My wife and I are in our early fifties, live in the center of the United States and both work. This trip was to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary although it was almost five months after the fact due to an overseas deployment for me. We booked this cruise because first, we wanted to sail from San Juan; second, it fit the precious days off we had and third, it called at several ports we wanted to visit. I booked through an interline agency where I have travel privileges.
Based on weather fears and the desire to see Puerto Rico before the cruise, we departed on Tuesday before the Sunday sailing. We flew through DFW effortlessly although the airport closed later that day for heavy snow. Arriving in San Juan, we spent the fist night at the Best Western at the airport. The room was fine, breakfast was good and the staff friendly. I did obtain a military discount which made the rate extremely reasonable. We rented a car from Payless and toured the island for the remainder of the week. I recommend Payless at the San Juan airport. On cruise day, we returned the rental car and went to the terminal to wait for a transfer. The airport was a zoo at noon on Sunday. We found a bar called the Buffalo Wings (no relation to the Buffalo Wild Wings chain) across from the jetBlue terminal in the parking garage. There is also a Wendy's there if you are looking for cheap food at the airport. We sat at the Buffalo Wings bar for two hours before grabbing a taxi to the pier. The taxi was $22 as advertised.
We didn't want to arrive too early as we had been warned that there is nowhere to go and nothing to do at the Pan American Pier. This is true but fortunately, we were able to speed through the inprocessing and onto the ship. As others have mentioned, there is a duty free right in the terminal before you get on the ship. Don't forget to pack a corkscrew.
Our stateroom was on deck 8 (Emerald) at the very front of the ship. Our window looked right out over the staircase which runs from the deck 7 (Promenade)up to deck 8 around the front of the ship. The view was not obstructed by life boats but people on deck could look in our window.
The room was a good size with plenty of closet space for two people. The bathroom was snug but efficient. Everything worked and the room was very comfortable for two. It did have two fold down bunks but I think it would be a tight squeeze for four. Our room steward, Delfin from the Philippines, was friendly, cheerful and efficient.
My wife and I found the ship to be in superb condition. The public spaces, while smaller than we had anticipated, were beautiful and we never found crowds to be overwhelming.
We had Anytime Dining and it turned out to be a great experience. We dined with some new people every night as well as with some couples two or three times. We always asked to join or share a table and never had a wait. Now I have been eating in a chow hall for four months but I think the food on board would have been delicious under any circumstances. Some stand out meals were the prime rib, beef Wellington, mussels and shrimp scampi. We enjoyed the escargot the night it was served. We also had some chilled fruit soups which were very good. The desserts were good and included a cheese plate every night. My wife and I ordered a bottle of wine with each evening meal and found wines for our taste in the $26-$30 range. We enjoyed breakfast and lunch in the Coral dining room when we could. The eggs Benedict and eggs Florentine were stand out breakfasts. We only found ourselves in the Horizon buffet twice but found it clean, hot, varied and uniformly good both times. On the last sea day, a pub lunch was served in the steakhouse and we both enjoyed the fish and chips and bangers and mash. The pizza was also very good. We also enjoyed a cooking demonstration by the head chef and maitre'd. The demonstration of pasta with pesto, Caesar salad and tiramisu was fun and easy to follow and the banter between the two was very humorous. All they needed was a band with Doc Gibbs. After the cooking demo (which was in the theater and had hundreds of attendees), there was a tour of the galley spaces. It was a walk through tour but it easily accommodated the hundreds of visitors and was a great behind the scenes look. We did not try any of the extra cost dining rooms.
We both enjoyed the entertainment. Production shows are not my thing but I do appreciate the talent and the amount of work that goes into them. Caribbean Cliente didn't do much for me but we both enjoyed Piano Men very much. We didn't see the hypnotist nor the magician but we loved Troy Thirdgill's comedy act. He was great both nights. The next comedian was good but a real step down from Troy. I was very much looking forward to the Navigation@Sea lecture but it turned out to be a PowerPoint slide show.
The bars on the ship are many and varied and we had some favorites. For us, the Wheelhouse was the best. The bartender, Rosalie from the Philippines remembered us after our second visit and was always a joy to chat with. We also liked the Vines wine bar. We enjoyed a glass of wine there many evening before dinner. The wines ran from $6 to $14 a glass, were served in exquisite Riedel glasses and included tapas or sushi. In the afternoon, we often found ourselves out by one of the pool bars. It was the only one we found that had draft beer (Stella Artois, unfortunately it was gougingly priced at $7.50 per pour). In the evening after dinner, we enjoyed Power hour drinks in the Wheelhouse, Club Fusion (for country and western night) and Skywalkers (for 50s and 60s night). Power hour drinks included well pours, four different beers and three cocktails (pina colada, Long Island Iced Tea and Singapore Sling) for $2.99 from 8pm to close every night.
Disembarkation worked fairly well. Again, we were planning to spend time in San Juan and since we couldn't check in to guest house in Ocean Park until noon, we were in no hurry to disembark. We were put into one of the very last disembarkation groups at 11:15. Even though we had to be out of the room by 0830, we had plenty to keep us occupied and fed until we got off. The whole flow was running about 30 minutes behind but while on board, the International Cafe was open for pastries and later, sandwiches and salads. Our luggage was waiting for us when we did get off, we cleared customs quickly and found a cab waiting.