First off I will say that our family has definitely caught the cruising bug!!!!
Embarkation was very fast and easy. From the time we walked through the doors of the terminal till the time we got on the ship took maybe an hour. And some of that was waiting for some of the members of our party to get through the metal detectors and collect their things. My father in law has metal knees and had to have the wand detector check him out. We were one of the lucky people who got cards from the time we walked in the terminal till we boarded the ship. Every station we stopped at marked how long it took us to get to each place. I guess they were using us as quality control and seeing how fast they could get us through.
As soon as we got on, we went straight to the Lido deck and ate at the grill. (It was the first thing we came to with food, and we didn't have anything to eat all day until then.) We all ate burgers which were great. The next morning the boat was really rocking. I asked the waiter in the dining room if it was normal since this was our first cruise, I had no idea what was normal and what was rough. He said it was pretty rough but he had seen worse. Our DD got sick right after breakfast and it was time to break out the bonine. That stuff is so much better than dramamine. It didn't make her sleepy but it did help with her being sick. After lunchtime, it settled down and we were smooth sailing from then till the last day at sea.
Grand Cayman Island
We arrived in the Cayman islands at 8am and were promptly tendered to the shore and on land by 8:30. Our excursion didn't start until 9:30 so we went shopping. There were tons of people who were trying to get us to go do excursions with them. It got annoying but they were just doing their job and feeding their families so it didn't bother us too bad. They weren't overly pushy but were trying to get us to go with them. I booked our excursion several weeks before we went and chose the Moby Dick Stingray and Snorkel tour. I can't remember where I read that this was the best tour on the Cayman islands but I will say we agree 100%. This company has won several awards for their tour. They had a bus to shuttle us over to the area where their boat was so we didn't have to take a taxi. Their tour is relatively small compared to the other tours who offer the swim with stingrays tour. Their max is 50 people and we got lucky and there were only 25 on ours. So the boat was very spacious. There were 3 crew on board and they got out in the water with us and showed us how to hold the stingrays and feed them. (They are one of the only tours that allow you to feed them, and because of this you get TONS of stingrays to swim with) I did notice that some of the other captains of the boats were sitting on their boats playing with their cell phones or smoking cigarettes. They had nothing to do with their group of people. We got to snorkel on a reef with so many different kinds of fish. We saw an eel, baracuda, parrot fish, and tons of blue fish. They are the fish like Dory on Finding Nemo. Our best times and pics came from this tour.
We did Mr. Sanchos beach club's all inclusive beach break. I booked this through Cozumel Watersports. We had to take a taxi over to the club from the pier and it was an interesting ride to say the least! My inlaws' taxi was bumping the van in front of them to try and make them move out of the way. We got there and found out that our all inclusive didn't really mean all inclusive. We were very disappointed. They had water toys out in the ocean that we were expected to pay an extra $12.00 per person if we wanted to use them. We decided to give snorkeling a try. We got our gear and found out that if the kids wanted to use a life vest that we would have to pay extra for them to use that as well. We got to play in the ocean for about 15 minutes before a huge storm rolled in. Lightning, thunder, high winds. So all the people who were there huddled together at tables in their open but covered restaurant. I kinda got irritated with some fellow cruisers while we were here because they did nothing but complain about our cruise and ship. They were saying how there was only lobster on the menu for one night, now keep in mind we had only been on the ship for 2 nights.
The food was great and our server was very attentive. Our glasses were never empty, even when we were out on the beach. For the money we paid for the "all inclusive" we did not feel we got our money's worth here. We took a big van taxi back to the shopping area and did some barganing. They were much more willing to work with you than they were at the Cayman islands. Overall, a pretty good day on the island.
Our experience in the dining room each night was amazing to say the least. It was by far our favorite thing of the cruise. The kids even say that as well. Even though we had your time dining, we sat at the same table each and every night. Our head waitress, Corazon, was phenomenal. She knew all our names by the second night. Our second night was formal night and there was lobster on the menu which all of us, including one of our kids had. Me personally, I didn't like the lobster. It was too fishy tasting for me. But since there were 3 courses in the meal, I didn't go hungry. Of course the chocolate melting cake was heavenly just like all you cruisers have posted. Our son literally got it every night. I ate several of their Spa meals which are more healthy for you and they were great. You didn't sacrifice taste at all, just the calories.
We went to every show they had but the welcome aboard show. We really wanted to go to it too but we were simply too tired and it was late. We just couldn't make it. The shows were good and we only went to the ones where the kids could go too. The show Shout had some provacative moves and costumes in the beginning which made us question if it really was rated PG like the "Fun Times" said it was. After the first song or two, it calmed down and the rest was fine. My DH and I tried going to a late night comedy act but there were so many people by the time we were able to get the kids settled down with my inlaws that we couldn't get a seat. There were a couple of nights we did go out and listen to the live music and go dancing which was a blast. Of course at that time of night and because its a party, all the people who had waaaaay too much to drink were out and falling all over themselves. Sadly, most of these people weren't young like you would think. We did have one guy that was dancing in our group that had to have been in his 70s. He was out there giving the young kids a run for their money. He could really move! He entertained us so much.
The last day at sea was super rough out on the water. And the wind out on the decks was horrible. You didn't need anything from the bar to make you feel drunk!
There were a lot of people that got sick. As soon as we got up and felt the ship rocking, I gave our daughter another bonine and she was fine thank goodness.
Overall the cruise was amazing and by far the best vacation we've had so far. If you are reading this as a person who is thinking of making a reservation, DO IT! We were hesitant about making our reservation because we had never done it before. We read so many horror stories that it almost scared us away from a cruise. Bottom line is, your vacation is what you make of it. We went on this vacation saying we would have a blast even if we were all green and sick the whole time. And we had the time of our life. Another thing, one of the best things that we looked forward to every night was getting dressed up for dinner. We are a very casual family and rarely dress up for anything unless we absolutely have to. We dressed up nicely, took great pictures, and it was our favorite time on the ship. We will definitely be cruising again.....possibly before 2010 is over with!