For the first time we let Royal Caribbean (RC) take care of the entire cruise, land transportation, transfers, insurance, etc. I can't say that it was a bad decision, but as far as pre-cruise air travel was a bit expensive and was not direct routing. We had one-stop lay-overs both going and coming. But, because of air travel schedules RC was unable to get us into Newark, NJ and to the port at a reasonable time, therefore provided us with pre-sailing over-night hotel accomodations at the Newark AP Sheraton. As we had never been to Newark or New Jersey for that matter, it was a good benifit. We got to see some of the local area and was bused direct to the port from the hotel via RC transport.
The boarding process was a bit unsettled. I believe that RC is still working out the bugs in their boarding system, and of course, the TSA screening system is not really set up for a smooth movement for a cruise of this size. It just took too long, and it seemed to be very duplicative. Yes, there were the added Swine Flu medical alert going around and the passengers were not prepared for that delay. However, we got through and day one of the cruise had begun. An added highlight: At this port (Port Liberty, NJ), we were able to see the Russian Memorial Tribute to 9-11. I believe its called the 'Tear Drop'. Its a hugh stainless steel tear drop (30-40 feet high) set in a large tall memorial struture. It sits right at this port which has a direct, across the bay view of Ground Zero, and the Manhattan skyline. A nice extra that is often not mentioned in the RC brochures or other users of ports information.
We found the ship well prepared for our arrival and our stateroom was as ready as we were to sit down for a rest, before we took our initial walk- around. We had been on a previous RC ship of the class some years back, but quickly found where everything was and what it had to offer. This class of RC has the central promande which we really enjoy. It provide a means to walk through the ship, nearly from on end to the other without going outside, and at night time and on chilly days, that can be a benifit for seniors such as we. It also provides for a nice FREE coffee/tea and snack are thats open 24/7. As if anyone needed more food, but it is also a good place to arrange to meet friends and family if they get seperated or have gone off on their own for a while.
Our welcome did start off on a wrong foot by RC not providing us with our Crown and Anchor Club and Gold Member benifit package in our stateroom. This was corrected once we asked about the oversight - but it took them a whole day to amend.
When we initially booked the trip, the RC travel advisor did tell us that the early dining time had been filled, but we would be placed on a Gold Member waiting list for the desired time. When we received our last reservation package, we found that our early dining time was provided. We like the early time as it gives us time to walk through the ship to the theater and to see the great RC entertainment at a reasonable time. And, we don't like eating at 8PM at night.
We booked only one off-shore excursion,and that was at Bar Harbor, Maine. We wanted to have a nice comfortable tour through Arcadia Natl Park, as well as provided with a Lobster bake. Well, this turned out to be a great event. The provided tour bus transportation was very roomy and comfortable, and there were numerous scenic stops for photos. One event however was very nervy but showed that the NC tours and their contractors know their business as well as the Natl Park service and the city of Bar Harbor. Halfway up the hill to Mt Cadillac, one of the passengers had what we later found out to be, as stroke. Once the tour guide was alerted, the driver quickly found a safe pull off, she had already notified the Arcadia Ntl Park Medical team who responded in 6, yes 6 minutes. The EMTs were cardiac certified and took control, providing needed medical aide and made the individual comfortable. Within 7 more minutes, the Bar Harbor city fire EMT response team arrived to transport the now patient to the city hospital. We were later notified that the involved individual was transported by air to Portland Maine, and then on back to his home (New Jersey). The Natl Park service and Bar Harbor medical folks did an outstanding job, but it also reflects on RC in that is seems they have good QC with their oversight of these tour contractors. But,it also pays to think about travle insurance - I imagine the air transportation alone will be crazy.
Another similar event - which happened to me - nearing our last port of call, Boston, about a day out, I experienced a Kidney stone at 1:30AM. My wife quickly call the ship's emergency contact people for assistance. They (a four man team) were there in 6 minutes with wheel chair heading down to the on-board medical facility. There I was met by the Staff Nurse who took the usual triage actions, and quickly contact the duty Medical Officer. He was at my side within 3 minutes...and quickly diagnosed the kidney stone event. A saline IV and pain medications were provided, and within a half-hour I was beginning to settle down with very little discomfort. During this time, blood and other tests were taken and processed. The doctor told me that there appear to be no damage done and that he was releasing me back to my room but that I was to report back to the medical officer at 9AM the next morning. He also advised that they did not have CT scan capability on-board and that he desired contacting Tufts Medical Center in Boston to provide that test. We full agreed, and the next morning we were provided the necessary documentation along with directions on how to get to the center on our own. We took a taxi from the Boston port to the medical center which was not too far and was promptly tested. They could not find any image indicating the continuing existence of a stone. Thus Tufts MC released me back to the ship for continuation of the cruise. Yes, again, we want to thank the RC Medical staff and their professional medical assistance, and RC for having the means to coordinate medical needs to on-shore facilities. I am sure they have done this a lot, but when it is you - its appreciated more. Now, we will have to see just how the US Medicare and RC Cruise Care Insurance takes care of the financial end.
Yes, even with the medical events we experienced, we will travel Royal Caribbean Intl again, and again. The whole RC set up, from front to end (excluding their boarding process) was great. We had fun and it was well worth it all.