We left from Minneapolis to go to Miami the day before. I'd recommend getting a room in South Beach or somehwere fun. We were located near the airport and many shops were closed on Sunday. It wasn't a very interesting part of town.
We arrived at the port around noon on Monday, and the check in process was really fast and simple. We went to the Windjammer to get food and weren't much impressed with the taste of some of it--but the selection made up for it.
The ship itself was nice enough. I know it was a little older, so it didn't feel super lush or luxurious, but there was a lot of space, it wasn't crowded. We LOVED going to the deck outside the Boleros lounge to share a cigar or walk the deck. It was quiet and beautiful on that deck. The pool deck was nice, we preferred the upper deck as it was quiet and you could look out over the ocean. If you get the soda package, the cup you get is handy really only on the pool deck, as you can refill your own cup. Otherwise, don't worry about carrying it around, they'll just bring you a glass. Also note, if you enjoy grenadine in your soda it's still no extra charge as a roy rogers. That was nice.
We quickly learned our way around, the public areas were very clean. The bars had a nice feel to them, relaxing and enjoyable. We especially enjoyed Paul at the Spectrum and Dave at Boleros on our cruise, they were fun bartenders to talk with and gave great service.
The cabin was actually a lot bigger than we expected. We were in 5005 way down on an end, and in a side-to-side hallway, which meant it was quiet. We got the "get what you get" interior room, and learned we'd never care much to get a window or balcony for the time we were in the room, it was just perfect for us. Our cabin attendant was Johnson Cassanova, and he was so friendly and kind. Every time we left our room we'd return to it nicely made up, and we love the towel animals--so cute!
We took a salsa dance class and it was SO fun! There were tons of people but unfortunately after the band took a break everyone left and we never again saw boleros with a crowd of people. Such a shame! The band was great, they took requests, and they were fantastic. Too bad my DH and I are not dancers, we could have had the whole club to ourselves.
Bingo was quite expensive, and electronic. We left without playing. We did love the penny slots whenever we had time to spare. A lot of the evening activities didn't give an end time, so it was hard to know if you could attend as a late-seating guest. The other activities were always started already before our dinner was done. I would probably choose the 8:30 seating again though, at 4 my DH would take a walk for an hour and I'd take a nap and we could take our time getting ready for the late night.
Props to Dave the cruise director. Super funny with a crowd but not so much on mornings with Dave, which we affectionately renamed "drinking in the morning with Dave" because he was always peddaling the drink of the day. We did enjoy the juggler, the comedian, all the live music and the love and marriage show.
For the price, this cruise was really awesome. We're not normally drinkers, but our bar tab usually came out at 6-9 dollars for mixed drinks and 5 for a beer with a tip. The shops were overpriced, of course. I was disappointed that the "general store" that had toiletries and contacts cases, etc was only open late at night so try to figure out the first night if you forgot anything important.
The dining was excellent! The menu was great, the food was fantastic and the service was great, although at times it seemed slow. I loved the dining experience, and we had great table mates.
We didn't do any "excursions" really. Coco Cay was fantastic and relaxing. We did rent a floaty mat to share and then purchased a $6 pair of goggles to use to take some underwater photos of fish instead of renting the whole scuba package. We thought Senor Frogs was off the wall, Nassau was pushy and crowded (but fun to experience once) and Key West had a lot of history but was really just a huge assortment of bars. We'll choose something with more beach days next time.
The final tip I have is if you pay cash for your sea pass card, wait a few hours after purchasing anything before cashing out your balance. We waited 30 minutes or so. Then when we went to get off the boat, they made me go to guest relations and stand in line with 40 other people (only two staff people assisting them). The line was over a half an hour wait only to find out that they manually post tips, so when we rounded up our drink bill, we ended up with $1.38 owed. I was furious that a week's worth of excellent service was really damaged by this rediculous time-wasting move to force me to pay my $1.38 optional tip.
Next time we'll pack more shirts, less pants, less shoes. We'll pick more beach days that fit our personalities better, and take dance lessons before we go. If we bring our kids we won't go on Royal Carribean--maybe Disney. This boat did not look like it would be fun for little kids--or people who don't drink much or are more conservative.