This is the third cruise my husband and I have gone on, but our first with Royal Caribbean. I will first give some background on why we choose this trip so you understand what we noticed. We are from the Midwest area, and went on our first cruise in April of 2011 with Carnival. We decided we liked it so much that we booked another for November of 2011 with Carnival. Both of these left out of Florida, and the first time we drove, and the second we flew. While we enjoyed the sites, and weather, what we enjoyed most about the cruise was the ability to relax, not worry about where to go to eat, and enjoy the view off of our balcony. For 2012, I started looking into cruises that left out of the NJ, NY area because they were less of a drive, which is cheaper than airfare to FL. Since both of our previous cruises were with Carnival, we thought we would try out Royal Caribbean. Based on this cruise only, I didn't think the extra money spent on a Royal Cruise was worthwhile. I will include positives as well as the negatives below.
Arrival at the port: We actually left our car at self storage lot in the area that provided free shuttle service to the port. (Premier something?) It worked out extremely well, but the cars get quite backed up at the port and it took a while (1 hr), once in the port area to be dropped off. The port has freshly dry walled bathroom walls with no paint and was somewhat rough in appearance but functional. I was sure if this was due to hurricane damage from Sandy or not.
ON board - room condition: Our room initially looked okay, but after the first night my sinus's started hurting really bad. Luckily I brought some medication (not needed on the previous cruises), but I still had issues the entire cruise. I, at first thought that there was a detergent that was used, that I was allergic to, until I noticed the mold. Typically I wear glasses, so until I put my contacts in day 3 or 4, when I showered, I didn't notice the black mold growing in the caulked corners of the shower and door. I was able to run a tissue down one of these corners and wipe away some of this mold. I think this may have been the cause of my sinus issues.
Condition of ship: Some of this may be due to hurricane damage, but I was very disillusioned that it wasn't blocked off better and the maintenance activities shown. One of the main pools was missing a large section of tile, several tiles in the adult pool area were broken, a banister was missing on one of the upper deck and trim on the ship.
Seas: The seas were pretty rough on the trip down to the Caribbean, and very very rough on the first day traveling back. Our last day was very calm.
Entertainment: Activity Director and staff were awesome and we really enjoyed them. More of the major entertainment on board was about engaging the cruisers in the activity, and they only had a few comedians and shows, one a night vs, a couple. (I would consider this a style preference and not a negative)
Wait Staff and Food: Our main dinning wait staff and food was awesome. If you do go on this ship, ask for Desmond and Euclid. They are the best. Euclid even saw us on the Windjammer the one day, noticed what we were drinking and brought us fresh glasses. It was great. The windjammer was nothing special, though I really enjoyed there "mongolian" style stir fry the one night.
There are different style cookies each day and they generally have a sugar free one, these were pretty good. Also the pizza was pretty good.