Overall: We had never before had more than one sea day. Here we had six in a row. We (ourselves and six friends) were fully occupied. We had time to do things (clubs, dancing, shows) that is tough to do if you have to get up at 6 the next morning for a 7:30 a.m. tour, so the TA gave us a chance to enjoy the ship.
Embarkation in San Juan: Took about 30 minutes at San Juan's Pan American Pier. A cab there is essential, although we arranged a van for the 8 of us and assorted luggage. Check in was fine. Most of the time is involved in walking.
Room: We had Junior Suite 1570 on the tenth deck. A very spacious room with a walk-in closet. We could never fill all of the hangers and drawers, even though we brought three suitcases of stuff. The bathroom was very nice and had a tub. The balcony was a good size, with two chairs and a table. Our steward kept the room neat and clean, with towel art about half the nights. Did I mention the walk-in closet? The room is very quiet, and no matter what was doing in Centrum, no noise passed through the door. No noise from deck 11.
Breakfast: We did room service a couple of times. We went to Windjammer a couple of times. It took us about 7 days to find the lox. Otherwise, standard buffet fare. The staff will bring coffee and tea. Plenty of seating, so asking someone to let you share was generally not necessary. Most of the time, we ate in the MDR. A good buffet as well as waiter service. Service was not as good as the MDR for dinner. The wait staff simply don't seem motivated at breakfast or lunch as they are at dinner.
Lunch: Generally Windjammer or MDR. MDR had good choices. Generally had to share tables; some tablemates were friendly, some less so, and for some there were language barriers. A couple of times in the Sea View cafe, with mixed results. While service was quick, sometimes the place seemed to be missing ingredients.
Dinner: In the MDR most nights. Good service; generally good menu choices. Only had one night where I was bored by the menu. For an extra price, you can have a Chops steak or lobster; I'm not the only one who resents this creeping nickel-and-diming. Do not order the sirloin steak. In any form.
Wine: We pre-ordered 29 bottles at about $25 per bottle rather than $40 per bottle off the menu.
Bars: Always a daily drink for $6.95+ and you keep the glass.
Snacks: Frozen yogurt available most of the day.
Portofino: Great service, good menu choices, and a fantastic sundown that night.
Chops Grille: Great service, limited menu typical of a steak house. I had the New York steak, it was very good.
Food choices: note that Windjammer closes at various times. At times it is closed, Sea View and the snack bars are open.
Gym: most equipment worked, and despite it being a TA, most time there was no wait.
Recreation: The pools are nice; we mainly used the Solarium Pool and hot tubs. On occasion, too many people tried to enter the hot tub. I don't know what motivates someone to get into a hot tub in which no seating is available and then expect to sit. Most people were friendly, but some were off in their own world, holding loud conversations among themselves across the tub. The pool tables are on gyros, fascinating to play. Basketball and miniature golf are interesting when the ship moves. The rock wall was lightly used, so access was easy.
Laundry: no laundry facilities, BUT RCI does a $25 special for all you can stuff in a bag. Washed and folded, not ironed. We got about 40 pieces each time, since our principal dress was shorts and T-shirts. Ask your room steward for the schedule.
Internet: Our Blackberries worked well (with a slight hiccup on Day One). You need an international package from your provider. No payment to RCI.
I had continual billing issues with my laptop. RCI kept writing off 100% of the charges. Tough to complaint about that. Our friends with IPads had recurring connection problems.
This is a satellite service. If you have to connect with a secure office server, like I do, to do work, it moves s-l-o-w-l-y. Very slowly. I would read work on the laptop, and type messages back on my Blackberry. This is not a problem that RCI has much control over.
Entertainment: Typical cruise shows. The last night's show was a balancing act that was really not worth going to. The piano player was OK, and the sing along was good, but he tended to play with his foot on the pedal at all times.
There was entertainment every night in Centrum. The dancing music varied from night to night. The best was the night they played 60s. Every balcony in Centrum was filled to the top. We danced for more than two hours. Why the cruise director did not repeat this event is a puzzlement.
Special event: We got up in the middle of the night to watch the ship go through the Strait of Gibraltar at about 4:45 a.m. It's neat to see the lights in Europe and Africa at the same time. Of the 2100 passengers, there were 4 of us to see this event.
Tours: Our first choice was cancelled in St. Maarten for lack of interest. It seems that most people on a TA don;t buy tours. Serious lack of interest. There were six ships in port, including 2 TA's by RCI, and RCI was running 6 out of about 50 listed tours. The tour in Cartagena was unnecessary and overpriced.
Dis-embarking: Very quick and smooth until one of our bags, marked in group 6, was placed in group 9. It took 45 minutes to sort out.
How to avoid weight gain: I never took an elevator; they looked nice. Learn not to clean your plate, despite what your Mother told you. Learn to exercise by pushing away from the table. I had frozen yogurt every day, and dessert at every dinner, and sometimes at lunch. I walked between 4 and 9 miles a day. Dancing every night. I lost a pound over 14 days.
Bottom line: We booked another TA on RCI.