We had an absolutely wonderful time on our very recent Western Caribbean cruise! We left from Tampa on Feb. 10 for a 7 night cruise. Accompanying me was my husband and our two children, two boys ages 4 and 6. As well, my parents and my sister and her husband. I cannot say enough good things about the cruise, ship and Royal Caribbean in general!
This was a first cruise for all of us so we didn't quite know what to expect. After reading some of the reviews on here I tried not to get my hopes up in order to avoid disappointment. Embarkation in Tampa went extremely smooth and quick--before I knew it we were exploring the ship and having a meal in the Windjammer. Weather that day was a bit cloudy but we didn't care!
Day 2: The morning weather started off as cloudy but as the day went on the sun finally emerged. Since we were at sea we took advantage of all the great activities (many!) on board and explored more of the ship. Meals in the Windjammer were good and I appreciated the fact that everyone had to use the hand sanitizer every time they entered this area. There were no problems of norovirus! The service was amazing, even in the buffet styled Windjammer. The view was also amazing, since the Windjammer sits at the front of the ship. Although the coffee, lemonade and water were all self-serve (as much as you want!) the staff still came around when we were eating to check if we wanted any. They then proceeded to get us whatever we wished for!
Since we have two boys, we checked out Adventure Ocean. We were extremely impressed with all of the activities and with the energetic instructors. Both kids loved it and wanted to go back every day! This service is offered, free of charge, every morning, afternoon and evening. If you don't pick up your children by the 10 p.m. closing time they will babysit them up until 1 a.m. for a charge of $5 per child. We took advantage of this babysitting service on the last night. We almost had to bring another suitcase for all of the crafts, etc. that the kids made while in Adventure Ocean! I noticed that another member mentioned that "all the kids did was watch movies" in Adventure Ocean. There was only one night that was "Movie Night"--all the rest of the times were filled with many, many age-appropriate activities.
Day 3: We went to the beautiful Grand Cayman Islands. When we tendered into shore there were many private companies that offered tours and we did go on a tour that gave some highlights of the island, ie. the town of Hell, the turtle farm and seven mile beach. The best was Seven Mile Beach--it was not crowded and was an absolutely pristine and beautiful spot! We spent the day there and took a taxi back to the tender for $3 US per person.
At Adventure Ocean that night all the kids participated in a pirate show. They all dressed up, practiced and then marched onstage in That's Entertainment Lounge for a presentation. Everyone laughed and loved watching the brief, 5 minute show. The kids then did a little parade up to the boutique area and had their pictures taken.
Day 4: We arrived at Costa Maya to another beautiful day. We experienced hot and nice weather for all of our stops. On the advice of an Adventure Ocean instructor, we rented a golf cart and took the kids down the Fisherman's Village. The rental was $40 for 2 hours or $65 for the entire day. We only wanted it for 3 hours so we paid $50. We toured around on our motorized golf cart and had a blast! We spent some time on the beach and the kids enjoyed making sand castles. I wouldn't recommend shopping in Mexico--this was one thing that we weren't impressed with...all the bartering and the "cheap" goods. Other than that, we had a great day!
Day 5: The best stop of all--Belize!! We absolutely loved Belize since we had booked an excellent cave-tubing excursion. We booked privately, though http://www.belizeexcursions.com and had a blast! My parents and sister & brother-in-law booked with them as well but did the adult cave-tubing. We did the kids cave-tubing and had a private tour. Our tour guide, Alisa, was amazing and was so knowledgeable. We were so happy that we had booked privately, especially when we saw the Royal Caribbean excursion that had 45 people on it! The maximum for the kids tubing through Belize Excursions is 8 and for the adult group is 12. A big difference! Plus, we did more of the cave systems and even got a free t-shirt :) After the tour, our guide Alisa had fresh fruit and water available for us, free of charge. On the way back to the tender we stopped off at a restaurant that she recommended for some rice, beans and chicken--delicious! My husband had the Beliken beer and some coconut rum with pineapple juice (we made sure to buy a bottle of the coconut rum to take home with us).
The food on the boat was good and the dinners in the Romeo and Juliet dining room were delicious. You can order whatever you want on the menu and can have as much as you want! The desserts were great as well and our waiter, Darsie, and our assistant waiter, Marcello, were fantastic!! They made sure the kids got their food fast and always had crayons and something to color on. I cannot say enough about how we all were impressed by Darsie and Marcello and miss them already. They both gave us all hugs on the last night. We also took advantage of the room service and ordered in milk and cookies for the kids at night and sometimes dessert for us :).
Day 6: This day was spent in Cozumel. We had purchased tickets to Xcaret--an ecological water park on the mainland just outside of Playa del Carmen. I wish that we had got up and off the boat a bit earlier that day because I didn't realize how long it would take to get to Xcaret. We tendered in Cozumel so had to take a short boat ride to that island. From there we rode on the ferry to the mainland (one word of advice--we got our round trip ticket for $20 a person, kids are cheaper and our 4 year old was free. We didn't know until later that this was a first class boat--you can get a 2nd class boat for $4.50 US each way). The ferry runs every hour. We then took a taxi from Playa del Carmen to Xcaret for $10 for 6 of us (yes, we all fit in the taxi--4 adults and two kids on our laps!). Another word of advice--don't take the taxis that are immediately off the ferry... they are much more expensive!
Day 7: We were again at sea on the way back to Tampa. This was our only day of not too nice weather and the sea was a bit choppy. It didn't really bother any of us and we all enjoyed the day. We went to the nightly show and enjoyed the dancers and the comedian and spent the rest of the evening in the Karaoke lounge.
This ship may be older but it is kept immaculate by the staff. The staff are constantly cleaning, shining up everything and washing. None of us have any complaints about the cleanliness (and I'm a picky person). We all slept very well and I found the rooms to be quiet. I thought that perhaps we would hear people in other rooms but we didn't. My parent's air-conditioning didn't work when we first came on the ship; however, that was quickly fixed.
We all would definitely sail again and would definitely sail with Royal Caribbean! I am so impressed by everything and loved this vacation. The staff treat you like royalty. We ate way too much--hard not to when you can eat whenever you want and whatever you want! The food was delicious, the staff amazing and Adventure Ocean a blast. I thank Darsie and Marcello for the wonderful service and information they gave us every night at dinner and wish them well!
Disembarkation went very smooth--amazing, with all the people that are on the boat. We were off quickly and very sad to go. We're all looking forward to our next cruise with Royal Caribbean!