My wife and I just returned from a 9 night Eastern Caribbean cruise. We went with her family and a few friends and it was our first cruise. Prior to departure I read countless reviews and they all proved to be very helpful in the success of our vacation. So, I figured to throw my hat in the ring and leave our review.
EMBARKATION: We arrived in Cape Liberty and found a very organized and painless check in process. Keep in mind that there are over 3,000 people checking in within a four hour period so if you are looking at complete simplicity, think again. I would advise arriving an hour or so after the time your are allowed to start checking in. We arrived a little after 1pm and found the crowds manageable. (Upon departure we found lines well out of the gate crowded with people arriving an hour before check in for the Bermuda run.)
ROOM: We secured a balcony stateroom. In no way shape or form did the room feel closed in, the window onto the Promenade really added to the overall open feeling. The problem, our room smelled musty. I personally chalked it up to being closed for an extended period of time. However when we returned to our room following the muster drill, we found our room open and several workers sitting with a roll of carpet and tools. We walked into the room and found a huge fan roaring on the floor. I began to unpack when a representative from guest relations advised us that a pipe on an upper level broke and had saturated the carpet with water. She said that they fixed the leak but needed to replace the carpet. This would take two hours. Dinner was approaching and I inquired as to how we were going to change. The rep seemed confused and unhelpful. My in-laws returned and were advised that their room and my wife's brother and sister's room were also affected. My father-in-law asked for new rooms and was told that it wouldn't be a problem. However, not all of the new rooms would be in a row. (Not a major problem) and that one of the rooms would be an interior stateroom on a different level. My in-laws took the interior room and were told that they could move back to their old room in the morning. For all this trouble, a $75 Seapass credit to each of the three rooms and that was only after my mother-in-law complained after finding their old room not ready until the evening of the next day. Personally, I wasn't that inconvenienced but my in-laws were. Guest Relations seemed detached and very overwhelmed. Trust me, they need work in that department.
As far as our stateroom attendant, Netougah, I wish I could have put him in my carry-on (he might have fit, Customs would have been a problem) and brought him home. Promote him to CEO, I say!
FOOD: The food was outstanding. I would not classify it as "banquety" as others have stated. The food is apparently better on other cruises, according to my father-in-law, but you also pay more for some of the other lines. The Windjammer was never so crowded that you couldn't find a seat. The Promenade Cafe was always nice for a light snack. And the dining room was always a good choice for a fine meal. Our servers, Renaldo and Kutut, were outstanding in every detail. If you asked, you got it, quickly. We did not eat at Portofino's although those who did raved about the food. The soft serve ice cream on the pool deck was a nice tough. One caveat, watch for loose children. Sometimes it appears as though parents check their kids in and picks them up at the end of the trip.
POOL: At sea days can be crowded. Bar service was outstanding. My advice, get up before 930 to get a chair. If you see a chair with only a towel on it for a few hours without anyone or anything near it, asked a yellow shirted pool patrol person to remove the chair. Chair holding is strictly prohibited.
PORTS: St Thomas. I would avoid Magen's Bay. It's like the Jersey Shore with clear water. Unless you want to spend the day packed on a beach with each and every obnoxious member of your cruise, stay away. My in-laws got a taxi driver to take them on a tour of the island for $25 and they had a blast.
St Maarten. Took a water taxi into Phillipsburg and did a little shopping. The locals were much more aggressive here, just ignore them and walk on. Stopping to talk only encourages a time share or tour speech. We took a taxi to a bar by the airport where you can watch the planes literally land about 150 ft above your head. There was a beach there with no one on it and the drinks flowed abundantly! We had a blast! Tip the taxi driver well and prearrange a meeting time to ensure a timely return to the ship.
Nassau. Due to tropical storm/hurricane Chris we abandoned San Juan and Labadee to go to Nassau. We spent the day at Cabbage Beach and rented waverunners. It was a blast. A beautiful beach that was crowded but did not feel crowded at all. The Bahamas are a truly beautiful place.
Overall, I would sail on RC again. With the exception of the indifference of guest relations and my SEAPASS bill, it was a truly wonderful vacation.