This was my fifth cruise and second on a Royal Caribbean ship. We selected this cruise because my parents had already booked it, and the ports looked interesting.
We are a family with two small children - ages 3 and 10 1/2 months at the time of cruising. So if you are looking for reviews of the shows- you're not going to find them here! We were back in the rooms by then.
General impressions: we got to the port fairly late in the afternoon after flying all day. Check-in was very easy. The Royal Caribbean transfer was helpful. You board a bus at the airport, and your luggage goes in a small truck. You next see it on board later that evening. It was nice not to have to lug that around - we had enough to handle! Everyone has mentioned how the ship is ready for dry dock, etc. The ship looked great. Not the signs of wear and tear. I think cruise ship decor is kind of tacky and dated to begin with, so I can't comment on that.
The room was nice. As always, tons of storage space. Because our kids are so young, sleeping arrangements were a bit tight. We had a pack n play for the baby, and our older daughter slept on the couch. Apollo, our room steward, was great about making up the couch into a bed every evening. We had no complaints about the room or the service we received from our room steward. He knew our names within the first night, and helped us track down missing pieces of luggage when we needed to get the girls' pjs on for bed time.
Dinner the first night was a bit chaotic, as we needed to get a high chair and booster seat. Our waitress was fantastic, but her assistant was terrible. On the second night, we actually complained about him. I have never seen any cruise ship employee just standing around twiddling their thumbs, but he was. Our problems were immediately addressed and we received stellar service the rest of the cruise. The high chair and booster were waiting, along with veggies for the girls to snack on. The food was okay. It is clear that they have cut back overall, though you can get shrimp cocktail, etc. every night. But never before would you have seen pasta dishes (absent seafood) on the menus. I will say that I got a pasta dish one night and it was fantastic.
We did dine in Portofinos one evening (grandparents had the kids) and it was fantastic. Well worth the $20. The service was impeccable and the food was out of this world.
With such a port-intensive cruise, you don't get to enjoy the ship's amenities enough. There is no shame in skipping an excursion in one or more ports!
Our 3 year old loved Adventure Ocean. We took her there a few times, for a few hours. Two small complaints- I didn't feel like the staff communicated at all about what she did that day and she got really messy. Twice I picked her up and she was covered head to toe (including her clothes) in marker, and one day clay or paint of some sort. They didn't tell us how she did or what activities she enjoyed. For a young kid, there needs to be more communication.
The toy-lending program is great. We borrowed a large back of new Fisher Price toys for the kids to play with in the room. On the port days, they had a room set up for a few hours with toys for the under 3 year olds to play in. It was great for the baby to have a place to crawl around and play. On the one at-sea day, they had play groups for the babies and toddlers. Spaghetti Sara ran these, and was great with the kids.
The kid's pool area is nice. Most of it is undercover, which was nice when trying to limit my kid's sun exposure. There is a small slide that goes into 1 ft deep water that my 3 year old loved. There is a small pool that is about 2 1/2 feet or so. There is also a water slide for the older kids.
We ate in the dining room for most breakfasts. It was actually easier for us with the kids, because we could either get them something from the yogurt, fruit and cereal bar, or order from the menu (or both). As opposed to the Windjammer, where we had to take turns running up and getting stuff.
During port days, the dining room is not open for lunch. This is disappointing, because we love the dining room lunch. We were able to enjoy it on the lone at-sea day. RC does a fabulous salad bar with tons of ingredients. I had a huge pile of prosciutto on my plate. The Windjammer is where we ate lunch the rest of the days. The food was very good, and there was a wide selection. The mashed potatoes were fantastic - very random, I know.
Overall, we noticed that they did not push drinks at all. Previous cruises, there was a bar waiter that would always come around dinners pushing wine or what not. We were never asked at dinner about whether we wanted anything other than the lemonade or iced tea (this was fine with us, actually). They also did not push this at all in the Windjammer. The only thing they did push was fresh squeezed OJ at breakfast. The free OJ is just fine!
On the at-sea day, the dining room did a chocolate-themed breakfast which was fantastic, including milkshakes for breakfast!
The ship was very clean and they were constantly working on it. They were doing some work on our balcony on two different days, but were very respectful when we needed to get in the room to put the kids down for a nap.
I did visit the spa on the first full day to get the ginger lime scrub and massage. The prices, as on all cruise-ships, are high. I do wish I waited until later on the week and got a better deal. I got an okay deal. While the treatment itself was good, the spa employee was VERY chatty, and at the end was the product push. But I just come to expect that on cruises.
One complaint in general- Royal Caribbean markets itself as a family cruise line. But there are no changing tables in any of the public restrooms. This was a huge pain when it was diaper time.
We didn't get to explore as much of the ship as we would've if we were cruising without kids, but we had a great time.
Leaving the ship was a small pain. We actually were able to get off early from our waiting area. However, we were told 3 different places to go to get off the ship. It was confusing and a pain, especially with the kids and carry-ons in tow.