We left out of Miami on Nov 16, 2009. The boarding process was very easy and streamlined. Our luggage arrived in our balcony cabin (which was very nicely located on the side of the ship right in the middle on the 9th deck.) We immediately went to get something to eat and drink. The food in the free buffets is okay but usually cold because of the breezes and sometimes just because food is everywhere that it will sit there awhile. The best place on the ship (in our opinion) to sit was at the very front of the ship. It had a fantastic view at all times and was always kept very clean. The staff are everywhere and were usually friendly and helpful. The first thing we experienced that we had issues with was that you are charged a daily fee for all your tips but you had buy a card or purchase them separately if you wanted sodas. If you wanted an alcoholic drink (mojitos, fruity drinks, beer) are everywhere and available at all hours) you had to purchase them on your room card and they charged the tip automatically and it was over $2.00 a drink! Everytime we had a drink for the two of us it was over $20! Since you don't get to pay for anything with cash, you really don't know what you are spending until the day you check out! Needless to say we only had drinks twice.
I do have to say that our most pleasant experiences (and most memorable) were when we ate at Le Bistro (had swordfish and filet mignon) and a bottle of wine and our bill was $90 (including the tip) and I would say it was well worth it! Unlike the bingo where we had to pay $78 for one person and it was over in less than 45 minutes! One thing I would like to tell everyone is that thre majority of the wait staff (at least those in the nicer restaurants) have college degrees in hospitality and are working their way up to running hotels so they are extremely professional. We talked with at least 10 of them and got to know them and they really great people!
Everyday we received a newsletter that had all the activities for the day in it and information on where the ship was stopping the next day.We had a great time at all of the ports but would discourage anyone from paying for any of the excursions through the ship as they are very expensive and you can purchase the excursions off the ship much cheaper. for example, when in Nassau we wanted to go to the Atlantis Resort and see the big aquarium. On the ship the excursion was over $50 a person. We opted to do it on our own and paid $12 for a ferry to Atlantis and got in for free. We saw many of the folks from the ship there and saw the same things they did.
In the newsletter they had alot of events where they would have you come and listen or participate and say you would get something free. We never got anything free but they really do try hard to get you to buy stuff. The duty free shop had reasonable prices so if you are interested in that kind of thing, you can get some stuff to take back. We didn't buy any watches, jewelry, liquor, or cigarettes like many of the people. Our bill at the end was still over $500 and we really didn't purchase anything but the bingo, a few drinks, dinner twice, and a bottle of water.
I wish there had been more things to do on the ship but the shows were okay and the comedien was really funny! The ship uses the same people as their dancers and singers in all the shows. The female dancers are extremely good and the guy dancers are okay. The female singers are older than the dancers and are not real good but they smiled alot and made it enjoyable. The one thing we really didn't care for was the cruise director. He was good at the coordination of events but he said the most irritating things on a continual basis and was not really entertaining. He would always say something about having a "Good time" and he would pronounce it really high pitched and say it like "Guuut time". They really need to look at the whole entertainment thing and get some more people in for the shows. The "fountain" act was really funny!
Overall, I read all the reviews on the ship before we left and appreciated having folks really fill me in on the pros and cons and the tips that would help us plan better. I know this review might have sounded negative but if it weren't for the nickling and diming us to death and the lack of good or diverse entertainment options, it would have been better. As it was, we had a fantastic time and since it was our honeymoon, we enjoyed it even more. The balcony cabins are the way to go and make sure you go to the specialty restaurants! The food and service are to die for!
Deboarding was also extremely streamlined and I would encourage folks to leave early as there are no lines at customs.
the bed was so hard we were hurting in the mornings. The little towel animals were a cute touch. We never had enough towels if we went out during the days and didn't get enough shampoo or conditioner for two people. the balconies were great! Needed more room at the table since that is the only place to put your food, drinks, personal belongings, and to blow dry your hair. Need more electrical outlets. Overall, the room was okay but the balcony made up for it!
Not much to do but shop at the market with all the same things. You can also cross the street and go to the beach. It was $25 to rent chairs. You can venture into town but the taxis were expensive (I was told). We did like talking to the locals.
Don't bother hanging out at the shops along the shore unless you really just want to shop as it is all the same things. Go exploring back into town. We got to talk to some of the folks participating in the local Parliament sessions, visit a local 173 year old church that was in session and meet the pastor and some of the congregation, go on the local ferry to Atlantis and take lots of pictures, and have a drink at Starbucks! This was a great stop but again, skip the shopping!