This was my fourth cruise, and one of those cruises was on this ship in 2010. I'm 57 years old and traveled with my sister this time on a "girl trip." Before I even left my home, I was determined to choose my attitude and be as flexible as possible. There were a couple of challenges on this trip, but nothing that even came close to being a real problem.
We flew to Ft. Lauderdale the day before the cruise and took the Tri-Rail (train) a few stops north to Deerfield Beach where we stayed at the Holiday Park Hotel. This elderly, but beautiful place offered comfortable and affordable accommodations. I enjoy a place that's been around long enough to offer mature plants in the courtyard. We chose Holiday Park because it is within walking distance of many shopping opportunities -- we like to get large containers of sunscreen and the like after we get off the plane so that we don't have to check any luggage.
The next day we took the Tri-Rail back to the Ft. Lauderdale station and were picked up by SAS Transport. The price is affordable and the ride is comfortable, but be prepared to be patient, as the owner tries to make the most of each trip, picking up people, often at a moment's notice. There were people in our van who had been on for quite a while before getting dropped off at the cruise port. My advice is to bring a book, exercise patience, and enjoy the savings SAS offers. Two of our fellow passengers on this trip were a mother and child going to meet the husband/father who is a production dancer on the Destiny. So it added extra fun to watch, listen, meet Dad at the cruise port, and then watch him in several dance revues.
Embarkation was smooth and uneventful. We were briefly stopped at security because we each carried on a 12-pack of soda, but there was no problem once it was determined it wasn't alcohol (and we saved a ton of money bringing our own soda). We waited a very short period of time before boarding the ship, getting there in time for lunch. The past two cruises, we decided to wheel our own bags on, rather than checking them. For us, it's great. We only pack one carry-on and a boarding bag, so we wheel them on easily, enjoy lunch, and usually our cabin is ready shortly after. No waiting and no worrying.
Given the recent cruise ship tragedy, we paid particular attention to the muster drill, noting exactly where our station was, but the drill itself was painless. Yes, it's boring, but it was interesting to people watch with my sister during the duller moments. And even people who are late or not following the rules can teach by their bad example. I learned several new things during that muster drill from these "teachers." Sail-away was fun exuberant and I enjoyed watching the sights as we left.
The last time on the Destiny, we had ocean-view cabins with our husbands; this time we chose an inside cabin, which was smaller, but entirely acceptable for two smallish women (my husband is a big guy and might've been a little cramped in a smaller room). There were a few mechanical things that needed attention through the course of the cruise, but the staff was quick to respond (reading light was burned out, plastic shower bracket broke -- that kind of small thing). Our room steward Putu was on the ball and our room was always lovely and clean, making it a pleasure to return "home." We enjoyed the towel critters each evening, too.
We had our usual experiences getting lost and trying to find things, even though we were on this ship less than 2 years ago. That's just part of the fun for us. We consulted the deck plan frequently and also walked quite a bit getting familiar (again) with the ship's layout. It's a large ship and has the usual plan where the dining rooms interrupt the decks necessitating a bit of up and down getting to the other side.
We ate as many meals as possible in the dining rooms. As a diabetic, it's easier for me to make smarter choices when I choose from a menu, with time to consider. Buffets with their many choices, jostling folks, and confusion have a way of providing more food than I need. The meals that we ate in the dining room were excellent. Some things I liked better than others, but nothing was inedible. I noticed a bit of down-scaling from our trip in 2010, but the food was delicious and I enjoyed every meal. We also enjoyed our trips to the buffet, and after a day or so, figured out that there was always good seating by the aft pool with a view and a bit more quiet. The buffets did an especially good job with breakfast. Before I leave the dining experience, I want to mention that our trip with two people was different from being in a foursome. When we were on this ship with our husbands we chose the anytime dining (as we did on this cruise), but as a foursome, we were usually seated at a "good" table overlooking the downstairs. As a twosome, we were asked if we wanted to wait for a table for two or if we would be willing to share a table. Most of the tables for two were not tables I would have chosen, but I understood the necessity for squeezing as many tables into the space available. We were not socially prepared to share, and at first didn't relish the opportunity, but I have to say that nearly every time we shared, we met interesting people and learned much. One breakfast was shared by a cruiser who was on her 4th back-to-back cruise by herself; we shared another breakfast with two ladies who are port security staff and that was intriguing; we met a middle-aged couple on their first cruise; and all-in-all, by making the best of this social challenge, our cruise became a richer experience.
The weather was perfect and we made both our ports (I'll discuss the ports later in the review).
The revues in the very nice theater setting were professional and enjoyable. We ordered bar service during one show and drinks were promptly served and were well made. I noticed that a few of the routines were recycled from our 2010 trip, but still enjoyed each production. The women's costumes are a bit skimpy a la burlesque, but I was not offended; I appreciated that parents were warned about this in advance.
We spent a good deal of our time on deck with our fitness hula hoops. That's always fun and we were able to find places to use them that didn't impede traffic or cause problems. One day when it was especially windy, we went to the spa/gym area and were able to use our hoops in there. On another day, a club was open but empty and we were able to use the stage for hoop practice. We attempted to play miniature golf on one of our at-sea days, but it was just too windy for that. The pools are rather small on the Destiny and not much real swimming could be done, but a couple of times I was able to work in a few laps at odd hours when the crowd was elsewhere. They were adequate for cooling off and I never saw them so crowded that I couldn't take a quick dip if I wanted. I did notice children in the hot tubs, but as that's not something I particularly enjoy, it didn't affect me. We participated in some line-dancing on deck, but didn't go to any clubs or night activities. The shopping available on the ship was predictable; I don't believe I purchased anything from the shops, although I enjoyed looking.
One day we went to the children's area to find out what went on there as we both have children and grandchildren. We were amazed at the number of activities planned each day and even the opportunity for children to be "night owls" so that Mom and Dad could enjoy a late night themselves. I was very impressed with the facility and the staff.
Speaking of staff, we didn't interact a lot with staff, but I found the ones we met or spoke with to be pleasant, courteous, and efficient. In 2010 one of the things we filmed was a little dance routine performed by the dining room staff to the Jai Ho song. One of the staff, a terrific dancer, jumped up on the bar and danced his little heart out. My husband and sister teased me about this fellow because I was so taken with him. So it was such a kick to find him still working on the Destiny! One evening I had my picture made with Richard and found out a bit about his life and family. That experience characterized the overall staff attitude -- friendly (but not fawning), serious about their jobs, and capable.
Disembarkation was challenging. We were quite late coming into port and this generated a panic among some passengers. The staff and crew didn't handle the situation very well and it was trying. As I had been on the Destiny before where we just walked off without problems, I knew this had to be an aberration and I tried not to be overly frustrated. We were not able to get the flight we planned on (out of Miami) but were able to use SAS Transport to get us back to Ft. Lauderdale where we were able to snag a couple of seats and get home a few hours later than planned. Being flexible on disembarkation day and not planning tight travel schedules eliminates a lot of stress. We were prepared to spend another night in Ft. Lauderdale, if necessary, but everything worked out. The disembarkation situation certainly did not spoil the trip for me, even though my travel plans needed adjustment. It was another opportunity to learn to be more flexible. I sat on deck reading a book and it wasn't an unpleasant time.
I rate this cruise highly and I enjoyed every day and tried to absorb as much as I could for my mental scrapbook. Even now, several weeks later, my body is back home, but my mind is in the islands, enjoying the turquoise water and the rest of creation. It was a wonderful adventure and I have no complaints about the ship, the staff, or the ports we visited.