Approximately six months ago I really started looking into the "ins and outs" of cruising and doing my homework - which I strongly believe if you want your cruise to be a wonderful experience you have to do.
Once re received our "Set Sail Pass" (cruise documents) emailed by Royal Caribbean we were allocated a boarding time of 12noon. All passengers are allocated a boarding time dependent on the deck you are booked on, we were on deck 7 so our boarding time was earlier then someone on say deck 2. The whole thing only took about half an hour to get through the overseas passenger terminal and customs. We were actually seated in the Windjammer restaurant for lunch by 12.30pm. As expected the Windjammer was fairly full as everyone else was doing the same. By 1.30pm our state room was ready and we proceeded to our room. Everything was handled by the staff with the utmost expertise.
Our cabin was a balcony room State Room on Deck 7. It was extremely comfortable and had plenty of storage space and coat hangers. Inside was a queen size bed and a three seater lounge with a flat screen TV. There was also a large desk type area, with more storage space and a mirror above and chair which was very convenient for putting on makeup. Our bar fridge was more than adequate and was stocked with supplies if you wanted to buy them. Although I do believe that on the lower deck cabins there are no bar fridges and you have to rely on ice to keep anything cold.
The bathroom was lovely and obviously new from the refurbishment last year. The shower was good and had an endless supply of hot water, plenty of storage space in here as well. I have read previous reviews that say there is not enough storage, well sorry to say but they must have taken too much stuff. We did not use all the storage available. Outside on the balcony was a small table with two chairs which is where we spent a considerable amount of time watching the ever changing scenery go by. If you can afford it having you own balcony is well worth it as it was nice to revel in that fresh sea air. Also a great place to have an afternoon cheese platter and a nice cold bottle of wine.
The range of entertainment and activities on board is endless. The Cruise Director Ricky and Activities Manager James are awesome along with Andre. These guys know how to entertain particularly when Andre does the Trivia and then comes out as the Indian in The Village people for the 70s night. OMG what I night I have not had as much fun for a long time. The fun continued throughout the cruise with my husband entering the Sexiest Man on the Ship Competition and yes he won it, what a hoot. Do not miss the contests run by these guys they are awesome.
We only went to one show in the Melodies showroom which was also very good.
We booked My Time dining for 7.30pm in the Edelweiss Restaurant where our Waiter (Darwin) and Assistant Waiter (Ida) were excellent. They greeted us by name every time and looked after us with outstanding service every night. We booked a wine package and it was no trouble at all for them to allow us to take one of our bottles to our room every night. In that respect you cannot have alcohol delivered to your room unless you also prebook a gift of wine to the
cabin. We booked the platinum package and paid $25.00 per bottle but were allowed to choose bottles from the wine list up to $35.00 a bottle. Beer and spirits were also reasonable with a beer costing $5.25 for Tooheys Extra Dry and $7.00 a spirit - much less then what you would pay in a Sydney restaurant.
We visited the Windjammer restaurant for breakfast twice and lunch twice and we found it to be similar to what others have described - a standard buffet. It was very busy as expected and the food was pretty standard but then what do you expect with the number of people they have to provide for at peak times. We would recommend going to Edelweiss for all your meals or the other specialty restaurants.
If you prefer something light there is also the cafe in the adults only Solarium that serves salads and specialty rolls.
Giovannis - Italian Restaurant. We paid $20 each for this restaurant and were a little disappointed. Upon arriving they provide you with a very large foccacia with oil for dipping followed by an antipasto plate. This was obviously done to allow them the time to prepare your order. Our entree was barely average and my husband's main course of pasta was not a true Italian pasta although I must say my lamb chops were perfect.
Chopps Grille - We went there on the last night of our cruise (hubbies birthday). What a wonderful experience we both had the best steaks we have ever had in our lives. On asking we were told that the steaks are freighted in from Miami. The service was unbelievable and we had pre booked this so it only cost us an extra $28.50 per person.
ACCESS ALL AREAS TOUR
My husband went on this tour which was $150 (birthday present) and went for 3 hours. The tour included the bridge, crew quarters and dining areas, galley, cool rooms, laundry, backstage of the theatre, printing room and control room. He absolutely loved it and it was very well worth the money. This is not mentioned anywhere on the website and we only found out about it by accident. If you want to do this then book it as soon as you get on board as they usually only conduct one tour per cruise and numbers are limited.
We visited the pool and Solarium on several occasions and always found it a great experience. The Solarium is for adults only and also has a day spa. We did not use the day spa but I visited the hairdresser there and she was great and the price was reasonable. We also visited the casino on numerous occasions. It is a good idea if you wish to gamble to take American Dollars with you as the exchange rate was extremely high - the exchange rate was $1.07 but we got $.98 cents for our dollar.
We had several theme nights on the ship which you are not aware what they will be until you board. One night was a 70's night, one was a Rock N Roll night and the other was a tropical theme. So maybe that might give you a "heads up" on some clothing items you could take. There were also two formal nights were most people dressed up for which was really good to see. Men in suits and women in nice dresses.
I found the website to be very outdated and not user friendly. I am a "high end" user of the internet and I found it quite difficult to navigate around it until I got used to it. There is a lot of information missing on the website, particularly for us Australian users as this is an American Line ship. I feel that this needs to be addressed by the Cruise Line as it can be quite frustrating at times.
You have two options here. You can choose to take your own bags off the ship, which if you do you have to be at the gangway at 7.00am on the day. We did see long queues there on the morning on the way to breakfast. We chose the alternative option which is to have your bags outside your cabin by 11.00pm on the previous night and just kept our carryon baggage for the morning. We were given a time of 8.20 to disembark the ship and had to meet at the Melodies Theatre. We were given a luggage tag to put on our luggage the previous night and were directed to the area where our luggage was waiting for us. A very organised way to do thanks and full credit to RCI we were off the ship with our luggage in hand within 15 minutes.
Excellent - can't wait to do it all again. If you can afford it book another cruise whilst on the ship as they give you extra discounts and ship credits.