We flew to Ft. Lauderdale on the 8th and arrived around 1:15 p.m. We asked the RSSC rep how many guests they were waiting on and we were told four. Wow, there are normally hundreds on the other lines waiting for a bus. Anyway we were off to claim our baggage and into a cab a little after 1:30. It was only a ten minute $10 ride and we were at Pier 21.
Now we are on our way. A brief trip inside to the terminal desk shows only four people being registered. We are immediately taken care of and an imprint of my credit card is made. It is now just before two o'clock. Anyone having cruised before will realize how expedient this process has been so far. We were informed before they do not board prior to three o'clock. Well not this time. We are escorted immediately to the ship stopping only for a security picture and a boarding photo opportunity. We are told that our room would be ready at three.
Upon boarding our small carry on bags are taken by a steward, a glass of champagne is offered and were are escorted to the Mariner Bar for a snack and more champagne. At this point we are immediately impressed with the look of the ship. She is truly beautiful. Just before three we are told our room is ready. Upon rising from our chair our bags are once again taken from us and we are escorted to our room.
Our room was a cat H on deck seven. This was the least expensive cabin but in all honesty it was centrally located to most everything. Doing the ship again I would request the same category and floor.
We enter the room and are amazed at the decor, craftsmanship and expanse. Many pictures are available on various websites but you can't get a real feel until you see it for yourself. It is not pretentious yet has an elegant look. Throughout the ship the same theme look repeats. The wood is gorgeous and everything is of the highest quality. Our luggage arrived before we did. Another pleasant surprise. Lots of room in the closet and the bathroom is huge. The tub is odd in that it is so high off the floor and tall folks have a tough time in the shower. I'm 6 feet tall and my head could touch the ceiling over the tub if I tried.
Well the glass of champagne (which was refilled twice before getting to our room) is now empty. An iced bottle is there waiting courtesy of Radisson. A second bottle is there as a gift from American Express for being a Platinum member. Also we find two shipboard credits. A $200 book and deposit credit from Radisson and an AMEX Platinum member credit of $300. My wife is determined to use it all. Two bottles of vodka, 2 beers and an array of mixers and soft drinks are in the fridge. Almost forgot, no lock on the fridge door. One bottle of vodka is sent back and a bottle of red wine replaces it. Canyon Road Cabernet. Nice wine. The beer and spirits are not replaced but the mixers, soft drinks and water are always replaced.
Out to the teak floored balcony to try our own champagne. Wonderful view without Plexiglas panels. I guess this is because there are so few children on board this line. On this cruise there were two wonderful kids still in strollers. They never screamed or cried. Kudos to the parents of these kids. We put the keeper on the champagne and off to explore the ship after unpacking.
We went down to deck five where we had embarked to the reception desk to get a ship map. On the way another glass of champagne is placed in our hands. The purser's staff is efficient and oh so polite. The layout map though is large and we thought it would be nice to downsize it a bit. No matter it was not needed for long. The ship is easy to find your way around.
by the way she does not seem small at 50,000 tons. The layout is done perfect with entries to lounges and other rooms only on one side. This allows the rooms to be larger. The Observation Lounge and the Horizon Lounge have the feeling of being large but comfortable. Honestly to me the ship seemed to be in the 70,000 ton class due to the efficient ingress and egress into the ship spaces.
The mandatory safety drill was effortless and comfortable. We assembled in a lounge for rehearsal of the drill. The poor folks on a Royal Caribbean ship across from us stood in the western sun of the promenade deck for what seemed like 30 minutes. Thank you RSSC. Off we sailed at 6:00 for our best cruise yet.
We did dinner tonight in La Veranda which becomes a Bistro at night. This is the breakfast and lunch buffet area during the day. At night they cleverly close off a portion (the buffet area) of the restaurant to make an intimate dining area. Here comes the wine. Woo, we hardly had recovered from the afternoon champagne. An excellent white wine in a bottomless glass as well as another excellent selection of red. I love wine and this cruise did not disappoint. Dinner was great with the best Tiramisu for desert. Tonight was a casual night and it was nice to see many of the men in sport coats.
Friday brings an at sea day as we head for Grand Cayman. It is nice to relax and explore more of the ship. We really love sea days. After breakfast we look for a chaise by the pool. No problem finding two together. When more are needed a pool attendant sets more up. At times we wonder where the rest of the guests are. After inquiring we find there are between 440 and 450 passengers out of 700 or so. This is great!
Lunch all days is in La Veranda and the pool grill. We get a steak sandwich and pair it with a good salad from the buffet. The selections are numerous and delicious. Always plenty of cold seafood like crab claws, shrimp, mussels and wonderful seafood salads.
Tonight is formal night and there are many tuxedos and many dark suits. Only a very few non-conformers but a least all gents had a jacket. We did dinner this evening in Signatures. Remember to make a reservation. This is the Cordon Bleu Restaurant and the service and wine were excellent. The room is candlelit and romantic. The food was good but not remarkable.
After dinner it is off to the casino to rid my pocket of some loose bills. The slots are very tight and there are quarter and dollar machines in a smallish area. The casino is a separate room that you don't have to pass through. Very little smoke as there are not many smokers on the cruise. What a pleasant surprise. There is one mini-craps table, one roulette wheel and three blackjack tables. They make the table totally fill before opening another. I swear I counted 9 at one table. The dealers are very pleasant as are all the staff on board.
I will not discuss the ports but will comment on the docking. Cayman is a tendering stop. At Cozumel we docked in town and spent one and a half days their.. No taxi needed. In Key West we docked at the Hilton Marina. No need for the tram. This was appreciated though I do wish we had an overnight here instead of Cozumel.
We assumed there would be three casual nights, one formal night and three informal nights on board. We were wrong and definitely over packed the good stuff. We ended up with only one informal night and most were dressed in country club attire (open collar with jacket). The ladies looked great each and every night. Not overdone, just great.
One guest lecture we really enjoyed were the proprietors of Dry Creek Vineyards. A husband and wife who had a true passion for their art. The first lecture and tasting brought out four different Fume' Blanc's and the second meeting they sampled Zinfandel, red not white. Their products were excellent and they answered many questions. They even politely ignored the French person who stated "French wines are far superior to California". Typical and rude remark.
We ate at all four restaurants. We liked the Bistro (La Veranda) for its small size and wonderful service. Signatures is a must do one time only. The Compass Rose looks like a standard large main restaurant. The service was very good as were the wines and food. Remember Radisson pours excellent complimentary wines with dinner. There is a list of different wines so if you don't like the evening suggestion ask for the list. We were fond of the Pinot Grigio and the Red Bordeaux.
The most memorable dinner to me was our time in Latitudes the other reservation required restaurant. The evening we dined there was a wine pairing tasting menu with more wines from Dry Creek Vineyards. The menu here is fixed. You sit down and they bring you a sampling of appetizers, soups and entrees. It was a difficult menu for the Dry Creek folks to pair but they did an excellent job. Try their wines if you see them in the store.
One downside to the cruise occurred the final evening aboard. We were weary after a long day in Key West and wanted to eat in La Veranda. Honda had about ninety people on board and they reserved the restaurant this evening. They had reserved the horizon lounge one other evening. I would have appreciated Radisson putting a note in the daily news stating this.
The final morning we asked for room service before our departure. When it arrived the waiter set up our table and it was large enough for our big breakfast and us. They hide a table top under the couch. White linen, china, silver and the best coffee ever on a cruise ship.
We waited longer than what we were told was normal for the ship to start debarkation. Some passengers did not show up for immigration as ordered. Our color though was called first. There are basically two groups. Those with fights before noon and those after. Down the ramp we went and easily found our bags. Many taxis were waiting and we were on our way to the airport.
To sum it up: This was our most enjoyable cruise ever. We have done ten now. The ship is very quiet but the disco does wind up around 10:30. For us it was so relaxing. The staff was excellent, always had a smile and a greeting. No tipping. Great complimentary wines at dinner. The best food yet. A great cabin and a wonderful vacation. We will visit her again.