As background, I had taken this same cruise last year with my son(13 yrs), pregnant daughter(24yrs) and son-in-law(25yrs). This year, bowing to my son's begging for the flow rider and the rock climbing wall, we took the same ship again. We did the same ports because that itinerary was cheaper and since we had been to the alternate ports on other cruises, it didn't matter that much. When we decided to go, my daughter and her husband decided to also go again and take the baby, thinking the baby's fare would be discounted. However, we were told that the baby who would be 9 months old had to pay a full third person price. Since we thought it was ridiculous to pay full price for someone who wouldn't partake of the meals, enjoy the shows etc, my daughter decided not to go. Eventually, she realized she needed rest and wouldn't get much with the baby along anyway so she decided to leave him with the paternal grandma and go, but by then her husband could not take vacation time on such short notice, so it was my son, husband, his mother and I who went.
EMBARKATION: We are locals, so just took a taxi from home(parking for the week would have been $140, as opposed for about $20 for the taxi). There were lines, but since my husband's mother needed a wheelchair due to age, we zipped right by. The ship's attendant can't afford to wait because they go right back to pick up the next passenger waiting for a chair(we waited about 20-25 minutes for ours). These are elderly people who can walk, but cannot handle the distance from the port to the cabin. I felt uncomfortable cutting in front of people waiting to have security take their pictures, but we had to follow the attendant, and like I said the attendants cannot really wait. Anyway, he dropped her off in her cabin and we went to ours.
WINDJAMMER: This year it was crazy. Last year we did not feel the number of people. I am not talking about the first day which is crazy. I am talking throughout the cruise. Many times we circled the room three times before finding a table. Attendants would ask you to stand in a corner and wait until they found you a table which they would basically pounce on to save for you. Once you sat down and you wanted seconds, someone had to wait until the rest of the party got back with their food before you could get your own so that you would not lose the table. There were constant announcements asking people to leave as soon as they finished eating, even though I did not see anyone hogging the tables. The good: The attendants were great. They would clear a table and get it ready for the next party literally in seconds and there was no shortage of attendants. People were not rude. There was no shoving, no nastiness, but the amount of people walking around holding full plates of food was ridiculous.
MUSTER: I was dreading this necessary procedure because of the heat. Like an answer to a prayer, an announcement was made that we did not have to put on our lifevests. This made the drill bearable since we did not have to carry the preservers, let alone put them on. Also it was over fairly quick. This is the first muster drill I attend that lifevests are not required.
SHOWS: Do not miss the ice skating show. Amazing. The other shows were good too.
SERVICE(stewart) I had a junior suite which really didn't come with any perks. The cabin steward was ok. Kept the room clean, introduced himself upon arrival, then didn't really see him and when we'd pass in the hall, we'd all just say hello, no real interaction. The suite had a small tray with tea bags, two mugs and a pot to heat water. Note to crew: Please look in pot when preparing room. When we went to use the pot, there was a used tea bag(not ours)laying inside. Yuck. Aside from that, room very clean. (restaurant) Very good. This ship does not have a sommelier like Celebrity. We did not ask the waiter anything about the wines, since we knew what we wanted, but I wonder what kind of training they receive for those who have questions. Anyway, our wine glasses were promptly filled by our waiter or his assistant and they were both nice and gave good service. The head waiter, Habib was the best. In most other cruises, head waiters will come around briefly once a meal. Not Habib, he would come around many times, chat with you and he was pretty funny. If the assistant was busy, he himself would get you bread, water. Whatever needed to be done to make sure you were happy. (Diamond Lounge) This was my first cruise as a Diamond. Yes! We went to the Diamond lounge for cocktails every night where the two best bartenders in the whole entire world worked, Darwin and Juan Carlos. They would not only mix the best drinks, they gave you excellent service. I could give many examples of their excellence, but suffice it to say these guys could work at any 5* hotel in the world or any luxury ship. RCCL is lucky to have them. The hostess was very nice also and made you feel welcome. Actually, you felt like you had known these people for years instead of less than one week.
CABIN: We had a junior suite aft. Loved it. The balcony was set up in a way that gave you great privacy. As a matter of fact, one of the sides of the balcony had an actual wall as opposed to the plastic panel(which was on the other side). We had a wide water view. There was like a catwalk or beam that curved way out and I guess could be called an obstruction, but it did not bother us because the view had such a wide arc. Yes, you did feel some motion and vibrations, but again, we were not bothered. I like a little motion to remind myself I am at sea and the vibration was sporadic. Actually, it made the bed purr and you got a nice little massage. Not a problem for us.
FOOD: Restaurant food was consistently good. Buffet some good, some not so good. There was an Indian food station in the Windjammer with pretty good Indian food. Sorrentos, the 5th deck pizza place had really good antipasto with the good olives, not the cheapos.
CHOPS: Very good. We had the best mud pie for dessert. So creamy, rich, chocolaty. I'm still thinking about it. I'm still tasting it. The chef introduces himself to you after your meal and we were given complimentary glasses of champagne. On land this meal would cost you maybe three times as much, if not more. Go.
OVERALL: Crew bends over backwards to be nice. Excellent attitudes. Age of passengers mostly young. You could tell the kids and teens had a blast. Kids well behaved. Only problem was the ship had 4300 passengers and we felt it.
DISEMBARKATION: Last year it was horrible, but maybe because we waited too long before trying to leave. This year we got an early start and it was very quick. Can't wait for the next one!!!!