We had planned for this cruise for almost a year in advance and quickly joined the Cruise Critic Message Boards and found the "Pineapple Express" group. We are seasoned cruisers having sailed both Royal Caribbean and Carnival - we love both lines. This cruise was different from any other we have taken - the Cruise Critic group was a "family" before boarding -- we had so much fun! Our Meet 'n Mingle was packed! Our group had activities planned for the entire cruise - you could join the group or go off on your own - you felt like you have friends everywhere!
Boarding was painless - we arrived at the pier at about 10:30 and were on the ship enjoying drinks by 11:30 - everything was very organized. Our stateroom was as expected and perfect for our two week adventure.
Highlights of this cruise would be the staff - from the Captain (Captain Walmart) right on down. Everywhere you went you were greeted with smiles and "good-morning's" whatever - the staff is exceptional!
The entertainment was incredible - there were surprise entertainers who joined us at various stops - the production shows were excellent, and without a doubt the highlight - Santino and the Blackjacks! All I can say about Santino is "WOW" - we bought his CD's and will enjoy them for a long time to come.
The food was excellent - we enjoyed the dining room, and our tablemates! We enjoyed Portifino's and Chop's and as expected - had wonderful dinners.
We opted for a combination of RCCL tours and sightseeing on our own. RCCL tours were great and everything was as one would expect. Self-guided tours were more relaxed than on previous cruises and again, what one would expect.
This review would not be complete without a few words about our Captain. He was everywhere - he was wonderful! His announcements were interesting, comical and fun. You never knew where or when he was going to pop up and when he did - he was a "hoot" - very approachable and very much in command and control of his ship - you could hear the passion in his voice - he loves what he is doing and does it exceptionally well.
Changes had been made to our itinerary before we sailed to give us time to view the lava tubes at night. This was made more interesting due to the fact the ship had an "expert" who explained everything to us - the ship did a 360 for well over an hour so everyone could have incredible views. We opted to sit on our balcony and watch - it was an evening I shall never forget - mother nature did not disappoint us.
We love cruising, and choose this itinerary because we wanted a taste of Hawaii - that is what the cruise offers - we now know we want to go back and we know we want to visit Maui more extensively. Cruising for us are days at sea - this cruise offered 8 sea days which we enjoyed fully. Would I recommend this cruise - YES! on a scale of 1-10 this one was a 15 - it surpassed all expectations.
Arriving back at San Diego was painless as was getting off the ship - we found our luggage and were on our way quickly and easily.
Hat's off to RCCL on this one - incredible cruise!