This was one of the best family vacations I have taken. When you get on the Ship, ensure you-
1) Take in ALL the shows (see more on this below)
2) Get off at ALL the ports (see Ports review below and also in Ports Critic)
3) Eat at ALL the free restaurants for the different meals
4) Enjoy all the activities on board
5) Let your kids run around the ship on their own
6) Arrange Shore excursions privately- not through the ship
7) Only leave gratuities IF you are happy with the relevant staff. In our case, we were very happy with our stateroom attendant (Christian) and our two meal servers (Margaret & Carlene). They went out of their way to make us comfortable. (See more on the gratuities below)
8) Other people we found on board to be very helpful were the Guest Relations staff. Very helpful, courteous & polite.
9) If you want to stay connected with the world, then buy a WIFI package for your computer. I did that to at least see my work emails (which I never did see! However, it's not too bad. I paid $75 for 150 minutes)
10) There are two 'formal' nights on this 7 days cruise. We took our suits but I saw so many people who were casually dressed. (More on this below)
11)One night was the white-dress party (you had to dress in white), but we weren't aware before hand that we had to wear all white, otherwise we would have packed accordingly. If you can find out what are the activities on board before you leave for the Cruise, then you can pack accordingly.
12) Whatever you do, if you can afford it, get a stateroom with a BALCONY. You can't beat this view and facility. We stayed in stateroom 7214, right in front on the starboard side. The port side stateroom is 7514 I think- try to get one of these. If possible try to the "14" or "54" series -- right in the front on either port or starboard side. Please check with your Travel agent.
DON'T miss the shows! They were absolutely excellent. We took the 7:30pm shows and had dinner on the 9:30pm sitting; however you can just as easily switch it adn have early dinners and see the later shows. BUT book in advance and if you can ask your travel agent to ask Royal Caribbean to book the above two meal servers for your table!
If you don't want to lug around a tuxedo, then you can just as easily rent one on the ship. My Group and all four kids did the first Captain's [formal] dinner; however, my wife & I didn't go for the 2nd formal (though my friends went) -- however you don't have to/its not mandatory. Also, you don't have to have tuxedo. We guys wore normal suits and our wives wore a dress and a pant & Blouse. You will be amazed to see what people actually don on a "formal" night!
Buy the special deal of 8 mineral waters -- it's a good deal -- for the cabin.
If your stateroom attendant is Christian, please say hello to him too from us.
Don't waste time with the Ship tours- they are very very expensive. I suggest you take on the private tours which you negotiate yourself with the taxi drivers that meet the ship at EVERY port.
Especially for the Italian ports, it is essential to get off the ship by 8am so as to see everything and leave enough time to return back to the Ship.
Whatever you do, please ensure you are back at least HALF an hour (if not earlier) before the time mentioned on the Program to board the ship, which your stateroom attendant will give you every evening for the next day's activities. This way, you'll can plan your next day activities in advance.
Tips on the ship are not mandatory. However, my single largest expense was the tips to our room attendant and to the two servers -- but we were happy to give it to the three of them (NO REGRETS). You can allocate any amount of tips you want but then don't use the preprinted format which the ship will give you before the last night. If you use the preprinted gratuity form which the Ship will give you before you return to the main port, just check wtih guest relations how you can allocate the tips YOU want to give and not as per the form. You can also do what my friend did- pay cash directly to the respective staff in whatever amounts you want rather than do it through the ship.
On the last night, they will provide you with the baggage tags- when you get it, please check with Guest relations as to WHAT time the tag code needs you to leave the ship in the morning. You can change the tag to the latest time possible (9am) as long as your bags have not been taken by the staff at night. Unless you want to get off at 6am, I suggest you get the tags changed.
Other comments (day wise)-
- On the first day (boarding day), once on board, we headed for a sumptuous lunch at the Windjammer restaurant at the very stern of the ship.
- At 4:30pm a mandatory safety briefing was held in the Sphinx theatre
- At 6pm there was a Disney [characters] parade in the main Promenade
- At 8pm, the first of our daily shows was held in the Platinum theatre- Mark Taylor Illusionist -- this was extremely enjoyable & fascinating how Mark Taylor played his illusions & tricks on the crowd. He kept us hooked on his performance, receiving a standing ovation from the audience. The show first started with a little teaser by Sergey, one of the perfomers of "in the Air". Amazing feats of strength and daring by him! There was no booking for this show.
- June 3, 2012- Show: In the Air: Amazing performance by the skilled performers. We were gasping in our seats at their stunts in the air. One of the best performances I have ever seen. They received a standing ovation by the audience. Both men & women showed strength, agility & patience in their work- an absolutely amazing performance. An excellent production and stage effects.
- June 4, 2012- Show: Saturday Night Fever- A great song & dance show. Very entertaining and lovely music. They received a standing ovation by the audience. What lovely production and stage effects.
- June 5, 2012- Show: Encore! An Ice Spectacular- Excellent dancing on the ice skates by the skilled performers. Very entertaining.
- At 11:15pm there was another show, "Dancin' in the Street-70's style" - This was a great '70's style song & dance set up by the Cruise director himself and his team of non-professionals from the ship's crew & staff. Very entertaining and great music.
- June 6, 2012- Show: East Coast Boys- entertaining & good music. They got the audience to clap along (and sing along). However, possibly this show should have been rescheduled for the very first day of sailing, thus building up for the other four, more-exciting shows (incl Los Pampas- see below). Music was good and I think the purchase of their CD was worth the money. Audience turnout was on the lower side though.
- On June 7, 2012, there was no show as we had seen all the others; however, Liberty had organized a White night pool party with DJ & a live band. This was very entertaining and good fun, with good dance music. It was located at the pool deck and the dance floor had been set up between the pools. Music was good and a lovely evening. You had to dress in White.
- June 8, 2012 -- Cruising back to Barcelona, we saw: Los Pampas Gauchos- very enjoyable show; light, humorous and very entertaining. Both artists were skilled in their dances & tools and my family & I enjoyed it immensely, as did most of the other audience I feel. They connected and interacted with the audience. However there was a low turnout. As with my comments/review on 'East Coast Boys', maybe this show too could have been rescheduled and shown on the second day, building up to the other three more exciting shows
Don't waste time in Toulon. See if there's a taxi when you get off the ship, settle with the taxi guy to drive you to Marseille and spend the day in Marseille. I don't know what it will cost, but I think it should be in the Euro 300-400 range but the advantage is that the car is yours; and your time is most precious on these day visits and the car will take you right to the spot(s) you want to visit. I'm sure there's a train but by going by private car you don't have to worry about transfers, etc. Ensure you get off in time so that you can return.
We didn't do the above- we wasted time so then decided to go to Toulon city. It was fine- a quiet Sunday with the farmers market on. Had a great meal in one of the small husband-wife restaurants.
Not a very extraordinary day- we just missed going to Marseille!