Let me start by saying a big thank you to Royal Caribbean for allowing my wife and I to change our cruise date to July 5th 2009 from May 10th. Swine flu caused the May 10th sailing to be re-routed to Oregon, Washington, and Canada. I'm sure these are beautiful locations but that's not my idea of a vacation. I was not forced to pay the cancellation and rebooking fees. I only had to pay the difference in the cost of the cruising dates which equaled $300. I got $150 back in onboard credit because I chose a balcony room. The ship returned to it's normal Mexican Riviera route at the end of June so July brought good hot weather and three beautiful locations.
Embarkation: Day one can usually tell you how your vacation is going to go. Sooooo.... Embarkation in San Pedro wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. My ride pulled up to the curb right outside the registration building. The courteous porters took our bags and we entered the building to register. We showed all of our papers, passports, and pre-printed sail passes. We only had a couple short forms to fill out (swine flu form and some other one). We got out Sea Pass cards and were onboard in less than 10 minutes. I was surprised at how well this was organized. Keep in mind that this ship holds over 3000 people. We arrived just as the crowd was picking up so I guess we were lucky enough to beat the rush. I didn't hear anybody complaining about their embarking so I'm rating this perfect. I immediately went to the Guest Relations once onboard so I could start my Sea Pass account. I always use "cash" accounts so I can limit my onboard spending. The last time I used my credit card I went way overboard on the spending. The people at the desk were pretty friendly and helpful. They also mentioned that I would be able to use my $150 starting the next day. I was expecting them to be a little more grouchy (like people at customer service in stores) but they were extremely nice. My wife and I went to the Windjammer Cafe (the buffet) to eat since the rooms weren't ready yet. The food was pretty good. But I've had better buffet food with Carnival CL. Side note: breakfast was great every day in the Windjammer. Food for lunch sometimes was a little undercooked. We only ate dinner there once and it was okay. Nothing to get excited about though. Speaking of food...
Food: Again, the breakfast in the Windjammer cafe was great. This buffet and Jade are connected and really just feel like one big buffet. I'm a hamburger or hotdog guy when it comes to lunch. The problem was that they always seemed to be undercooked. Not good when I'm hungry. The pastries weren't too bad. My wife and I only tried one specialty restaurant. That was Johnny Rockets. Cost $4.95 and $2.50 more for sodas. Excellent burgers and fries were served. My wife enjoyed the onion rings. I didn't like that we had to pay extra for the sodas here but at least they were large sodas. I got up and danced with the waiters as they danced for us. Not bad. We wanted to try Portifino's or Chop's grill but we could not find the time because of all the things we did on this ship. We will next time. The dinners in the main dining room (Rhapsody in Blue level) were okay. Most nights the dinners were great but there was a couple nights I had the waiter return my food for something else. Sorry, I'm picky (especially after I've paid a lot for something). Our waiter Remy was awesome. His assitant waiter was very nice as well. They occasionally worked in the WindJammer as well and they always greeted us and remembered who we were. That's a feat in itself with so many people on this ship. I liked how they always recommended several meals and told us what to expect for the next day. Deserts were excellent but my wife ate mine most nights.
Ship Appearance: Overall this ship is huge. I know you've probably heard this multiple times but really, you have to see it up close to realize how gigantic it is. When you're inside, it doesn't feel too large though because of the way it is layed out. Everthing is well organized and easy to remember how to get to. Maps are located all over the ship so you won't get lost unless you can't read a map. The promenade is beautiful. It's about as long as a city block with stores on either side and lots of decorations. Expect to see a couple parades here and to participate in several celebrations here. The pool deck is just beautiful. There are so many jacuzzis that you never feel crowded. The pools are large enough to accomodate a lot of people as well. The adults only area felt more crowded than the public areas so we stayed in the public pools. The movie theater was kind of small but comfy. There isn't a movie in there that you won't see in your own stateroom anyhow so I didn't really see what the point of it was. The showroom theater aka the Savoy theater was fairly big. There were only a few bad seats in the house (mainly ones with poles in front of them). Great acoustics as well. The sports deck was awesome. Inline skating, rock climbing, basketball, golf, ping pong, and a few other sports were offered. I got plenty of exercise here. Studio B (the ice skating rink) was nice looking. Fun music was played here as you got to ice skate around. The Lotus Lounge looked like the perfect karaoke bar. Very comfy as well. One more place I'd like to suggest you see is the gym. It is huge for a cruise ship. I'm sure there will be no waiting for machines because there are so many. There are a lot of other locations on this ship but I only wanted to mentioned the ones I visited. I liked the color schemes on the ship and the ship seemed to be in good upkeep. Suggestion: go all way to the front of the ship at night and sit down at least once at night. It's a beautiful view. Not many ships allow passengers to go all the way to the front.
Entertainment: The shows were great. My suggestions:
1) The ice show: You've probably already heard about how good it is but you have to see it to really understand just how good it is. It's emotional, magestic, and funny all in one. You feel like you're in the show.
2) Love and marriage: This is basically like the Newlywed game. But the three couples they picked for this show were the most popular people onboard once the show was over. The cruise director Ken (who was on loan from the Oasis of the Seas) is simply hilarious.
3) The Quest: Let me start by saying this show is NOT for children but it is the most hilarious competition for adults that you will ever see. I cannot tell you all about it because you have to see it for yourself but believe me... you'll be glad you went.
4) Tribute: We were fortunate enough to see a group called tribute sing Temptaion songs. They were spectacular.
5) All other shows in the Savoy: I mean the ones by the RC singers and dancers were okay. Almost like Vegas shows. Not bad at all.
Disembarking: This process is well organized. If you want to get off quickly, take your own bags. We had too many so this was not an option. But still, we had plenty of time to eat breakfast and then depart when they called our group down. Going though customs was a breeze. Finding our bags wasn't hard either. Always a plus.
Overall: This was a very fun ship to be on. Really, even if we never left the ship I would have enjoyed this cruise. This ship has so much to do that you would really have to be a boring person to not enjoy yourself. I mean that. Ken Rush, the cruise director, and his team made sure you were having plenty of fun throughout the day and the night were even more fun. As far as the ports went, I've never been to funner places in my life. Will I go again.... definitely. I'm already planning for next year but we're trying to decide between waiting for the Oasis of the Seas or just cruising on the Mariner again. You'll find out our choice soon enough. Enjoy folks!