This was my 17th cruise, first on Royal Caribbean though. I have done the most cruises on Celebrity so I started cruising with Royal Caribbean at the “Diamond” level, a very nice perk.
This 4 night cruise out of Tampa was just a quick winter getaway. I was not expecting to like Royal Caribbean as much as I like Celebrity, and I didn’t. Some things were great but overall, it is a definite step-down.
The check in at the port of Tampa was the easiest I have ever encountered. We arrived at about 11 am and were on board in about 10 minutes. This was partly because of my Diamond status but overall the whole operation looked pretty seamless.
I was traveling with my partner and it was his first cruise. It is always so fun to see the reaction of first time cruiser when they get on the ship. He even asked me as we entered the Centrum if we were on the ship yet. So cute.
I think the ship is gorgeous, plenty of Wow factor for me. The Centrum is incredible and after the recent redo, the ship looks virtually brand new. As others have said, these Radiance Class ships really let the outside in and afford views of the sea at every turn. This is one reason I tend to like the smaller, older ships as I feel the new ones are hardly like being at sea at all.
After an OK lunch, we headed to our cabin, 9648, a large balcony cabin in the rear of the ship. I thought the cabin was one of the nicest I have ever had. Large, full sized sofa, plenty of storage, nice sized balcony with lovely balcony furniture and a feature I rarely see, a curtain that can separate the bed from the sitting area. I love this because sometimes one of us stays up later than the other and we can read or watch TV without bothering each other. My only problem with the cabin was the location, all the way aft on the starboard side. The Radiance class ships absolutely need a third stairway and elevators in the aft section. It was an unbelievable haul from the Centrum to our cabin and made the elevators over-taxed most of the time. I actually timed how long it took me to walk from the Centrum to our cabin. Walking at a normal, good pace, it took me 1 minute 15 seconds to get down the hall. Now that may not sound like much, but time yourself walking sometime and see how far you get in that length of time!
I thought the rest of the ship’s décor to be hit and miss. The outdoor pool seems cramped. The solarium pool area is a nice place to hang out but the elephant theme décor and the faded plastic plants are reminiscent of a tired Disney display.
The gym is nice and very well equipped. I didn’t look at the spa.
The other public rooms were varied. I missed the tasteful restraint used in Celebrity décor. You would never find anything as hokey as the Schooner lounge on a Celebrity ship. Oars, barrels, etc., just tacky.
The main show lounge is attractive and good sized with three levels, the one show we went to was fantastic too.
The new Pub bar was empty at all times. Dark and unattractive, I can’t imagine anyone spending time in there.
The main dining room, Minstral, is gorgeous and worthy of any high-end ship. We only ate breakfast there though since we had specialty dining every night.
We ate dinner at Chops twice and both times were fantastic. The first night was marred somewhat by a really drunk guy at the next table but he got tired of waiting and fortunately for everyone, walked out in a huff. The food and service was both great.
We didn’t like Giovanni’s Table nearly as much. My veal was overcooked and grainy and the risotto, which the waiter said was excellent, was tasteless and had too much “tooth” to it.
We should have known better than to eat at the Asian restaurant as neither of us like Sushi. If you like Sushi, by all means try it out, it is gorgeous and never crowded.
We only had the one port at Cozumel but it was a lovely day and we did the Dolphin “Push and Pull” excursion. It was a wonderful, once in a lifetime experience. We were very impressed with the place, the trainers and the small size of our group, only six of us. I would recommend this highly. You also get entrance to the park so afterwards, you can go to the beach, eat lunch or whatever. One of the best excursions I have ever taken.
Another wonderful touch, was from 5-8 every evening, the Diamond club, next to the disco, has appetizers and complementary cocktails. You had to use your Diamond club card to open the doors, giving the club a real feeling of exclusivity. It was a really nice touch. In fact, every time I turned around I was getting some nice perk from my Diamond status. Free photo, discounts in the shops, free drinks, etc. In this area, RCI far outshines Celebrity.
Needless to say, four nights isn’t really long enough for a cruise. I have to say that we both had a fabulous time though and are sort of confused as to some of the more negative reviews of these Tampa sailings. We had a ball and would not hesitate to sail RCI in the future.