First let me say that I am a very open minded traveler and that it would take a lot for me to be critical of any vacation experience. My wife and 13 year old daughter chose this cruise line on the advise of my daughters Autism advocate. We traveled with a group of parents with autistic children on this cruise. The price of this cruise was appealing, as children travel free. The ship was beautiful, very clean and well maintained. The crew were, for the most part, friendly and accommodating with a couple of exceptions, one exception being a frightening encounter that I'll chronicle later. This was a assigned seating type dinner accommodation and our assigned waiter was excellent. Our table mates were great. The dinner fare was, at best, inconsistent and the Italian dishes were uninspired (my wife is Italian and was taught to cook by her Grandmother). One seating had four different meals with the same brown sauce ladled over each. My wife had Chicken Parmesan with this mystery brown sauce that left her perplexed. A duck meal that I had convinced other table mates to try (for their first duck experience),was rubbery and should have included a hack saw to remove from the bone. No one ate it. Breakfast meals that were taken in the dining room revealed a deep communication rift with the staff that left multiple members of our party frustrated to the point of resignation. The fare in the cafeteria was typical cruise fare. There was a vast selection of breakfast and lunch fair available. Late night fare was essentially non existent, unless you love cold pizza. Forget any late late night fare (after midnight). You might catch someone circulating with trays of mystery hors-dourvres. My wife and I grabbed some deep fried roll looking things that contained tasteless uncooked potato mush centers. I'm admittedly a Chocoholic. Withdrawal was painful, as there is none available unless you buy their $35 and up selections from the ship store. Bring a stash if you don't want to suffer the same fate.
The crew in the Kid Watch program were great but they are only available from 9am till 11am and again from 3pm till 5pm. My wife and I were unable to schedule any alone excursions (we love scuba) because of the gaps in child care. The Kid Watch has no provision to contact parents in case of emergency (unless you stay in your room). Other cruise lines provide beepers (American restaurant style)for this purpose. Please note that our daughter is Aspergers high functioning autistic but is emotionally labile. The Kid Watch program is also available late night but these children are not typically up that late.
Some excursions were fun, others ill described. The Catamaran snorkel trip in St Marteen to a "deserted" beach was terrible for snorkeling. If a hotel and condo lined strip of beach with hundreds of for rent chairs and hundreds of people in them is your idea of deserted then enjoy. The trip back to the ship with prodigious rum punch drinks were the highlight of the "snorkeling" excursion. If you decide to visit the seven sisters falls on Grenada be aware that this is a mile trek down a steep muddy boulder strewn death defying trail. We are in good health and are adventuresome by nature but we turned back about a quarter way down and then paid a young boy to wash the gobs of red mud from our shoes and clothing.
The entertainment was exceptional in the theater. Most agreed that the performances were superbly choreographed and produced. Other entertainment was typical cruise fare in other lounges. Late night entertainment was non existent. After ten the boat seemed deserted. I'd have to say that the preponderance of cruisers on this line were in their seventies and up. There were very few young people on board. This information being passed by our 18 yo tablemate. Other cruises we have taken had moveable dance venues in different lounge areas and crew supported "theme" nights where drinks were discounted and passengers were encouraged to participate. Not this cruise line.
There was a general consensus among the American passengers, I informally polled, that the passengers on board of French Canadian nationality where the rudest they had ever met. My wife had one encounter (among many)that was typical at the poolside. After spending 2 1/2 hours in a chaise at poolside a woman of French Canadian nationality approached and claimed the chair she was in. This was 2:30 in the afternoon and this woman indicated that this chair had been claimed at 7:30 that morning. My wife pulled the shade down and continued to read. This woman bent down and continued her tirade until my wife told her to call a porter. The woman then proceeded to take her case to everyone in the vicinity who spoke french. I'd say that 50% of the passengers on board were French Canadian. They butted in lines. One passenger stood on a young girls foot until she pushed him off. Certainly boorish behavior knows no boundaries but should not be elevated to an art form.
The icing on the cruise cake was a very creepy encounter I had with a couple of crew members late on the last night of the cruise. I drank a fair share of rum punch that evening and decided to enjoy the stars and Florida panhandle lights in the distance on the return to Port Everglades. I walked to the fo'c'sle of the ship where there are few ship lights (rest of the ship is lit like times square). It was about 2 in the morning. This is not a restricted area of any sort. There is direct access from hallways on either side of the ship to this shipswide common area. I was standing amidship leaning on the rail overlooking the bow when two crew members in uniform burst through the doors on either side of me and took positions within 5 feet on either side of me. One crew member on my right began to interrogate me. "What are you doing here". "Where are you from". "Why are you here". All of these questions were delivered in a very menacing way. I stated that I was out enjoying the stars and that I was watching the lights of Port Everglades. I told them I was from Virginia. "Is that West Virginia or South Virginia", one asked. I said that there was no South Virginia. During this questioning they moved closer and closer until they were bracketing me on either side. I asked if I had done something wrong or broken some rule and they only glared at me. I'm 58 years old and quite capable of reading body language. Their demeanor was provocative and menacing. After a couple minutes of uncomfortable silence the one on the right asked "what are you thinking about this ship" in a way that to me sounded like they might throw me overboard if I said I didn't like it. I said it was fine and that I was going to bed. I headed for my stateroom with them trailing behind till I reached the stairs and they split up. At that point I wondered if this was a pleasure ship or a warship. VEEEEEERY disturbing!