My family wasn't in the "Christmas Spirit"... My dh passed away 6 months ago due to Swine Flu, so we needed something to get us through the Christmas day...I can't imagine this Christmas without having this cruise...
I "woke up" in November and decided we HAD to do something to make it through Christmas --so, I booked this cruise for me, my 21 yo, 17, 15, & 11yo... I didn't do any research... I only looked for close to home port and a cruise that would be gone over the 25th.
I spent a little time searching these forums and received TONS of encouragement & help!!! Could not have done it w/o you. I really didn't start doing ANYTHING until the morning b4 the cruise... I got my birth certificate the day b4 we left, and with all your suggestions, I shopped AND made it ONTO the ship -- I was scared there for a while.
I went in blindly, and for the first 2 days, I probably would have told you I would not come back, BUT I soon fell into the "routine" of cruising.
CHECK-IN- Was slow b/c of a coast guard inspection. It took almost 3 hours from the time I dropped off my luggage to arriving on board!
The SHIP - It was so clean....they were always wiping the handrails, the elevator keys down. THey were fanatical about using Hand Santizers (glad they did b/c my dh's experience).
DETAILS -- You can get caught up in just the "SHIP" -- WOW, but if you look around, it's really pretty. I don't know that I'd take pictures of it all, but if you just stop and look at how pretty they make things -- the ceilings, the niches, the color schemes, Cleopatra's Needle, La Scala Theatre, even the hot tubs in the solarium -- there are nice touches all around.
SPA - I swore that I would not go near there, I mean $195.00 for a massage? When you can get one at home for $60.00, but after 5 nights of lying on a rock-hard mattress, I let them talk me into acupuncture. Actually, it REALLY helped. I didn't do the massage -- but the acupuncturist was really nice, and I'd probably do it again.
GYM- Okay, I walked into the gym and sat in the steam room. I was surprised at how many people were working out! Was also surprised that they charged extra for Pilates and Yoga classes. I can understand charging for the Personal trainer, but shouldn't the classes be PART of the experience??? just wondering
POOL - I can't talk about the pool. It was really cold and windy, and even rainy...so I didn't come back with a sun glow.
DECK 14 - SPORTS My kids loved the mini golf. Didn't do the inline skating. They had ping-pong, a basketball court, and a rock-climbing wall
ARCADE - My kids had a good time in the arcade. I had given them spending privileges, so they could play tons of games (like Guitar hero, etc...) I was surprised that the arcade cost $... As a first-time cruiser, I assumed this was just part of what RCCL did to make this a good cruise line for teens... By the end, I figured it all out --
DINING - I loved the 3 story dining room. We ate at La Boehme. Next time, I'd probably dine on desk once. I don't understand why people would want to pay an extra $5.00 pp to eat at Johnny Rockets, or $15.00 pp to eat a Portofino...as someone else mentioned, you can always get a chicken or steak.
Service was 5++++ Birgen figured out that I love lemons w/ my tea, so I was NEVER w/o...and I didn't have to ask. She knew that my 11 yo wanted macaroni and cheese everynight as his appetizer, and for dessert, he'd want 2 things (brownie + scoops of ice cream). If my 15 yo didn't like her Chicken Marsala, she brought a steak for her. I was sorry to say goodbye. I was disappointed that the other guests from our table showed up about an hour late, so we didn't get to talk and make friends, but.. c'est la vie.
Food - was NOT creative at all. I wish they would do something like a BBQ theme night, Mexican, Chinese, Seafood, etc... The food was bland and unimaginative. I understand they are feeding TONS of people, but I wanted to feel like I was in a nice restaurant and that the food was on par with that -- it wasn't. For lunch, we ate in the WINDJAMMER cafe. The food was plentiful. It was basically the same every day. Penne, Bow-tie, Sandwiches, etc... I can't say it was any better than a buffet (like Golden Corral), but my kids were happy.
SHOPPING ON THE PROMENADE - I was disappointed... there really wasn't much there. A General Store, The RC Store, Watch & Jewelry Store Make-up & Perfume
The "deals" were just dollar-store type of items, but maybe I'm just not in the shopping mood!
OUR CABIN - We had a balcony. I thought I had requested a window room, and boy amd I glad that we had a balcony. There were 3 of us in 1 room and 2 in the other. Even though it was cold leaving Galveston, we used the balcony (e.g. luggage, wet bathing suits, and reading). I loved having the door open (couldn't figure out the magnet trick though). Our steward was awesome. I rolled my eyes when everyone said they'd want to treat their steward with candy, etc... but at the end of the cruise, I more than did "my fair share" of tipping, and I left him with candy as well. I "GET IT" now. I loved the little animals that he made for us every night. OMG - they really work hard!!!
SHOWS - I really enjoyed the shows. They were well done! Some of the shows must have been "oversold", b/c there were 100+ people standing w/o a place to seat. I was impressed with the talent.
ACTIVITIES- I showed up for a LEARN TO BALLROOM DANCE class. I was the only one w/o a male counterpart. It was okay, though, I learned on my own, and then the activities director partnered up with me... felt sorry for him, I'm a terrible dancer, but he was gracious.
BINGO - Had fun... was naiive though, I thought this would be included as part of my cruising...didn't know it cost :0
KIDS/TEEN CLUB- I had a 11 yo son. He didn't LOVE it, but I'm glad it was there. My teens would have enjoyed the TEEN club more if they had TRIED to make friends -- I didn't push them too much. I heard LOTS of teens LOVED IT. There were 900+ kids on board for Christmas, and except for a ice cream cone nearly hitting me from a higher deck, it was okay!
CASINO-I hadn't spent ANY time in my 45 years in a casino, and w/ all the encouragement from RCCL TV, I went in and played the slots. Totally lost $, but, others won.
All in all, I figured out that most everything costs $, I just went into this with a different mind-set... but now that it's over, I'm definitely going to go again... I'll research everything this time, as to where to go next, what ship, etc...
If I can plan and go on a cruise as a single mom to 4 kids, who had just gone through a traumatic event, ANYONE can do this. You have some of the friendliest people on these ships, as NO, they are NOT ALL from Texas (Texas inside joke). You can sit and read a book in the library the entire time, you can entertain yourself w/ all the activities on board, you can send your children off to their adventure clubs, or you can bond as a family w/o the distractions of their cell phones and internet!!!! This was GREAT for our family. We are closer together and I'm so thankful I went.