Our first cruise. We booked 3 months ago and were really looking forward to the trip to Mexico! Imagine our surprise (and initial disappointment) when swine flu changed our itinerary to San Francisco, Seattle, and Victoria. We already had airfare paid for, childcare arranged, and my work was covered (also very difficult to do, and moreso to undo). So whether we were up for the cruise or not, we had no choice. We were going!
The transfer from LAX to the port went just as expected. We stayed in a hotel the night before (flew in Sat evening) and shuttled back to the airport and had no problem finding the RC shuttle people. They were very friendly and helpful.
Saturday night, we stayed at the travel lodge. Unfortunately, the shuttle took us to the wrong travel lodge. There are two, and one has its own shuttle, and one doesn't. It was very confusing. We finally found a taxi to get us to the right hotel.
Embarkation. Oh. My. Goodness. It was an awful mess. We hadn't eaten - and didn't expect it to be a 2 - 3 hour embarking process. Next time, we know to eat. Embarking itself wasn't bad, but the lines were long and slow. Our travel agent had put us in an upgrade line for the cabin - we knew there'd be alot of people canceling, and were hoping for a little cabin upgrade. The agent walked us to the line for that, which was actually the incorrect line. Finally, they walked us to the correct line. We were told that it'd be between 100 and 1000 dollars to upgrade. We got our names on a list, and then proceeded to wait. Forever. And ever. And finally the lady came out, and instead of having the courtesy to walk to the group of folks waiting on her (maybe 75 - 100 of us), she allowed herself to be stopped by an irate group of about 6 or 8 folks and she didn't budge. We finally gave up and just got on the ship. I couldn't imagine the embarking process going any worse than it did. We ended up in our original stateroom that we booked. The sad thing is, I would've even been willing to pay for the upgrade, but the Los Angeles RC crew didn't give us the time of day to do so. I'll definitely try to avoid cruising out of LA in the future. At this point, we were regretting booking the cruise. It was a terrible start to our week, and even though some of the ground staff were very friendly and helpful, ultimately, it really tried our patience and if you would've asked me then if I would ever sail RC again, I wouldn't have let you finish the sentence before saying "Absolutely not."
Now, on to the positives, because everything else was positive!
Public Rooms. No lack of em! Our favorite was Ellingtons on the 15th floor. I devoured many oreo milkshakes there. We enjoyed the promenade alot too. The theatre was very nice. We didn't try out the smaller movie theatre. The ice-skating rink/Studio B was great too. All of the public areas were great and the service was great too.
Our Cabin (6109) was nice, but our stateroom attendant was superior. He took awesome care of us. We took afternoon naps several times. We never woke up because of anything we heard except on the first two nights, where the swells were very high. We heard the waves crashing on the front of the boat a few times and that was loud enough to rouse us.
Fitness and Rec. We didn't do anything but play putt putt. We decided to just be lazy this week. We did have a spa treatment, which was nice, but pricey. Same for the hair salon. The people working those stations were very friendly and helpful, but most services were above what we were willing to pay.
Rates - well, we could've spent more money, and could've spent less. Some things were reasonable and some things were quite high. The fountain drink package was a saver, even though it was expensive in its own right. If we wouldn't have purchased that for both of us, we would've racked up quite a bill in cokes. It ran about 40 or 50 per person. We didn't have alcohol, so I can't comment on those rates. The pictures were nice, and at 20 bucks, weren't too bad. We ended up with 2 really nice 8 x 11 portraits as keepsakes. And don't buy the RC wear on the first few days. On the last few days, they have a big sale, and some awesome stuff is 50 percent off. I made some great purchases right there in the promenade for some really nice clothing.
Dining. I expected to not be overwhelmed here because of the reviews. Maybe it is because I am a first time cruiser, but I thought this was a highlight of our trip. The dining was fantastic, bar none. We ate in Windjammer for the first 2 days (we ate there on day 1, liked it, and returned for day 2). Finally on day 3 we went to our assigned dining time (Rhapsody dining room, 8:30 dining time) and we went there from then on out. It was so nice. The food was wonderful. Alex, our waiter from India, and his assistant, were by far the best waiters I have ever had in my entire life (no kidding, they were that awesome!). They both had our names down the 2nd night and we didn't have to ask for anything. He spoiled us. My entire table (9 of us) wanted to take him home with us. We might have been abit worried about sitting with strangers, but this ended up as a highlight of our trip too. We made great friends and we are so glad we didn't get a table for 2 (and thus, not meet anyone). On the first night, we also ate at Portofino for the Murder Mystery Dinner and the food there was fantastic too! But the main dining room was the food highlight of our trip.
Entertainment. There was a constant variety of things to do at all times. We didn't do nearly everything, but we experienced quite a bit. So much to do. Some of the highlights for us personally - The Quest (big scavenger hunt, I never laughed so loud in my life), the Love and Marriage game show, the comedians and jugglers, and the ice skating spectacular. All of these were just excellent. The cruise director, Ken, and his staff made these things even better. I only wish I could've seen more. The first two nights were rougher on us as far as bedtimes go, but we were able to actually watch the shows we missed on the television in the stateroom, so that was pretty cool too.
Service. I saw some lower reviews in service, but I didn't see this at all. As I already mentioned, those who took care of us did so in a wonderful fashion, and the entire crew seemed friendly and always said hello and did their best to make our time a pleasant time.
Excursions. We ended up only going on one, the whale watching trip with Orca Spirit in Victoria. Highly recommend, with weather as quite a variable.
Our disembarkation and transfer back to LAX went much better than day 1. It was smooth and we made it to LAX in more than enough time.