The first hour aboard is spent uttering the same words, WOW and WHOA. This is an incredible engineering feat.
The front of the ship includes the dining room (decks 3, 4, 5), casino (deck 4), and on deck 6 the Aqua theatre and boardwalk. Above the completely open air boardwalk are the balcony cabins starting at deck 7, up to deck 14). If you are travelling with kids you may prefer this side of the ship. It includes the donut shop and seven types of hot dogs stand (both free). Paid shops include a candy shop, ice cream shop, and a build a pet experience for young children ($32.99), which was a very good value. Deck 17 has access to the flowrider, zip line, sports court, and mini golf.
The rear of the ship is the open air Central Park on deck 8, which includes a Britto art gallery and most of the (paid) restaurants. The rooms on deck 9 overlook and have large windows and are a great value. Decks 10 thru 14 are the inside balcony rooms.
SHOWS. If you have not booked online your first stop should be Deck 4 (take the circular stairs to your right when you first come aboard). Go to either side of the Amber theatre to sign up. DO NOT MISS Ocean Aria or Blue Planet. Both Vegas style productions and well worth the time. Chicago was also excellent. Never saw the comedy or headliner shows but heard both were great.
GYM. This cruise we were determined to leave the ship in a first name basis with the gym & spa staff and not the dining room staff. The Gym has the most modern equipment you would need and a staff that really made the classes worthwhile. Dalma, Kegan, and Boyim (funny guy) alternate the classes so you will get to work with everyone. We signed up for 8am Yoga ($12 x 4 classes) and I signed up for the four session boot camp ($120). There are also spinning classes and one on one personal training ($85). The boot camp was where my WOW and WHOA turned into OWW and OHH. I'm not in terrible shape for the age but these classes kicked my butt. The staff was very encouraging and gently corrected my positions and technique.
There is also a jogging/walking track on deck 5. The back of the ship is a great place to grab a chair or take a photo to get a feel for the speed of the ship. Also, the characters for the character water show come upstairs about 30 minutes before from this track to the stairway (you will see it) if you want to get a photo.
SPA. Fortunately the spa is just next door and down one floor. The wife had 4 treatments and I had two massages. If you book one for the day you board they will offer additional services or time for that session. Also, ask about the discounts of 20% and 30% off the 2nd and 3rd sessions. Truth is the girls were not as experienced as my regular therapist but they still did a super job. Also, consider the THERMAL SUITE. $30 a day or $180 per couple for the week. Limited number of sign ups allowed. Access to the saunas, rain forest shower, and the Hard Ceramic loungers. There are 4 so sometimes you need to wait but these are heated and provide a great hot relief for your muscles. We both used it every day. My wife suggests ask for Dodna (?) from the philippines. She seemed to be the most knowledgeable. Even if you choose not to buy the products they sell they will write down the names if you want to find them online
DINING. Lots of options here. Avoid the Sushi, surprisingly bad. I was warned but tried it anyway. The Windjammer is very crowded. It offers the most variety with upwards of 40 dishes every meal. We found it lacking, not bad, but not great. The better buffet is at the rear of the ship. The Solarium bistro was excellent for breakfast or lunch. Maybe 20 offerings but excellent quality and much healthier. At night they transform the place into Samba, the Brazilian Steakhouse ($30). We were unprepared. Arrive hungry. After a decent salad bar the meat begins. First we were served Sausage, bacon wrapped chicken, and brisket. Then they asked if we were ready for the next of 6 MORE COURSES?!! You got to be kidding me. We had a sampling of each but could but could never have finished them all. And remember you can have as much of all of these as you would like. This was the only paid restaurant we did because...
The DINING ROOM was fantastic. They make a great chopped salad for lunch (as well as plenty of other choices), try it early in the cruise. For dinner we would usually split 3-4 appetizers and 2 entrees. The 6th night they serve Caribbean lobster tail but I've never found that very good. You can have filet or Maine lobster every night if you like ($30 up charge). The cold soups could be a smoothie, We tried those every night. Desserts were great as well. The service was as good as it gets. If you chose ANYTIME DINING you are on deck 5. You can just walk up but best to make reservations for 90 minutes before your shows. You can get a table for 2 and we liked the seats near the rail, gave you a better feel for the entire room. We also were impressed with the waiter, John, and made it to his section for the last 4 nights of the cruise. On dining room 5 they know you have already paid the pre paid gratuity but Feel free to discretely offer a $10 early in the cruise. Seems very much appreciated.
STAIRS AND ART. Our goal was to be calorie neutral on this trip. Mission Fail. I gained 6 pounds, which I assume is all muscle from the gym work. If I stayed on the ship another month I would look like Michael Phelps. The wife and I skipped almost all bread, no Pizza, No candy or ice cream. AND we usually took the stairs. It is important you use all 4 stairwells from deck 3 to deck 15. RCL invested over $1 million in original art and photography in their CULTURES OF THE WORLD collection on each landing. Beautiful and fascinating. Okay, so maybe we were drunk at 2 AM and took the elevator. But we powered through the stairs all week.
CLUBS AND BARS. Dazzles on decks 8 & 9 was the most happening dance club we found. The Viking Club Lounge was more mellow and offered great views of the ship. One night the cast of Chicago came to the lounge to play show tunes but not any you have heard before. You can skip that. A COMPLAINT, there are NO indoor CIGAR SMOKING venues. The upstairs of Dazzles is already smoking, cigars would not make that great of a difference. Ship is very biased against CIGAR Smokers. A few night they offered to allow up to smoke in the Solarium Bar and then said no, we have a private party. INSIDE TIP 7pm-1am you can smoke in the Gold card bar upstairs in the Private suite level. You will see 4 wooden doors and the restricted sign. It is a nice outdoor bar. Look for Wayan from Bali. Great bartender and great to talk with.
DECK CHAIRS. 8am grandma comes out with seven towels to lock up 8 prime deck chairs. By 9am all the chairs are taken. RCL has a no holding policy but they do not even try to enforce it. A better idea might be to allow one adult guest to hold one chair to give everyone a fair chance for their "place in the sun" If you get shut out deck 14, follow the signs for the sundeck. Usually still chairs available there but is in direct sun.
STAFF. How they keep those cheerful attitudes I can not imagine. Every crew member acknowledged or said hello to every guest they came upon. The service could not have been any more attentive.