I've been on several cruises, including the Allure of the Seas and twice on the Liberty of the Seas and I always find myself looking forward to the days in port but I looked forward to being on the ship every day during this cruise. Maybe its because after being on its sister ship twice, I was able to navigate my way around-because this ship is HUGE.
My husband and I had an Oceanview Stateroom on Deck 2 and my family was staying on Deck 7. I thought staying on Deck 2 would be a problem because of its close proximity to the nightclub on board, but it was pretty quiet, never have known there are a club right above us. However, it was noisy early in the morning -you can hear the grinding as the shop docks and on days when the ship was tendered -the tender station was right outside our window and people could see us. Even though staterooms are known to be kind of small, it was really more than enough room. Royal caribbean is smart about having little nooks behind the mirror and in the bathroom and there were sufficient shelves inside the closet for all my clothes.
The promenade on Deck 5 is fabulous -lots of little shops, but we especially loved Vintages, the wine bar. We did tastings 3 or 4 nights and especially liked the dessert wine flight which was $25 for 4 wines, accompanied by cheeses, apricots, strawberries and dark chocolate. Virgilo, who worked at Vintages was very educated about wines and one of my favorite tips from him was to have a bite of their french blue cheese prior to a sip of wine to enhance the sweetness of the wine. Loved hanging out here and fortunately, it was not too crowded.
Deck 5 also had Sorrento's pizza which also has a display of antipasta, grilled eggplant and various desserts (try the chocolate panna cotta -delicious!) The cafe on the promenade also served Seattle's Best coffee, which was stronger than what was servied in the Windjammer or Main Dining Room. Their sesame bars were delicious.
The Arcadia Theater on Deck 3 and 4 featured the nightly show-and let me tell you, the two women singers had fantastic voices. Their fairy tale show was pretty entertaining and def a lot of hard work. Their show "Marquee" which featured songs from various broadway plays was well done as well. The two comedians they had on board were pretty funny -but don't miss the Magician. Our magician had previously been on America's Got Talent and had a whole show that included a plot, music and special effects. One of the guest talents was also a beach boys cover band that had a bit of a plot (similar to Jersey boys, but not based on a true story) and good interaction with the audience. That was a pretty fun show.
Also on Deck 4 is the Schnooner Bar. Our piano man was Kory Simon and he is one heck of an entertainer. He was full of energy, very funny, interacted with the audience A LOT and had everyone laughing and singing along. The youtube videos with him don't do him justice -you have to see him perform in person. He is charismatic, plays the piano beautifully, has a great voice and was so friendly with the kids. During his break between sets, he would go to the audience to get to know us and really made an effort to talk to the kids, especially the ones who were interested in music. He would change the lyrics to songs -you never knew what he was going to say next but you wanted to know! It was hard to get a seat at the bar when he was playing, but it was worth it to stand for an hour and a half to watch him perform. Kory would go back and forth between singing, telling jokes and would stop and have a conversation with you and thank you for coming to see him play without missing a beat. I found myself looking forward to hearing him play every night -I think about half of the ship did too!
My next favorite spot was on Deck 12, the Spa. My masseuse Nikola from the UK was very nice and treated both my husband and I. But my favorite treatment on cruises is to get acupuncture. I know some people don't like the idea of someone sticking a needle in them on a moving ship, but really, its hardly a problem. I'm a Registered Nurse and my husband is a physician and we are both big fans of acupuncture -its becoming more accepted in Western medicine and in regards to pain management, has far fewer side effects than medications. Ovidiu Moldovan from Romania was the acupuncturist and he was amazing. He studied for years in China and his ability to target the exact location to place the needles was amazing. I've been to other to acupuncturists before who kind of just stuck the needles in and left. He treated my husband for a sports injury and my husband stated he felt the results even after the first session. As for me, I've been living with chronic back pain for years (and I'm only 29) due to a work injury and Ovidiu would work on my back until I felt "De Qi," a tingling sensation meaning the treatment is working. He was kind and didn't seem to mind my occasional yelps when he hit the right spot. Mr. Moldovan took the time to explain the energy flow to me, even taking the time to show me a book about acupuncture to better explain its mechanism of action. He made me feel comfortable right away and he was happy to answer all my questions. I really have to say, I looked forward to going to the spa almost everyday during this cruise and Ovidiu was a big part of it. If you've never had acupuncture before, this is the man to try it with, because he is the best.
Now as for ports, Cococay was nice, but very hot. We rented floating mats and got to relax.
In St. Thomas, we took a taxi for $10 per person each way to Sapphire Beach. Its a beautiful beach, not too crowded, blue water and kayaking available. We also ate at Gladys's cafe in Charlotte Amalie -I have to go here every time I'm in St. Thomas for the Jerk Chicken and it is fabulous. Great service and great food, and about a 20 minute walk back to the ship.
In St. Maarten, we went to the Yoda Guy giftshop and museum which was very cool! Its a non-profit run by Nick Maley who was involved in the creation of Yoda. Now if you're expecting a shop with key chains and coffee mugs and a "disney-fied" exhibit, you're going to be surprised, because this place is even better. I went with my husband and 12 year old brother, who was in awe of all the movie memorabilia available -he is a big Star Wars fan. There was a lot more in the museum than I would have expected and the best part was that we got to meet Nick Maley. He was so welcoming and happy to talk to us about careers and following your dreams. They do ask for a donation to enter the museum, but if you buy a certain amount of merchandise you could enter -totally worth it!! We got to see a lot of authentic movie memorabilia, learn a lot of the true behind-the-scenes work that goes into movies and we got to meet Nick Maley. He even autographed a photo of Yoda for my brother we he now has proudly framed in his room. What an amazing place! Give yourself about an hour to really enjoy this exhibit, and luckily, it is not a far walk from the nearly shops and beach. Had a fabulous time at St. Maarten.
I tend not to book excursions through the ship and prefer to go and explore the islands on my own. I've never had a problem making it back on the ship on time -but I always plan to get back early.
Anyway, back to the ship -its beautiful, the entertainment staff is fantastic, especially our Cruise Director. I think what set this particular cruise so memorable was the staff -they had great interaction with guests, especially Kory the Piano man and Ovidiu the acupuncturist. I've never been more entertained and happy on a cruise and look forward to sailing again.