I have several friends who cruise frequently and have always expressed that they love their cruise vacations so I felt that it was going to be the best vacation we could possibly have. Although we did overall enjoy ourselves; it wasn't by any means the best vacation. This was our first cruise. We were on a full to capacity ship and I read reviews for this date that said the ship didn't feel full and I will tell you that you could wait 20 minutes for an elevator. Maybe that's because by the 3rd day teenagers would occupy their time by riding the elevators; so perhaps that was the delay. The pools were filled to capacity that you couldn't swim, you could only cool off by standing in the water. The pools are not big enough for this many people. The kids camps are boring; my eight year old will be 9 in 2 months and was placed with 6-8 year olds. It was definitely not age appropriate and the camp was boring and babyish as stated by my daughter. They need to liven it up ALOT, teach Zumba for physical activity, paint rocks for craft time, and some hip hop dance for excitement. Well having stated that my daughter found the camp boring it is clear to say that I was her activity director for the entire 7 days. I didn't take advantage of the casino, solarium, comedy shows, bingo, several bars and so much more. The ship is geared entirely to adults and making money at every turn. But the activities director needs to work out the details of entertaining the children because they stand to lose ALOT of money when parents cannot take advantage of these money making venues on the ship. The only way to take advantage of the adult activities is to pay even more money for babysitting fees and I wasn't going to spend $50 a night for babysitting on top of all the other expenses. My 13 year old son went to the camp that is for 12-17 year olds and he found what he thought to be alot of older kids like 15-17 year olds and felt very out of place. It's a weird group to have, 12 year olds don't feel comfortable with 17 year olds and 17 year olds don't want to be around 12 year olds. They need to break this down better. Some activities were for 12-14 year olds and he did take part in a DJ scratch that was offered in 3 steps over the course of the cruise. So basically he spent about 3 hours in the camp during the 170 hour or so cruise. The rest of the time he spent walking the ship, he never got to do the zip line and flowrider the lines were ridiculously long. He went to see the 5 or so movies that were offered during the cruise in the Amber and AquaTheater and that's basically all he did on his own. Not to mention that the timetable (hours they are open) for all the activities and eating venues change daily. If you don't read the newsletter or watch the tv program that tells you what is going on everyday then you'll miss breakfast/lunch and any suitable activities for your family.
The positive was the dining room. We paid for My Time Dining - which I didn't feel was necessary; but my travel agent said it was important to do on this ship so that we got to our reserved shows. But anyhow, we requested the same dining room staff (Waiter/Asst Waiter) for every evening. They were fast, friendly and very personable. They asked every evening if we had to be somewhere after dinner and they planned accordingly so we were never late for a show. We never had a complaint about the food, it was prepared perfectly. We didn't try any of the dinner venues that have a cover charge because my daughter is a plain jane eater and wasn't going to pay $20 for her and she'll end up eating pasta. We did have lunch in Izumi for Sushi and it was great. It's just that you pay $3 a head ($5 a head for dinner) PLUS the price of the food. So considering other cruises have sushi standard in the Windjammer, I felt that this was a rip off.
What my family enjoyed the most in addition to the Adiago dining room was the shows. Chicago, Blue Plant, Oceanaria, How to Train Your Dragon ice show, Monopoly ice show, Lucas headliner, and Let You Entertain Me aqua show were all exciting and thrilling shows. They do warn you when you board the ship that Chicago may not be suitable for children, but the choreography and the talented singers and dancers is just too exciting to miss. The storyline of Chicago is stupid, and although it's about lovers, sex and murder - it's nothing worse than the headlines in the Daily News or the Post so it's what my children are exposed to when they catch the local news channel and newspaper headlines. The headliner show with Lucas was great, we caught the first one and he does his thing with puppets. The kids loved it! They wanted to see the last show but Mr. Lucas stated to the audience that he was going to make his last performance geared to the adults more so we didn't see it again.
Another enjoyable feature is the jog/walk track; boardwalk with the carousel, face painting and balloons. Plus I would think the ice skating rink would be a fun place too, don't forget to pack pants and socks! I couldn't find a place to buy them on board and in the ports and if you don't have pants you cannot skate.
In regard to the ports. Bahamas - dirty, harassed constantly by islanders to buy this or that and we spent about an hour in town and came back to the ship. St. Thomas - Very clean and we were never harassed by anyone. We went to Emerald Beach. The water was calm and the beach was empty. It was beautiful and relaxing. Paid to rent lounge chairs and towels that were under a palm tree for shade. St. Maarten - Very clean but again we were constantly harassed by islanders to buy this or that. We went to Dawn Beach. The water had these big waves that knocked you down but the kids enjoyed it. The beach was empty, beautiful and relaxing. We paid to rent lounge chairs with an umbrella but they didn't have towels to rent only to buy for $12 each. If you go, bring your RC towels with you! The food is very pricey (restaurant on the beach) we were concerned with the cleanliness and therefore we did not eat there.
Overall it was fun to be on a cruise and if I were to consider going on such a large cruise ship again, I would consider an off peak time. We will cruise again but I think next time we'll try a smaller RC cruise ship.