We are a family of 4 (kids are 12 & 16). We took a red eye from Lax to Ft. Lauderdale the day before the cruise. We arrived around 6 a.m. Slept for a bit in the airport, ate some breakfast and headed to the port around 9:30. We decided not to book transfers since it was only $15 to take a cab to the port. RCL sent an email a day prior to our leaving not to arrive at the port before noon, we ignored this instruction. When we arrived there were 20-30 people waiting in line to check in. They started letting people check in at 10:30. They take you to a holding area; very nice with lots of seating. We boarded the ship by 11:30.
Upon check in, I had a travel iron in my luggage. They confiscated and it was returned to us at the end of the cruise. If you need to iron, forget it! You have to use their laundry service. We did not do this :)
The ship was gorgeous as soon as we entered; through the promenade. We found out our room would not be ready until 1 p.m. We loved our balcony stateroom.
Sunday was our first day at sea. We attempted to sign the kids up for the teen activities, but they wanted no part of that. Instead they wanted to spend their time with us. There a hundreds of activities going on every day. So they were never at a loss of what to do.
This ship has a beautiful spa and fitness center. As well as a running track the entire perimeter of the ship. Since my husband & I are runners we loved this feature. Made it easy to get in workouts.
There were so many dining choices for all of our meals. We don't believe in paying addl. fees for restaurants on cruises. So we did not go to any specialty restaurants. For breakfast we alternated between the MDR and the Windjammer (buffet). Both were excellent, lots of choices. Lunch was usually at the Windjammer or Wipeout Cafe (near the sports area). This was a great cafe. They offered nachos, hot dogs, hamburgers and frozen yogurt. Kids loved it.
We scheduled the 6:00 pm dinner in the MDR. Again very good, with lots of choices. We had exceptional service and our main waiter was good about letting us know what the best selections were. He was honest and steered us away from the less than great choices. Overall the staff on the ship were pleasant and very accommodating. They worked so hard. The cruise director, Amy seemed sweet. Although after many cruises, this is the first time we noticed the cruise director didn't have her staff at her side, and didn't give them a lot of acknowledgement. We never saw her staff. Perhaps we did, we just never knew it.
Labadee: This was our first port. We didn't pay for any activities on the island. Simply went to the beach. You have two sides of the island to explore. The beach (facing the ship) had thousands of people in a very small space. The beach was nice (soft sand), but was too crowded for us. There were cute cabanas as well. I understand you can rent from RCL (prior to travel). Although I think it was something like $250. Crazy. Beach also had lots of small children. We opted to go to the other side of the island (facing the zip line). This beach was a little rocky. Make sure and bring water shoes. It was a great beach, not many people. Workers (locals) brought us chairs for a small tip. RCL had a huge barbecue. Great jerk chicken and lots of fruit and salads.
Falmouth: We booked the "Falmouth and Montego Bay at Leisure" through the RCL. The tour was okay. They took us by bus through the small town of Falmouth, to a church (for 10 min.) and then to a neighborhood with lots of expensive homes. Not sure why we were taken there?? Finally they took us to a bar/restaurant and we were given a snack of coffee and banana bread. It was nice, but a waste of time sitting in a bar for 40 min. Kids were anxious to get to the beach. We finally ended up at Doctor's Cave beach. We had the option of going to the beach or Margaritaville. There was a fee to get in to the beach, which was gorgeous and free of solicitors. Since we made all of the stops prior to arriving at the beach, we only had an hour here. RCL should re-think this excursion since a trip to the beach would suffice. Would have preferred that. It was beautiful with crystal clear water.
Cozumel: We booked the Fury Catamaran through RCL. Great excursion! I highly recommend it. They picked our group up at the dock. Didn't go out very far and we were given instruction and in the water for around an hour. Lots of fish, and the water was refreshing. After our snorkel, drinks (incl. beer and margaritas) were flowing and everyone danced. Lots of families on this tour. Had a great time!
The three days at sea, we were busy with all of the outdoor activities, flowriders, and hanging by the pool. I love the pool areas. First cruise we have been on where there are plenty of chairs. A few chair hogs, but staff were quick to remove belonging if people left them over 30 min.
Shows were the best we have seen on any cruise. We reserved all of them in advance prior to sailing. They scan your card before you enter each show to verify this. It was great. You do need to arrive 20-30 min. prior to get a good seat. Hairspray was awesome! Aqua show was phenomenal. As were the comedy and ice skating shows. The headliner show was awesome with "Mosaic."
Disembarkation: The lovely option on this ship is that you can walk off with your luggage. We were in port very early. We ate breakfast at 6:30 and were off the ship and through customs by 7:30 a.m. It was the easiest process we have ever experienced. It was nice since we had plans to stay in Miami for a couple days.
I highly recommend this ship. Although there are lot of people 5,000+, it didn't feel over-crowded. Central Park and Boardwalk were gorgeous. It will be tough going on a cruise on any other ship. Will definitely return to this ship or her sister the Allure.