Before we left, I read a lot of reviews as part of my researching process. We had never cruised before and had nothing to compare it to. We tried not to have high expectations after reading some of the negative comments. We were so pleasantly surprised!!
On May 2, we arrived in Bayonne. We chose to save a little money and use Premier Parking. It was a five minute shuttle ride to the ship, so we figured why not. Well, I will tell you more about that mistake later. Once we got to the terminal and dropped our bags off, it was like a tornado it was so fast. Here's your seapass, smile for a picture, here is the gangway, "ding" you are on the ship. I honestly didn't even get to see the ship before we got on it! I stuck my arm around a sheltered area and snapped a quick shot before walking on board. That was it! Before I knew it, we were on the elevator headed up to the 11th deck for lunch. The whole process was so organized and methodic that for those of us inexperienced cruisers I had a few "now what" moments. Poof, we were eating our lunch enjoying our first taste of what would become 9 days of pretty good food. Was it perfect, nope, but there was plenty of variety and if you found some favorites for breakfast and lunch, we were never disappointed. We went to the sailaway party, it was a bit windy and chilly and the party seemed to get cut short since there was a medical emergency that delayed our cruise. It was kind of hard to dance and celebrate when an ambulance had just pulled up to pick up the poor passenger. I am glad they were not disrespectful to them. It was very tasteful. Once we were underway, it was really neat to be up top to see the tight squeeze under the bridge.
We went to our cabin and found it to be plenty big. We had anticipated such a small space but it wasn't bad at all. Our luggage did not arrive until around 6:00 but it worked out ok. We changed and went to the main dining room. What a beautiful room! The staff was friendly and always helpful with questions. Dinner was great, and we were tired. We turned in early and it's a good thing we did. We were awakened early by loud crashes and lots of movement. Sometime during the night we encountered a nor'easter. Being on the second deck, we hoped to not feel the sway of the boat, but wow! We took showers, that was an adventure as we slammed into the wall. Standing was an effort! We left the cabin and found barf bags taped everywhere. I couldn't believe that this is how it was at sea. Why would people choose this for a vacation? Well, after asking around, I was told that it was not the norm. Thank God! After being awake for a while, my husband was starting to turn green. We had brought some sea sickness meds and he popped a couple and had to lay down. The upper decks were even worse. I think the entire ship slept for 24 hours. It was the only way to survive it! Waves were crashing into our window! Absolutely amazing! The captain would make occasional announcements reminding us to use hand rails and walk carefully around the ship while it got tossed around. Sometime overnight, the seas calmed and that was the end of that!
We spent the next day getting to know the ship. Yes there was some wear and tear, but honestly, I was impressed. There was always someone polishing and wiping. They kept her super clean. Breakfast in the Windjammer was always good. "Washi washi!!" would greet us every morning, the biggest happiest smile on Earth! It was impossible not to smile back even without coffee yet! It didn't take us long to figure out that the only way to really know or care what day it was was by looking at the elevator floor. That was pretty cool! It would change every day. One elevator seemed stuck on deck one for quite a while. When it finally opened up one day, I noticed the day on the floor said Tuesday. I had to ask my husband "what day is it"? He replied "Wednesday". I got excited for a minute thinking we had been issued a bonus day!! It was quickly corrected by some unknown stealth like person. I never saw any of them physically get changed. But they did.
The main dining room was beautiful and the meals were good. My husband got the strip steak the first night and it was out of this world good. Perfect! Remembering this, a few nights later I ordered one and asked for medium rare. It was so well done it was tougher than shoe leather. It could have easily been used as a brick in home construction. Megan, our waitress offered to get me another, she could tell that it was over done. I was actually so full from the day that I declined and just ate my starter, veggies and desert. There were times when I wanted an appetizer and a salad and was never denied. I also had never had creme' brulee. But didn't want to order it since I was unsure I would like it. Megan brought me one to try as well as the desert that I knew I would like. The Windjammer could get quite busy and I didn't necessarily enjoy fighting for my food. The food was good and there was plenty. Why people feel the need to push you out of the way to get to the 100 burgers that were there is just ridiculous. We would try to go when it wasn't so crowded. Breakfast was never an issue since we are early risers. The pushers seemed to only be there at lunch. These were the 30's and 40's folks that apparently wanted the most for their money and were used to Walmart buffets. That's all I can think of. Like animals! The only complaint I have except for the people would be getting beverages. Some days a server would be right there, other days we would just have to go and get it. No big deal really, it would have been good to know which was the proper way. One way or the other for consistancy.
There was some sort of show every night. The entertainment was first class! Shows ranged from singing and dancing to comedy, to a ventriliquist, variety shows you name it. And they were ALL good. The ice show is a must see!! Although you have designated times to see it, there is always plenty of room as long as you get there early. Our scheduled show was postponed when there were such rough seas. The odds of any of the skaters landing where they were supposed to when the ship was moving so much in a mid jump, that would not have been good. Now, let me get to the finest entertainer. Leigh. Our cruise director, or the Energizer Bunny. The energy this man has needs to be bottled and sold. He is non stop and never without a smile on his face. Always friendly, never made anyone feel like they didn't matter even though he had to be at the other end of the ship to be on stage in 2 minutes. His pay needs to be double whatever it is because he was the ultimate host! And Frankie, the activities director was right there with Leigh. I know Frank would probably like to be cruise director one day, but to split this team up would be a mistake. I can't believe what these guys put up with, with a smile at all times! I saw an older lady pinch Frankie's butt soo hard during the 70's party, I couldn't believe he didn't knock her out! But, always just a smile from him. I was there when the two of them entered the hot tub in their suits, shoes and all. They just don't stop making people laugh. Great entertainers!!
How anyone can say anything negative about this ship is beyond me! From the crew, to the food, to the cabins everything was thought of and nothing was a problem. There were occasional medical emergencies on board and they were taken care of quickly and you could tell there was heavy training in this area. While we were in Bermuda the crew practiced with the lifeboats. It was very comforting to know that they keep their people trained.
As far as negativity, the only thing I can say is that apparently the older you get the meaner and more impolite you get. It would shock me to see the pushy behavoir of old people. Seriously. I was just shocked! Not everyone, but enough that it was noticable. For the most part, everyone was friendly, talkative and happy to be on board. The pool area was very nice. Plenty of places to get a chair. The chair saving is out of control though. As much as you see signs saying it won't be tolerated, it still happens. I was fortunate enough to be able to get a spot everyday without a problem, but I did see people arrive later that couldn't get a chair. Towels would stay in chairs all day, never to have a person sit in them. It was sad to see. Sometimes, I would mention this to people when they were looking for a spot. "I haven't seen anyone near those chairs for three hours" Only a few would move the towel and sit themselves down.
Drinks galore! There was never a shortage of someone bringing bar service to you. Holy cow! And don't think that since the drinks are cute and fruity that they aren't potent. They do not skimp on the alcohol. I learned after the first couple of poolside days to pace myself or I was asleep by 5pm.
The casino isn't really our thing, but it was fun to try out. We found it smoky so we went on the designated non smoking nights. We didn't use the night clubs so I can't rate them. We enjoyed the Crown and Kettle Pub and sat in the "outside" area within the promanade to people watch. That was fun.
We used the internet cafe once and it was perfect for what we needed it for. I used the library but found it to be very noisy with people sitting and hanging out to chat. Not your typical "library" etiquette. So, I left.
When we initially booked this over a year ago, my husband said "we will try this and see if we like it". Well, on the second to last day while playing mini golf in the sun he says "So, when should we do this again"?
I liked it when Leigh said "If you are bored on this ship it is because you are boring". There is a jam packed schedule of things to do, all the time. There is something for everyone. Sometimes I wanted to be in two places at one time! I would recommend this ship and this cruise line to anyone and everyone. Thank you Royal Caribbean for a wonderful vacation!
My husband was scared to death when I informed him that one of our stops was "Haiti". He said "I will not be getting off the ship there, no way". Well, it is now officially his favorite place. Royal Caribbean has thought of everything. We got off of the ship, and got on a ship provided tram that took us to the beach of our choice. We had been provided a map of the area the night before and it had keys that showed us where it was good to swim, walk, have family time, dance, work out etc. There was something for everyone. Lunch was great and there seemed to be plenty. I had read that some folks experienced shortages. Not this cruise! My only issue at this port was the locals selling their wares. If you don't intend to buy anything, don't even act remotely interested. If you didn't purchase they were mean, and at any moment you felt like it would get violent. Even the band while asking you to buy CD's. Very pushy. One guy even asked my husband to please give him food, they were hungry. We didn't know their situation, we didn't want to get in trouble by offering them food and we sure didn't want them to think that we were soft hearted and have them take advantage of that. It made an otherwise very enjoyable stop, a little unpleasant.
I wished we had scheduled an excursion for this port. Unless you want to shop for jewelry all day long, don't go "shopping". It was not pleasant. The locals would shove jewelry brochures at you and try to get you to enter their shop for the best discounts. Our friends went to a beach on a planned excursion and had a wonderful time. They raved about the beach and the water. If we had skipped this port and stayed in Bermuda an extra day, we would have been happy.