Well, I'll start out by saying I've now been on 4 cruises, 3 with Royal and this time around it is very apparent that Royal is starting to cut corners to save money. A few things I noticed changed from my last cruise on Royal in 2009:
1. drink of the day keepsake glasses are now plastic instead of glass
2. trivia/participation winners mostly receive keychains (I started turning them down after 3) instead of medals & RC fun prizes
3. My Time dining is a hassle - we had to arrange to have dinner at 5:45 every night just to get our party in the dining room. Luckily, because we were so large of a group (18), we ended up at the same tables with the same waiters every night so it was like we had early dinner but had to work a lot to get it. When we booked My Time was our only dining option given.
Some new things that I was impressed with:
1. the drink package - if you like to drink during the day (poolside for instance) and at dinner (wine) and late night, then the package is good. Things to consider are your port days and whether you can keep up a pace of 8+ drinks per day. I liked being able to just show my card and not have to sign receipts for every drink but learned that the included tip for the bartender(s) wasn't that generous. We frequented the R-Bar (amazing Mixologist) and tipped the 3-person staff extra at the end of the week because of the outstanding service we received.
2. Flo-rider - this new addition to the ship was fun to watch. My friends joined in while I photographed and they had a blast. It usually had a line which was to be expected but at least there was the entertainment of other riders to help pass the time.
We sailed on 2/23 and there was a fog delay. Caused a nightmare at the port. We arrived earlier than we were told to, but quickly dropped off our luggage and found a line to wait patiently in. The problem was that when they started boarding, the terminal employees would let the hoard of people gathered near the door who had arrived after us through the doors, therefore extending our wait time. Very disorganized. We kept good spirits and it wasn't too hot but we were probably in the last 100 or so onboard. Missed dinner in the dining room and had to go to muster almost immediately after boarding. I'm not sure if this is the fault of RC or if the Galveston terminal employs separately but either way it was a disaster and I will avoid sailing in the winter since fog frequently causes delays.
I noticed more this time the average age of RC cruisers has increased dramatically. I'm 30 and don't mind being one of the younger people but nightlife was pretty much non-existent. The room was nice, not large by any means but plenty of storage space - we had 3 girls with lots of luggage in an interior room and had plenty of space to put everything. Our room steward was nice and friendly. Did a good job cleaning around all our stuff. We tried to pick up but with 3 of us in the room it was just difficult. If you end up using the ceiling Pullmans, ask for an egg crate the 1st day because they go fast and the top beds aren't as comfortable as the bottom. Overall it was a great trip, but having cruised with RC in the past I just didn't see the level of service I was used to getting. In May I am going on Carnival again and hope to get a good comparison of the two lines.
Disembarking was fine - we chose to carry our own luggage off and even though that seemed a bit messy we were directed of the ship pretty efficiently and through customs in under an hour (total process).