This is my first cruise with RCL in about 10 years. Boy, have things changed--and not for the better. What I noticed was the lack of the extras that used to be standards on a cruise....no chocolates on your pillow, no Captain's Buffet or what used to be the Midnight Buffet with the ice sculptures and butter sculptures, no ice cream sundae bar, no sodas included in your free beverages. I am a solo traveler now, so I have to pay for two people, which is unfair and unacceptable, but if I want to go on a cruise, I'm stuck with paying double.
First, the postiives. RCL has done a nice job of renovating the ship. The touch screens are very helpful to navigate you around the ship. The staff is very friendly and said hello all the time, even just passing in the hallways. The staff was very focused on keeping things clean all the time, which is so important to prevent the spread of Norovirus. I like the hand sanitizer dispensers at the front entrance of every public area on the ship. The Café Promenade is a nice (and free) restaurant for coffee, tea, cookies and finger foods during the day. The food was very good and the coffee was tasty. The whole Promenade is very nicely done and wide open. Lots of shops and restaurants and lights and glitz. A fun little mall-type main area on the ship. Sorrento's (free) had decent pizza, especially when it was fresh out of the oven.
The evening shows were top-notch and very well done. The performers were excellent and the theater was packed every night, so get there early to get a seat.
My room was very clean and comfortable, the bedding was fresh and soft, but the fridge was barely cool. The carpets, walls, and bathroom were very clean. My stateroom attendant was very attentive and friendly and did a great job.
Now the negatives. I think it's a ripoff that we have to pay for ANY food on the ship. It should all be included in your cruise fare. Having said that, Johnny Rockets ($4.95 each visit), had good food and was hot and fresh off the grill. $4.95 doesn't include the malts and shakes, though. Another ripoff! The Cupcake Cupboard's cupcakes were awful and dried out. For $2.75 each for a regular size cupcake, I have very high expectations for taste and freshness and was very disappointed. The food in the main dining room was terrible too! I ordered two entrees each dinner because I knew I wouldn't like one of them and needed a backup entrée. The food was bland and tasteless. The various seafood soups had but a trace of seafood and was all broth. It's obviously chintzy and cheap. The desserts were not sweet and not tasty at all! The only thing they did right was the banana vanilla crème brulee. My first two nights of dining were the worst service I've ever had and I had to request to be moved to another section of servers. Day 3-8 were fantastic service in the main dining room.
Allowing smoking in the casino is disgusting and unhealthy to the nonsmoking passengers. I thought cruises were supposed to be nonsmoking. I would have been glad to play some casino games, but I was not willing to sit amongst the filth and stench of the smokers. RCL, you've lost a lot of money from passengers for not keeping the casino nonsmoking.
The Internet café was yet another ripoff. At $.75 per minute, it took 5 minutes just to get connected and logged in. I know they do this purposefully to rack up your bill. I'm not kidding when I say that half of the computers in the internet café were not working. The area is also not staffed with an attendant, so you have nobody to go to to ask questions. When I tried to log off, the system malfunctioned and I couldn't tell if I was logged off or not. Then I had to traipse down to the guest relations desk to tell them about it. She was very helpful and didn't charge me for the session.
The Future Cruise Desk is way too small and understaffed with only two and sometimes three people working. Sometimes there was only one person if the second person went on a break. The waitlist for an appointment was several days and towards the end of the cruise, there was no getting in at all. I strongly suggest doing your next bookings on the first 2 days at sea, which was what I did. When I needed to return to follow up on a reservation on day 6, that was when the waiting was unacceptable.
The free BBQ on Labadee was just more of the same bad food. Everything was cold and dried out from being prepared many hours before on the ship and then brought onto the island. Labadee is a beautiful island, but they sectioned off the "good" beach for special "gold card" members. Really? Are you kidding me? The excursions are overpriced. The vendors in the straw market are brutal at their selling tactics and very annoying. They will not leave you alone for a second in peace to shop. It's a constant nagging to buy their stuff.
San Juan is another beautiful port. I asked around and nobody could tell me why we were in port for such a short period of time. It would be nice if RCL would dock there for the whole day like at the other ports of call.
St. Kitts was nice, but I didn't spend much time in the shopping area right off the boat because I booked a scuba dive on my own with Dive St. Kitts. I highly recommend this dive shop. They did an excellent job with the dive and they are all about safety and showing you a good time diving.
St. Maarten is a beautiful island too. It's very commercialized right off the boat. I booked a scuba dive with Scuba Fun, which was a very bad experience, and I would never use them again. They had an inexperienced and new dive guide lead my group and he was terrible. He passed right by a wreck without stopping because "we had to get to the reef". The dive was rushed and we were not allowed to stay in one place very long.