see is a glass enclosure which is over parts of Central Park. If you wanted a Central Park Balcony cabin, I would want to be on deck 11 or higher for any kind of a view.
The cabin must have been designed for skinny midgets with little clothing. You were able to slide 2 suitcases under the bed easily. The cabin had 2 drawers, 6 shelves and a few tiny shelves behind doors. Even the nightstands had small shelves instead of drawers. The 6 foot wide bed was very comfortable and dominated the cabin. You also get a couch. The closet has a safe but here comes the problem. Because the safe and shelves take up so much room, the door only opens about 12 inches for you to hang your long clothing. Since they give you two bathrobes, you really only have about 8 inches for long clothing. On the other side of the closet you have two bars for hanging short clothing (shirts, shorts, folded slacks, etc). They give you a desk with a beautiful mirror but the 2 outlets are under the desk. You either have to crawl on the floor to plug anything in (or stand if you are the aforementioned midget) or, if you are smart, plug in the extension cord that you cleverly brought with you so you don’t have to do this every time you want to use the outlet.
The bathroom has a shaver outlet and everything else you need. Sort of. The sink is about 27 inches from the floor. The 16 inch by 10 inch oval sink was fine for the aforementioned midget, not for full size people. The shower door opened about 20 inches wide. Many people would not fit. There were 2 hooks in the shower to hang bathing suits, not a clothesline which works much better. The water pressure was fair at best.
The room came with an interactive TV (no instructions). You could check your folio on the TV (I’m glad I did. I found 2 mistakes. Make sure you check it daily). You can also check the restaurant menus, the restaurant availability and the shows that you have booked. This was a VERY nice feature. There was a master switch in the cabin which must be on before you can turn the other lights on. Again, no instructions. The safe, of course, had no instructions either.
ENTERTAINMENT: Even though the scheduling of the entertainment was annoying, the ship had the best and most varied entertainment that I ever experienced. We saw the musical Hairspray, ABBAcadrabra (an ABBA tribute concert), the Frozen in Time ice show, The Oasis of Dreams diving and synchronized swimming show, the Come Fly With Me production show with music and high flying acrobats and a comedy show in a 120 seat comedy club. There was plenty of other entertainment in the many different lounges around the ship as well. With a jazz club, a piano bar, a Latin dance club and other venues, there was plenty to do at night. It was all very well done.
ACTIVITIES: Depending on your age and interests, they were either great or awful. They have a camp for children. All of the participants looked like they were having a wonderful time. They have a carousel on the Boardwalk. For active people, they have ice skating, full court basketball and/or soccer, rock climbing, a zip line, 2 flow rider pools, belly fop contests, miniature golf, table tennis and more. For the 50 and over crowd, there were few activities during the day. They had an art auction, bingo and wine tastings. Nothing free.
DINING: In general, we were disappointed in the dining. The Windjammer café was set up in stations (which I like), but I found quality of the food disappointing. There was a Thai station, a station with mediocre cold cuts, a Pasta station with poor pasta, a station with international food (fair) and an area with poor burgers, hot dogs and french fries and a dessert station. By far the best food in the buffet was the salad bar. The Solarium had healthy food. The Park Café was good but VERY crowded. The Promenade café had mostly finger food. Sorrento’s pizza was supposedly NY style but was much worse than anything I ever had in NY. The toppings were fresh but the crust was poor. If you wanted to pay for lunch, they have Johnny Rockets, a Seafood Shack and several specialty restaurants. That is where people had to go if they didn’t want to wait on lines. The prices were fair, but you shouldn’t have to pay for lunch. The breakfasts were also not particularly good. Water, lemonade, flavor enhanced water and iced tea and coffee were free. If you wanted fresh orange juice, it was available for $4.55 per glass. Most people found the coffee unbearably strong. I saw them sipping and making faces. Dinners were better. They had two seatings in the Opus 5 restaurants, 6PM and 8:30PM. They also offer MyTime dining where you can eat any time from 5:30 to 9:30. With the MyTime dining option, you had different waiters and different tables each time. I prefer to have the same waiter and table each time, but that was not available for me, as I booked at the last minute. Fortunately, the service at all meals was wonderful. The food was okay, nothing special. The desserts were not too good. We ate in one of the specialty dining rooms (Giovanni’s) for the reasonable surcharge of $15 per person. I didn’t feel that the food was any better there than in the dining room. Most of the specialty restaurants are in Central Park. If you plan on going to one, make sure you take an umbrella because it is all open getting to the restaurant. If it rains, you will get wet. Free frozen yogurt was available on the pool deck. If you weanted ice cream in the afternoon, they have an ice cream parlor on the Boardwalk where you may purchase ice cream. They did not have a midnight buffet. They did not have baked Alaska.
CROWDS: This was the biggest problem. The ship has 2700 cabins. We had 6,093 people on the cruise. There were lines everywhere. Even with dinner reservations, we had to wait for our table at each dinner. One night, we had to wait about half an hour to be seated. They did bring free champagne to the people standing on line. If you didn’t have reservations for a show (or dinner), you could stand on a long standby line to try to get in. There were many times you would go to a restaurant or a bar and have to leave because it was so crowded. Many nights, it was tough to walk from one end of the promenade to the other because of the pedestrian traffic. By the pools, chairs were jammed in one next to the other, making it difficult to get up and move around. There were ample chairs in the shade in the morning, but as the day got later, they were few and far between.
SUMMATION: As with most cruise ships that I have been on, it has its strengths and its weaknesses. This ship might be right for some people but not for others. I found the crowds unbearable. I didn’t like being on a schedule all of the time. One day, we had a 5:00 show, an 8:00 dinner and then a 10:30 show. Some days we had NO shows. You had to plan your schedule in advance and stick to it. If the ship wasn’t filled to 113% capacity, it might have been better. If you are looking for a beautiful ship with excellent entertainment and great activities for people in their early twenties and below, this might be for you. If you are older and want better cabins, better food and a less hectic schedule, I would consider something else.