This was our first cruise and I must say it was a fantastic experience. I had no idea of what to expect and found the food to be of excellent quality (and quantity), excellent dining service, good room service in fact all of the services were very helpful.
The employee's attitudes reflected that they sincerely tried to make it an enjoyable experience for all guests. The cruise director was quite an entertainer, providing good direction and keeping things running smoothly. The shows were of surprising quality. The whole trip was almost to the point of sensory overload with all the activities that were going on.
Prices on the ship were competitive with what you would expect to pay at the ports. I wish we could have had more time in the ports but it is understandable if you are to cram that much travel and activity in such a limited time.
One area I found difficult was to plan on how much money we would need during the trip. None of the reviews seemed to reveal how much to plan for. We were a group of 4 couples, moderately conservative with our spending and averaged about $400 per couple on board. This included a reasonable amount of drinks, 1 excursion which range in price from about $30 to $80, a few pictures on board, video purchase of the trip, and small things like that. The sign and sail card automatically charges your account $10 a day per person for gratuities ($80 a couple) that is included in my $400 estimate. If you go into the ports you will find the expected tourist traps and need additional funds. If you plan to gamble it could also increase the required funds.
The only thing I think the cruise could improve on is the photos. Photographers are constantly taking your pictures to capture the moment. They are posted in the photo shop and you have to find them and pay for the photos you wish to keep. They are quality photos but can get quite costly if you pick several of them. If they are not purchased the photos are destroyed at the end. The photographers stop couples on the gang plank to snap the photos and create unnecessary lines. I think the cruise lines could make the same profit margin and further promote the travel experience if they would put together photo packages of the individuals and sell them at a lower per photo price. They would sell more (at a lower profit margin) and the passengers would be showing off high quality photos of the trip to future potential travelers.
Embarkation and debarkation was very smooth considering the number of people being processed. I was very impressed with the total organization of the cruise and the attention to detail that was provided. It was overall a great experience.