Perspective: We are mid-50s active, and this was our third cruise, the first on RCCL. Our previous cruises were on Celebrity and NCL.
Embarkation: The suggested check-in time was 2:00 PM, but since the check-out time at our hotel was 12:00 noon, we arrived early. The baggage handlers were polite, and not pushy about tips. We waited about 20 minutes in line for check-in. The check-in agent was friendly and efficient. The actual check-in took about 3-4 minutes, and by that time, the gates had opened for boarding. We were on the ship in about another 10 minutes. There were plenty of employees there to welcome us, but curiously, none of them offered any direction. After asking, we were advised that our rooms wouldn't be ready until 1:00 PM, but the Windjammer buffet was open. By the time we finished with lunch, we had access to our cabin.
Cabin: The inside of our D1 Superior Oceanview cabin was clean, and in good repair. It was larger than the last cabin we had in a comparable category on NCL. The TV was an old-style tube model, but it worked well. There was only one set of towels. My spouse wasn't impressed with the bed, feeling that it was too hard. The balcony was larger also. The balcony was indicative of the need for a refurb: there was peeling paint, paint chips on the deck and the chairs. The wood rails were ready for some varnish, and there was some rust evident, but not significant. The bathroom was adequately sized, however the shower is small, and has a curtain. The shower curtain takes a lot of attention, because unless it is placed just right, you will flood the bathroom.
Ship: The ship wasn't in nearly as bad of shape as we were warned. Yes, the carpet is worn in some spots, and the woodwork needs some new varnish. But it is evident that the staff works hard to keep it up.
Facilities: We were given a tour of the spa facilities, but didn't take advantage of anything. I did use the fitness area, and the equipment was modern and operable. Fortunately, we didn't have to use the medical facilities. Our biggest disappointment was the pool and hot tub hours; the actual hours didn't match the printed schedule. When we inquired, it was always the same answer: they are closed for maintenance. Funny, we never saw anyone maintaining anything during those times. The casino was dead most of the cruise. It had all the basic games you would expect, and there was never a problem finding a seat.
Passengers: This is a very multicultural passenger group. This ship does depart from San Juan as its primary embarkation and there were a lot of locals. In addition, there is a secondary embarkation in Guadeloupe, where the language is French. The result is a passenger group where English is not necessarily the majority language. It made for some interesting attempts at conversation at dinner.
Ports: We took the St. Thomas-St. Lucia-Antigua-Guadeloupe-St. Croix itinerary. All of the ports had interesting activities, however my observation is that Guadeloupe is a bit problematic for activities and language barriers. Likewise, don't waste your time in tiny Frederiksted, St. Croix. Just get the shuttle and head to Christiansted.
Dining: Food in the Windjammer buffet was the typical free-for-all you find on cruise ships. It is nothing special, and comparable to what people will get back home at the Golden Corral. The Minstrel Main Dining Room is appointed well, but the food is equally uninspiring, probably Denny's quality, but no more. I had a particularly bad strip steak that was full of fat and gristle that I returned. We had an excellent meal in the $30 per-person Chops Grill; it was a night and day difference. We didn't eat in the Seaview Cafe, or any of the bars. If it serves as any indication, I lost weight on the cruise!
Staff: Franky, our stateroom attendant was friendly, thoughtful, prompt and performed flawlessly. We used the My Time Dining option after a disaster of a first meal at the 6:00 PM regular seating. Our waiter, Alok, and our assistant waiter Henry were equally as attentive, and within a few days knew our preferences, and always greeted us by name.
Disembarkation: Leaving the ship was absolutely flawless. We departed at the appointed time, the bags were ready for us, and the ICE line moved quickly.
Summary: It's not a bad ship, and the staff performed their jobs well. The food was generally forgettable.