We planned a cruise for my niece's college graduation. We had 9 in our party. We booked category I for a good price. This was a first cruise for everyone but my DH and me. I really wanted to ensure that everyone had a positive first experience. This was our first cruise with RCCL.
Embarkation was fairly quick. We waited in a long line, but it moved quickly and the agents were friendly and helpful. We boarded and went to the Windjammer for lunch. As with many cruises, it was packed -- lots of jockeying for seats. This was a continuing problem as seating for 9 always presented a problem. We went to our rooms and found that one room had not been configured correctly, but our room steward fixed that quickly. Our luggage arrived shortly thereafter and we set sail.
Rooms: We knew in advance that the rooms were tiny, so we knew what we were getting into. The view from our room wasn't nearly as obstructed as we expected, but all we really wanted was to be able to see the ocean/sun, so we were not disappointed. We had ongoing problems with the ability to flush our toilet. Maintenance responded quickly, but it became a nuisance around the 4th or 5th time (it was only a 4 night cruise!!) I'm not sure what the issue was, but why not correct the problem rather than simply correct the occurrence? The safe in two of our three staterooms failed to work. Maintenance was slow in responding to these issues and we eventually just pooled all our stuff into one safe. Our room steward was ok, we've sailed with other cruise lines and he was the least friendly of all we've encountered. He wasn't rude, but just simply went about his duties -- didn't seem to be as 'enthused' as the room stewards we've had before. We had pre-paid gratuities and I even gave him additional money upon our first meeting (and thanked him for all that he does for us on our cruise). He did make up our rooms promptly and we never lacked for ice or anything we requested, but then again, with the exception of the toilets and safes, we didn't ask for much.
Food: We ate in the MDR and the food was excellent. Our waiter(s) was excellent. He always told us about the meals/choices and stopped by at the end to tell us what to expect the next day and to pass along any helpful suggestions. Our drinks were always there waiting for us and they remembered our favorite bread choices. Our maitre d' stopped by several nights with brain teasers for us to solve. They were fun. We were a bit surprised to find that some coffees were extra. We've not seen this on other cruise lines. The Windjammer was a tad small for the amount of people and we often felt very crowded. There was quite a bit of 'confusion' as people didn't wait in line, but rather grabbed what they wanted regardless of a preexisting line. There was a Sorrento's above the Windjammer and the pizza was good with the exception of the sausage pizza which had hot dog as the sausage (blah). There was self-serve soft ice cream which was yummy and well used.
We didn't use the pool or hot tubs, but they seemed to get a good bit of use. I had read that lots of kids used the hot tubs, so we steered clear of them. Once I walked by the hot tubs and the smell of chlorine nearly knocked me over. Good that we passed on them!
Public rooms were nice and we participated in many of the ship's activities. I think that above everything, the activities staff did an outstanding job. There was always something going on and everything we went to was fun. We went to most of the evening shows. They were all good, but the juggler was spectacular! There was one dancer, a Chinese fellow, who put the rest of the dancers to shame! He was very good!
We were lucky to be able to get to Coco Cay. Tenders were better than I expected and the island was nice. There was live music most of the day and you could hear them for quite a distance. It was nice to be able to have the music to listen to. The BBQ was good and there were plenty of roving drink providers. We walked past the first beach and found plenty of chairs to sit in and lots of shade if you wanted it. We were the only ship there that day, but I can imagine utter chaos if there were two ships or a mega ship. It was nice to have the room to relax without feeling crowded.
We enjoyed our day at Nassau, but tried to attend the sail away buffet. That was just awful! It seemed like the entire ship was there and the buffet line for both sides was very long. They ran out of food about halfway, so we were very disappointed (never did get anything to eat). We didn't stay for the sail away party as it was just too crowded for us.
Our at sea day was fun as we did ship activities. Several in our group did the rock climbing wall and they enjoyed that. The games, trivia and dancing were all great fun.
Debarkation was typical. Trying to clear a ship of everyone in 2 hours is an exercise in patience, but it went fairly quickly.
All-in-all we enjoyed our cruise with RCCL. It had more positives than negatives, but we did feel as there were too many nickel and dime items. While I can understand that the cruise line wants to make cruising as affordable for everyone, it just gets old to be told "oh, that's extra". The other thing that struck us was the 'mood' of the staff. They just didn't seem to be a happy as other cruises we've been on. They did their jobs, but they just seemed to be going through the motions.