We arrived in NJ the day before the blizzard. Reservations were made through Stay123 at the Crowne Plaza in Elizabeth. It is a lovely property. Service was excellent. Our rate included parkiing for the cruise. I really don't understand the reviews I've seen on this hotel. Recommend it to anyone. We arranged transportation through Abdoul at Independent Driver. He was fantastic. Got us safely to the pier under the worst of driving conditions.
Embarkation was no picnic. The most disorganized mess we've ever experienced -- compounded by the passengers who would not sit down (despite repeated announcements to do so). They were determined to stand at the front and down the isles, making it impossible to move when a boarding number was called. We were seated in the terminal from 11:30 to 2:00. Made it to the Cafe Promenade for lunch just before it closed at 2:30/3:00.
Now, there is no getting around the fact that this was a difficult cruise. Both for the passengers and for the Captain/Crew.
Our inside cabin on deck 7 was kept immaculate by Bonnie each day. With so many passengers sick beginning the evening of 1/22, the cabin stewards did a remarkable job. At one point there was a bit of a linen shortage. But they kept smiling and doing their job. When crew members were not working, they were sanitizing. They seemed to be working around the clock. Officers cleaned and sanitized tables in the Windjammer, a musician manned the salad bar, a delightful HR officer served up hamburgers and hot dogs. One of the ice skaters handed out plates and silverware. It was a difficult set of circumstances; they had to pitch in and they did with a smile.
Have to say I admire the Captain and how he handled everything. He scheduled a meeting with passengers, At the end of the meeting, he summarized the points that passengers made, then discussed those points with Corporate. He also made himself available to passengers in the Promenade several times to answer questions or listen to them vent. Announcements were made when there was information to pass on.
Out of four, three of us became ill. Do we blame RCCL -- of course not. This was an unfortunate incident that could not have been foreseen. What's amazing, given the outbreak, is that some passengers argued against using the Purell. But it was either use the Purell or not be served.
We were able to eat in the dining room four nights. It was our good fortune to have Nicole and Errol taking good care of us those nights. They were wonderful. Dinner on our first formal night (second night of the cruise) was absolutely delicious -- sliced filet of beef. Unfortunately, that's the night everyone got sick. Dinner for the next several nights was odds and ends from the Windjammer. All of our group wasn't up to eating in the dining room until the following Monday night. The quality wasn't there on either Monday or Tuesday.
Of the four ports, we only visited San Juan and St. Thomas. In San Juan, we were able to enjoy a wonderful tour thanks to Victor from Countryside Tours. He provided us with an "off the beaten path" tour of his wonderful city. It was a very special experience.
We made the best of a bad situation. It was definitely a making lemonade out of lemons situation. We managed to have some fun despite it all. And, the compensation from RCCL was adequate. One thing however -- we will never, ever cruise out of Bayonne (Cape Liberty) again. It was that much of an unpleasant experience.