First, a little perspective. My wife and are in our mid 40s and not big partiers. We like to keep active. Keep that in mind while reading this review.
Embarkation. This was my first cruise out of New Orleans and I found this to be frustrating. There was a huge cheerleader competition going on the day we left and there were about a million people driving and walking around downtown, so it took forever to get anywhere downtown. The parking lot that Royal Caribbean directed us to on the website (the whale lot) was apparently not available for cruisers, so we had to find an alternative. We ended up parking at the Fulton Street Garage. This location charged $12 a night instead of the $16 charged at the "official" cruise parking area, so we saved some money. However, by the time we got into the garage and drove to the top of the structure, the garage was full, so we had to leave our keys for the parking attendants and they parked the car for us after the daytime events ended. I wasn't crazy about leaving my keys there, but hey, my car is insured! Be forewarned, you will need to hang onto the parking ticket they issue you when you enter, and you will need to be able to find it when you return from your cruise so you can exit the ramp. Once we were parked and delivered to the cruise ship terminal the check in process was fairly routine: spent some time waiting, but they got us on board in what I thought was a reasonable amount of time.
Food. Always a highlight of our cruises in the past, and we were not disappointed. We had all of our dinners in the main dining room. Really the only thing I tried that I didn't like much was the lamb shank. The beef shoulder was the most tender piece of beef I had the entire trip, and that includes 2 servings of prime rib. Appetizers were great, soups were great. We did the Windjammer buffet for breakfast and that was fine; typical cruise breakfast food. We did the main dining room for breakfast one day, and found it basically to be a buffet, with some other breakfast foods available for ordering, and one or 2 things that we couldn't get in the Windjammer buffet. Lunch in the main dining room was great. Service was great, and the food was tasty. We went to the 24 hour food area on the promenade deck a few times for snacks and/or pizza, and that was fine. We did not try Johnny Rocket's or Portofino's; I couldn't imagine paying more for different food.
Ship. I found the ship to be very clean, and didn't really notice many areas of wear that others have mentioned. It was easy for us to find our way around the ship after a short period of time. The ship has a classy feel, and not too much of the tackiness I have seen on other ships. Smoking areas were limited, so we didn't have to put up with smoke too much.
Crew. Our room steward, Made, and dinner servers, OZ and Roxanna, were excellent. Made always greeted us with a smile, and opened our door for us if we happened to be approaching our room when he was nearby. OZ and Roxanna got to know our preferences for lemonade, and made sure we were well cared for. Service was expedient and very friendly. Due to high seas, a cart rolled into one of our tablemates, causing soup to spill down the back of his suit. It wasn't anyone's fault, but our servers and the headwaiter made sure that our tablemate was well taken care of.
Entertainment. The singing and dancing were average cruise ship shows; nothing outstanding, but entertaining. We have found that cruise directors tend to be a little annoying, but this cruise director, Keith, was one of the most tolerable cruise directors we ever had. He was low key, but still managed to keep the crowd interested. We danced to the musical group Synergy several times and found them to be entertaining. They played music from our era, and played it well. The repertoire was somewhat limited, so we heard some of the same songs each night, but we still enjoyed them. We loved the comedian, Tom McTigue. Funny stuff, and nothing too terribly inappropriate. Singer Kevin James was a good singer, but I thought he spent too much time talking about himself. I didn't really need to see footage of him winning Star Search. He had a little bit of that lounge singer sound. The Elvis impersonator, Travis Ledoyt, was very good. He looked and sounded like an early Elvis. The gymnast, Lance Ringnald, was different than anything I had ever seen on a cruise ship, so that was noteworthy. His physical feats were amazing, and he was entertaining. But the highlight of the trip, entertainment-wise, was the ice show. I've never been a big fan of skating (figure skating on TV bores me quickly, and I once fell asleep at Disney on Ice) but this was amazing. Make sure you see it!
On board activities. We enjoyed the rock climbing, ice skating and inline skating. We also did the craft one afternoon, which was tolerable. We didn't participate in any trivia or karaoke contests. Finding a lounge chair during the peak of the day was difficult at times. I don't think they really enforce that rule of moving people's stuff off of chairs if the people haven't been around for 30 minutes. Shuffleboard, miniature golf and ping pong were all rather challenging on a rolling ship!
Disembarkation. We do the self-assist disembarkation every chance we get, and it worked out great for this trip. We were off quickly, we went through customs and immigration quickly, and we had a short wait for our shuttle to the parking garage, even though we probably could have walked to the garage. We were on the road by 8:30 am.