Premier Parking: We paid $111.42 (about Â½ the price of pier parking) for parking at 69 New Hook Road and were on a shuttle to the ship within 5 minutes. You must ignore your GPS (which gets you to a building, which never heard of Premier) and look for their sign. They dropped us off at the terminal after about a 10-minute drive. Coming back was horrible. We called and were told to go to slip #109. The person on the phone told us to look for a Yellow Express, which is what our stub said. It actually was an unmarked white van. We let this load and leave. When it came again, I was about to get on when another passenger squeezed on ahead of me, telling me that this was not Premier. When the driver told me otherwise, my previous informant just smirked. The driver told me that he would let us on first on his next trip but traffic was so horrendous that he did not return for 35 minutes. In total we waited close to two hours to get back to Premier. Premier should have had more than one van and a good strategy would have been for one of us to get on without our luggage and drive back to pick up the other.
Arrival: It took us less than two hours to get from our home in Mainline Philly to the terminal. Check in was slow but not too bad. We had a good lunch in Windjammers and got in our cabin by 1:30 PM. However, we did not get our last piece of luggage until after dinner. Allow ample time to drive to the ship as we met a couple who missed the ship due to traffic and had to pay more than $1,000 to fly to Bermuda to catch the ship.
Breakfast: We ate every day in Windjammers. I stuck with an omelet and smoked salmon while my wife varied her diet. The only complaint I had was that the lemonade and orange juice greatly varied in strength. They should have had a recipe as to how much water to add.
Lunch: On non-port days we ate at Brassiere 30 in Magellan's dining room. The salad was magnificent and service was excellent. Otherwise, we ate in Windjammers. The food was quite good but on two occasions we had difficulty getting a table while the public address system kept asking the patrons to quickly eat and leave. I really liked both the hot and cold soups at all dining venues with the exception of a couple of weird Asian soups at the Jade Windjammers table.
My Time Dining: We liked this but sat at the same time with the same congenial group in the Columbus dining room 6 out of the nine nights. Two nights we choose to dine at a different time but one night we were not seated with our group despite arriving within 5 minutes of our reservation. Our Philippine waiter, Edgar, and his Turkish assistant, Adem, were magnificent in anticipating our needs and accommodating my wife's celiac restrictions. The only complaint I had was that despite arriving at 5:30, on two occasions we did not get our desert before the 7:15 early show. Our solution was to go Windjammers, which had an excellent desert selection, after the show. The only problem with this was that Windjammers had some entries that were not available downstairs and we would up eating those also. We did not eat in the two-specialty restaurants as my wife can't eat pasta and neither of us like hamburgers.
Cabin: We got a basic inside cabin in the 9th floor towards the front that was more than adequate to sleep in. Our attendant gave excellent service. My imaginary (according to my wife) problem was that I believe we had bed bugs. I got at least five itchy visible bites that I cannot attribute to any other cause. I did not bring any unauthorized guests and we've never before experienced this problem.
Liquor: There is a large sign at the terminal stating that any liquor found in luggage will be destroyed. Apparently this encourages cruisers to try and beat this restriction. Fellow passengers bragged of bringing in whole bottles that were not caught by random checks; "sealed" bottles of mouthwash and water; plastic bags within boxed wines; specialty bladders sold on the Internet; as well as casually carrying small bottles in one's pockets purchased at both Sint Maartin and San Juan. While we did not do this, we might consider it on our next cruise in view of the high drink prices.
Workers: These were invariably very helpful and friendly. At Windjammers they continually offer to get you stuff even though I preferred getting up and getting it myself. My wife is Oriental and garrulous. She spent a lot of time conversing with the workers. They are paid very little and work long hours. Many do not have a single day off and continually work successive 9 and 5 day cruises for the length of their contract. They are heavily dependent upon tips and commissions and many passengers do not tip. They will go to their regular dining for the first eight nights and go to Windjammers the last day to stiff the waiters. We also find out that in some cruise lines tipping is added to the bill on daily basis. However, if the cruisers refused to pay they might be refused admittance into the same ship the second time around. We highly recommend pre-paid tipping for fairness. Also, she found out if you order wine list two weeks before boarding the ship they might even give a 25% discount even on some excursions.
Entertainment. The ice skating show was marvelous as were all of the productions involving only the ships company of singers and dancers. The others were okay but generally not as good. I heard that the late night adult comedy show was very good but we did not go. My wife did go to the late dances and extremely enjoyed them as well as the Quest.
Weather: When we got on the shuttle to the pier, the passengers departing from the previous 5 day Bermuda cruise on the same ship, stated that they would never ever get on another boat. The first two nights and day were atrocious. While walking across deck 11 to Windjammers, we were hit by a large wave from the swimming pool. It was hard walking in a straight line without holding on. One of our dining companions was charged $100 plus medications for visiting the doctor for seasickness. The charge was $130 for non-office hours. The rest of the weather was very good and we enjoyed these days at sea.
Bermuda: We paid $12 each for a daily pass. We took the ferry to Hamilton and a bus back to horseshoe cove and then another bus to the ship. We could have paid less by paying for these trips individually but the convenience was worth the extra amount.
Sint Maartin: We took the water taxi downtown and back. The problem with this was that the last taxi left downtown at 5:30 while the bus left at 7:30. We heard many complaints about the shops closing at 2:30 due to Carnival and we should have been informed of this. My wife did not complain as she was dancing in the street with the marchers and got a fair number of pictures. We were tossed a couple of cans of cold beer as well as bead necklaces, which my wife enjoyed. We had guavaberry drinks that tasted like punch that came in different flavors and we thought it to be quite good. There are a lot of women selling beach bags, with make-up purses and a wrap around material. My wife haggled the price down from $20 to $14. Street vendors are eager to sell most of their items so get the best price you are willing to pay.
San Juan: The 7 AM to 12:30 PM schedule was ridiculous as nothing was open that early. We took the 50 ferry and a $3 shared taxi to Bacardi. We arrived before the $31 Royal Caribbean tour. The tour was interesting and we each got two free drinks. My wife also paid $10 for a original Mojito drink recipe with fresh limes and mint in a souvenir glass with a free shot glass that was not as good as the free drinks. We got back in time to shop at CVS and walk around old San Juan. If you are brave enough to sneak in a small bottle of Bacardi rum boarding on the ship it is up to you. We have met some people and proud to say they managed to do so by putting it in their buggy swimming trunks. People will do all kinds of things to save some money!!
Labadee: This was the best private island (peninsula) we have ever experienced. There was ample room and beach chairs unlike Norwegian's private island. The view of the Haitian mountains is spectacular. There are lots of palm trees to give you some shade from the sun The workers on the island were extremely pushy in getting you a beach chair and/or canopy for a tip, while you could get your own for free. My wife paid $12 to rent a rubber flotation mat, which she enjoyed but I didn't think was worth the price. I did not particularly enjoy the barbeque with ribs, hamburgers and hot dogs but overall I did enjoy the stay. Labadoozee drinks for $6.00 are icy refreshing, with a good shot of rum but the venders are very insistent. The sellers in the artisan village were unbelievably pushy. Because of the pressure, we bought nothing although I probably would have bought something if I could brows at my leisure. If you want to avoid this hard sell, avoid the Artisan Village and stick with the indoor shop. A friend of mine told a seller that she would buy something from him as long as he got her out of the village. We stayed mainly on the Columbus Cove beach. It is less rocky and has a magnificent view of the cruise ship and more activities for kids. On Adrenaline Beach there are a lot of big rocks that is good for people who prefer some privacy while watching the zip line.