After going on 34 cruises this one was the best ever. What made it so great? Using member reviews from Cruise Critic to pre plan the best excursions and the best pre cruise hotel.
We had a group of 20 mainly from Atlanta. We all drove down to the Hilton in Cocoa Beach leaving early in the morning. (About an 8 hour drive.) It is always nice to see how far we have to go using the Ron Jon’s Surf Shop signs along the way. The Hilton Cocoa Beach Hotel is exactly 1.2 miles south of Ron Jon’s. The Hotel was great because it is directly on the ocean, it was just refurbished, it has a great pool relaxation area, the beaches are more private, and they have live entertainment by the Tiki Bar. If you are a Gold or Diamond Hilton Honors Member you get free parking while you are on the cruise. They have a shuttle service to the Port for only $5.00 per person.
We left for the ship about 10:15 AM. When we arrived we gave the porters our bags and went to the check in area. I was surprised to find the ship was already being boarded! Next time we will leave at 10:00 AM. We always arrive early so we can eat in the Windjammer, explore the ship, and start relaxing. The rooms opened at 1:00, but we had carried our bathing suits, casual shoes, and cover ups in our carry-on bag. I am always surprised to see the people wearing very casual clothes into the dining room at night because their bags still haven’t arrived. (Wear your dinner clothes on the ship and then change into your bathing suits/shorts that you have in your carry on).
Because we are all Diamond Members of Royal Caribbean we met in the Diamond Lounge before dinner for drinks and appetizers at 4:30. The view from the Diamond Lounge was really magnificent being on the 14th deck. Jeorge Gutierrez, The Diamond Club Concierge, was the perfect host, always making us feel welcome.
As we were a large group, My Time Dining (two tables of 10 next to one another) was out so we had reserved seating – two tables by the windows. My only real disappointment was the Main Seating dining time of 5:30 PM every night. That is too early for our group, but we lived with it. However when you have the best Waiter (Royston) and Asst Waiter (Stacieann) it made the earlier dining better. Stacieann was also the host in the Windjammer always dancing and wearing funny outfits every day.
In Labadee we just relaxed by the water. We had two small hiccups in that the ship time was Eastern Time, but Falmouth and Grand Cayman were an hour behind us. (Make sure you check with the excursion to see what time you need to meet – ship time or local time.) We were basing the excursions starting times as the ship time so we rushed off the ship in each port. In Falmouth, Jamaica we had booked a private zip line adventure that was great for 5 of us. Another part of our group booked the river tubing adventure. As to the Zipline (ZiplineJamaica dot com), it took about 45-60 minutes to get there as it was west of Montego Bay, but the 5 zip lines were worth it. The longest in Jamaica. We chose this Zipline company for four reasons – 1. The ziplines are the longest; 2. Most ziplines you have to use heavy gloves to brake yourself, but not with this company; 3. Safety is a big concern for them, but they make it fun; 4. You don’t have to climb big towers to zip (their zip lines are in/above the trees. The others who went rafting in tubes loved it – relaxing, exciting, and easy.
In Grand Cayman we all booked with Captain Mario (Acquarius Sea Tours - acquarius dot ky). For $50 per person everyone thought this was the best excursion. We were on a small boat with about 25 people max. They give you lunch (pizza and a juice). They take professional photos which they send to you free for you to download. The excursion took about 6 hours. EVERYONE got to hold starfish, EVERYONE got to feed a sting ray, and EVERYONE got to hold a sting ray. All while this was happening they were taking professional photos. Make sure you pre book this as the boat fills up fast.
In Cozumel, we just relaxed and walked around the town. We had all been to Cozumel numerous times, on previous cruises, so we had an easy day.
The entertainment was very good on this cruise. Two great comedians, The Las Vegas Tenors singing group (The Las Vegas Tenors sing popular songs that everyone enjoyed.), the ice show, and two fantastic production shows. The Las Vegas Tenors sing popular songs that everyone enjoyed. The Production show Once Upon a Time sounded really dull, but the show was fantastic. They take kids stories and add current popular music. We all thought this show would be a top seller on Broadway!
We thought the food on this ship was very good in the dining room. We also ate at Portofinos and Chops. We had pre booked Chops, but for some reason I could not book Portofinos for 20 people at the same time. The manager came around and we he reserved the correct time for all 20 of us.
While on the cruise, we went to the Crown and Anchor Deck to pre book our next cruise to the Med on the Allure of the Seas in June 2015. (By doing that you save $100 per room and reduce your deposit – a great deal.) We will definitely be back on Royal Caribbean.