This was an ADVENTURE. Pre-Cruise Arrangements Flight from Heathrow to Newark was a breeze from Terminal 5, we napped a little on the 8 hour BA flight in between nice small balanced meals and a good selection of films.
Transfers to the Hotel were easy with a 5 - 10 minute bus ride to a central hub and a quick call to the Doubletree to pick us up. The Doubletree was a nice layover hotel and helped us plan our chosen time to kill activity of Outlet Mall shopping by advising us to avoid a $54 dollar round trip cab ride and return to the hub on their free shuttle and get a free shuttle to the Jersey Gardens. We were obviously aware of Sandy and possible implications at that time and used the internet services to check RCCL for statements.
Tranfer to the Ship
Slight bad start in that the driver was 55 minutes late, the Doubletrees concierges comment was that they are always late but at 30 minutes he rang the helpdesk number for the 6 passengers waiting and they turned up eventually. Once at the Terminal transfer was easy and, because we were later there was little queuing so its swings and roundabouts I guess.
The Cruise (During the Storm)
Well much has and will be written on the forums about the decision to sail into and through Hurricane Sandy, from our perspective the downsides of one person having heavy sea sickness for 18 hours and the limited food and recreational choices for the first full day are far outweighed by the fact that if they had not sailed we would have been a UK couple staying in a Hotel with limited power in Newark. I wish to commend the Captain and his Senior crew members for their sound decision making an duty of care to both the passengers and the crew during the difficult 18 - 24 hours, I found the recording the Captain and the Cruise Director did, detailing the route we had taken, relative to the storm and an estimate of how long the worst would last, why they had sailed and why they had picked the route was very informative and provided great comfort to someone who had been rather sick :-) The crew were great everyone of them did their level best under very difficult conditions. ANYONE who complained about the food or the service at this time frankly has their head up their own butt and is in that small minority who will always find something to moan about.
The Cruise (After Sandy)
Just great! The company at dinner was charming and amusing, the food was good and plentiful, the meet and mingle crowd were the entertaining and many new friends were made. We felt for our US counterparts who had worries about their car or homes and had nothing but admiration for the vast majority who took the attitude of 'Nothing I can do now, just gonna enjoy my cruise' I would like to hope I would be the same. The gym was well equipped and open a lot. The spa services were too expensive for us to consider using them, but that is personal opinion, you pays your money, you makes your choice. The Promenade was a nice place to be and the Cafe always seemed to be open to pick up a coffee, tea, cloudy lemonade, pastry, sandwich, donut or slice of pizza. Drinks were on the expensive side but, in my opinion, that is only a problem for people who drink to get drunk. Take your time over your cocktail and take in the atmosphere, that is what cruising is all about.
The Ice show was excellent, the dance shows were good as were the singers the Comedian on the first night was poor but the last night very good.The Cruise Director, Richard Spacey is one of the UKs Premier Imports to the US and should be Knighted. He loves you.
RCCL you lose points here, not for disembarkation which was fine but for the lack of comms on the Port. We had transfers for the hotel, for a two night layover to visit NY and were off the ship for 10:15 but no one knew where we should go and when we eventually found a bus to take us to Penn Station (The Hilton is just opposite) we were told he couldnt leave until everyone had disembarked because they weren't sure how many passengers had booked transfers to Penn Station! eventually TWO hours of our valuable sightseeing time later we set off only for the driver to not understand basic GPS instruction and take us 10 miles out of our way! Get manifests out to the Port for Transfers its a paid for service and it reflect badly on you if not done well.
The Hilton Newark at Penn Station was a great location for easy access into NY even with the reduced travel options brought on by the disruption caused by Sandy, good budget choice for RCCL to offer, I commend them for that.