We got a group of family and some neighbors to plan this cruise well in advance, almost a year ago. My daughter and her guy were first timers, others all have cruised at least once before, and it was our 7th, all with RCI. We all met a day early, as is always necessary when coming from western states to Florida. You just can't make it there in one day and get to the ship in time. Plus you can always find something fun to do in Florida. Stayed at the Fairfield Inn in Dania Beach. Great place, very clean and close to airport and cruise port.
EMBARKATION: Got to the pier around 12:15 via a shuttle arranged right in the hotel. Had read where this ship had one of the easiest embarkation ratings, and it did only take less than 30 minutes, no problems. Went right aboard.
CABINS: We all booked balcony suites, three right together and were able to open the connecting partitions on the balconies to make one big one. Very nice. We not able to do that in some past cruises. Cabins were on Deck 8, port side, slightly aft. No problem with noise. Size about the same as other inside, outside, balcony cabins on other RCI ships. Every other cabin has bed near balcony. The ones that don't are much harder to get around and get dressed. Room attendants were good, as usual, nothing special. One couple had the cabin next to us and the A/C wasn't working well. Complained, and people came to look, then found balcony door wouldn't lock, and other "reasons". This went on the whole trip, some A/C but still not real comfortable. After several complaints they were given a voucher, or will be sent one, for 20% of what they paid on a future cruise, good for 1 year. I thought that wasn't right. I think a letter will be written soon.
DINING: Usually one of the biggest highlights of cruises for us, and this time was pretty much the top of the mark. Our waiter was named Suriawan (NFN) No Family Name. We had My Time dining and it worked well, but is better if you make a reservation for what time you like and stick to it. Wait is much shorter. He was without a doubt the best waiter we've ever had. Did some professional grade magic tricks, extremely quick and friendly. And genuine, not the forced smiles you often see. Told us the truth about the selections each night, just extremely entertaining, great in every aspect. Heard he had won some extra days off for being selected the top waiter several times before, and that doesn't surprise me at all.
SPECIALTY DINING: Visited several, here's a quick report. Giovanni's Table - Good food, nice waiter, but seemed a bit commercial, just didn't enjoy it like the old Portofino's. Park Cafe - Very good food, but a bit disorganized when you enter and crowded. Johnny Rocket's - Great breakfast place, which is a new feature for them. Windjammer - Same food as other ships, good but not fantastic, still a hassle finding a table if you have a large group. Azumi - Very good, probably the best one we visited, but very small, so make reservations early!! Rita's Cantina - A little hard to get in, need reservations some times, but worth the extra fees, not too much. Loved it!! The Dog House - Good but not spectacular. Chef's Table - One couple did this. A bit pricey, but they loved it. Sorrento's Pizza - About the same as you'd expect, not bad, limited choices, kids and teens love it.
SHOWS: Didn't see them all but a couple stand out. The Aqua Show was very good. Held outside so a bit warm, but entertaining. Blue Planet - Outstanding, don't miss it and get reservations early!! Love & Marriage Game - About the same if you've seen it before, but still funny. Bingo - Still pricey, but that chance to win tax free bucks always makes us go, as least to some of the sessions. Bars - Schooner Bar was great but piano players speakers too loud, unless you want to be loud too. Champagne Bar - Very nice and overlooked alot. Free hor d'ourves. Casino - Didn't use much, way too tight!!
PORTS: I have yet to learn why this itinerary only has 3 stops. My guess would be to save money. Labadee was vastly improved since our 2 previous visits. Sidewalks all around, zip lines, private Cabanas, some time beach and some rocky beaches. Way better than before and also you are docked here, and in all three ports for that matter. I hate tendering!! Falmouth,Jamaica - I do like this country, and this is a new port city. Seemed like the others, better than Montego Bay, and about the same as Ocho Rios. Lots of activities, and we have used private excursions many times, No problems at all. Ate at local places. If you haven't done Dunn's River Falls, it is reachable from Falmouth, and fun, except for the gauntlet of vendors who are very pushy that line the path to exit back to the parking lot. Cozumel - Great snorkeling, but not much else. Some good party places, if you're into that. We've been there 4 times, so perhaps my judgement is jaded.
DEBARKATION: Again, not too bad at all. I wish I had taken advantage of the luggage valet program, would have been worth it. But not much more than 30 minutes from the time we got in line to exit the ship and stepping onto the curb for transportation to the airport, etc.
OVERALL VIEWS: I am admittedly a RCI patron, Platinum Crown & Anchor, 3 points shy of Emerald. And we all had a great time. It is fun to go with a group. But don't try to manage everyones time and choices. Plenty of time to spend together at dinner. No need for everyone to do the same thing or be together every minute. It's a big ship, lots to do. Crew were great, at least 99.9 percent were, and as usual, trying to met your every need. Some remembered my name and likes after ONE meeting. I would recommend this ship, this cruise line to any and all.