We arrived in Ft Lauderdale the Friday before. We stayed at the Gallery One Hotel using some points. (not a bad place see trip-advisor for info!)
So, we've read all of the reviews about how easy it was to move 6000+ passengers through embarkation. Well, they were right! We actually got to the ship a little earlier than normal thinking that the lines might be a little difficult. We walked up to the desk area and never had another person in front of us. From the time we arrived at the pier to the time aboard the ship, it might have been 15-20 minutes and that is only because the gentleman checking us in was new.
we made sure that we didn't bring hand carry luggage on board. These couple of hours made if possible to tour the ship. It was great. The rooms were available when they said they would be and bags arrived before 5.00.
Tips 1. Go to floor 11, starboard side. Walk to the back of the ship. There is a private balcony where you can watch the wall climbers and anything at the water show. Beautiful views. 2. Spend a morning in the Solarium - but be sure to get a "papasan" chair. It looks like the chairs that you always see in Pier 1. It has a sun cover on it, and it is a great place to read, nap, watch people go by. Just watch out where you sit in the solarium, the area can get a little warm if you don't catch a good breeze. 3. To get to the very front of this ship you can only get starboard side access. I can't remember which floor it is, but it directly below the pool level. I think you want to go to 14, and walk all the way to the front. Again, you would never know how to go there if you don't explore a little. 4. Spend time in Central Park after dark. Very romantic and pretty. I also recommend you have an early morning cup of coffee here and look at all of the plants/flowers.
Food I actually think we had too much food on this trip. We had seats in the main dining room that were only OK. They actually sat us by ourselves.
Chops- The same as other RCCL ships. Food was good, but the staff was overwhelmed on the two times we went.
Giovanni's - Food was good, not great. I don't think we would go back. It could be that we were just not hungry enough. If you still go, be sure to get an antipasto plate. I could have had that for dinner.
Chefs Table - Great experience. We really enjoyed ourselves. Best meal of the trip. If you're able to splurge a little, do this one dinner.
Breakfast - Want a pleasant experience? Go to the solarium for breakfast. The food is fresh, healthy and you don't have to dodge a hundred people. Too light of a breakfast for you, don't worry, there will be plenty other places to go.
Wine Bar - We had tapas one night for dinner. Something a little lighter. I miss the wine bar being on the main promanade. This one is in the Central park area and it was a little to warm at night to sit out.
Ports Nassau - Never been a fan. St Thomas - Due to some of the bad press and the unfortunate death of a 16 year old, we decided to go to St. John and snorkel. Bimini Breeze was the ship and we enjoyed ourselves. St Maarten - Went to Orient Beach Via taxi for a few hours. Beautiful. Worth seeing. Then we went to one of my highlights. We went to Sunset beach. We saw a show on discovery channel (?) about the 20 most unusual airports and they mentioned St. Maarten. The runway is about 40 yards from the beach. 737's 747's land and take off on a regular basis. It's not that we have not seen an airport before, it just that you can see the planes coming at you and they look like they're going to land right on top of you.
Shows Skating show - I've seen the other ones and really didn't plan to go to this one. We found ourselves really surprised. It was great. The costumes were incredible. They had a feature that I hope everyone has a chance to see. It an artist that draws with sand. I could never explain it to you - it is worth seeing Comedy Show - Good. also saw the improv show. Water show - They could not get the stage to work and we never got to see the show. They teased us by showing a previous show on the large TVs and in our rooms. We were disappointed.
The ship I'll come back to the fact that we kept reading about how there are over 6000 people on this ship and it was not crowded. Well, we have to agree. A couple of times the pool was a little over crowded, but it was usually noon to 3:00 and we were gone by then. The casino is split into two. one area for smoking, one non-smoking. The staff was incredible. In all, I never came across one crew member that was not enthusiastic, helpful, attentive or ambivalent. This was by far one of the best crews that I've ever seen on ANY ship. Even the captain was personable. He gives a one hour background about the ship and answers questions from the crowd.
The Rooms - Our room was fine - in fact the layout of having the closet facing the bead was a benefit to us. It seemed to keep the room a little more tidy. Here is my only disappointment. The balcony. For the first time ever, I didn't like it. It felt too small. It didnt' help that it was one of the first August cruses that we have taken in a long time. It WAS HOT. You couldn't leave the sliding door open without the room heating up fast!
Book it. Have fun. Bring friends.