First time on an RCL ship - though we did cruise on RCL-owned Celebrity in 2005 to Hawaii. In between, we sailed on Princess 3 times (Mexico 2x, Hawaii).
BOSTON: We live in California, so the wife and I flew into Boston a few days early (Thurs). Stayed at the Marriott on Long Wharf, with dinner at nearby Legal Seafoods that night. We booked the Boston Duck Tour for Friday morning, retracing our steps on foot for the afternoon. Dinner right across the street at Ned Devine’s in Quincy Market. Hooked up with our grandson (briefly in town, and headed for RI via Amtrak) on Saturday. Dinner at Monica’s in North End, a 10-minute walk from our Hotel.
EMBARKATION: Cabbed it to the cruise terminal on Sunday for the 11:30 boarding. Seemed early to us, and it was. Staterooms not available yet. So, joined the other cruisers looking for space to eat lunch in the Windjammer.
MUSTER: No lifejackets were required (very nice).
THE SHIP: We were impressed with the ship’s decor and condition, and heard that it had gone through a make-over this past April.
THE CABIN: We had an balcony cabin on Deck 9, port-side midship and very convenient to the stairs. Cabin was spacious, but man, that was one hard bed. There was a small sofa and table; closet was nice sized.
INTERACTIVE TV: Never used the interactive feature, but the satellite coverage would regularly die-out right in the middle of game or program. They did warn us about this, but it was nuisance anyway.
DINING: List of selections was surprisingly long at My Time Dining. (We were traveling with 4 friends of my wife, and we all reserved MTD at the same table and time.) Quality/preparation varied (I’ve never seen Lobster Bisque look and taste as though it had a chicken stock base), though presentation was always good. The servers for our table of 6 were very attentive and interactive (Putu and ?). After the first night, we’d established a routine between the servers and ourselves. Twice, I tried to get one of the wines [only] served in the Schooner Bar, but to no avail. It seems that each of the ship’s bars are considered separate, and stocked with some of the same things, but not all of the same things.
THE WINDJAMMER: Breakfast was nice, though I’d have liked more than one option for potatoes (a McDonald’s-looking hash brown cake). Funny, I’d never seen fried eggs offered before. The buffet coffee was here and there - sometimes nice and rich, while other times thin and dilute. Seats could be hard to come by at peak times unless you were willing to share a table.
RITA'S CANTINA: As one other cruiser noted, this never seemed to be open.
ENTERTAINMENT. Never did any of the shows - a first for us. I dunno, too tired from our daily excursions?
CASINO: Looked nice. A smoker hang-out. One-cent slots!! Are you kidding me?
CINEMA: Seemed hard to find. Now I know why - it’s tiny. How tiny? Well, bored on one of the sea days I went to see “Jack the Giant Slayer.” This did crappy in the theaters on land. But at sea, the place was packed, with SRO and a line out the door/curtain. Must’ve been a lot of bored people on board.
BEVERAGES: I like wine. But, RCL is pretty restrictive about bringing your own wine aboard, so I considered the alcohol package. The P/P was maybe reasonable, but it required both my wife and I to participate, and she drinks very little. I get WHY they would do this (sharing a Seapass), but I also think the staff could be trained to look at the name on the Seapass. Opportunity lost, IMHO.
INTERNET: Billed as wi-fi, I signed up for the minimum package - 38 minutes for $25. Wi-fi? It was like modem speed. It was like sitting in a cab in traffic, watching the meter climb. If you only get 5 emails/day, maybe it was worthwhile. But, you’d need to get off-line immediately after they download, and do all your replies before logging back in, or you were just wasting money.
SHORE EXCURSIONS: The RCL ones all seemed much higher in price than the one you could independently contract. I do expect higher from the cruise line, but this seemed excessive. We opted to contract out all, except the “Scenic Boston City Tour and Airport Drop-off.” This was billed as “Approximately 2 hrs, 30 min.” Well, ours was 1-1/2 hrs - hardly worth the $58 p/p cost. I did contact RCL afterward about this, and their reply was conciliatory. “Our goal is to offer our guests the best excursions available in each port and I apologize for your disappointment. Please note that shore excursions are provided by independent tour companies and we rely on them to carry out the services they advertise.” To me, this is all the more reason to book my own excursions.
PORTLAND: Nice stop. We’d independently booked a city tour and harbor tour with Portland Discovery Land & Sea Tour. They had a shuttle at the dock to take us to the trolley/bus for the land portion of the tour. We asked the driver for some reccos for a Lobster Roll sandwich, and he suggested a few places - one of which was “$3 Dewey’s.” Nice sandwich, and local Shipyard IPA to wash it down. The, it was back to their dock for the harbor tour. Fabulous! While the land tour took us to Portland Head Lighthouse, the sea tour offered us this plus a few others - all, more photographable from the sea.
BAR HARBOR: This is a tender port. The RCL ticket system seemed to work just fine, and didn’t present any problems for us at all. We’d independently booked a tour with Acadia National Park Tours. But, we’d heard the Gov’t Shutdown had forced RCL to cancel all of their tours that included a visit to the Acadia Park, so I gave our operator a call to see if the tour was still on. Yep, he said, explaining that Acadia was just part of the tour and we’d get to see plenty of color and countryside.
SAINT JOHN, NB: We joined our four other friends and did the Reversing Falls, Jet Boat Ride. What a wet blast! Yes, the water was cold, but invigorating.
HALIFAX: We had a great guide for a look at the city, and trip to Peggy’s Cove. Mr. Al DesLaurier (firstname.lastname@example.org) met us at the terminal, and six of us fit comfortably in his van. We stopped in Indian Harbor at Ryer’s to order 2lb lobsters each for lunch, and while Ryer’s prepared them Al took us to a friend’s fishing shack to visit. Terrific! Then back to Ryer’s picnic tables to eat some lazy-man lobsters (all broken down for us). We asked Al to drop us off at The Boardwalk in town, to take a easy walk back to ship (and wear off the lobster).
DISEMBARKATION: Luggage tickets are issued, you wait in the appointed area at the appointed time, and then file out. We had the aforementioned RCL excursion set up. We booked this to hopefully see some of the city we didn’t get to (Fenway Park, Cambridge, etc.), as well as to get us to the airport. Well, the tour was an hour shorter than advertised, and the only area we visited that we hadn’t see before was the U.S.S. Constitution. OTOH, the early drop-off allowed us to check our luggage with the airline and head back into Boston via the Blue line on the “T”. Great finish!
SUMMARY: For me, I think Princess still has an edge over Royal Caribbean. That said, I wouldn't hesitate to book another cruise on RCL if it we going to my destination.