Background: My wife and I are both 29 yrs old. We have been married for 5 great years. My wife had never been on a cruise. She is a private accountant (CPA); I work for a data company.
We booked 8 cabins in our group and our TA got us a $150 on board credit per room. Traffic (because of construction) at the terminal was terrible. We had 17 people and everyone took the trolley down to the port, while my friend and I brought all the luggage in a van. It took about an hour to drop off all the luggage. Once this was done, I was on the ship in about 30 minutes. There were 2 rooms with yellow chairs, but they were only using one of them. My friend who went to park the car took a lot longer. She followed later with her family while my wife and I headed on. Later she told me that once she got passed the yellow chairs, you could skip the next line (taking photos) and head straight to security. The line moved pretty good and my wife and I went ahead and got our picture taken.
Once on the ship, you enter on level three, the atrium was quite a sight. My wife was very pleased to see Christmas decorations already hanging from the different decks. There was a woman playing the piano and all the passengers were gazing around the atrium with a very pleased look on their faces.
My wife and I decided to head to the Lido deck for lunch. The lines were already a little long, I immediately got in line at the 1st buffet I came to by the pool. This was a mistake, there were actually 4 buffets, and all with pretty much the same food and not near the wait. We sat down inside, ate lunch next to PC WOK. At first I didn't realize that PC WOK was a restaurant, it's kind of misleading, I saw 2 lines that I thought were for the buffet, but in actuality one was for the WOK. Having seen this and realizing how short the line was, I gave it a try. It was really good, IMHO it was better than the buffet.
After lunch, my wife and I headed to our room to see if it was ready at approximately 1:30 p.m. To our delight it was ready and it was much more than I expected. Having not been on a cruise in 10 yrs I wasn't expecting much. :) I know a lot of people complain about the small showers on board, but I actually really enjoyed the shower. Not for its size, but for the water adjustments. I love the way you can lock in the temp. so you don't have to fiddle with it EVERY time you take a shower! Plus the temperature setting is reached almost instantaneously! Water pressure was exceptional as well... I forgot to mention, my wife and I booked a balcony room, we were upgraded to the Panorama deck aft on the port side (1019).
After checking out our room we went for a tour of the spa where I heard you could receive discounts. About ½ way through the tour, my wife became a little queasy. For some reason there were a lot of vibrations on the ship (which was still in port) during our tour. After finishing the tour and booking my first massage for that night, I returned to the room to ck on my DW. She had gotten a coke and was feeling better. I think she mixed a little rum with her drink, which she had brought on board in the form of water bottles.. :)
Dinner that night in the dinning room was great. I'm going to venture from the play by play now as know one wants to read all that mess! I enjoyed the dinners in the dinning room. For me, the best food to be had was at dinner. I also liked the fact that you could find out ahead of time what the menu was on your TV. We had a very nice waiter, no troubles changing dishes we didn't like or ordering 2 dishes when we couldn't decide. Some other people in our party had a different waiter next to us. He was what I consider exceptional, every night he had a new trick or joke for his table.
Camp Carnival!!! WHAT CAN I SAY! I didn't bring any kids with me, but one couple in our group brought their 3 yr old. He literally cried every time she went to pick him up from camp. He couldn't get enough of that place. We only saw him at dinner 2 of the 7 nights. Every morning he woke up he said, "mommy, can I go back to school now."
Shows: Weather was bad the 1st two nights of the cruise. Captain said we went through a large cold front and it was the worst seas he had seen since Ivan. Needless to say Formidae could not be performed as scheduled and many of the crew was sick. If the crew was sick, you could probably imagine how many passengers were. By Monday afternoon all wristbands to be had on the ship where gone! My wife doubled up on Dramamine, Bonine and wristbands and made it through ok. I guess I'm lucky, I never took anything and was fine...
Back to the shows, they rearranged some acts and all was well. The ventriloquist was good, the comedians where great. The magic show was very entertaining! Now Formidae, the so called #1 show.... I personally didn't care for it. I don't want to take anything away from the performers, they were great and worked their butts off. I just thought it was too much singing and dancing and not enough of anything else. I've seen many Las Vegas shows and it did remind me of a few, particularly "Jubilee" however, in "Jubilee" you had some reprieve in between acts. There was also 1 act in "Formidae" that I felt they "borrowed" some ideas from "Mystere" from Las Vegas. Needless to say, I didn't make it to "Point and Click," however, some in my grouped said it was better because it had a plot.
Spa: The massages where good and the staff is very friendly, however the hard sell at the end almost puts back all the tension relieved from the massage... :) The gym was adequate for a ship I guess, I didn't really care for the nautilus and the dumbbell free weights only went up to 60lbs. However, since most ships have no free weights (from what I've been told), then I guess there gym is exceptional! :)
Ports of Call--- Jamaica we did the Sunset Beach thing. It is well worth the $20 and having been to Jamaica 2 times prior, we weren't looking to go shopping or take long bus rides to Dunn's River. Grand Cayman was still being cleaned up. However it didn't affect our time there 1 bit. We went out to Sting Ray City with Captain Marvins and had a blast. The snorkel afterward was nice also. 3 of us had the tour drop us at Eden Rock so we could do a shore dive, which was awesome. There was an abundance of fish and lots of coral to swim into, under and around. We didn't use a guide, they have a board with a map on it and shows you where to go before you ever get in the water. Note: 1 couple in our group booked with the cruise to go to Sting Ray City. There were so many people on their tour that by the time they got into the water with the Rays, all they had time for was a quick picture. Cozumel was great. I had been there 10 yrs ago on my last cruise and it has been built up dramatically. It looks a whole lot better and there is plenty of shopping. Our primary goal however was diving. We booked a 2-tank dive with Eagle Ray. They took us out to Palancar reef followed by Santa Rosa. It was the best diving I have ever experienced. There was a family who rode along with us and were snorkeling. Eagle Ray has some excellent people working there, they were exceptional with the kids! Once we got back, we caught a cab to Pancho's Backyard to meet up with some of our friends for lunch.
Disembarkation had good points and bad points. Our deck was one of the last to be called, so we had to wait for our deck to be called. Once called we got off rather quickly, all that was checked was our S&S cards, no one ever checked our Passports, DLs or BC's. Even at the port, no one asked to see anything. I grabbed a porter to help with the luggage and he said he would turn in my papers for declaring stuff we were bringing back. Again, because of construction, everything was once again chaotic. People were actually fighting over cabs, there was no clear line formed. People picking up had to wait in the same line of cars as people dropping off. Luckily my porter recommended the airport shuttle for $10 per person. There was no waiting and we were on our way within 15 minutes! Others who had to go get their cars and come back to load up said it took about a 1 hr.
Overall: My DW and I had a great time. I'm glad we went with friends, it made everything in my opinion, much easier. Plus if DW was tired or didn't want to do something, we could split up with others who shared more of our interests!
Recommendations: I highly recommend booking your own excursions and not doing them through the ship! Book the Point if you want a romantic night alone... If you're there for food, don't skip the meal in the dinning room, the buffet is good, but the food at dinner is exceptionally better. If construction is still going on at the terminal and you don't have TOO many bags, consider taking the trolley. For lunch, hit the side restaurants, IMHO the food is much better than the buffet. (Pizzeria, PC WOK, Deli Sushi etc..) Soda card is probably not worth it unless you drink A LOT of soda. Do the math before you buy. You can bring a limited amount of soda on board with you. 1 person in our party actually brought a case of cokes on board in clear view. Don't go to the art auction for the free gift, it's not worth it. I'm not saying DON'T go, I'm just saying if that's all you're going for, don't bother. :) Be nice to the crew, remember, not everyone has a good day at work!