Embarkation: We arrived around 12:30 and were on board in 15 minutes. We sat in the Centrum for a few minutes, until the cabins were ready. We dropped off our carry on luggage in the cabin and went to the Windjammer for lunch. It was not crowded.
Cabin: We had an E2, just forward of the front elevators on deck 7. We chose it for the larger balcony; there were a lounger plus two chairs and a small table. The cabin was a little small (which we knew in advance), but the balcony made up for that. The only wear and tear we saw on the whole ship was on the patio. The furniture needed paint and the railing varnish.
Food: We had early, fixed seating at a table for 8 (as requested). We enjoyed the other three couples (although one couple didn't join us until Aruba, since they had forgotten their passports). Since we keep kosher, we eat only fin fish and vegetarian; so our view is different from most. We were very happy with the food. There was always at least one fish and two vegetarian entrees (usually three) at dinner. I enjoy Indian food (not too spicy) and that was available most dinners. My wife was into Caesar salad with a piece of salmon on top. I had breakfast in the dining room (see more below) every day (except for room service one morning when we had an early excursion); my wife doesn't eat breakfast. We ate lunch a couple of times in Seaview Cafe (excellent) and in the dining room on other sea days; using the Windjammer only on port days. All were fine, but we prefer to be served.
Entertainment: As usual, it was a mixed bag. The showroom band was outstanding; don't miss the last night, when they perform "Sing, Sing, Sing." The singers and dancers were excellent (particularly the "West End to Broadway" show, although the Tango show was not my cup of tea. We laughed so hard at Marty Allen and Dan Bennet (a comic juggler). We thought that the hypnotist was really bad, as were a couple of the other humorists. I enjoyed Vic Cooper at the Piano Bar in Schooner, but didn't spend as much time as usual there because he was on late.
Service: Our wait staff, Reynaldo and Ann, plus head waiter, Devanathan, were outstanding. They offered to make things not on the menu for us; we had a vegetarian onion soup one night, for example. Our cabin attendant worked around our crazy schedule. When I sat at the piano bar, I was approached once and when I said I didn't want anything, was never bothered again. (Of course, I could have easily caught their attention if I changed my mind.) The front desk personnel were always helpful, going out of their way to find things. Liina left the desk to help us locate an item that was advertised in the shops. When there was a line, there was often a staff member going down the line to solve your problem. Just about every staff member was friendly and greeted you as you walked by. Our comfort seemed to be the only goal of the whole staff.
Diamonds in December: This was our first cruise as Diamond; thus, I am not sure how much was extra for Diamond in December. Each evening (5 - 8), in Hollywood Odyssey, they served wine and soft drinks. Each morning, in a small dining room, breakfast was served, including specialty coffees (at no charge). In each of these gatherings, there were typically a dozen or two people when I was there. Many of the same people came each morning and evening and a number of friendships developed. On first formal night, they delivered a plate of chocolate covered cookies and strawberries. Later in the week, we each got water bottles and then attractive, heavy duty bags.
Excursions: We had originally booked three. The first was with Royal in Aruba. We had booked the noon excursion, which they canceled and ran only an early morning one. We were unwilling to be out on the dock at 7:45AM; we were on vacation. In Panama, we toured with My Friend Mario, seeing the locks, the rain forest (sloths, monkeys, and leaf carrying ants) and San Lorenzo Fortress. Our guide, Rey, was outstanding. I was not feeling well and canceled our tour in Grand Cayman.
On board booking: We made an appointment and booked a cruise for next year. Ruth Ranola worked with us as we picked out a cabin for a b2b on the Allure.
Miscellaneous: They had a printed program for the whole cruise available at the front desk on the first day. It included when the formal nights were, many of the activities, shop sales, drink of the day, etc. There were around 100 people for Sabbath services on Friday; they were not prepared for that large a crowd, but crammed in more chairs and brought extra wine and wine glasses.
Summary: We came to relax and this was the perfect cruise for us.