We booked this cruise over a year ago and we had been counting down the days until we sailed. We left a day early (6/28) and stayed overnight at the Embassy Suites (Cruise port). We called ahead and made reservations for the shuttle service package which is separate from the hotel. The shuttle service picked us up from the A/P and took us to the hotel. They had free service to area restaurants which we gladly used.
The next morning, we had a comp breakfast and completed our reservations for - to the pier and from pier back to A/P on 07/06. The fee is nominal and this worked out great and it was stress free. We opted for the first shuttle (10:00)as well as other passengers who were using this service. Check in was a breeze. Since we are Crown & Anchor (Diamond +) members, there was plenty of seating available in the wait area. There is also seating for other C&A members as well. The check-in staff was full of valuable information which they gladly shared. We were allowed to board a little after 11:30 am. Instead of the Windjammer for lunch, we opted for comp lunch at the Park Cafe. Delicious and healthy selections. Rooms were available around 1:00PM. Attended the mandatory muster drill. I was a little leary of this since this ship holds 6,000 + passengers. I am still wondering, where they all were because you could not tell that many people were on this ship. Since this was our wedding anniversary, we opted for specialty dining at Chops Grill. The service was excellent, the food delicious and the atmosphere most pleasant. After our meal, the waiters sang their version of "Happy Anniversary". This was a total surprise! After dinner we attended one of many shows that we had booked prior to sailing.
Sunday - Bahamas - Since we arrived in the Bahamas, so late and had an early departure, we decided to stay on board. Good choice. Plenty to do and see. Dinner was room service and we attended one of the pre-booked shows.
Monday - Fun day at Sea - Again, plenty to do if you wanted or just read and relax. We explored parts of the ship, Central Park, Boardwalk, etc. Lots of kids! Dinner was dining room then we attended another pre-booked show.
Tuesday - St Thomas - Beautiful island, we did not book any shore excursions since we had been there before. We did get off the ship but quickly returned. Wasn't interested in shopping. Plenty to do on board, read relax, explore, participate in onboard activities.
Wednesday - St Maarten - Ordered room service for breakfast, early shore excursion. We did the catamaran and island tour. This was great. Catamaran took us far out into the bay area and the guide pointed out areas of interests. Comp beverages. We then boarded a bus and toured both the Dutch and French side of the island. We did stop on the French side for about an hour for lunch (on our own) and shopping before heading back to the ship. Dinner was in the dining room and we attended another pre-booked show.
Thursday & Friday - Fun days at sea. Plenty to do and see or relax. We had access to the Concierge Lounge, so we had breakfast and lunch there. A menu was available so we were able to order off the menu. Selections were varied and the service and food was excellent. Friday's lunch was at Johnny Rockets. Excellent burgers and shakes. Friday night, dinner in dining room and attended another pre-booked show.
A few tips for this ship - Make reservations prior to sailing for all shows. The crew staff will scan your seapass card for entry into each venue. Arrive at least 30 minutes early. (No kidding). If you do not have a reservation, you will not be allowed to enter until 5 minutes before showtime and seating will be limited. Shows are off the hook! Hairspray was outstanding! Ice and Aqua shows were amazing! Adult comedy was side splitting!! Not all material was adult but hilarious none the less. Love & Marriage was a hoot! Headline show - very good!
Seven days is not long enough to see and do all this ship has to offer. If you can afford it, plan to do a back-2-back or make plans to stay on board instead of getting off at the ports. If you have access to the Concierge Lounge, use this for breakfast and lunch. From the view in the Concierge, you can see the brave souls using the ZipLine. It looked fun and safe but there was not enough time to do this. You can also see the Aqua Theater from there. The Windjammer is beautiful and spacious but it is a buffet. (if you know what I mean.) The cruise staff, guest services, were outstanding. Make sure you read the Cruise Compass dates of times of the parades. Awesome! The cruise director was a joy and she was very hands on. She made sure our cruise experience was enjoyable. She also has an early morning Zumba class on the promenade. Great fun! Leaving the ship was a breeze! We expressed off and carried our luggage with us. We left the ship around 7:00 and the shuttle was already outside waiting for us. We were at the A/P around 7:25. Hubby and I are saving our $$ for 2015. Hopefully we can afford to do a back-2-back. This ship just has so much to offer and seven days is not nearly enough time. I am loyal to Royal and this ship has exceeded my expectations. You must try it!!