We are first-time cruisers (not counting 20 years on Navy ships, it just isn't the same). My wife and I arranged the cruise and all airfare ourselves over the internet. It was a very easy process, however, I was not able to get our passenger numbers until the cruise tickets arrived and so was not able to arrange for our shore excursions until later on in the process. My wife and I left Anchorage on January 23 for a cruise that began on January 25, spending about two days in Los Angeles in the San Pedro area. It was worth the effort. We saw the Maritime Museum, the fireboats (my son is a firefighter) and went aboard the S.S. Lane Victory, a restored WWII Liberty Ship, and to the Aquarium. We ate at the 22nd Street Restaurant which was excellent and stayed at the Marina Hotel, which was good and convenient for what we wanted to do.
We had read in the cruise critic messages (I wish I could remember the poster's name, but thank you anyway) that early arrival at the pier was the best bet. We arrived in a hotel courtesy van at 10:30 a.m. and in forty-five minutes we were having lunch. This time included a delay because the computer that takes the photos wasn't operating properly. All in all, an excellent embarkation. I highly recommend that people bring passports as ID. When we debarked at the end of the cruise, there were two lines, US Passports and all others, including those with picture ID and birth certificates. We sailed through the debarkation process in 30 minutes from the time our number was called.
Our stateroom was a "Large Interior" stateroom, and it was just fine for what we needed, a place to sleep, change, etc. Our room attendant was Lennox, and he was marvelous. Of course, my wife is partial to Lennox China, so go figure. He left animals in the room each night made of the towels, and this delighted my wife. He was always very solicitous of us.
I thought that the food was excellent throughout the trip, and that the choices were sufficient for any taste. However, my wife and I are on the Atkins Diet, and it took a little (but not much) thinking to stay reasonably close to our needs (not too close, though, this was a vacation after all). The Surf and Turf was done properly, the prime rib was outstanding. We took most of our lunches in the casual dining room as their salad bar was outstanding. For breakfast, I preferred the dining room as I'm not fond of buffet-style brunches. We took all of our evening meals in the formal dining room. My wife and I dressed for dinner on the formal nights, but not all at our table did. Being from Alaska, we don't dress up that often, and we enjoyed the change.
We purchased the unlimited fountain drink stickers for our passes but found that it wasn't a good investment as we didn't drink enough sodas to cover the price of the sticker and there was always coffee, tea and iced tea available for no charge. My wife enjoyed the "drink of the day" program that they had. We didn't find the drink waiters at all pushy. They offered and you either said yes or no. We did purchase the "Wine and Dine" package. We got the basic package because we felt (rightly, it proved) that the ship would not serve bad wine. I recommend this if you like wine with your meals. We missed one dinner at Puerto Vallarta and they gave us the bottle of wine to take home.
The passengers were fine, with a few who had obviously came to drink their way to Mexico. We didn't find a lot of "chair hogs" though there were a few who seemed to think that they owned one. Of course, the temperatures were a bit cool at times if you weren't used to living in Alaska. We thought it was quite warm. The entertainment was excellent throughout, and I made my obligatory donations in the Casino. The shows were very enjoyable, with some of the comedians leaving you laughing yourself to tears. The wine tasting "class" was a lot of fun as well. The Captain gave a presentation on the last day at sea (by popular request) about the ship, the crew, and what it's like to be the captain (not too bad, it seems). It lasted for about an hour, he answered questions and, when I turned to leave, the theater was packed. I think it will be a regular feature.
We went on three shore excursions. The first was the sail/snorkel tour in Cabo San Lucas. It was very nice, the water was a little cool, but there were plenty of little fish to watch, and we saw whales on the way out. After the snorkeling, they passed out the beer and tequila and it was party time! A very pleasant day out. In Mazatlan, we went on the Fishing Trip. It was a seven hour trip. The boat was nearly as old as the captain, and a bit slow, but my wife caught a 130# striped marlin. She fought it for about 40 minutes before boating it. The trip was billed as "Catch and Release," and the crew's shirts said "100% Catch and Release Sportfishing," but apparently they can't read English. They had no intention of releasing that fish and rammed it with the gaff. I suspect that a lot of Mexican families ate well that night. Other than that, it was a very successful trip. All three of the boats got one marlin each (four fisherman to a boat) and we got a 6' Mako shark as well.
What I didn't like about Mexico were the push vendors around the pier area. It reminded me of my Navy days going on shore leave. We didn't take a shore excursion in Puerto Vallarta because my father and step-mother were vacationing there and we spent the day exploring with them. We had lunch at "Le Cliff" about 10 miles south of town and it was great. Watch the Margaritas, though, as there's the rough equivalent of a pint of tequila in each one. They are huge! On our return to LA, we took the city tour to the airport, and it was a very nice way to spend the day and see a city I'd never been to before. My wife's final opinion on the cruise? Seven days is not enough. We're looking at an 11 day cruise for next year, but probably on Celebrity to get another viewpoint. Will we travel on Royal Caribbean again? Most definitely. It was a marvelous introduction to cruising.