We stayed at the Radisson Cape Canaveral for two nights pre-cruise, arriving at 6 PM on Friday evening. We did online check-in the day before, so upon arriving at the front desk, our keys were ready and our paper work was already completed. The staff was very welcoming and friendly. We opted for a suite and this was a wise choice. Lots of extra room, a refrigerator, jacuzzi tub and separate shower. The room dEcor was a bit dated, the but it was exceptionally clean. The Radisson has several restaurants close by. We ate at Kelsey's Pizza (next door) and Thai Thai (across the street). Both were excellent. Saturday morning we did a kayaking trip with Lazy Days in Cocoa Beach. The 2.5 hour excursion had us paddling around the Thousand Island's maze of mosquito canals, but seeing manatees up close was the highlight of the trip. Saturday evening, we took the Radisson shuttle out to Fishlips at the port to watch the Saturday cruise ships depart. We enjoyed the rare treat of seeing both Disney ships in port, as the Magic was cruising that day and the Wonder was just returning from dry dock.
Since the earlier Radisson shuttles (free) were booked, the desk arranged for private shuttle to take us to the port at 10:45 am. This shuttle wasn't really private (there were 7 other passengers), but it was only $4 per person. We arrived at the port around 11:30 am and breezed through check-in, only to have to wait about 45 minutes to board after delays due to computer problems. We were in the Windjammer eating lunch at 12:30 PM. Cabins were not available until 2 PM.
We usually book an inside, but splurged on a balcony this trip. Our cabin location, in the center of the "hump", was excellent. We were right around the corner from the elevators, but experienced no elevator noise and very little noise from the hallway. I was very surprised at how quiet it was!
We met our cabin steward Carlton from Jamaica fairly soon after arriving at our cabin. However, he was not the only person who serviced our room...it seems they are using teams now. Our room was kept clean, but we really didn't have much personal interaction with our steward as on past cruises.
It was great not to have to lug our life vests to the muster station, however the muster drill was by far the longest we've ever had to endure, clocking in at a full 35 minutes. After the muster, we headed up to wave goodbye to land and all the folks at the restaurants along the port.
For the first time ever, we decided to attend the "Welcome Aboard" show time. Unfortunately, most of the hour was taken up by the cruise director Richard Spacey going on about the ship...it was sort of like an infomercial. He's a very funny guy and a very good cruise director, but it really was a bit much. The aerial ballet and comedian only got about 15 minutes each.
Day 2 - At sea. We missed our first port, Coco Cay. With winds of over 25 mph, it simply would have been unsafe to tender. It was so windy, it would not have been a good beach day, anyway. The announcement that we would not be able to tender was made around 8:15, so we just went back to sleep for a few hours. Because of the unexpected sea day, the crew had to scramble to put together some activities for the day. A new Cruise Compass was issued around 10 am. We attended a pasta making demo then went up to watch the folks on the flow rider. It was very windy on deck and I was surprised at the number of people out sunbathing when I had a sweater on! Lunch in the dining room at Noon took a full hour and ½ . Fortunately, we were seated with several nice folks who were easy to talk to, including one couple who lived about 3 miles from us. Imagine running into neighbors on a ship with over 4,000 passengers from all over the world? After lunch, I went to a very crowded line dance class. After a nap, we went down to the Windjammer for snacks and I went a little overboard with the nacho bar. I have to say, I really enjoyed the nacho bar! After a soak in the hot tub, we got ready for dinner. The show that night was Drew Thomas, an illusionist that had been on America's Got Talent. He was very good and it was really part production show as the RCL dancers and singers were involved. One of the best shows I've seen on a cruise ship.
Day 3 - At sea. slept till 8:30 and had breakfast in the dining room. The service was very slow and not friendly at all. The menu items were also limited. I attempted the rock climbing wall (it's much higher than the one on the Mariner!) with little success, but my husband almost made it to the top. We then sat by the pool for a while and watched the ice carving demo. We enjoyed our balcony for a while then went to the Windjammer for lunch. Big mistake. Even at 2 PM., we had to walk around for 5 minutes to find a table. Nap time after lunch. We went to 5 PM. ice show tonight. It was much less impressive than the ice show on the on the Mariner. Freedom-ice.com (really weak name) had far less elaborate costumes and sets. Later that evening we attended the Crown & Anchor party where I'm happy to report that the free drinks were in ample supply. However, the horderves were hard to come by. Seriously, I saw at least 7 people passing out drinks and one guy walking around with a try of snacks! And when the horderves finally did come around, some folks acted as if they hadn't eaten in weeks. We were amused watching some people grab 4 or 5 pieces off this one little tray. And I do mean grab...they were too impatient to wait for the server to serve them with tongs.
Day 4 - St. Thomas. Since we missed Coco Cay, we were able to arrive in St. Thomas at 8 AM rather than 11 AM. Our excursion was set for 11:15, so this meant a leisurely morning for us. Once again, we bravely ventured to the Windjammer for breakfast...just unbelievably crowded. We did the Caribbean sail to Christmas/Turtle Cove and Honeymoon Beach excursion, booked through Royal Caribbean. After a longish (5 minutes) walk to the end of the cruise ship dock, we boarded our sailing vessel, the pirate schooner "Bones". The boat held 49 people and there were 47 of us. Plenty of bench seating for all and it didn't feel over crowded, except when we were all in the water snorkeling. After about an hour sail, we arrived at Turtle Cove and snorkeled for about an hour. We saw several sea turtles, a ray and lots of fish around the reef. Not the best snorkeling ever, but certainly very nice. The weather was amazing...lots of sun and very calm, clear water. After snorkeling, we boarded the pirate ship again for about a 1 ½ hour sail to Honeymoon Beach. Beer and painkiller rum drinks were served. We arrived at Honeymoon Beach at 3 PM. You could either swim to the beach or they had a little motorized raft to carry you to the beach. Most chose to swim. They would carry your "stuff" over to the beach on the raft. Lunch was served and by this time we were all VERY hungry. Grilled chicken, ribs, salad, macaroni salad and plantains were served buffet style on the beach and it was all very tasty. After lunch we had about an hour and ½ to swim and relax on this idyllic beach. We sailed back to the Freedom, passing Charlotte Amailie. Drinks were very free flowing at this point, but no one got too crazy and it stayed relatively family friendly. The crew on this excursion was exceptional...they really made sure everyone was having a good time. They also did a very good job helping a gentleman with mobility issues. A very good day...highly recommend this one.
Day 5 - St. Martin. We arrived at 8 AM but we didn't get out until around 9:15. We requested room service for breakfast with delivery between 7:30 - 8, and they delivered at 8. We made our way to the taxi stand and were herded into a van with about 8 others and headed for Orient Beach. We were dropped off in the middle of the strand. The driver said go to the right for nudity, or to the left if you didn't want see a lot. We decided to be daring and head to the right!. Truth be told, you had to go all the way down the beach to Club Orient to see any nudity at all. We camped out at Le Strand because a fellow Cruise Critic caught us as we were wandering aimlessly, actually looking for the Pirate, which apparently is no longer operating. At Le String, we paid $16 for 2 chairs, an umbrella and 2 free drinks. We walked walked up and down the beach and ended up at Pedro's for lunch. Orient Beach is beautiful! Crystal clear water and white sand. Certainly one of the nicest beaches we've visited.
Day 6 and 7 - at Sea. We were seriously lazy for these two days. Slept in, read out on the balcony, napped, and oh yes, we ate quite a bit. We ate at Portofino for the second formal night (day 6) so hubby wouldn't have to wear a suit. The service at Portofino was excellent, as was the food. The shrimp risotto and flour-less chocolate cake were spectacular. We stayed out until 12:30 PM (late for us) on Day 6, taking in the Quest game show (crazy!) and 80's dance night.
Disembarkation - All good things must come to an end, but this time it was pretty painless. We did self-disembarkation, which was announced at 6 AM. We were off the ship by 6:15 AM. Really. It was so easy. We were allowed to take our bags down the escalators and we breezed through customs. I saw quite a few people waiting for the elevator, so maybe if you had larger bags they wouldn't let you on the escalators? We took a cab back to the Radisson and were on the road home by 6:40 AM.
-We generally enjoyed the food options both in the main dining room and the Windjammer. Not everything was great, but there certainly wasn't anything I felt the need to complain about. It's not 5 star cuisine, but it's much better than I usually eat! Breakfast in the dining room was a bit weak...not enough options. Some highlights in the main dining room for dinner were Shrimp Ravioli, Grilled Sea Bass, Spinach Artichoke dip, several of the soups. The Banana Cream Pie was my favorite dessert! We had traditional dinner, second seating. While the service was not bad on this ship, we did feel that the service was not as friendly as on past Royal Caribbean cruises.
-To my surprise, I really enjoyed the 4 sea days. With only two ports of call, this cruise was all about relaxation. I generally prefer lots of ports but was thankful on this cruise to have lots of time to just rest and enjoy looking at the ocean.
-We did have to call maintenance twice. Our safe wasn't working when we arrived, and our toilet didn't work for a very short time on Sunday night. The staff was very responsive, and both problems were corrected very quickly.
-While we have loved every cruise, we have a slight preference for Royal. Although there is evidence of some cost-cutting (no more chocolates on the pillows!), Royal Caribbean continues to deliver an excellent product and we thoroughly enjoyed this cruise.