I have now been on two cruises because my boyfriend's family has included me in their yearly family cruise. Our party consisted of My boyfriend's parents and my boyfriend and I and his brother (we three are in our mid thirties).
I was always told that Royal Caribbean is supposed to be the industry best and since my first cruise (which was with Carnival) was so great, I was sure that despite the fact that it was going to be cold in New England and Canada in October, that this was going to be a great cruise because of the cruise line we were taking.
We drove from Northern Virginia to the port (which we did before and was very easy) and carried our bags with us and waited in a moderate line to check in. Check in was smooth and worry free.
When we got to the boat, there seemed to be a lot of confusion among passengers about what to do or where to go. Carrying my heavy bags up stairs was unpleasant for me but totally worth it to have my bags immediately and to be able to unpack and settle in. I expect a room on a cruise to be small but I guess I was just spoiled by the Carnival cruise we took last year where the room was quite large. Our large interior stateroom was painfully small and had unnecessary furniture in it to make it even smaller. Our room was right next to the ice room that the cabin stewards are in an out of all the time and every time the door shut, the entire adjoining wall shook. That noise started very early in the morning. We talked to our cabin steward about it and he apologized profusely and said he would talk to the other stewards but we observed he obviously can't control everyone.
We (us three "kids") noticed immediately that there was a definite demographic on this cruise and we were not in it. The average age of cruisers seemed to be 60 or so. We didn't expect to see many kids since school was in session and we certainly didn't. I don't believe there were more than 10 kids on this boat. There were probably less than twenty people our age. That's ok for my boyfriend and I who spend most of the trip with each other, but a little boring for his brother. The ship seemed to be ready for this demographic and catered to it.
There wasn't much for entertainment in 8 days. I believe that there were two comedians and one magician. Although I didn't attend, one of the comedians had a show in the 8 o'clock hour and was definitely adult humor. I am to understand that comedians usually do two shows, the first one earlier in the evening that is more family friendly and then one late that is very adult. It was never mentioned that this comedian was doing a very adult show and it was reported that many people got up and walked out. The person who announced him came out at the end and said "I guess I should have mentioned that he was doing an adult show". Some activities were cancelled and some were advertised at a certain time and then started much earlier disappointing some. We were told there was a rock climbing wall on the ship but that it was only open while we were in port and since there were so many older folks on the cruise, I don't think it got used much. There was no "Flow Rider" like I guess newer RC ships. No put-put course.
I was concerned that swimming was going to be kind of hard because the main pools were on an outside deck and then I was assured by a Cruise Critic member that the ship had a retractable roof and that it would be closed if it was too cold for swimming. This was not the case. There was a pool in the adults only area but the pool was small and could get crowded easily. There are two pools and four hot tubs on the outside deck that were pretty much useless in the cold air.
Dinner in the main dining room was unimpressive. The meals were never great but they were fine. Our waiter must have been new because he was a bit bumbling and had such a strong accent that he was VERY hard to understand. We didn't go to the dining room after the first couple of days unless there was something on the menu we really wanted. The buffet in the Windjammer was very good. There were specific staples they had every evening and then some really nice specials like made to order stir fry or make your own pizza and sushi. There was always someone there to help you to your table (which was needed with all the older folks) and as rough as the seas were the first full day at sea and they were constantly asking if they could bring you a drink and clearing the tables. One very disappointing issue was that the soft serve machine closed every day at 6:30pm. On our Carnival cruise last year, it was open all the time unless it was being cleaned and even then, there were two machines. The soft serve machine was pretty popular and extremely disappointing that it closed up so early. I guess they wanted everyone to go downstairs to the tiny Ben & Jerry's. Closing the machine did not make us want to go overpay of overrated ice cream.
As for the ports, it seems that maybe they should cut off their trips to NE and Canada before October because it is so cold. When we got to Portland, it was so cold and wet that the fog covered the town and you pretty much couldn't see anything. Bar Harbor was a very nice place to visit however, it's not a good place for these older folks to get off the boat since you have to take a tender to the port. The tenders moved so much, it was quite scary to move from one boat to the other. One lady walked around the boat claiming that she had cracked her kneecap getting off the tender onto the ship. We took the historic lighthouse boat tour which was very nice but much too frigid. The man narrating this tour would take questions from passengers but wouldn't repeat the question over the loud speaker and then proceeded to answer the questions confusing the other passengers. I had meant to tell him that before getting off the boat. We did a little exploring around the town and shops which was nice. My boyfriend went out on his own and rented a bike and biked at least 12 miles uphill in Acadia. His body told him all about how he had abused it when he got back to the ship but it was worth it to him. I didn't get off the ship and go exploring in the last two ports of call - Saint John and Halifax because it was so cold and dreary.
We were to have two days at sea after leaving Canada but on the evening of the first day someone (rumor had it) had a stroke and the captain put the ship at full speed and headed to Norfolk to let that passenger off. After that, the ship moved so slow back to Baltimore that you couldn't even tell we were moving. It was nice to have cell service since we were so close to land.
Our cabin steward, Rodolpho, was the nicest guy and we made good friends with him. We found out all about his family and enjoyed seeing him every day. He also came in and cleaned the bathroom for us when my boyfriend got sick. He was the best!
There was some confusion getting off the ship in the morning due to the amount of people carrying their luggage off and the fact that they weren't making it clear that there were two lines to check off but once we were off, it was smooth since we had parked there.