We booked the cruise about 3 weeks prior to sailing. It was a great deal ($219 per person for an oceanview cabin.) We booked directly through the Royal Caribbean website and were therefore able to choose our cabin. We picked a cabin on deck 9, which has bigger cabins than on other regular decks (not including the balcony cabins, of course.)
We flew into Miami the night before, and it's good that we did because many flights were delayed for some reason. We checked in around 11 am which was great because there were no lines. As we waited to get our luggage tagged we were greeted warmly by crew members.
We received our seapass cards and boarded the ship! Music was playing, the atmosphere was festive, and the crew very welcoming and friendly. The main lobby of the ship is pretty and well maintained. Is it as fancy as Disney? No--but for a ship that's older than most it was really nice! Everything was clean and shiny! We were directed to a HUGE lunch buffet where there was food to satisfy every palate and fill every hungry belly. When we booked the cruise my husband and I purchased the beverage package, which allows you to get soda anytime you want all over the ship. We received insulated drink cups (kind of like big insulated coffee mugs) and were able to fill up at various stations throughout the ship.
At 1 pm we were told the cabins were ready. My husband and I were very pleasantly surprised at the large size of the cabin (after reading negative reviews here). We had a King sized bed, a sofa, PLENTY of closet and drawer space, and a large window. The bathroom was extremely clean, but very small, with a (really good ) shower-no tub. Our cabin attendant was wonderful and helpful, and immediately brought us extra towels. The towels you get aren't very big (the pool towels are) so we were glad we brought a couple of big towels from home.
We proceeded to check out the ship, walked around, and explored. There was a party at the pool deck and we enjoyed that. Once we set sail, the casino opened too, which was fun but very smokey.
We chose the 6:30 dinner service. We shared our table with 2 other couples. Our head waiter was superb! He did magic tricks every night and remembered what we liked. We realized that if we wanted to try different foods there was no problem ordering 2 apps, or 2 desserts, or even 2 entrees. While the food was good, the portions were very small.
As far as food was concerned, our biggest complaint was that aside from set meal times, there weren't a lot of opportunities to just grab food somewhere. There was a wonderful breakfast buffet or you could eat a la carte in the dining room. Lunch we had a buffet on Coco Cay one day and in Nassau the next day. Then there is a short period of time on the ship where there is a snack buffet (with great food!), then dinner. There is also a pizza place that is open for several hours a day. But when I compare to Disney cruises, it's definitely lacking. We would have liked to have just snacks around, like fruit or chips, not have to go to a dining room for a buffet.
Excursions: My husband and I didn't really have any excursions. We chose this cruise just to relax. We disembarked on CoCo Cay, the cruise line's private island, and rented a Cabanette (small cabana) for $50 which came with 2 big bottles of water, a fruit platter, and a private really nice lunch buffet. Totally worth it!!! Getting to the island, however, was a big pain. Those who left around 8:30 in the morning did just fine. We left around 10:30 and by then the lines to get to the tenders were extending to the 3rd floor, with complete chaos around. People were cutting in line and it was a mess. It took us 45 minutes to get onto the island. The island was fun! Hammocks hanging everywhere, lots of shade, nice people, and fun slides and water "toys." There was a great straw market there with lots of neat things to buy-but you could only pay in cash.
Nassau was fun too-but very hot in July. We went to Atlantis and shopped around Nassau itself. When we came back to the ship crew members were waiting outside the ship for us with glasses of ice water! Nice touch!!!
All in all it was a great trip, and worth our money. We got to relax, have fun, and meet new people. The crew was wonderful and curtious, and we felt pampered. Our main complaints were the food (see above) and the lack of programs on the ship. There was bingo a couple of nights, karaoke, and one show a night in the theater. Nothing too exciting! There were some programs late late at night, but we didn't want to stay up til midnight. The gameshows that they did have for fun were not well organized and not many people showed up.
But for what we paid I'd do it again in a heartbeat!