We are a family of 4 - my wife and I, our 12 yr. old son, and his grandmother. This was our 5th but first non-Disney cruise. We therefore found ourselves constantly comparing RCL to Disney and are happy to report that RCL compared favorably.
1. Barcelona port - we arrived 10:45 am Saturday and were onboard by 11 - well laid out embarkation area and not crowded at this early time. Much better than our Sept. 2011 experience with Disney at Port Canaveral.
2. Room - #1400 - deck 10 - as good as all the reviews say - lots of room, large balcony and very private. Absolutely no noise. Only downside were the towels - rough as sandpaper - time to buy new ones RCL!
3. Food - breakfast and lunch buffets at Windjammer were average in quality and selection. Dinner in the Rembrandt deck 3 was very good in quality and outstanding in service - our main waiter David from Jamaica was the best we have ever had. He was polite, professional and quickly learned what we liked and disliked and by the last evening we hardly had to say a word - he correctly anticipated our every need!
4. Shows - Saturday Night Fever - Broadway style quality; In the Air - almost Cirque du Soleil quality and also very good.
5. Excursions - we booked via RCL and found all excursions to be well organized with average to excellent tour guides.
A. Aix en Provence - mildly interesting. Given the intense schedule the rest of the cruise, this first day is better spent relaxing onboard and getting to know the ship.
B. Nice/Eze - beautiful neighborhoods of Nice but the 1 hr. on your own in the public square was not so interesting. Eze is a charming medieval hilltop village with quaint shops and an outstanding view.
C. A Taste of Florence - great pedestrian tour of an outstanding city that only whets your appetite to visit again and see the museums and attractions.
D. A Taste of Rome - coach tour with stops at the coliseum and beautiful St. Peter's Basilica. Only downside was getting around on our own during our 3 hr. "free time" - if you don't know your way around take a taxi and hope you don't pay more for the ride - we did.
E. Amalfi Coast/Pompeii - nice break from all the walking - had an outstanding 45 minute boat ride to/from the town of Amalfi on our own dedicated boat. We wished we had more than 45 min. free time to explore this quaint seaside town.
6. Ship crew able to handle the unexpected - the captain learned at 8 pm that our berth at Livorno the following day would not be available but when he made the announcement at 9:45 pm a "Plan B" was implemented to go to La Spezia, 60 miles north. We got a voicemail at 11 and a letter overnight advising our tour departure was moved up 15 minutes to allow for the tenders we would now have to take. Our departure was delayed about an hour the next day to accommodate all the late returning excursions but otherwise all went off without a hitch - well done!
7. The Promenade - a nice focal point for the ship and it was great to stroll down on the 2 formal nights, watching the people.
8. Crowds - while this was the largest ship we have ever been on, we never felt crowded.
1. Interior Appearance - the ship is generally clean and well-maintained but some of our room furniture was showing signs of wear and tear and our bathroom was chipped in spots. There was also a hideous odor from time to time in the hallway.
2. Picture Gallery - our only real service problem on the entire cruise. We purchased 2 pictures at 6 pm on the last day - we were told to return at 9 only to be told to come again later. The staff was overwhelmed and not well-trained. We told them to deliver to our room as we were going to bed early.
At 10:30 they called to ask again if we wanted the pictures, and then loudly knocked on our door at 11:30 to get us to sign for them! A second set of pics was delivered at 6 am but we were thankfully not charged as I would've hated to try and get this sorted out on disembarkation day.
Overall, a cruise we will remember for a long time. RCL offers great value vs. Disney, and even if the LOS is not as painstakingly maintained as the Disney ships, it is a nice ship.