The boarding process was very quick and painless. A few crowds at some of the choke points, but nothing too crazy. We definitely had a great first impression.
We arrived on-board and found out that our rooms wouldn't be ready until later in the day, which was fine, so we dove into the Bow & Stern British pub they have on board and got our first drinks. The drinks were well-made and strong, definitely generous pours. The venue was smoking, and people were already doing so, and that was a little meh, but it seemed to be just that bar, so nothing bad there. Our bartender, Chrystian, was amazing and we came back to see him a few times on our trip.
The stateroom was amazing. We had a deluxe ocean view balcony and we really were very happy with the size. Although, there was some initial trouble, but I'll mention that later in the bad section.
The first night we got to experience perhaps our favorite part of the trip, which was the Chef's Table dinner. I highly recommend it. It feels very exclusive, the chef comes out and the sommelier and they introduce the wines and courses and it's just incredible food. A truly awesome experience. And at the very end they give you a few "surprises" that were very nice. If I cruise Royal Caribbean again, this is something I would definitely repeat.
This section unfortunately is going to be longer than I would have liked, but this is a collection of the things that happened on this trip, which were numerous, that really I won't say ruined, but certainly put a damper on our vacation.
The first thing that was unfortunate was that we had previously requested that our stateroom beds be separated, which, they were not when we arrived. We had to make a call to get this done. We had been traveling the day before and not slept much, so had considered a nap perhaps, but we being two males, weren't about to cuddle.
I had done my research prior to taking the cruise and knew that you needed to get reservations for events and restaurants. Unfortunately, the automated system built into the TV in the room was not functioning for us. Ultimately, this did not start working until the very next morning. We reported it several times and were told that they were "reprogramming" it every time. This caused us to miss almost every show reservation that we wanted. I was upset, because I was trying to do the encouraged thing by reserving in my room instead of going to guest services, and missed out because of it. I had tried to go to the kiosk, but it didn't show us up as existing.
The cruise offers an unlimited internet package, and my job requires me to be in constant contact for the most part. I was unable to register for this package also until the following morning after sailing. So I paid for an unlimited plan that I missed out a day on.
The worst part about both of these things, was that it seemed to be just a small number of people. We had traveled with two others who each had their own rooms and both the internet package registration, and the television reservation system was working for both of them we found out later. Additionally, they had received their tickets to their shore excursions and we had not, causing us to be worried when we added all these unrelated events up, and we had to wait in the long line to find out that they just had not been delivered yet.
There were many things that really I expected more of out of a cruise, especially one from Royal Caribbean, but I can't touch on them all. There was a lot of communication issues. But the biggest gripe we have for the whole trip is the "premium" drink package:
This is the biggest rip off unless you are a 100% alcoholic and are drinking from dawn to dusk. We pre-paid thinking that this was going to be a good value for us. The documentation listed a bunch of "premium" alcohols such as Grey Goose, and ended the line saying "and many more". We quickly found out that this was very false, and I'd use a curse word here that would be a bull's excrement. Almost every single thing we ordered we were told that they had to check whether or not it was included in our package, and many many times, we were told that it was not. Sangria at Giovanni's was not on the plan, however, Sangria at a bar was. Many of the featured drinks on the front of a venue's drink menu were not included on the plan. It got to be a running joke between the four of us about what was NOT going to be included. There seemed to be no pattern to it. An Appletini with Grey Goose would be included, and the next item over would have Patron in a margarita and it would not, and they would be THE SAME PRICE on the menu. All over we were rejected for our drink plan. Save yourself the money and DO NOT GET THIS UNLESS YOU ARE DRINKING 8 DRINKS A DAY. We also ordered mimosas with our room service breakfast one morning and had to pay extra for those as well, they were, surprise surprise, not included (but a mimosa anywhere else would be).
Additionally, all other beverages were supposed to be included. This would be soda. All throughout the ship are these Coke "Freestyle" fountain machines that are ONLY activated by these special cups. We assumed that we were surely supposed to get these, so we went to an information counter where they were selling them, and were told it would be an ADDITIONAL package of $45 per person. We were baffled, and were told that we could get soda in some bars, but could not use the machines. Where this got even more confusing, we had later decided that we did want this, and would pay for it anyways regardless of the outrageousness, and we went to a different information counter and were told that our package includes it, we just had to pay for the souvenir cups which were $5 a piece. So, we missed out on a few days of this because we were told wrong information. Also, as another note on the Coke machines, you can only fill up your drinks once every 15 minutes. This rubbed me the wrong way also.
The whole cruise had a huge nickel-and-dime feeling to it. Everything was an added cost. Ice cream in the parlor was an added cost. Seattle's Best coffee was an added cost. Still water was an added cost. Many many many restaurants were an added cost (although we got the pre-paid packages for these). Many items in those restaurants were EVEN STILL an added cost, even after you paid their cover charge. This did not feel "all-inclusive" at all.
The items that were "free" felt very sub par compared to the pay options. For example, at the HOT DOG STAND you couldn't get a chili and cheese hot dog, but literally RIGHT NEXT DOOR you could get one at Johnny Rockets, for a cover charge of $5. These examples are all over the place, but the dining on all the complimentary places seemed very bad compared to the cover charge required places.
In closing, amazing ship, amazing rooms, don't get the drink package, do get the food packages unless you want to eat less-than-Golden-Corral quality buffets. The staff could communicate better, the logistics need some work. Expect to spend some money on board.