Overview: In our opinion, RCCL does not quite measure up to Princess and Celebrity. Some differences that we find are as follows:
1) There is an extra charge for upgraded meals, and lobster and filet mignon are never served (even on formal nights) unless one pays a significant upcharge.
2) The fitness room on this ship, though well-fitted out with the latest equipment, was tiny and inadequate for the number of people.
3) Much of the ship had been redesigned to be given over to special lounges for suite and Diamond guests, creating two classes of service. Also, lots of space was given over to expensive upgraded restaurants. There was constant pressure to buy upgraded packages
4) The ship is totally devoid of any daytime activities for thinking persons. No photography, computer, port history, or other classes of any type; all activities were oriented toward generating revenue (constant Bingo, spa "seminars", etc). There were no tours of the ships galley, bridge, or backstage theater unless one paid an exorbitant fee. There is no daily tea and no wine tasting or food seminars. Other than bingo and swimming and the rock climbing wall, there is nothing to do on sea days.
On the positive side:
1) We find that entertainment on RCCL is usually top notch and the Grandeur's new aerial shows in the central atrium were quite impressive.
2) Food quality was fairly good. The soups and sauces were especially amazing; the sous chef should be promoted to executive chef.
3) There is plenty of room in the beautifully designed public spaces and it was always easy to get a deck chair or chaise.
4) This ship has recently been completely refurbished and the cabins and public spaces were very nice.
Embarkation: We were told to show up at 11, but were not allowed to board until noon. We waited in the Gold member lounge but no one ever came up to tell us when boarding started, as they had promised. The lines for Gold Members were longer than the lines for non-Gold members. The process took an hour and was moderately disorganized, with long lines both to check in and to board.
Cabins: Our outside cabin was at the very front of the ship, right next to the anchor locker and above the bow thrusters. Every morning we were awakened by vibration severe enough to throw things off of our counters. The cabin was very strange, due to the curvature of the ship at the front causing our window to be in a little bay about 10 feet from our cabin. The rooms had all been nicely remodeled, with 30 inch flat screen TVs with a reasonable selection of movies and TV. Internet was horribly slow (why can MSC have great internet for 1/5 the price of all of the American cruise lines?), but was available wirelessly throughout the ship. The cabin steward was excellent, though we didn't see much of him.
Food: Food was very good, though an upcharge was required for almost everything except one cup of coffee and water. The cafeteria was unusually good and often had even better food than the dining rooms. The buffet food was of high quality and very attractively presented with several good selections, and may have been the best of any of the 22 ships that we have been on. The breakfast and lunch in the dining rooms was tailored to British tastes with kippers, bangers and mash, blood pudding, English sausage, and the greasy, fatty bacon that Brits love. Dinner options in the dining room were fairly limited, usually with just 2-3 items in each course. The waiters and assistant waiters were too busy to really get to know you or your preferences.
Activities and Entertainment: As mentioned, the activities were very limited, but entertainment was excellent, of near Las-Vegas and Broadway quality. The theater was amazingly beautiful and comfortable with plenty of seating and state of the art technical setup.
Disembarkation: Messy, with long lines and not enough exit lanes. At the end of a long walkway, you had to carry your carry-on bags down two flights of stairs.
Ports: The choice of ports is excellent and is well-described in my review of our other cruise done on this trip, the MSC Armonia.
Overall, I would give this ship an A-, with 4.5 stars out of 6.