We left for Florida on June 16th to visit Disney World and my father-in-law's sister. After renting a minivan at the Orlando airport, we headed over to Cocoa Beach and got to the Sandcastles Condos. We try to stay in condos when we can, so we can take advantage of the kitchen amenities and washer/dryers (definitely came in handy when we needed to do laundry right before the cruise, where we wouldn't have access to doing our own!)
On Sunday, we turned in the rental at Avis on A1A, and took their shuttle to Port Canaveral. Just like what others have said, the embarkation was smooth and relatively painless. Other than standing in a few lines here and there, we got there by 11:45, and were on the ship by 12:30. After that, we only had to wait a few minutes before we could go to our staterooms.
The inside Promenade staterooms were just right for us. While I think we initially might've all wanted balcony rooms, this arrangement worked out perfectly because my husband and I had one room to ourselves, and my kids (ages 8 and 10) had their own adjoining ours. Definitely recommended if you have older children or tweens like mine. My in-laws had a inside stateroom that was also surprisingly spacious, just on the other side of the internet room. Another tip: If you choose this type of stateroom, get them on either side of the Promenade. We hardly heard any of the crowd noise, even when there were parades going on.
Adventure Ocean, RCI's kids program, was terrific! My kids wanted to spend nearly all their time there, and did just about every evening. The 6-8 year old group puts on two parades (a circus and a pirate themed one) and both this group and the 9-11 year olds do a talent show toward the latter part of the week. The staff was wonderful, and the kids didn't want to leave them. Recommended: Take advantage of the My Family Dining option if you have a 6 PM dinner seating, where the counselors come get the kids around 6:40, and take them to the evening program. That way, you won't have to hear any more whining than you have to :)
The food on the Windjammer was fine, about what I was expecting, and good for breakfasts and lunches. If you can, stay away from the fries - all of us had them just about every night. In the main dining room, we had great service from Erich (the head waiter), Peter (waiter) and Glenn (assistant). When I couldn't decided between two entrees, Peter brought me both. Definitely wouldn't be able to do that at any restaurant. As for the food itself, nearly every meal was tasty and delicious. I just felt we ate a LOT more than we should!
Because it was our anniversary trip as well, my husband and I treated ourselves to Portofino one night. It was definitely worth spending the extra $20 pp to have a fabulous meal that we otherwise not would've had.
For entertainment, we saw "Kung Fu Panda 2" in 3-D and "The Adjustment Bureau" on the pool deck screen. My kids loved "Kung Fu Panda" so much, they went to see it again during the second show a few days later. We also saw the final program the last night of the cruise, and wished we had seen the other shows, like the Love and Marriage and the Quest. They just started too late for us. During the day, we watched the sexy man and belly flop contests - good, mindless fun. And watching cruise director Graham Seymour every morning was hilarious. He also hosted the British Rock program that was in the Promenade one night.
The fitness center was probably what saved me from gaining about 10 lbs. on this vacation. The equipment is fantastic, and I especially loved how the treadmills were lined up along the picture windows, so you could watch the ship sail over the water as if you were on the bridge.
One word about a our first port, Cococay. It was very crowded on the snorkel beach. And while my kids and I were able to escape a deluge that happened literally an hour after we got to the island (they get scared around thunderstorms), my husband and in-laws were not so lucky. According to them, there wasn't much shelter from the buckets of rain that came down. Perhaps this is something RCI can address at some point?
When we returned to Florida, our disembarkation went smoothly as well, and as expected, none of us wanted to leave. The only complaint - the baggage claim was a little disorganized and crowded.
All in all, we had a wonderful first-time cruise. It won't be our last :)