Backround: Myself (39), DH (46), DS (10), DS (10). This was DH and my 4th cruise and the boys 2nd. We wanted to experience a different class of ships and go to some different ports. We expected this trip to have fewer children due to the itinerary and that was OK with us. My sons go to school year round (cycles of 9 weeks in school and 3 weeks out). When they are out of school they are in camp so Camp Carnival was something we knew they would not want to spend a lot of time in. And for DH and I, this was our time to get to spend more time with the kids.
Pre cruise: We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale Friday morning and made our way to the Renaissance on 17th. We had points to use so the room was "free". They offered a shuttle to the port at $6 per person. I asked the front desk girl how much a cab would cost and she said $10 total....no brainer there! We were pleased with the room...very clean and the boys enjoyed the pool. There were restaurants in walking distance as well as a Winn Dixie grocery store or Walgreens for last minute items. Since we were there all day we ended up going down to the Riverwalk area to catch a movie (Hop). DH and I both fell asleep and the boys didn't particularly care for it.
Embarkation: We arranged for the hotel to get a taxi for us at 10:30. He arrived on time and drove us to the port. Crowds were pretty low. Stood in line for about 20 minutes and our zone number (7) was called at 11:30. We went right to the Lido. I wanted Mongolion...can't remember what everyone else had but I know we all enjoyed it. We explored the ship, played some mini golf and at 1:30 the doors were open to go to our room.
Room: We stayed on the Lido deck, room 9274 which is right at the area of the Atruim elevators. I was slightly nervous that it would be noisy but we did not have a problem at all. This was an extremely convenient location and we plan on booking Lido rooms from now on. Our steward, Hiner, was efficient but obviously very busy. We rarely saw him or spoke with him. We never met his assistant. He always had DH's cooler bag filled with ice which was our only request. The boys enjoyed the towel animals and we got chocolates every night.
Dining: We were originally slated to be in the Chic DR for the early seating. We decided to "check out" where our table was the first day and were disappointed to see it was on the second floor in a back corner where the kitchen/galley door was. I decided to just check and see if we could move mainly because the boys love the entertainment in the DR and I don't think they would have seen much of anything. We got lucky and were changed to the Posh DR table 420. Our main server was Trinidad and his assistants were Dewey and a gentleman we never got the name of. They were excellent. They went out of their way entertaining the boys, joking with them and partaking in secret handshakes at the end of every meal. The highlight for the boys was Trinidad's fine knowledge of PS3 video games which they talked about every night.
We ate one breakfast on the Lido and after that decided to eat breakfast in the Posh DR...a more relaxed atmosphere. We ate at the Lido for lunch every day. I would do Mongolion a lot of days or deli. The boys liked the deli and pizza. We never had the craving for fish and chips so didn't try it.
Cozumel: We went to Paradise beach for the day. $13 cab ride for 4 each way. The pool was sparkling clean which is where I spent most of the time. We paid $4 total for 2 beach chairs and purchased use of the water toys for the boys at $12 each. The boys had fun but DH ended up out there with them since there was a lot of treading water and it was rocky in places. They do provide life vests but the boys preferred not using them since they got in the way when they were trying to get on the toys. The food was delicious.
Costa Rica: we arranged a tour with a private company prior to the cruise that included going on the river canals, to a banana plantation and to a beach. We had our own driver who was informative. Nothing really more to say...the boys are too young to do ziplining or white water rafting so this was the best alternative I could find.
Panama: we used a private company again and were very pleased. We went to the Gatun Locks and were able to see a cargo ship go through. After that we headed to the rain forest for a tour. Our final stop was a Fort San Lorenzo. Our tour guide was very good and we were provided with refreshments throughout the tour.
Sea days: I loved this itinerary because of the 4 sea days. We spent them playing mini golf, going on the water slide, catching a few of the shows they had during the day and plain old relaxing. We also ended up playing volleyball numerous times a day which the boys loved.
CC Private Party: A member of our roll call arranged a private party. It was a great time to meet everyone and mingle. We had the Swingtime bar/lounge for an hour and for $12/adult had open bar. We were able to have any drink...pina coladas, daiquiris, etc. They also had chips and gold fish snacks available.
Ship: I loved this ship. It was clean and the staff was friendly. We never had a problem finding chairs. However, the demographics of this sailing included more seniors than any sailing I'd been on. Again, I think this was because of the itinerary. Also, I am not one to go in public pools so being near the pool was not a priority of mine. I just grabbed chairs more near the slide so I could watch the boys.
Negatives: Gotta have a few right? Believe me, these are not deal breakers for me. I think I will sound like an old fogie to some people. The live band on the Lido deck was very loud. I often left the area and moved to a higher, foreward or aft area so I could at least have conversations with people around me. The lead female singer in the nightly shows was also very loud and piercing. She was on my Dream cruise last year and I did not enjoy the shows because of her. Once I realized who she was this time, I ended up avoiding the shows except the Beatles one and we did comedy club or karaoke instead.
There was a particular bunch of middle school aged kids who seemed to always be up to no good....pushing all the elevator buttons, taking gobs of hand sanitizer and putting it in their hair, etc. Tried to ignore them the best I could but by the end of the week I cringed when I saw them. That being said, I encountered just as many rude older people. Unfortunately most of them were men. I had one man literally push me out of the way to get in front of me to get his lemonade. Another man was eagerly pressing the "door close" button on the elevator when he saw me coming to get on. I also watched a man go through the Lido buffet and cut at each station to get the food he wanted. These are just observations and not generalizations and certainly did not take anything away from my trip.
Overall, I have been telling friends and family that this has been one of the best vacations I have had. We were lucky to have sunny skies every day as well as very calm seas. I came home relaxed and enjoyed having so much time and fun with the boys. I think the Freedom has taken over the Legend as my favorite ship. Definitely liked it better than the Dream. Never felt crowded, elevator always available and the lines at the Lido were not as bad. Wish they had a Burrito bar though!