My wife and I needed a getaway after Christmas and this cruise fit the bill. Two ports that we hadn't been to off of a ship and leaving from Tampa a city we hadn't visited. We arrived three days before our cruise to explore the city. Stayed at the Quality Inn Airport which had a reasonable $8 transfer to the port. Hotel was good for the price, $69 room with parking available with transfer to and from the ship. It also had a better than average hot continental breakfast. The rooms are motel quality.
We arrived at the port on Sunday at around 10:30 am and had one of the easiest times embarking the ship. We did have to wait about a half an hour before we could board but it was an easy wait. We boarded at 11 and were able to go straight to our cabin to drop off our carry-on luggage. To my surprise our luggage was already in our cabin waiting for us. That was a first; I guess that is one of the benefits of sailing on a smaller ship. We were able to go to the Rotterdam dining room for lunch and met some of the passengers doing a back to back cruise; we enjoyed a nice meal before exploring the ship. The only deck where you cannot walk from one end of the ship to the other is deck 7 as the main kitchen is on this deck. This was a bit of a pain as the theatre was on the same deck and it would have been nice if you could just walk straight to it but there is nothing that can be done as it is just the design of the ship. I had read on previous reviews that the cabins on deck six under the kitchen were noisy. My parents had cruised on this ship last year and had one of those cabins and asked to be moved after one night due to the noise. I made sure that we were not put in one of those cabins and had a great stay. The staff was very good and our cabin stewards Teguh and Herry were great and very attentive to my wife's needs. We could not get a set time dinner seating so we didn't have the same waiter every night but the guys we did have generally out did themselves.
The ship its self seems a little worn. I had read before we booked this trip that the ship had been refurbished in 2010. It may have been but they missed a lot. I first noticed that the walls of the elevators were all scratched and marked up; it looked like a child had used crayons on the walls. The elevators also all weren't working, only about six of the eight would be working at any one time. On our deck (deck four) along the port side holes in the floor appeared during the cruise. Some were large enough to twist an ankle in. I am not sure what the flooring material was under the carpet but it was giving way very frequently. When I left at the end of the cruise there were four marked holes and many smaller depressions all along the corridor.
The food was more than acceptable, with a lot more hits than misses. I had the beef two or three times and found it to be excellent. Unless you are used to Kobe beef, the meat served is tender and flavourful. The only thing that was a little overcooked was the lobster on the last formal night. The escargot more than made up for it though. I cannot comment on the Lido buffet food as I didn't use it but I didn't hear any bad comments from fellow passengers. I can comment on the available free refreshments. The only cold drinks in the Lido buffet are water and unsweetened iced tea. If you go to the bar at either pool you can ask for lemonade but nothing is offered in the buffet and you are not told that this available. This is the first ship that I have been on that didn't have something other than iced tea to drink in the buffet.
I attended some of the cooking classes in the Culinary Arts Centre and enjoyed the presentations. The only thing that I didn't like is that the recipe cards they hand out are very vague and not followed at all by Chef Kelly during the preparation. He added ingredients and omitted steps on a few of the recipes. If you go bring a pen and write fast so you can get the recipes right.
The shows on board were mostly the singers with the Hal Cats backing them. The theatre is smaller than the HAL ships we had previously been on and it doesn't afford them to have big shows. I enjoyed the shows but my wife wasn't as thrilled with the singers. I did notice that the singers had many more shows to perform than they would have on larger ships. If I remember correctly, they performed five of the seven nights on board.
The ports we attended were the reason for our taking this particular cruise, our first stop was Key West. When we arrived in port there many other ships already there. The town was quite overrun but we did go to see the Hemingway house. It is a little expensive at $12.50 pp but we both enjoyed the tour and history of the place. Because we arrived later in the day we didn't have much time on shore, something that would repeat its self at almost all the ports we pulled into.
Our second port of call was Falmouth Jamaica. We arrived two hours later than our original ETA due to strong winds. We had booked a shore excursion on this stop and unfortunately because we were tardy in arriving, the tour ended up a bit of a mess. I don't think that if we had come in on time that this would have been the case but it did ruin any chance of seeing anything else of the town. After talking with some of our new friends on the ship we were told that the locals were very aggressive as they tried to sell you stuff.
Our next port was Georgetown Grand Cayman. This is a tendered port that is easily over run when there are many ships anchored in the harbour. If you can escape the tourist trap area, 7 mile beach is a good destination for some beach time, unfortunately for us we were last in once again and it didn't afford us enough time for much of anything.
Our last port of call was Cozumel. We have been to this port many times and we generally use it as our beach day. I was a little afraid of what we might experience as we were last in again (but fairly early in the morning) with seven other ships in port including the Allure of the Seas and the Mariner of the Seas. Ten thousand cruisers from those two ships alone. We grabbed a cab ($13) and headed south to one of the beach bars about seven or eight miles south of Puerto Maya. The beach was not as busy as I had feared. It was busy but not overly so. I like this way of doing a beach day if we don't go to one of the private islands in the Bahamas because for the cost of a drink $2.50 or so you get the use of lounge chairs and an umbrella.
My only complaint (and it is minor) is that the shore time was very short at all the ports.
All in all the cruise was most enjoyable and I can recommend this trip. The Ship may be a little worn down, but the staff was great on this cruise and made you overlook the ships problems.