I took this cruise with 11 other friends/family members for a girls only getaway. My last cruise was on the Holiday (which is out of service now), and this was a huge upgrade in my opinion. We take a girls trip every year and this one was even better than last year.
The cabins are basically the same, but the pictures on the walls are BORING--and NOTHING cruise related--I would definitely change that, but they were really comfortable and this time we had a mini bar in the room and it seemed larger than on my last cruise. The bathrooms are much roomier in the cabins-and the ones on deck are MUCH MUCH nicer on this ship. The atrium is absolutely beautiful and the dining room was very nice--although they did split our party, which I didn't really like, but it worked out ok. The shops were nice and there was plenty of them! The photo area was pretty cool-it was really large and now they have a touch screen that will allow you to scan your sign and sail card to find your pictures. It doesn't find them all, though, so it's a good idea to keep those little card things they give you when you take pics on board and to remember where you had pictures made--we still had to look for a lot of them, but I think with time, that feature can be invaluable.
The pictures are still really expensive--I bought much fewer on this trip than last, because many of them just weren't great--but for the cost of photos, (one of my friends who was on the cruise is a professional photographer), the cost is pretty outrageous--we took plenty of our own pictures, though, so buying just a few was a good way to get memories without breaking the bank. I did notice that they offered the services of a photographer to accompany your party for a certain length of time without obligation to purchase, which could be nice if it were a special occasion. Her pictures that were featured were really nice, but we didn't use the service, so I don't know how it works.
We had first class service throughout the trip and everyone was pretty nice-we had a few incidents where either we couldn't understand the staff or they couldn't understand us, but all in all, it was a great experience.
There is so much to do, that you really can't ever do everything you want! The shows were fantastic--from Showtime to the Comedy club--we had a fabulous time at all of the ones we attended. The only place I was a little disappointed was the karoke lounge--it was REALLY small and there were LOTS of people who wanted to go, so it made it difficult. I would suggest they have two or something. Also, if you want a good seat for shows, it was VERY important to arrive early--they were ALWAYS crowded and full.
One thing I liked was that they don't allow people to just save seats all day long while they are gone somewhere. If you leave towels/items on deck, after forty minutes, they are removed and other people can enjoy the sun.
We had a great room, on the 9th floor and near an elevator, but not too close. The only thing that was incredibly annoying was that the staff moved deck chairs (LOTS AND LOTS OF DECK CHAIRS) at like 1am a few times and because we were on the floor under the Lido deck, we heard it loudly. I definitely won't make that mistake again! LOL
One thing that I didn't like so much was that this huge ship is MUCH MUCH rockier than the smaller ship--which I find incredibly hard to believe, but absolutely true. We all felt as though the faster the ship went, the more we rocked and when we were sleeping, it felt like we were on a roller coaster several of the nights. This made it difficult to get a good night's sleep. I'm not sure if it was just this particular cruise destination, ship, or what. On the night that we were relatively close to a storm (they said we were 300 miles away), there was a LOT of rocking, which was understandable. But, even on very clear days, it was pretty rocky. They even had to close the pools and water works down on one of the sea days for several hours for safety reasons.
Food: everyone always asks about the food! The best food consistently was the pasta and the pizza. The mongolian bar was good the first day only. The grand buffet needs a little work--it was bland and boring to say the least. The hamburger/hot dog/fries line was pretty decent, except that the nachos were stale on the third day and beyond. The main dining room was always delicious and had a lot of great entree's/appetizers/desserts. We tried it for breakfast and it was a HUGE improvement over breakfast on the Lido deck. Lunch was also really great there, but we didn't have time for it most days. They also bbq ribs on deck 5 for lunch, but I never had a chance to try them. Many of my friends said they were really good. The chocolate extravaganza was yummy! There was so much to choose from, everyone could find something they like on there! There was also a tandoor bar (indian), which I did not try, but my friends who like Indian food said was pretty decent; a sushi bar which had different sushi daily and most of it was great. We tried room service a couple of times--very limited choices for the evening hours, and they don't advise you that that put mayo on all the sandwiches--I'm allergic, so I wasn't happy with that--plus it took over an hour for cold sandwiches and chips.
In the main dining room, the staff do a "showtime" before dessert a few of the nights and it was pretty fun to participate. We sat upstairs and had a great view of the downstairs staff dancing on little tables and singing-that was fun. We didn't spend the $30 to go to the Chef's Art Steakhouse--there was a ton of steak on the dinner menu (including filet mignon), so there was really no reason, in my opinion, unless you just want to see it.
The best drink by far, in my opinion, was called "kiss on the lips". It was FABULOUS! Frozen and fruity and absolutely delicious. We tried several, but that was the best one. Be careful of the daily drink specials--we bought one of those cups, because on the menu, it says you can use it the rest of the cruise to get drinks at a discount--which is true--but you can only get the daily special at a discounted rate--not whatever you want. That was disappointing, but I like the cup anyway! Ohh, and speaking of drinks--I found out this time that there is something called an "Open Bar" card--which I'd never seen before and it was never mentioned that you could purchase this--we saw people with it and asked about it, but they said that their travel agent arranged for it, so I'm not sure how to get it--but I definitely will ask for one next cruise! LOL
There was also a Veteran's reception on Veteran's day (my friend is a veteran and she said it was very nice); there was a reception for repeat cruisers--it was ok--I think the drinks they give you are kinda crappy--mine was awful--it would be a great improvement if they gave you a drink you actually wanted instead. Also, we were in the middle of a row of seats and we never got any of the appetizers because they would always start at the end of the rows and run out before they got to us. I will skip this reception next cruise, definitely. It wasn't worth the hastle of getting down there and finding a seat, honestly. They gave away a prize, two dinners at the steakhouse, but that was pretty much it. They had a singles reception as well, but we are all married or in a relationship, so we didn't go to that.
I was really very happy with this cruise, although I think two "Sea Days" in a row is too much, and I would change the route if it were up to me! LOL I think next cruise, we will go back to 5 days, unless I find one with Sea Days spread out a little more on a longer one. This would be a great cruise for a couple or family.
I think I've at least given a little touch on everything major--we had a great time overall--but it's always wonderful to get back home!