Just got of the FOS on Sunday after a wonderful cruise. I will not try to willingly contradict many of the negative reviews on here, but everyone must keep in mind that everyone has their own ideas about what makes a cruise successful, and in my humble opinion, Royal Caribbean hit a home run with this one.
I am a 43 y/o male and travelled with my 10 y/o son. We have cruised two times previously on the Disney Fantasy and loved it, however, the cost is getting to be unrealistic for our budget so we chose the FOS. We were not disappointed in the least. We made a vow to not compare the ship to the Disney while on the cruise, but both agreed both ships (and companies) have their plus and minuses when discussing it post-ruise. It is hard to get used to having to buy a drink package on the FOS as Disney provides drinks in an all-inclusive manner (minus alcohol) for its passengers. Again though, you are paying for it.
The embarking process was smooth and fairly quick. Pulled into the parking lot at 1115 and was on the ship and in the pool by 1200ish. We always choose to park at the terminal so we can get out of town quickly when we return. You pay a lot for this, but it is comparable to airport parking. If $120 is too much to swallow, find a park and ride out in town and save some cash. The lines inside the terminal look huge but will move extremely fast so don't lose your cool prematurely.
The ship is absolutely beautiful and well kept for 8+ years on the sea. We had an inside stateroom with a view of the Promenade (7609) and it was the perfect room to watch people stroll along the Promenade. We also watched the DreamWorks parade from our room and it was a welcomed relief from the crowds at the Promenade. Though I like to have a balcony overlooking the ocean, I think we will go Promenade view again if we return to a RC ship with a Promenade. The noise from the Promenade is not too bad unless you try to go to bed early on the night of the 70's dance party. You will not sleep through that one so stay up and head down to the street because it is a much more enjoyable experience from ground-level for this one. The room itself was small, but had excellent storage everywhere you looked. Much better than the Fantasy in this regard. The bathroom and shower are quite small, so if you are a bigger person (girth not height as I am 6' 4", 205 lbs and had no problems in the shower) you may seek a room with a bigger shower as you will have a tough time in the one we had. Last but not least, our room caretaker (Greg) was wonderful and made the trip more enjoyable for me and my son. His towel art is second to none and he created things not previously seen on our other two cruises. Two towel legs coming out of the toilet with my shoes on its feet got a chuckle from both of us...well done Greg!!!
Next, the food was not nearly as bad as some people make it out to be. The dining room meals were spectacular. We sat with a young couple (Page and Dillon) who also thought the food was divine. Our service was handled by Charlene and Lin (table 463) who did a wonderful job every night and we looked forward to seeing them every day. The Windjammer gets a pretty bad rap in some posts, and there is definitely some room for improvement but it is not near as bad as some make it out to be. My son is a picky eater so he struggled to find lunch items he wanted (minus the desserts as he loved them), however, I never had any issues and if all else fails, their salad bar was very good compared to the Fantasy. Trust me, more people should have been eating a salad...but I digress. Breakfast in the Windjammer was really good except for the eggs (instant...but maybe the only way to feed 4000 folks) but the omelets were pretty good. We ate at Johnny Rockets for the experience...but I had to work out twice that day because of the overwhelming guilt of ingesting that much grease. It was tasty though. You will get fries and rings for an appetizer so do not order more appetizers. You will see what I mean so don't make the same mistake we did. We did not eat at the two specialty restaurants. Lastly, the Promenade has a café open with coffee and water available all night. They also make Starbucks coffee drinks as well. Additionally, they offer free snacks that are very tempting and a good way to end a solid night of drinking $9 cocktails. The free coffee is Seattle's Best and I thought it was very good. It is made strong (good for some) which is fine as I just added hot water to it to get it right for me. Very tasty and always ready. Cold water and glasses (not bottled water) is available at this café and at each poolside bar during the day. If you drink a ton of water like me, you will spend some time at these locales chugging some H2O.
I am very passionate about working out and the gym on the FOS was perfect. Much bigger and better supplied than the Fantasy. Always machines available and they had dumbells and a smith machine for those trying to get some free-weight action in. A good dip in the hot tubs was a great way to end a workout.
The pools were really good but the ship was PACKED as it is the busy time of year. Much better pool layout than on the Fantasy. I wish the adult pool was a bit bigger, but it sufficed even with the bigger crowds (both in numbers and size). The two main pools with the big screen tv were perfect and should be the standard for a cruiseline...well done to the designers. About the pool chairs and complaints about people reserving them. It is going to happen and it is ridiculous to think the deck crew can prevent it, so for you future cruisers, you can either wake early and get a chair (by 0745 most of the good spots were gone) or you can sleep in and be stuck somewhere on the second deck without a pool view (but still good chair locations) and complain about it the whole time. It is reality so deal with it, set the alarm for 0700 (for those who sleep that long) and go place some towels on the chairs you want. I personally enjoyed all of the folks coming to the pool at 1000 whining about all the chairs being taken.
Shows: I thought the shows were fairly entertaining most nights. The comedian was great and the stage productions pretty dang good (not Disney good but worth watching). The Ice Show is a must see and the guy in the steel wheel (must see it to understand) cannot be missed. He got a louder ovation that the skaters. The magic show was not good in our opinion and we left very early in the show. The guy tried hard but lacks comparable showmanship to the level he is trying to perform at. All in all, the entertainment was worthwhile.
The kid's club was used a lot by my son His age group was 9-11 and he enjoyed some of the activities in the club and left when things got overly corny. I give him the ability to check himself in/out as he wishes and it works out great. The younger groups have a pirate parade down the Promenade on two nights that is a must see! Very cute!
Debarkation: We kept our luggage and used the express departure (0645). It was not bad...we were in our car and heading north by 0710. It is amazing they debark 4000+ passengers and start loading again by 1100. That is a solid process right there.
Overall, the FOS was a great choice for us and offered a wonderful and relaxing 7 days away from the stress of reality. If you have never cruised before, do not wait any longer...it is an experience you should not miss and the FOS would be a great ship to start on. Both of our tickets together were cheaper that one ticket on the Fantasy. Well done to the Captain and crew for a great float!
Trey from N.C.