All in all we booked this cruise one week before we left and it was well worth it. The Royal Caribbean cruise was a 7 day Southern Caribbean cruise out of San Juan, visiting: Aruba, Curacao, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas. We paid roughly 750 per person, and thought it was a good deal.
We arrived in San Juan the same day as our cruise at 4am. The cruise left at 8:30pm later that day and we had planned on just touring through San Juan. However after the long flight we thought it was best just to check into a hotel ASAP as we were very tired. Since we hadn't booked anything we asked a cab driver where we should go and he recommended a couple of hotels for 200+. I didn't believe them and just went to the airport/casino hotel and booked a great room for 120$! The room was very clean, free internet, a great free continental breakfast, and no TAXI ride. I definitely recommend this hotel.
Later that day we woke up and shimmied over to the ship. It is a dandy... very big at 130k cubic tons. We were very please with our Cabin on the 3rd Level, and started exploring the ship.
Yes the ship is big, but really it doesn't offer a lot more that any other ship. Yes, there is a ice skating rink, a climbing wall. But the thing that really separates this cruise versus others is the number of passengers on the ship. There are A LOT of people. This translates into lots of long lines especially at the windjammer and anywhere that there are cues. It also could be a challenge to find a decent lounge chair on Sea days.
The Food: Food was okay... we've had better. We went to the specialty dining and found it a bit lacking... food could be better in the regular dining area. I was surprised to see only one specialty finer dinning option. With the ship being as bit as it was I would expect more and better. The other option was Johnny Rocket... but it didn't appeal to us. The Cafe promenade which was the ships 24 hour option was mostly full of unhealthy options; pizza, or desserts, or sandwiches... They did have a banana or an apple, but certainly there could be more options. We felt the food to rank the lowest of any cruise we've taken... even other RC cruises, Carnival, or Princess. I will say that our service in the dining hall was excellent. We loved our service and fellow table mates.
The Room: We were on Level 3. For all you high rollers on the higher levels... we love being on the lower decks, less people, great deal, very quite. I will say our room service was lacking a bit. We were not greeted by our room personnel and cleaning the room in a timely manner was an issue... even if we put the 'make up room' card in the door. They seem to be very cheap with the soap, and we ran out on several occasions or it wasn't there at all. We did order room service twice, and it was actually very quick and very good. So good in fact we ordered a second time. We would recommend the hamburgers!
Destinations: There were four destinations all very good; Curacao, Aruba, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. I would recommend snorkeling and diving in both Aruba and Curacao. We rented a card for 50$ in Aruba and took a quick drive around the small island. We ended up taking some kite boarding lessons very close the California lighthouse. They were very accommodating for the last minute price of 200$ for 3 hours. St. Marten is really a fantastic place... to take a commuter boat to neighboring islands St. Bart's, or St. Johns. Both islands I think offer better experiences. We took a taxi to the French side of the island to take the commuter boats. Never ask taxi drivers... always ask information when you get off the boats. San Juan is my personal favorite. Even though it wasn't an actual stop on the cruise to make sure to spend some time in old San Juan. The people are very different from the islands and the city has lots and lots of history. I recommend just meandering through the town. We stored our luggage after the cruise at the Barachina Village (free, tip only). It is well located around a lot of activities and sites in the city.
Entertainment: This is probably the weakest I've ever seen (sorry guys, but true). Ice skating was by far the best, and I actually quite liked it. However the cruise director and regular show was well... lacking. The dancers are always good because they do what they are supposed to do... dance. The singers need some voice lessons though. All except one... there is a woman that is fantastic! They must have paid her their entire budget and nothing to the other singers because everything she sang was amazing(great Whitney song). The other singers were at times laughable. There was a prince segment that had me laughing uncontrollably. The Elvis wasn't much better. Worst of all was the 'Fountains' skit put on by the cruise director and his staff. Meant to be funny the staff came out on stage dressed in Roman attire holding pitchers of water. They lined up and one at a time, gulped in water from their pitchers, then spit it out on each other over an endless Enya song. While some in the audience laughed, my wife and I found it to be grotesque and filthy. Not to mention it wasn't a good influence for kids to see. The cruise director has room to improve.
Pictures: Highly Recommend- Great array of photographers around the ship. We took pictures every night and went down to the photo area to look up online... That's right... no more fumbling through random photos to find your own. They have done a great job helping you access the pictures they take for you. Every time your picture is taken your room card is swiped and they store your pictures. They photographers and backgrounds they provided were A++.
Pool Area: Great pool area and access. Pools are open 24 hours!! and the hot tubs are HUGE. This is a big difference versus other ships and cruise lines. Only issue again was finding room on sea days.
The lesson we learned from this cruise was bigger is not always better. We will probably go back to a smaller cruise ship next. I felt that Royal Caribbean only increased the amount of rooms/people they had on this ship and didn't focus so much on what complimentary services they should be adding. We still look forward to cruising much more with Royal Caribbean.
The thing we are finding out as we gain more experience in cruising is every ship is different. Sometimes you can be with the same Cruise Line on a different ship and there are still major differences. The layout of the boat is Key.