On this our 6th RCI cruise, we decided to go with an itinerary that was filled with "1sts" in terms of stops. This cruise seemed ideal, and the addition of the 8th night intrigued myself, my wife and another couple we went with. Going in the middle of March meant that most schools/colleges were still in session, which in turn meant a boat filled with retirees. That's fine by us. We have done so many adventurous excursions and trips, it felt good to book a trip that was meant for relaxation. Onto the meat of the review:
Port everglades always has some mess going on, but traffic was surprising light, and check in went super quick. We exited our ride's car and were on the ship within 30 minutes. This was our 1st cruise as Platinum Tier members, but we went to the line for Gold Passengers to hang out with the other couple we were with. I don't need no special treatment haha. Bags were at our rooms by 3pm, quickest I've had yet. Muster Drill wasn't too bad either. One day we'll get a station in the air conditioning though...
We booked a Promenade room on Deck 6, as we have the last 3 cruises. We like having a room that's close to the "meat" of the ship. Only having to use the elevators when we're going to Deck 11 and above. Some people complain about the noise from below, but we never heard anything remotely bad after 11pm. It was also a connected cabin, but we must have had some church mouse neighbors, since not a peep was heard. We even had robes waiting for us in the room.
Very clean aside from some wear on the carpet in our room. Their was a small Norovirus outbreak around Day 5, so they stepped up on the cleaning measures. Nothing too crazy, but handrails were covered in some kind of solution. Changing the spoons in the buffets pretty quickly. Glad to see them take it so seriously. Contrary to some of the reviews I've seen, the crew could not have been nicer. Our room attended Raphael was very good (Aside from not making enough towel animals for my wife...heh) and opened our door when he would see us coming down the hall, and made sure we had a nice bucket of ice every night. Glad to see it wasn't what other's had said didn't pan out, since that was the only fear I had going onto this cruise. There was a small charter group of "bear" cruisers. But they were all real nice, and had some fun costumes for the '70's Dance Party ha. Coincidentally my wife's nickname for me is "Bear" and I told her she had to refrain for the week ha.
Cruise Director Geoff and his crew were great. Very friendly and super approachable. Asked me how my vacation was going when I saw him outside a C&A event. The Captain was also very nice, even though we had to concentrate while listening to his accent. The Ice Show "Strings" was the best we've seen on their ships. The addition of a live violinist really helped. Even with a few falls. Who can blame them. The 1st two days at sea were a but rough, and I tripped up a bit, and I wasn't wearing skates. The other shows didn't seem too interesting and we skipped them for the most part. We did go to the comedian's late night show, and I vowed to walk out if he did a cruise ship toilet joke, but he stuck the landing and was pretty funny. As was the juggler during the farewell show. I apologize, but their names escape me as I write this. The Schooner lounge is usually one of our favorite places, as the piano bar can have some great group sing alongs. Not so much this go round. The gentleman they had (Vic) was not my idea of a good time. He ended up butchering most songs unfortunately. Since we were essentially bring the median age on board down by a few decades, most of the things to do on board were not crowded, despite a full ship. We didn't use the flowrider until the final day, but there weren't many people on, so they left it open fully for boogie boarding instead of using the inflatable divider. Same with the rock wall. My wife and I essentially interrupted the sports crew from napping in the shade to scale the thing. but they were super nice and ready to go when we walked up. One minor thing, was that they only had one Blackjack tournament the entire cruise. On the 7 nighters, they've always had 2. A bit disappointing, as my friend and I each won one last year. Ah well.
Breakfast was usually in the Windjammer, which was just fine. We ate in the MDR the first morning, and should have gone there more, but we usually dilly dally too much and it's closing up by the time we get out there. We got room service breakfast one morning. Beware when trying to order it thru the interactive TV, as less than half the choices that are on the sheet are in the system. And good luck filling out the paper if you haven't brought a pen into your room. Seriously, no pen? Lunch was whatever we felt like doing. We had Johnny Rockets one day, which was tasty, especially my milkshake. Though this isn't a complaint at them, but just in general for all milkshake makers across the world. Everyone needs to blend their strawberries better. they get stuck in the straw! Sorrento's and Promenade Cafe are great for a snack between Lunch and our 8:30PM late seating dinner. My wife loved the brownies in the Cafe.
Dinner was usually on Deck 3 in "Romeo and Juliet". Live music almost every night was a real treat. The food was usually good to great. Our wait staff Illya and Conny were very good and quick to help. Despite us consistently rotating our seats at the table just to freshen things up. After ordering Soda the 1st night, we'd always have one waiting for us on the table. One of the only minuses we could give this week would be when we went and made a reservation for Giovanni's Table. On the very first day, we went up to the restaurant and made a reservation for 8PM on Day 4. The gentleman took my room number and party size, and we left. Day 4 comes around and we go up. Lo and behold they were doing the Murder Mystery Dinner. No way we had a reservation. The manager could find no record. Our best guess is the gentleman on the first day took it down, and didn't realize that was when the show was going on. It wouldn't have been a big deal if someone had called us before and let us know. But we got no apology. We were able to make a reservation for the next night at the same time though. We were just lucky we had 2nd seating for dinner, and were able to go down there. But once we actually got to eat there, it was delicious.
Read my separate port reviews.
Quick and painless, aside from Post Cruise Blues Syndrome. We were actually off the ship earlier than our call time. It was our 1st time leaving our luggage out the night before, since we didn't have anything pressing us off quick. Aside from the numbers being a tad difficult to navigate we found everything in tact.
Loved the itinerary, and would do this cruise again easily! Though I think we are leaning toward some of the "Oasis" class for our next trip, just to get that feeling of unfamiliarity back. This was our 4th "Freedom" class cruise in a row and want to be a little different next time. This year was the cruise for itinerary, next year is the cruise for ship.