We left Seatac and arrived the day before our cruise. Being new to this whole process I wanted to make sure that there were no delays getting to the ship. We arrived in Houston and stayed at the Holiday Inn near the airport. Nice hotel, staff were very friendly, the room had updated decor and was clean. There were a lot of people in the lobby that day because of a cruise line that was delayed because of fog. The next day we took the hotel shuttle back to the airport to baggage claim and caught the Royal Caribbean shuttle to the port. The employees working the check in at the airport were very friendly! One employee Angela even took me to the Starbucks at the airport so I could get a cup of coffee before the shuttle! The shuttle to the port was easy and uneventful. There were quite a few people at the port and traffic was heavy. I would recommend bringing along a light jacket or vest if you are cruising in January! It was unusually cold that day ( about 39-40 degrees and very windy) we did have to stand in line for about 15-20 min waiting to go through the screening process and it got quite chilly. Once inside my mom and I went to a separate area to get checked in. She is disabled and walks with a cane and so I arranged to have her get help to the ship. This process went smoothly and quickly. We were given our sea passes and wheeled on board! We were greeted warmly and told right away that our rooms were ready. We were a little confused about where to meet for the muster drill and had a hard time understanding the instructions on the loudspeakers. We did however figure it out and were able to get there in time.
We had a suite with a balcony on the 7th deck. Nicely appointed room with enough space for the both of us to move around in. Bathroom had enough space and the shower was easy to get in and out of. Ample closet space. The bed was a bit hard but nothing that was not corrected after the first night by an extra pad brought to us by our fabulous attendant Maximillian.
What can I say other than.. it was EVERYWHERE! We ate lunch at the windjammer when we first got on the ship. Nothing jumped out at me that said "fabulous" just the standard hamburgers, hot dogs, lunch meat, fruit etc. It did have a lot of variety though. Food in the windjammer is what I would call "cafeteria style" Not bad but not extraordinary either. We had the sandwiches and pizza in the Cafe Promenade which were great! I tried the empanadas and they were also very tasty. The hot dog stand was another good choice. Buns were soft- not dried out and any kind of hot dog you could think of with many different topping selections.
Main Dining room : EXCELLENT FOOD. never had a bad meal there. Our waiter was Melvin and he was amazing. his assistant had our "habits" down after the 2nd day on what we liked to drink ( coffee, tea) and had it to us right away. I really liked my dining room experience. We had the early seating for dinner @ 5:45 and if we needed to catch one of the shows at 7 or 7:15 he made sure to get us out in time.
I really enjoyed the ice show and the Texas Tenors were the headline show. Very nice! Variety show was good and the comedians were funny. I enjoyed also the poolside competitions that they held. "Sexiest man contest" and "Belly Flop Contest" were both very enjoyable to watch while laying in the sun. We played Bingo also. ( you pay an extra fee to buy the cards, but it was worth it)
One final warning to anyone that is again new to the cruise scene and may not know this. My mom bought cups and a cooler from one of the tables on the last day of the cruise ( they have pretty good deals towards the end of the week to get rid of extra merchandise) at the end of the receipt it said 15% gratuity. When I went back to the stand to ask why I am paying gratuity on cups and a cooler bag I was told "everyone charges that." ( I knew this was not correct) I went directly to guest services and I was told that because those items are "bar items" that a 15% gratuity is automatically added. so- beware of buying shot glasses or anything bar related. You will pay extra.
Overall I really enjoyed my experience with Royal. With the exception of the tender ticket issue and the bar charging 15 % gratuity on merchandise I really loved the cruise. I appreciated how hard the staff works to make our cruising experience enjoyable, sanitary and safe. The ship was beautiful and the food was really wonderful. I am looking forward to planning my next cruise.