I just came back from an Avon Training cruise with Royal. This was my 1st time sailing with RC. I have sailed mostly with Carnival (3) and once with Norwegian. From all of the reviews and people I spoke with before sailing I expected way more.
1) Our waiter was very dry and hardly spoke with us. He kept serving the wrong dishes to the wrong people. I got the impression that he didn't speak much English as we tried to talk with him. He never smiled and the few sentences he said sounded like they were just memorized.
2) The sail away party was basically non existent. Maybe about 30 people up on the deck and there was no camera man walking around. Also, there weren't any shots of the "party" shown on the Big Screen during the sail away.
3) All food places were closed after 12am and 2am on some nights, leaving the only option room service which there was a $4 fee. (Usually Free 24hrs on other Cruise lines and Pizza or something is availa)
4) There were about 20 kids on this ship, so I would not recommend it for Families with children.
5) The ship was very rocky and when walking we had to weave back and forth... I believe this is because it is such a small ship. A lot of passengers got sea sick on those rocky days.
6) Our beds were pushed together and made up as a queen or king size. I heard we could have them separated, but we weren't sure where they would go so we didn't bother.
7) The food was not as Fabulous as I was told it would be. One day Breakfast food was still out in the Windjammer (buffet) at 3:30pm. They seemed to close down the other side of the buffet quickly and did not have all of those items available on the side staying open. I was pleased there was Turkey Sausage available. We ate in the dinning room every evening for dinner and most of it was normal American food, not much variety. Also several meals were over cooked. It was difficult to get fresh ground pepper. I prefer Carnival who has more of a variety of options.
8) Most of the 30 TV Channels were in French or Spanish. There were 5 cruise channels and then a few channels in English.
9) Most of the passengers were 60yrs and up. So if you are looking for that crowd then it's perfect for you.
10) We only received 2 towel animals.
There were some Pros vs the other Cruise Lines:
1) There were hardly any lines. Embarking and Disembarking was a breeze. We didn't have to wait in the theatre to wait to be called for a tender when arriving to the port. We got off the elevator and just went out.
2) Security seemed to be very relaxed. They didn't even look at my birth certificate or check my beverages. I carried on 2 bottles of wine and 4 big bottles of water. They were even selling single bottles of water and cases of water ($10) outside the port for guest.
3) There was plenty of cabinet and built in shelves behind the mirrors both in the Bathroom and in the Main part of the cabin.
4) There was tea, lemonade AND Fruit Punch available for free. (Usually there is just tea or lemonade available. Which I loved because I and not a Soda Drinker. :)
5) This ship was great for a business trip, but I would not choose this for a vacation.
6) The steward did do a good job although I only saw him twice. Although on Carnival they were much friendlier and they remembered special request such as an extra towel daily and even my name.
So overall I will stick to Carnival for future Cruises unless it's a work cruise.
Before the cruise we stayed at the LaQuinta Tampa Airport Inn. Great rate! They were accommodating for an early check in at 12:30pm. My 1st room had a smell and stains on the bed cover. I called the desk and they apologized and immediately moved me. It was clean and great for 1 night. There was a a fridge and microwave in the room. The hotel had a FREE shuttle to and from the airport and to the nearby International Mall. (It is close enough to walk if traffic is bad.) There you will find a variety of specialty restaurants. We had a pre cruise dinner at Cheesecake Factory which accommodated our group of 20. And I hear the Blue Martini is the place to go for nightlife.
The hotel has a contractor shuttle that they work with who was trying to get us to book him for before and after our cruise, but since we had a large group and some people were going on to Disney or other hotels afterwards we were able to talk him into an $8 rate per person. (When we called before our trip and we were told by the hotel that we could get the shuttle for a flat rate of $68. The shuttle guy said he didn't know what we were talking about.)
When you disembark there are several choices for the airport. Taxi $25 flat rate, shuttle buses $15 for single rider and it is cheaper the more traveling together. I learned that if you pre book a bus thru the cruise line it is $10 per person.
I definitely recommend doing the shopping talk whichever cruise line you are on for additional coupons and tips.
This was AMAZING!!! We actually swam with dolphins. Did tricks with them and there is a camera man taking pictures. They do not allow cameras on the tour. You can have someone who is just watching (cost $49) to take pictures of you. We were supposed to swim with manatee, but didn't. I think you had to pay extra. After our swim we are guided to the picture gallery and gift shop. WARNING!!! The pictures are $39 PER Sheet!! You will get a better deal by just buying the cd if you want Any pictures. And then prints are only $6 per sheet. I purchased the cd and 1 print and the dolphin bag ($ goes to save the dolphins) the bag is soo cheap that it ripped like 5 minutes after I had it. Then we were off to watch the Sea Lion Show. Cute show. Since this was our 1st time in Cozemel we wanted to do some shopping also so we left. But you could literally spend the day there. There's a pool, a beach, a clubhouse and much more..... I didn't go all of the way down.
Shuttle returned us back to port and we took an $8 taxi to downtown to shop. Lots and lots of jewelry available. Free tequila shots in some stores. Make sure you stop at Viva and get the $20 survivors bag it includes: straw hat, Mexican blanket, bottle of Tequila, maracas and 2 shot glasses!!! Lots of stores offer FREE things just to get you in to look. I ended up buying a Mexican opal necklace which they started at $800 but I got for $150 and and Amethyst Slide started at $120 bought for $60. Merchants are willing to deal more if you have cash. I think I could have gotten my necklace a little bit cheaper.... The Margaritaville is a water park. Free snorkeling and all kinds of stuff!! You need both your passport/DL & Birth certificate and Sea Pass to get back on Board. And once again you can bring on bottle water, which is $1.50 in the pharmacy. (Must have change... The store only had $20s and the taxi drivers say they don't have change. ) also all purchases are in Pesos on the price signs and receipts. Every place has a different conversion rate based in their bank. You can get change back in pesos if wanted.
The tour was a total of 4 hours and was more than I expected for my $49. We stopped by the Toratuga and sampled chocolate, coconut and original rum cake and a variety of rums. ( my favorite were the Pineapple and the Mango) I purchased a chicken patty melt which is like a flour tortilla pocket with chicken, sauce, lettuce and tomato for $2.50 I think and bottle water for $1.50. ( make sure you have change).
We stopped in front of the Governor mansion and was briefed about the laws for the governor and a brief history lesson.
Then we went to the Observatory deck where you can see the entire island including the 7 mile beach. This was in an Urbanized Community where there were 68 apartments which everyone who lived there worked in the shops below. Everything they need grocery, laundry, work, etc is within walking distance. They had a nice beach front area.
Then off to Hell we went!! And our tour guide was hilarious!! Very talkative, telling childhood stories, history about the island, current laws and so much more. He'll was very interesting. Our tour guide gave us a tour of the many plants there and what medicinal uses they were for and how Hell came to be. We visited the gift shop for souvenirs before we left.
Last stop was Tiki Beach (admission, free rum punch, and lounge chair was included). The beach was beautiful!!! I could have spent all day there. There are 4 different beaches that make up Tiki beach. We were at Treasure Beach which was very quiet and very rocky up to the shore (water only waist high). I swam 2 beaches away to the far end of Tiki Beach and there were no rocks there and I could swim freely (water was deep enough to tread water in). There are paddle boards, kayaks, snorkel gear all available for rent. We had 2 hours there and then our driver picked us up and brought us back to the port.