On this cruise, we were a group of 16 people. Our staterooms were Junior Suites, Outside Staterooms with Balconies, a Disabled Junior Suite, and a Crown Loft Suite.
The ship is simply beautiful. The cabins were all lovely. There is a very large variety of different dining options.
Large Group Travelling:
Royal Caribbean's reservation system is quite simply a mess from a large group reservation perspective. We had 8 staterooms, and each one was treated as a completely separate reservation. Booking shore excursions, spa treatments, and restaurants was nearly impossible through the website. Contacting Royal Caribbean was no help. They told my travel agent that she was not to help us with those things, and that we were supposed to get more excited by booking them ourselves.
Most restaurants are unable to accommodate large groups, so it was frequently necessary to break us up into multiple, small tables. If we needed to change a dining reservation, we had to specify exactly which of the 16 people was now not coming. Getting a dinner reservation at Giovanni's (the Italian restaurant) proved to be impossible, despite numerous tries.
Dining Room Service:
Overall very slow. I had one evening where it took over 20 minutes from the time I arrived in the dining room until I received the Soda I had ordered- 3 times, from 3 different waiters who came by the table. It was not unusual for a meal to last 2-2.5 hours- far longer than I would anticipate, given the number of courses involved. Also, many of the restaurants do not have kid menus, and NONE of them had a kid cup, instead putting the kids' drinks in glass glasses. We experienced multiple spills as the 5 year olds in the group tried to deal with the glasses.
Service at time seemed "forced", and they were only stumping for high marks on the bingo cards, rather than focusing on actually providing the best service.
A highlight of our trip. We had a great time. Our server, Insham, is fantastic. They bent over backwards to accommodate us.
150 Central Park-
Lovely dinner. Multiple tables required here.
Fantastic Steaks, and possibly the best dessert of the entire cruise.
Good meals, and some interesting low-calorie options. Multiple Tables Required
The Japanese restaurant. Great Sushi. Multiple Tables Required.
We only got into this one for lunches. Good food. Generally ample portion sizes. Shrimp was fantastic, but tiny portion size (2 shrimp)
Good lunch choice. My husband ordered the fillet of sole, and they filleted it at the table, after it had been cooked. Quite the fascinating show!
Some of our stateroom stewards were absolutely fantastic. (Mine was one of the awesome ones) Others not so much. I don't know if it's a seniority issue, or luck of the draw, but it seemed that some of them were far more attentive than others.
Loft Suite (My brother stayed in 1730):
Nice Size. Beautiful Suite. Overlooks the zip line directly, and the back of the ship, so it is not a serene view. He had access to a concierge on the 11th floor, and was disappointed at the lack of service in general. Quite simply, it was just a very expensive stateroom, with little additional service.
Manicure and Pedicure were a universal disappointment, and not worth the price paid. Facial was just "ok", compared to others I've received at other spas. The massages were universally wonderful.
The finish level in the salon portion of the spa is a disappointment, especially compared to other ships. It was quite simply, bland- beige tiled floors, and beige walls. No view, no pretty pictures, no interesting details, and plastic carts holding the salon essentials.
Well stocked with machines, and well maintained. My tall husband appreciated that he was able to use the elliptical trainer without bumping his head (which has been a problem on other ships)
Embarkation, and Departure:
Were lacking. Fortunately, we did not encounter long lines, but it was quite the process to get checked in and took nearly an hour for me to get everyone checked in. In addition, I had given them a credit card for my brother's stateroom (and we had pre-entered it prior to the date), and they still asked him for a credit card. So, I had to go to customer service to fix it.
Departure- experienced technical issues with the equipment, leading to long delays in getting off the ship. The entire procedure seemed to be very poorly organized, especially in light of our recent cruise on Disney.
Recommendation: Royal Caribbean needs to work on all aspects. The porters were brusque, bordering on rude. The cops out front were a pain, and unfriendly. This contributed very negatively to my experience overall.
My 5 year old was delighted.
The other kids rated the kid clubs a B-, 5/10, and C+, respectively. They were, in a word, disappointed. They were not impressed with the kid clubs, and were quite disappointed with the engagement level of the counselors, the activities offered, and more. Also, my 11 year old observed that the counselors had poor control over the kids, and the age ranges that they specify are too wide (3 years per group, so 9, 10, and 11 year olds in one group, for instance). My 11 year old who will turn 12 in a couple of weeks did not appreciate being grouped in with the fourth graders, as she is in 6th grade, and "above" it.
This surprised me given how "kid friendly" the ship is.
Mixed reviews. Choose carefully.
I felt poorly prepared for two of mine- too much time in the sun, and not enough warning that lunch would be extremely delayed. The first experience was the Jamaica Swamp tour - lots of great animals, but I felt captive towards the end of the tour. The kids were hot, thirsty, and there was no way to buy a drink.
The Mayan Mystery tour was great, except that there were no snacks or lunch until 4:00 PM. We were starving.
My father did the private tour by car in Cozumel with his caregiver, and their assessment was that it was a rip-off.
My brother swam with the dolphins, the kids did the zip line/river tubing tour, the extreme sports tour, and those all went well.
Size of the ship-
The ship generally seemed more intimate than its size would indicate. I did hear the staff members commenting a few times that there were 6000+ people onboard, so we needed to be patient. In my opinion, that is an operations management failure on the part of the cruise line. They need to get over the "size" issue, and work on figuring out the operations kinks.
There were ample elevators on this ship, and I experienced overall less time waiting for them than I had on other ships. Bonus points for having two very large double banks of elevators.
My father had a blast. My family had an Okay time. Not sure that we'll bother to cruise on Royal Caribbean again, after this experience.