Arrived in FTL at 10:30 am and was on the ship by 11:30 and eating lunch in the Windjammer Cafe. Getting on the ship was very well organized, short lines and lots of people directing the passengers. After signing in we waited in specific areas to board following the Diamond passengers and other groups.
The food was good, the sights were plentiful! We ate lunch overlooking the mini-golf course and Zip Line and watched others as they combed the ship. Off to our 14th deck balcony, we hoped our luggage would be there, but no, so we went off to explore. The lights, the shops, the ship - everything was spotless and beautiful as if it were brand new.
We had signed up for everything online - and did half of what we expected to do! We absolutely enjoyed every minute, while walking to the Show, we heard a salsa band and stopped to listen and ended up hanging out in Boleros for the rest of the evening. We saw Hairspray and were amazed at the singing and dancing - very entertaining show. We watched the karaoke show, we did the liquor tasting, the one-hour only shopping, the flash mob, the colorful, loud and confetti filled parade. Many people did the cupcake thing, the few kids we saw were chaperoned by RCCL employees and seemed very happy. We danced with Shrek and Delores(?) we watched the little ones faces light up with amazement at actually seeing these characters in person!! The Casino was full of action - flat screens boasting about the amount of money won on this voyage alone - over a million dollars!!! Every night they offered a $2 ticket for an 11 o'clock drawing of over $500,000!
We played a little and were up and down but it ended up RCCL was the real winner, - at least in our case!
We took the advice of several others and brought a case of water - stuck a luggage tag on it and it was delivered to our cabin! Every night I placed 2 or 3 in the frig and had some water to take with us in the ports. Don't forget your sunscreen!
The elevators were not really an issue, some mornings we waited a few minutes but nothing tooo long..
Our first port was Nassau, boy has it changed since we were there 25 years ago! The Oasis is so large that it is docked the furthest away from the city and it was a walk - about 10-15 minutes in the VERY hot sun. RCCL might want to consider getting a shuttle or trolley especially for the older folks - We went through the marketplace and thought about taking a taxi to see Atlantis - we were told it would be $4 each and to wait a few minutes...we waited about 10 minutes and were told it would be $12 pp as they didn't have a full car...we said no thanks and walked out to the city where we ended up taking a large open air truck ($4 pp)with about 25 passengers, to downtown for shopping...the driver took off and just outside the gates he pulled over to collect, several people gave him $20 and he said, I don't have any change - most of the tourists seemed apprehensive about asking for their change. One passenger said, you owe me $12, the driver said, oh, I only have $10, the man repeated, you owe me, and suddenly the guy came up with the whole amount...so beware folks...bring lots of singles. We went a few blocks away and were immediately approached by sales people and drivers and tour guides..we declined them all. We walked around a bit and returned back to the ship, had lunch and took a nap. Back home now, a friend just returned and said that Atlantis is now charging $40 pp for people to simply enter the premises - so I am glad we did not get a ride over there after all!
The voyage between Nassau and St Thomas was long, and from our balcony's point-of-view very boring...there was nothing but ocean for miles on end. Although, we finally got a beautiful sunrise from our balcony on the last day. As a very seasick prone person I was advised by my travel agent to get a CVS product with mescaline - less drowsy - I took one every morning and had absolutely NO seasickness!! YEAHHHH!!! The trek between Nassau and St Thomas became a tad rocky especially towards the evening so, I just went to bed.
St Thomas was nice for jewelry shoppers - I just looked, not really interested in jewels.... I was interested in linens, cheeses and liquor and heard about Mr. Tablecloth but found the prices in St Thomas to be very high. We also had orders of hard - to -find liquor from friends and family as soon as they heard were were heading to the Islands...so we visited each liquor store and found the pricing to be a bit higher than the ship. Electronics and camera prices were much lower than the States but still several thousand for what we were looking for...we didn't purchase as they insisted on cash for these prices.
St Maarten was and is the Friendly Island. Everyone asked if you needed something special and made an effort to assist you, whether it be a cab, a bus, a specific item or liquor, they all were very, very nice. Walking through the cobblestone streets we found another Mr. Tablecloth with the very same item at only $29.00 for a beautiful jacket or coat that was offered in St Thomas for $49 and up! I bought 2!! We found the liquor on our list for several dollars less than the ship as well as, and buy 2 get one free offers! AND, they delivered to the ship! We also bought a wheel of Gouda cheese for $38 -(back home $9.99 a lb) haven't tasted it yet, but I am sure it is delicious. We then decided to take a ride to see the worlds shortest airstrip (check out YouTube) we asked a taxi how much and he told us it would be cheaper to take a bus, and pointed us to the bus - which was in actuality a 9 passenger van. It was a $2 and 40 minute ride from the Courthouse. We shared the bus with the locals, and saw the true St Maarten, people stood on the side of the road, the driver stopped, they got in, they said stop when they wanted off and so on...a young woman sat next to us and asked about us and where we were going, she then told the driver where to take us and gave us directions on where to stand to catch the bus back to the city. We arrived just in time to see a very small 2 seater plane fly just over our heads onto the airstrip, we walked along the makeshift beach where about 200 people were sunbathing, frolicking in the sea and standing on guard with their cameras at the ready. People from all over the world, women in thongs, men in speedos, shorts, t-shirts and everything else then along came a VERY large aircraft right overhead and we were able to get a few shots -how exciting - and dangerous. Everyone reached their hands to the sky as if to touch the plane ...We then caught the bus back to the City just as the young lady told us and saw the sights of St Maarten -the above ground cemetery with faded plastic flowers, the clotheslines filled with clothing, the homes on the hills with broken doors hanging on hinges and busted windows, cars sitting on cement blocks and a few places sprayed with graffiti. Our bus stopped to pick up the uniformed children and dropped them off in front of a grocery store. We noticed there didn't seem to be any traffic lights, but as one man said , they just looked at each other to know whose turn it is to go. There were no acts of road rage, screaming or honking, a simple tap on the horn sufficed. We enjoyed our afternoon with the locals and returned to the ship for a nap and relaxation.
Our Cabin was in the perfect spot - considered the middle of the ship it was at the end of the middle section and just a few steps from the elevators!
Our Cabin Steward Menino Rodriguez from India was quiet and friendly with a big smile man who kept our room spotless and well stocked. He was always at the ready to open our door if he saw us coming and to wish us a nice dinner or evening. We thank him for his tireless and probably sometimes, thankless work.
We had a flat screen tv in our cabin and nver missed any news.
Splish splash was a nice show with very impressive divers, get there early it was very hot and no seats in the shade!
We purchased the Specialty dining package and enjoyed every one of the dinners. Everyone was genuinely nice, and informative and the food and atmosphere were perfect. Giovanni's was our first dinner the nice blond lady from Serbia took her time and explained every dish we asked about and was always available if we needed something but not at all bothersome. 150 Central Park was exquisite with its 6 course meal that consisted of a variety of dishes I have never experienced. Food was presented in a special manner and with class and we enjoyed every bite. The engraved menu was a very nice touch! Chops was equally as good, the only problem is the seating was very close, we found ourselves talking and listening to the conversation of the people next to us as we were so very,very close - they could've removed a table or two and still had plenty of seating. We ate our steaks and family style whipped potatoes, onion rings, mushrooms and broccoli until we were about to explode and then came Chocolate Mud Pies!! The portions were huge and we only took a bite or two, the waiter was concerned but we finally convinced him that the servings were too big to eat them all! After dinner, we strolled through Central Park with the trees lit up in white lights and the breeze gently blowing while a young lady played the violin, we relaxed in the lounge chairs and enjoyed the view, the music and each other.
Our Dining room seating was at 8:30 and our waiter was Sherman. We sat at a table for 10 but no more than 5 of us ever showed up. Formal nights, 99% of the passengers were dressed FORMAL and looked sooo nice, but I guess there's always that one percent... Sherman was very friendly and charming with a nice smile. Sherman always told us of the Chef's suggestions and one of our table mates always asked for at least 2 entrees and desserts and he was accommodated with a smile. Every evening Sherman would tell us where the next stop was and ask about our plans and he always said he would look for us tomorrow, when we told him we were going to the Specialty restaurants - he said, with a sad face, AGAIN??? The next evening when we arrived he always asked did you enjoy your dinner last night, was it a nice experience?? I loved the food in the dining room, it was always presented so beautifully and was very, very good. Sherman's helper was very sweet as well.
During the days we sat by the pool and listened to the calypso band while eating an ice cream cone, the evenings we walked the promenade and people watched and listened to the music and did a little dancing.
As for pushy sales people - we NEVER had that! When we were asked about a drink we politely said no thanks and they went away...when a photographer came around, we took a picture or we said, no thanks... that was it, no one was pushy or overbearing - as far as the pictures, we only purchased one, and 8 x 10 at $19.99. We played Trivia in the Schooner Bar, we went to the Champagne auction and watched OTHER people purchase thousands of dollars in artwork -but we always a learn a little something at these auctions - if you've never gone to one, do it, you won't regret it!
We found some good deals on the ship on the last day and spent quite a bit of money - but Christmas is taken care of!
Friday afternoon we were given numbered luggage tags which corresponded to a timeframe to leave the ship. Our time was 7:45 am, so we woke up at 5:30 am, went to the Windjammer (were we were enthusiastically greeted every day)and had a nice breakfast, went back to the cabin and watched a movie then at 7:45 we headed out and at 8 am we were on the curb waiting for our ride. Broward Sheriff's office was there doing a great job directing traffic and making sure the departures and arrivals went very smoothly.
All in all, it was a long awaited and necessary vacation. It has been over five years since our last get away and we wanted to do it big - and we did! We rested, we played, we ate, we were entertained, we met interesting people, saw interesting things and relaxed.
Hoping to make this an annual ritual - and hope to see you next time!