We flew in two days early to make our usual trip to the Keys. We were a little apprehensive about a ship this close to going in for refurbishment and what it would be like. Not to mention the complaints some other reviewers had. We were pleasantly surprised. Having cruised Royal, Carnival, Princess, Disney and Holland America, my wife and I enjoyed this one the best.
Having a rent a car, we decided to drop our luggage off before returning the car to the airport. We are glad we did this, it was a lot more convenient than trying to schlep the luggage through the airport. We arrived at the port about noon. Fighting the traffic, and getting to the cruise terminal, dropping the bags and getting out took about 45 minutes. If you have your bags tagged, all you need to do is hand them off to the porter, tip them and leave. Very convenient.
Returning from the terminal to check-in was just as convenient. Having Platinum status, we were routed through check-in quickly More
and had less than a 5 minute wait. Up on the ship quickly and into our stateroom that was waiting for us.
The Muster Drill was different. No life vests required. But one of the great experiences we had was with one of the staff when returning to our stateroom. That person was Katrina Love, who is the lead singer with the group Synergy, performing in the Pyramid Lounge. We went down that night to see her, and was amazed how she went out of her way to interact with her audience. I normally don't want to be involved, but her personality made you want to interact. She got me to loosen up before even leaving port. This usually takes a couple of days. Kudos to Katrina.
The stateroom was in excellent condition. One of the complaints previous reviewers had was the attendants carts in the hallway. I did see this, but where else should they be? The staterooms were very clean, even on day eight. I had no issue with them having what they needed to do their job convenient. When the attendants were done, the carts were gone. This was not an issue.
The food was good. We have always preferred Royal's food. They did not disappoint. Neither did the staff. We had Anytime Dining. The host and hostess were our first contact with the Dining Room personnel. They were a great first impression. In the Dining Room, we had Harry and Yulius the first night, and made a point to get them whenever we could. From the suggestions, to the service, they were top of the line.
This was our first experience with the Royal Promenade. It was fun and exciting. The coffee shop saw us a lot. As did Sorrentos. I kind of thought their parade would be a disappointment, and was I pleasantly surprised to be wrong. Make a point to get to them. Especially the 70's Parade.
Several people complained about the lack of chairs. We had no problem getting two together when we wanted them. It was maybe not the first place we looked, but you did not have to hunt to far.
A few things I hope they fix. The Internet. It was down more than it was up. Also defaulted to UK sites. Secondly, the television. Eight days was a long time to have no good US news channel. A lot of "E" when out to sea. Also, ESPN and CNN from other countries. I did miss knowing what was going on back in the USA.
But the best thing about this ship was the staff. The crew was friendly. They all seemed to want to make your vacation great. I had not experienced the energy the employees put into their job.
Our first visit to Labadee. We had been to Coco Cay several times. We enjoyed Labadee more. Especially not having to take a tender. Explore of the Seas was there when we were. Still had no problem getting a lounge chair.
We took the Old and New San Juan. We had a good guide. The highlight was an hour exploring one of the forts. Was equally surprised to see Cock Fighting Arenas. At the end we wandered around the shopping area. Enjoyed Senor Frog's and some of the shops.
If you want to see anything beyond the first couple of blocks, you might want to take an excursion. We thought we would just poke around near the ship. Either overly touristy, or get a couple of blocks off, and was not sure how safe it was.
My wife and I took our usual trip to Maho Beach to watch the planes. Always an enjoyment. Patronize the Sunset Bar and Grill. Good food at a decent price. You are not rushed. You get the enjoyments this location is famous for.