My daughter (age 23) and I vacation together while my son enjoys his father's company for college spring break. We drove to Ft Lauderdale from Virginia, stopping two nights en route to visit friends. The shuttle from the garage was extremely convenient. We did not join the lines to board at around 1:00, but took advantage of the check-in for Platinum Crown and Anchor members. We were immediately given access to our room, 7581 facing the Promenade. Our room steward, Tony Pinto, made the trip very pleasant, and we commended him on the departure survey. We scheduled 6:00 dinner and enjoyed our fun dinner companions, who made the meal something to look forward to for their company.
There were many college students aboard from Ohio State, Perdue, and Duke to name a few. While some passengers complained (I guess because the students tended to congregate in large groups), it was enjoyable to see them have fun. The guys were gentlemen, and I spoke with a number of them at length about their majors and future plans. My daughter befriended many, both young men and young women. We never have any problem meeting people even though my daughter and I do not stay together during most of the day.
I enjoyed the fitness facility, the hot tubs, sauna, steam room, zumba class, the art history seminar, and art auctions. We went on the Stingray excursion in Grand Cayman Island, our second time. This time we enjoyed an air conditioned bus to the boat. I purchased a disk with photos from the photographer on the boat, who took pictures of my daughter and I "kissing" and holding stingrays. The sun and water tired us out, so we returned to the ship without shopping.
I looked forward to the new port in Falmouth Jamaica. The Falmouth port is a new gated area and offers shopping and eating for those who did not schedule an excursion. The place is spotless, sort of like a petrie dish away from the locals for tourists. I purchased a set of silver bangles. I had priced sterling bangle bracelets on line, so I was satisfied with the price I paid for a set at a jeweler, especially since I got a slight price reduction. The vendors were not pushy, and I enjoyed browsing through the stores. Margaritaville provided an air of festivity. There were many options for cool beverages, food, souvenirs, and liquor purchases. We were able to stop by most of the shops within a 2 hour period. It was hot in March so I was grateful for easy access to the ship.
Instead of going ashore in Labadee, my daughter and I enjoyed a private hot tub, private sauna, private steam room, and quiet reading. I appreciated the tranquility of a quiet ship while in port.
On the positive side, I attended the Ice Show, Quest (for the first time), and the Art History Seminar, which was very well done. I viewed the artwork around the ship and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings.
Of course, there were some negatives. The windows in our room facing the promenade were in drastic need of cleaning. I have a number of allergies, the main one being fish (not shellfish) and I am a vegetarian. Although I completed forms to alert RC of this issue in advance, there were few options (standard pasta) for me because fish stock is used when cooking shellfish dishes. This was a major disappointment. The food was rather lackluster, though one night the menu offered three entrees that I wished had been offered on separate nights.
Offering all alcoholic beverages for one price, $55, is ridiculous. Not only college students, but many adults attempted to get their money's worth with embarrassing, unpleasant results. RC should consider ceasing this practice. I understand they revoked a few alcoholic beverage passes by the second day of the cruise.
A major negative was the casino. I spend, or would have spent, substantial time there but for the smog of cigarette smoke. I overheard many comments from college students cutting through the casino that they feared cancer from second hand smoke. RC should eliminate smoking in the casino, or better yet, get non-smoking ships. The air flow in the casino was horrible. At the top of the staircase leading to the Promenade a chimney effect caused the smog to rise and also pollute that deck.
Regarding the shows, my daughter and I were very disappointed. The production shows consisted of too many of the same types of songs or dances, no pizazz. The comedian and the entertainer who wrote the song for Happy Days were rather pathetic--two different nights watching men in wrinkled, poorly fitting suits who limped. RC can do better.
Granted, last year we cruised on the Allure, which is a hard act to follow. But as a married Black American traveling only with my daughter, I truly enjoyed the trip, and would do it again. For those who did not enjoy the cruise (I heard the murmurings), they should not travel during college spring breaks (which may span three weeks in March) and they should be flexible enough that their day is not ruined because they can't have their desired chaise by the pool. And it is easy enough to find solitude in many areas of the ship at any time.
Regarding embarkation, we carried our luggage off for the first time, what a great option! We got off early, my daughter retrieved the car from the parking garage, and we were on the road looking for a restaurant for breakfast before 8:00!