Let me start by saying this is my fourth cruise and my wife's third. All our previous cruises where on Carnival. Since this being our first RCL, I was a bit worried because we where getting married on the ship and a bit worried about not knowing RCL. But everything worked out great. My comparison of Carnival and RCL is that Carnival is certainly the fun ship and RCL is the laid back and elegant ship. Carnival will let you party hardy and drink until your drunk, but RCL cuts that down considerably. RCL won't even let you bring or sneak alcohol onto the ship. Can you believe that? I have brought alcohol onto plenty of Carnival ships without a problem. But besides this our RCL cruise was excellent.
First Day - Had a beautiful wedding and was very surprised to see RCL photographer taking a lot of pictures during the wedding. I felt like a superstar. I would later find out that the extra pictures would be offered to us if we wanted the extra 100 or more. Of course we did and we purchased 40 more because most of the shots where very similar. I was surprised at how good a photographer she was. I believe her name was Fern and she said that she is on an 8 month job with RCL and that she only takes picture, apparently so, because she did an excellent job.
Second Day - Key West - Since we've been to Key West last year on a cruise, we decided just to walk around and shop on Duval Street. Since RCL was docked at a different dock then on our previous Key West visit we noticed a few places that we missed. Last year, we missed the Key West museum and its surrounding shops. We where surprised to see the many monuments and large statues around the museum. Next, we strolled down Duval street and saw a street performer dressed as Mozart and covered in white paste or chalk. Further down Duval we saw a place where you could take your picture with a yellow, at least 6 ft long, snake, three parrots and an iguana. The animals had to be friendly because there where kids and adults posing with them while sitting on a bench. Finally, we did some more sight seeing and shopping and returned to the ship. Key West was hot and I was looking forward to buying my first Key West lime pie, but after having a big breakfast and a lot of walking I wasn't in the mood for any pie. Luckily, RCL had Key West lime pie during tonight's dinner.
Third Day - Cozumel - This was the day that I was looking forward to because we wanted to see the Mayan ruins of Tulum. I must say that if you don't like walking and sweating than I would not recommend this excursion. But I think that this excursion is worth it, when you really think about what you're seeing. You're seeing ruins that where built hundreds of years ago by an amazing civilization.
We took the Tulum Express which is going to Tulum only and is 6 hours long. There is another Tulum excursion, which includes a beach and is 7 or 8 hours long. Our excursion started by meeting in the Orpheum theater. Which everyone found out was only to receive a sticker number. But RCL also announced that after our excursion, our group had to find a taxi cab back to the International Port to return to the ship. That taxi info was very important because I met a couple that didn't meet in the theater and didn't know about the sticker or the cab. As a group of 50 or more cruisers we all left the ship and walked to a nice ferry in Cozumel. I was surprised to see such a nice ferry. When I think of a ferry I think of an old rundown boat, but our ferry was a double decker air-condition on first level speed boat. We where in the last group to get on the ferry, so we went to the second deck to look for a seat. That's when we noticed that the second deck was filled and had no air conditioning. Luckily again we returned to the first deck and found close separate seats near the front to see the plasma TV. The ferry docked in Playa Del Carmen. We now walked through the city and boarded an air conditioned bus. We certainly needed the air. Our guide said that it was 95 degrees, which isn't bad because in June and July the temperatures can get to 115 degrees. I must admit I have never sweated so much. We took a 30 minute ride to Tulum and really enjoyed the ruins. Tulum is beautiful.
Fourth Day - Belize - We took a tender to Belize for our calypso train tour around Belize. It was ok for a one hour tour. We didn't want to do anything too time consuming since our previous Cozumel tour wore us out. Belize was nice. We enjoyed some food and walked safely within the gated area. Outside of the gate the people where a bit pushy with offers to take us anywhere in Belize. People who seemed to not be working with any excursion company. We declined all their offers. Inside the gated area people weren't pushy. We saw more art and small statues that I would have love to buy, but everything I liked was very expensive. There where small onyx statues that ranged from $200 to over $3000. I had to ask the salesperson, "do you sell any of these?" He said I should use a credit card, but you must be crazy if you think that I would use my credit card in a foreign country. Anyway, we bought some souvenirs and returned to a tender that took us to the ship.
Fifth Day - Day At Sea - We slept late, ate a lot and relaxed in the Solarium pools. The Solarium is a nice and quiet pool area for adults only. And for the most part, and too my surprise, the non-adults / younger, kids did not enter the pools or come in this area. It was very peaceful. Later, we watched the men's Mr. Enchantment contest, which was very funny. Then we saw the ice carving demonstration by the pools. It was amazing to see the RCL carver start out with a solid block of ice and chip and chip and chip and chip the ice into a horse. Everyone attending made sure to take a picture with the beautiful melting ice horse. I wished if this demonstration wasn't basically around the same time as the backstage tour to meet the performers and see the cooking area. I would have liked to have gone to that, but it was a flip of the coin, ice demo or backstage tour. Finally, this was the last night to gamble in Casino Royale and I wanted to push my luck since I was still $80 bucks ahead, but I could never get my spot at the blackjack table. I waited and watched for over an hour and finally decided to cash in my chips. Debarkation - It took us over an hour to get off the ship. We had a cabin on the third deck and our debarkation color was green. We weren't in a hurry, but I didn't know that we had to wait over an hour. I spent this final time viewing the ship and watching all the cruisers leaving the terminal. When our color was called it was a breeze to leave our beautiful ship. Debarking was better organized then Carnival. On Carnival when trying to debark we had to wait in long lines. Maybe Carnival should try this color coded system, but also include a time that tells approximately when your color will be called.
Cabin - We had an inside 140 square foot cabin and compared to Carnival's standard 153 square foot cabins, I was surprised at how RCL utilize the cabin's space. I really didn't notice a difference. I think we where in the older part of the ship because our bathroom had the plastic shower curtain, which was ok with me. A good thing about the shower is that there was a one button option for cold and a one button option for hot. On Carnival, adjusting a turn knob goes from very cold to burning hot with just a small twist. The cabin bedding seemed to be the same as Carnival. Both soft and comfortable to let you melt off into wonderland. My only inside cabin query was that it was really dark with absolutely no light, not even from the hallway.
Guest Services - They where always very friendly and helpful. I saw them a lot because my Sail and Sign Card got deactivated at least five times during the cruise. The first time it happened Guest Services told me that it happened because I had it near a credit card or electronic device. After I was told this, I made sure not to put the card anywhere near my credit cards, but I still had to use my camcorder. So I'm guessing that my camcorder kept deactivating the card. Anyway, Guest Services was always friendly.
RCL Shows / Entertainment - We really enjoyed the shows and was surprised to see the performers actually singing and not lip-synching. I have read plenty of cruise critic RCL reviews which criticized the shows, but I enjoyed them, so I guess I'm easily impressed.
Dinner - We ate dinner every night in the My Fairlady, at a round table for six with a couple from New Jersey and two friends from Canada. Our dinner conversations where always interesting and delightful, we really enjoyed the conversations that two nights we where the last table to leave. The food was great and I also ate lobster for the second time and this time it was very tasty. Food in the WindJammer was always great. I think the circle buffet tables are very sufficient for so many cruisers. On Carnival the buffet line was two long lines. Late night eating in the Solarium Grille for hamburgers, hotdogs and pizza was great because I stayed up very late. My only query was that one night the ship had to do maintenance, so there wasn't any water on the ship. Can you believe that? Luckily, that night I got free sodas from the bar.
Since this was my wedding and first RCL cruise, I brought a camcorder for this vacation and recorded a lot of memories that will last for a lifetime. I love to watch Samantha Brown on the traveler's channel taking cruises. I have watched her same cruises over and over again and buying a camcorder is the best way to capture your vacation. Pictures are nice but they don't capture that feeling of being there. I recorded our wedding, Tulum, some of the shows (maybe now I can start selling boot leg movies), of course the ship and other ships in our ports of call. Now I wish if I had had my camcorder on my previous Carnival cruises. I guess I'll have to go back on another Carnival and RCL cruise.
One final thought that I should warn all cruiser about. I noticed on RCL that they also sell Inch of Gold. I had a bad experience with them on my second Carnival cruise. You know you get the so called "deal" of buy 20" inches and get a free bracelet. Well before I bought my chain and free bracelet I asked repeatedly, "Is this REAL?" Inch of Gold of course said, "Yes, of course". Well on that cruise when I got my necklace and bracelet the next morning, I notice the lobster clasp had NO Karate label. I have bought plenty of REAL gold and there is always a 10kt, 14kt or 24kt label on the clasp. Well on that cruise the next day, I went back to Inch of Gold and asked, "Where is the label?" They once again said that it was real and supposedly they don't have time to label the gold because we're on a cruise. Well, I wear all of my gold in the shower because REAL gold doesn't fade. Within five months the Inch of Gold jewelry started to dull and turn green. My final luck is that I saved my receipt. I called Carnival and asked them why are they selling this fake stuff on the ship. Carnival said that Inch of Gold is not part of Carnival and they gave me another number to call. To end this story I did get a full refund within six weeks after mailing back that fake garbage. This goes to show that if it sounds and looks too good to be true then keep stepping.