I'm rating our trip a 3 out of 5 but it is due to a lot of factors - some out of RCCL's control.
Also please take our personal background into consideration when reading. Hospitality background with lots of high-end luxury hotel and dining experience both employment and travel. Cruise experience is both budget and high end. Traveled with two adults and a child.
Booked RCCL due to location and destination. Balcony cabin was a must for the added space, fresh air and novelty [we were a bit nervous when our son climbed on the terrace furniture to see better but he was cautious and never lost his balance - parents of young children beware though - one wrong move and they will topple over]
Booked "My Time Dining" to afford more flexibility - BIG MISTAKE. We ended up having LOTS of trouble getting reservations each day and only dined in the dining room for dinner twice the whole week!!, the times the crew were available to answer the phone and take these reservations were limited [and guest services cannot help you as 'it is a different computer system'] - get on the same page people! With that said - we also thought the dining room menu was very limited.
The Windjammer buffet - while REALLY busy during peak times - was laid out well and you never really felt like cattle being herded which is what I expected.
ALL menus were IDENTICAL every day. I was disappointed in this. Same room, same food - bored by day 3 - nothing offered could not be made at home. Cafe Promenade [snack center on deck 5] had the identical sandwiches day one as day 7 - really sick of Ham & Cheese by the end. The only bright spot was the cereal buffet in the Main Dining Room for breakfast. 3 different types of granola + toppings, including minced, candied orange peel! How unique and delicious.
OK - here's where the trip conditions were out of RCCLs hands [fins?] - the weather was terrible. Rain and cold for days. Snorkel excursion to rainbow reef was awful. None of us are great swimmers and I really feared for our lives. The water was so rough you felt like it would batter you against the side of the boat - but if you swam a bit away, you felt like you would get swept out to sea. Boat crew was cordial but not personal and definitely not helpful. Didn't see a single fish. NOTE - brought own snorkel gear b/c I had read a review that the gear provided is soaked in bleach - yup - glad we had our own. Their stuff smelled! Also - wear swim shirts/rash guards as they suggest life jackets [not mandatory, but definitely advisable] and they also get hosed down and maybe bleached! On the upside - the ride back under full sail was pleasant with the sun peeking out briefly for a sunset show - but the wind made it brutally cold - bring extra towels from the ship [but remember to bring them back or you get charged $$]
OK - other things on the boat -- shows - only went to the ice show. They send you on a set date/time based on your muster # so no scrambling for tickets which was nice. The show was good - I would dare to say amazing considering the boat is under way during it - and I had tried skating earlier in the week and while it is possible, I definitely wouldn't want to do it in rough seas.
Sports/activities - there is plenty to do. Other than skating my family only wanted to play shuffleboard. Huh- who knew that a 9 year old would love it ! Really wanted to go inline skating but it was so popular that there was a waitlist. Never got to rock climbing but considering the wind it wasn't available the whole time and had a long line as well. Mini golf was definitely a challenge in the wind as was ping pong but we did both and had fun.
Promenade shops need more variety in their inventory - no good shopping to be had the whole trip. Nassau date was Xmas day and everything is closed.
Now some good things....
Cabin was beautiful. Had read a lot of reviews about how 'tired' the ship looked after 13 years and how it had rust spots, etc. Of EVERY crew member we came across, my biggest praise and highest marks go to the maintenance crew. There were workers EVERYwhere - no emergency, just general preventative work to keep it looking great - and great it did ! Yes, there was some rust in places but nothing dramatic. Pristine public spaces - and NEVER did I feel like I was jammed in a tin can with 5000 other passengers and I am a germ-a-phobe! Yes, I used care when pushing elevator buttons and avoided hand rails when I could but that's daily practice no matter where I am. Every food outlet had Purel hand sanitizer stations and staff encouraging guests to use them [no, not everyone did, even me, since I bring my own!!] but it showed care and concern.
As well - anyone reading this who has never cruised before and is concerned about 'crowds'. It is very easy to avoid them. There are tons of quiet nooks, lounges, and public areas with great seating to read a book, people watch or just be on your own -- in fact you could probably avoid 'people' the entire time if that's your thing.
Would I go again - yes, same boat, no probably not simply for a desire of variety, but definitely RCCL again.
Cape Liberty/Bayonne port - terrible. Definitely needs an overhaul. Very industrial and not inviting at all. Have cruised out of NYC, Cape Canveral and Miami and all are better than NJ. Do NOT park there in winter as lot is open air [secure, but open to weather] take a cab/private car service.