Overall, a fantastic first cruise that makes us want to go on another in 2012!
Pre-Cruise Hotel: I strongly suggest people use Hotwire or Priceline especially if you have a rental car. You will save a lot of money. You can easily stay in a decent hotel for no more than $70/night. Please note that only Alamo and National (same company) provide a complimentary shuttle to Port Everglades. Hertz's Crowne Plaza location provides a complimentary shuttle but you have to pay an additional fee to return a car you rented from the FLL Airport location there. The cost of a cab from the Pier to FLL Airport is $16 + tip (we did this on the way back as the Hertz shuttle was nowhere to be found).
Embarkation: Lines were quite long but moved relatively smoothly but took about 90 minutes from being dropped off by our complimentary Hertz shuttle. The actual check-in was somewhat slow but the agent was very friendly and it appeared to be a technical issue she had with her passport scanner.
Public Rooms: The ship is gorgeous. We felt like we were in a classy Las Vegas hotel (e.g. The Venetian - not as high end as Palazzo or Wynn/Encore). The ship is extremely clean. The dining rooms are well designed and the theater is beautiful. The Royal Promenade is great too.
Cabin: The D2 cabins are a very nice size and the balcony is a perfect size. It was great for relaxing and met all of our needs. There is ample closet storage space and the safe is big enough to hold all your valuables. If you find the beds too soft, you can remove the cushion top as it's not physically attached to the mattress. We had an issue with a child in the room above us running extremely loudly and called the operator and they took care of the issue.
Entertainment: The shows were universally wonderful. The ice show was the best. The Russian juggling/circus couple was amazing. There were only two falls despite some rough seas and the cast was fantastic. The Saturday Night Musical opened strongly but the 2nd half was somewhat weak. The Love and Marriage Game Show was entertaining - mostly because there was an extremely vain participant who insisted on ditching the show and her poor husband so she could put on a new dress and fancier shoes to impress her friends back home who would watch it later on DVD.
Nightlife: We really only went to Catacombs, the nightclub, and despite it being quite smoky which bothered us, we found the music wonderful and the crowd fun.
Service: Fantastic although the lines at Guest Relations were painfully long at times.
Dining: Alas, the cruise could have been perfect had the food been higher quality. We found the lunch in the MDR to be wonderful. The salad bar was great and the entrees were relatively good. That being said, dinner was mediocre and the great service couldn't overcome it. Serving "Roasted Turkey" on the last dinner? Hey, not all of us have Midwestern (Despite living here) taste buds which get excited at the thought of mac and cheese. Please upgrade the dinner menu to add more flavor. It's okay to have one or two options which appeal to the meat and potatoes crowd but how about some Thai or better Indian food (there was an Indian entree every day but it was not particularly good). The meals were also overladen with salt.
Fellow Passenger Mix: I'm going to avoid being judgmental about the 100 or so SEC/religious group/frat boy type guys on the boat who hogged the hot tubs and banged their tables a lot - they seemed nice enough and it's probably just a result of so many single, heterosexual men being trapped together in a group. The crowd was fun and a relatively diverse mix. There was a significant Latin American contingent and a few Brits - all wonderful to be around. The crowd was not snobby and not trashy - perfect mix!
Disembarkation: Relatively smooth but the taxi line at Port Everglades is a bit of a mess. One shouldn't have to walk so far to get a taxi. I guess it helps support the porter industry.
Overall, this was a great first cruise. Thank you to CC members who wrote reviews and helped us choose this ship. I better get back to work to earn enough money to pay for the next cruise!