I took my 11 year old daughter on this cruise on a "last minute" whim since the price was right, and we needed time away. I've read many reviews and wondered if the cruise would live up to the reputation of RCCL that we have seen on their much newer, larger ships. I was especially concerned about what the state room would be like since my last cruise was in a Grand Suite on one of their large ships, and for a quick, inexpensive get-a-way we selected an interior stateroom on the 3rd level. One of the biggest surprises after reading other reviews was how clean the entire ship was. We NEVER smelled sewage or any other type of offensive smell. Trust me, we saw every level of the ship every day!
I cannot express my surprise in how much we enjoyed this cruise! The staff overall were the best we have experienced on any ship. They went above and beyond to ensure a great vacation and treated my daughter like she was royalty. I highly recommend going for the best price (interior room) on this ship since the activities seem limitless. We were only in our room to sleep or change clothes. I have VERY high standards for cleanliness in a hotel/cabin, and I have to say this one met and exceeded in this area. The stateroom attendant, Bahvesh, did a great job and made sure my daughter had fun animal towels each night. He also offered to show her how to make them. Great attention given!
We thoroughly enjoyed the dinners each night. We had My Time Dining due to booking the cruise so late. However, we checked with the restaurant after boarding and received a reservation for the same time, waiters, table each night. Bryan and Dushko were the best waiters we've ever had, and we loved having a table for 2 right by the window! They were funny, attentive, and worked hard to make sure we had a great time. The food was very good--not sure where some of the reviewers rated this lower. The selection was great, and the quality was the same or better as other restaurants we eat at normally. I recommend breakfast in My Fair Lady vs. the Windjammer if you have time. Food was great, and the amazing service carried over to breakfast as well. The Windjammer is good for quick service, but it did kind of have the feel of a cheap buffet back home.
BOOK YOUR EXCURSION before the trip or immediately when you get on the ship. The dolphin encounters sold out before 4:00 on the day we boarded. Fortunately after having Cocoa Cay canceled due to bad weather, the ship was able to have Blue Lagoon open a few more spots for an early swim encounter. It's expensive, but SO worth the price. It's a once in a lifetime experience!
We absolutely LOVED the shows! The last night, the Captain was even part of the show. (By the way, you'll see the Captain more than on any other ship!) I also recommend the "behind the scenes" theater tour. We had one-on-one time with the singers, dancers, and production crew.
Skip the shopping workshops and the children's area for kids 8-11. The shopping workshops weresreally just a commercial for the different stores on shore. To be hones, the deals were not as good as we've seen in Grand Cayman and other islands. While the staff was very nice, it's more fun to spend time on activities. If you're really interested, watch the recorded show on your stateroom TV while getting dressed for another event. The children's area seemed VERY safe but it was really geared to small children. My daughter (11) was not interested in staying due to the activities being more like those for 5-7 year olds (max). We did a couple of activities there during the family time to check out the area. I highly recommend this to help you and your children decide if it's a fit.
Our only negative experience was related to the shore excursion desk. When we stopped by on day 2 to check on the possibility of a dolphin encounter (hoping someone might have canceled), the person working there (blonde from the U.S.) could not have been more rude. I was quite taken aback given the service on the ship. If she is the person working the desk, check back later like we eventually did. The manager of this area and all other staff there were beyond amazing!
The easiest disembarking experience ever occurred on this ship. We had breakfast in My Fair Lady and waited in our room until 10 minutes before the tip we were to leave. As we walked down they were calling our number. We just walked right to pick up our luggage. (Tip: be waiting by 6:50 if you want to eat breakfast as the line was quite long at 7:00).
Don't let this ship slip by you. It would be great for a girl's weekend or quick get-a-way with your spouse. I am so glad I had this special time with my daughter!