My husband and I decided to take this short getaway cruise because it was going to just be the two of us for Thanksgiving. Honestly we didn't know what to expect since the reviews were all over the place but we decided to go for it anyway. You could say we are open to a little adventure. Since we typically cruise on Celebrity, our standards are pretty high, but decided that we were getting a great deal (Thank you Groupon!!), and hey, it was only 2 nights! We were so pleasantly surprised!!
We drove down to Palm Beach the day before the cruise so we could make sure to get on the ship as early as possible to look around and enjoy the time we were onboard. We stayed the night at Courtyard by Marriott, great stay as usual. The next morning, we ventured out to find a good breakfast and stumbled upon The Southern Kitchen and would highly recommend to anyone in the area.
We arrived at the Port and Valet parked the car, be prepared and bring cash for this, $17/day. Easy 20 foot walk into the building, walked thru security, dropped off our luggage and up the escalator to check in and give CC info for onboard expenses. Since we were celebrating Thanksgiving with this getaway, we splurged and upgraded to a Balcony cabin. Would definitely spend the extra money again for this little treat! We walked thru the typical 'take your photo' in and then were escorted to the excursion desk. We had previously decided to just rent a car and explore Freeport on our own, which is typically what we do rather than an escorted excursion. At the excursion desk, we were offered free transportation, admission to an all inclusive resort, lunch, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), use of the resort amenities all for free!! We just had to sit and listen to a 90 minute presentation for a 'vacation club'. Well, who could say no!? So we signed up, knowing what we were in for.
The next stop was at the beverage package table. Neither my husband or I drink much, but opted for the 10 drink booklet deciding we would just split them. 10 drinks for $65, pretty good deal, Morgan and Coke runs about $6.50, and I found the Martini bar which were $9.50+ each. Definitely worth the expense if you think you will use them. After this, it was straight up the gangway and on the ship! Really one of the easiest boardings we've ever had.
They told us our cabin would be ready about 230, so we decided to explore.
We went to the upper deck before it started raining and walked to the back of the ship. Very roomy, not very crowded and to our surprise, probably one of the cleanest ships we've ever been on. Considering this ship makes the journey back and forth to the Bahamas pretty much every day, thats pretty impressive. The bars and restaurants were very clean, food was really fresh, hallways, common areas were virtually spotless. There were a few pools, (can't really say how many, we didn't use them) but they looked really clean and well kept, towels were available everywhere.
We meandered back to our cabin V1, about 225 and decided to see if it was available. They leave the key in the door so we tried and voila, in we went. I was so pleasantly surprised!! The cabin was so incredibly spacious, even with a walk-in closet!! Not that we brought a lot of clothes, but still, the space was there! There was a large vanity that was across from the bed, which was separated from the living area by a decorative glass wall. The living area was large and incredibly spacious with a couch, coffee table and 2 chairs, with a slider leading out onto the large balcony. Let me say that all of the balconies will have a partially obstructed view forward and aft, but this one was unobstructed if you were looking straight out. 2 chairs out on the balcony and this is where i planted myself to read for a little bit before we departed down to our wine tasting event!
We are wine drinkers, and have done many tastings on many ships. This one wasn't as well organized and left a little to be desired when explaining the different wines, but as it was explained, we could have as much as we wanted in the 90 minutes of the event. For the price, it was definitely worth it. I think it was $12, and there were some wonderful wines from France, South Africa, America, Italy and Australia. Great variety along with some cheeses, breads and fruit. It was here that we were given the option to sign up for the Wine Connoisseur Dinner the next night. 7 wines with 7 courses... more about that later...
After this we went back to the cabin to change for dinner. We dined in Stellar Prime, which is included in the cost of the cruise with no up-charge. I had the turkey (again celebrating Thanksgiving) and my husband had the prime rib. The turkey was pretty good, different spices were used that I couldn't quite recognize, but definitely tasty, with they typical sides of dressing, sweet potato mash, peas and gravy. My husband said the prime rib was cooked well, but it was definitely not a 'hefty' cut, and could have been a little more filling. I don't recall the sides but I can say the dessert was great! We were so full we went back to the cabin to relax for a bit, and watched the sights as we pulled out of port.
We changed and went down to the martini bar for a few drinks and enjoyed the piano man and his songs! Great martinis!! We stayed for a bit and then decided to turn in, so full and relaxed, never made it to any of the shows or other bars!
Bed was comfy but I kept waking up because of the ship rocking from the waves and wind, so can't say I got a great nights sleep, but not for lack of trying.
We got up the next morning, had a few pastries and then went down to meet our group for the adventure that awaited. Group was about 24 people, we got on the first bus driven by Nell... I actually kept her card, we'll call her to drive us around when we go back to go diving!...They dropped us off at the Casino, which we walked thru, then took us over to the 'vacation club presentation'. We met with a nice woman, who explained everything to us, took us to a restaurant for breakfast, pretty generic, and then a tour of the resort. Nice resort, beautiful pools, gorgeous beaches, plenty of restaurants, spacious rooms...etc, etc. Went back, sat down, prepared to say no and said no, then got the hard sell.. Almost felt trapped, they were trying to make the best deal so we could come back.. etc. anyway, we finally made our point and left, heading over to try one of the restaurants we had seen. Food was ok, again generic chicken sandwich, (didn't have the fajita wrap because it was being prepared, burgers and chicken only) Anyway, enjoyed a little bit at the beach then decided to head on back to the ship on the next shuttle. Lucky enough to get Nell again and she gave us more info about the island!
Easy boarding process back on the ship. Went to the room to get a nap and then get ready for the Wine Connoisseur Dinner. (Did get a good nap in this time).
We were told to meet about 600 in the Martini Bar (lucky me!) for first course and wine. We had the understanding we would be with a group of people who signed up for this dinner, but it turned out it was our own private table! At this point, I can't tell you all the foods we ate, but I can say it was all absolutely wonderful and perfectly paired with all of the wines, and the sommeliers were attentive and explained all of the wines. If you're in to this kind of thing, it was well worth it! 7 courses took about 3 hours, and we enjoyed every minute of it!! Stopped at the martini bar to use my last drink coupon and then went back up to the cabin to sit on the balcony and enjoy watching the light of the Bahamas fade in the distance.
Again, wind and rain that night, bed was comfy but not much sleep because of the rocking.
Disembarkation was easy!! Had breakfast, took our luggage, walked off the ship and got our car!
Overall this was a great trip! Although this ship is 28 years old, you can tell she is loved and well taken care of and so clean!!. The staff was there at every turn to help with anything we needed and our cabin attendant Ernesto was wonderful!! Can't wait to plan another short getaway with them!