Embarkation - Arrived at the pier earlier than I meant to - around 10:45. A porter grabbed all of our luggage (there were 10 of us so it took him two trips) and five minutes later we were heading for the building. Needless to say, there was hardly anyone there and the lines were very short. They are divided by decks and there were maybe two families ahead of us. Within 10 minutes we had our seapasses and were headed to the waiting area. Five minutes later they made an announcement that the normal boarding time is 1:30. Uh oh - we figured this meant we wouldn't be on for another couple hours. Nope - the message continued by saying they had fully cleared the ship and we going to begin with priority boarding. YAY! We were in group '5' and were on the ship by 11:15 at the latest!!
Naturally, we could not get to our rooms, so we proceeded to the Windjammer. We came prepared, so after a quick bite, we slipped off our shorts and t-shirts, grabbed our first of many foo-foo drinks and headed to the pools. We practically had the place to ourselves. This was short lived as there were over 4,000 passengers on our sailing; 1,800 of them were kids. The only time the ship felt crowded was on day 2 - our first full sea day. We didn't make it up to the pools until around 11:00 and it was tough to find a chair. We ended up going to the very front of the ship and unstacking some chairs. It was quite windy, but it was also very hot and the wind actually felt good. On our only other full sea day, we did the unthinkable - we staked out six chairs in a prime location and put down towels, books, etc. around 9:00. (Hi - my name is Holly and, yes, I am a chair hog) BUT - we were using all six of them by 10:00 and considering there were actually 10 of us, I managed to get over my guilt.
I mentioned there were 1,800 kids on board. You would never have known. Did not see any incidents or problems what so ever with the kids. We were actually two families and had six of those kids and am proud to say that they were all in their cabins long before curfew each night. One night, our cabin phone rang at 1:10am. Of course, my first thought was - OK, what have the boys done? The caller mumbled something and hung up. Apparently a wrong number (whew!).
The ship is absolutely amazing! My only other experience on RCI was on the Explorer, which I also loved. But this was different. Even on the last day I was still walking around admiring the ship. There is always something to do, people to watch, food to eat...
Promenade - was stunning and packed with things to explore. Loved Sorrentos (even though I prefer New York style pizza) and Cafe Promenade. I kept meaning to try the paninis at Sorrentos, but never did get around to it. They make them fresh to order. One thing I didn't know was that you can get whole pizza pies to take with you. Saw one group get three - wanted to follow them! The sandwiches at Cafe Promenade were great, as were the (way too many) desserts! Did some damage in the stores too. They have everything, including a store that sold active wear. This was important as we discovered my son's friend had forgotten a bathing suit! Thankfully, they sold the "cool" brands and he was able to pick up a QuikSilver suit quite reasonably. My son discovered that the liquor store sold candy bars and he probably bought nearly all of them (much cheaper than the mini bar prices, by the way).
Pools - the kids' pool was absolutely adorable and I avoided it like the plague! My kids are 16 (son and his friend) so I had no reason to be there. This probably explains why I had no concept of there being so many kids on board. Our friends had three 13 years olds (their son and his two friends) and a six year old. The youngest liked the kids' pool but preferred the regular pool, as did the 13 year olds. My guys liked hanging out in the Solarium. Me too! This area is beautiful (really posh) and extremely relaxing. Great place for a nap! The chairs are cushioned and to die for!
FlowRider - this is not to be missed (even if you just want to watch). We rented the FlowRider out for an hour of private use. The cost was $300 and we were allowed to have as many people on it during that hour as we wanted. Alternatively, you can pay $60 for the hour and join in with a group of up to 8 total surfers. There were two instructors. During our private hour, we were allowed to do things that we would not have normally been allowed to do. I think the kids found it more fun to just jump on at the bottom and go flying up to the top while helping to wipe out the person that was boogie boarding too long! They also let our friend's six year old try, even though she was too short. They put her on a board with them until they realized that she was probably the best in our group. I personally didn't try it but have never laughed so hard in all my life!
Cabin - we had a D2 cabin and it was much larger than I had expected. We had had a balcony on the Explorer, but this seemed to be a bit larger. However, after looking up the stats, it was apparently 13 square foot smaller so there goes my credibility. (but the balcony was apparently 18 square foot larger) The cabin had plenty of storage (shelves in the closet plus drawers), a nice flat panel TV (with the external jacks disabled), a full size couch with coffee table and a wonderfully comfortable king sized (I think) bed. The bathroom was adequate, the shower had doors (huge improvement over the curtains) and more than enough storage to hold all of our things. Then there was the balcony (ahhhhh). Two chairs and a small table. Very private. Our cabin steward was the weak link here. Rarely saw him. He seemed to have a hard time remembering that we had main seating for dinner. Only one night did he actually get our cabin turned down while we were at dinner. No worries - we went out every night, giving him plenty of time to get to our cabin. Except that last night, after he got his tip, he never did make it. Oh well - that's why he only got the standard tip.
Shows - sorry, only made it to two of them; Encore (ice show) and In the Air (Cirque du Soleil-ish). Enjoyed both tremendously. I still don't get how these people can perform like that on a MOVING SHIP!
Dining - the food in the main dining room was good to very good. Our wait staff, on the other hand, was exceptional! That is why they got far more than the standard tip!! And, they earned every penny of it. Our teenage kids can really pack away some food! My son's friend was convinced that our waitress hated him because he ate three entrees nearly every night. She, of course, couldn't have been sweeter.
The one thing that amazes me about RCI is that the head waiter actually waits on the tables when needed. He couldn't stand to pass the table and not refill drinks, pass out more rolls or cut someone's steak!
We ate at both the specialty restaurants, Chops and Portofino. They are well worth the price! The food was outstanding and the service was somehow even better than in the main dining room, if that was possible. Funny thing was that when we dined at Chops, our waiter was the husband of our main dining room waitress. Wanted to take them both home with us!
Excursions - we were on the Western Caribbean itinerary (Labadee, MoBay, Cayman Islands and Cozumel). We did not do any ship sponsored excursions at all. However, our friends did the zip line in MoBay and loved it!
Debarkation - our flight wasn't until 2:30 so we were in no hurry to get off the ship. We moseyed to Windjammers around 8:00, ate a leisurely breakfast and went down to deck four to hang out in the comfy chairs at Boleros. We waited until they called the last color and were, unfortunately, off the ship within 15 minutes.