My Husband and I were celebrating our 25th Anniversary and decided to do something we had never done before so we decided to take a cruise we decided on RCL because we were told that the crowd was a little older, a little more well off, and it was less of a party crowd and less young families onboard, don't get me wrong we love kids we have 3 of our own, but when we leave our children behind we don't want to have to tolerate everyone else's kid's especially at late night dinner sittings (children so tired they just scream and cry.) and at some all inclusive resorts I have even seen children at the nightclub.
Our cruise experiences were as follows:
an absolute nightmare, huge line ups in the sun for 2 hours (we were told that by booking a suite we would get a separate check in line up) we were all corralled with everyone else like a bunch of sheep (apparently a power outage had prevented customs from clearing the previous passengers, not RCL's fault) o.k. I buy that, however this is Miami folks, don't tell me this has never happened before can you say backup plan. Now I know there are about four thousand people to clear however this was now 12:00 noon and my husband and I had seen the ship arrive at 5:30 am that morning (staying across the street at the Holiday Inn) Maybe we could all learn how to move a crowd from Disney. The elderly were being wheeled in by wheelchair, children were screaming, we should have at least been offered bottles of water. A woman was hit in the ankles after an employee pushing another elderly passenger ran into her with the wheelchair. The employee did come back and offer the woman who was hit a wheelchair, so of course the woman milked it for all it was worth and she and the 6 other people she was traveling with got to go inside the terminal to be checked in first
Our Beautiful Suite:
Finally we were herded in, and after several check-in points (a little excessive as our identity had not changed in the 100ft since the last person had checked it at the last check point.
We arrived at our suite, it was very spacious beautiful, and clean, having traveled with only carry on bags, we were unpacked in no time, our state room attendant Sebastian, came and introduced himself and advised us he was at our complete disposal. He then presented us with a fruit and cheese tray nice touch and chocolate covered strawberries, a complementary bottle of Evian water was in our suite, (could have used that while in line waiting for check in). We went to the deck and watched us leave the Port of Miami. After we visited the ship while the other passengers were just beginning to get their bags delivered to their rooms. We were then corralled once again topside to participate in a evacuation drill, (having been a former flight attendant I understand the importance of this drill) The young man directing us didn't really seem to have too much of a grasp as to how to done his lifejacket, I was tempted to volunteer my services.
As it was our anniversary we just wanted to rest and unwind and find some romantic time.
We were just under the pool area on the 10th deck every morning we would wake to passengers/staff dragging lounge chairs around the deck.
The Concierge Lounge
We had booked a grand suite so that we could have access to the concierge lounge and be able to take advantage of the free hor'd'eourves and free cocktails. This was not a mistake, although the hours are limited to 5:00-8:30 p.m. we were able to go get our pre-dinner cocktails and bring back a glass of wine to have with dinner. The Concierge Juan Diego Allan, was wonderful he had e-mailed us prior to the trip and introduced himself asked if he could assist up with any restaurant or spa reservations. He immediately welcomed us by name as we entered the lounge and my husband and I were very impressed by this. Now although we had a mini bar, all the things in it were an extra charge, if we wanted to drink we would have to drink during the hours of the lounge or pay for them. (We had paid extra for the use of the lounge and were not going to pay again for our drinks)
Much to our surprise drinks were always being offered even a special drink of the day, at $5 something a day, although a cashless environment just present your room key, (easy to tack on a couple of hundred dollars to your bill) everywhere your went even if you wanted ice cream at Ben & Jerry's, Johnny Rockets had a cover fee (to sit at the table, come on) coffee shop charged for their specialty coffees, bottled water was and extra charge $2.00 ea. On a couple of occasions I had awaken in the middle of the night with a dry mouth and a need for a glass of water, the next day I asked our stateroom attendant if he could get us a pitcher with water (A simple request I thought,) he said I should call room service for the pitcher and that he would replenish it regularly. A call to room service I did make only to be told that they could only deliver water by the glass (so that they could make more trips and charge more gratuities no doubt) Not ready to give up on my dream of having fresh water at my disposal when I wanted it I asked the boys in the Concierge Lounge to please get me a pitcher for my room, they were very accommodating and low and behold found one for me.
The Dining Room
We were in the Michelangelo dining room, the dining room was a massive 3 story undertaking, we were pleasantly introduced to our asst/ waiter (pronounced Mee Yow) and head waiter Mustafa from Morocco, the whole dining experience was wonderful, we had asked for a small table but were wonderfully surprised to find that we had been given a table for just the two of us. The food was wonderful and the service was superior. I really admire the dining room staff they work so hard and are very professional. Passengers can be very demanding, on one occasion my husband asked for his steak well and it came rare, we didn't make a fuss Mustafa just apologized and sent it back bringing back a perfect steak in its place.
We only saw the skating show and found it so wonderful; beautiful costumes talented performers we forgot we were on a ship.
We played Bingo on the last day as the pot was $6000.00, we did not win.
The Stateroom Balcony
We spent a lot of time on our balcony, peaceful warm and spacious, our neighbors were always on the go so it was a great place to think, chill drink coffee and talk but mostly to just relax from our hectic lives.
The pools were great one was a water area for kids, 1 was the main pool, did get quite crowded as the day wore on, best to get there early, plenty of servers to sell water, and drinks. The cleanup crews worked very had to try to keep up with all the empty glasses and trash, (It's unbelievable how lazy people can get on vacation, some sat beside garbage cans but their trash couldn't make it in.) Even though we did see some trash, we did see the attendants working very hard keeping everything clean.
Ports of Call
We had a very romantic sunset cruise planned which was cancelled we found out the night before due to some technical difficulty, so we rushed to book another excursion,
The Bacardi Rum tour is really a waste of time, we arrive at 4:00 pm by the time we are herded off the ship and join our group and then are hurried onto buses, they are small clean and thank God air-conditioned, a guide very friendly and knowledgeable toured us around town to the castle Cristobal where we are given a whole 30 minutes to explore and then we are whisked to the other side of the harborfor the Bacardi rum tour, where we told that we would be called by color and that it would be another 45 minutes, so we were given two tickets for drinks and told to get our drinks first and wait to be called and we would be leaving as soon as the tour is over. There weren't very many shaded seats, the sun was hot and drinking under the sun on an empty stomach is a very bad combination. I did fall in love with the Bacardi Mojito, so not a total lost. The tour itself was just a little history about the Bacardi family, a museum showing the equipment used to distil the rum some shake and sniff tubs, and finally a trip to the gift shop, I could find more Bacardi gifts at a sporty event. Think twice about this one folks. A walking/shopping tour of old San Juan is probably a better bet for the $$$, by the way the ship sells bottled water before your leave the ship $2.00, the shops and vendor at the pier sell them for $1.00, save a buck buy on shore after all the water comes from the States Anyway.
Be sure to go to the seminar offered on the ship by Freddie, she will educate you on how to buy the best jewelry for your money, you will see a lot of jewelry stores in St. Maarten best to be educated.
Best Place to shop, great tax free shopping, lots of cheap souvenirs, key chains, t-shirt, tote bags, pens, hats. If you have kids or are a Star Wars fan is sure to go to Planet Paradise and visit that Yoda Guy Nick Maley, who was the person who created the mechanics for Yoda, he is an artist and has a studio/museum where you can get personalized memorabilia from the movie. He offers cruise ship discounts and if you purchase something he will let you take his picture and go through the museum.
Labadee Beach (where the real Pirates of the Caribbean live)
We arrived early in the morning, I was asleep, it was raining but we caught an early launch, the island is very beautiful as many Caribbean islands are, we picked up our floating mat, (waste of $10.00) just bring a towel or a chair which is free.) An islander asked if he could carry them to the beach, (for a tip of course) we politely declined and carried our own. Enjoyed our mats lying in the partial sun. Time for jet skiing, signed our waiver paid our tickets but what to do with our valuables, they do have lockers but be forewarned $3.95 for a token to be able to remove the key from the key hole, that's $3.95 we later found out every time your open the locker and remove or add something. It cost more for a locker than a drink. And of course booze and bottle water abound supreme. The Jetskiiing was great, no complaints there, we were taken to a small room and show a movie on operating and safety and seamanship. Locals ride up to you in Kayaks and try to sell stuff, carved boxes , shell necklaces the usual tourist stuff. They get so annoying even if you tell them you have no cash they say you can pay them on the beach. Then it was off for some ziplining, a tram took us to the other side of the island, we were again made to sign a waiver, shown a movie and a practice run, then a jeep ride to the top of a cliff and a very quick ride down, lots of fun, very tame version of a zipline not nearly as dangerous as you may think. A good first time try.
Time to see what we haven't my husband booked me in to the spa for the morning, I was pampered and prodded it was great, the attendant was wonderful, Of course she sold me an additional treatment and I selected a facial summer glow to be added to my face and she asked me to come back that evening a 6:30 as it was only 10:30 in the morning. I rushed to get back on time for her only to be kept waiting till 6:55 when I asked if someone else could do this she said are you Mary, I was waiting for Mary, no I am not Mary, but I was supposed to have been taken at 6:30 oh I did not recognize she said, never apologized for keeping me waiting, I was not impressed and If I have not already paid earlier I would have just left.
It was time to check out the photo's that were taken of us during the cruise.
Most weren't but a few were good, the sales person showed us how to us the computer to order and pay for the prints then and only after we had done so were we told to come back at 11:30pm to pick them up, therefore my husband had to stay up till then to get them. Had they not been prepaid we would have said forget it.
Checking out was not as much of a fiasco as checking in had been, we had express check out and were all lined up with our bags, they still could take a lesson from Disney on how to move a crowd.
Too many hidden charges, Checking in needs to be improved, so does checking out, Suites are beautiful/clean and service is exceptional, dining experiences are also exceptional, food exceptional. Concierge is very helpful and gracious very professional, worth paying more for, even arranged a bridge tour for us. Ship is clean, staff is friendly, and professional, we will be going back.
Oh by the way when our bill came on the last night we had been charged for the pitcher (go figure).