My husband and I are not frequent cruisers--it was his first, and my second when we set sail on Celebrity's Millenium over Thanksgiving. It just happened to be our first anniversary and the opportunity to see if cruising was for us before we try Alaska or the Meditteranean. So, please bear with me if these are things we should have known!!! First, I am not sure I would cruise on a holiday as large families were on board with us. The cruise was very busy, and very loud--not the environment for a restful relaxing trip. We got the hang of it and learned to lounge away from the crowded pool, and not attempt to eat at the buffet any time during regular hours, or avoid it all together.
I am not sure if it was because it was a short cruise (4 night, 5 day), but no one followed the dress code (I didn't know jeans and golf shirts were considered formal), the buffets were repetitive and boring, and the staff looked like they had been beaten from all the verbal abuse they took from the passengers!! This team was amazing, and did all they could to serve and take care of us. I think everyone was fed up with travelling with family because every had short fuses.
Key West was great, and we chose to stay on board in Cozumel in hopes of getting some peace. It worked!! The quiet music was amazing, the food and bar service attentive, and you could actually access the hot tubs and pools. The spa Thalassotherapy Pool was incredible. The day at sea was nice--stayed far from the pool and enjoyed watching a storm and rainbows. Deck 11 is the place for peace!! Not much service other than at the bar. The outside grill was great for a burger or hot dog to avoid the buffet.
Our cabin was suprisingly roomy, with a nice veranda where we had breakfast (again--avoiding the dangers of fighting the buffet line), and a good shower. We ordered breakfast via the TV, where we loved watching our location via GPS! Could have been cleaner on arrival, but they were flipping the ship.
I found the shows in the evening to be very good, minimal cheese factor, and very well done. The guitarist in Cova Cafe was a nice way to end the evening. The classic drink package was a must!!! We had cordials, wine, mixed drinks, and beer all day without worrying about it, and it also included large, frosty bottles of water.
By the end, we determined that we would absolutely cruise again, and probably with Celebrity. You just need to learn the ropes and what fits with you. For this ship, deck 11, and 12 is great--head aft for a great bar and neat views. Deck 9 has a nice overhang for bad weather. Ship is very quiet and smooth.