There cannot be any more easy port than Fort Lauderdale in which to pick up a ship after flying in. The airport is easy to navigate, pick up your bags, and get cheap, quick transportation to the pier. The trip takes 10 minutes. We paid $22 flat for 2 people and 3 bags and traveled in a Lincoln Town Car. After drop off, it took only 20 minutes to check in with Royal Caribbean and get on the ship. Based on observation alone, it appears that all of the people who guide you and check you in are senior citizens. They are cheerful, neatly dressed, knowledgeable and helpful. We got on 2 hours early and had lunch in the Windjammer and found friends who were cruising with us. Bags came within an hour.
The ship was in excellent condition. Staff is constantly cleaning inside and outside. There are some appearances of wear but this is a working ship and thousands of people use it almost every day of the year.
Room was very clean with enough room (154 sq. ft.). We had an ocean view room. Having natural sunlight coming in was very pleasant, but if you want to put $100 to another use, get an inside stateroom. One thing was missing in the room and we did not complain: the coffee table. It gave us more room to move around. We will ask to have it taken out on future cruises. There was more than enough room to store our things.
The room attendant, Lissette, was from Nicaragua and provided excellent service. She was pleasant and responsive and in the first meeting we all confirmed the schedule for room cleaning, delivery of ice, personal laundry, etc.
Royal Caribbean puts several cans and bottles of soft drinks and water on the desk along with some small snacks. If you use these, you pay for them. At first this may seem expensive but we passed on the room drinks and bought a soda pass for $6 a day. Unless you have children, forget the soda pass and pay the $1.75 or so per room can.
There was only one thing negative about the stateroom. For 2 days, the toilets flushed intermittently. You would hit the flush button and nothing would happen and then several minutes later it would flush by itself. We were told that children had flushed foreign objects and they were jamming the system. There was swift action by ship's engineers. Not a big inconvenience as there were always other public toilets available.
We didn't take much advantage of the formal shows this cruise. The musicians on the pool deck, in The Centrum, and in the various lounges and bars provided adequate entertainment except for the piano player in the Schooner Bar. Our group tried to pay him not to play but he did anyway.
The activities on the pool deck were fun but it seemed that whenever anything organized was held it took away one of the large pools for one or two hours during the afternoon forcing swimmers and soakers to cram into the remaining pools and hot tubs. Royal Caribbean also has not got control of young children monopolizing the hot tubs without parents attending or using the adults-only Solarium pool.
Slots are there to make the cruise line a big profit. Gaming tables offer much more entertainment and opportunity to win. Dealers and croupiers were professional, well-trained and generally pleasant. There were bill-breaking machines as well as ATM's.
We didn't sign up for any ahead of time and were glad for it. In both ports (Grand Cayman and Cozumel) it rained buckets. We limited our ashore time to shopping. Tendering was quick in Georgetown, Grand Cayman. The walk from the ship to the town in Cozumel was long but do-able. Check local holidays before you go. We landed in the Caymans and it was the Queen's birthday and all the banks and liquor stores (except duty-free) were closed. If the ship is at anchor and you buy from a duty-free liquor store that delivers to the ship, you must buy 1 hour prior to the last tender leaving for the ship.
Food and Drink:
The food was outstanding. Great improvement was made in the Windjammer since we cruised last, a year and a half ago. The quality and selection in the buffet would tempt you to eat all your meals there. We always ate breakfast there. The coffee served on board is some of the best we've ever tasted. You pay extra for espresso and cappuccino. The meal choices were excellent. I found that the best dinner choice was the braised lamb shank. The only complaint heard at our table was that the penne pasta may have been too "al dente". The wait staff was very professional and even the headwaiter for our area actually did some work and was not a real jerk. The senior officer in charge of all food service was seen in all dining venues and at all special buffets personally checking for quality.
Drinks were well-made and of proper strength. Remember, a 15% tip is added to every bar bill. RCI does not allow alcohol to be brought on board and retained by passengers; even the bottles bought on board. They give it all back to you the night before you leave so you can work it into your luggage. Make sure you leave room because the TSA storm troopers will confiscate it if in your carry-on.
Customer Service Desk:
Needs some work. Polite staffers but generally you get little satisfaction.
You had the choice of taking your own bags ashore and leaving early, having your bags taken and delivered direct to the airlines (but not to all airlines, e.g., Southwest), or having your bags delivered to the terminal and you pick them up from the thousands of bags in there. We chose the latter and were able to leave the ship, get our bags and pass through Customs in 25 minutes.