DH and I planned this cruise with another couple to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversaries. After booking I relentlessly checked the CC reviews and worried about our food, the shape of the ship, etc. Worries were unfounded. We had a great time.
Boarding - flew into Newark arriving at 7:10AM. We got to the cruise terminal at 9:30AM and were among first there. Seemed like the latest time you could get there and still beat the rush was maybe 10:30AM. The pier is unattractive, like other people have said, but who cares? You're about to get on a beautiful ship. Check-in process was simple. We were shuttling to the ship (from the check-in area) at 11:30AM. People have mentioned getting into their cabins early, but we did not try. The cabin areas have doors that are closed and say that you can get into your cabin at 1:30PM. It seems rude to rush the staff just to set your carry on down 1/2 hour earlier.
Cabin - The cabin was very nice and super efficient as far as storage. Bed covers were clean and the bed was very comfortable. So nice to have the sitting area. I guess a few scratches on the furniture, but really, who cares? Bathroom was clean and efficient as well. Love all the medicine cabinet areas in the bathroom and room. No wasted space! We were on deck six and had a molded, metal balcony. That was kind of a bummer. And it seemed like the staff were always hosing the balcony down so it was often wet. It was nice to go out and check the weather, take photos of the statue of liberty and stuff, but I'm not sure I would pay a balcony again.
Food - The food in the dining room was very good. At times it was excellent and at other times adequate, never bad. The menu had three or four standard selections that you could choose any night (pasta, chicken and beef dishes.) There were about five new selections each night. I always found something that was delicous. Our waiter, Randy, and his assistant, Anthony, were wonderful. They would always offer us a different appetizer or main dish if they thought we weren't pleased with what we orderd. The parmesan crusted turkey was especially delicious IMO. Like other people have said in their reviews, we did tire a bit of Windjammer. And it was only a 5-day cruise. The food was very good, but the same and the atmosphere felt redundant. They had a lot of offerings though so I don't know what they could do to change it. We never had time to try the dining room for lunch. I wish we had eaten there the first day at sea. We tried it for breakfast and it felt like a waste of our time. Service was slow...not in a bad way, in a fine dining way. We just didn't want to take that time. Johnny Rockets was worth the cover charge. The onion rings and milkshake hit the spot! There was a typical restaurant wait. The place is small, but people seem to get in and out quickly.
Entertainment - It's been said on here many times, but ice show is fabulous! When it started I still couldn't believe it would live up to the reviews, but it did. You can't believe what they can do on that little bit of ice. Love and Marriage game was hilarious, the Quest was fun to watch. We missed one comedian, but the other was very funny. The shows were good. DH and I went to screening room on deck two to watch a movie. It was kind of hard to find as we were aft and the screening room is forward. You have to cross the ship on a different deck because you can't get fore from aft on deck two...if that makes sense. Anyway, the room seats about two dozen. The movie that we saw was cleaned up from any swearing and sex talk, in case you're planning to bring kids. I actually enjoyed that myself! We also watched the belly flop contest, men's sexy leg contest, and went to the cooking demo. All were fun and entertaining.
On Deck - The first day at sea was nice weather. It's windy on deck, but it was warm and we laid in the sun. But the day after we left Bermuda it was cold. We tried to lay out, but it was only 63 degrees and windy, so it just wasn't pleasant. Make sure you have your fun in the sun on the way down and when you're in Bermuda! Our ship was full and it was a little bit difficult to find deck chairs together, but we managed just fine. Be prepared to be asked MANY times if you want a drink. I was sick of the phrase "the more booze, the better the cruise!" I'm not much of a drinker though, so I suppose if you were looking for a drink all the time you would be happy with their attentiveness.
Bermuda - Was so gorgeous! It was quite windy when we were there, but warm and mostly sunny. Temperatures were in the 80s. We had intended to go parasailing, but ran out of time and I don't know that they were even going up because of the wind. We went to Hamilton the first day. Hamilton was actually pretty dull once you got past the waterfront stores. The buildings are so pretty with their pastel colors. But if you're not going to shop or take a carriage ride there's not that much to do IMO. Horseshoe Bay Beach is gorgeous, a wonderful photo opportunity. We also climbed to the top of Gibb's lighthouse. You can see the whole Island from up there. Again, nice chance for photos. Years ago I was in Bermuda and did Hartley's underwater sea adventure. That is available through Royal Carribean as a shore excursion and it is priced fairly. It was a great adventure. This trip we did not do any organized excursions. We didn't see all there was to see at the dockyard either. The craft market was kind of lame - I hate to say. Shopping was okay in the Clocktower Mall. We found better prices on t-shirts and other souveneirs in Hamilton. Prices on candy and bottled water and pop were the best at the information booth, surprisingly. DH and I bought bottled water to drink on the cruise home. Snorkel Beach looked like a fun place to hang out. It's within walking distance of the ship, so a good choice on departure day. We saw a couple of scooter accidents. They were minor with no injuries. But a couple from our table fell off their scooter TWICE and he ended up being treated for abrasions by the ship's doctor. My husband wanted to rent one and I said no way would I get on the back of that thing! If you're going around the Island on both days then your best bet is to purchase a two day multi-zone transportation pass at the information booth. It includes all buses and ferries.
Oh, let me back up and say that Day Two was formal night and lobster tails were on the menu for the last night. Other than formal night you would find people in all variations of dress. We did see a guy get turned away from the dining room for wearing a tank top at breakfast. I didn't notice if anyone got away with jeans at dinner, but you saw lots of smart casual....men in golf shirts, ladies in slacks and capri pants. But there were also ladies in dresses every night for dinner as well.
Debarkation - I honestly can't understand anyone's complaining about the embarkation or debarkation process. I think the whole thing runs like a pretty well oiled machine. We were in the last group to leave. We were able to stay in our cabins until 9:30 if we pleased. At 9:45 we were to be in Studio B, the ice rink area. The whole process ran in a very timely manner, they were even a bit ahead of schedule. We got off the ship, found our bags and went through customs all in about 10 minutes. We were at the airport at about 10:30 if I'm recalling correctly.
Overall - Great time! I would get back on that ship again tomorrow and do it all again.