PRE-CRUISE We stayed in the International Drive area of Orlando before our cruise. Our transportation was arranged by our Travel Agent and was with Manitur - they were on time, friendly and efficient. We arrived at Port Canaveral around 1pm.
GOLD MEMBER We were pleasantly surprised to see that as Gold Members our embarkment was much faster and less hassle than on our first cruise. The year before it took around 1 hour 45 mins to get through the process.
STATEROOM Our stateroom was an Oceanview Stateroom on Deck 2. Antonio was our stateroom attendant, he made us feel very welcome and kept the room immaculate. Good sized cabin, plenty of storage. Having a port hole made a big difference from last time when we had an inside cabin. I didn't feel that the inside cabin was cramped or claustrophoic last year but after now staying in an oceanview I wouldn't like to go back to an inside cabin.
SHIP We were on the Freedom last year and this year the ship looks just as good. The staff are all very friendly and helpful and the ship is immaculate. The ship never felt crowded, there was always ample space to sit at the pool or in the restaurants. The only problem was the lifts were really slow and always busy. We would have used the stairs only Deck 2 to the pool on Deck 11 was a bit much!
DINING We only ate at the Windjammer or the promenade. We weren't really interested in getting dressed up for dinner in the main dining room. The service and food in the Windjammer was brilliant. There was always plenty of choice for any appetite. We liked the self service tea and coffee in Cafe Promenade, it was a nice place to sit and watch all the activity on the promenade.
CHILDREN Our daughter loved the children's club, which had great staff and loads of different activites. She stayed there for a couple of hours on one of the days that we docked as she didn't enjoy the island the previous day. She had a great time during the days in the H20 Zone, swimming and helping herself to icecream. There was loads for children of all ages and we wouldn't hesitate about bringing her on a cruise again.
ENTERTAINMENT The cruise compass was packed with a wide variety of activites from early morning until the early hours of the night. There is something for everyone. Mainly we chose to relax by the kids pool and enjoy the sun. We went to see a show but it wasn't really our thing but we realised that the staff had put a lot of work into it and most of the audience enjoyed it. It might have been geared more towards the american audience. We were delighted to catch a 3D film.
PORT AND SHORE EXCURSIONS Cococay is one of Royal Caribbean's Islands so they had the usual water activities available and you can use seapass card for those or to get a drink. The island itself was beautiful, white sand and turquoise water with great weather.
St Thomas was our 2nd island and it was very hot here!! We got off and went for a walk about, we were glad we did as the traffic was really heavy. The paths however weren't great but better than sitting in a traffic jam. It seemed a very congested place.
St Maarten was our 3rd destination. The first thing we noticed once docked was the thousands of butterflies flying about, it was really beautiful! St Maarten seemed the best of the three locations - it was the type of place that you would go back to. It seemed like a clean and relaxed. We got the water taxi to the town but we could have just as easily walked. The video on the water taxi was REALLY LOUD and basically just asked for tips and suggested you buy their cd! There was quite a lot of people offering deck chairs and drinks, at a price of course!
DISEMBARKMENT Being a gold member meant that we had a private lounge to wait in - the pharaoh's palace was set up with tea, coffee, juice and pastries. It was a really nice and relaxed environment before we got to the madness of collecting our suitcases at the port and the pushing and shoving for customs queue.
SUMMARY Royal Caribbean are a great cruise line and make every effort to ensure that you feel special and that you have a really great holiday. We joined the Crown and Anchor Society after our last cruise and almost every day of our cruise we got a letter or invitation in our stateroom to a special event for Gold members. We would strongly recommend joining the Crown and Anchor Society as it made a difference to our second cruise.
The only fault we have with Royal Caribbean is that they are always trying to pursuade you in the direction of spending more money - maybe it's different for Americans as they don't have as far to travel but coming from Ireland our flights have already cost us thousands before we even reach the cruise.
It was our daughter's sixth birthday while on board, my partner went to the guest relations desk to enquire what Royal Caribbean could do for her birthday and there was nothing complimentary they could do and they wanted $25 to put her name in the cruise compass. I think this took the personal touch away and made us realise that it is just a business and a 6 year old's birthday doesn't mean anything to them.
We would however definitely cruise again with Royal Caribbean and have already been looking at destinations for this December.