Background: We were a group of 7 including ages 18 to 67. We have all cruised before but never on RCCL. We were celebrating birthdays for 3 in our group. We have cruised numerous times and on several different lines so we all had prior experience and looked forward to trying RCCL.
Embarkation: We drove down from Gainesville Florida the morning of the cruise and met the rest of the family before heading to the port. We were concerned about traffic due to the President being in town but it had no effects on traffic in the area we were. We arrived at the port at 11am. We were offered valet service for $70.00 ($56.00 for self parking) and took advantage of it. We unloaded and proceeded upstairs to check in. There were no lines and we were checked in at the same time they started boarding. We had a slight glitch as one of our groups cards couldn't be found and we had to wait 15 minutes until they finally got it printed. We then had our pictures taken and were on the ship at 11:40am. They did have drinks in the waiting area for any that wanted them.
Grandeur, first impression: We entered the ship on deck 5 and walked around before heading up to the Windjammer for lunch. The ship is has a very elegant dEcor and was very clean. We loved the Solarium set up. The cabins were very small compared to other cabins we have had on other cruise lines. We had 3 in our inside cabin and were not happy that they would not put the beds together for my husband and I because our son was in the upper above the bed. I wish they would have told us this ahead of time as we may have booked a different cabin. The cabins have lots of storage and are layed out well but just very small. We did notice that the majority of the passengers were seniors. We thought it being a shorter cruise would have a younger crowd.
LIQUOR POLICE: They were VERY strict on trying to sneak liquor on board. They screened all luggage and if you had anything that looked like a bottle. We walked past the room that had the held luggage and there were 50+ bags in there. We spoke with people that had tried to bring a bottle of wine on board and it was being held. I had picked up a couple travel size (6 oz) shampoo shaped bottles and filled those with rum/crown and placed them in our toiletries bag and were not caught. We thought they might pull ours because we did have an 8 pack of Diet Pepsi's in our bag but they didn't so we were lucky.
Day 1 - We enjoyed the buffet shortly after boarding and didn't receive our luggage until around 4pm. They had several things going on before the muster drill. They had tables set up around the Centrum from several departments and they had a Treasure Hunt where you went to each station and got the answer. After you finished you put your name and cabin number on it and they had a drawing at the end. My husband won a free bingo package which we enjoyed using. We also did a spa tour and then went back for a drawing after we set sail and my husband won a discount on a treatment that he ended up giving to a family member to use. We had our Muster Drill at 4:30pm. No lifejackets were needed. That was done on Deck 5 and was over in about 20 minutes. We left the pier at 5pm. It was 7:10pm before we passed under the Skyway Bridge. We enjoyed dinner in the dining room every night and the food was wonderful. We tried to go to the Welcome Aboard Show but there were no seats to be found anywhere. We spent some time in the casino then headed off to bed.
Day 2 - We woke up with the ship rocking very badly. We tried to eat breakfast in the Windjammer but due to the motion, we ended up going to the Dining Room for breakfast. We went to Win a Cruise Bingo and didn't win. The bingo packages were quite pricey! The smallest package was $22.00. The regular package was $32.00 and the Tracker (30 cards) an automatic bingo machine was $62.00 but you did get a free t-shirt with it. They played 4 games which included 3 cash games then the cruise game but most were won by those that spent $62.00 for the machines. We attended the Love & Marriage show which was a not miss. The couples had all of us laughing and some became the stars of the cruise and others the joke of the cruise.
This was also formal night and all of us dressed up for formal pictures. We had several family pictures taken that came out very well. We enjoyed formal night dinner in the dining room. We had a fantastic dining staff. Hugo and Terri Ann took great care of us and knew our likes and dislikes by the 2nd day. We also had a Head Waiter that oversaw our area of the dining room and made sure we had everything we needed and would pitch when needed. We liked this much more than a Maitre D overseeing the dining room. We tried again to see the show but it was too crowded again. We did enjoy music around the ship.
Day 3. - Cozumel
We arrived at Cozumel and were docked by 6:30am. The ship Didn't have us change the time and we all stayed on ships time While in Cozumel. We were happy to see it was a very sunny day In Cozumel. The weather was beautiful but not quite warm Enough for swimming so we proceeded downtown to shop. We Took a cab all the way to the Forum and worked our way back Towards the ship shopping, and stopped at Palmeras for a morning Snack which was a nice stop. It's an open air restaurant and Enjoyed a snack before heading further down the shops. There is A Starbucks for you coffee drinkers at the Puerta Lagosta Pier Area. We made our way through all of downtown and decided to Go to Margaritaville for lunch. We did our shopping in there first Then decided to have lunch there. We were seated outside overlooking the water and the fun began! We had a live band, a Lady selling shots that were entertaining just to watch. The wait staff carried the drinks balanced on their heads and it Was so much fun out there We all had drinks and ordered the Volcano Nachos that were out of this world. There was enough for 4 easily. We all enjoyed our time there and agreed it was one of the best Margaritavilles we have been too and plan on returning there again!
We took a cab back to the pier and did a little more shopping before returning to the ship. My husband and I decided to take advantage of one of the spa specials and both had treatments. We enjoyed it but have had better on other cruises. There was no pressure to buy their products. We got ready for dinner and enjoyed another evening with our dining staff. We did some shopping and bought pictures. We were not interested in the show this night and they did have a buffet at 11:30pm with a deck party which was well attended. They also had Quest which was fun to watch.
Day 4 - Our last day at sea. We woke up to a rainy day and a lot of the activities were cancelled. They didn't add extra indoor things to keep you occupied and the day was kind of boring. They did have a movie in the theater at 1pm (Star Trek) and bingo again but other than that, not much else going on. The Solarium was packed and you couldn't get into the Jacuzzis all day. The weather had gotten worse and the temperatures were dropping so going outside was not happening. We got all of our things packed and finished our shopping before retiring for the night.
Entertainment- We tried to see each of the main shows but were unable to get seats as an entire section was reserved for the suites which left standing room in the doorways. What little we did see of the shows were not up to the same quality as CCL. The Centrum or center common area had the party going on every day. Other lines we have cruised use this area for a more of a relaxing experience.
Debarkation - We were docked when we went up on deck at 6:30am. We had breakfast in the Windjammer and had to be out of our cabins by 8am. We waited to leave the ship in the Palladium and were called at 9am. We got off the ship and through customs by 9:30. We had valet parked our car and were on the road by 9:38am!
Overall Impression: We enjoyed our first cruise on RCCL but found that there were things that we like better on Carnival and other lines. We are veteran cruisers with 16 cruises under our belts. We like the food on RCCL and it did compare to CCL and HAL. The service in the dining room was better on RCCL. We liked having a Head Waiter overseeing an area of the dining room. The cabins were very small on RCCL but worked. We prefer the cabins on CCL and HAL due to the larger size of the cabins and better cabin service attendants. Activites on RCCL were geared more towards the older crowd and we found ourselves to be very bored at times. We enjoyed the activities on Carnival much more, and the people were more relaxed. We would cruise RCCL again but most likely it would have to be a larger ship with more activities and a longer trip.