I purchased directly through the cruise line and felt that I saved a few dollars and received a better package than going through groupon. After reading other reviews, I had low expectations before boarding. I brought a power strip to overcome the one plug available in the room, a yeti cup since the cups in the buffet were small, and a white noise machine - all were needed and useful and I recommend bringing if you decide to take this cruise.
We have US passports and purchased the Express Pass for $49. I felt the Express Pass was a waste of money, I will go into detail below.
We arrived at the port around 11 am. Valet was efficient, we received our parking slip and were sent to have our luggage tagged. We were approached about adding a concierge package, we declined. We were then sent inside to go through security, quicker than airport security. Once through, you drop your checked luggage down a long hallway and then head upstairs to begin the check in process. Upstairs, there were few people in line, we only had a moment wait before being helped (no need for the express pass). From research, I knew about needing a card on file and the $100 hold. I had prefilled the form and had it ready for checkin. After receiving our cruise cards, we saw all the "extras" available for purchase. We had booked our excursion in advance over the phone. We knew in what we wanted, but were confused on where exactly to go. We figured it out and was able to book a fine dining experience at the Rock Grille (highly recommend!). The employee kept trying to upsell us to a package and push us to eat at the Admiralty Club instead. We declined and headed to purchase a soda package. We had ten free drink coupons through our package, yet the next employee did try to sell us another, we said we just wanted one soda package. We signed a form, received a copy, and got our soda cup.
After a twenty minute wait, where there were cookies and lemonade available, we were able to line up for boarding. An announcement was made that the buffet would open at 12 PM on deck 10 and rooms would be ready at 1. The room key is in the cabin door.
Boarding was efficient, swipe your cruise card, security checks your picture and you're on. We went straight to the buffet, but were led to a table by the pool area. We were confused, we wanted to eat but there were others sitting at these tables. Decline to sit, this was an upsell to get you to buy a $17 alcoholic drink cup. I was close, since the drinks were twice the size of the ones you get at the bars, but with the drink coupons you still have to pay $3 per drink. With this info, I declined. We then headed to the buffet and were surprised at the good quality of the food. There were employees walking around attempting to sell the $17 cups. With my soda cup, I was unclear where to receive soda - you have to go to a bar for soda. There's one in the back of the buffet. All the bartenders I went to were nice and happy to fill the cup.
After lunch, we explored the ship and relaxed for sometime in one of the cabanas on deck 12. They made the announcement at 1 that rooms were ready, we headed to our room on the 7th floor.
The whole ship was clean, the room included. It was an oceanview, with a nice, large window. There were two small beds pushed together to make a queen bed, the bed was very comfortable. Our housekeeper checked in on us, made sure we had what we needed and when I asked about our excursion passes, he brought them directly to me. With the express pass, we were supposed to have luggage priority, many people on our hallway had their bags before us and the two bags came at different times (another reason not to bother with the extra expense).
While on board, we found there weren't many activities that we enjoyed. We don't care for clubs or dance contests and the included entertainment was ... not good. Think a poor high school musical. We actually walked out.
Dinner at the Rock Grille was amazing. It was hard to find, they actually convert one of the sides of the pool deck 10 midship into the restaurant. It was warm, but they had fans blowing. It was well worth the $39 pp upcharge.
The next morning brought rain as we arrived in Freeport. We went to the meeting area for our jeep excursion, received our wristbands, and waited. After a while, we were informed our excursion had been canceled due to the weather and we were sent to deck 5 to receive a refund and book another. We were not offered any specials (though they were being offered pre-boarding as a b1g1 free) even though I asked. We were only offered 1 excursion, the best of the Bahamas city tour and beach visit. The couples next to us were offered different ones and received 20% off, so I'm not sure why.
The tour was a charter bus, with a funny guide and driver. The guide had poor time management skills. We had to cut many stops short because of this. Freeport is not nice, many run down buildings. We ended up at a beach owned by the tour company, included lunch was nice and the coconut drinks ($16 each) were amazing. We ate at Stellar Prime this night, which is challenging to find. We were seated with three other couples at an eight top. The food was just ok.
Once we arrived back to WPB, we went to the express disembarking area at 830am, we lined up and went right through with our passports (another reason to not need the Express Pass). Total time from line to car was less than 20 minutes.
This ship can go 19 knots, meaning at full speed the trip to Freeport should take less than four hours. This company takes 14 hours, with the only reason is to get you to spend more money on board. The boat must stop many times during the night. It began to list the morning we were arriving in Freeport, not sure if this is usual. The first night I continued to hear a loud thud and what sounded like someone running down the hallway (there wasn't anyone out there). I'm not sure what this was, it could be heard over my white noise machine and only happened between 1am and 5am the first night. Also, the next morning we heard maintenance knocking on doors, we looked out to see that the hallway had standing water about 4 doors down. This didn't impact us.
Another reviewer discussed the clientele on the ship. With this price point, the Dollar General crowd is a good description.
The ships elevators are small and slow, we opted to take the stairs rather than wait. My fitbit stated I went up 25 flights of stairs each day of the trip.
We did not use the pools or hot tub, they were always full of too many people in the small spaces.
I checked my final bill, it was correct at $117, the hold my credit card account was $195 instead of $100.
A side note about the valet, I drive a sports car and have a driving app through onstar on my phone. Once on board, I pulled up my app and discovered the valet took my car for a joy ride, with many hard accelerations and hard braking. I had to disembark and finally spoke to the COO of the port who assured me they would investigate and the valet would be fired. If you have a nicer car, take precautions in advance or explore other transportation options.
Overall, I would not take this cruise again. It met my low expectations, but did not exceed them. The only positive I have was eating at the Rock Grille. There are other options in Florida to enjoy similar things without the cost or clientele, especially in the keys.
Good location. Did hear a banging noise the first night. This could not be heard the second.