This was our first cruise as a family. We have 3 kids- 8, 6, and 3. We stayed in Fort Lauderdale the night before and got dropped off at the dock in Miami the morning of the cruise. Boarding went smoothly, found our adjoining cabins, everything was in order.
We stayed on Deck 6 forward, and that location was pretty convenient for all the amenities we used.
I made a few calls to the front desk and passing employees about getting the pass-through door opened to no avail. Nothing was done until our room attendant stopped by to see how everyone was doing getting settled in, and he fixed it right up.
When making reservations, the cruise advisor and I settled on the My Time dining option, since we figured that with 3 kids and excursions, fixing us to a set dinner time the entire cruise might be troublesome. He assured me it was easy to just make a reservation or stop by anytime and endure a short wait. This was complete bunk. In my experience, unless we made a reservation that morning for the next day, we wouldn't get a sitting for dinner. There were several times I called and was told there were no dinner slots open at all. Where was the My Time dining in all of this? I wouldn't let them sell me on that again, since we only made one actual dining room sit-down dinner.
The food was average, in my mind sort of like eating at an Old Country Buffet or similar. My wife told me tales of her cruising when she was younger, and I guess I expected a little more. One exceedingly tacky thing I have to point out is the pervasive use of upcharging EVERYTHING. Waiters would wander around at breakfast at the Windjammer, and while we were sipping our orange-mango flavored drink, they'd be trying to sell actual orange juice for $4 a glass. Same with dining- the nice food cost more. Johnny Rockets had a cover charge, AND a few of their items still cost extra. The wait staff and our room attendant get high marks for great service, though, so credit is due there.
Our first excursion to the Blue Lagoon was nice. Coco Cay was the best, with the large all you can eat buffet and plenty of island to explore. We had a great time snorkeling at the fake shipwreck and sunken plane. We didn't do it as part of a tour, and can't see why you'd pay to do so, either. All three of our kids used the Kids Club at various times, and I'd rate it very highly. The kids loved it, the 'teachers' were excellent, and they always seemed to be doing something fun. Kids Club was a great idea, and we'd do that again in a heartbeat. Our second to last day is where everything took a turn for the horrible. We found a note in our room at 3pm, after we'd returned from our day trip to Key West, stating that our next day's excursion had been changed. We'd bought the Everglades air boat tour, with a van service up to the Fort Lauderdale airport at the end. This was because we flew out of FLL, so the excursion was perfect. The note said that the transportation part of the tour had been canceled. I contacted the Customer Relations people and got nowhere. This is where I learned that, as long as everything goes according to plan, life is good. If there's a problem, you're up the creek. Nobody on that damn ship was willing to take responsibility for anything. It was always somebody else's problem, somebody who conveniently wasn't on duty at the moment. Their advice was for us to take the train from a terminal near the airport in MIA to FLL. In any case, I spent 45 minutes that evening with various people at the Customer Service desk (a very inappropriate name, as there was very little service going on) trying to get my tour straightened out. Finally, after standing my ground and refusing to just go the back of another line, I found a very helpful manager by the name of Mpho. I told him that I didn't have any options other than the train, apparently. We'd sailed from port and out of cell phone range, or I would have started making my own arrangements. I told him that I'd like the option of buying a van service or even renting a car, and he took me to his office and we used his internet connection to find a rental car and shuttle place that I contacted. That problem is that Royal Caribbean wasn't the tour operator. It was a third party, and there was a disconnect between the two. Royal Caribbean (the people who were staffing the tour desk) didn't want to do anything to help me with my newfound travel needs, and the tour operator was simply unavailable. Neither party was going to take responsibility to fix the problem that had been dropped on me, and until Mpho came along, I wondered what was going to happen. The tour company refunded $20 off each adult ticket for not providing transportation, but when I was looking at my receipt, it seemed like they took off too much. I went back down to the desk and asked somebody if they could give me a detailed billing, because I was concerned they'd refunded the entire amount and hence wouldn't be expecting us on the tour the next day. Here again, Royal Caribbean couldn't tell me anything about that, nor could they raise anyone from the tour company. They promised to look into it and call me the next morning. Well, you can see where I'm going next. I had to call myself, and was told everything was ok. When we tried to get off the ship, my Seapass card gave an alert. We were trying to leave for the excursion, and the disinterested guy at the podium told me to go to the front of the line at a certain spot at the counter to get it fixed. I noticed another guest who was going on the same excursion experienced the same problem, so we stood together. After being ignored for a while, I asked a passing employee if we could speak to some sort of manager who might be interested in getting us to our tour, as due to a customs back-up we were all behind schedule. The guy behind me finally walked up to the spot of the manager while I caught another random employee and made them talk to me. She took me to the computer, and sure enough, the tour company had completely refunded our excursion the day before. Then, sometime in the middle of the night, they added the tour back on, though since I'd settled my bill already, my Seapass card showed a balance when I tried to get off the ship. I had to go to the podium to disembark again, and the card gave off two more alarms before they could finally convince the computer that I'd paid them. Meanwhile, the other tour customer was having an altercation with the 'manager'. The manager told him to go to the back of the line, and the customer said we'd both been directed to go to the front since our tour was waiting for us. Then the manager obsessed about the fact that he'd need to ask the next person in line if it was ok for the guy to go in front of him. They went around for a while before the customer finally got HIS bill seen to, as well. I mentioned earlier a customs issue.... They were backed up, and I can't really blame Royal Caribbean for that; it just seemed like it was one of those things. The problem was that, after everyone had been shepherded through the restaurant and cleared customs, nobody had any idea what to do next. If you've ever been on that ship, you might remember that lines back up and snake all the way through the ship, up stairs and all over the place. We walked past two distinct lines, and even the people in them didn't know what they were waiting for. They assumed/hoped it was for customs or the gangway to get off the ship. We stopped a half dozen employees at various times, and not a single one knew anything. You'd think that Royal Caribbean would know how to handle things like this, but every time there was an event, it was barely controlled chaos. People wandered all over, and there were never more than a couple crewmembers giving direction. None of the half dozen people we ran across could tell us what line to be in, where it started, or anything useful, especially considering they had large groups of people leaving the ship early for tours. As an organization, Royal Caribbean was sorely lacking. Apparently we just took the wrong cruise, as I see plenty of good reviews for the line, but I really have to question their abilities when they screw up things that they should see every last day of operations, like making sure their own employees know what is going on.