This was our 20th cruise, and our second with RCCL; and this was the largest ship we have been on. It was a 7 day leaving out of Ft. Lauderdale, stopping at Nassau, St. Thomas & St. Maarten. I will not be reviewing the ports, as everyone likes to do different things, so my positive or negative experiences will be different than yours.
We had heard that embarkation only took 15 minutes, but didn’t believe it, so we checked our watches upon entering the terminal. And 15 minutes later we were on the ship. Considering that this was done at the peak time at 12 O’clock, it was very impressive.
This ship holds approximately 6,000 passengers, but you do not feel like herd of cattle. This is a very “family friendly ship”, meaning a lot of kids. According to one crew member, they sometimes have as many as 1,500 children on board, with 1,000 being the norm. The public areas are very well laid out, with excellent traffic patterns. With so many people aboard, there are still areas where you can find peace & quiet if you feel the need. The overall appearance of the ship is extremely well maintained and a high degree of cleanliness. The ship is so large and stable that you will not feel it start to move out of port. It wasn’t till our 3rd day at sea until we actually felt the movement of the sea, and that was nothing: we finally felt the ship move when we hit white-caps. A definite advantage over smaller ship sailing if you are prone to sea-sickness.
The entertainment/shows were very well done. This is another advantage of large ship sailing; more passengers = larger entertainment budget.
There is a great jogging/walking track on deck 5 that goes completely around the ship, with lanes marked for walkers and another for runners. There are a lot of humorous signs, and it is very well laid out, with 2 ¼ laps equaling a mile.
Our stateroom, deck 8 #604, was small in appearance, but was very well organized with enough storage. It was very clean, with a larger than average patio. There was a nice desk/make up area with 3 outlets (110V), and an additional one below the desk. This is unusual, as most ships only give you one. The room is very quiet with no creaks & pops, and we seldom heard anyone in the hall or next door, unlike our last cruise on another line, where we could hear the next cabin discussing personal grooming. The shower is one of the circular ones that look small, but once you are in it with the door closed, it is more than adequate (for a ship, not your house). There is plenty of hot water, and our only gripe (a small one) with the bathroom is that the sink is too small and too low with the faucet getting in the way.
There is a large flat screen TV in the room where you are able to get messages about art sales, etc., and they are very easy to delete, which is better than the piles of useless paper we have gotten on other cruises. There is also a clock in the room with twin iPod docks. The bed is more than adequate and very comfortable.
The Windjammer is the ships buffet and they do a nice job. If you are looking for gourmet food, look elsewhere. Hey, no buffet is great, but they do a very nice job with what they have to work with. The room is spacious and well laid out.
The formal dining room is pleasant, and the food was excellent overall, as was the service. Most cruises get this right, and this ship is no exception. If you eat here, you will not be disappointed.
There are several specialty restaurants that charge extra, which we did not try. One nice place to go for lunch is the Park Café – very nice hot or cold sandwiches and excellent salads.
One place to avoid is the Wipeout Café: this is the hamburger/hotdog place, and the food was pretty bad. The buns were hard & the meat was dry. If you want a good hotdog or brat, go to the Boardwalk Hot Dog Stand
Some Strange Things
These are a few observations: They have a very nice martini bar, but they allow children in it. What tone are they setting? You go into the bar expecting to find a seat, but can’t because they are occupied with 5 year olds playing with toys. Also, they have a big screen TV in the Martini Bar showing sports clips; again: what is the setting? Bizarre and pretty stupid.
Another strange thing is that there are no noon position reports from the captain and no chocolates on your pillow at night. We did not miss either of these, as we could care less hearing our longitude & latitudes each day, and we never ate the chocolates; it was just unusual to see them gone.
This debarkation was unbelievably quick. We were in the first exit group after the walk-offs (green 3), and from the time they called our number till we were collecting our luggage was 15 minutes. The customs line was long, but that is not the fault of the ship. All in all, we were at the airport within an hour of our numbers being called. Excellent.