This is our 6th cruise on RCCL (all out of Bayonne) and our 11th cruise all together (the others being on Carnival, Celebrity and Norwegian). We booked this cruise through RCCL. I had called to get prices, and then called back after speaking to my husband. The man who answered refused to let me speak to the person I first spoke to and insisted on taking the reservation himself. He was quite rude and never asked us if we wanted insurance. I ended up calling back and speaking to someone else. This guy put us in a different cabin that the first lady had indicated, and when I asked him for the first cabin, he advised me that the one he was putting us in was all that was left. When I called back and spoke to someone else, I got switched back into the original cabin. It was quite difficult, and I spent MANY hours trying to redeem my RCCL credit card points. Finally got help from the Crown & Anchor Society. Its EXTREMELY difficult to get through to redeem the points - I can't tell you the number of hours and how many times I was re-directed to another person.
We arrived at the Bayonne around 11:00am - self parked and proceeded into the building. We had a carry on containing our 2 computers. We were stopped and searched at the x-ray machine, and then were called back so they could check out the scissors I had in my carry on for my needlework. We proceeded into the private departure lounge. Apparently the ship came in late which resulted in our not boarding till around 1:00.
We were in cabin 6320 and met our steward, Gerald as soon as we walked in. Gerald was great - a wonderful and personable guy! Somehow I managed to jam the safe and he took care of getting the "safe guy" to our room within 20 minutes. Then our closet door broke and he took care of that just as quick. Gerald was fantastic! Hubby also ended up forgetting his tux shirt and we had to rent one.
We dined at a table for two (#313) in the Magellan Dining Room - early seating. Our waiter was Serviton and Assistant Waiter was Savino. Hubby and I both noticed the head waiter Wises was very visible and kept the guys on their toes. He visited our table every day and was quick to jump right in and help out his staff. I am a "fussy" eater and Serviton was great in ensuring that I got my meals correctly. We saw the Assistant Waiter from our last cruise, Onar up in the Windjammer! Wish we had him again - maybe next cruise.
We also noticed the Captain Ryan out and about several times throughout the trip and that that was great. We enjoyed learning about him during his RCTV interview. He did a fantastic job about keeping us apprised of the different situations and also our location.
This voyage had tons of kids - some well behaved and some not. There was a bunch of young boys, all approximately 12 or so years old, apparently all traveling together since they all had on the same shirt with the same saying on the back. The pool was closed and the net across the top. They were sitting at the edge of the pool and daring each other to climb under the net and swim to the ladder and they were also trying to walk across the net. They apparently didn't understand that there is a reason there is a net over the pool. There were no pool nazis anywhere around, so my husband went to speak to the bar tender at the pool bar. This was an accident waiting to happen, and it would be RCCL that would be sued. After leaving the pool area, we went into the Windjammer and some of the kids' parents were in there (same shirts).
Our first stop was in Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas, USVI. Although this was our third visit to the island, we had never taken a tour, so we decided to take the Blackbeard's Castle tour. Finding our tour people on the pier was quite dysfunctional. Once the tour person appeared, we were herded to the bus area, where they couldn't decide what bus to put us on so we stood out there for a while waiting while the tour people argued amongst themselves. We made three stops on the tour so we could take pictures. The third stop was at Blackbeard's Castle (which perhaps could be called Blackbeard's Smokestack). The tour description is a bit misleading. There is about an hour driving tour (which was nice) and then about an hour and a half walking tour. The description states you should be able to negotiate some stairs - not walk an hour and a half. When you arrive a Blackbeard's "Castle" - we were a little disappointed that it was a mere smokestack with a spiral staircase and a viewing platform located in the middle of a resort like hotel complex. After you were given the opportunity to visit the gift shop or snack bar, you proceeded with a tour guide on the walking portion of the tour. Our tour guide was David, and he was quite informative about the island's history. We enjoyed listening to him. After than you proceeded to walk towards the town stopping at some beautiful homes and then a rum factory and gift shop. After the tour, we headed down to our favorite jewelry store, Imperial Jewelers. I had emailed them that we would be visiting and they had some beautiful pieces picked out for me by the time we arrived. We were under the impression that the shops stayed open when the ships were in port, but they closed up shop at 5:00.
Our second stop was in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We have also visited here several times and did not take a tour. Instead, we waited a bit to get off the ship. We got off around 8:30 and walked into Old San Juan to discover that the shops don't open until 10, so we went to visit the local Starbucks. As we walked out of one shop, a man approached us asking if we spoke English. He related a vivid story about how he and his father were "roughed up" by the police department, and so forth and he was looking for help getting cash for bail. He went on and on and as I said, quite vivid. We gave him $2 to get rid of him (since there wasn't too many people around to help if the situation got out of control) and looked for a police officer - but by the time we found one, the guy was long gone. AFter doing a little shopping, we went to Senor Frogs and we enjoyed our visit there. We are cruising here again in 2009 and will make it our only stop. We got back on the ship around 1 and they were already in full swing with their pool party. AFter dinner we made reservations for our 2010 cruise. Went to the casino - we are not gamblers - and I was able to win my $20 back plus $0.25 - well, I didn't lose!
Our third stop was to be Labadee, Haiti. We were supposed to be in there by 8:30am. We were sitting outside the harbor for what seemed forever. Capt. Ryan kept everyone well advised as to the status - we waited for over an hour attempting to get clearance to head in, but apparently there was a labor dispute on the island and we ended up with a day at sea. The staff did a great job putting a day together at the last minute. We heard later on that there were some passengers coordinating an "uprising" of their own to protest not pulling into Labadee. It's beyond me why people do not understand that RCCL is considering the safety of not only its passengers but its ship and crew. Even when you miss a port in a hurricane, there are some who complain. Hey, I'd rather be safe then get caught somewhere and the officers and crew are professionals and do this all the time - and perhaps my life might depend on their judgment. We are not privy to the conversations that took place between the island, RCCL office and the ship, so it is not fair to jump to judgment and blame the ship personnel.
There were many unsupervised kids on board. Our stateroom was outside the elevators on the 6th floor and we expected some noise. There were kids running up and down screaming and banging into the walls. After starting out with an upside down day, the poor staff had to deal with draining and cleaning one of the pools after someone threw up in it early in our (Labadee) sea day. Some of the kids didn't make it easy on them - after telling them to get out of the pool, they just kept on jumping in. We met another couple during the Crown & Anchor event and they were likewise complaining about these same kids.
Apparently there was a gentleman who needed blood and it was flown out by the US Coast Guard (I checked on the USCG website). Hurray for them! They even "buzzed" the ship in order to give the passengers the opportunity to wave to them and see their helicopter. Great PR since many people probably don't have the chance to see something like that.
The food was ok. We dinner each night except one in the main dining room. I like my food quite plain, so I had plain steak or filet each time while hubby enjoyed sampling the various other dishes. We had breakfast at the Windjammer every morning. Although the food didn't vary much, it was enjoyable just the same. We ate at Johnny Rockets twice. The burgers were a little skimpier than last year, but we had plenty to eat.
The tux shirt wasn't delivered on time and we had to call the desk - apparently the tux rental guy transposed numbers on the room. We did manage to get the shirt and off to dinner we went.
We were disappointed in the gift shop items. We last cruised RCCL in November of last year. There was a much better selection of everything - from the jewelry shop to the logo items. It almost looked like they were closing up shop.
This cruise was one that you needed to just go with the flow. Yes, there were hiccups but the staff went out of their way to make it right by the passengers. This certainly does not change our preference to cruise with RCCL, and we have 3 more booked cruises to prove it.
We elected to have the express debarkation which went great. When we got to the parking lot, we were advised by the attendant there that we were overcharged $16 since they thought it was a 9 night but it was an 8 night. My receipt was buried in my luggage and there was no way to drive back to the guy easily from the lot other than going entirely around the complex, so I'm going to write to them to get my refund. I did email RCCL to let them know, but I haven't received a response yet.
We did go to the ice show - which was the same one we saw last year - it was great nonetheless. We went to the show the second night and although it was nice, we chose not to go to another one. We don't play bingo or anything else.
Although I may get "slammed" for this - I wish parents would monitor their kids while on the ship a little better. Other people have also paid good money for their vacation as well. Some of the things we watched the kids do, such as throw things on the floor, cut lines, knock into older folks with no "excuse me" and just plain inconsideration of others, would probably not be tolerated at home.