First of all, I'm sorry if I write a book. There's just so much to say, and I'll never say everything I want to say. This was our first cruise, we were very excited. My husband & I are in our late 20s. After watching numerous videos on youtube and reading lots of reviews, we were ready. We flew into Florida a couple of days early, to make sure we wouldn't have any delays. The night before the cruise, we stayed at Best Western in Cocoa Beach. It was right off the beach, which was very convenient, and only a couple of miles from Budget. We returned our rental around 10AM and they told us they were waiting for the port to allow them to bring new passengers, as they were still trying to get everyone off the ships that had just come in. Within a half an hour, they were ready to shuttle us there. The shuttle dropped us off right at our terminal. A very nice couple from the UK gave us a quick run down of what to expect. When we got to the terminal we handed a porter our luggage and a few dollars (it says you don't have to tip, but their hands are out for $ before asking for your luggage). Being some of the first 100 or so passengers there, we cleared through security very quickly, and waited in the terminal for them to say we could now check in & get our Sea Pass card. Within minutes of having our SeaPass we were boarding the ship. Everyone was very friendly. We boarded through the front of the ship which brought us right in by the Arcadia theatre. The ship was impressing from the moment we walked in. We thought it would be overwhelming & too big, but we easily found our way around. After a quick stroll around the ship we headed to Windjammer Buffet, of course it was busy because that's where everyone went when they first boarded. Our stateroom was ready at 1PM as suggested. We immediately met our statement attendant Livingston & we knew we would like him.
We decided we would try the main dining room (Isaac) for supper, which I'm glad we did because we ended up eating there every night. We had 6 great table mates, all with different stories, and all different ages. We really enjoyed their company every night. Our waiter was Bronson (from India) & Assistant Waiter Sharett (from St. Vincent). They were very very nice, and great at their jobs. We thought it was really well organized, incredible. We really enjoyed our meals. The only meal I did not enjoy (and I think the others at our table would agree) was the steak. I found it too thick and tough. Everything else was great. You can order whatever you want, and how ever many dishes you would like. Some people at our table ordered 2 different starters, 2 main dishes and 2 deserts per in order to really get their monies worth.
We were able to attend all of the main shows, and really enjoyed them. (Opening show, farewall show, magic show, Once Upon a Time, Marquee & Freedom Ice). My husband works in production so I was worried he would be disappointed but because each show is only 45 minutes, it's a perfect amount of time. The production was really well done. It could have sounded better for the room but other than that no complaints. We did a backstage tour on the last sea day with the sound tech, lighting, rigging, stage manager, and one dancer which was really informative. All of the dancers participate in all of the shows, and are only on the ship for 6-8 month contracts. So new dancers and singers are constantly learning the shows at RCL's studio, and due to the cost of producing these shows, this is why they run for 3-7 years on the same ship. The backstage tour was very informative, and it's incredible how small the backstage actually is considering the productions they put on. I would recommend attending all of the shows, and if you don't care for them, you can either leave or it's only 45 minutes. The only complaint I heard was from people who had been on FOS before, as the shows were the same so it was nothing new for them.
Some people said the ship wasn't as nice as it use to be, but we thought it was great. What people have to understand is there is over 5000 people through that ship every week, over 250,000 per year, and we noticed carpet being replaced in the stairwells, I am sure it's constant. On the 2nd night they closed the kids pull for maintenance while we would be in port for 2 days, I think they were painting the bottom.
The cruise director was Drew and he and his staff were awesome. We went to the Captain's Corner on one of the sea days, where you could ask him, Drew, or 4 other officers any question you wanted. One asked why the pools were so cold, and the captain said they take the water direct from the ocean and filter it, but do not change the temperature. We really enjoy the pool deck and hot tubs whenever we had time.
When it came to time to leave, we had selected to disembark around 8, they gave us the 830 slot, and we were through security with our luggage shortly after 9am. We felt it was all very organized. The only thing I would have liked to see was more organization at the shuttle section outside the terminal as you never know which spot your shuttle is going to pull into and then it's a mad dash.
There's so much I can write, but really it was a wonderful experience and we would certainly do another cruise with RCL. I lived FOS, but would also love to explore a different ship for something different.
As a side note we asked out waiters and stateroom attendant if they preferred their tip in cash or prepaid, 2/3 preferred cash so we went that route. I did make sure they get the prepaid, they do, they just don't always know that the customer has selected that option if they aren't told. You can get US cash off your Seacard at the casino for a 3% charge which we thought was convenient.