My husband and I booked this cruise as an opportunity to get away by ourselves and take a relaxing break from our hectic lives. We live in Maryland so the ability to cruise out of Baltimore which is 45 mins from our home is an added plus. Since this cruise departed on Jan 5, just after the holidays, it was certainly priced to sell cabins- almost too good to be true. My husband and I talked about the low price, and did worry that there would be cut backs on the ship before we departed, but we decided that if we just had some good weather and could be enjoying the sunshine on deck, we would be happy. The weather certainly was good, minus the first day after departing Baltimore, and the day before we returned to Baltimore. That is to be expected, it is winter in the North East! The ship recently went into dry dock and came back with 3 nice new additions- A poolside outdoor theater, a new food venue in the Solarium called the Park Cafe, and a new Centrum lobby area. All were appreciated- we did enjoy watching movies and sporting events pool side, and the Park Cafe which I think is linked to their Specialty Restaurant Chops was pretty good. I will also say that while our large outside cabin was actually quite small, it was comfortable enough and kept clean by our very attentive room steward.
This is where my positive comments end. We got on the ship and were told that the ship had an out break of Noro Virus on the previous sailing. Noro Virus and severe colds were prevalent on our voyage. My husband, who probably has not been sick once in the past 10 years came down with a terrible cold, along with our cabin steward, bartenders, and many other guests and crew. On the cold days, it made sense to spend time in the Solarium. The Solarium has a glass retractable roof. The problem is that the roof is never opened. The temperatures and humidity quickly became stifling in the Solarium each day to the point where the crew who worked in there would be dripping with sweat. In addition, the Park Cafe is in a corner of the Solarium, so the servers and the sandwiches and salads in this area are also subjected to the extreme conditions here. Needless to say, the Solarium was a breeding ground for germs. I was told that the sunroof was most likely broken, as it had not been opened in the 5 months that this crew member had been on board. A little fresh air in the Solarium would have solved it's problems.
The gym is another area that both my husband and I enjoy spending time in. It became clear on day 1 at sea that the gym suffered from similar problems to the Solarium. A small space, with motorized equipment causing heat, bodies causing heat, and no air flow and little A/C. While we are certainly used to sweating in a gym, this area was extreme. Even the personal trainer would have a moat of sweat around him 15 minutes into his spin class. To make matters even worse, the treadmills would routinely loose power most mornings- apparently a known issue on the ship. So imagine you are going for a run, getting into your workout, and boom, the treadmill stops dead. Now cool down, wait 15 mins, and maybe the power will be restored. The gym was surely another germ breeding ground. After a few days, we had to stop going to the gym.
Another way you might like to relax on a ship is in a sauna or steam room. This ship had none, except for something called a steam shower. Apparently the sauna and steam room were removed to make space for more spa treatment rooms. The steam shower is basically a shower that has steam in addition to the shower head. The sign says it takes 10 minutes to warm up, but it really took 30. You if you went and turned on the steam shower to use it, chances are that when you came back after the warm up period, someone else was in it. It was lame.
The entertainment was another dept that the ship was really lacking in. The cruise director, Luke Arrowsmith was mediocre at best. He was pretty good at a 70's party in the atrium, but that was it. The dancers and singers were lovely people, but their shows were not enjoyable. We had 2 comedians that really fizzled in the late night comedy show. The magician was OK. The best acts were a juggler, and a Celtic band called the Rouges that basically played for free on the ship (RCCL did not pay them). We did have a fun poolside farewell party out of Labadee, but just as everyone was dancing and partying, guess what? The sound system lost power! The pool band was a reggae band- the band was good, but the singer sounded like he was screaming at you. After about 15 minutes of them playing, people would start to complain about getting a headache.
The absolute worst part of this cruise was the food. The Windjammer served SLOP. We ate there once and never went back. The main dining room was a step up from the Windjammer but not much better. They did have a decent salad bar in the dining room at lunch that made you custom salads kind of like the restaurant Chop'T. On lobster night, the lobster tails were mush. We did try to eat in the Park Cafe, as they had a good roast beef sandwich and good paninnis, but after 4-5 days of that, you get tired of it, and remember it's in the Solarium, so it's really hot and humid in there. In general the fresh baked bread was good all around the ship. We decided to try the specialty restaurant Chops one night. While it was OK, compared to specialty restaurants on other cruise lines, it was not worth the extra money. The NY Strip steak was tough, and the onion rings were frozen from the box. Chops was pretty much empty the night we went there, which said it all. Also, our waiter there did not know much about the menu, he told us he was new and not properly trained. We go the same story from our dining room busboy. He tried really hard, and we are grateful for that. We like to drink wine, so we bought the Platinum wine package. We had looked over the wines on the list before the cruise, and decided to go with it particularly for the Mondavi red and white wines on the list. When we tried to order this, we were told that they did not have those wines, and did not have them for many weeks. We really felt deceived. By the last dinner, I felt like I was slowly being poisoned by the food. The one plus about the dining room was the table seated next to us. We became good friends with this family, and had a lot of fun with them throughout the cruise. If they were not there, I probably would even be more negative in this review.
We've been on over 20 cruises, and never before did we feel like we couldn't wait to go home. Guess there is a first for everything.