Our cruise started with a BA flight from Newcastle at 6.15 a.m. which connected with the BA flight to Newark at 10.30 a.m. from the same terminal 5 at Heath Row. Terminal 5 had a great deal of bad press when it first opened but now it has all come together. No problems at all. We were met at Newark by RCI which was a great bonus as we did not expect this service. They took us to the Renaissance Hotel which exceeded our expectations - it was great.
Next morning RCI transported us to Cape Liberty. As we are Diamond+ Members of the Crown & Anchor Society we were immediately checked in & proceeded to board. The terminal was however, a shock to the system being freezing cold but we believe it will be improved in time. Having cruised many times with RCI we know "the ropes" & went straight up to Deck 11, the Windjammer, for lunch. What a super choice there was, no-one needs to starve!!! We then investigated our cabin which was really beautiful and we did not have to wait too long for the luggage to appear. Our Steward Edwin, was extremely attentive to our every need - the cabin was kept so very clean. Thank you Edwin. We sailed at 4.00 p.m. after the mandatory Drill. We opted for 2nd seating at 8.30 p.m. Meeting your dining companions on the first night is always strange - 8 on our table, 6 from the New York area. We all bonded very quickly and in fact ate with them every night bar one. The food was not always to our liking - rather bland sometimes - but our Waiters did their utmost to ensure we did not go hungry. They really did a very good job and were always rushing about serving. The ship is the largest we have every sailed on - superb Promenade with wonderful bars & coffee shop etc., quite spectacular. The first 2 days we were at sea - the weather was cold so perhaps we made a big mistake sailing out of Cape Liberty at this time of year. However, on our arrival in San Juan this changed - we wandered around the town enjoying the warmth after the snow in Newark. We left San Juan at 11.30 p.m.
Next day was St. Thomas. There were 4 large ships in that day although the town was not crowded as we had found in previous years - must be the credit crunch! Having been there many times previously, we just enjoyed wandering around and looking in the shops.
Next day, St. Maarten (our favorite). This is an island paradise. Had coffee and a drink and enjoyed the sun and soaked in the atmosphere which is always a happy one. The improvements to the pavements and promenade are truly magnificent. Next port Dominica - just stayed on the ship and had the pool and deck virtually to ourselves. That night we went to the Ice Spectacular - what a fabulous show, 2 of the skaters were Russian - the whole cast was excellent - we would have paid a fortune to see such a show in London and of course, it is all free. Couldn't wait for the next Ice Show.
Next day, Barbados but being a Sunday everything was closed which was very disappointing. We have previously filled our time visiting the Orchid Farm etc. Antigua came next - another favorite. Took a taxi to Nelson's Dockyard - this should not be missed we have been 3 times and never tire - there is always something new to see. We were supposed to visit Tortola in the British Virgin Islands but were informed a few weeks before the cruise, that this was being withdrawn from the itinerary - we, like many of those on board, felt RCI could have replaced this port with another but this was not to be so instead, we had 3 days cruising back up to Cape Liberty. There was quite a lot of bad feeling about this - perhaps RCI are "cost cutting". However, apart from one or two minor details, we had a wonderful cruise.
Back to Cape Liberty on the Friday at 8.00 a.m. The disembarking was as usual, fast and very well organized. We were transported to The Sheraton Hotel at Newark and given a lovely day room until we left on the Shuttle (which was free) to go to the Airport for our BA flight at 6.50 p.m. to Heath Row. A big thank you to RCI, all the staff and especially to our American Dining Table companions and all the friends we made in the Concierge Lounge not forgetting of course, Ricardo and his capable assistant. They all contributed to the quality of the experience.