I have cruised over 150 times since 1979, mostly on the smaller, older ships which were in some ways better and some not. I did not expect much from this cruise to nowhere and was not disappointed.
First the positive: Embarkation and disembarkation was efficient and easy. Luggage was in the cabin before me. The ship is decorated beautifully. Although the hallways were a bit narrow, my cabin was just the right size for a single traveler.
The cruise staff for the most part was excellent-- friendly, attentive and fun. The cabin stewardess and dining room staff were some of the best ever. Except for playing elevator roulette with my scooter, traffic patterns were flowing. Most of the passengers were friendly and very helpful, especially in the smoking areas. The casino was paying off better than expected. I did enjoy the centrum shows, but I had a good view through the glass elevators while sitting on my scooter. Others had problems finding a good view, especially with the high rails blocking the view when using the limited couches on the upper floors.
Now the negatives: The pool looked beautiful, but without walk in access, and the ladders were steep and straight up/down, so older people could not use it. Some of the shows, the magician and music revue were definitely third rate. The comedic shows were good, but nothing special. The best entertainment were the games run by the cruise director, especially The Quest audience participation. I have done Cozumel so many times, I just stayed on board and relaxed. However I do miss the open pool decks when we use to really feel at sea. Today's ships are geared mostly to bad weather and feel very closed in.
My biggest complaints on all the new big ships is the food quality. People who ate in the specialty restaurants enjoyed them. I did not do so as I am accustomed to having great food in the dining room-- no more. In all my cruise experiences, I have never been asked to pay an extra $30 for lobster tail, although only expecting them on one evening. The food rated so so to absolutely vile. The cruise lines should sponsor one sailing a year for cruise critics and listen to their advice.
Examples: Tell the chef that Caesar Salad Dressing should not be so sharp on the tongue, Thousand Island should no be peppery burning and Blue Cheese should have actual taste of blue cheese - perhaps if they put some in it would. I really believe their salad dressings come directly from a commercial vendor and are not homemade. Bread pudding is not an elegant dessert, but should at least have the flavor of cinnamon, sugar and butter and include raisins, rather than just bread, milk and egg. Other desserts were just as poor except for sugar free cookies, which were flavorful. Garlic soup should have more subtle flavors other than just bitter. Onion soup should not be so watered down.
Entrees were the worst. One night I was served a cold filet and mashed potatoes- hardly a gourmet meal.
Chicken Marsala should be more than baked chicken breast with a hint of flavor in the breading. Like wise Chicken Picata. French toast should be more than egg coating on thick white bread. The eggs should saturate the bread and be cooked thoroughly. The make your own salads in the pool buffet were the best idea. The Windjammer had food selections with some flavor. However, the soft serve was frozen yogurt which is not my favorite.
Bar service was good, but diet coke had different tastes depending on which venue serving it. Sometimes right on, other times flat and tasteless.
Of course I am spoiled by dining rooms catering to 600 to 800 passengers with flaming steak dianne, cherries jubilee and salad dressings served individually by the busboy from a multichoice tray directly at the table. You cannot have a fine dining restaurant serving 3000+ people.
RCL is not the only culprit. On NCL I was looking forward to Beef Stroganoff, but was served a dish of over done, tasteless roast beef slices, with snowpeas, one mushroom cap and a dollop of sour cream on top. Any resemblance to gourmet dining on the new ships is purely coincidental. At least the Epic has exceptional entertainment.
One day at sea on the Brilliance, I thought I woke up in QVC TV. They were selling something on every deck and all around us. Duty free shopping use to be one of the major attractions on board -- before discount house at home. Most of what I looked at was either the same price or cheaper at home. The only products cruisers should buy is the local crafts because they are unique and help the economies of the poorer islands, especially Haiti.
Food is better on smaller lines such as Celebrity and Holland American, but programs for children are well done on RCL and especially on NCL.