We drove from Columbus to New Orleans, and stayed at the Holiday Inn Superdome. The hotel was clean and offered a free shuttle to the french quarter and to the port, which was a big money saver. We stayed the night before the cruise. We spent a little time in the french quarter early before we headed off for the cruise.
Embarkation: Embarkation was a breeze, especially considering my mother-in-law and father-in-law had never cruised before, so they really didn't know what they were supposed to do. The staff helped us through the process and we were on the ship within 15 minutes. We also took 4 bottles of wine and were able to take care of our corkage fee quickly with no waiting.
Staterooms: Our staterooms were ready well before 2, as soon as we got on the ship, actually. We had 2 balcony rooms (9200 and 11168) and one inside (9207). 9207 was a larger inside and was perfect for my too teens and sister-in-law. The balcony rooms were great. All the rooms were clean, and we had requested refrigerator's in advance to put our soda in. We also had generous stateroom credits from our travel agent, which were waiting in our rooms, along with our bottles of wine that the travel agent and cruise line had given us. Gerry, our room steward for 9200 and 9207, was great. He always said hello and joked around with the kids. My mother and father-in-law said they never actually saw theirs. Our rooms were always clean, and we had a towel animal each night, which is fun for the adults even.
Ship: The ship is beautiful and in good shape. The pool area is nice, but was a little small for as many people that use it. Also, it says that the pool is for adults, but there really isn't a pool for teenage kids, so there were still a lot of kids using the pool (I'm not complaining, just an observation). If they're going to have an adults only pool, I think it would be nice to have one for kids to use, other than the one that's for 12 and under in the back of the ship.
Food: We were a little disappointed with the new menu in the main dining room; the dining room had the same menu every day for lunch, and there was only one night we had souffle on the menu. We mentioned this to one of the waiters, and they had creme brulee made for us on the last night, which was really nice of them. No escargot or some of the other more interesting things we've had on our other cruises. Otherwise, our meals in the main dining room were great.
We tried the buffet for breakfast and lunch, and it wasn't bad. My mother and father-in-law loved the buffet...they went every morning. We prefer to eat in the Windows dining room, though. We did love the soft serve ice cream in the buffet, though!
My one complaint for the whole cruise was the service in the Blue Lagoon. It was downright terrible. We tried it multiple times, each time thinking the previous had been some kind of fluke. One afternoon, we waited for about an hour for our food, and they still forgot many items we ordered. At some point, we gave up on some of the items and just ate what they did bring. They didn't bring our water or tea, we had to ask several times for napkins and silverware, and it was always really crowded. The waiters well not apologetic at all. I did complain to management, and they were apologetic(mostly saying I must have bad luck, though) but nothing really changed. The disappointing thing really was that the food in the Blue Lagoon was pretty good (especially for my teens), but we didn't really want to deal with the service there.
We went to the chocolate buffet...it was really interesting to see so much chocolate at one time! My only complaint was that it wasn't really enough time...everyone rushes to get it line at once...the line was up the stairs and all the way to the atrium when we got there.
Casino: No luck in the casino for us. I did find it to be a little too smokey for me at times, but we went to the gaming lesson and found that to be interesting.
Entertainment: Overall, the entertainment was great. Second City was really good and we loved the Elements show. The magician's show was a little cheesy. We went to the Burlesque show, and my 17 year old daughter, sister in law (25) and mother and father in law went to the white hot party and some of the others and had a blast.
Overall, great vacation. Lots of fun, lots of relaxing, things for everyone to do.