We arrived in Miami around 10:30 and took a taxi to the port which was around $30 including tip. It was a 10 minute ride and traffic was fine, but this was on a Sunday. There are a series of different lines you have to wait in at the port building, one to enter the building, one to go through security, one to check in and another to get your picture taken and board the ship. It wasn't too bad but after checking in, we had to wait in a holding area because the ship was not ready. They gave out numbered tags and called people by groups once the ship was ready for boarding. I think we were on board by 1, but I'm not positive of the exact time.
Once on board we were able to go check out our stateroom and drop off carry on luggage. Stateroom was the 8th deck, promenade view, and it was very nice. The stateroom attendant was very good, he reminded us to put the card in the key slot when we wanted the room made up or if we didn't want to be disturbed. He tidied our room twice a day and was very responsive to any requests we had without being intrusive or overbearing.
We ate in the Windjammer or at Sorrento's pizza for lunch every day and we found the windjammer rather redundant. Apparently there was a taco bar one day but we missed that. The food was the same nearly every day and they don't have made to order stations which I would love to see added to Royal Caribbean. I saw people touching the food with their hands and licking their fingers while walking through the buffet selecting foods. There were two grown men who didn't want to wait in a short line at the dessert station so they just reached in and grabbed cookies with their hands. Then a teenage boy came up and did the same thing, the attendant yelled at the teenage boy but not the two grown men. She saw the grown man do it because after he did it, she put another set of tongs out. That irked me because you kind of expect that behavior from a kid, but an adult man knows better.
For breakfast and dinner we ate in the dining room and both offered nice selections for each meal. The servers seemed rather frazzled at breakfast, I got the feeling they were all grossly overworked and their bosses were cracking the whip. It seemed like there were too many chiefs and too few indians at breakfast. Dinner was lovely however we were seated next to two large tables of Indian people who had special order meals every night. They got all of their food at once which I'm told is traditional and each meal was custom, not on the menu. None of the waiters for the special order table were Indian so our waiters, who were both Indian, ended up serving them every night also. These two tables were not normally assigned to our waiters so they were working extra hard. Service was fine for us, but it was not the same super attentive service that we experienced previously. I'm not sure why they didn't just swap out tables and waiters for that particular cruise because the special order table was very demanding and occupied much of our waiters time.
My favorite meals were the Indian dishes and the lobster. Our waiter gave us some of the Indian foods to try that were on the special order menu for the Indian tables I mentioned above. The lobster tail was actually very delicious too. It was better than the lobster I've had on previous sailings.
We did not eat at a specialty restaurant but on the next cruise I plan on trying one or both early on in the cruise. I felt like I had a food hangover toward the end of the cruise and I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it as much toward the end of the cruise.
The Johnny Rockets was average. I ate there with my free coupon from the Crown and Anchor booklet. It was nice to sit outside and eat while in St. Thomas. It wasn't full. We just returned to the ship after our excursion then went back to town to check out the shopping. It was probably better than having a Windjammer lunch.
I have no complaints about the bar drinks. In my opinion they are much stronger than the drinks we consume at bars and restaurants in the United States. They were all very tasty. This cruise many of the drinks of the day had the day of the week in the drink name. For example 'Blue Monday'. I'd like to see them stick with the traditional name or a name that reminds you that you are on vacation. I don't want to be reminded what day of the week it is!!!
I was pleased with each port (San Juan, St. Thomas and St. Martin). The highlight of our trip was a half day sail and snorkel in St. Thomas aboard the Jolly Mon. It was not a ship sponsored tour and the sailboat takes a maximum of 6 passengers. The day we went it happened to be just the two of us which was so nice. This was the first time I've been to San Juan so we just took the free trolley to the forts and walked around. If I was to return I would probably do a tour that leaves the city.
We went to the ice show and the magic show. They said the ice show we saw was the first time they performed this particular routine/show for an audience. It was neat to watch and kind of amusing to think that you are watching an ice show aboard a cruise ship, let alone one sailing the warm Caribbean. The magic show was also entertaining.
I attended bingo three times and had a nice time despite being a loser each time. The bingo dingo and his staff are quite amusing if you enjoy sarcasm. They said turnout was rather low the week I sailed but at the end the jackpot was 5 or 6 thousand. They offered a free card for your next bingo session if you were attending the current one, you just needed to show your receipt. They also gave out door prizes by pulling receipts out of a tub. They were actually half decent prizes, like a free watch set from the shops on board or free bingo package for next session.
The ship overall is very fresh and new feeling. The decor is nice and the promenade give you a different feeling than when you are just in the shopping area aboard other ships. It is nice that Sorrento's, the coffee shop and wine bar are all located there too. The pool areas were typical pool areas. The regular pool area was a zoo during the day. I had a hard time walking through there sometimes because of all the activity and people. I mainly stayed a deck above the pool or in the solarium area which was much quieter and had less traffic.
The gym was wonderful and new. They had a lot of cardio machines to choose from and if you go in the afternoon there aren't hoards of people in there. They offered a lot of classes too, including pilates reformer.
I toured the spa and thought it was a typical cruise ship spa. I didn't get any treatments this time so I can't comment on the quality.
The flowrider was the place to be, there was always a crowd gathered watching the action. It looked like so much fun, especially for the adventurous types.
I will probably continue to cruise Royal Caribbean. The Freedom of the Seas was the biggest ship we have been on and it does have a different feeling. If you are into a feeling of intimacy and the small ship experience is a big factor for you, then this is not the ship for you. Overall the cruise was very relaxing for me and I would probably go on this ship or one of the sister ships again.