We met up with 8 other family members for a Christmas cruise to the Western Caribbean. The ship is impressive on entry, it was decorated very nice for Christmas, a big tree on Deck 7, and a great Gingerbread Village with electric trains.. very nice. The ship was clean and the staff was friendly and helpful (as long as they understood you and vice versa).
The day of our arrival we were presented with a bunch of "offers" some of my friends thought we should take advantage of one: "buy today; get 20% off 6 or 8 bottles of wine" well, it seemed that the wines while good appeared to have about a 150% mark-up, a little higher than restaurants. But, we were on vacation, and we'd get 20% off, so we went for it. Well, after the 20% off, they added a 15% auto-gratuity!! There was nothing on the piece of paper/order form about once getting the 20% off I was going to be charged 15% for getting it delivered to my stateroom. This was deceitful. I spoke with Guest Services about it; they didn't care. They were sorry, but that is the way they run their business. Fleecing guests is the norm. The autogratuity of $12.00 p.p. per day charge was not expected either, must have missed that in my pre-boarding paperwork.
The pool chaises are lined up side-by-side, and were always "reserved" with towels, not always people. The casino allowed smoking, you could tell when you were approaching the casino even if you didn't know where it was. That was very unpleasant. The ship does have places to find quiet time for reading for playing cards or board games, if desired. I liked the observation deck, but they held lots of "seminars" there, so ruined the ambience.
The food was adequate. Breakfast and lunch were not terribly good, lots of it, but if you wanted something that tasted good, you'd be out of luck. I had yogurt and fruit mostly, the eggs were watery and awful. Rubbery pancakes, greasy sausages. We went to sit-down breakfast at Windows one day, essentially the same breakfast that Raffles offered, but with slow service. Dinner was the best meal of the day, I had 3 or 4 very good meals and 2 or 3 just "okay" meals. I enjoyed the fries from the Biergarten.
I read the literature that was sent to me and packed accordingly. I was overdressed. I did not need half of the "nice" clothes that I packed. However one guy in our party was hassled about a sleeveless shirt one night at dinner because he wasn't dressed to code. He gave the hostess a few choice words and proceeded into the dining room. The previous night, my bother-in-law went in with a tee shirt and shorts... not a word said about his attire.
The constant "in your face" sales pitches were annoying, they talk about all the things you can do on-board and what it really is, is a sales pitch for something: art, jewelry, booze, excursions.. etc. Very annoying. Cameramen at every dinner and you're assaulted when getting off the ship for a picture with a caricature of something...
The on-board entertainment was amusing. I couldn't stop thinking of "Love Boat" -yes, it was that corny... our cruise director was a total parody of cruise directors and would do well on SNL.
We only did two shore excursions, both good: Roatan, Tabayan Beach Party and the cooking demo in Cozumel; the cooking class was awesome, we had a blast with Chef Luis.
We had a nice cruise, but it reminded me of being trapped at a convention and I couldn't get away from the crowds. The ship was most pleasant when most folks got off the ship for shore excursions.
Overall, we enjoyed ourselves because we met up with family that we don't get to see often enough. It was nicer than a cold New England Christmas. :-)