This was my third cruise but the last one was ten years ago: they have "come a long way baby"! This itinerary was island-heavy which was great. With one day at sea at the end to chill, that was perfect. Lots of auto-hand wash stands as you enter ship and dining rooms. I was not looking forward to being with 2,100 passengers on board but guests are off doing their own thing so the cattle-herd scene I feared did not come to pass.
My #1 TIP: READ the "Cruise Compass". With so much going on, it's easy to miss some of the fun: Do not miss the Love and Marriage" show. It will be played all week on your in-cabin TV but you have to be there. Do NOT miss Quest.
My # 2 tip: hit MENU on your TV remote and view your bill every night. You WILL be shocked how things add up when you swipe your handy card for drinks: ($5.75 for gin +tonic $5.18 Bass Ale-tip included), photos (8x10: $19.95), and excursions!
My # 3 tip: Eat at the Sea View Cafe: noon -6:30 pm and 10 pm to 1 am. Made to order fare when you don't want the food court concept in the Windjammer.
My # 4 tip: bring your own water bottle and fill with cups of ice water from the Windjammer or any bar.
My #5 tip: buy your booze in the San Juan airport as you head home: cheaper than on board and you can carry it right on the flight...though not a huge selection. Carry-on bags are searched and liquor confiscated at every port.
I had a cabin to myself on Deck 4 while my traveling companions were in balcony cabins on Deck 9. Honestly, our cabins were exactly the same only mine was less expensive and on a more convenient level: only one deck up to get to our dining room. The email stations (50¢ a minute) were right at the end of my passageway.
Flew in the day of departure, had a paid transfer with RC. Had some trouble finding the van but once on board, no probs. Had gotten my Seapass online ahead of time and breezed through the arrival terminal in 5 minutes. Had the first of MANY photo ops on the gangway and was soon on my friends' balcony having a drink.
The ship is just over the top with art and drama. The glass elevators are impressive. Service staff always cleaning, very helpful, smiling: it was a pleasure to enter a clean, fresh cabin with a towel sculpture and filled ice bucket. Dining room waiters bend over backward to give you what you want. Food: standard cruise fare with 6-7 entrees a night. If you can't find something you like, you are a picky eater. You're not in France.
Gala Buffet : worth staying up for to photograph…even if you don't want to eat
Entertainment: cruise director Matt Sole really quick with the repartee + funny. Did not see first night’s show with Los Diablos: it was more fun to watch departure from San Juan harbor. Saw the original Drifters, comedians Kelly McDonald, and Kelly Monteith. The Royal Caribbean Singers and Dancers: talented and hard working, sharp costumes but the Vibeology show too hokey for me.
Spa: just gorgeous. Take advantage of the in-port specials on a massage. Skip the high-priced fat analysis, creams and lotions they sell. I don’t think passengers really understood you could use the fantastic steam (with surreal twinkling light ceiling) and sauna for FREE. Lockers, robes, thick towels all there for you. Book appointments early. Then you can head off on your excursions on shore.
My friends had room service breakfast every morning delivered to their cabins (free except for tip). I preferred breakfast from Windjammer and sitting outside on the nearby deck.
Enjoyed mini-golf, aerobics class, plenty of treadmills. Departure: staged according to your flight time. Did not have to pay the $10 extra to check through my luggage with US Airways. Got my boarding pass in the ship terminal.