We had an amazing time on our first cruise & feel like we made the right choice to sail with Royal Caribbean. While we were at sea apparently two additional Carnival cruise ships had trouble again (making four total in a month's time). So glad that we went with RCI.
I made the reservations over the phone directly with Royal Caribbean. The representative I spoke with was very helpful. Even though we were booking late (about 10 days before departure), he was able to find us two cabins on the same deck that met our requirements (inside cabin for the kids, balcony for us). I completed the online check-in procedure so that everything would go more smoothly on the day of departure.
We arrived at the port. From the moment we entered, we were warmly greeted and were made to feel very comfortable and welcomed. We felt like our vacation actually started while our feet were still firmly planted on land. Kudos to the port staff. The process was smooth and seamless. Being first-time cruisers, we didn't know what we were doing or what to expect. They walked us through it step by step and helped us feel comfortable.
They had water available in the building while we waited for our number to be called to board. That was nice since morning for our crew tends to be pretty rushed usually. We waited a while until our number was called and then waited in a bit of a line to board the ship. The line moved pretty quickly and we were soon on board.
Our staterooms weren't available yet, but they expected them to be ready around 1:00. They let us know that we were welcome to use any of the public areas until the staterooms were ready to enter. We visited the Windjammer to enjoy our first of many buffet meals on the ship. We found a nice variety of foods available to us & they all tasted great. The staff in the Windjammer were great; they offered us water, lemonade and iced tea and cleared our used plates away quickly.
When it got close to 1:00, we waited in the library area on the 9th deck (our cabins were on 9) for them to open the stateroom hallway doors. The library had comfortable furniture & a pretty good selection of books available to read. It was a nice opportunity to get to meet some of the other passengers who were sailing with us.
When the hallway was opened, we went to help the kids get settled into their stateroom. It was smallish, but adequate for the two of them. There was plenty of drawer & closet space for their clothing and other belongings. The beds were together rather than separated, so when they met their cabin steward, they asked him to put the beds apart. The beds were separated long before bedtime. After getting the kids all settled, we went to our own stateroom. It was quite a bit larger than we expected it to be. We expected it to be just slightly larger than the kids' cabin, but it was a nice size. There was plenty of space for our clothing and everything. The bathroom, of course, was "cozy", but I'd much rather have more living space than more bathroom space. Our balcony was wonderful. We very much enjoyed it throughout our cruise. The pillows and beds were comfortable and the bedding was nice. We all (the kids and us) really enjoyed the towels that were folded into animals each night on our beds! Fun. We enjoyed taking a nap right after we got unpacked! We loved watching the sunset off our balcony.
That night and every night afterward, we ate dinner in the main dining room. Our waiters, Jo (Joder) and Alex were fantastic! They were friendly, funny, attentive, warm and just overall wonderful. They took amazing care of our needs in the dining room. We shared a table with a group of four young ladies who were on their college spring break. We all had a great time sharing what we'd done that day and just talking. The food in the dining room was so amazing that we felt no need to go to one of the pay for dining restaurants. Besides, we'd miss out on seeing Jo and Alex if we ate elsewhere. Every night the menu was different, but they had a great assortment of seafood, fish, poultry and meat items on the menu. There were hot and cold soups and salads on the appetizer list as well as all kinds of other wonderful appetizers to choose from. The desserts were good as well - not as stellar as the food, but everything was wonderful. Jo and Alex made sure we had bread and that our beverage glasses never went empty. I wanted to take them home with me!
Most breakfasts and lunches were eaten at Windjammers. We always found plenty of variety there and enjoyed the food and service. I started out every breakfast and lunch with a large bowl of fruit - it helped keep me from having indigestion from all the great and rich food. One breakfast & lunch we ate at the MDR and one breakfast, my hubby and I ate a room service breakfast on our balcony. That was fantastic & I recommend doing that at least once as a treat. We bought the unlimited soda package & the kids definitely got their money's worth. I probably about broke even with mine and my husband probably didn't quite drink enough soda to make it worth it.
The mixed drinks were good. My son and I each had two of them. Very tasty and served with a flourish. None of us drink enough to make the unlimited alcohol packages worth the money.
They had a movie playing each day in the theater (different movie each day, but it played multiple times a day). We saw a couple of them. The seats in the theater were comfortable. My husband is a home theater buff & none of us were impressed with the quality of the projection equipment, but it was still a good experience & the sound was pretty good. It was a nice change of pace to be able to enjoy a movie together.
We used several opportunities for on board entertainment. They had ice sculpting demo, towel folding demo, world's sexiest man competition, belly flop competition, dancing, dance instruction and all kinds of other things. My husband and son participated in the adult dodgeball tournament while I took pictures. My daughter used the pool about every day. The pool is very nice. My son wanted to do the rock climbing wall, but when he got there it was delayed because of the wind being too strong. He only tried to do it one day and probably could have done it on another day. The wind was not the staff's fault, so we all understood. The climbing wall looked like great fun!
We did the amphibious bus tour and snorkeling excursion in Grand Cayman. That was a total blast!! I didn't want to come in from the water when we were snorkeling. What an amazing experience. I loved seeing all the marine life and the coral reef. The tour guides were great. They added all kinds of great information about the area to the tour and answered everyone's questions.
We bought excursions for Cozumel, too, but because of weather my son's and husband's parasailing excursion was cancelled. They refunded the money automatically to our account. They went on a ruins tour and beach trip instead. They had a great time on that trip. My daughter and I went to Playa Mia Water Park and did the cooking class there and then she played in the water park while I enjoyed the scenery.
At the end of our journey we were all sad to go. We miss the staff and miss all the fun and just easygoing spirit of the vacation we just enjoyed. We'll definitely cruise again and will definitely look at Royal Caribbean next time. While we were out at sea, we found out later, Carnival had another two ships that had troubles while they were sailing. That made four of their ships with major troubles in just one month's time. It made me so glad we chose Royal Caribbean.