My husband and I embarked the OOTS in Ft. Lauderdale the same day we disembarked the Celebrity Reflection in Miami. In retrospect, we should have just stayed on the Reflection but at the time we booked, we thought it would be fun to explore a new ship that was getting so much hype. This was our 7th cruise having sailed with Celebrity and HA (for reference-we are 31 and 33 years of age). I felt like the daytime activities at best were reminiscent of a college spring break trip (belly-flop contest anyone?).
I should say that we do not have any children and this ship is geared toward such. So much of the ship is dedicated to families: main pool area, front of the ship with mini-golf, boardwalk promenade. That being said, RCL does do a good job at "hiding" the kids club activities. Personally, the flash mobs, Shrek Gangnam Style Dances and Dreamworks parades and character meet and greets were just too much for us.
EMBARKATION: Quick and easy-nothing remarkable. The muster drill was lengthy and unorganized (we were set up in Blaze nightclub)
SHIP: The ship is absolutely stunning and nobody can deny that the vessel is beautiful. The main areas are modern and the decor is tasteful. The central park area is nice although I found it tacky that people were leaving dishes from the Park Cafe outside on the tables and benches and in the evenings, people were sleeping at the bistro tables while the musician was playing.
I was surprised at the general lack of cleanliness on the ship. I guess I was comparing it to other ships that have always been spotless but the OOTS lacked in a few places. For instance, the public washrooms were slightly unkept with paper towels on the floor (no cloth options which we are used to) and we never saw an attendant cleaning up. My husband also commented that the urinals were filthy along with the floor surrounding them-Yuk! The pool area seemed to have plates, cups and garbage underneath the loungers in many areas not to mention hoards of used towels that people refuse to put away or stack on loungers to "save" them-my ultimate pet peeve. The "pool patrol" simply walked around-not sure of their actual job. I also found that some areas looked messy as people would rearrange chairs/loungers and leave them as like that when leaving and no staff would rearrange giving a messy appearance.
We loved the rising tide bar though unimpressed that children (accompanying parents) were allowed in taking up chairs while adults had to stand. The rock band in Dazzles was very good and people danced all night-just wish they would have been open later than midnight. Blaze nightclub was fun playing top 40 tunes.
CABINS: I could not get over the lack of storage. Prior to embarking on the OOTS, we had been travelling for 3 weeks-so we accumulated stuff in addition to our cases. I found the lack of storage to be appalling with hardly any closet space for two people to hang clothes, miniature drawers (I think only 3) and the most shallow cupboard beside the vanity mirror-not even deep enough to hold a make-up bag. Besides this, the safe in the closet was a shrunken version and smaller than any other cruise ship or hotel room I have ever seen. The veranda had the cheapest plastic furniture on it which didn't recline or have foot stools making time out there very uncomfortable. The bathroom was another story all together. I felt as though I were in a camper/motorhome stall it was so small. Products such as bath wash, conditioner or lotion is not provided-a dispenser with cheap shampoo is installed in the shower coffin. Perhaps this is standard on RCL but I was not expecting this in the class of cabin we selected. The height of the sink and counter was so short hitting below the waist of myself and my husband. What is the reasoning behind this counter height?
FOOD: The food is my favourite part of cruising and we were seriously disappointed in the "not for a fee food" available. We dine at top restaurants and while I'm not expecting Michelin star quality throughout the ship, I do expect good food. The first day we chose to dine at the Windjammer cafe for lunch which my husband quickly dubbed the "Windbarfer Cafe". This was the first and last time we dined here. We found no order in how people were choosing the food and it was so disorganized. Food was like any another random buffet you would find in a mall or cheap department store. Hamburger patties are piled and slopped into warming buckets that were so unappealing. To add insult to injury, the plates are plastic and the designs on the plates are fading and scratched. I felt as though I was eating off plates found at a picnic or a campground. It was impossible to get a drink, let alone find someone to offer one. I understand that this was embarkation day and was rather quite busy but we expected more for our fist impression. We did try another time to dine here after a long day in the sun at around 9pm, only to be told by the girl at the front that they were closing and she was not allowed to let anybody else in-but, we could get pizza if we wanted to downstairs (which seemed to be the only late night option).
The Pizza at Sorrentos was fine but we are not into eating pizza a few times a week let alone a few times a day. Plus, I found this place dirty with sticky floors and un-wiped tables.
The specialty restaurants were very good and enjoyable. We purchased the three-restaraunt combo which permitted Giovanni's on the first night, Chops Grille and 150 Central Park. Giovanni's was very good as was Chops. We had also purchased that Ultimate beverage package prior to sailing. I'm not sure I would recommend this as many things are not included in the package (look out for the *asterisk* beside options everywhere including a guinness at the pub). Our first night at Giovanni's could have had us end up with a larger extra cost as with the beverage package, large bottles of sparkling or still water are not included in the package and this has to be told to us by the server so they will bring you a small bottle each time you request a water, or else they will charge for the large bottles. Well, who knew. The server was kind enough to ignore the extra fee this one time. This was the beginning of the many times we were charged extra.
Chops Grille was good as well but there are extra charges everywhere. If you wish to have a better steak cooked in duck fat, a $19 surcharge for a NY strip is added and another $28 for a porterhouse. The regular options are just fine but the up-sell speech was slightly annoying as was the "please give me a good review when you get your online survey" speech we received here in Chops and in the MDR.
We dined in the MDR once. The service was so slow. We had anytime dining but this doesn't really mean you can just show up whenever. A reservation is recommended but this defeats the whole anytime dining concept for me. We showed up at about 8:30 and had to wait a good 20 minutes of a table. Once seated, it took forever for bar service. In fact, we were finished our appy's prior to receiving our water preference and our wine. This brings me to the wine glass issue. If I am ordering a nice and fairly pricey bottle or glass of wine, I expect it to come in the proper glass and do not think this is too much to ask. Unfortunately, in the MDR, only one type of wine glass is offered regardless of the wine choice-another pet peeve of mine. The food overall was just ok-nothing special but nothing to bring us back. Our poor server was swamped and continuously apologizing for the slow bar service and slow food. She even brought us veggies and dip prior to the appy's as she felt bad (keep in mind, still no wine or water at this point). I can't remember what the meat choice was that evening, perhaps a steak, but there were only two ways it could be prepared-medium rare or medium well-no other choices.
150 Central Park was superb! We ate here on a Wednesday and would have gone back but the menu is the same (set 5-6 courses) from Wednesday on. We also had the wine pairings but this was not included in the beverage package and was an extra $75 pp surcharge.
Izumi was good but pricey. A few courses and the cost adds up. $55 for lunch twice and $60 for dinner added to our total bill dramatically. We love sushi and sashimi (living in Vancouver, we are spoiled) and the quality here was fantastic and the rolls creative and delicious.
We never tried the Cafe Promenade but witnessed people leaving the place with 4+ bags of chips at a time. We are lucky to be diamond plus members so our breakfasts were in the diamond lounge which had pleasant offerings and we tried the buffet in the dining room once which was ok. We also did Johnny Rockets once for breakfast which was horrible-again, plastic plates and the server said it was an extension of the windjammer buffet selection. The Solarium Bistro had a so-so offering for lunch and we did not venture here from dinner.
Although there are many bars, the menus are all the same and the wines by the glass offerings are so sparse. Vintages was a great spot but I hated paying $20+ for a glass of wine. The service was also lacklustre allaround and all of the bar/restaurant staff seemed overworked and under enthusiastic.
PORTS: Horrible. Haiti was a manufactured destination with overpriced activities but offered nice beaches. Falmouth was horrible; be cautious leaving the gated area as the presence of tourism police should be the first warning. If you venture too far, you will end up, as we did, in the ghetto where every step permits a new person to accost you with begging, offering of drugs or some other sad story. We wanted to get some good jerk chicken but after walking away from the port for about 30 minutes, we decided that we were the only tourists in the area and played it safe by heading back. Thus, our day was spent at Margaritaville in the gated area. Cozumel was what you would expect-chocthcky huts with crappy souvenirs but the main area is about a 45-60 min walk away from the port. Or, one could hang out at the Señor Frogs at the port which many people did.
It was impossible to find a take-out coffee cup and overall, everything seemed to be an extra charge. The announcements of sales in the entertainment promenade were annoying and being a non-smoker, the odour in the casino and around the pool was obnoxious. The solarium was quieter other than the servers promoting the daily drink specials in collectable cups every 20 min or so. It was like a sauna in there and limited shade unless a spot was available beside the bar on the second level. Speaking of sauna, there is a fee of $30 per day to use the sauna in the changrooms at the fitness centre!
Well, if you read this review, you are probably thinking that we are snobs but we know what we like and I don't think that is a fault. We are glad we tried this beautiful ship but the beauty was where it ended for us and I think we will be sticking to smaller ships with Celebrity or HA from now on.