I want to start out by saying that I get disappointed quickly w/things if they don't go almost perfect. I'm pretty OCD and have to have things "so-so" and want things to go in a very organized manner, everything to be clean, anyway you get the picture...
So let's start off w/day 1, my family of 4 sailed on FOS, out of Port Canaveral, FL. We stayed at Cocoa Beach at the Four Points hotel the night prior to sailing. Since we had driven down it was my intention to park at the port parking, at what I had been told was around $15 a day. While checking in at the Four Points in Cocoa Beach on that Saturday night I noticed that they offered transportation to and from the port and parking at $6 a day. So I thought hey what a bargain, so we did that in lieu of parking at the port. I'm so glad that we made that decision. The guys that transported us to the port were wonderful, we were dropped off right at the luggage area (so no carrying the heavy luggage far)and they were prompt and there exactly at the time they said they would be on the day of sailing (leaving from the hotel) and the day of departure from the ship!
So enough about getting to the port, let's talk about checking in and getting on the ship. It went great, RCI was very organized! We got there around 1pm. The initial line, showing our passports and going through the x-ray machines w/our luggage was very quick and smooth. All of the personnel was very friendly, even trying to make jokes w/our girls. Once we were in, then the registration began w/RCI to give us our room cards, take our pictures, etc. Again, this process ran very smoothly and I can't complain about any of it. We were in our room, I'm guessing here, but I'd say not later than 2pm and we arrived at the port at 1:00. So w/in an hour of arriving we checked in at the customs area, had our bags checked, then headed to RCI check in, made a few pictures on the ship, then got the armbands for our 10 year old (if you are younger than a teenager you wear an armband the entire time for your age group), then headed to see if our room was ready and it was! Our stateroom attendant was already there in the hallway, introducing herself, Georgianna (she was great!). Our bags were not there, so after we snapped a few pictures we headed up and started checking out the ship. We explored around for about 1.5 hours, checking things out, had some great eats in the Windjammer, took pictures and got drinks at the Olive and Twist. Headed back to our room and our bags were there. We set sail from Port Canaveral promptly at 4:30pm. It was very windy and chilly and I will say the 1st 2 nights the ship was really moving. I took Dramamine for the motion sickness. I wasn't the only one, my husband and our 10 year old were both feeling the effects of the motion as well. But all was good w/the OTC meds and we had a blast. In addition to that our head waiter (Imade, whom I also LOVED!) suggested that I eat a green apple for the sickness.
Our first port was CocoCay, Bahamas, RCI private island. In hindsite, I wish I would've booked a cruise that stopped at a "real" port, this was not quite the best port for this cruise. We had fun, but it was a let down. This is just a money pit for RCI. Our girls played on the "fun park" area that they have, it was $15 per person for 50 minutes of play time. They enjoyed, but weren't ecstatic. My husband and I enjoyed a few beers on the beach and spent the day there. We ate the BBQ style lunch that RCI provided and it was good. Ribs, burgers, hotdogs, potato salad, the traditional American BBQ lunch. We looked through some of the shops there and my suggestion to you is pass on the shops at this island and wait till the next ports to buy your souvenirs. Oh and one other suggestion for this beach is head over to Barefoot Beach. The sand is much better on that side of the island, otherwise your feet will be killing you from all of the sharp shells and rocks...
St. Thomas was our next port. We had no clue what we were going to do at this port. Several of my close friends, who have cruised many times in the past, suggested I wait till I got off of the cruiseship to decide on excursions or things that I wanted to do; stating we'd probably find it cheaper then. So we did do that, not sure if that worked at this port, but we had a great time and it was my favorite stop. It had the most gorgeous water of all of the ports, but I will say it is very dirty and run down. We took a truck taxi, if that's what you want to call it, w/several others from our cruise over to Coki Beach. It was $72 for the 4 of us to be taken to Coki Beach, he dropped us off around 9:30am and then picked us back up at 4:30 and took us on a quick tour around the island. Taking us to the highest points to take pictures and we had a great time. While at Coki Beach the girls made sandart, we took our own goggles and snorkel to swim around ourselves. We paid $5 a piece for beach chairs for the day and just relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. We also went into the many shops at St. Thomas and had a wonderful time purchasing souvenirs for friends and family back home.
St. Maarten was our last port. We spent less money at St. Maarten. We took a water taxi over to the beach area. That cost $6 per person and you got a wristband for the day to come and go as many times as you wanted! Great deal! When you get off the boat head over towards the left, once you walk onto the island and you'll see it! Oh and we can't forget the $2 beers at this port either!! My daughter and I went on the Banana Boat at this port ($25 a person), great fun! We played at the beach and shopped. This was my favorite shopping port, but the people that live there bug you to death to buy their stuff. It seemed like every 2 minutes while on the beach we were asked if wanted braids, a shirt, a hat or a massage. I just got used to saying "No thank you" and not paying them any attention. At this port, just wait on someone to come up and offer you a deal on chairs. We got 2 chairs, an umbrella and the water trampoline for the kids to play on all day, for $15. Bucket of beer $10! Great day of fun in the sun!
Ok, so I've told you about the ports, now about the ship and food, oh and the shows that I saw. The ship was great, clean, wonderfully decorated. We had a balcony stateroom and wouldn't go on a cruise w/out a balcony!!!!!! The room was spacious (for a cruiseship), even the bathroom! Great shower, great water pressure, can't say enough good things about our room! Great storage space!
The food was great! My husband loved the sushi at the Windjammer and skipped out on us from Galileo's two nights to eat that instead of having to dress up. He isn't into dressing up too much, so he liked the Windjammer. We ate breakfast and lunch everyday at the Windjammer (that we weren't in port). The breakfast and lunch our both good and offer a large variety everyday. You will be offered different things daily. We tried Sorrento's once, I had read a lot of great things about it, but I was disappointed, it was like frozen pizza from home, to me. The dinners in the formal dining room were great. My teenager and husband always splurged on the most exotic things they would offer (mostly the seafood entrees') and our 10 year old and I typically stuck w/the usuals, like steaks, salmon and salads. I can't complain about one meal we had in the Windjammer or Galileo's. Our waiters were fantastic! One night my daughter didn't really like the dessert she ordered so he brought her something else and one night my husband couldn't decide on an entree' so he got two. Wonderful food. We only ate cookies/pastries at the coffee shop that they have so I can't really say if the sandwiches that they offered were good or not and I never tried any of the paninis at Sorrento's either. We had coffee or hot chocolate from the cafe' almost nightly and that was nice. We did have a drink at the Bull and Bear and Olive and Twist, which were also great. So food gets a thumbs up, especially the desserts!!! I gained 6lbs while on this cruise!!!
The cruise director was Graham! He was so talented and great! We attended the ice show (FANTASTIC-must see), The Finale Show, which had a comic from The Last Comic Standing and he was hilarious! Comedy show for the entire family and we all laughed and had a great time. We also went to Once Upon a Time show, it was another great one! I wanted to go to the Love and Marriage, but I'm a very over-protective mama and I never let my girls out of my sight and that was for adults only. We also attended the Farewell Parade on the last night at sea. Very cute parade, especially for the smaller kids, with all of the Dreamworks characters. Entertainment was great and though we didn't attend all of the shows, the ones we did were spectacular!!! Graham is hilarious!!
Our girls also attended The Cupcake Cupboard decorating class. It was $15 a person for the kid class. The adult class was full, so I don't recommend if you have a teenager that you add them to the kid class if the adult is full. My teenager was really bored, but completely enjoyed eating her "frog" cupcake!
Activities on board include swimming, Flowrider, rock climbing wall, miniature golf, basketball court, ice skating rink, movie theater, etc... We all played minature golf and it was a blast. My teenager loved the Flowrider, she would have lived on that and the lines weren't bad. She typically waited about 20 minutes to get on it in line. Not too bad, maybe could do a little better in this area, but I have to say that you're so entertained by watching everyone that the time flies by. The girls also loved the ice skating rink. It is real ice rink and they provide you w/shoes, you just have to have on paints in order to skate. The pools are not crowded, but the chairs get taken up quickly on the days at sea, so grab you one quickly by the pool you would like to hang out at. We lived at the H2o Zone. Mainly because it was fun for the girls to play in the waterpark area, they had a full size pool, that was around 5ft deep and they had two hottubs. The regular pool never had any chairs and was more crowded, so we liked the kids zone. We didn't do the rock climbing wall, theater or basketball.
So I guess that's pretty much it. We all had a blast! The girls have said it was there favorite vacation ever. There were no real longs lines and it was very organized. I was pleased w/the cruise, all in all and would sail on FOS or another RCI ship. Great service, great food, polite folks (yes I'm from Tennessee)!