This was our first cruise with RCCL and our first time out of Port Canaveral so we took advantage of it. We flew down two days prior to sail date into Orlando where we rented a car and drove to the Country Inn and Suites in Port Canaveral Checkin was a breeze and we found the rooms to be very typical. Nothing fancy but they do have a fridge and a microwave.
The day before our cruise we drove to Kennedy Space Center and spent over 5 hours there enjoying the displays and the bus tour. It seemed a little on the pricey side for what they have to offer and I was taken aback to find that they charge $10 to park there. You can't exactly walk there from any hotel and there is no public transportation to the center. Even with that we were awed by the rockets and the well presented history of space exploration. I felt it was worth the extra day in the area to enjoy the cruise.
Embarkation was easy. There were six in our party so we had two rental cars. We decided that the best option would be to drop off the luggage and majority of the party at the pier and return the cars. So a few minutes before 11am we dropped off my mother and son who were sharing a JS along with out spouses and drove over to drop off the rental cars and ride the shuttle bus back from the rental agency. By the time we got back to the pier (about 30 minutes later) my mom and son were already up in the Windjammer! We rendezvoused with are spouses and minutes later were enjoying lunch as well.
We chose to use the "My Time" dining option with a 7:30 pm dining time. When we arrived at the MDR we were taken to a table near the back. The waiter and assistant waiter really wowed us on this first night so we asked for the same table the next night and ate there every dinner of our cruise. Those two gentlemen were engaging and friendly and made dining with them a pleasure. They learned our traits, and who drank wine and coffee and kept us well supplied with rolls and butter. The waiter had a recommendation each night. On one of the final nights I ordered the steak, and he urged me to try the lamb and ended up bring me both. The lamb was excellent (should have listened!) and the steak was just okay. Our waiter's name was Shahib Fazeez and he has been working for RCL over 20 years!
My sister and I are fans of the trivia games and attended numerous of those, even managing to win a couple of times! We had opportunities to sit in on many of the onboard activities. One of the cutest was on the last sea day (as we were taking advantage of the 2 for 1 Margaritas in the On Air Club) was watching the Barbie at Sea fashion show put on by the young ladies in that program. We also watched one of the Nintendo Wii challenges and found that also to be fun.
The Solarium on FOS is indeed an adult retreat. As you go through the doors from the main pool area the noise level drops dramatically. We were very pleased to watch a crewmember very nicely but firmly ask two young men (about 10-12 years old) to exit the Solarium hot tub and redirected them back to the family pool area and its hot tubs! Kudos to RCL to enforcing this!
The ports are all that you would expect in the Caribbean islands. There are many great shore excursions available but we did not do any of them on this cruise. Coca Cay was a delightful relaxing beach day. We were near the inflatables on the water and got tired watching the kids play on them. In St Thomas we walked into the main part of town on the convenient walkway, and took our own self guided walking tour that I had come across on the Fommer's travel website. It was fun and interesting and ended in the shopping district.
In St Maarten we had a goal planned for the day. Upon disembarking we went to the taxi stand and took a taxi to Maho Beach. There we rented an umbrella and two chairs for $20 at the Sunset Bar and waited for the planes. While waiting we took advantage of the beach and the very clear blue waters. When a plane was sighted people got up and got their cameras ready. In the early afternoon the big jets begin taking off and it is fun to watch the brave hearted ones stand along the fence in the path of the jet blast. There were ample cabs around to grab for the ride back to the ship.
The promenade is quite something on the FOS. At first I though that it was just primarily a shopping arcade. The one night we walked out of dinner and were able to enjoy the kids Adventure Club's "Pirate Parade". The last evening of the cruise of course features the spectacular parade of characters. We arrived early enough to get ringside seats and a glass of wine at Vintages and enjoyed this spectacle as well.
The only show that we sat all of the way through was the Ice Show and I must say that if you haven't had the opportunity to see it, make the reservations and take the time. It is fun and energetic and on such a small ice rink! The parts of the other shows that we saw were good, but our dining time made it awkward to get to them. We did take advantage of watching one of the 3D movies offered in Arcadia.
Four of us booked cabins 9332 and 9334 which are internally adjoining cabins on the hump. 9334 is a JS and it had a lot more space than the standard balcony cabin. The balcony had two chairs and two loungers to relax in and enjoy the sea going by. Our steward, Carolyn Gunn, had the balcony divider and intra room door open when we arrived which really made for a spacious arrangement. And of course being on the hump we could like right up the side of the ship and see where we were headed with out leaning way out over the railing.