Our plane arrived 2pm the day of the trip. We made it on the ship before 3pm. Luck was with us. Port only 10 minutes away from airport.
We did latest disembark, so we didn't need to carry our luggage out. By 7:30a staff was running into the room and then realizing we weren't gone. So our plan of sleeping later was foiled. Waiting until 9:30am was BORING. I may do earlier next time.
It took us three days to see most of the ship. Had problems with elevator availability, but found a workaround. If we needed to go three floors or less, we walked the steps. It alleviated the elevator stress immensely. Most of the time, we hardly had any issues with the elevator as long as we avoided the busy times (before/after dinner; before/after shows). My one recommendation is that they should post elevator etiquette somewhere on the ship. Surprisingly, many people don't realize that they need to let the people in the elevator OUT. Constantly you need to call out 'My floor!" at people while IN the elevator so they would let you out. Conversely, you had to ask people not to enter the elevator until you could step out. I have never encountered either of these situations until this ship. This was a head scratcher.
I think they finally got it right. They had a kiddie pool which attracted most of the young kids away from other pools, which meant that there were fewer kids splashing/misbehaving in the remaining public pools/Jacuzzis. The Solarium seemed to only have Jacuzzis and not a regular pool. As a result, we didn't stay there once. The 'beach' pool was fun but the drink sellers hit that area hard, so we only stayed there once since the pressure of drink sales got so annoying. The regular pool areas were just fine and I have no complaints. People still reserve chairs and leave for hours at a time. Luckily, considerate people came and went in spurts so you could find two or more together consistently. Shaded areas are hard to find but sometimes you can move chairs to a shaded area and no one minded.
Room 10202 - Regular room with extended balcony. Room 10325- Regular room with Boardwalk/ocean view and regular balcony. Each room held two persons. Typical rooms. Next time, I would get a room located either closer to pool deck or closer to Promenade/Central Park deck. We always had to travel to get anywhere, even for a drink of water. Room Logistics:
-Closet Hangars - ample hangars 20 regular/ 20 Clipped
-Safe was numerical key and no need for card swipe. Just don't set it as PI because 3.14159.... never ends.
-Surprising amount of storage area (nooks, shelves and stuff)
-Outlets: 2 US, 1 EUR
-Hair dryer provided and worked well for medium thick hair
-Hard hand soap for hands is greasy. I would consider bringing hand foam soap in future if this type of thing irritates you.
-Bring makeup mirror or something which will allow you to see back of your head.
-No need to bring a personal mug, bungee cords, nite lites. The doors are now sliding and can lock mid opening via the handle. The lights in cabin have a 'night light' feature.
-Two hooks within shower to hold wet clothes. A lot of hooks along bathroom walls (5+).
-Bring Body/room spray since the distance from your bed to the toilet is about 10 feet or so.
I thought the recommendation to bring your own mug onto the ship so that you can get a larger drink of water without constant refill was a good idea, but I was wrong. In the eating areas, you NEVER are allowed to dispense your own water/tea/etc. As a result, no mug was necessary because if you wanted a large drink, you had no choice but to pick up two cups as they wouldn't fill your personal mug. I later noticed that the Promenade had self serve water available but the water tasted of metal because the dispensers were small refillable metal containers which held a couple gallons and were always sweating. I was disappointed that there was no 'Drink of the Day' special pricing. I had read in previous postings that near the end of the cruise there was a B1G1 but I didn't see it happening. We had the Gold Wine package and were happy with it.
We had MDR 6pm table 510 (side of dining room). Benefits of MDR at 6pm are that the ocean view is visible during the whole meal before/as sun sets. Dinner took an average of 1.5 hours, so we were able to make the 8pm/8:30pm shows with no problems. I thought the coffee in the MDR was better than all other areas of the ship. I did a compare with MDR and Windjammer one night and found the exact same menu offering without exception. So, I don't think you are losing out on much (other than service and ritual) if you choose to eat a Windjammer for dinners. I like service and ritual, so I will continue with MDR at 6pm. One interesting thing was that the Head Waiter actually visited us each night to check on us and offer information on some key events available that evening. This was the FIRST time we had ever had such an attentive Head Waiter in all our 6 or so cruises. For the first time, we felt the required Head Waiter tip was worthy of the receiver. Kudos to Lester Fernandez, Peter Host, and Julius Phillip. Food was good so take other board postings lightly as everyone's tastes/expectations differ.
Central Park Cafe is the WINNER! Hand carved Roast Beef (perfect Medium) is available all the time. On Sandwich, on fresh salad, with Horseradish and au jus. I had read everywhere that this was great, but no one ever mentioned why. Now I know, now you know. Also, the teriyaki noodle salad with shrimp was an unexpected surprise. Make your own salad added a nice freshness to meals.
A close second was the Wipeout Cafe. Make your own nachos, deceptively good hamburgers, Pretzel dogs with actual pretzel bread, and frozen yogurt self serve.
Third was the Cafe Promenade. Fresh finger sandwiches (smoked salmon with cream cheese was good) and desserts always available (Austrian Bread/Easter bread was perfect with coffee).
We never went to Windjammer for lunch, so I have no review of it.
I researched everything carefully from these boards and came up with a plan to only utilize them if the food in the MDR stunk. It didn't, so we didn't go anywhere different for dinner. BUT, we walked past the Seafood Shack and noticed the Seafood platter for two looked awesome. On a full sea day, we gave ourselves a special treat and went there for lunch. It was totally worth it.
We also had a coupon for B1G1 milkshake at Johnny rockets. We did that on an evening movie at the Aqua Theater. That was a nice treat too. Most of the previous posts say the specialty restaurants are good, so feel free to try them. I can only say that they aren't a necessity unless you find something lacking in the comp areas.
All worthy of your time so pop in a different show time if you miss your original reservation or find your reservation is too late at night. I recommend not missing the Come Fly with Me show. It was honestly jaw dropping unusual.
CHECK TV every morning for schedule/room changes. There were atleast 5 changes during our week, one of which was the first nights show time change and another was a Meet&Mingle room change.
Rooms in Boardwalk area have sound issues competing with the Aqua Theater. As a result, I would recommend these rooms for your teenage kids who enjoy people watching and show watching from their balconies. If your kids are closer to 20 or older, I would recommend them stay in a Central Park balcony where beautiful music can be heard from the balconies and it is generally quiet but they can still people watch. If you are just a couple, I would recommend the outside balcony rooms close to the Promenade deck and/or Central Park deck (for convenience and quietness).
Lanyards are a must. Punching hole in room key can be done immediately upon boarding on the 2nd day after things die down.
Surprised lobster was a big tail. This was the most generous of all the cruises we have been on. It is normally a laughable size, but this one was respectable for once.
I never miss a 'Win a cruise Bingo', but next time I might. 4 games- first three games had very little winnings (under $200). Looking back, I don't think it was worth the $35 - $50 participant fee. Why pay $35 for a winning pot of $120 of which 1000 or so people are playing. Very bad odds with high expense and little payback.
One last thing, if you signed up for the meeting and mingle, TRY TO MAKE IT. They actually give away door prizes (so bring whole family for better chances). One of which may be 30 minutes of internet time. OBVIOUSLY, the internet the most valuable prize going and makes the event worth it. DOUBLE check the time/place when you get on the boat, as it changed for us.
We had a change of itinerary due to Hurricane Emily and went to Mexico instead of St. Maarten. We stayed on the ship during each port, so not much to mention here.
I would definitely go on this cruise again or try Allure for the differing ports. We only scratched the surface of what was available to us in that week.
As an effort to give back for all the good info I received from these boards, I answered additional questions on a couple threads which will in August of 2011. So feel free to look up my ID and trail back to my posts. My review doesn’t have to end here.