Background info: We are from the Houston area. I am 47 and my wife is 45. We have three children (they stayed home with Grandma). This was our second cruise. Our first was on the Inspiration last summer.
It was the best of times... It was the worst of times.
The Best of Times: My wife and I were very excited about this cruise. For personal reasons this cruise was enormously important to us. Having taken only one cruise in our life, and that being on a different line and an entirely different type of cruise, we were not sure what to expect.
We had a pretty good idea that it was going to be a good cruise. We were not disappointed. While it was not perfect (nothing in life is perfect, INCLUDING MYSELF), it was as close to it as one could hope for.
Embarkation was very fast and easy. Yes, if you follow the directions in your cruise book, things go faster! We actually had the necessary forms filled out (two weeks before our cruise). A lot of people didn't for some reason.
First impression was that it was a bit warm in and near the elevators. (that got better when we got underway). Running a close second as impressions go was "UH... UH... UH... " which is short for "MAN, THIS IS ONE FINE SHIP"!
I'm not sure when I realized I wasn't in Kansas anymore :-D.
It is very elegant in it's decor and setup. The Centrum has an enormous work of art hanging suspended in mid-air. There is a multi-level running water sculpture below it. There is a wide variety of colorful artwork throughout the ship that was fun to discover. I had read that her carpet and furnishings were a bit stained and worn. Some places were like that a little, but with 2000 people onboard continuously you can hardly expect anything different. It wasn't that bad and in NO way did it detract from our enjoyment.
I was a bit disappointed when we arrived at our stateroom to find that the flowers I had ordered the week prior to our cruise were the only thing that showed up. The chocolate covered strawberries and wine were missing. It was explained (unfortunately in front of my wife) to me that we had to be so many miles out at sea before they could deliver it. Strawberries came that night (actually twice) and the wine was chilling for us when we returned from breakfast the next morning. We had eaten the berries by then and we didn't feel like wine at 10AM so we just brought it home. Not that big a deal I just wish someone would have let me know it was like that. That way I still could have surprised my wife. Anyhow, it's ours to enjoy at a special time in the future. We can reminisce about our cruise then. It will be nice.
I had been told that the staterooms were smaller that the Inspiration's, but if they were I couldn't tell. There was plenty enough room and we never felt cramped at all. There was even enough room on the sides of our bed. I'm not sure if our room steward saw that we were a couple and pushed the two beds together before we got there, OR if they were always like that. I wonder because other cabins nearby had beds that were separated before the guests arrived. The window was a nice upgrade from the inside stateroom on our other cruise.
It took a couple of days to get oriented to where everything was onboard, and to be honest I still got a little turned around every now and then until the last day. Did I mention that we found it to be an AWESOME ship?
Our favorite place onboard was quickly discovered...The solarium pool! The decor is done in Egyptian with sarcophagus as columns. There are Egyptian statuettes along the top of the wall on one side of the pool. The "Eye of Ra" on another wall, statues of scarabs and sphinx-like statues guarding the pool. Water flowed into the pool from two holes surrounded by what appeared to be snakes. Hieroglyphics everywhere....and every so often you could hear the sounds of jackals howling in the distant and bird chirping. This area was very peaceful and there was never a problem with any youngsters being in there. In fact we really seldom saw any kids in the area at all, except to get a burger, hot dog or pizza every once in a while. No unruly adults either (that was special also).
The canopy was closed the first day ONLY, as I recall.
The other pool area was nice and the band that played there "Hot Sands" was exceptional (a word that I can use for almost everything about this cruise). We spent some time there and enjoyed the upbeat, party atmosphere that prevailed, but we would soon return to the solarium.
We enjoyed diner (main seating) in the Eidelweis every evening. It was a real treat for my wife to dress up and enjoy an altogether new and exotic dish every time. We enjoyed most of these unfamiliar dishes. The more familiar and much anticipated meals like the filet mignon, the lobster and prime rib didn't disappoint us either. It was let me see... hmmm... exceptional!
RCCL must have done some profiling in choosing our dinner companions. There were three couples at our table. The three women were all accountants (and NO!... they were anything but boring) and two of the three men were involved in the medicine / paramedic field. One of the couples was a delightful newlywed couple on their honeymoon. The other couple was our age and very interesting, nice people. We also had a few lunches and a couple of breakfasts there. My wife and I would ask for a table for two at lunch.. It was our "private little five star restaurant" It was as I said above "The Best of Times".
The Windjammer was pretty good with a large variety of foods, and we ate most of our lunches and breakfasts there. The omelets are by far the best thing going at breakfast. The windjammer offers great views while coming into the ports.
The port of calls are really what you make of them. We were disappointed in the decisions we made in Key West and Grand Cayman as far as the excursions are concerned, but "we made them". I'm not going to say what we chose to do, as everyone has different tastes and might well have liked what we did.
Our Cozumel excursion was another story for us. We chose (I have to tell you this one) The Passion Island trip. We thoroughly enjoyed this one! First of all, If you book, you will be extremely fortunate if you get a young man named "Alehandro" as a guide. He has an amazing talent that you would not believe is possible. He was very entertaining and made EVERY SINGLE INDIVIDUAL feel special. Like I said, you will hardly believe what he can do (and NO, I'm not going to tell you).
The island itself and all that goes with this tour is well worth it! If we are ever in Cozumel again, we will do the tour again!
We didn't get to participate in any of the typical onboard cruise director activities like horse racing, bingo, art auctions, belly flop contests, etc. but involved ourselves with each other. It was much more pleasurable than any activity Kyle the cruise director (seems like a nice guy and good at his job) could have come up with. I just wanted to make this cruise special for my wife.
I'm sort of like this cruise... Pretty good, but not perfect. I know my wife enjoyed herself in spite of me :)
The guest entertainers included a pretty funny comedian named John Wing, a very talented comedian / juggler (don't remember his name). We really enjoyed his performance.
Our favorite show BY FAR was "The Fifth Dimension" We had front row seats to what was a spectacular performance. They ALL can belt it out!
BTW, the ship was extremely stable and I couldn't even tell we were on a ship in our cabin, until we left Cozumel on Friday night. There was a storm brewing and a lot of wind but we outran it by Saturday. My wife wasn't bothered by the movement, but I was a bit uneasy in the belly Friday night.
The staff was very good and I made sure to point this out to a number of the supervisors. These people never quit smiling the entire time we were onboard. By looking at them you would think that they were the ones on vacation.
I was glad to find the volume knob for the stateroom announcement speaker :)
This cruise was a keeper!
Now for the "Worst of Times": We had to get off after only seven days! :-( We had to go back to work! We won't be able to do this again for a while! The staff didn't follow us home to keep doing what they were doing so well!
If anyone has any specific questions, I will be happy to reply via e-mail. Mark