Our 10th cruise, but 1st on Royal Caribbean, so we carefully noted the differences from other lines. Visibly impressive public spaces and plenty of cafes and bars, but could have music more venues for evening entertainment.
Arrival & Embarkation: No one met our flight in Newark, but a call to the contact number in our cruise documents had reps to us within 15 minutes. We purchased our transfers there, as they were not available on line, and were at the terminal very early. We were whisked through the area for suite guests so quickly that we didn't even have time to pick up the day's schedule and ship plan before going aboard. Rooms opened at 1:30 pm, just as promised.
Grand Suite accommodations: Impressive! Spacious, plenty of closets and storage, some unexpected perks like a coffee maker and an iPod connection on the alarm. The layout was different than expected, with the sitting area at the foot of the bed rather beside it - cabin was wide fore-and-aft as well as inboard-to-outboard. Large balcony with one chaise lounge and a breakfast table (full size, not the mini-tables some ships have) and two chairs. More privacy than other ships I've sailed; steel floor to ceiling bulkheads between balconies instead of the 6-foot fiberglass doors on other lines. Given the overall luxury of the room, we expected a whirlpool tub rather than the standard one we had. Small thing.
Public spaces & entertainment: The Royal Promenade, lined with shops and restaurants, is four stories of enjoyment. We spent a lot of evening time at the Aquarium Bar, where a Latin band kept people on the dance floor. The next best dance venue is Dizzy's up on Deck 14; a bigger dance floor but less vibrant. All areas were well-kept, open and roomy, hardly felt like we were inside. The ice show was spectacular, skilled cast decked out in fantastic costumes, superb lighting and effects. Theater productions were more modest, minimal sets and obviously well-worn outfits.
Pools: The usual pool & hot tub combinations, plenty of chairs. The Solarium is theoretically an adults-only refuge, but the signage is not clear and no crew enforce the rules. We did ask children to leave, so had to accept the outraged glares of the parents - would be much better if the rules were more visible and the crew more helpful.
Dining: The main dining room was a real let-down. We had My Time Dining, and made reservations for each day before the cruise. We requested group dining, but were seated as a couple each time. Despite reservations, we waited 15-20 minutes in the foyer each night. Service was minimal, wait staff was competent but busy, and the food itself was adequate at best. It seemed they were just cycling people though a 2nd seating, with no personal attention and in a rush to move people along. We gave up eventually, and paid the extra fees to eat at the Portofino the last two nights. What a world of difference! Relaxed, elegant, lots of attention and truly excellent food. Make the time to experience at least one dinner there.
Concierge Service: Perfect. We actually booked our suite because we like a full bathtub and priority boarding, but RCCL gives so many other benefits. Reserved seats for the ice show, theater and pool, canapes and cocktails before dinner, continental breakfast, and the full dining room menu in our stateroom for breakfast, lunch and dinner. No tracking pool towels, an amusing little perk.
Disembarkation: Suite guests had a separate gathering place and got off very early. The one hiccup was, once again, airport transfers. No directions where to find our van, had to wander through the bus loot to find it. RCCL told us we were on the manifest and did not need a voucher, but that was the first thing the driver wanted. He eventually checked our names off his list and let it go at that.