I chose this cruise (my first ever) mainly for the itinerary and convenience of the departure port. I was a bit concerned about the age of the ship and the fact that she's due for dry dock and a refit next year, but after seeing how many people were repeat cruisers and their loyalty to her, I decided to take the plunge. I was not disappointed.
Cape Liberty is a bit run down and I understand that there's a plan for building a new terminal there-definitely needed. That being said, RCI is well rehearsed in processing thousands of passengers quickly and efficiently. There were no real delays and they had us aboard within an hour of our arrival.
Once aboard we went to Windjammer for a bite and quickly found that pretty much everyone else had already gotten there. We decided to explore the Explorer a bit and come back later. After we were allowed to drop off our stuff in our stateroom, we went back and found plenty of room and some food that's pretty good by buffet standards, compared to Las Vegas casino buffets. The departure was a thrill. Heading out under the Verrazano actually had me excited-never seen anything like it.
We had balcony stateroom 6678, and met our steward Dwayne, who was fantastic through the entire trip. Fresh ice was always waiting for us and he made up the room several times a day. The menagerie of towel animals was a nice surprise. I have no idea when Dwayne ever slept, since he seemed to always be available. The cabin was clean, roomy enough, everything worked well, and no rust to be seen. Sure, the TV wasn't a new flat screen, but who's on a cruise to spend the days watching TV anyway?
The Cruise and Activities Directors, Leigh and Erky were very informative and entertaining, and I looked forward to each day's edition of "Talking Turkey with Leigh and Erky", and went to a few tapings. They made sure there was plenty to do.
With the exception of dinner ashore in San Juan, we ate in the MDR every night. Chef Lorenzo provided a wide selection of exceptional meals. Our waiter Cherryl and assistant waiter Yusef were fantastic with their recommendations and service. I've worked as a waiter, so my standards are pretty high, and I found them to be among the best.
I had four excursions booked through RCI, Castaway at Malfini(Labadee), The Old San Juan walking tour, Caribbean Sail to Christmas & Honeymoon Coves(St Thomas), and Sea Trek St Maarten. I had actually messed up my departure times and missed the departure in St Thomas. I had resigned myself to writing it off and finding something else, but the tour operator found another excursion heading to the same snorkeling location and had them bring us to meet our group. Service above and beyond as far as I'm concerned.
The shows on board, particularly the Spirits of the Seasons ice show and Royalpallooza parade were all first rate. I'm generally not into production shows, but these really got me.
Debarking was a bit tedious, waiting for our departure group to be called, and I think next time I'll try to pack lighter and do the self debarkation. In any case, it still wasn't that bad, and didn't take away from the enjoyment of my first cruise.
Looks like Royal Caribbean just hooked a new loyal customer.