Embarkation: We flew in the same day as embarkation and we were already exhausted from the early flight. Needless to say, this was an extremely slow and frustrating process. We arrived at the Port of Miami at 12:30 p.m.--which seemed the same time that everyone else arrived. Initially, it seemed to go fairly quickly, but at the final stage of the process--final check in and receiving our sea passes--we had to stand in line for nearly an hour and fifteen minutes. Once we received our sea passes--we discovered that we did not receive the two person table that I had requested when we made the reservations. We immediately went into the dining room to have our table changed--only to discover a large number of people sitting in chairs waiting to also change their table assignments. Needless to say, we were already very tired and frustrated and decided to just sit at the table assigned to us (which turned out to be a six person table and the couples we sat with were very nice). The whole process made us initially a little upset that we decided to cruise again with Royal Caribbean.
Stateroom: We had a Superior Oceanview Cabin on the 9th deck. It was much more spacious than the previous rooms that we had on our past cruises. This room was 157 square feet as opposed to 122 square feet to the interior rooms we previously had. We enjoyed the larger window--and although a lifeboat was directly below our window, we had a nice view of the ocean and the ports of calls. It had a refrigerator, small sofa with table and a safe in the closet. The newly refurbished rooms with the flat screen television and new linens were an added bonus. The bed was comfortable and the bathroom (quite small) offered a nice hot shower with good water pressure. While the ship seemed like it was at capacity, our room was always quiet. Our stateroom attendant, Austin did a terrific job taking care of our room.
Dining: This is one area where we noticed a significant decline in the quality of the food served on the ship. We ate in the dining room for three of the four nights that we were on board. While the waiters worked very hard and diligently--the service was extremely slow. It took roughly an hour and a half to complete dinner and it was only a three course meal--appetizer, main dish and dessert. The food in the dining room was average at best. We were disappointed by this, as we remembered the meals on our previous cruises as being quite delicious and enjoyable. We ate twice at the Windjammer--lunch on the day of Embarkation and once for breakfast before our visit to Key West. The food was decent for a buffet--everything seemed fresh and hot. We ordered room service twice for breakfast and once for a late night snack. The menu options were extremely limited. Breakfast was fine, as we had boxed cereals and fruit (which is impossible to mess up). The late night snack was questionable. We had a cheese plate, fruit plate (both are difficult to be too horrible) and dessert--one of the desserts was supposed to be a raspberry cheesecake, but it tasted like a sponge. It was bad to put it mildly. Finally, we ate dinner at Johnny Rockets one night and it was pretty disappointing (we are familiar with the restaurant and what the quality should be). My husband's hamburger was horribly overcooked and my grilled sandwich was badly undercooked. Luckily, we had used the coupons we received in the Crown and Anchor coupon booklet--which waived the $3.95 meal fee. The food is an area that needs significant improvement.
Ports of Call: Since we had been on this cruise previously, we decided to make our own plans for each port of call. I should point out that we had terrific weather and it was a very nice change of pace from the cold and rainy weather of Ohio.
Nassau: In Nassau, we took a water taxi ($3 per person each way) to Paradise Island. It was easy to locate the water taxis and the ride was enjoyable. We walked around the public area of Atlantis, which were impressive and seemed similar to that of Bellagio or the Venetian in Las Vegas. We also walked to the Cloisters and the Versailles Garden which are located on the property of the One and Only Ocean Club--both were beautiful and very quiet places to visit. Once we returned to Nassau--we attempted to visit the Straw Market--but we quickly left as it was extremely hot and confining in their tight quarters. Plus, each vendor had the exact same stuff. After we had formal night (which seemed silly to have on the night that we were docked until midnight), we went to Senior Frogs to have a couple of drinks and buy a couple of t-shirts. It seemed like Nassau has declined since our visit in 2000.
Coco Cay: We had a storm the night before our stop to Coco Cay, so we had our doubts that the ship would be able to make a stop. However, when we woke up the next morning, the sun was shining and the water was fairly calm. Our visit here was enjoyable and relaxing. It seemed like the best seats on the island--the one with the shell covers and the ones on the wooden platforms were taken quite quickly. The BBQ buffet was okay--however, there were plenty of seagulls who flew just above us and seemed ready to grab any food given the right opportunity. There were flies too-not terrible, but it was somewhat obvious.
Key West: Our ship docked at the heart of Old Key West, which was terrific! We decided to buy our own tickets for the Old Town Trolley--as it gave us the option to get off if we elected to do so. The tour that is offered by the cruise line does not allow stops. We did a lot on this day-visited the Southernmost Point, the Southernmost Hotel and Museum, the Hemingway House, ate lunch on the harbor at Conch Republic Bar and Grill, shared a piece of Key Lime Pie at Kermit's and did a little shopping on Duval Street. It is a terrific place to visit as there is so much to do and see--we only wished we could have stayed longer.
Entertainment: We saw two of the four shows offered during the cruise. We watched Comedian David Orion on the first night and Impressionist Bryan G on the third night. We also briefly attended 80's night on the third night. They were all just okay--but I think it is important to note that the performers tried very hard to entertain. That is not a easy thing to do as there was such a wide range of ages on board.
Public Areas/Other People on Board: We thought the public areas of the ship looked quite nice. It was not a complete departure from what the ship looked like previously, but it has aged well and the renovations have made it look fresh and inviting. We enjoyed using the fitness center--I would work out a lot more if I could view the ocean while I walked on the treadmill! :) We were surprised by the number of small children on board with their families. But, the kids seemed to behave themselves well and it looked like they were having a blast being in the ship (the teenagers too!) There was a large mix of people on board of different nationalities as well--which was fun to experience. Our tablemates were from England and Germany respectively.
Disembarkation: Since we had such problems with embarkation, we expected that disembarkation would be mess--but it went extremely quickly and smoothly. We were off the ship by 7:45 a.m. and at the airport with our bags checked in by 8:10 a.m. If we knew it would have been so easy, we would have waited to leave and had breakfast on the ship. We ended up having over three hours to kill at the airport.
Overall, we had a very enjoyable time on the ship. It seems such a shame that the food quality and embarkation process had to be so disappointing. We probably will cruise again with Royal Caribbean, but it will not be for some time.