We are a young european couple that has cruised before: this was our 3rd cruise. We were on the Explorer and the Volendam before, both in the Caribbean. Because we have travelled extensively in Europe, we knew what to expect from the ports of call (a cheerful southern-european chaos...).
Let's start to say that 95% of the passagengers on this cruise must have had a real bargain. We paid € 499 per person for an inside cabin, and there were some on our table that paid as little as $ 200 per person. Considering what they fed us and the quality of the entertainment, Royal Caribbean could not have made a lot, if any, money on this cruise.
The ship was basically repositioning from Venice to Brazil, so there were a lot of crew changes. Many new crew members came on in Venice and Dubrovnik, they were not very experienced and you noticed on the first few days that they needed to get adjusted to each other and the ship. The first days a lot of them did not known where things were or brought the wrong wine to the table. Generally the service was fast and friendly and things vastly improved after a couple of days.
You notice everywhere that this is an American ship. Although it sails in Europe, it has nothing to do with Europe at all. You can only pay in dollars on board, which is ridiculous as all ports of call (except Dubrovnik) are in the Euro-zone. Paying in dollar is not normal in Europe, American passengers complaining about that were frowned upon by fellow passengers and shopkeepers everywhere. Make sure you have the local currency! Living in Germany, we expect a certain amount of courtesy and politeness. Although no more than 25% of the passangers were American and no more than probably 5% of the staff, the customs and behaviour of the staff were American. If a European waitress would say "Hey you guys" to her customers she would probably be sacked. We were walking in one port of call when our diner waiter on his free day spotted us on the other side of the street and yelled our first names out loud. Very inappropriate!
As others have already commented, the drink prices on the ship are fairly high, especially alcoholic drinks. We do understand that Royal Caribbean has to make money one way or another, and it also helps to keep binge drinking under control. We did not see any drunk people. Water, lemonade, ice-tea, tea and coffee are available free of charge all day, so nobody has to die of thirst. All the countries visited have a tradition of good wines, so you could easily enjoy them on your days ashore at a very low price. As any cruise line, Royal Caribbean does not allow you to bring your own booze on board.
The quality of the live music in the bars was good, although after a few nights we noticed that they repeated the same songs every night. Music that was advertised as "ballroom music" was nice, but often unsuitable for ballroom dancing. The terrible anti-slip marble flooring in all these locations does not provide good dancing without dislocating a few knees or ankles. The shows were really good, especially those put on by their own singers and dancers.
The cabin was perhaps not new, but everything was very clean and in good working order. I actually thought that the bathroom was bigger than I remembered. We selected our cabin ourselves directly on the RCCL website and made sure that we were in a quiet location. On a previous cruise we were directly under the kitchens, which caused a lot of noise 22 hours a day. Other people on our cruise were directly under the casino and heared people walking all night.
The most wonderful thing about this cruise was the My Time Dining. You can make reservations or just turn up at the time you want. You get to sit with an everchanging set of people on a large table every night, or you can even request a table for 2. We loved the large tables for 8 or 10 people and within a few days, we knew so many people! Sometimes we felt like eating at 6 o'clock, other nights at 8.45, and it was never a problem...
The only thing that disappointed us greatly were the outrageous costs of shuttle transfers. Beware that you often do not need the coach offered by the ship, and certainly not for that price!!!! The ship is either near the centre of town, or can be reached with a cheap taxi which for 2 is cheaper than the coach. We do all our sightseeing on foot or with the local bus or train. $ 28 per person (€20) for a bus to Lisbon airport is highway robbery, a taxi cost us only €13 from our hotel downtown to the airport, from the port it cannot be more than €15 or €20. Taxis in Dubrovnik were €7,70, which is about the same as two people taking the RCCL coach for $5 each. In Malaga, we took a taxi from the station for only €8 which is 2x the distance than the drop-off point of the coach that charges $5 per person. RCCL takes avantage of the insecurity and lack of local knowledge of some passengers!