This was our first time cruise, given to us as a 35th Wedding Anniversary gift from our daughter and son-in-law. It was a great experience, blessed with great weather. We left our south east Nassau County house at 10:10 AM and had no problems driving along the Belt Parkway. The Verrazano Bridge traffic was stop and go, but we managed to get to the Port Terminal Blvd entrance by 11:30 AM. Once on Port Terminal Blvd. it was stop and go (mostly stop) to make the last two miles. We saw a lot of traffic heading out, so the arriving cruise must have still be debarking as late as noon.
We got to the luggage drop off area around 12:15 PM, and found a rather chaotic scene. My wife had to hunt down a porter which took about 5 minutes. Once the porter took the luggage, my wife oversaw the tagging of our luggage, while I parked the car. Leaving the luggage drop off area, you have to make a left turn beyond the building, then another left turn between two buildings and drive up to the Central Parking booth. We paid $95 for the five night cruise.
One of my concerns was whether there would be adequate parking at the terminal, but that turned out to be an unfounded fear. There was plenty of parking available, and I was able to get a spot close to the luggage drop off area. It took me about 3 minutes to walk from the parking lot back to the luggage drop off to meet my wife.
We then entered the terminal and went through security, which moved quickly. The lines inside the terminal were fairly long, but there were about 30 Customer Service personnel, so it only took about 10 minutes to get to Customer Service. We gave them our SetSail Pass, Passport and Credit Card and it took just a few minutes to get our Sea Pass. We then had our pictures taken and boarded a bus to the ship. It's about a quarter mile from the terminal to the ship, so the bus ride was about 90 seconds. With Sea Pass in hand, we got on the ship right away.
We were immediately advised that our Staterooms would be ready in 20 minutes, so we spent some time exploring the ship and made our way to the Windjammer Cafe on the 11th Deck. The Windjammer has buffet style food and while the choices were ample, the quality of the food was what you expect from a buffet (fair and edible). We then made our way to the stateroom to drop off our carryon luggage. The stateroom was exactly as depicted online. The room was clean and we enjoyed the balcony view.
We made our way to the Main Pool Deck on 11 and were surprised to see the ship actually leaving at 4:50 PM (we had a 5 PM Sail Time). It was surprisingly fast for the ship to get from the dock in Bayonne to the Verrazano Bridge. The pool band was pumped up and the crowd was in a raucus party mood as we headed under the center span of the Verrazano Bridge. I've now read the ship is 210 feet tall out of the water and the Verrazano Bridge is 228 feet, so there is about 18 feet clearance, but it appears even closer.
As first time cruisers we didn't know what to expect in the way of motion sickness, but because the weather was good and the ship was so big, it was never an issue. There was very minimal rocking, which we could feel from the Royal Promenade in the middle of the ship.
We ate most of our meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) in the Main Dining Room and found the food to be good to excellent. While the initial portions were on the small side, we learned you could order second helpings, or choose two desserts, etc. For those watching their weight, if you stick to the initial portions provided you wouldn't be overeating.
We ate one night at Portofino's Specialty Restaurant and had one of the best meals ever. It was well worth the extra $20 Per Person and $37 bottle of wine.
We took in most of the shows and thought the Ice Skating show was particularly good. The other shows had competent comedians, singers and dancers. We spent time in the pool and solarium and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.
Bermuda itself was a bit of a disappointment. We bought the all day bus/ferry pass on the ship ($12 per person) and that was a great value. We took the ferry on the first day from the Dockyard to St. George, back to the Dockyard, and onto Hamilton. St. George is a pretty town, but it's small with not much to do. After spending 90 minutes there we had seen everything there was to see. Hamilton had a lot of expensive shops on Front Street, but not much else. We trekked to the outskirts of Hamilton and climbed a fairly steep hill to take in Fort Hamilton. It afforded an excellent view of the harbor and Hamilton, and gave some sense of history, but otherwise, nothing much more. We didn't got to the famed beaches (Horseshoe or Elbow Beach) as we live near some great beaches and didn't think the beach would be that unique.
Our second day we took the glass bottom boat ride which we had arranged through the Royal Carribean website. It was a pleasant trip with good weather and a captain who was proud to tell us all about Bermuda. The actual viewing of the glass bottom boat wasn't all that informative, looking at fish, coral reef and portions of a sunken ship. If we could do it again, we'd probably take a different tour.
Throughout the trip we found the service to be exceptionnally good. When our dining room table was changed, we received a confirmation; when we made reservations, we received a confirmation; when we chose the Early Departure, we received a confirmation. The interactive TV in our Stateroom provided us with our bill on all items charged on the Sea Pass card. Any questions we had were handled skillfully by Guest Relations.
While the embarkation process was a bit chaotic, the debarkation was exceptionnally good with the Early Departure option. We were scheduled for the 7:30-7:45 time and we actually got off the ship around 7:35 AM. The two minute bus ride to Customs at the terminal was no waiting. It took us about 20 seconds to get through Customs and about five minutes more to wheel our luggage to the parking lot. We were in the car by 7:45 AM and back in our house by 9 AM. We had two large suitcases on wheels, a garment bag and two carryons, so it was a bit more than we should have been carrying. I'd suggest anyone who knows how to pack efficently and is capable of carrying their own luggage avail yourselves fo the Early Departure option.
All in all we loved the ship, the service, the food and we were blessed with good weather. We want to cruise again, and maybe we'll aim for the 9 night cruise on our next trip.