There were four of us traveling together - myself and my husband (mid 50's) and our friends - another couple - 40's and 60's. All of us have traveled a lot and have about 5 or 6 cruises behind us.
We went down a day early into Fort Lauderdale because you can never count on the weather in the Northeast in January. It actually snowed two days before we left. We all stayed at the Days Inn Bahia Cabana on Fort Lauderdale Beach. It's an older hotel - but clean and comfy and their restaurant and bar are fantastic. Nightly entertainment too! And, the beach is just across the street.
Boarding (about 11:30 or so) was effortless. We were on the ship and getting lunch by noon. We dropped off our bags and walked around the ship. I kept getting a sense of dEjà vu and couldn't figure out why. Took me a good day and a half to realize this ship is laid out EXACTLY like our Costa Mediterrania we were on in 2008! We met our Cruise Critic gang at the Orpheus Bar on the back Lido Deck at 2:30. What a great gang of people! Then it was off to the upper deck to watch us pull out of port.
Our room (8188) was a balcony room. Good size and plenty of storage. Our cabin steward was fantastic and got us whatever we required. Now, I'm not a complainer - but I must tell you if you are planning a cruise on this ship to SKIP THIS ROOM....we couldn't ever really figure out why but this room is exceptionally noisy. We think it's because it's just below the automatic door on the Lido Deck to the outside. All night long you hear a loud noise like someone is moving furniture! Other than that, we loved it.
The ship is laid out well except the deck is very "tight"....hard to move around in the daytime when the deckchairs are out. We liked the deck layout of the Freedom much better.
The food was really good - plentiful and tasty - in both the buffet and the dining room nightly. We went one night to Nick & Nora's Steakhouse and all I have to say is - don't eat all day.......they had to roll us out of there!
The shows were really good (although we had seen some of them last year on the Freedom).
The crew members who made our cruise memorable were: Vera the bartender in the Casino bar, our waiters Wenawe and Ibro, Vlad (another waiter we saw on the Lido every day) and our wonderful cabin steward Thararat (who left the ship suddenly in St.Kitts and had to fly home to Thailand).......
Our ports of call were St. Martin (our third trip) where we just took a cab to the Divi Little Bay and rented chairs and an umbrella ($10) and got lunch and drinks there. Then we met our friends at the Sunset Bar on Maho Beach to watch planes go in and out. Did some shopping at the pier and went back to the ship. St. Lucia - we used Fabian's Tours and had Tommy as a driver (if you go, ask for him!!!). Despite the fact that it rained on and off all day - we hit a landslide in the mountains and had to turn back and didn't get to go to the beach at all - this was the best tour we took. Tommy is very funny and knowledgeable about his island. He stopped many many times to let us get photos, to get us local foods, and to let us stretch our legs. We had a fantastic day with him. Again, shopping at the pier then back to the ship. St. Kitts - we used Liz Pereria Tours. We were not as impressed with the driver or the tour. He drove thru the town without really stopping so we could take photos - talked too fast and low for you to understand him - and it was an unimpressive tour. We spent most of the day at the beach (didn't take us to the Reggae Beach bar at Cockleshell like he was supposed to - it was another one in Frigate Bay just next to Ziggy's) where we had lunch and drinks and a really fun day. The owner's of our beach bar were super and the chef came out to ask us if our lunch was alright....it was really good! Again, shopping at the pier and back onto the ship.
We like the 2 days at sea out and the 2 days at sea back. Gives you a chance to rest and relax.
It was, overall, a very nice, relaxing and fun cruise and I'd recommend this ship to anyone. Also the itinerary. We had a fantastic trip.
Now - to the lady on the Lido deck that sat there all day Friday complaining about EVERYTHING from the dEcor to the staff - QUIT YOUR BELLYACHING!!!!! Some people have nothing better to do then complain about nothing and they are never satisfied with anything!!!! So - if all you want to do is complain about stupid things that are not true then stay home.
8188 - VERY NOISY - it's located just below the Lido Deck automatic door and the alcove where they bring food and dishes out to the deck. You can hear noises all night long. Our friends were right next door in 8190 and they had no problems with noise at all.