We're from the Houston area, so we love it when we get a good deal on 1 of the cruises out of Galveston. It's so easy to just drive, park & cruise. We were thrilled to get a deal this past Spring Break, and the kids counted down the days until it was time to go.
This was our first time on RC, and we were not disappointed at all! We loved our balcony cabin in the very back of the ship, facing backward. What a view, and the balcony was larger than other balconies, with more chairs, so it was a great time hanging out there, especially when arriving in or leaving ports.
This cruise visited 3 ports: Cozumel, Grand Cayman, and Montego Bay. We've been to these ports before, and we've been disappointed many times by the ship-booked excursions, so we decided to go it on our own at each stop.
In Cozumel, we took a cab to Chen Rio beach, which was approximate. 25 min. away. I had read about this beach for years and couldn't visit there last time we were in Cozumel, because it had recently been hit by Hurricane Wilma. This time we made it & had a blast. We were the 1st people to arrive there, just hubby, me & our 2 sons. We had the place to ourselves for approximate. 3 hours, and it was gorgeous. The water is crystal clear & calm. There's a restaurant there that opened at around lunch time, so if you get there earlier like we did, bring your own water/snacks. But there were plenty of tables and umbrellas, and the fresh fish lunch was delicious. Before the restaurant opened, the maintenance man was kind enough to cut down & open a few coconuts for us, which was really nice. We tipped him a few bucks for each. When took the cab back to the port, we were having so much fun shopping, drinking margaritas & swimming in the water next to the pier, that we almost found out (the hard way) what happens to passengers who don't make it back to the ship in time!! We made the mistake of not reading the daily newsletter onboard & took the cab driver's word that we were due back local time, not ship time. Wrong! We waited for the line to die down & then casually made our way to the pier, noticing people screaming at us from balconies to RUN! One of the officers ran to us and said "show your cards quickly. get on - let's go!" and literally pulled the gangway up behind us! Oooops. That could have been tragic. No change of clothes, no passports, yipes. Well, needless to say, we learned a lesson and had people laughing at/with us about it the rest of the trip.
In Grand Cayman we decided to take a van ($5 per person I think) to 7 mile beach. We went with the group consensus & went to the Marriott beach, which was very crowded. The chairs & umbrellas were $10 each, so we passed. We were glad to have t-shirts & my sarong to sit on. The drinks were a bit pricey at the restaurant, but the water more than makes up for anything you may encounter in Cayman. The kids had a blast riding one of those giant water tricycles for about 1/2 an hour & we snorkeled and saw some sting rays. It was a super fun day, but we kind of wished we had been more daring & stopped at one of the other beach hotels along that stretch, instead of the 1 the van drivers seemed to be pushing. The last time we were in Cayman we booked a tour through Moby Dick tours of Stingray City & that was a complete blast! We kind of wished we had done that again, but the beach was beautiful.
In Montego Bay we took a van to Doctors Cave beach. We'd been there before & knew it was beautiful & affordable. The umbrellas & chairs were much cheaper than Cayman, and the wait staff from the Groovy Grouper kept us stocked in beers. The kids had more fun snorkeling. It was a great day. The last time we were in Montego Bay, we went to Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville, which is a short walk down the street from Doctors Cave, but we decided against that this time, since it was spring break, and we didn't want the kids to see anything too crazy.
The ship was our favorite so far. It was easy to learn our way around & never felt crowded, unless you showed up early for dinner & stood w/ the rest of the crowd waiting for the doors to open. The rest of the time we felt we had plenty of room to roam & didn't feel cramped or herded like cattle.
We were able to change our dinner table the 1st day so that we had a table for 4, instead of 1 of the large ones. The staff was super-friendly, and the ship was clean & gorgeous.
Hubby & I loved hanging out at the Pig & Whistle pub, and the kids loved the ice cream place. We learned not to buy the gourmet coffee there, because there's free delicious coffee & donuts, muffins 10 feet away each morning. We never went to any of the "cover charge" restaurants, and we found it difficult to believe people were actually eating at Johnny Rockets each day. Why would you go on a cruise, where you can eat all you want whenever you want, and then go to a diner to pay a $5 per person cover charge & then pay for the food too?!
The pool area could get a little crowded, so get there early to get lounge chairs & no one messed with our stuff placed on chairs while we swam or went to grab food. The Solarium adult pool area was nice, and we took advantage of that area as much as we could, especially the bar, which never had a line.
The kids enjoyed the rock climbing wall & putt putt golf, but they said the roller blading wasn't worth it, because the track was so small. They ice skated a couple of times & said it was fun. They are 12 and 10, so they didn't want anything to do with the childrens' programs this time. We brought walkie talkies with us, and they were worth their weight in gold. We could call each other any time, so they were allowed a little bit of freedom, which they loved. Hint: when using walkie talkies on board, use code names for each person, because constantly hearing "Mom! Dad!" doesn't do anyone a bit of good, since everyone else has their walkie talkies going at the same time. It was funny hearing the Mexican cabbies when we arrived in Cozumel. Their radios must be on the same frequency.
The shows in the evening were great! Especially the ice skating show. Don't miss it! The entertainers really work their tails off.
The gym had plenty of equipment for working out. I would've liked to have had time to hang out there in the jacuzzi and steam room areas, but we were lucky just to get enough time to work out without the kids. So, maybe next time.
The buffet was 1 of the best we've had onboard a ship. It ended up being our choice for breakfast & lunch most days, because the sit-down restaurant breakfast wasn't as good as on other cruise lines. The dinners were yummy though, so we ate at the sit-down dinner restaurant each night, late seating, to allow plenty of time to return from excursions & shower/change. We loved being able to order as many entrees as we wanted, because there was always more than 1 thing we each wanted to try. The wait staff was so nice & accommodating.
The art auction was fun, but the champagne wasn't as free-flowing as on other cruise ships, so I didn't see that they were selling as much as they could have. I was able to "just say no" & only went home with the 1 piece I won in the "Guess the price of the Picasso" contest - WooHoo!
We had no problem bringing our own rum on board. We put clear rum in 1 liter plastic water bottles every time we cruise, and no one has ever said anything. So we saved a fortune on drinks.
The embarkation & debarkation process was amazingly organized. We got there very early to board, approximate. 11:00am, so were able to walk right up to the counter to check-in and then walk right on to the ship. For debarkation, we decided to do it ourselves & it couldn't have been easier. Once they made the announcement that self-debarkation was being allowed, we took the stairs (because everyone & their grandma was on the elevators) & walked right off! We waited in line for customs/immigration for approximate. 10 minutes & voila! We were in our car driving home!
What a fantastic trip! We would sail on Royal Caribbean again any time. It was wonderful!