We booked this cruise in June 2010 to celebrate our youngest son's high-school graduation. This would be our 7th cruise [all RC], 2nd for son Matt and 1st ever for older daughter Jen. Nice thing about booking 13 months in advance was that sometime between then and now the prices jumped by close to $400 per person [which did not affect us]. So naturally, I figured I could ring up a $1600 bar tab and still break even.
We live on Long Island so we drove to Bayonne on Saturday morning. Ginny [my DW] was concerned about traffic etc [it was 4th of July Weekend] so we ended up in Port Liberty about 9:00 AM which is way early as boarding starts a little past noon. On the plus side though, parking and check-in were a breeze, coffee, juice and cookies were plentiful and, between looking through our borrowed Bermuda tour book and people watching, the time passed quickly.
We were on, I think, the second bus taking us the 200 or so yards to the gangway and having lunch in Windjammer before 1:00 PM. We toured the ship and found it, as many have noted, a little the worse for wear but overall well-kept and beautiful. Out balcony cabin was adequate but not impressive. We were on the hump and I had heard the balconies were a little roomier but ours seemed cramped to me. Also there was a notable [though not overpowering] sewage smell in the bathroom. I also noticed it in one or two other places on the ship. I've heard of this but never really experienced it before. You'd think they would have dealt with the issue by now.
The biggest negative of the trip also took place this first day. Our luggage did not get delivered to the room until after 7:00PM! By contrast, the kid's bags [checked along with ours] were at the door of their inside cabin by 2:30 or so. Luckily we had late dinner seating and could change in time for dinner but we missed the "Welcome aboard" show [and Ginny really likes those shows]. We finished out the evening checking out the Promenade Parade [which was just okay] while the 'kids" checked out the Chamber Discoteque [which they really liked].
Day two consisted of: Breakfast at the Windjammer [pretty good], Lounging on the PoolDeck [Cloudy and Windy], Lunch in the Dining Room [really good!], 3:00 Ice Show in Studio B [also really good], Formal Portraits [what a handsome group we made], Captain's Reception on the Promenade [Free champagne...WooHoo!!], Dinner [quite good] and the "Let's Dance" Show in the Palace Theatre [okay].
Day three [Bermuda]: Got the full day transit passes [$12 each] and took the first ferry to St George. Nice town. Much less "citified" than Hamilton. They had a fun little "ducking" demo about noon then we opted for a one-hour tram tour. Pleasant enough and more fun than hiking up and down the hilly streets in the warm Bermuda sun would have been. By then it was lunchtime. Restaurants are pretty pricy there though [and the ships food is paid for] so we worked our way back to Hamilton by bus and took the Hamilton ferry back to the Dockyards. Got back in time for a little "quiet time" onboard before the ship started to fill up again. In the evening the Promenade was decked out for the 4th of July and they had a Late Night Bar-B-Q on the pooldeck where Ginny got a Red, White and Blue Pina Colada in a flashing, lighted cup.
Day four: The kids took a bus to Horseshoe Bay Beach [which, judging by their photos, is just gorgeous] while Ginny and I walked around the Dockyards and picked up some tchotchkas. Dockyard is overrated as a destination [though are trying to make it one] but we really just wanted to get back to the pool deck and chill so it worked out. When the kids got back from the beach they ice-skated which is a strange but interesting thing to do on a ship in Bermuda in July. The ship pulled out at 5:00PM. The evening was spent wandering about, buying overpriced photos, checking out the Casino Royale [lost about 20 bucks], and stopping by the 70'S Disco Party on the Promenade.
Day five [At sea]: Lots of Poolside in the Solarium [still windy but sunny this time]; Lunch at the "Jammer" [pretty good]; packing [always fun]; Entered the final Trivia contest in the Schooner [RC Baseball caps all around. Go Team Superfriends!]; Farewell Show at the Palace [Who's that popping up all over the Cruise Video? Hey! It's US!!]; Final Dinner [and the ritual delivery of the tips]; Nightcap and a little Jazz at Dizzy's [in the Viking Crown].
Day six [Departure]: Opted to carry off our own luggage [we had a pick-up deadline for our Beagle, Homer, at the kennel] and we were off the ship, through customs and driving back to LI by 10:00 AM.
All in all, one fine way to spend an extended holiday weekend.
Impressions: The staff, on the whole, was courteous, professional and helpful but not overly outgoing and that worked just fine for me [though Jen had quite a little flirtation going with our Dining Room Bar Waiter, a handsome young Macedonian named Miloslav]. When we were dealing with the luggage thing on Day one, the young lady at the Purser's Desk was industrious [if not effective] in attempting to track down our bags, so props to her.
The Cruise Director, Jimmy Rhodes, seemed quite likable and energetic though we really only saw him from a distance. The Activities Director, on the other hand, [I don't know her name] gave off a chilling vibe and had a grating voice. [We actually left the Bar-B-Q early because she sounded so shrill while moderating a water balloon tossing event on the pool deck.] The Captain [first name Olav] gave a hearty and ungloved handshake [Impressive in this era of Norovirus Paranoia] at the Captain's Reception.
The food has improved noticeably. There seems to be some new menu items [overdue] and the food just seemed fresher, better prepared and tastier throughout the ship. Even the Lobster tail was still hot on the plate and not at all rubbery. This was a pleasant change from the last couple of cruises we were on.
Activities: I would have liked another karaoke session. There were only two and I could not get to either one [the first due to that late luggage on day one] but that's just my thing. Also, a bit more emphasis on the small group activities such as Trivia, Sing-alongs and Dance Lessons rather than the Giant Promenade events would, I think have been a good thing. On the other hand, as you can see by the rest of the review, we weren't really short of things to do.