We took the eight-night cruise out of Baltimore to Bermuda, Boston and Newport. Another cruise right before a ship is due for drydock.
Royal Caribbean is discontinuing their luggage tags. I printed some of the luggage tags included in our cruise packet, and they suggested printing them in color. Not possible for me, since we don't own a color printer. I don't think our TA has a color printer either.
Royal Caribbean booked us one pre-night at the Baltimore Hilton and two post-nights at the Renaissance in Baltimore. The Renaissance Waterfront was within very short walking distance of the National Aquarium, US. Constellation and a water taxi stop that gave us access more of the harbor.
We had to make our way from the airport to the Hilton on our own, and produced our hotel voucher, and soon were in our room. We wish Royal Caribbean would send our allergies to the hotel, because both times we checked in, we had to wait for them to remove the feathers. The next morning, we shared "Rum Raisin French Toast" in the hotel dining room, which gave us both differing degrees of food poisoning.
Pre-cruise transfer seemed slow. The bus, probably seats 50 arrived promptly. No one told us the luggage stowed wouldn't be available to us at the pier. We waited an unusually long time for all the stragglers to arrive. Then we drove to the Renaissance, and had to wait for more that weren't at the rendevous point, and hotel personnel said he hadn't checked out yet. While it makes sense to use a large bus for a 2-hour drive from IAH to Galveston, it doesn't make sense to pack a bus for a 10-minute ride to the pier in Baltimore. In Miami they used a small shuttle to transfer us from hotel to pier. Any stragglers can wait for the next trip!
I made the mistake of handing my duffle with my camera to store under the bus instead of bringing it onto the bus. At the ship, we got off the bus, and I tried to get my duffle, and asked them to retrieve it, but they weren't too happy with me. The porter tossed it carelessly into the luggage cart. On other cruises, they've let us put our hand luggage in the bus luggage compartment and retrieve them when we reach the port.
While the boarding process went well, we were corralled around the centrum on Deck 4 that had booths for all the various venues aboard. Personally, we would have preferred lunch first, then checking out the booths after we had been fed. We were not allowed into our rooms until 1:30 pm, and for us, embarkation doesn't end until we are in our cabin. Dragging our carry-ons through the Windjammer didn't thrill us. Also, every table in the Windjammer was filled. They opened an overflow room off the elevators. I think the only times that particular room was open was on embarkation day and disembarkation day.
We finally got into our rooms, and our luggage arrived about the same time we did. A couch, two easy chairs. Really nice sitting area! Also, a padded pole in the middle of the room against the bed, #8092. Uploaded photo: http://photos.cruisecritic.com/showphoto.php?photo=24533
About ten o'clock on day 2, my wife got the noro-virus, and we called the infirmary and they said it was sea sickness. They explained a doctor's exam was $100 and up, and getting admitted was $700 and up. After getting worse we finally went down to the infirmary. They asked for a list of everything I'd had to eat for the last three days. They gave me a couple batches of pills and a shot and some powerade, and quarantined me for about 36 hours. They seemed concerned that I may not be able to walk back up to my room, and offered a wheelchair. But fortunately, I wasn't dehydrated since I'd been taking tiny sips of water all afternoon. Overall, once we visited medical they seemed quite organized. I was the only one in quarantine, so service was fast. I wrote down the wrong room service number, but they called me the next day for my order. They refunded one of our prepaid shore excursions for both of us, since I was too sick to go the first day in Bermuda. Also, they'd posted to report stomach problems in the Cruise Compass, for a free consultation and treatment, and they were true to their word.
The food was a little disappointing. At breakfast the eggs were cooked without salt and pepper, but maybe they did it that way because we can add our own seasoning. They had some rather poor cuts of beef, such as Beef Shoulder. All three of us that ordered New York Strip thought it was a rather poor representation, being tough. We all ordered it medium, and got it medium well. We did splurge on a delicious Chops Filet for an additional $17.17. I ordered it medium, and got it medium rare. The menu says $14, but they automatically add a 15% gratuity, and had a line for adding a tip if desired. We noticed Lattitudes also added that 15% gratuity, and our table mates mentioned automatic gratuity on their bar bill too. Our waiter was excellent with his recommendations which sometimes didn't agree with the chef's recommendations. When I got out of quarantine, he approached me with a welcome back hug. During the night when I was quarantined, my husband was the only one at the dinner table. The waiter hurried the serving, bringing one dish after another so he could return to the stateroom and his sick wife. On this itinerary, we had Eggs Benedict, Crab Benedict and Salmon Benedict. No chocolate menu, but they may have had it during quarantine.
We loved the vocalist in the Centrum with her excellent intonation!
Excursions: I wish the descriptions of the excursions would include size of bus, driving time between stops and length of time at each stop as well as amount of walking and whether there is a bathroom at each stop, as well as shopping.
Our cabin steward was quite good, but he would move our things from one side of the room to the other, so we were constantly looking for things. During the day and a half quarantine, the cabin steward did our cabin last. Once I asked him to give us towels and not bother with the room, but he may have gotten in trouble because he made sure the room was extra clean the next day complete with a bottle of "virus killer." We had to ask for some laundry forms, and we never got the midweek laundry special. Our steward was really fast with the laundry bag after my unfortunately attack of stomach bug. And they sent a man promptly to clean my toilet too.
Disembarkation was one of the easiest we've seen. We bought the transfer to the hotel, and had to wait a while for the huge bus to fill up. Instead of waiting for huge buses to fill up, we would prefer mini-vans or suburbans. The hotel is only 10-minutes from the port, and I think more trips would work better. They could bring smaller batches, and return to the port with cruisers from the hotels.
We prepaid our gratuities, and were confused when no vouchers arrived on the last night. We wish they'd sent a letter explaining discontinuing of vouchers for people that prepaid gratuities. We did get envelopes for additional tips.
Overall, a great trip!