I booked this cruise for Bermuda based on the fact that I have been to about 7 or 8 islands in the Caribbean and wanted to go someplace different. My BF will not cruise so I paid for my two 17 y/o nieces to travel with me since this coming school year will be their last. I wanted to do something for them since I wouldn't probably see them much once they were off to college next August/Sept.
Pre-cruise/Embarkation: We flew in the day before and stayed at the Country Inn and Suites in Elizabeth, NJ. Not sure what to expect since the reviews were varied. I had read reviews saying it was in a dangerous part of town, dirty, etc. I found the motel to be clean, the rooms large enough and safety was NEVER an issue. We could have taken a shuttle to the mall across the street but we walked. Also, remember I was with two teen nieces that were not my children and at no time did I feel unsafe here. The next day the motel called us a cab and we left the motel about 11:30am to the pier. There was a line of cars to get to the tent but it moved relatively fast and we were inside waiting for our shuttle to the ship in less than 15 minutes. However, there were a few wedding parties and they boarded first. Even so we were in the Windjammer by 12:45 for lunch and our rooms were ready by 1:30pm.
Room: Our room was an L inside category and there was enough room for all 3 of us. In fact, we never even unpacked, if you can believe that. I had 3 bags in the closet for dirty clothes and we just kept our suitcases under the bed. We had the third pullman from the ceiling and that worked well also. The beds were comfortable and our stateroom attendant was Julios (sp?) who was great. My feeling then and now was that we were not in the room much anyway so paying for any upgrade would have been lost on us.
Ship: We found the ship to be beautiful and in good condition for her age. I booked this cruise because there was more to do for teens. They climbed the rock wall, skated, played putt putt, etc. There was a lot to do for them. Because they were 17 they chose to forego joining any teen group sessions. They said there is not as much for their age group and many of the areas had much younger teens in their area so they chose to roam on their own. They sat out in the sun and swam and had a great time.
Food: I only have this ship to compare but I have heard others complain about the food. I found the food to be good and didn't find anything that I considered bad. We chose to eat in the Windjammer two nights. They didn't want to do formal night since Prom had just been 6 weeks earlier and our table mates were not exactly anyone we really wanted to be with any longer than possible. They complained about everything. They were a couple in their 50s with a 7 year old that was a true pain. He was spoiled rotten and I don't remember one night that he didn't send food back for some stupid reason, they'd replace it and then suddenly he wasn't hungry and left a plate full of untouched food after running our poor waiter ragged. The parents not only allowed this behavior, they exhibited much of it on their own. My nieces actually sat and were amused by how idiotic they were. I offered to have us be seated elsewhere but they said it was entertaining to see how much more stupid they could become the next night. The couple kept saying that they had cruised other lines but enjoyed Carnival much better for food and children's programs. I kept thinking it was too bad that their first and last cruise with RC and we had to be their tablemates. OTOH, the two 17 y/o were very well behaved and never complained and felt our waiters did a fantastic job. It appears at least that someone raised their children right!
Port: This cruise was to be 2 days in port at Bermuda. However, Hurricane Bertha had other plans for us. Wasn't sure what would happen but when we boarded they said we'd continue on to Bermuda since all indications were that it would be thru the area by Monday night. So, we sat off the shore of Bermuda on Monday night about 90 miles out which was to be a day we were to be in port. The only thing I can say bad about this is that it was true chaos when we docked. Because it was never sure we'd get to Bermuda they did not sell transportation passes onboard. That meant that everyone left the ship at the same time and everyone was in line to buy the same tokens or passes, the ferries and buses filled fast and it took about 40 minutes to be on our way out of the Dockyard. Because we lost a day, everyone seemed to do the same things - shop at Hamilton and head to Horseshoe Bay. This meant that normally with 2 full days the crowds would have been more dispersed but the busses/ferries filled fast and every place seemed to be much more crowded. Normally I think people would have been more spread out between Hamilton, the beaches and St. Georges but there just wasn't the time. We had to be back at the ship by 5:30pm and we got back to the Dockyard at 4:45. This didn't leave much time to go thru any of those shops and we were tired, hungry and had a load of stuff we had lugged to the beach so never got to really go into the Dockyard shops. If we had been smart, we'd have shopped there first and let the crowds disperse to the actual island rather than be out there fighting in line for tickets with all of them.
Debarkation: We had red tags and were third from last. I originally was planning on getting a cab back to Country Inn and Suites and spend the rest of the day in NY. However, we got back port fees and taxes for the one day we were not in port so I just transferred that to a bus to the AP and took the shuttle back to the motel. When we got back to the motel (Country Inn again) we decided to walk to the mall and see a movie instead of going into NY - that'll be a train trip sometime.
Overall Impression: This was my first cruise and I will most definitely do another. Any negatives were due to Hurricane Bertha and I don't believe one can blame an act of God for missing a port day and the much more crowded transportation, etc. On another note, when we boarded they strongly suggested we all take seasickness medicine because we may end up with rough remnants of the storm. We each took a Bonine pill in the morn and another before bedtime and not once did anyone feel much motion or get sick. We had a blast and I just wished I had done this for the girls when they were a little younger.