My son and I just got off the Western Caribbean cruise. Overall, a great experience and a bargain for the money.
- Beautiful, clean ship. Tons of places to go and things to do.
- Junior Suite stateroom was spacious and comfortable with a wonderful balcony.
- Stateroom and dining staff were wonderful. They remember your name and will do everything to look after you.
- Flowrider is huge fun and is free.
- Chops Grille is a great, high quality dining experience, well worth the extra money.
- Food in the main dining room was always of high quality, if a bit pedestrian at times.
- Great Casino, though a bit smoky
- Western Caribbean itinerary: Labadee, Jamaica, Cayman, and Cozumel are all wonderful ports. Except for Labadee, where you cannot leave the compound to venture into the "real Haiti", take the time to get away from the masses to see things that each of these ports has to offer. Falmouth is a totally fake, albeit clean and safe port. We took a tour with Peat Taylor Tours and went ziplining, tubing on the white river, and swimming at the idyllic Irie Blue Hole. We were away from our 4 thousand shipmates and enjoyed every minute of it. In Cayman we rented a scooter and went snorkling at the secluded Cemetary Beach, which I also highly recommend. In Cozumel we went via plane to Chichen Itza; expensive, but well worth it.
- Royal Caribbean has followed the airlines lead by charging for lots of extras and discouraging you from venturing away from their own shore excursions and away from their proprietary port facilities and preferred retail outlets. Its unfortunate, for instance, that they still haveny developed a day tour from Labadee to visit the amazing Citadelle and Sans Souci palace, barely 10 miles from their disneyland-like enclave. As a result, tousit spendin remains entirely within RCI's control and away from the Haitian economy, where it is so desperately needed.
- I packed a litre of scotch in my suitcase to enjoy on the cruise and it was confiscated on boarding. The only way to enjoy a drink is to buy it at a bar - you cant even buy a bottle of your favorite at the duty free shop onboard and enjoy it while cruising. All a way for RCI to make a few extra bucks.
- Our cruise was full to capacity with over 4200 passengers onboard. As a result, we spent a lot of time waiting in lines for things. Its most noticable at the Windjammer cafe which is just too crowded. We got so tired of waiting for elevators (and stopping on every floor when we got one) that we pretty much resolved to use the stairs. Our cabin was on deck nine and this meant descending 6 flights of stairs to and from dinner.
- Balcony staterooms tend to attract smokers so going outside for a breath of fresh air on your private outdoor space frequently involved breathing others' second hand smoke.
- Bed pillows are foam. If you like a down pillow (like I do) bring one from home. Comfortable foam mattress and nice duvet.
- The shows were mediocre. The magic show was more about extraneous chorus line singing and dancing than any impressive illusions. The comedy show wasnt funny. One highlight was the ice show, which was impressive.
Finally, and this is a comment that probably applies to cruising in general. Cruising has become a mass market experience and totally lacking in any real refinement. Formal nights, for example were completely ignored by 30%+ of the passengers (Don't waste your time packing a tux because you'll be almost alone in doing so.
Your fellow shipmates are a true cross section of middle America, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Our fellow passengers were universally friendly and they were all having a ball. Two segments stand out, however: the obese who are attracted to an all you can eat experience. Retirees who are taking their 40th+ cruise and have been to every port multiple times (It IS great value for the money).
Though my review may seem critical, my 13 year old son and I had a blast. Royal Caribbean has got cruing down to a science and somehow manages to provide a quality experience for an enormous number of people. The crew are excellent and will do everything possible to take care of you and accommodate any special needs. Yes, I recommend this ship, and yes, I would do it again.