April 14, 2008
This was my first solo cruise and my first short cruise. I have cruised nine times on mostly Carnival and Holland America. This was my second time to sail out of Miami, with the last time being in 2002.
This was the easiest embarkation ever. Once I had parked the car (something of a challenge) I walked into the terminal at 12.30 p.m., through check-in and was on board within 15 minutes.
I was able to drop my hand luggage in my cabin (R52). Having only the lower berth gave ample space (the upper was locked away). The bathroom has obviously benefited from the recent refurb. Robes in all cabins is a great addition (last time I cruised Carnival they were only available to balcony cabins). All that was lacking was a comfortable chair. Throughout the week cabin housekeeping was excellent although I would have preferred the bed to be made up earlier -- it was usually made up between 1 and 2 p.m. I didn't meet the steward until the third day.
I was impressed by the overall condition of the ship. The public areas were clean, comfortable and in great condition -- again a benefit from the recent refurbishment. During the week the only crowding was at the entrance to the Palace Theatre where the Gallerie shopping had spread into the foyer area.
There were plenty of places to just hang out and I spent at least a couple of hours each day in the library. Provided you didn't want the chairs nearest to the pool, there was always space on deck to relax. The aft Sports and Promenade (accessed from Lido) pool decks were less crowded.
Food met my expectations -- good but not outstanding. I loved the outdoor eating areas, especially the "fins" on the back of the ship off the Lido restaurant. I had continental breakfast there every morning; I had lunch and dinner (8.15 p.m.) in the dining room. Maybe it is typical of shorter cruises, but the ambience of the dining was lacking and service was somewhat sterile. Food in the Lido was cold and overcooked and I avoided it after the first day, with the exception of the snack bar by the pool (great cheese and nachos), and the pizza counter (which also cooked omlettes to order in the morning). These were both excellent.
I chose this ship and itinerary because I had a fixed sail date. Ports of call were Key West and Cozumel. Having sailed newer ships, I had wondered what to expect -- no complaints here. I was a little apprehensive about sailing solo, but unnecessarily so -- there were lots of solo guests, or singles in groups. Everyone at our dinner table was traveling "unattached." Certainly the youngest crowd I've traveled with, but a great multigenerational mix. This is very much a "get what you pay for" cruise, and as long as you keep that in mind it's hard not to have a good time.
Debarkation was almost as fast as embarkation. I used the self-assist which seems to be increasingly popular, so may not always be the best option in the future, but by 7.30 a.m. I was in my car and on the I-95.