OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: My first cruise was on Royal Caribbean back in the dark ages when ships only held about 1000 passengers and the cruise staff and entertainment staff were the same people. I loved Royal Caribbean then, and they still deliver a great product today even with 3000+ guests. This was our 12th cruise, and we've been on all the major mass market cruise lines - NCL, Princess, Holland America, Carnival, Disney...
EMBARKATION: Cape Liberty will never be the most attractive homeport – I doubt it will ever make the top ten. But…the absolute pleasure I felt in knowing that at no time did I have to board an airplane and sort out my liquids and gels and make sure my bags were less than 50 lbs. – that was priceless. I’m really hooked on sailing out of the New York City area.
Once we arrived at the port, it was about 90 minutes to get through all the lines (luggage drop off, parking, security, check-in, photos, shuttle) and be in our stateroom.
STATEROOM: We had a D1 – Balcony room. We were in room #1672, which is pretty far aft. Balconies are partially enclosed on this ship, and it actually worked out quite well on windy and rainy days as we could sit on our balcony and enjoy the ride without being exposed to the rougher elements.
Storage space is surprisingly good in the room. There were ample shelves and drawers for the four of us, and we had more hangers and space in the closet than we needed. There are lots of hidden compartments for smaller items, but I finally bought one of those over the door shoe holders at Target ($7.99) and that thing worked wonderfully for items like hairbrushes, sunglasses, and sunscreen – far better than using the hidden compartments as everyone could see what was hanging on the back of the door and easily found what they were looking for. Beds were high enough off the floor to store large suitcases underneath.
Bedding left a bit to be desired. The main bed was firm and the sheets were a pretty high thread count. We had lots of pillows – eight not counting all the throw pillows. The ‘bed’ for the third/fourth guests was the couch, which folded out so that the back of the couch became one side of the bed, and the seat of the couch became the other side. It was basically a sheet of plywood with a three-inch foam pad on top of it. After three calls attempting to get more padding for the couch, someone showed up with a blanket. We were able to use the comforter from the main bed, the blanket, and extra pillows to make the couch tolerable for one person, and we squeezed three of us on the main bed (luckily one was a child). The next morning we found our steward, and he brought us a foam ‘egg crate’ to add to the pile. It made the couch tolerable, but not comfortable for anyone weighing more than 100 pounds.
CASUAL DINING There is a separate area in the Windjammer called Jade that serves excellent Asian selections. Among our favorite items was honey stung chicken (only offered on embarkation day), Thai soups, and stir fry. There is also an area that offers several types of pizza and pasta – a big hit with my Italian food loving family.
In general we felt the food quality in the buffet area was good. Servers will bring drinks to you at your table (including the free water, lemonade, and iced tea) or you can server yourself. Bar service is also available.
MAIN DINING ROOM Overall rating = excellent
I requested main seating (6PM), a large table, near a window. We were assigned main seating, a small table, and in the distance we could see windows.
We were assigned a lousy table location, right next to the bus stand. There is one advantage to this location - your waiters are constantly checking on you because they trip over your table every time they move. Our water and tea glasses were always kept full. Our Waiter was excellent and performed several ‘magic’ tricks to keep my eleven year old entertained.
Dining room food quality was excellent. With one fussy kid, one fussy adult, one adventurous adult who can’t eat anything too chewy because of a jaw injury, and one adult who eats only vegetarian and seafood entrees, we were a challenging group. But every night we were able to find something appealing on the menu, and most dishes were excellent.
The first night onboard I asked our waiter what night the key lime pie was served, as on my earlier cruises this was Royal Caribbean’s signature dish. He told us that key lime pie was only served on the longer itinerary. A few minutes later he brought the head waiter over, and I told him how much I loved Royal Caribbean’s key lime pie. Later that week, a key lime pie was delivered to our table - the whole pie, just for us!
ENTERTAINMENT: The singers and dancers were very talented. However, the production shows lacked something – they seemed to drag on and on. The second production show (Invitation to Dance) was full of unfamiliar tunes and was meant to showcase the ballroom dancers. Perhaps someone who likes ballroom dancing would enjoy it, but I would have enjoyed it more with a couple of familiar tunes and at about ½ the length.
The ice show was phenomenal - we actually went twice to it we enjoyed it so much.
CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING My 11 year old daughter was happy with the children’s program. My two complaints: 1) You have to walk through the video game room to get to the kid’s club and check your kids in/out. Very annoying. 2) In six months when my 11 year old has her next birthday, she’ll move up to the teen club for ages 12 – 17. That is way too wide an age range, I would not be comfortable having my very mature appearing 12 year old daughter in with 14 – 17 year olds.
This was really a great cruise - I would love to do the same cruise again next year!