Excellent start, smooth and efficient embarkation, amazing speed at which 4000 passengers were organised, quicker than boarding a flight of 250 passengers!
Stateroom exactly as in the description, dimensions and descriptions clear in all the blurb when booking. Best if possible to book a balconied room, though of course this is more expensive. Plenty of storage, comfy bed and good shower.
The ship's policy to charge $25 if towels not returned is clearly marked. It is usual practice to return accommodation towels.
Despite the size of the ship and number of passengers on board it never ceased to amaze me how you could find peace and quiet. Deck 4, the outside deck was lovely and we spent many evenings sitting watching the sunset with very few people around, the same on deck 5 around and by the heli-pad. There were also plenty of quiet indoor areas with comfy chairs by windows.
We don't have children but we spoke to many parents who said their kids were having a whale of a time and in fact they didn't see them much all day, giving them a chance for some 'couple time'. The main irritation regarding kids was those who were doing gymnastics and cartwheels on the dance floor late at night when the excellent resident rock band, 'Rock the Boat', were playing in the Pyramid Lounge. RCI did have a policy against this but it was not policed, more's the pity. There were also unsupervised kids running through the library's quiet zone which was annoying.
We didn't pre-pay our tips, I think the whole idea of a tip is to reward good service if/when you get it. The advantage of this is that we could tip the excellent stateroom attendant more generously and apportion our tips as we preferred. There was some pressure to arrange to pre-pay through the sea-pass card but we ignored it.
Food generally was good, we preferred to eat casually in Windjammer most evenings and opted not to pay extra in the 'speciality' restaurants.
I was surprised at how smart people were, there were some stunning evening dresses most nights even though there were only 3 formal nights. People really made the effort and it was good to see. Many times I felt rather under-dressed.
Regarding the ports, the cruise trips and shuttles were expensive but you don't have to do them. We either walked or took a local bus for a few euros in to the centre of the towns. A little pre-planning and research was very useful, in particular previous advice read in these reviews was valuable