Background Information - We are a family of 5...DH & I (late 30s, early 40s) and our kids 15yo son, 12yo son & 12yo daughter. This was our second cruise, but first on RCCL. Our other cruise was on the Carnival Miracle in 2005. We chose this cruise for several reasons...since we live less than 2 hours from the NY/NJ ports we wanted to try driving versus flying, we wanted an Eastern Caribbean itinerary since we had already taken a Western Caribbean itinerary, and we wanted to try a different ship/cruise line.
Travel To Port of Embarkation - We left our house at 9:30am, and were pulling into the port to unload the truck by 11:30. Couldn't have been easier. DH parked the truck and we were walking into the check-in area at 11:45. No lines what so ever, walked right up to the counter, checked in and were given passes to bus #9. Spent the next hour eating cookies and drinking lemonade. By 12:30 we were getting on the bus to take us to the ship. Ship Info - The ship is beautiful. I enjoyed walking around and exploring, taking lots of pictures (over 500 in total for the whole vacation), and just taking it all in. The one thing I WAS disappointed in was the stores on the Royal Promenade. I expected more shops and less bars. I was also disappointed with the selection offered in the RCCL logo store, and in the other store. It wasn't until one of the last days that there were tables set up on the Promenade offering a bigger selection of logo apparel, and then it was hit or miss with the sizes. DH was finally able to get his polo shirt, but there were no sweatshirts for me, so I got a pair of pajamas. Stateroom - We had 3 cabins for the 5 of us. DH & I were in 8576, which is an E1 balcony, the boys shared 8577, which is a Promenade room, and were directly across the hall from us, and our daughter had 8579, all to herself.
Our room was fine for the two of us. Plenty of storage space, no problem fitting all our clothes in the closet. There isn't a lot of drawer space, but plenty of shelves in the closet to store clothes. We had 4 suitcases and they fit fine under the bed. The bed was very comfortable and I slept really well every night. We had towel animals most nights and chocolate every night on our pillows. The bathroom is adequate, but the shower is tiny. I learned it was easier to shave my legs out of the shower then rinse in there.
The kids rooms were OK for them. With the beds apart I did find it a little tight to squeeze between the end of the bed and the desk/dresser combo, maybe 12" of room. For kids it was OK, but I'm not sure I would have been happy if it was my room. My daughter's beds were together so she had a little more room to move around in. The window overlooking the Promenade was nice, however I would have liked to be able to hear what was going on. Also, and I know this might be petty, the windows could use a cleaning, especially the outside of the windows.
Shore Excursions - Bermuda - Luckily Hurricane Bertha went through a week before we arrived, so we had no problems arriving at the Dockyard. We decided to go to Horseshoe Bay beach, and took a taxi rather than the bus. We were in a bus that held 15, and the driver charged $8 per person each way. We arrived around 10am, and the driver made arrangements to come back to pick us up at 1pm. The beach was beautiful, however it was a little windy so they weren't renting umbrellas, and I'm not one who likes to sit out in the sun too long. I was able to find a little bit of shade, off to the right as soon as you enter the beach. The surf was a bit rough and DH & the kids enjoyed jumping the waves and trying to ride them it. DH & I also walked to the other end of the beach to see the bigger boulders and watch the waves come in.
After the beach we went back to the ship, ate lunch, changed and did a little shopping. The kids got a few things at the clock tower mall, we were able to buy postcards & stamps and mail them right from the mall. We also went to the glass works shop, I saw the most beautiful vase, but at $500 I didn't get it.
St. Martin - This is the only stop we did an excursion thru the ship. We went on the Loterie Farm zip-line. This is the one excursion the kids were REALLY looking forward to. We were on the first tour, and it was HOT! The excursion is more obstacle course and rope bridges than zip line, and you will get a work out. We all had a great time, except you have to look out for falling mangos. My oldest son & daughter were both hit, luckily not directly on the head. My only suggestion, if you are taking this excursion with smaller kids, let the older people go first. Some of the obstacles are a real challenge and the smaller kids on our tour (under age 10) were really struggling. I'm glad we did this excursion, but next time I think I'd try and find something with more zip lines and less obstacles.
St. Thomas - We spend the day with Rumbaba charters. We took the tram to the taxi station, got in one of the open air cabs and waited. And waited. And waited. We waited to the point that I was getting nervous about the time. Finally we were off, about half way thru the ride I was beginning to wish we were in a real cab and not an open air one. The driver took the turns so sharp I thought I was going to fall out. The rides at Great Adventures have NOTHING on this driver in St. Thomas.
Our day with Rumbaba was wonderful. Captain Bobby was great, the sail was perfect, and the food delicious. We spent the day off the coast of St. John snorkeling & swimming. Just a perfect day. Each of the kids took a turn steering the boat on the way back. Couldn't have asked for a better day.
San Juan - This was a quick port stop (7am-2pm). The original game plan was to go to El Morro, then walk to San Cristobal, then walk around downtown before getting back on the ship. It was so hot that we walked around El Morro for ½ an hour, walked to the Coach outlet (I needed a new purse), then headed directly to the ship.
Activities - We did a bunch of family activities. We played the family scavenger hunt, and the family trivia hunt. BUT it was the family digital photo hunt that won us the GOLD MEDALS! DH & I are not athletic by any means, but we ran up 8 flights of stairs to be the first team to arrive!
Dining - We had main dining seating at table 556. When we first went to see where our table was I was disappointed. We were in the far back corner, away from everything. However, we had a table all to ourselves and DH wanted to keep is so we did. In the end it worked out great. We had WONDERFUL servers, Victor & Oktay. They were really enjoyable, very good to us, made sure the kids found something to eat every night. The head waiter stopped by every night to say hi and chat. We also saw him a lot in the Windjammer, and one morning let DH & I eat in Portofinos for breakfast.
DH & I also ate at Portofinos one night by ourselves. The food was delicious, and well worth the extra charge. The kids decided to eat in the main dining room that night, and half way thru dinner the head waiter came and found us to tell us the kids were doing fine by themselves and were being well taken care of.
We also ate at Johnny Rockets one night. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so many onion rings before, they were so good. The burgers & sandwiches were OK, but the shakes were DELICIOUS!
Children's Clubs - The kids did use some of the kids clubs, but mostly at night after dinner. There were a bunch of things to do, but some of the things they were looking forward to (Texas hold em) were canceled. They did make friends with other kids, so they were always with other kids. We rarely saw them after dinner.
Entertainment - The singers & dancers were OK, nothing to rave about. The comedian was OK as well. The ice skating was wonderful considering what they have to work with. The Love & Marriage show was a hoot, and Quest is not to be missed. DH played in the Texas Hold Em tournament and made it to the final table. Unfortunately he didn't win, so no free cruise for us.
Spa - DH & I had a hot stone couples massage. It was expensive ($400 including tip), but we were prepared for it and decided to splurge. The only negative thing is we wrote on the cards that we were not interested in any product information and one of the massage therapists kept on questioning us as to what we meant. I was telling her we weren't interested in hearing about any products and we weren't going to buy anything, and she repeatedly asked me what I meant. It was getting to the point that I was getting annoyed with her.
Disembarkation - We had no problems what so ever. We were given grey tags, which are second to get off after self-assist. It took almost 1.5 hours to get all the self-assist off. Had I known it was going to last that long, I wouldn’t have waited in Studio B. Our color was called at 9:10, we walked out of Studio B, down the stairs and off the ship to the waiting bus. By the time we got off the bus, found our luggage, cleared customs and walked to the truck it was 9:30. Yep, 20 minutes from start to finish. We were pulling out of the parking lot by 9:35 and home by 11:30.
In summary, this was a wonderful vacation. 9 nights is the perfect mix of sea days & port days for us, and being able to drive to the port was another huge plus. We will absolutely cruise again, and wouldn’t hesitate to cruise with RCCL.