The New Year's cruise was nearly sold out, but arriving at the port at 2pm I did not expect it to take TWO HOURS to finally get to our cabin...just in time for the life boat drill (45 more minutes of standing around). Surprisingly though, our bags made it to the cabins before we did. We have two kids, ages 7 and 9, and opted for adjoining cabins on deck 7 with a Promenade view. They worked out fine except when the various late night bands started playing after midnight right outside our window, they're not THAT sound proof. The food was hit or miss, I had to keep reminding myself that despite the fine service, it was still "banquet food" for 3,000. The two exceptions to this are the restaurants Portofino (gourmet Italian) and Chops Grille. We liked Portfino quite a bit, whereas Chops missed on the appetizers and side dishes. Both will cost you $20 per head plus booze and gratuity and both are not open to kids under 13. Windjammer reminded me more of a college dorm cafeteria, you can always find something to get you by, but nothing will blow you away. The entertainment is not to be missed, truly first rate and enjoyable for all ages. The kids programs are decent, but fell well short of Disney's cruise programs. First of all, to get to them, you have to make your way through a strategically placed 150-foot long video arcade. None of the games are free, nor inexpensive. The kids activities mostly stayed within respective rooms and after 10 pm cost $5/hour per child. They did have a fenced in area near the beach for the kids in Haiti, although we had bad weather that day. Our kids basically had a good time in the kids' programs.The ship itself is the most remarkable thing. The cruise line though, does not miss an opportunity to help you rack up your bill. Lots of expensive excursions, gratuities, any and all liquor or soda, restaurant cover charges, the constant art auctions, gift shops, on-board jewelry stores and stands, the arcade, the spa, bingo games, to say nothing of the casino, will surely leave you with a hefty bill when you disembark. We had more than enough time to study it though because ALL cabins must be vacated before 8am, but since all the dining facilities are closed you get to hang around in the hallways and stairwells till they call your color to get off the ship. For us, that wasn't until nearly NOON!!!! And then another 45 minutes of lines going through customs and retrieving our bags and hailing a taxi. Cruising is a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of WORK!! Be prepared and have the right mindset and you'll have fun too.Mark L.From Illinois
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