We live in the Tampa Bay area, so we did not need hotel accommodations before the cruise, and we just drove ourselves to the port in the morning. We went to church as usual (our church is, coincidentally, in downtown Tampa), then drove to the port, and used the very efficient valet service to drop off the car. The porters took our bags, which we saw a couple of hours later in our stateroom. The embarkation process was very smooth - we only waited for about 10 minutes (if that) in line before a check-in agent was available, and were then on the ship! Our only disappointment was that there were so many Mariners on board we were not allowed to attend the Mariner's lunch because it was too full. But this meant there was available seating on the Lido, and we enjoyed the food we selected there. I can't say enough about the new procedure of accessing your stateroom on embarkation. What a great feeling to be able to rid yourself of your bags as soon as you board, so you can explore the ship with more freedom and comfort! Our kids' room did not have the beds separated, as we had requested, but this was remedied by our wonderful and personable stewards, Han and Bima, during the safety briefing (Muster Drill). The kids were soooo impressed that the stewards already knew their names before we even arrived, and that they ALWAYS said hello with their names (or OUR names!) when they saw us in the hallway.
We ate dinner on the first night at the Pinnacle Grill and the food was, as always, superb. My husband and I each had the lobster tail, and kids both had steaks. My 17 year old stepson learned what Bernaise sauce was for the first time and is now clamoring for it at home! It was a great way to start out our spring break.
We only ate one breakfast in the dinning room, due to time constraints on excursion days, but that was very lovely. We did not eat any lunches in the dining room, except the Mariner Brunch on the last sea day, which was very crowded but very nice. All our meals were delicious, including room service breakfast which we did on all excursion days. It was always accurate, hot and tasty. The kids enjoyed A LOT Of other room service as well at midnight or later! They loved the ability to order chocolate cake at any time of the day or night! LOL! But the really enjoyed all the food they had in the Rotterdam dining room as well.
The kids loved their counselor and made some great friends. They did things like Scavenger Hunts, Survivor night with mental challenges and eating challenges (nothing too gross - no bugs!), Wii challenges, Dance Dance Revolution, video games, board games, and other stuff that got them out and about on the ship. The kids went to one show with us (the Broadway one) and only thought it was "so so" (they've been to touring Broadway shows and thought the Ryndam singers were just OK). My husband and I enjoyed the "Street Singing" show which involved only the guys more than the Broadway show. We also REALLY enjoyed the guys who made up the Neptunes. They are a really talented trio.
The Ocean Bar was our favorite hangout - our cocktail waitress MyMy was wonderful. Her big smile and sparkling personality always made for a nice end to the day for us. We danced with the Neptunes and she served us "our usuals" which she of course learned after only one night (along with our names). We saw her for Happy Hour most days too - a great deal!
I found the photographers on this cruise much less pushy than on prior HAL or Carnival cruises, which was nice. We did have some nice family portraits taken and purchased a few.
We ate at the Canaletto the final evening and found that food and service just as good as the Rotterdam (and probably better than the Master Chef's Dinner!).
We only tried one of the HAL excursions (Shipwreck Snorkel in Roatan) and enjoyed it very much as well. Thought it was a good value.
We participated in dancing lessons, a beer tasting course and the "On Deck for the Cure" 5k walk, all of which we enjoyed very much. We would have liked to try some other things, but time didn't allow for everything. We also enjoyed borrowing books from the Explorer's area library during the week (I worked on my Italian vocabulary by reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in Italian! What a great find!).
All in all, the kids adored their space, especially the underused (according to them) waterfall area up top of The Loft (can't recall what it's called right now), and adored their teen counselor. They also managed to catch a movie in the Wajang Theater, and make some crafts. We had a wonderful week where HAL offered us plenty of things to do as a family, and plenty of things to do as teens/adults, separately. We greatly recommend this trip for families with teens!