This was my 59th cruise. We booked our air with Royal Caribbean. The gave us nice flights with only one stop from our home base just outside of Washington, DC in Bethesda, Maryland. We purchased the transfers from the airport to the ship, the bus was clean and took a little over two hours to reach the ship.
Since we are Diamond members we were quickly checked in, were on the ship, and buzzed on up to the Windjammer buffet. As usual the first lunch at the buffet was a total mad house. People were actlng like they have not eaten in weeks and they might run out of food! At about 1:30 our cabins were available. We had the last balcony cabin on deck 8 - #8666, it was a hike to the stairs and elevators, but I honestly think it was worth the extra steps, we had a balcony that was about double the size of a regular balcony with a very small obstruction. Our cabin steward - Beverly was absolutely one of the best I have ever had. I asked for an extra Compass to be delevered each day and it was always there. She was friendly and did a fantastic job!
The Cruise Director - Hello Clo was A++. I saw her many times in lots of places. She was happy, friendly, having a good time.
The ports we visited all were clean, safe, and most everyone spoke English. I thought Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Helsinki were all wonderful but everything there was very expensive- about 2 to 3 times the cost of similar items in the US. We did the 2 day tour of St. Petersburg, Russia and we thought it was great visiting the Hermitage and several other churches and museums. Both days in Russia the tour was from about 7:30 to 5:00, lunch at nice Russian style restaurants was included both days. The cost of this tour was $319 per person. We did speak to some people on the ship that paid about double that amount, but said they did not wait in any line...may be worth the added cost, since a few times we waited quite a long time to enter.
Tallin and Visby were also nice places to visit.
The ship had many good and a few bad points:
The good: The ship is clean, and navigation is user friendly. The shows we went to were better than average. These folks work so hard to provide a wonderful show. For Diamond Members and above the Diamond Club lounge is open from 5:00 - 8:30 for complimentary cocktails, wine, beer, and other beverages, as well as some nice snacks. In the morning this area is also open for deluxe coffee and a "light" breakfast bar. A nice change from hunting for a table at the Windjammer and dodging the people on "a mission" in that area. For some reason the de-caf coffe in the Windjammer was barely luke warm. Call me pickey but I want my coffee hot. The coffee in the Diamond club was nice, fresh and hot!
Not good: When we arrived there was a note in our cabin that our tour tckets for Copenhagen could be picked up the following day between 11:00am - Noon. Naughty me arrived at 2:00pm to get the tickets. You would have thought I shot the captain and the ship was sinking. The young lady read me the riot act for NOT picking up two tickets during that small window of time, and she had no idea where they currently were located. Two little tickets, really, no big deal, she was not moving a Buick around that desk area. She told me to go to the Schooner bar for the tickets. I was 99% sure the tickets would not be there. I went to the Schooner and they looked at me like I had 3 noses on my face. Back to the Shore excursion desk and was then told they would be at the Diamond lounge. After tracking down the person and explaining, she said she would deliver these tickets to me in the Diamond Lounge. In a short time she brought the tickets.....ahhh all is well - NOT. As the rest of my party joined me in the Diamond Lounge I told them what happened. I then looked more carefully at the tickets only to discover they were for the WRONG tour. Back on the hunt to get things fixed. Eventually they were, but my question is why did they not just deliver these tickets to my cabin in the first place. We reserved this tour on line about 3 weeks before sailing??
The food at the Windjammer was good, some very good - especially the stuffed turkey at the carving station! The Dining Room was average- at best. We were originally seated at a table for 10 and the waitress did not know what she was doing, several people got the wrong desserts, water and iced tea never refilled. I thought maybe it was the first day of confusion. Our table included 6 people from the US and 4 (2 couples) that were Non-US. The second night the one Non-US couple showed up 40 minutes late for dinner and they destroyed the timing for the waitress. I had a stong feeling this was going to be a habit with this couple. For some reason some people are just not good with time, unless they catching a plane. The next morning I went to the dining room to request a table change. We were moved behind a pole at a table for 4 with better (not great) service. I thought the food in the MDR left a bit to be desired. EVERY night repeated the following items: Shrimp cocktail - a few SMALL mushy shrimp, Escargots - good, but how many times do you really want them, and only ONE salad - Caesar. My guess is the head chef was Indian, because every night two of the entrees were Indian dishes that I had no idea what is was. I thought that was odd since there were definatly less than what appeared to be 100 people from India on board the ship. I never saw any of the passengers order any of these items.
Again like the Windjammer the Turkey entree was the hands down winner! The Beef Wellington was the worst I have ever had, small, 99% fat and gristle. Lobster only one evening, very small portion with the beef. One night I ordered the semi-regular NY Strip, what arrived was a piece of meat about the size of 4 US 50-cent pieces stacked on top of each. That was no more NY Strip steak than my left big toe.
The Diamond Lounge was wonderful. The had two main servers Sheryl and Joel, both did A++ job!!
They were generous with beverages and very kind and friendly. Buy the third day they both knew "my drink" - Manhattan for the rest of the cruise.
The solarium got crowded because most of the time the temp was too cold to sit in the open pool area. Some people got down right bitchey about the chairs in that area, so have your guard up when there. This area also included the Park Cafe. The lemonade, iced tea, and cookies were great there.
Are people more rude and selfish than before??.....a few examples of what NOT to do on a cruise:
Twio differnt evenings while trying to enjoy the show in the theater a group of people in the row behind would NOT shut up, then continued to talk rather loud in Spanish during the entire show - RUDE. If you want to have a full conversation go out in the lobby, the deck, a lounge, don't do it while a show is going on in the theater. That is RUDE.
When in the buffet line and many people are behind you waiting, do NOT pick up each and every piece of bacon and examine it to decide if you would like that particulr slice, grab a bunch put it on your plate and move on, it is free, eat what you like and leave the rest, there are other people in line you selfish oaf.
The couple at the PARK Cafe that had the emplyee take each and every item out of the case and explain to them what is was including the ingredients. There are over 20 items in that case, pick one, two or three to try and move on, try it, it is free, if you don't like it, don't eat it and get something else, another selfish oaf.
Royal Caribbean, NCL, and Carnival are the "Chevrolet" of cruise lines. I guess you get what you pay for.
I am not saying Royal or Chevrolet's are bad, they both sell like hot cakes so they must have some good points.
Perhaps I have reached a point when for me it IS worth paying for that 3 pointed star on the hood, for my car as well as the ship.