Price/Value -- We paid about $500/person to get on the ship. WOW! That is such an awesome deal for the level of pampering and service we received on this 7 day cruise. We stayed on level 4 in one of the larger inside staterooms.
Ship -- The ship is very nice. It was actually nicer that what I anticipated for a ship that was built in 1997. I looked just a few years old to me. Carpets looked new, no weird smells, everything seemed shiny. The atrium is beautiful. There is this huge ornamental piece of art that hangs from the ceiling of the atrium and glass elevators coming through so you could watch people scurry all over the ship.
Pool -- Pool is great. Weren't a ton of kids, but that's where they all were. I wasn't really annoyed by any of the kids, they all behaved pretty well. There was a solarium which is adults only and has another pool and 2 more hot tubs. We spent a lot of time at the pool. You will never go thirsty with the pool bar runners walking by constantly.
Food -- Food was good. I had read some reviews that said the food was average, and some that said it was horrible. I think the food was great. Just remember that if you don't like something, send it back and order something else!! I never had to do that because I really enjoyed everything I ordered, (except the Tiramisu). Two most delicious entrees were the steak and the lobster. I had to order another lobster! The desserts are great in the dining room (again, except the Tiramisu). We ate all of our dinners in the dining room because the food was so good AND because we immediately made friends with our whole table. It's funny how cruise lines are so good at putting people together at dinner tables.
We ate breakfast and lunch in the Windjammer every day. It is right by the pool, so easy to run in and grab a bite after you have been chillin at the pool. Food was pretty good. Much better than Carnival windjammer - MUCH. The dEcor was actually very nice in Windjammer as well. It was at the front of the ship at the highest point with floor to ceiling windows all around. Very nice to go in and relax while eating and look at the ocean or watch other cruise ships as you pull in or out of a port. There was always a buffet with great food and also burgers/ hot dogs, mac and cheese and sandwich station. Oh.. and TONS of dessert to choose from.
There was also pizza and hamburgers all day available in the solarium. I have to say Carnival's pizza is much better though, that is one place they excelled over RCI.
Service -- The service was great. Our waitress, Glenda, was such a fun part of our evening every night. She learned our names the first night and learned what we liked (rolls, a scoop of ice cream with EVERY dessert) and would bring to us without even asking. Jonas was our assistant waiter. He made sure the rolls kept coming and our glass was never empty.
Our stateroom attendant, Daniel, was great as well. Every time we came back, the bed had been made up and we had fresh towels. Every night we came in to a new towel animal and one night he even made it look like there was a person laying in our bed (with pillows, towels, one of my shirts and my sunglasses). We had chocolates on our pillow every night. I love that.
Since we made such good friends with our buds at table 30, we decided to all go to the beach together in Cozumel. Since we had already booked another excursion, I was afraid that RCI would not want to credit our account so we could do this. I went and asked at the activities desk and no questions asked, it was great. All of the ship staff was great.
Entertainment -- I have to say it was pretty mediocre. What do you expect from a cruise though? I don't think you are ever going to see a true Broadway show in the middle of the ocean. I will say that I enjoyed the entertainment every night. We decided to attend the show every night before dinner (we had late seating). My favorite shows were the magician and the juggler - both really good actually. The Rhapsody singers and dancers were nothing to talk about, but I think they all really enjoy what they do. The newlywed show was fun. We went to a late-night game show and everyone that went was broken into teams and played (hundreds of people). It is funny what people will do for a stinking key chain.... I ended up on stage with my shirt off a woman's bra on (yes, she took it off right there along with a ton of other women), women's earrings and lipstick on. The nightclub on the 11th floor is a fun place to hang out late at night, but it wasn't really jamming most nights. It probably was during Spring Break, but we had a lot of blue hairs on this cruise. We did Bingo on the last day as the pot was up to over $7K. It was fun, and everyone was playing since the pot was so big, but some woman won and had no expression whatsoever after winning.. pissed me off. Had friends that loved the casino. I hate casinos since every time I have gone, I lose a ton of money in no time flat, so I steered clear. The Gym is nice, I worked out every day after waking up, and before going to the pool.
Stateroom -- Like I said, we got one of the larger inner staterooms - 4055 (on level 4). It was just as I expected, small. But as far as comparing to our last cruise, it was similar, but the room was less outdated. The rooms are nice, lots of storage, so pack plenty and then just unpack your bags into all the drawers and there is plenty of space in the closet for hang-up clothes. We don't spend a lot of time in the room, so a window room or a suite would just be a waste of money to me since they were so much more expensive. (Suite would have been over twice as much).
Drinks -- I went ahead and got the soda card on the first day. It was about $50, but worth it I guess as they would charge you about $3 for a soda if you did not have one of these. I got all I could drink, and the pool bar runners just kept bringing them for me when I was at the pool without me having to sign with my seapass (this is your room key and card to purchase anything on the ship).
Beers were about $3.50 for domestic. You could get a bucket of beer at the pool (buy 5, get the 6th free). Drinks of the day were around $6-7. My wife is pregnant, so she stuck with the virgin pina coladas and there were about $5.50. We are not big drinkers, so we didn't end up spending much on alcohol, but I saw some peoples 4 page long seapass bills (come on the last morning) and they were regretting that they drank it up all week. It can really add up quickly.
Key West - Nice port, just as I imagined it. Not a ton to do there really. We just got off of the boat and shopped awhile before eating some good seafood. The good thing about this stop is that you are there from about 3PM to midnight. My wife is pregnant, so we didn't go out and do the clubs, but those who enjoy that get to stay and party until midnight. But you better stumble back on the ship because they will leave you! I think we left someone in Key West. I wish we had taken the little trolly tour of Key West as I heard that is actually kinda fun.
Grand Cayman - You have to take the little tender boats over to the pier in Cayman. This was an easy process.. those with early morning excursions got to go first, and then after that others had to go pick up a tender ticket from one of the bars. We got on a tender boat about 30 min after picking up our ticket, so it moved very quickly. There were about 6 other ships in the port when we pulled in. It was quite a site to see them all anchored there.
We had scheduled an excursion to go snorkel at 7 mile beach and they kayak 3 miles down the beach, but it got cancelled because the ship had to leave early from the port (2 hours early) because a storm was coming in and the Cayman "port authority" wanted all ships out by 3PM. So all afternoon excursions were cancelled and refunds were given. We really didn't mind that much because we decided to take a taxi to the beach and we ran into our friends from our dinner table and hung with them on the beach. 7 mile beach is beautiful.
Cozumel - We went with all of our friends from table 30 to Chankanaab beach. It was a nice beach, and a great place to snorkel. It would not be a great place to go if you want to swim a lot because it was all reef for snorkeling, but we had a blast. You can swim with the dolphins there for about $100 and one of our friends did that and really enjoyed it. We just paid about $12 person to get into the park and a $12 cab fair from the ship terminal. (this was a rip-off since it was only about 2 miles from the ship)
Overall Experience -- Like I said before, we ended up making friends with our dinner table crew immediately. That was so awesome since we had not come on the cruise with any friends. We hung out with them at the pool, in the nightclubs and we even did our beach excursions with them in Cayman and Cozumel. One of our friends from the dinner table, Richie, proposed to his girlfriend, Hillary at the newlywed show. He had it all planned out with the cruise director, Peter, and it was awesome. Our whole table was there to support Richie, take photos and then go celebrate with the newly-engaged couple afterwards. I feel lucky to have such great new friends.
I would book this cruise again in a heartbeat. Since my wife is 3 months pregnant, this was our last cruise without kids. It was such a relaxing week for both of us since we both have demanding jobs and just needed a week to kick back and relax. I am not kidding when I tell you it was very difficult to come back to reality.
The value of the cruise to so incredibly awesome if you are able to find a deal like I did. I can't believe the week we had for $500/person. RCI is the way to go. Don't think we will book a carnival cruise again.