We flew into Dallas from the west coast on January 29, late after mechanical trouble. My sister and I few into Houston Hobby on Sunday the 31st, planning on meeting our 89 year old Mom, who bussed down from North Texas with 59 of her friends. I had never received my cruise documents (tracked as leaving Houston on 4 Jan) but "borrowed" two luggage tags from mom, and read the rest online. After all, this is my umpteenth cruise. Worried a bit that online reservation did not show that we had purchased transfers, but we were on the list. Arrived at the ship around 11:30. Platinum status bought us a slightly shorter but still long and chaotic line. On checking in, RCCL had no record of my purchase of the soda card. Guest relations tracing this, but bought another in the interim. Those who arrived on the bus with Mom waited over two hours in a cold wind outside to board.
Stateroom: Arrived at cabin to find carpets soaked throughout and in the hall. Reported to guest relations and huge fans set up, which I eventually had to heft out into the hall so that we could sleep. Water persisted until Tuesday am. Not as much storage as Celebrity. Wished balconies connected as on Princess.
Dining room: 90 people in our group. Travel agent had carefully listened to seating preferences and filed list with RCCL, which fouled it all up. Food pretty good though. In general found RCCL food a cut below Celebrity in innovation and variety but OK. Several entrees outstanding, and Chef's Selections a good idea. Shawn G from Trinidad the best waiter I have experienced. Seating problems persisted for several days, with tables reshuffling.
Looked forward to room service breakfast...but Mom had forgotten to put room # on the hang card, and huge fans blew it off the door. Note to RCCL: the graphics are nice on the card but they obscure the text. called room service, said no problem, it would take half hour to 45 minutes. Took an hour. So missed the stampede for Monday pm ice show tickets, and settled for Wed night tickets. Sister next door didn't get her hot tea on multiple days. Tues: looked forward to room service breakfast. Mom forgot to put time on hang card. Room service called at 5 am, rang once (waking mom)then left message.
Tried to use computer to check on private tour of Jamaica. Computers down. Reported them down. Went off to Cozumel for fun shopping and lunch. Before getting off ship checked with guest relations, who decided my card was demagnetized. Insisted on issuing a new card. Didn't transfer soda stamp, 2 for 1 daily special or wine stamp. Didn't tell me they were canceling old card (which continued to work on cabin door) so I left new one in room and couldn't get off ship. Left mom in blazing sun while I raced back to room. On return to ship went to guest relations to get stamps transferred (why didn't they do it to begin with?)and found they wouldn't/couldn't transfer wine stamp. Told me to deal with dining room directly. I insisted they fish the old card out of the trash so I would have proof of wine purchase. Good thing I did, as the dining room refused to issue another stamp. Oh yes, it was a computer problem not my card, in the end.
Spa: had a great 3 item mini spa for $99--facial, neck massage and foot massage. Sister's prepaid massage never showed as a booking.
Shows: In general the shows have gotten better or I have gotten older. Tribute to MoTown was super, one of the best I have ever seen. Singers and dancers were wonderful in broadway tributes, esp Jeremy and Corey. Piano Bar adjacent to casino was good. Ice show was the best of all.
Casino: Paid off better than Celebrity and Princess, at least the slots did. Don't understand why they didn't enforce no smoking rule.
Shore excursions: We booked one $19 trolled ride in Grand Cayman, which was well worth the $$. I booked a private trip with Marva Shaw, a great lady. I found it very very important to be specific. We wanted to see and do, not eat and shop.
Ship size: We will not book on a ship this large again. We were always in the most crowded places, especially trying to get into dining room while ice show exiting and photos being taken. Promenade impassible during sales and parades. I encountered serveral elderly folks who felt very crowded and dizzy.Elevators were totally inadequate, often had to add 15 minutes to destination.
Disembarkation: Difficult, crowded, not enough customs officials. Got on bus for Hobby airport. No one to load bags, so some of the passengers did it. Told to get off bus, collect luggage, and go to another bus 100 yards away, which we did. Then told to go back to original bus, again with luggage. Someone loaded my bags, at that point I didn't care. At Hobby, told to find and unload own bags. We could have booked a private limo for what this cost us, and will do so in the future. Oh yes, remember the soda stamp? A nice lady from Guest Relations called me repeatedly to let me know they were still checking. In her last call she mentioned that she had sent me a RCCL souvenir for my trouble. Guess what? It had not arrived. In conclusion we had a great time despite minor problems. Guest relations tried hard. Our problems were with "corporate", in terms of lost reservations and dining room mix ups and computer glitches. I still shudder when I think of the wet germy carpets. And nothing will fix the sense of being crowded and pushed and shoved in the public areas. So I am back to the small ships---you know, the ones without ice rinks and climbing walls and water slides.