This is an impartial review from someone who absolutely loves Royal Caribbean.
The cruise consisted of my parents, brother & sister, fiancé, and my parent's friend's family. It was my third cruise & my fiancé's second. We have only been on the Explorer. There is a reason for that. We absolutely love this boat.
We set off on a Thursday morning & drive the three hours to Bayonne. I wouldn't trust MapQuest too much. I took the GPS but took a hard right when I should have just gone a soft right. Thankfully there are many signs posted so we were able to get to the port right around 11am. Upon arriving, there were many cars waiting but there were people directing, so we were able to pull up, unload, tip a porter to take our bags and go into the holding cell that is the Port of Bayonne. When we got in there, we quickly went through security and got our Sea Passes. I asked for an upgrade but the ship was full so were denied. We sat in the main area for about 30 minutes, ate cookies and lemonade, and then were whisked away on busses to the ship. Once we got on the ship, we quickly went up to the Windjammer to eat lunch. I like lunch up there because you can get whatever you want. I usually had pizza, hamburger, and fries. After that, we checked out our room. We were on deck 8 aft. We were normally on forward but it didn't matter, seemed the same to me. I liked it there because it was close to the online area. After we did our room thing, we had the muster drill. It was outside but uneventful. It is just bad going back to your room because everyone is trying to squeeze through the doors and down the stairs. It's bad but short. After the muster, we went up top, had a drink & watched us take off. We had first seating dinner so we couldn't see under the bridge and didn't have time to wait. We left port late due to another cruise ship leaving before us. After dinner, which was great, we went to the welcome aboard show. Do not miss the shows because you always learn something new & they are most enjoyable. After the show, it was off to try our luck at the casino. I learned how to play roulette, lost, and then we went to bed since we were beat from the trip in the morning.
Day 2: Sea Day Our first day was very nice. We woke up for breakfast and then went up top. Word to the wise, if you have a large group of people, send a few people out early to save seats. Everyone gets upset but what are you going to do. After lounging for awhile, we went to lunch at the dining room. Sometimes it's nice to go there for lunch since they server you & the lunch is usually better. After lunch it was more lounging & swimming in the Solarium. We like that place because it's quieter. In the evening we had dinner, went to the show, and then went out to the Chamber. Most of it is the younger crowd but some older people were there. One other thing we liked to do was go to karaoke at night. We never did it but it was fun to watch people.
Day 3: Bermuda This was our second time at Bermuda. We did the same thing as last time. We took a cab down to Horseshoe Bay. It cost around $30 US each way which is way cheaper than taking an excursion. You could also take the bus but it has a huge line. Horseshoe Bay is gorgeous. They have a little shack with drinks & snow cones. There is a huge rock that you can swim out to and jump off of. You can also take your own snorkeling gear with you and swim out for snorkeling. The water was kind of cloudy due to the hurricane just coming through (thankfully we missed it). When you're about to go back to the boat, make sure you are dry or the cabbies get upset about all the sand & wetness. When we got back we walked around the town a bit & bought postcards. There are a few shops but nothing majorly exciting. When we were done, we had dinner & did the normal nightly things like the show, karaoke, and the club.
Day 4: Sea Day This day was much like Day 2. Lounging, lunch, dinner, show, and clubbing.
Day 5: St. Maarten My fiancé, mother, sister, myself, and friends went to Orient Bay this day. It was the beach rendezvous which includes lunch & a drink. There is another one with all you can drink rum punch but we wanted the lunch. Orient Bay has lots to do, including jet skiing, parasailing, and a nudist beach. We did not partake in any of these. The bay is cool, warm water and white beaches. Careful though, there are naked people walking around. My dad & brother went scuba diving & got to swim with sharks which I was jealous of. Afterwards, came back & did the normal nightly things.
Day 6: St. Thomas My dad, brother, and I went scuba diving this day which was awesome. It is much better than diving in a quarry. That took 4 hours so my fiancé went to the spa and had a very nice time. Afterwards, we went shopping. We got our wedding rings down there and saved a lot of money. We also got Movado watches again. This is the place to shop in my opinion because there are so many shops. Liquor is priced well down here as well. We came back to the ship for dinner & sailed off. I think that night was the love & marriage game show which is not to be missed.
Day 7: San Juan Last time we were here we took a cab to the Bacardi Rum Factory which was really cool. It's a free tour & you get 2 free drinks. We didn't do that this year, instead deciding to just walk around & shop. We went to Coach & Polo outlets. Careful though, the shops don't open till like 10am which was weird. Coach always has insane sales. After walking around and spending money, we decided to go back to the ship and hang out. We watched other ships come in and then left San Juan for the trip back to Jersey.
Day 8: Sea Day This day we decided to go to Johnny Rockets. Wait in line before they even open or its almost impossible to get a table. The food there is great and don't forget to try the milkshakes. If you're a crown & anchor member there is a coupon for free admission, otherwise its around $3 I think. Then it was a normal day of just lounging.
Day 9: Sea Day Same as the other sea days. We tried Johnny Rockets this day. Word to the wise: get there before they open. Otherwise there is always a long wait. We were there 20 minutes before they opened & we barely got a table because of the 2 different entrances. The food is good & the milkshakes are better. We used our Crown & Anchor coupons for free cover (otherwise its $3 I think) and paid for our milkshakes.
Day 10: Leaving Leaving is never fun for anyone. We went to Studio B & waited to be called. We left our luggage out the night before because good luck trying to get down the elevators with all of your suitcases like everyone else. We probably got out around 9:30. The busses that go back to the main building are insane when trying to get one. Oh and good luck finding your luggage unless you wrapped some kind of crazy ribbon on them. We then just dragged out stuff to the car and got the heck out of there with tears in our eyes knowing the trip was over.
Miscellaneous Fun things to do at night are the casino & nightclub. The Chamber has loud music which everyone can dance to. I learned how to play roulette at the casino which was fun but a bad thing as I wasn't very lucky. Do not miss the shows as most are really good. We had another Beatles tribute band which was cool.
The food was just as good as before. We are not picky eaters so we are never disappointed. The Royal Promenade café always had snacks and coffee available. I am addicted to soda so of course I purchased that. We also bought a lot more alcohol on board than last year. Prices are lower than a New York City club but higher than a redneck bar. I would say in the middle which is what we pay where I am from.
No complaints about the ports except I wish San Juan's shops opened sooner.
All in all it was another great cruise. I recommend RC to anyone who asks. We saw a Carnival ship dock beside us at San Juan & St Thomas & the ship just didn't look very clean. We are booked on another cruise in November 2009 on the same ship but different itinerary and could not be more excited. I would like to try Adventure or Independence of the Seas someday but we don't want to try and fly to a port just yet but maybe someday.