This was the first cruise for me and my wife. We were celebrating our 20th Wedding Anniversary. Our cruise was from Miami, to Labadee Haiti, to Jamaica, to Grand Cayman, to Cozumel, then back to Miami. We did not travel with anyone else. Prior to our departure, we all filled out our pre-boarding information on the RCCL website, and printed out our SetSail passes. We arranged our air travel and a nigh stay in Miami through RCCL. We didn’t want any airline delays to affect our vacation. When we arrived at Miami I was disappointed that I had to carry my own bags. My friends had told me that once you turn in your luggage at your departure airport, you don’t touch them again until you get back. I told the folks at the airport about that and they said. “we don’t do that anymore”. I carried my bags 100yards to the RCCL desk and the terminal and they told me to load them in the van. It was not what I expected. We stayed at an excellent hotel, but $118 per person meant we had a room for $236. The room wasn’t worth $236 a night. Breakfast was another $37. Other guests had booked their room on their own and it included breakfast. The porter that carried our bags to the room held his hand out for a tip; I said that that was included in the package. He said it was not. I felt like a real cheapskate quibbling over five dollars. I called RCCL to complain about the tip and that other guests had breakfast included. RCCL told me it a hotel issue; the hotel told me they were living up to their contract with RCCL. I decided to shake it off and have a good vacation. The van arrived at the hotel at 12:40. Checkout time was noon.
We were dropped off at the pier (and unloaded our own bags) and stood in the longest line I have ever been in. I see other folks have talked about smooth check-in, mine was anything but smooth. We waited outside for almost an hour, another 20 minutes inside. Once on the ship, we had no idea what to do. They said our cabins would not be ready until 4 pm. We walked through the promenade; it was chaotic. Everyone was handing us a flyer for something. We would just put them in our bag and move on. We saw that they had a first-time cruisers class and a fitness center orientation. We really wanted to go to both but they were at the same time so we split up. My wife went to the gym orientation and I went to the first-time cruisers class. The gym orientation was 4 minutes long; it was just. “here’s the gym—any questions?” My wife was disappointed. I was real disappointed in the first-time cruisers class. The gal was very friendly, but did not have a lot of information for the class (me and a married couple). It was, “Welcome, do you have any questions?” I didn’t know enough to know what to ask. I was expecting an overview of the ship. I wish I would’ve known about the windjammer sooner, and about the interactive maps of the ship. We stood in a long line to schedule a spa treatment (other reviewers encouraged us to get that done soonest). We did not make reservations for the specialty restaurants (we didn’t see why we would pay for dinner when our fare includes dinner). We had an interior stateroom since it was the cheapest. It was small! We had a hard time maneuvering while we were changing.
THE BEST TIP WE READ ABOUT: Bring an over-the door shower organizer. This was a tremendous help. We hung it over the outside of the bathroom door and it held things like sunscreen, disposable cameras, and odds and ends. The beds were so comfortable! We went right to sleep every night and woke up refreshed each morning. It helped that we were on deck 2 aft; the hum was the engines was very relaxing. There was no electrical outlet near the bed. I called housekeeping and they brought an extension cord to our room. Our room steward was excellent. The captain simulated the mandatory life boat drill since it was raining. Entertainment: We loved the shows! The entertainers were amazing. The theater is absolutely fabulous! It was tough finding a seat though as almost everybody was saving a seat for someone despite that practice is no allowed on board. Next time I’m not gonna be nice, and just sit in the open seats. I concur with other reviewers about the Adventure Quest--this should be an adults only program. Several children ran wild throughout the cruise. I was about knocked over when a group of hooligans sped past me so that they could be the first ones in. I’m all for children having a great vacation, but they need to at be civilized. The highlight of our cruise was our dining companions Julie and Nancy from Texas. They shared a table with us and they were delightful ladies. They ate at Chop’s grill one night and highly recommended we go as well. There were no reservations available. Food and Service in the dining room was excellent. After a couple of nights, I just deferred to my waiter Donavan and I loved everything he recommended. In the mornings, we had coffee and fruit plate delivered to our room; it was great. SPA: My wife signed up for the exfoliation one day and a massage the next day. She really liked the massage following the face treatment. Afterwards, the high-pressure sales tactics drove her to cancel her massage appointment. $575 is pretty steep for face cream.
Labadee: We really enjoyed the parasailing. The ride was incredibly smooth. We didn’t get wet as we launched and landed from the boat. We had a great view of the peninsula. It was nice walking around the island. We were on the first tender so we didn’t see a lot of people. As more and more tenders came it became quite crowed. I drank a lot and had a great time frolicking in the water. I really enjoyed the lunch, but my wife thought it was a little “rustic”. The picnic tables were dirty and it was very crowded and busy. Great weather, great view.
Jamaica: We did the Jamaican Splendor tour. I would not recommend this tour. We went into some guys backyard with the promise of seeing wildlife in its natural habitat. Apparently the animals had the day off as all we saw was a caged crocodile that was pretty sad. Negril beach was great. The sand was spectacular. Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville was the most boring bar I’ve ever been to. We had lunch there as part of the tour; I’d rather have gone to McDonald’s. The service at the bar was terrible. The 90-minute drive back to Montego Bay allowed us to see how impoverished the Jamaican people are. Next time I’m in this port I’m not getting off the boat.
Grand Cayman: It was a beautiful port on a beautiful day. We walked around downtown a while. Went to the liquor stores to buy some rum; we figured we’d get some on the way back. The Margaritaville at Grand Cayman was far superior to the one at Jamaica. I had a good time there. We tried to walk to Seven Mile Beach from the port. There was no public access to the beach for miles. Everywhere had No Trespassing signs. We ended up walking through a hotel to get to some sand. The next time I’ll take a cab or something.
Cozumel: This was my favorite stop. We visited the Mayan ruins at Tulum and stopped in at Xel Ha ecological park. The tour guide was unsatisfactory. Insulting American guests is not a good way to start off a tour. He spent more time pitching the Mayan books he was selling that telling us about the ruins. He scolded one guest for standing behind him, “that’s disrespectful!” Yeah, well trying to sell me a $30 book when I hired a tour guide isn’t too respectful either. Xel Ha was incredible. I really liked it. We wished we had more time there. Next time I’ll spend the day at Xel Ha. The day went too fast!
Miami (disembarkation day): We placed our bags outside our room the night before. Our color group came up far sooner than we wanted (we didn’t want to leave the ship). At the appointed time we left the ship and waited in line for a long time. There should be more color groups if you have guests standing in line for 30 minutes. We arrived at the Miami airport three hours before our take-off time. The kiosk asked if we would like to take some empty seats on earlier flights, we selected yes and then the machine said there’d be a change fee. We cancelled the request. When the time came to board our flight, they have overbooked. They were offering $300 travel coupons to anyone who would take a later flight. Computers crack me up. Every member of the crew was cheerful and professional; I don’t know how they do it. I’m sure they’ve heard the same dumb questions and the same lame jokes a thousand times but they didn’t let it show. I learned a lot about customer service watching these folks work. Dinners were excellent. We ate breakfast in the windjammer, lunch on shore, and dinner in the main dinning room. I missed out on some late-night lobster fest in the windjammer because I was too tired. I made it to the cafeteria just as they closed. Every table was covered with empty lobster tails; it looked like a lot of folks had a good time! This was our first cruise and we loved it. It was very expensive, but we had a great time. I look forward to cruising again soon. The next time I’ll book the air and any hotels on my own; it cost too much to go through the crew line. .