My first experience was on the Caribe I in 1986. My good friend, who had recently finished travel agent school and had her first job as a travel agent, wanted to cruise and made the arrangements (I think we were on stand-by, something like that..). We cruised for 7 days for $250 each, in an outside cabin. We had a wonderful time, soaking up the sun, eating good food, etc. We knew when we got off the ship that we wanted to cruise again. And we did, about a year later, on the VERY luxurious (HA!) Veracruz (Bermuda Star Line). I loved THAT ship even more than the first one, for many reasons.
One of the things that sticks out in my mind from that first cruise on the Caribe was when we first walked onto the ship there were staff all around the perimiter of the lobby area just waiting to start pampering us, and everyone practically falling all over each other to show us to our cabin. Another thing (it is a tiny thing, but I remember it so well, furthering pampering!) was at breakfast the first morning the banana I ordered came on a plate, sitting on part of the peel, sliced into bitesized pieces. I felt like royalty.
I cruised on that same ship again as the Regal Empress, many years later.