This was my first cruise on Royal Caribbean and overall I was pretty impressed. The cleanliness, food, staff friendliness and entertainment were all very good. Its been 3 days since I left and my post cruise depression has hit hard!
As some other reviewers have pointed out, the embarkation process in Galveston is awful. It took us almost 5 hours to get from the curb to deck 4. Once we arrived on-board, we were hastily shuffled to our muster area since the lifeboat drill was taking place. A "welcome aboard" would have been nice. As a former naval officer, and avid cruiser, I understand the importance of the drill, but after waiting in line for hours to board, the only thing we wanted was to drop our bags off and sit down. Instead we stood around until the drill was over and finally navigated our way to our SR.
I never took advantage of eating at one of the premium dining locations since I was very satisfied with the food selection and choices in the Main Dining Room. The menu variety each night made it hard to choose. Our table was in Top Hat and Tails on deck 4, port side. It was a quiet location, but still offered a great view of the dining room. Our waiter, Zaldy was terrific and was training his assistant waiter Hang. Though this was obvious, there were never any delays or interruptions in service. In previous cruises on other lines, espresso or cappuccino were included in the price. However RCCL feels this requires an additional charge to serve, which is ridiculous. What I found even more bizarre was someone came to our table every night with a tray of shots. Each one was $8.25 (you keep the glass). Maybe I am a sage 32 year old, but a shot right after dinner doesn't entice me. Why not offer this sort of thing on the Promenade after dinner? I bet they would make more money and not feel like Carnival.
We ate in the Windjammer every morning and felt the variety and quality were more than enough for breakfast. Not to mention, the views from deck 11 are excellent both at sea and in port! The only downside is getting a cup of coffee was pretty slow.
Compared to other ships, the art throughout the ship and ladder wells is unique and really stuck out to me. The glass flowers outside Boleros will be missed when they turn that area into a casino in the coming weeks. (The Mariner is relocating to SE Asia, and will be eliminating bars and enlarging the casino)
We had a Promenade SR. Initially, I was concerned about noise, but it was really quiet except for the parades below a few nights. After 11pm, you couldn't hear anything and the added seat was great for some additional storage as well as people watching. Our SR attendant Melvin on deck 7 was a gem. It took one introduction to learn our names. His friendly attitude and helpfulness made up for the non existent greeting we received as we embarked and he kept a smile on his face the entire week. At one point, I used the restroom in the middle of the night and when I came back, my bed was made! He embodied customer service.
The Solarium pool area is supposed to be adults only. However, there were way too many kids jumping in and out of the pool and hot tubs. It took until day 6 for one of the staff to enforce a quieter adults only area.
Selling bottles of water is smart before excursions, but why not have a scanner for the SeaPass card? The line to get a bottle of water grew crowded pretty quick since each receipt was manually written. On that note, be careful of your receipts and check them on the TV often. I noticed several double charges from hand written receipts by the pool area. Luckily, Guest Relations was quick to fix the erroneous charges.
Our cruise stopped in Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Jamaica. I am happy to share more details on those ports, just message me:) Tendering in GC wasn't bad at all. We didnt book an excursion and were on land by 1130. The port facility at Falmouth is great and the snorkeling excursion we booked via RCCL was great.
I debated the Unlimited Premium drink package, but I learned it is restrictive. All beers are included, except Guinness, Chimay or Sam Adams. No wines except the house wines (eliminates Vintages), no champagne either, or high end spirits such as Patron. Some bartenders would include a dirty martini, others wouldn't since olive juice is considered "fancy". I didn't get the package, and for what I wanted to drink I am glad that I didn't. I asked several passengers and bartenders about it as well. Basically if you are into well drinks, beer or the Drink of the Day, and can consume more than 6 or 7 drinks a day then the package is worth it.
Vintages is a wine bar with a clever concept to sample wines at your leisure, but a gratuity for a self serve wine bar is another way of feeling nickel and dimed. Although the "free" tapas offered at the bar was nice and they varied each day. The Champagne bar was always empty which I couldn't understand since it is such a nice spot with great drinks. Plus they had complimentary caviar each night.
Some passengers raved about the ice show. I didn't get to see it due to scheduling conflicts, but the shows we saw were enjoyable. The Quest and Love & Marriage are both very engaging and not to be missed either. We went to the Mix N Mingle and had a great time meeting some folks from this site.
The Spa is nice, but if you wait until day 5 or 6 for a treatment, the prices go down since they want more business. An ocean view during a massage is hard to turn down. The gym is nicer than the 24 Hour Fitness down the street from me.
Debarkation was a lot smoother and sadly we were off the boat by 10. If the port of Galveston and RCCL iron out the embarkation process, I would be happy to sail the Navigator when she replaces Mariner.