Baltimore is a wonderful port and I wish more cruises were departing from there. We took a one hour Jet Blue shuttle from Boston and a taxi ($40) from the airport to the cruise terminal. Absolutely painless! We touched down at the runway about 11:15 and were on the ship at 12:45pm.
Embarkation was easy. There was something to eat at the Windjammer and we relaxed until the cabin was ready.
The cabin is not large, but we found the storage space adequate. Plenty of hangers, etc. One thing I found annoying was having water and soda and for-sale snacks piled up on the vanity/desk. I removed them to the shelves on either side, which worked. Never touched them. We got ice everyday which provided enough water for me to fill my own bottle. Our steward was excellent, kept the place tidy and was non-intrusive.
The seas were very calm all the way to San Juan - the captain remarked on it. Very unusual, but most were quite pleased. My husband and I enjoy the "feel" of the sea so don't mind a _little_ weather, which we got on the return trip - just the right amount. Nothing flying across the deck inside (although deck 10 was shut down for most of the trip back).
We enjoyed all the opportunities to dance onboard. There was a nice trio from Bulgaria who played in the Centrum quite often. The ship's orchestra played a couple of times for dancing also. Very nice. We would have enjoyed more dancing in the Spotlight Lounge, but it is the largest venue so was used for Bingo and other games which are more frequented than ballroom dancing.
The food was a little disappointing. We ate in the Windjammer for breakfast and lunch most days. There was always melon and pineapple for breakfast. Sometimes it was tasty and sometimes not. The food at lunch, often seemed tired and dried out - particularly the lunch meats as they were starting to curl at the edges. I tried both the Vitality, Signature and Vegetarian selections in the dining room. Mostly just uninspired. One night my husband ordered Steak Diane and it was terrible, although he said the lobster tail another night was good. The last night we ate at Chops Grill for an extra $60. I'm glad we did so that we could experience it, but I am not sure it was worth it. The filet mignon was _excellent_, but the vegetables, although not overcooked, were swimming in butter and oil. The Choc Mud Pie was a hit. VERY chocolaty!
The service in Chops Grill was different than the dining room, mostly because the wait staff was not trying to sing and dance! (We HATED the Italian song and Reggae dance routines in My Fair Lady!)The way a couple of requests were treated was a bit surprising, however. Firstly, my husband had a bottle of wine opened from previous nights so wished to finish it. We were made to feel it was our mistake that the bottle was not already on our table at Chops! "Did you tell them you would be at Chops?" (we were not feeling a need to rush and wondered that it was our responsibility to let the staff downstairs know our whereabouts!) Secondly, when we asked if the chef could make Steak Diane (not on the menu), it became a power war. Neither the waitress, maitre d', nor the chef knew what Steak Diane was, but the maitre d' was particularly intent on satisfying us - to prove he could, I believe. "Just tell us what you want. What is in it?" was the challenge. We are not hotel chefs and don't know how to make Steak Diane... my husband had just hoped that a better cut of meat would make a difference in his enjoyment. "Just tell us what you want!" was the cry. When we could not provide a detailed recipe (we were happy to just forget about it), the m d' phoned down to the dining room chef for instruction - not exactly what we would recommend since the dish was not good down there.... Anyway, a "Steak Diane" sauce came out on the side for my husband and it was very good!
There was plenty of room on deck for sunning, we could always play ping-pong when we wanted and waited only a short time in the line at LatteTudes for espresso and cake. The public areas are nice - Boleros was used as a sports lounge during football games.
The Spa is expensive, but nicely laid out. They have a beautiful "relaxation room" on the fan tail. The loungers are not the most comfortable, but maybe that is by design - it is a very quiet area with floor to ceiling windows and could become popular... I got a good pedicure and manicure and a couple of decent massages. I learned something this trip: find out early in the cruise who is the most experienced massage therapist and then book with her. One massage from a very timid girl from Spain was not the best.
John was happy with the bartenders. They would follow special instructions without batting an eye, and he got the drinks he likes. It took a few nights for the wait staff in My Fair Lady to believe that I only wanted water... why don't they take my word for it the first time?
Guest Relations did a fine job. Our folding wardrobe lost its handle between the entrance to the terminal and our room. Catherine went out of her way to find a handle and get it attached by the "upholstery shop" so that the luggage was better than new! VERY pleased with the outcome of that complaint!
The ship has lots of public space because of fewer balconies. Our style. I liked the Jewel of the Seas better - just seemed prettier somehow. But this is a nice ship.
On the following port reviews I did not find Samana, DR so chose "Dominica" which I think is not correct. Also Labadee, Haiti was not on the list. Labadee is just an extension of the ship - more fun in the sand and water.