After 26 cruises we FINALY got smart, parked our car and took a taxi to and from Port of Miami thereby saving more than half the Port parking fees! Embarkation and debarkation procedures were the easiest we have ever encountered and we completed both in less than 30 minutes. Once aboard ship we were given a ship's "map" which was a life (and step) saver. Rather than heading for the Garden Cafe buffet, we opted to meet with our "cross-the-pond" friends at H2O Spice and settled in for a quick lunch before going to the Spa to purchase unlimited use of the thermal suite during the cruise. It was, by far, the best value aboard ship! $199 for 2 people and we utilized the sauna, the unique whirlpools, the heated tile couches, and the aft absolutely comfortable chaises for reading/sleeping/watching the wake every day. A second purchase, the soda card, provided even more value as I had no less than 5-7 tonic waters daily.
Our cabin was available somewhat later than 2pm. It was not the luxury we had encountered on the 6 other lines we have cruised but it had more than adequate storage space for 2 people, a VERY comfortable bed, and a sofa-bed apparently made from concrete blocks stacked on 4x12 lumber. My feet barely reached the floor, my wife's feet were a healthy 2 inches above the floor if we deigned to sit...and we did not since we both prefer plush rather than rock solid. The bathtub was designed for people suffering severe curvature of the spine and shaped somewwhat like a yellow summer squash about 20 inches wide at one end and less than 12 inches wide at the other and curved to match the walls. It's single saving grace, the shower provided unlimited hot water and a shelf for gels, shampoo, conditioner and all the other feminine accoutrements my wife just "has to have." The shower-tub was on the right side of the entry way to the cabin, the commode was on the left. I am 6 feet tall and about 180 pounds, my wife is 5 feet tall and about 130 pounds. I have no idea how people larger than that ever got inside the commode enclosure and turned round to sit! Miniscule is an overstatement of the size by 1000%. It had ZERO CIRCULATION/VENTILATION unless you opened the cabin door and the balcony door after use! Its other drawback, the noise of the flush would wake the dead and rivaled the explosion of a 75mm cannon being fired in a tightly enclosed area. Also on the left side was the infamous sink. Nothing can properly describe the sink design monstrosity other than to proclaim it the winner of first prize in the "I HATE HUMANS" contest. Bend over to brush your teeth and crack your skull on the faucet/spigot which extends high across the top of the 8x15 inch wide, 2 inch deep bowl. Try to wet your face and splash water from here to kingdom come. Our balcony was somewhat smaller than a postage stamp but had 2 chairs where we sat late evenings.
We ate 3 suppers at Taste, 2 at Manhattan, 1 at O'Sheehan's and 1 at leBistro. Breakfasts after the first morning at Garden Cafe were at Taste. Lunches were at H2O Spice and the Garden Cafe. One great thing, REAL Ice Cream in a variety of flavors and not just for an hour every day. The menu is the same at Taste and Manahattan, the difference is musical entertainment at Manhattan. The food at both was well-prepared and well-presented; we are not picky eaters, so there was always something we could find to satisfy us. My wife sometimes had 2-3 appetizers and a large salad. I had chicken twice and steak twice but always a salad. We were ALWAYS a party of 9-15 at supper and were always accomodated by simply using the telephone to reserve a time and table early in the day. We never waited on a line! Service once seated was prompt and very good. Unlike other lines, we NEVER saw a headwaiter or Maitre D' in any dining room. leBistro...a MAJOR RIP-OFF! leBistro is to French restaurant as Denney's or Shoney's is to 5 star Michellin. My wife and I each ordered the filet...hers was 2 inches thick, mine was a bare 1/2 inch thick and closely resembled the NY Strip served in Taste and Manhattan. My onion soup probably came from a Campbell's can but had a very good crouton/cheese crust. My wife's mushroom soup was definitely fresh made and was inundated with separately cooked and added at the table, mushrooms. The creme brulee dessert was good but nothing different than what we get at local restaurants. $40 per couple on top of the fare money already allocated to food service? That's just plain money grubbing!
We had been to all of the ports several times, so we only went ashore to do specific things and were not disappointed. We used to live in Miami, so pre and post excursions were out of the question.
There were a couple of untoward occurrences during the cruise, but both were remedied with minimal disturbance to us (not so to several other passengers.)We had pre-scheduled a Meet'n'Greet with Epic Special Events and it was handled with great aplomb by Cruise Director Paul Scally who somehow managed to get 10 ship's officers including the Caotain to make more than a token appearance and actually mingle with our 100+ plus attendees.
As an overall statement, the Casino is a haven for secondhand smoke and the stench carries to the shops...if you want to chance cancer, the casino is an ideal place!