My husband and I have been on five previous cruises with Carnival, RCCL, and Norwegian. This was our first time cruising with our girls ages 8 and 10. We expected to have a lot of fun on this cruise and our expectations were not only met but were exceeded.
Flew into FLL day before, took SAS transportation to Miami and stayed at Marriott Spring Hill Suites (Arts/Health District). Hotel was clean, not a lot of amenities but the price was right for a pre-cruise hotel. There is NOTHING within walking distance of this hotel. Close to BaySide ($8 taxi). SAS Transportation was great! They were right on time and communication was excellent!
Took a short cab ride to the port the next morning and got to the pier around 10:00ish. Lots of passengers getting off of Liberty and hailing cabs, etc. Have your cab drop you off in front of Terminal G, that is where you will go in. The building is open. You can leave your luggage with porters before you walk up to the building. Once inside you will show your passports to Immigration then proceed to the upstairs where you will wait until RCCL opens at 10:30. Once they opened, we went through security and then to the check-in counters for SeaPass cards, etc. At 11am they announced the ship was clear and we boarded the ship. Very easy...no wait...not a lot of people. By 11:15 were eating lunch in the Windjammer.
This ship was awesome! Would cruise this class of ship again in a heartbeat! Easy to find your way around - beautiful ship. Did not feel packed or crowded despite all cabins being full. This is a perfect ship for parents with kids and/or large groups. This ship has something for everyone.
We had adjoining Promenade cabins #8261 & #8263. When we booked, the difference between one balcony cabin and two connecting inside cabins was not very much. Well worth it...as cabins can be pretty small when you have 4 people sleeping in them. Of course, you will spend very little time in your cabin but having the extra storage space and extra bathroom/shower was great. Cabins were very clean, nicely appointed and cozy. Did not hear any sounds from the Promenade either.
We thought overall the food was great! In the dining room, the food was delicious with great selections every night. Our waiter, Singgih, was outstanding! Not only did he provide excellent service to both me and my husband, he went out of his way to pay special attention to our daughters by making various animals out of napkins, joking with them, and out right spoiling them with extra shrimp, cherries, and "special" desserts just for them.
Windjammer (carved turkey is really good), Cafe Promenade (sandwiches are really good), and Sorrento's all had good food. We did not eat in the specialty restaurants because we were really happy with the food and service in the dining room.
The Fairy Tale show in the Platinum Theater was just awful. I'm sorry...the overall concept was interesting but it was not executed well. It was like a train that went off the rails...it just kept getting worse and worse. Costumes were lousy and the screeching/singing from the female Golden Goose was....well not very golden. I will say, that the male acapella version of "Yesterday" was very good. The "Temptations" show was good and I would highly recommend El Gaucho - very entertaining! Didn't make it to any of the other shows.
The 80's music trivia was a lot of fun as well as the 80's Dance Party in Studio B and "Quest" was a must see and do.
Exceeded my expectations and we are Disney fans! Initially, my daughters DID NOT want to go to the kid's club, Adventure Ocean. We forced them to go at least ONE time and they were so glad they did! From a parent's perspective it was very safe and they had awesome activities for them (even my husband was impressed with the activities). My girls met friends and had a lot of fun. I would highly recommend Adventure Ocean - it was great!
Port & Shore Excursions:
Costa Maya - This was our second time here and although the Malecon (walkway) is an improvement I don't feel the need to go here again. The port area shops are nice and the people are friendly but once in the village of Majahual you will be constantly approached by the locals to look in their shop, braid your hair, massages, play a guitar for you, etc. We took a taxi to the village ($2pp, have to walk out past the security gate to get one) and were conveniently dropped off at a "friend's" restaurant/beach area. We did the whole "save your seats on the beach for you in exchange for eating and drinking at our establishment" thing. Costa Maya is not very authentic (maracas are made in China), more of a build it and they will come kind of place. Check it out if you have never been so you know but set your expectations low.
Belize - Did a snorkel excursion through the ship. Snorkeling boat picked us up right from the ship and took us to Rendezvous Cay. I actually liked it very much and so did my kids. The staff were very helpful and informative and snorkeled with us. Not the best snorkeling I have seen, but good and interesting. The island was cool and was loaded with conch shells!
Cozumel - Unfortunately, didn't see anything but the pier shops. Kids were very tired and just wanted to be on the ship (go figure).
Grand Cayman - Did the snorkel reef/wreck excursion. Met tour on the pier and walked about 150 yards to the boat. This snorkel tour is good for a beginner or someone who wants really easy snorkeling. The boat doesn't really take you anywhere. The reef and wreck sites are right there in the harbor. Snorkeling on the wreck was interesting and we saw a lot of fish when the boat operators threw bread into the water.
Very easy and lots of options. Didn't feel like we were being kicked off of the boat. We had an 8:45-9:30 departure ticket. Got up, went to dining room for breakfast by 8:30, came back to cabin to collect our stuff and basically walked off the ship. There was a little bit of a line for immigration but not too bad. Luggage was easy to find as the port terminal has carousels (like in the airport) that are numbered and match your disembarkation ticket number. SAS was there in less than 10 minutes, picked up some passengers at two Carnival terminals and then we were off to the FLL airport. One thing to keep in mind....these airports are jammed with cruisers. VERY VERY long lines to check in and long lines for security. Give yourself at least an hour to check luggage and go through security.
We had a great cruise and would highly recommend this ship! After sailing on past cruise lines and then RCCL, I have to say...they just do it right. Was everything about this cruise perfect...no...but it came pretty close.