So this is our second time on AOS. Last time was about six years ago cruising out of San Juan to Curacao, St. Thomas, St. Martin and Aruba. This time out of San Juan to St. Croix, St. Martin, St. John's Antigua, St. Lucia and Barbados.
The ship is still in excellent shape. We had our first suite experience, (thanks to our parents!! Happy 50th Anniversary, Mom and Dad!) the Junior Suite, and it blew us away!!!! I read that the difference in space was not that noticeable, but I completely disagree! With the walk-in closet and large balcony it felt so spacious that I spent tons of time in my lovely suite. Usually I want to get the heck out of the room as soon as possible. The suite also has a much larger bathroom (for a ship) and a BATHTUB!! Woo Hoo!! I think I took 10 baths just because I could! I tend to get a little urpy, unfortunately, on cruises, and the baths helped tremendously. It will be very difficult to go back to a regular room now. I'll have to work harder to make that extra money, I guess.
Now, unfortunately I have to say that the atmosphere on board was a little more sedate than I remember from previous cruises. Not as jovial and energetic. The staff seems a little overworked, perhaps, and tired. By "staff" I mean the bartenders and storekeepers, and especially the coffee shop. That is not at all to say they seemed unfriendly or grouchy, just not as energetic and happy as I remember from my previous RCCL cruises. I witnessed some passengers' rude behavior, so maybe that's why. Makes me so mad. These people work so hard! There is no excuse for being rude!!! If you are irritated at having to wait for your specialty coffee, go complain to the front desk and let them know they need more help! Being rude is not going to help anyone! Grrrrr.
Unfortunately we did not get to experience the Portofino restaurant because it was very difficult to get a reservation for our group of 14. That was very unfortunate because I have read wonderful reviews about this restaurant. The embarkation process was mostly smooth but kind of confusing. Wasn't the greatest, but no biggie. The staff at our dining table was superb, especially "Bet" (we couldn't pronounce her real name, though we tried!) was so sweet and helpful and friendly! LOVED HER!! And Augusta on Deck 9 was a joy as well! Jesters was fun and they played some good music, and we loved the Latin Music Bar, Blue Moon I think it is called. Great drinks, but strong, so watch out! This ship had the deadest Schooner's Bar I have seen thus far.
The itinerary was extremely port-intensive, so we didn't see any of the shows, which is a first for me. I really loved the ship-shape menu each night!! Great food and very healthful and light! My husband teases me for choosing this menu, but I look at it like one of the really expensive retreats that the stars go to that ordinarily I could never afford. Plus, I needed to chose that after San Juan, Puerto Rico, and all the delicious food there!!
Speaking of delicious food in San Juan, I just cannot recommend the Flavors of San Juan Tour more! It was just excellent!! Also speaking of food, this Windjammer was the best I have ever experienced. Usually I really do not like the Windjammer much at all. This time I really enjoyed it! Great choices and flavorful and everything tasted distinct and different.
Some areas I think Royal Caribbean needs to improve on are the operating hours of their attractions like Jesters, Blue Moon, pool-side music and Johnny Rockets. For instance, during the "party under the stars" night, everything else was closed. It was windy and dead up there, so we went to Jesters, only to find they didn't open until 1:30 a.m! What? And that is only one example of a few incidents like this. It seems like they are really cutting back on staff, to me. And I sure wish they would add a take-away breakfast/lunch spot in the Solarium like they do on Celebrity cruises where they specialize in healthful, light foods like wraps and fruit and the like. We had room service every morning for breakfast, and although the staff were so friendly and marvelous and the food was quite good, the menu is rather limited and gets old quick. And the nickel and diming is out of control! Everywhere I looked there was a "fee" for this, a "fee" for that. Johnny Rockets cost 24 dollars by the time we were done. I had a hot stone massage and it was great. Not cheap, but worth it! The ports of call were great. I will review those separately. Great cruise!