We sailed a 4 day out of Miami visiting Nassau, CocoCay, and Key West. Normally, we sail on 7 day or longer cruises, but this winter, I could not get away for as long, but I still wanted my winter warm up. But after leaving the ship, I was not left thinking about my next cruise, I was left thinking how I can create the experience of a multi-destination vacation without the negatives that have overtaken the cruise industry.
But, I'll start by focusing on the positives: I liked the ship. It was not particularly special in any way, but it was comfortable and simple and clean and manageable. I very much dislike the "bigger is better" trend and prefer small ship cruising. The staff was outstanding. Our room steward, Winsome, was full of energy, always had a smile and a kind word, and attended to our requests immediately. Similarly, our dining room staff was very anxious to please. I even had the unfortunate experience of having to visit the medical center after I tripped on a sidewalk in Nassau and they were very attentive and helpful (though I did have to pay for the services, I am submitting a claim to my insurance now that I am home and hope to be at least partially reimbursed).
I also very much liked the itinerary. Though I had been to Nassau 3x before, it is an easy port to manage with everything one needs when looking for a winter warm up get away. I had been to the NCL private island before, but never to CocoCay and it was fantastic! The beach area was huge and went on and on and on. They have both protected "pools" for calm swimming and actual ocean front areas. They also have every form of water entertainment you can think of from snorkeling and stand up paddle board to glass bottom boat tours, jet skiis, kayaks, and even a water park. The food ashore was also varied with everything from burgers and dogs to ribs and chicken. I'd love to go back!
Key West was great, too, (except for customs clearance, read in "cons"). There was something great about feeling like you are on a remote tropical island, but still having all the comforts of home.
CONS: My biggest issue was with the fact that when we arrived in Key West, they made everyone stand in line for 45 minutes waiting to clear customs. Once the line started moving, it was fast, but the fact that we waited in the hall outside the show lounge for that long was a disaster (I ended up sitting on the floor). They need to figure out a better way.
I was also disappointed in the food. It was one of those cruises where everything looked tasty, but didn't taste as good as it looked. I find ships are hot or miss on food these days, but usually you can find one venue where the food is good (either Windjammer or MDR) in this case, both were average to poor.
Finally, our inside cabin was a bit of a tight squeeze. The bathroom was standard, but the storage was surprisingly lacking. We each only packed a carry-on and there was not enough places to store things you cannot hang (socks, undies etc)
I think next year, I will make the switch and go back to a non-cruise vacation (though I said that last year and after comparing costs, I reverted to the cruise again). We'll see, but I do wish that cruise lines stopped cutting back on the customer experience in order to make more money. I miss the chocolates on the pillow days :(