We have travelled once before on RCL, also on Princess and our first cruise was on Carnival. We enjoy RCL and like the traditional set dining, although with 8.15 second seating found that we were eating late on nights when we docked at 7 and 8 am the next day. We were travelling over spring break so anticipated a busy ship with lots of kids. We were travelling with one of our teen sons and 6 other families, a total of 14 adults and 14 kids (mainly teens). We chose a balcony cabin on deck 8 and once again found that we love having a balcony. We were lucky to get an extended balcony near the elevators - so managed to fit 20 people on the balcony for pre-dinner cocktails one night. Our son shared an inside cabin on deck 3 with a couple of friends - whose parents were in the cabin next door - so he was more than happy to be a few decks away from the parental gaze.
Embarkation Very smooth - we arrived at the dock at around 12.30 and were in a line of 10 people, so we were on board very quickly. We had a slight problem with the reservation clerk who was concerned that our son was checking in to a cabin far away from ours, but this was soon straightened out. We were on board by about 1.15pm and the lunch buffet was ready and waiting for us as were most of the rest of our party.
Cabin 8102 was a lovely cabin - nice and quiet - we took advantage of the extra long balcony with nice lounge chairs - meant we didn't have to fight for a lounge chair on deck. Our cabin steward, Jesus, was quiet, efficient and eager to please. We received nice fluffy bathrobes without asking. Cabins still have the overlarge TVs (how soon we get used to flat screen LCDs and plasmas!) but we didn't spend much time watching TV
Dining Ate almost all our evening meals in the dining room - second seating - our wait staff were great - particularly as our group had 3 tables and we kept moving places each night - they had a hard time keeping track of us all and the wine bottles. Food was good, but not excellent. Steaks were never that good. Food was plentiful, but not always imaginative. Portofino's - ate dinner at Portofino's one night it was superb, well worth the extra charge. Buffet - most of our lunches on sea days were eaten in the Buffet - it was fine - not much change in the menu - but ok. Breakfast - either the buffet or room service. Once again plentiful but nothing special
Entertainment Cruise director Clodagh (Clo) was entertaining. Outside entertainers were just average. The local dancers/singers were not good, we only took in one show, but some of the karaoke hopefuls on board outshone the paid entertainers. We missed Quest this time - it was scheduled on a night when we'd just enjoyed a full port day and the following day we had a 7.15am shore trip at our next port.
Ports of Call San Juan - our second visit so we just wondered around and did some shopping and site seeing St Thomas - did a private tour with AirForce One - tour of the island for about 2-3 hours followed by a beach stop. Learned lots about the island. Followed up with some shopping Bahamas - short stop - but we did the "Bubblehead" underwater personal scooters - it was great fun a really unique experience if you don't happen to Scuba BVI - went to Virgin Gorda - visited the caves. It was neat to see but we took too long on the first beach stop and by the time we got to the caves it was so crowded with other cruise ship visitors that there were line ups 10 -15 minutes long to try to navigate the small cave passages. SOme of our group complained and were refunded the cost of the excursion St Maarten - last minute decision (1 hour before shore trip departed) to try Ziplining was a huge success. We had a blast. This zipline adventure is small scale and low to the ground so not so intimidating as some. The staff were very safety conscious and were always around to help and instruct.
Childrens programs Since our son was hanging out with so many friends - they didn't take part in many of the organized activities.
The ship was quieter than we thought it would be during spring break and all the kids seemed well behaved - no running around unsupervised at 2 am as we have seen on other cruises. Perhaps because we were in the Eastern Med there seemed to be none of the underage drinking that you sometimes find with a Western Caribbean cruise and some of the Mexican ports with more lax drinking policies.
Public rooms were well maintained - we enjoyed being on a ship this size where everything is within easy reach, even if you forego the ice rink and Johnny Rockets.
Bar service Was great we liked the Champagne/Martini bar the best
Disembarkation Slower than embarkation, but we had an afternoon flight home so relaxed in the lounge until disembarking at around 10.00am. At least being one of the last off the ship our bags were easy to find!
All told we had a great time, loved the itinerary and would certainly cruise with RCl again