My husband and I selected this sailing based on the dates since we had to work around my very tight school schedule. We booked this to celebrate our first anniversary. Embarkation at Port Canaveral was flawless. We rented a car in Orlando and drove ourselves to the port, arriving around 11am. After leaving our bags with the porter, we were able to walk right up to Royal's check-in desk. Within 5 minutes we were checked in, drinking lemonade and waiting for boarding to start. Just before 1130am we were able to board the ship. We decided to have lunch first in the windjammer and found everything to be pretty tasty. Overall the buffet on royal was much better than our buffet experience on Carnival. After a quick lunch, we grabbed a DOD and headed for the pool where we camped out until we could go to our room. Rooms were ready right at 1pm and we swung by the room to drop off our carry-on and head back to the pool. Our bags were already at our room, but they were soaked! It had only been raining lightly the last 15 minutes. I travel with a large vera bradley duffel (all cloth) and my clothes inside were soaked as well. Very frustrating! Why wouldn't they put a tarp over the luggage carts or something.
Anyhow, we had originally booked an ocean-view on 6, but due to price drops right before our sailing I was able to move up to a superior ocean-view on 9 at the same price. The PCC said the view was obstructed and even sent me a pic, so I was pleasantly surprised that the only obstruction was being able to see the lifeboats when you looked down. It definitely did not match the picture from the PCC. It was a gorgeous view and the room was definitely bigger than the average cabin. We immediately rotated the bed as I prefer to sleep with my head under the window (superstitious thing about seasickness). The room was very clean and the bed surprisingly comfortable.
We picked my time dining as we are fairly spontaneous and prefer not to plan that ahead. That first night we went to the MDR around 630pm and checked in with the maitre d'. He asked what time our reservation was and proceeded to scold us for not making a reservation. We explained that we wanted the freedom to dine when we choose and he just keep pushing the reservations. Even so far as to give me a typed out letter explaining how to make a reservation. We were almost embarrassed and felt his behavior was very inappropriate. We overheard several other tables discussing the same thing so I know we were not alone in this. Our server was absolutely incredible. Nefilson (and Jefferson, the asst waiter) were outstanding and really made an enjoyable experience for us. We both enjoyed everything we had to eat, although some things were much better than others. We overall enjoyed the MDR food on carnival a little more however. Royal's portions were very small and the selection wasn't great.
Day 2 of the cruise was Nassau which we had been to before. So we opted to spend the morning/afternoon on the ship. We ate breakfast in the MDR. It was good but nothing to write home about. Then a quick change and headed to the pool for a bit. We had no problem finding chairs near the pool the entire cruise. The 2 hot tubs were very crowded all the time. We barely managed to squeeze in once. Cocktail servers were prompt and friendly. We watched the sexiest man contest and then a live band played poolside which was very enjoyable and ate a poolside mexican buffet for lunch (very tasty!). Dinner the MDR was very similar to the night before. Great service but average food. I had mentioned to the PCC when I switched cabins that we were celebrating our anniversary but didn't expect them to do anything about it. After dessert the second night, they came out with another dessert and sang happy anniversary. It was very kind of them, but the dessert ended up going to waste because we'd both just eaten dessert. And overall their desserts were very disappointing. The only one we truly enjoyed was the warm chocolate cake on day 3. After dinner we went to the Schooner Bar for 'piano pub entertainment', which was not at all what we expected. The piano player was good but only playing very lowkey songs very quietly. We had envisioned more of a piano bar type atmosphere with very upbeat music and lots of crowd involvement.
Day 3 was Coco Cay. We were anxious to enjoy some beach relaxation and got up early for breakfast buffet in the windjammer. Breakfast was very good in the buffet, much better than expected. We went down to catch a tender to the island. We didn't have to wait at all, we got straight on. After a quick tender (on one of their permanent tenders, not a lifeboat), we went to the snorkel shack to rent equipment before it got more crowded. We snagged a chair by the water and headed right in to snorkel. We had to go out quite a ways to find anything (it certainly wasn't the greatest snorkeling I've done)but we did find many beautiful fish and even a sting-ray hiding under the rocks. We spent the rest of the morning laying out in the sun. We were the only ship at Coco Cay that day and the island never felt crowded. There were hundreds of empty chairs. The BBQ buffet was pretty good and it was easy to get food and find a place to sit. We went back to the beach after lunch and had no trouble finding new chairs. As we were leaving the island around 330 we stopped to swing in a hammock for a while and we also made a pit-stop in the straw market. Tendering back to the island was quick and easy. After dinner, I wanted to watch football, so we headed up to the Viking Crown Lounge. Turns out they only had cricket on tv and the whole place reeked of cigar smoke despite being almost completely empty. So we decided to catch some of the entertainment on board. We saw the final production show (pretty good), a battle of the sexes game show (hilarious!), the adult comedy show (so-so), and then went to The Quest (can't say enough good things about the quest! This is definitely a do not miss for adults!)
Overall we liked the ship a lot. I'd read some reviews about the age of the ship, and you could definitely see some ageing around. Much of the furniture in the bars/lounges were very dated, as well as the carpet, but everything was very clean overall. There were multiple shelves (6) in our room, 4 drawers, and a decent sized closet. We also had a mini-fridge, a safe, and a hair dryer. The bathroom was tiny (as expected), and stocked only with a bar of soap and the shower dispenser of all in one product.
Debarkation was very quick and easy. We chose self assist and were off the ship by 8:05am. We had to shuttle back to Budget Rentacar and even then we were on the road driving back to Orlando at 8:25. Renting a car turned out to be cheaper than the cheapest shuttle we could find and it was much more convenient.