Embarkation was a breeze. Arrived around 11:30, not a long line to drop off luggage, then go to warehouse for parking. Take shuttle over to Ship (secured port, cannot walk over). Getting through the terminal was quick and easy. All belongings go through the X-ray machine. They checked every one of my bottled waters by shaking them. Your picture is then taken for sign and sail card and on the ship you go. We were on there by 12:30 and went up to Lido deck for lunch. Rooms are not ready until 1:30, so you have to keep any luggage with you.
It was very cold in Charleston on this day and the Lido deck was packed, very hard to find a place to sit, especially with few wanting to go outside in the cold. We finally found a spot as someone was leaving and shared with two other people.
Buffet food throughout the trip was just that, buffet food, some good, some not. very few vegetables served this week. Out by the pool area, there is a grill with hamburgers, hot dogs, fries and chicken fingers. In the middle is a rotisserie with chicken, sometimes lamb and I am not sure what else. They did have frozen corn on cob one day and smashed potatoes were good. On the other side is the mongolian grill, I never tried it, lines usually long. At the back of the Lido is the pizza and deli area, sandwiches made fresh and are good. I never tried room service, always too full! I am small and do not eat a lot.
I had printed off the new menus, but these were not what was followed on this ship. Some items were there, but many were not and other items instead.
There was no heat in the cabins, so we and many had to ask for a blanket that first night. Often wore a jacket inside the ship as well. Ship got warmer as we got closer to Bahamas. Key West was also having cold spell, so warmer there, but still chilly.
Older ship did not bother us. Did not have any odors on our side, but my parents experienced it on their side, something happened in one of the cabins and the odor travelled! Not sure what you could do about that though, if someone stopped up the commode.
Loved the comedian Dean Gaines, family show is fine for younger folks and will keep you in stitches. We did not care for the Cowboy comedian. Not only did he use the "F" word every 3 or 4 words, but he just was not funny (unless you're maybe drunk).
People ask at times about freebies in bathroom; we had two boxes of crest whitening toothpaste, a tube of sunscreen, breathe right strips, some shampoo/lotion samples, & splenda samples.
Our bed was very comfortable, 2 pillows each, plump ones at that. The towels were not soft though, could be the water used on ship and I assume they do not use any fabric softener. Cabin Steward was in twice daily to clean room, replenish towels, ice, etc. Ours responded immediately to any requests we made and was very friendly. They were always working hard.
We did the anytime dining. The pro is that you can go at any time of course between 5:45 and 9:00. The con is that you do not always get the same waiters and you also do not get to build the rapport with the waiters. It is more like a normal restaurant setting and they are busy trying to get you fed, out of there, tables changed over and the next guests in. Where the waiters with set dining times only have to work with two sets of groups of people, the anytime dining staff may have 6 or more groups of tables to deal with in the evening. I did wonder about tips. The waiters for set dining tend to get extra tips, but the anytime wait staff do not because people do not have the same ones every night. I did wonder if they get to alternate between cruises, so that is more fair to them as a wait staff.
Food was good, not gourmet, but good. The menus that we recently saw posted by John Heald were not the ones used. There were some items from them each night, but not all and other items instead. They did have the warm melting cake every night, as well as flat iron steak, grilled salmon, gourmet burger and fried chicken.
Watch sale was held the last sea day. 19.99 I think, seemed to be popular with others.
Dining room dress: First of all, the first elegant night was the first sea night, which we expected and when they served the lobster/prime rib. However, the second sea night was on the 4th night, Freeport night. More people dressed up for the first night but many did not. The people seated on either side of us the first elegant night were in jeans, t-shirts and polo shorts. Some people were dressed up in suits, evening wear and others what I call Sunday dress, then casual. It really did not matter to me what they wore. Less people dressed up the second elegant night and since I was originally expecting it to be the last sea night, neither did we. After seeing how people dressed for the first one, we went more casual, not jeans, but not shirt and tie, evening dress either. Too tired after day in port anyway to come get all dressed up!
There were two production shows and they were pretty good. If you have children, be prepared you will see butt cheeks! Thongs were the norm. We sat close the second night and the band drowned a lot of the singing. If you sit on level 9, hard to find a seat where you can see well. They are too low and is hard to even see the stage, not to mention the poles throughout the room. To get a good seat, we had to go in at 8:00 for the 8:45 show. We also found the Forum lounge to be too small for the comedians. I stopped counting at 50 the number of people standing for the show. Not sure how other shows went in there as we only went to see the comedians in there.
We are not partiers/drinkers so did not go to any of the bars. Didn't go to casino, too smoky and I've always heard can't win at slots on ship casino, so not wasting my money trying. The one drink my husband did order during a show, he said he could not tell it had any alcohol in it. We did take a bottle of wine on board with us, as well as bottled water. Each person is allowed one bottle of wine and 12 sodas/water/non-alcoholic drinks.
We noticed a lot of crew drills taking place, including taking the life boats out and testing them in the water. Not sure if this is normal practice or was a result of the Costa incident.
We did not buy any photos, they are taking them constantly and print them all, a waste and shows to me how cheap it is to print them. A 5x7 was $20.00. I guess if this was my first cruise, I may have bought a couple. A lot of pics were left for the trash the last night. I think they'd sell more if they were a more reasonable price. I wish they'd just have a kiosk and you could pick your picture and the size you want, and more reasonable prices. I would buy then. Otherwise, just use my own camera and get 4 x 6 for 10cents and 5 x 7 for 50 cents online! Yes, I am cheap!
The gym was nice, my mom used the treadmill and they are more sophisticated than the ones my husband has at his cardiac rehab center. We did not use the spa services.
There is one pool, because this is a cooler time of year, seemed to be adequate. The waterworks seemed to be a hit with the kids. Putt putt is available as well, with a jogging track around it. There is a small arcade and ping pong tables near the pool.
There are kids club programs available but I cannot speak to them as we had no kids with us.
Our ports of call were flipped two days before the cruise. We went to Key west, Freeport and then Nassau. We did not experience a lot of nagging or begging in any port, so were glad of that. The people in Nassau were very friendly. After going over to Atlantis just to look around, we went back and just walked around Nassau, off the beaten path. If you take the ferry to Atlantis, it is $4.00 each way. They do pack you on a small old rickety looking boat, so be prepared! Someone will be on there telling you about the famous stars' homes you pass and then he'll pass his hat for tips. We took a taxi back, also $4.00 each plus tip.
In Freeport, there are vans waiting as you get off the ship and people asking if you're going to town. They were $5.00 each way plus tip. Ours stopped us at the casino at Port Lucaya and if we paid for both ways, you come back there and give them your ticket and they send you back in one of their vans. If you're looking for the public beach in Port Lucaya, if you're in front of the casino and face the straw market, go to your left and the entrance is next to the police station. If you try to enter the beach area anywhere else, they will want you to pay. There is a security building at the Radisson and they want $15.00 for a wrist band. The straw market has most of the same stuff at every booth.
In Key West, we were docked at the naval yard and they took us to town by shuttles and the conch train. You can walk from there or get on one of the tour buses or hop on hop off trolleys. It was a little chilly that day, so walking for us was fine, but if it were not, we would have needed to use a trolley. Beware, the further you go from town, the harder it will be to find a restroom! I am surprised they do not have more public ones than they do. They need one down around the southernmost point for sure! You can find them in Mallory Square and in the train depot. The restaurants & fast foods, expect you to order something if you come in and use the restroom.
Not a bad cruise, the price was great. I could tell a difference in food quality and entertainment (2 shows as opposed to one every night) since my last cruise, but to keep costs low, I would expect that. No more midnight buffets either! And if you like mayonnaise, take some with you, none on this ship! They have ketchup and mustard on the tables in Lido buffet, but that is it.
The hot chocolate at the Lido is great. They do not have decaf tea or coffee though..... or we did not find it if they did. Ice cream/milk/yogurt machines in a couple of spots.
All of the staff we ran into were great, friendly and working hard. If you go on this cruise with a good attitude, to have a good time and not expect a luxury experience, you'll be fine!
My favorite part is that it went out of Charleston, 2 hours from my home. I hope more ships come as the new terminal opens and go to more itineraries, so I can cruise more often. For me, Nassau and Freeport are a one time thing, don't care to go there again, but that is a personal preference. Having been to Alaska, Hawaii and Bermuda, which were all awesome, the Bahamas just don't have the same attraction.
We had an outside cabin with window, good size. This ship only has a few suites with balconies as it is older. We had king configured bed and there is a chair and an ottoman stool at the vanity. Flat screen TV up in the corner. There was plenty of room for 2 of us. The bathroom was adequate as well and the shower was nice. There are dispensers with body soap and shampoo. We took our own however, so I cannot speak to the quality of those. The water was very hot at all times. Very good lighting in the room as well.
There is no hair dryer or clock in the room. I also took an extension cord and ran it to the other side of the bed. There is one outlet in the bathroom and one next to the vanity. There was also no directions for using the phone and when I tried wake up call, it did not work. I guessed and figured out how to call my parent's room. Called using the deck number first, then their room number.
Debarkation: We left our luggage out the last night as we had too much to try self-assist. If you do self-assist and take it all off yourself, you may start departing at 6:30 am. This port is a silent debarkation one and no announcements are made once in port. We were given luggage tags with zone numbers and told what time to go to the lounge. We were not in there long and they called us off the ship before 9:00. Once you get off the ship however, you will be in a line for a good 30 minutes or more until you reach the terminal. They let smaller groups in at a time to pick up their luggage and go through customs. That all went smoothly and quickly. Fortunately, it was about 52 degrees and sunny, so standing in the line wasn't too bad. If it had been hot or cold though, it would not have been fun!
Also, be prepared when you return, as I sit at this computer typing, I feel like I am rocking back and forth, very strange feeling since my floor is standing still!!