First of all, this was the best deal we ever had on a cruise. I first booked an interior cabin, but, the price drops found us in a balcony cabin with also having a $200+ in onboard credit by the time we sailed. thanks royal for that!There's nothing like a short drive and getting on a ship, no flights, added stress in travel. We've sailed a few times out of ny/nj before and enjoy it. Viewing the statue of liberty and going under the verrazzano bridge is nice. Paid $171 for parking at the ship. We sailed on this ship the year prior, and knew what to expect. A beautiful ship. We really enjoyed the promenade area & the ice skating shows on this particular ship. Dining, not amazing, but, plentiful! We have dined in portofino's before, and enjoyed that experience very much. Muster drill is never fun, but, necessary, & was thrilled that we didn't have to bring life jackets this time.
Puerto Rico--short time there, took a cab to isla verde marriott for a couple hrs.
St. Thomas--took a cab to red hook, then a ferry to st. john, & a cab to trunk bay. Beautiful. Been there before, never tire of that beach. Couldn't snorkel, surf a little rough, they waived the beach entrance fee for us.
Dominican Republic--took the ship tour to cayo levantado. Really enjoyed this area. Beautiful beach area, food available for addt'l cost, some shopping--perfect. Some local folks selling their wares, didn't bother me at all, some might be bothered quite a bit. I picked up a dominican republic baseball for my nephew and some larimar jewelry (mined only in d.r.) for myself & nieces.
Labadee--been here before yrs. ago, but, it has changed so much more for the better. No tender, docks there now. Loved this stop, had the beaches, food--georgeous!. Look at the other beaches around there, don't just settle when you first see the beach. One section is very rocky beach-wise, and rough surf. Further down, much more calm. Across the way another beach has a view of our ship in the ocean. My heart goes out to the haitians, what devastation.
We are a couple that makes the best out of everything. However there were some downsides to our cruise. In our 11 cruises, never have I ever seen so many rude folks around the buffet areas. I cannot count the times I was pushed for a slice of cheese. We did encounter what we thought were bug bites in our cabin. Called housekeeping who did a check, said there were no bugs, changed our bedding, and we continued to get "bit"--even on sea days. Looked like mosquito bites, 11-15 on each of us. We went to the medical area to have them checked, and they told us it would be $75 each for a check of them by the ship doctor, or see if the ship would waive that fee--which they did not. I was disappointed by that neglect of courtesy. By the time we got home, it was the holidays, and they shrunk/went away before we could have our doctor check them out.
Upon our return home, we experienced very high seas, 18+ ft. waves with violent storm winds due to the noreaster we were traveling through. Captain came on and said it was safe, the ship was hit with 25 ft. waves before and was fine. Just very uncomfortable for several hrs. That was an unusual circumstance, and out of 11 cruises, only had this experience twice due to weather conditions. Arrival at port to several inches of snow. Don't forget closed shoes, gloves,(& a car snowbrush like we didn't have) when travelling out of this area in winter
Overall, we love royal caribbean, and will sail with them again. I wouldn't hesitate sailing on this ship, love the freedom series of ships, and can't wait to go on another one. Hope this review was helpful to someone.