We had a great time with our 10 and 13 year old, along with 9 other relatives. Everyone played ping pong, miniature golf, and volleyball and met for sit down, early dinner every night.
As everyone else says, embarkation and disembarkation were FINE! Service was excellent!
FOOD: You have to KNOW what you want to eat and make sure you GET it. We highly recommend anything FRESHLY prepared. I ate the thai barbecue chicken every day at the Mongolian Wok (HINT: Ask for it not too spicy). The line gets long, so make a bowl for someone else in your group, since they will cook them both for you when it's your turn. The SANDWICHES freshly made are a great choice (Reubens, carved turkey...). The 24 hour PIZZA is very high quality and fresh. The burrito bar is also fresh and was a hit among our group. The fish and chips were also fresh and tasty. We did not eat a lot of the buffet choices, because you don't have to with all the other options!!! The buffet desserts had a good variety, but EVERYONE had at least 2 self-serve ice cream cones each day, which was awesome (and you can get them in three different locations)!!!!!
FREE ROOM SERVICE (we didn't use it though)
BREAKFAST: toast, bagels and pancakes were all premade, so never warm.
DINNER: Great! Order 2 entrees if you can't decide (especially the lobster tail and prime rib night, which I did).
ENTERTAINMENT: Only one night was great - the illusionist. The singers and dancers just went on and on with their "across the USA" show. They could easily cut it down to 10 songs instead of 20!!! We didn't bother with the opening or closing shows, and the other show was a talent show, that we didn't bother with either!!! That line up is disappointing.
PRIZES: They don't offer incentives to compete in their activities, because the prize is a medal or trophy, which no one wants. On Holland America, they gave dollars to collect and purchase logo towels, t-shirts, mugs, etc. at the end. That would make you want to participate more.
CRUISE DIRECTOR: The lady cruise director is lackluster at best. She sounds like she is on the QVC channel selling jewelry. She's also not funny and rambles on in her frequent announcements. She has a nice accent though and is friendly, so you might like her. I prefer a male cruise director with a great sense of humor.
KIDS: If you cruise during a peak week, expect kids running amuck in groups and behaving badly at times. I had to stop some kids rough housing and say, "If you can not behave, you have to have a parent with you." I didn't bother to ask a staff member to confront them, since I didn't see staff addressing kids' behavior during the cruise. I also had to tell a group of preteen boys not to hold a ping pong table for the entire day (since their parents were nowhere around).
SERENITY: NO KIDS!!! Spend your free time here. They have round beds in the very front that everyone covets, so try to get one early. BTW you can turn in your blue towel to the guy behind the desk here, every time it is wet and get a dry one. The hot tubs here are TRULY hot and peaceful, since you can't hear the LOUD music from the deck here. I met a lot of people in the hot tub.
LIDO DECK LOUD SCREEN T.V. Completely ANNOYING all day and WAY TOO LOUD!!!!! Nice for evening movies, if you haven't already seen them. Practice your group line dancing (electric slide, cha-cha slide)!
NEW EXCURSION not yet arranged through the ship - Zip Line Tour in St. Johns OVER the Reversing Falls. We took the public bus $2.50 each way, exact change only, to Reversing Falls, but you need to ask to get off at the stop BEFORE the falls, since it is down the side road there. It just opened this summer 2010, so the operators are SLOW, but rates are $60 adult, $50 child, for 5 zip lines. Definitely worth it! You have to be 70 pounds, no exceptions. Plan to go there right away, since it takes about an hour and a half to two hours to get through.
SHHHHH.... They didn't take attendance at the drill. Wish I had known!
KARAOKE - They had each day and it was fun. They offered time for kids sing, too. No brand new songs off the radio though.
COMPLAINT: They didn't let our 8 year old cousin join the kids' club with my 9 year old daughter. They were strict about age groups, so neither girl did ANY activities in the kids' club. They need to reconsider this policy, since it ruins many people's cruise experience.
We didn't spend any money on board, besides 2 toy towel animals for $12 and a photo for $19.99. I encourage you instead to bring extra cash to tip (beyond the usual tip) the staff who work so hard to serve you.