Highlights of Cruise: Embarkation in Malaga: This was very smooth. We arrived at the port by about 11:30 AM and were able to easily drop baggage with porters, check-in, and board the ship.
On the ship:
a) For a long voyage, the JS category room is perfect. I appreciated the walk-in closet, larger balcony, and larger sitting space. Plenty of storage for people that pack too much.
b) This was also the largest ship I had sailed on and it didn't feel too big or too crowded (with the exception of the promenade during events).
c) The Solarium for the adults was a nice area to escape from kids but fortunately being on a long itinerary and during school session, the number of kids was quite small.
d) Having access to Starbucks products was a nice touch.
Things not so great:
a) Granted this was my first time on RCCL, I wasn't aware that you could smoke on your balcony if you request an ashtray. There were many times I was unable to use my balcony because of the close proximity to cigar smokers. RCCL seems to have plenty of spaces for smokers in public areas such as the casino, a cigar smoking lounge and upper deck areas so I don't understand why it is necessary to inconvenience non-smoking guests on their balconies by letting smoking occur.
b) There is only one specialty restaurant on the ship, it would be nice to have other dining options. Portofino was an excellent experience, but we only dined there one time. I would have liked to have gone back if it wasn't so expensive.
c) Even with a full size tub in our bathroom, I figured the bathroom would look/feel bigger, but it didn't.
d) the Windjammer cafe seating is terrible. There are lots of options for tables to seat 4, 6, and 8 people, but when you are a single or two people, it is often hard to find seating at peak times. The layout for seating and the bulky style furniture add to a lot of wasted space.
e) Windjammer food was more disappointing than I thought it would be. I expected more variety and that wasn't the case. Also, the quality of things like fresh fruit was lacking.
f) Our seating assignment for the dining room was a disappointment (at first). We were at a table of 6 with four Germans that didn't speak any/much English. It was quite uncomfortable at first, but I worked with the MDR staff to change that situation. After the second attempt, we were seated at a different table by ourselves.
g) Dining room food was better than I expected it to be, but still didn't please me about half the time. I usually cruise on Celebrity and the food (taste and selection) is much better. I prefer having more options to pick from and having a standard set of options available every day. RCCL was changing their menu service during our cruise so I would be willing to go back and try it again on a shorter itinerary.
h) MDR service (for food or beverage) is hit or miss. We really liked our servers, but some days they were great and other days just so/so. We even ate with friends one night in the My Time dining area and were amazed at how much better their service was compared to ours. On Celebrity, I enjoy having a sommelier or other trained wine professional in the dining room to help with selections. Luckily I know enough to make good choices.
i) I chose a wine bottle package during the cruise, but found out after a couple of days into a 15 day voyage that at least 3 selections in the highest tier package were not available. It would have been nice if they told me that when I signed up for the package. The items being offered as a replacement were inferior to the options they replaced.
j) A/C in our room (9270) didn't seem to be very capable of cooling the room efficiently. I often kept the drapes closed on very warm days to allow the room to cool.
Arriving in first U.S. port: Anyone doing research on this topic knows what I mean when they hear the horror stories for clearing customs when you arrive in your first U.S. destination. Fortunately, RCCL got wise and went to St. Thomas before arriving in the final port of San Juan, Puerto Rico. However, it is still a disaster for those persons that are not U.S. citizens. I passed through my processing in about 5 minutes, but I had Canadian and British friends I was traveling with that stood in line for over an hour before they even entered the MDR for processing. It just seems that this process really needs an overhaul so that it doesn't take till 11 AM before you leave the ship and miss half your day in port.
Debarkation in San Juan, PR: This process also seemed pretty smooth as long as you don't try to bring banned items such as fruit with you. We were staying on the island for several more days so we opted to leave the ship as late as possible.