This was our 2nd cruise with RCI, 1st out of Cape Liberty. Travelling with husband and 2 boys- 11 and 14. Driving the 2 1/2 hours to the port from South Jersey was a breeze, online directions extremely clear and port is easy to navigate. We arrived around 12noon, quickly went thru the check in process, completed forms online before arrival and all had passports so easy peasy! Of course the rooms were not ready so we explored the Explorer, got some food in Windjammer (very jammed - didn't realize so many would arrive early) Ended up eating outside in the wind but hey, we are on vacation. We were able to get into our rooms around 1:30 or so - room steward right there to make sure we were set and quickly got the beds moved apart in one room and the connecting door opened. Muster was quick and easy, Leaving port was thrilling, riding under the Verazanno bridge - lovely scenery tho April is a chilly month in NJ.
Dinner was fabulous, the food was very good, not 4 star restaurant quality but hey, they are feeding thousands every night! Like I said, it was extremely good. Our server, Natasha was a dream! the 11 year old really took a shine to her, she called him baby and sweety all week and brought him TONS of food (that is why we cruise). Asst Server Mervin was very good as well, tho quiet. Bar server in DR was excellent, even the head waiter made an appearance and was quite friendly. Table mates had children same age as ours and they all hung out together which was nice.
Ports of Call -- unfortunately we did not get to Bermuda. Due to a medical emergency a passenger had to be medivacced off by helicopter. Capt had to turn the boat around the 2nd day so the chopper could make it to the ship to pick her up. He informed us of this at dinner, lots of disappointment all around however if it were someone in my family that was ill I would want them to do the same thing! I think it was handled well and the crew should be commended. Also, it was exciting watching the helicopter and refueling plane circle the ship. We were also kept informed of the passengers status, that they were in stable condition so that was good. And now we will have to go on another cruise!
St. Maarten - not much of a shopper, we walked from ship to Phillipsburg, not too far, boardwalk along beach was nice- beach there was very narrow, go to a different beach on an excursion if that is what you want. Boys like activities, so we did snorkeling there -- many choices-we chose shipwreck snorkel which was nice, lots of wrecks to see but way too many people! We kept bumping into each other. I heard that the Snorkel park there is alot of fun. Loads of shops-- got a great price on a citizen watch - should have bought the liquor in the duty free shops (like I said, not much of a shopper and now regretting it- will have to go again!)
St. Thomas - Snuba was great - boys loved it, tough for me to get the hang of so I basically snorkeled instead but the instructors were fabulous. The shop there is PADI #1 meaning it is the very 1st PADI scuba shop-incredible. Again, not much shopping done but apparently there was lots of it there.
Puerto Rico - Canopy tour was outstanding - staff very friendly and everyone is super safe -- we loved it -- zipping thru the rain forest on the traverses. Still a bit rustic, uphill walk to the 1st platform, also it is about an hour from San Juan and the last 10 minutes is pretty hairy in a bus! Driver was fabulous tho, talking the whole time so it passed by quickly. Too short a stay in SJ tho, did not get to see the forts etc.
Kids program was a big hit! They kept the 9-11 year olds busy with activities and games. The teenagers basically hung out like teenagers do but the 14 y.o. must have been having a good time since I only saw him at dinner!
Weather was fine, a bit windy, we were able to find a chair when we wanted one. The shows were good - especially the ice shows. The comedians did a good job keeping it tame enough for the kids. We are not nite owls so didn't do the club scene but did go into Chamber one nite for "80's nite" but it was not the 80's music I remembered so I was disappointed -- also, exceptionally crowded in the chamber, it is not a very big space. Dizzy's Jazz bar was nice and calm, the classical guitarist there was wonderful and his jam session with the steel drum player from T&T Jewels was a real treat.
Disembarkation was a nightmare -- well, really just a long bad dream. Windjammer opened early at 6am so everyone went to breakfast -- for any newbies out there, always find a table before you get your food, leave someone at the table while you go thru the buffet, it is hard to find a table with a plate of food in your hands. so- had to be out of your stateroom by 8am -- if you can do it, and they have it- do express walk off! you have to carry all your stuff but you get off 1st -- they started at 8:30 or so -- we were Brown tags! the very last ones off the ship and it was nearly noon!!! Luckily the Cafe Promenade stayed open (limited items - donuts and coffee) but better than nothing. Customs was quick (yeah passports) got our luggage right away (everyone was gone by then) and walked to our car instead of taking the shuttle - rolling luggage is the way to go. Wonderful cruise -- nothing is ever perfect but we were very happy with our vacation and it only made us want to go again!