We were visiting San Diego when we observed numerous ships docking. Those with Mexican Riviera destinations had nowhere to go. Next day I got on the internet and discovered huge bargains. I contacted my travel agent and we were booked. I immediately contacted friends in San Francisco and Seattle to arrange get togethers. We are in our early 60's and had previously sailed with HAL, Carnival and Princess. At times I will use such cruise lines as a comparison.
The embarkation was basically sit and wait. We sat on plastic chairs for about 1 hour since our 11:00a.m arrival. We spent the time talking to other passengers, everyone was friendly and excited. We boarded around noon and went to the Windjammer buffet since our cabins were not ready until 1:00p.m. on the dot. This ship is HUGE. It dwarfed all our prior ships. It's primary focus is deck 5 which is described as the "Promenade". It duplicates the main street of a small town with shops, complimentary light meal and pastry cafe, wine bar, and a small stage for entertainment. It is also a 7 deck atrium which encompasses almost the entire length of the ship. We were impressed. This was the place to go so you do not have to linger in your cabin.
Speaking of cabins, ours was in deck 2, ocean view. I prefer lower decks due to motion sickness. Seasickness was not a problem since the seas were calm and this huge ship can seem to override most choppy waves. I stopped taking bonine the third day. The cabin was 161 square feet, the same as Princess but smaller than Carnival or HAL. The configuration differed from Princess. Thus the Princess cabin had more closet space but less area to stand and walk in. In addition it had a small sofa. Both had small baths. However, the shower on this ship had a slidding shower enclosure which gives you more space and spares you from the dredded shower curtain assault.
Our first port was San Francisco and Fisherman's Wharf. It was cold and windy, verifying Mark Twain, who pronounced "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco!" We visited a free carnival machine museum and a WWII submarine then dined with friends at a local Italian restaurant. Don't miss Boudin's bakery. Their display showed a 6 foot baked bread alligator. They are famous for their soup in a sourdough bun.
Next stop was Victoria B.C. The temperature was 88 degrees. A record.We toured Craigdarrock Castle which is a huge mansion built by a coal baron. Then we went to the Butchart Gardens which are beautiful. My wife is a docent at Descanso Gardens in L.A. and she was impressed. The Empress Hotel looked more spectacular outside than inside.
Next stop was Seattle. Again record heat, 87 degrees. We met a friend at Pike's Place Market and had lunch at Turkish Delights which serves delicious and inexpensive Middle Eastern cuisine. At Pike's we observed the legendary fish catching. We then took the monorail to the Space Needle. Again another must. For a large city Seattle seems clean and efficient.
Back on board and now to the all important dining. We dined at the main dining room which is a three level set up with each level having it's own name and unique decor. RCCL has been criticized for mediocre food. I disagree. Although not up to HAL standards, the food was good to very good. The desserts were much better than Princess. The service was excellent. Each day our waiter would inform us of the next days activities, both port and dinning choices. Clearly outstanding. The Windjammer buffet was good. During the first days most passengers would line up at the first lines thus causing conjestion. Later on they realized that there were numerous other stations available thus easing the wait.
The shows on board were mostly good to average. The ice show was spectacular. Obviously a unique feature. There was nightly entertainment on the Promanade and the many, many, bars. I recommend Ellington's for the slow lane crowd since it offered easy listening sounds, just our speed.
The cabin attendants were efficient and did a fine job. Several minor criticisms. Instead of shampoo bottles the showers had a dispenser. This is tacky and Motel 6 ish. The elevators were erratic and at times would go up when it was announced they were going down. At times they would skip your deck while you waited. There were few enrichment lectures. However, the numerous trivia games were well attended.
Since school was mostly in session about 200 children were on board. The June 7th sailing was scheduled to have 600+ kids on board. This ship has an incredible amount of children thru teens programs. A must for families. For the older folk I would recommend sailing during the school year or bring the grandkids. All in all a great cruise.