First, a bit about us. We are from Topeka, Kansas. This was our ninth cruise, the fifth consecutive on Royal Caribbean. The earlier recent ones were to the Baltic in 2011 on the Jewel; the Mediterranean and then Panama both on the Brilliance; and on the Oasis in 2010.
This cruise seemed to us a bit off to start. Perhaps that is because our first stop, the day after departure, is a short hop. We go from departure to our first port the next day, and it is close. So close, in fact, that one of our table mates considered renting a car in Portland, driving home to get the formal wear they forgot, and then returning to the ship. They could have done so, or so they said, well within the time in port. But, they did not try.
We drove to and then flew from Kansas City to Boston that day with no issues. The RCCL greeters met us at the baggage claim. The wait for the bus was a little long, but not inconvenient. There was some confusion at the pier when the RCCL agent asked why we were not getting our luggage off the bus. That was confusing since on every other cruise the driver transferred the luggage to the dockworker. Easily fixed, but others did just walk away with the assumption the driver would take care of it. I'm trying to not be cynical with the thought of ulterior motives by those involved.
We ate in the main dining room every night. We thought the food was very good but getting tiresome. This is the same menu and on the same days as our recent cruises. Our waiter did mention the menu will change in two cruises. Even so, there seemed to be a good variety and we thought it was well prepared. We must be getting jaded, because although good, the food did not seem as exotic with fancy sauces as it once was. I can understand because of the standardization, speed, and the supporting infrastructure that is required for so many people. Perhaps the new menu will add excitement.
We ate in The Windjammer for breakfast and lunch, and were favorably impressed. There was a good variety and we thought it was prepared well. Although, the same breakfast every day stated to get tiresome, but indeed much better than that at home!
Very clean and comfortable. They are ALWAYS cleaning and making sure we sanitize our hands. The ship still looks good. Also, the ride was very smooth.
Comfortable although small, as expected. We were on Deck 3 in the forward part, near the elevators. You may wish to try to avoid the area where the stewards have their closets and organize their work. That can get noisy. We did not think a balcony would have been of value on this itinerary - that was a correct assessment.
The onboard entertainment was pretty good. The live stage band was very good. Other musicians across the ship were good, especially the classical guitarist. He was on our cruise last year and is still excellent. We thought the gal at the piano bar a bit to "brassy" for us.
The comedian on the first night was OK then but better on the last night.
The impressionist was pretty good and he performed elsewhere on the ship through the week.
The magician was absolutely excellent. Very good magic and humor! I'd watch him again.
Tango Buenos Aries performed ... again! They are very good but, counting this cruise, they have been on four of our last five cruises. (I've kept and reviewed the Compass from other cruises!) I know the act was the same as that last year. I'd like to know the size of their troupe and how they travel, because it seems that if we board a RCCL ship, we'll see Tango Buenos Aries.
The RCCL singers and dancers show, West End to Broadway, It was good, but I agree with a previous reviewer. It was a bit weak. I think the producers took a few too many liberties with the production and the vocals could have been a bit stronger.
The motown act...They were introduced as the Original Drifters, and without going into lots of detail, they appeared to be so. They also were on our cruise last year. They were OK, but many at our dining table agreed -- time to retire, guys.
Study the excursions on the Royal Caribbean web site and book them in advance. We did that and our tickets were waiting for us. All of our guides were quite knowledgeable.
Portland: PW05-The Best of Portland and Kennebunkport. This was a nice little tour. The Portland Head lighthouse is crowded with people, naturally. You will need to buy your own lunch. Kennebunkport is nice but is touristy.
Bar Harbor: BY04-The Best of Bar Harbor. This tour was generally pretty good, but in our opinion, did have some flaws. The trip to the top of Cadillac Mountain was good. Our guide gave us much information. We were disappointed by the Oceanarium. The "licensed Maine Lobsterman" is personable and does know his stuff and, from what we heard, is a fine, respected, and loved civic servant, but we did not see much of an Oceanarium. We were also disappointed in the "Mansion". It is indeed an interesting architectural work, but it has been converted into administrative offices for a local university.
St. John: NB62- St John and Bay of Fundy Top 10. Very good excursion! Started in the morning and we DID see the rapids running in the reverse direction in the afternoon, albeit in pouring rain.. ...very good chowder at lunch... Interesting fishing village - saw the little harbor with no water and the boats on the mud and then with 3 feet of water, and climbing, 2 hours later. Well worth the time and money.
Halifax: HX02-Historic Halifax City Tour. A good tour, but it seemed we were rushed.
Halifax: HX01-Famous Peggy's Cove Fishing Village. Yes we were able to do back-to-back tours in Halifax. This is a good tour, but much of the tour is the drive to and from the village, and we had, what we thought was, an extended stay at the village. The rocks around the lighthouse are very dangerous. We were one of the last, if not the last, tours to return. There was some duplication from the morning, but not too much. Unfortunately, we were in quite a bit of fog at the village. Still, we'd recommend this. The guide was continually noting points of interest.
Boston: BX01-Scenic Boston City Tour with airport drop. This was a very good tour. We were impressed with the knowledge of our guide. Navigating a long and wide bus through the narrow and curved streets of Boston was at times ...interesting. Doing this tour in a large bus on a weekday might have been more challenging! We saw only the steeple of the Old North Church and looked at the Constitution only through a fence. Don't expect many stops. Still, it was a good tour..very good overview of history and of Boston.
The service was good and friendly. Our room steward kept forgetting to provide ice (you must ask for it now.), even though we asked four different days. He also kept forgetting to put up the rail on the pull down bed for our son, even though we asked three different days.
Easy, fast, and well organized.
We thought the food was pretty good in the dining room and Windjammer. Service was friendly and helpful. Excursions and tours were well organized, easy to find, and generally pretty good. The live music across the ship was good, but some of the headliner shows, e.g., the Motown act, were not so good. We always felt safe. We booked our next cruise onboard.