Our overall experience was fun and relaxing. We had spent the previous 3 days at the Sony-Ericsson Tennis Tournament in Miami. Arriving at the dock was a short cab ride and boarding was surprisingly easy. Read the suggestions from the Royal Caribbean website and follow the directions. We checked 3 suitcases at the curb, but made sure we kept our passports, a duffle bag (with toiletries and clothes) and a backpack (with books, sunglasses, and electronics...flip camera, digital camera, i-pods). It probably took 15 minutes to check in and board. We entered on Level 4 where it was loud and a little chaotic. We decided to go search for our room on Deck 2. Although it was small (2 twin beds w/ 2 pull downs) it was very clean......this from a mom who worried about bedbugs and brought a small tub of disinfecting wipes. That said, the bathroom was very small with little counter space. The phrase airplane-like bathroom immediately came to mind. The safe in the closet was a pleasant surprise though!
As for the food it varied. Our first concern was my son's peanut/nut allergy. He had no problem. We just made sure to ask and were extra cautious with baked items. Chocolate soft-serve ice cream was his favorite food……he must have had 12 over the course of the trip. :)
The breakfast buffet was crowded and a little confusing at first, but the food was okay. We liked the made-to-order omelets and real bacon. (yeah, at home I buy turkey bacon.)The lunch buffet seemed more cafeteria-like in its selections, but we did like the tilapia and mango-infused water. Desserts were good too. Later we ate lunch in the deli area up on the 12th level. (They have good grilled cuban sandwiches and fair pizza.)
Dinner in the main dining room was excellent! Really good food and WONDERFUL service. (Devendra was fantastic!) Eating at the same table with the same servers made it a warm experience. We all admitted we were a little sad to say good-bye after our last dinner. Some of the good items I remember are: the onion tart, the duck, the lamb, the mahi-mahi, the chocolate souffle, and the key lime pie.
The only meals we ate off the ship were a lunch on Key West (after our stand-up paddling) and a bbq lunch on CoCo Cay provided by the cruise.
Our stateroom was small for 4 people, but we expected it because we had looked at it online. We considered it a kind of 'camping' trip for us. We are all active people and although it was a bit cramped, we were comfortable. The temperature was easily controlled and the beds were fine. As mentioned earlier the safe was a good thing.
Our attendant was good at changing out wet/used towels and preparing the beds. Absolutely no complaints.
As for noise we were very surprised at how quiet it was during the night. As my ex-consultant husband said, it was quieter than most of the hotels he's stayed at. Perhaps we were just lucky.......our hallway only had a few rooms.
The onboard activities catered to lots of different groups. We did not participate in most of them......no casino, no bars/lounges, no belly flop/sexiest man contests or bingo for us. We did attend 3 of the shows.........two were of a musical/dance variety and one was a magician/comedian. I truly believe your level of enjoyment is directly related to your attitude. Needless to say, we had fun.
We are a family that likes to read and enjoy the warm, fresh air. (We came from the cold Chicago area.) So when we weren't exploring at our 3 destinations, we relaxed by the pool and read most of the time.
I just want to add here that one of the more enjoyable aspects of this particular cruise was the make-up of the passengers. There were families, singles, young couples, older couples....a great mix of ages. I wouldn't have wanted to be on a ship with mostly adults, because of my kids. And I wouldn't have wanted to be on a Disney-type cruise with mostly young kids running around. I don't know if it's always like this or if it was like this because of the time of year........you know, Spring Break for many. I just know it worked for us.
As for excursions we really liked the stand-up paddling I found online in Key West. We were picked up at 9am and driven a short distance to some canals where we did stand-up paddling through the mangroves. Our guide, Rachel pointed out/picked up marine life and explained things to us. We were driven back to the ship area around noon where we ate and then walked around and shopped for a while before getting back onboard.
In Nassau we basically walked around and did our souvenir shopping. We did not go to the Atlantis, because frankly, we didn't think it would be worth the money. We have gone to Hawaii several times and stayed at nice resorts and didn't have any desire to go that route.
In CoCo Cay we got up early, so we could eat and take one of the earlier tenders over to the island for snorkeling. The water was beautiful and we thought the snorkeling was great.
Overall, we had a great time as a family. The trip was a good length (4 nights, 3 days). The service was great. The accommodations more than acceptable. The food was good with the dinners exceeding expectations. I would not hesitate to go on another cruise, based upon this experience.
Lastly, getting off the ship and through customs took a little longer.....perhaps a half an hour. But since our return flight wasn't scheduled until late afternoon it wasn't a big deal. The most difficult part of the cruise would have to be packing on the last night. I didn't know that the luggage would have to be packed and tagged and placed outside our room before midnight.