Well, I guess we should have chosen a week other than Easter and Spring Break week for our vacation. It was noted that this particular cruise on 4/3/10 had the most boarded passengers EVER of any cruise...over 6,000 guests (including 1,900 kids!!!) and over 2200 crew members. wow. It really is a floating city. I think it would have been better and obviously less crowded on a different week. The only times it felt TOO crowded was: (1) that time where people are leaving 1st dinner and people are arriving for 2nd seating of dinner- during this time, around 7:30 the Royal Promenade is CRAZY crowded. (2) lining up for shows in the Opal Theater and leaving the show at the end, (3) Pool decks on sea days, especially the kids zone area and main pools, the solarium was not too bad, and (4) the sports zones, flow riders/sports court area was constantly full of teens, crazy! We did not even go to the Windjammer buffet together, I went one time for lunch while my husband saved our pool seats and it felt pretty crowded there. He did not visit the buffet at all as he hates crowds like that. The lunch that day was very good and I managed to get a table but there were not enough tables there for everyone. If you want a good pool chair, you need to be out there by 10am!
I will try to cover everything so I will start from the beginning now. Sorry if this is lengthy but if you're like me, I enjoyed reading all I could about this ship before I left so I'd know the best things about it.
Day 1: Left our home in Jacksonville, FL around 6:30 and arrived at the Port around 12:00. Dropped off luggage and parked the car right across the street there at the Port Parking lot which is very convenient..$105 for the week but I think the safety and convenience was well worth it. Checking in for the ship was amazingly quick! We walked right up to the check in agent with no wait and it only took about 5 min to check in and we were on the ship by 12:30!! They won't let you up to your rooms before 1:00 so we went to the Park Cafe in Central Park and ate lunch which was fantastic. They have these awesome carved roast beef sandwiches and they make a great salad for you. This became our favorite breakfast spot as it was right around the corner from our room on deck 8 as well. (free restaurant). We walked around this amazing ship after we checked out our room as our luggage did not arrive until later. This ship is amazing..very big and beautiful...it is an engineering marvel. I like how they do the safety review now, our group met at Studio B (ice rink) and they show you a video of life boats, life vests, etc. You no longer have life vests in the room as they would distribute them as necessary at your station. Much better than standing outside in the heat with a life vest on! Safety drill was at 4:15 and we got back to our cabin shortly after and our luggage was there so we unpacked. We had a D1 ocean balcony with large balcony deck 8. I have had a similar category room previously on Freedom and Mariner and those cabins were a bit larger than these. It seems as though R/C has made these cabins smaller in order to accommodate more people which is not such a good thing for us passengers! The previous cabins had more drawer storage and bathrooms were larger too. I did not care for the decor in these bathrooms, ugly in my opinion. 60's chic decor? The shower has a little bar at the bottom which makes shaving legs easier. Lots of hooks to hang up wet swimsuits in there. Also has automatic night light which was great!! The cabin was pretty and nice though. Bed was very comfortable, by the balcony door. I wanted to bring that bed home with us!! I did notice that our room NEVER got cool. I called maintenance and they said you have to make sure your MASTER switch is on and that the balcony door was closed and LOCKED...this is an inconvenience as you want to spend time on your balcony...the door has to be locked from the inside in order for the a/c to work so when you come back in from relaxing on your balcony the room is warm! Even at night with air all the way down it never felt cool, probably got down to 78 at lowest. The TV's are nice and big, flat screens that swivel and the computer on there is cool as you can view your account balance, check out restaurant menus, wait times, etc. DINING: Night ONE - we ate at the MDR, we had My Time Dining and ate at the same table with same waiter (who was awesome, Adrian) every night. The table was for 2 and close to other tables but we really enjoyed the 2 couples in the tables next to us and became friends with them. I had the Prime Rib the fist night which was my favorite meal of the trip. It really is good. Hubby had the sea bass which was good also. We did not have any shows scheduled for this night so went to bed early as it was a long day since getting up at 5am and with the long drive. Wish we could have gone to Ft. Lauderdale the day before but DH had an event he had to attend the night before.
DAY 2: EASTER: We ordered room service and had b'fast out on our balcony which was nice. Room service for b'fast is very limited. No omelettes! Only scrambled eggs or cereal. It was good though. Love their croissants. Huge improvement from our last 2 R/C cruises.. The Orange Juice actually tastes like Orange Juice, not orange water! Great improvement R/C!! The table on these balconies is larger than past ships which is much nicer! I went to the Cruise Critic Meet & Greet at 10:30 which was nice. They had some free gifts and lots of door prizes, unfortunately I did not win any :( Hubby went to save us a pool chair so I met him topside after the meet & greet. He grabbed some lunch at the Solarium Bistro and brought it up to the chair and ate there in the solarium. I did not care for the food there at all, mostly healthy stuff, lots of Salmon dishes which I don't like ( he liked it) so we took turns eating and I went to Windjammer. Food very good there but a bit crowded. Solarium area is really beautiful and peaceful. DINNER: We had reservations at Chops for 6pm. ($25 pp) We have been to Chops 2x previously and let me tell you this was the worst experience ever. We have always had great service there before. It took a long time to get seated and 10 min went by before anyone acknowledged us. I noticed a server for the table next to us motion to another server to take care of us b/c he was too busy or something to that affect. He finally came over and took our drink and dinner order at the same time and was very rushed. It took over 15-20 min in between each course and we sat for sometimes 30 min w/ finished plates in front of us and no drink refills. I noticed this poor guy was running all over this restaurant waiting on tables on both sides that were far away from each other. It took over 3 hours to complete our dinner!! We don't even drink wine and ordered quickly! The food was good but with the slow service and their attitudes we will not go back. Service in MDR was much better and food almost as good for free! I complained the next day to guest services and the chops manager called us to discuss and credited our account for the meal. SHOW: That night we saw a show in main theater, Hairspray which is a Broadway show. The music and dancing was great however I did not care for the storyline. Very corny and dated...out of all the good shows out there makes you wonder why they ever chose this one?? We also hit the DAZZLES night club that night as they had 80's night which is my thing since I graduated h/s in the 80's. This is a beautiful club, great 2 story window w/ great views of pool area. DJ was great. This was FUN!!
DAY 3: Another day at sea. Ate breakfast at the Park Cafe...Very nice and relaxing, we like this place. They have great egg sandwiches, fruit and cereal. Perfect. Sat outside in Central park and ate. We loved Central Park!! Spent most of the day in the solarium pool area. Hubby worked out in gym and later I checked out the jogging (walking for me!) track on deck 5. This is GREAT!! A whole deck with jogging track all around it and you don't have to worry about running into people. Very Nice!! DINNER: Back at MDR. Very good. Had the shrimp scampi, large prawns, awesome. SHOW: We went to the Comedy Live Show. It was great...DON'T miss this one. The first guy was funnier IMO than the main guy but both were awesome. We laughed for an hour. I was so pleased that their material was not dirty or raunchy...They were perfect.
DAY 4: St Thomas...We ate b'fast at Johnny Rockets. Very good, I loved their french toast. B'fast is free there. We had booked a sailboat charter/snorkel day before the cruise with Rumbaba Charters. His boat leaves out of red hook which is a 30 min cab ride. We were to be there at 9:45 so we got off the ship around 8:45. The cab drivers here are not very accommodating or nice. They kept pushing us aside making us wait to fill up a cab to get over there and we waited 30 minutes! I kept telling them we were going to miss our charter but they did not care. Finally they put us in a cab with a family of 4 who were going somewhere near where we were. Traffic was bad and we finally got to American Harbor Marina at 9:45. Cab ride is supposed to be $22 for 2 people and my DH gave the guy $44 not thinking...I got the driver's number and he said he would pick us up at 4pm. The sailboat day was awesome. Great snorkel spots at Christmas Cove. Rumbaba owner, Bobby cooks you a fantastic lunch right on the grill hanging off his boat! Best Mahi I have ever had. It was great. We docked back at 3:50 and no cab...we called him many times and he kept saying he was on his way. He finally arrived around 4:30 which left us an HOUR to get back to the ship. I don't like cutting it that close. Normally Rumbaba leaves from 9-3 but the other couple booked w/ us were on a different ship that did not arrive until 9 so he called me to say we would be from 10-4 which I was not real happy about. Luckily we got back to the ship at 5:25 just in time as we sailed at 6pm. Traffic on cruise days is crazy there. I highly recommend Bobby and Rumbaba Charters. They have a great website w/ photos if you google them you can find them. Price is reasonable and much better than the cattle car cruise excursions!! DINNER: We ate at Giovanni's Table ($15 pp). Service was great. Food just OK...I prefer Portofino's on the previous R/C ships. Funny how I ended up ordering the Prawns and they were cooked exactly the same as the night before in MDR! SHOW: We had reservations for the Aqua Show Oasis of Dreams at 10:30 however I got way too much sun that day and with all the stress of getting back and forth to the ship I was completely exhausted and fell asleep at 9:00! I really hate we missed this show as it was the LAST ONE for the cruise, which I did not know!! I hear it was amazing...Will do next time for sure...
DAY 5: St. Martin...Had b'fast at Park Cafe again. Very good. Left ship around 9:45 to meet our driver from Bernard's tours to take us to Orient Beach. Bernard is an awesome guy. Last year we took his complete island tour and it was great, however this time we just wanted to go to Orient Beach. He was right there waiting for us, took us to the beach and picked us back up at our arranged time of 2:00. VERY relaxing day esp. compared to the day before!! I love this beach, It is my favorite, very beautiful water and the sand is so soft!! I could stay there ALL day. You can get 2 chairs with cushions, an umbrella and restroom pass for $15. My hubby is NAVY and there is a retired navy guy who owns a bar/restaurant right there in the middle of this beach called "string beach" so we had lunch there and a few drinks. Very good..ask for Rick and tell him Lisa from JAX , FL sent ya! We feel that out of all the islands we have been to, the people we have met here in St. Martin, Including Bernard have been the nicest. :) Last year we also visited Maho Beach to watch the planes come in with I liked too but not enough time to do both and really have enough time to enjoy both places. DINNER: MDR...great meal. Food here is the best we have ever had on any R/C ship MDR. Dining room is beautiful also. We were on the top deck, 5 and there are these flat screen tv's that scroll beautiful photos, I enjoyed watching them as I ate. SHOW: Headliner show was the Osmond Brothers and we did not care for them so we skipped it.
DAY 6: Can't believe day 6 here already. Week goes by so fast. Spent another day by the pool and then gym/jogging track. Also viewed the Men's Belly Flop contest at aqua theater from above on deck 15 looking down. You can see on the big screens from there. Funny, We ate lunch at the seafood shack after that ($8.95 pp) Appetizer of calamari was great but main entrees, fish & Chips, Fish Sandwich just OK. Desert was great...Key lime pie and Banana split. Don't think I would pay to eat there again. Did some shopping on Royal Promenade. Got a good deal on a Citizen Echo Drive watch, they were 40% off that day! DINNER: MDR, Lobster night..very good... SHOW: Come Fly With Me...AWESOME, Great show, Don't miss this one! Also, the Love & Marriage show at 11:15. This is usually great and hilarious however the contestants obviously did not want to participate so made for a lousy show. Richard did his best but the asst. C/D who picked these contestants really screwed up. NOTE: If you WANT to be a contestant on THIS show, Be FUNNY and don't act like your feelings are getting hurt. You should know what it's all about and go with the flow.
DAY 7: Nassau...We have both been there many times before and elected to just get off briefly to go to the market, had a drink at Senor Frogs and back to ship. We docked at 12:00 and there were 5 other ships there. VERY crowded!! Long line to get back to ships, so keep that in mind if you get off here. Water is beautiful here but don't care for this place. DINNER: MDR, first time of cruise that we did not enjoy dinner. I had the NY strip (tough) and DH had the recommended mahi and shrimp tempura. He said the fish was very salty. HOWEVER...the desert was the best Key Lime Pie we have ever had! Delicious!! Now to stressful part of cruise...PACKING..As usual, I packed way to many clothes for us. I promise myself next cruise #4 I will get this right as I think I know what I really need now!! lol We packed our stuff and set the cases out by the door around 10pm. I had bought a bottle of mango rum (special kind you can only get in St Martin) and the ship put it in holding until last night, so they say. I started calling around 8pm asking about my bottle of rum...after 3 calls and now 11pm they tell me that it was mistakenly delivered to the wrong cabin! They sent it to 8124 not 8194! Good luck getting it back right? So they tried to get in touch w/ those folks but no answer. Finally at midnight I demanded them to bring me a bottle of their ship's mango rum for replacement which they delivered around midnight. What an ordeal. The next morning at 8:00 I checked at Guest services and they made some calls and found out that Housekeeping had retrieved my rum and would bring it up. I waited about 20 min and they finally brought it up to guest services. Now why did they not just bring it to my room w/o my having to go through all this? Bad customer service all the way around on that one. Guess I won't be purchasing any more liquour for gifts again off ship.
LAST DAY: We checked the box on paperwork for Late Departure so we would not have to be off the ship so early. They have a good system on this ship for departing with Numbers vs. Colors. We were the last set of numbers, #81. We were supposed to depart at 9:15 and got off at 9:30. Not bad. Our luggage was already in a holding area and we went right to it, got a helper and were through customs and in our car by 10:00. Not bad at all. You can carry off your own luggage starting at 6:30 and the first luggage call is around 7 or 7:30.
FINAL: We had a great time on this cruise, our best yet. It was a bit crowded at times but other things made up for that IMO. I feel that R/C should have not compromised on cabin sizes and offered a few less cabins with a few less people b/c the main common areas seemed the same size as the smaller ships! This ship is truly beautiful, esp. Central Park section. Did not care for Boardwalk section as much but I guess it works for this design. The ship is Beautiful and amazing. I kept asking myself how they built such a ship and how does it float?? I love the cantilevered hot tubs! I used those a lot. Great views from there. Food was great as well as shows. We will definitely go again. I hope they get some new port calls. I also feel that they should not charge so much or at all for the extra dining venues. You're already paying so much anyway, it's bad enough to have to pay for sodas as well as extra restaurants. We did not try the 150 central park as it was $35 pp! A/C system in cabins needs to be improved. No vent in bathroom either. Computer screens all over ship make it easy to navigate and see what's going on at the present time, loved those. They need to get more up to date Headliner show also, we did not want to go hear the Osmonds! One more thing...R/C makes you give them your sea pass card (charge card) to get a beach /pool towel and charges you $20 per towel if not returned. I feel this is unnecessary. I have cruised on Disney 2x and towels are plain white and plentiful all over pool deck, even at dock on their private island. No pressure. R/C acts like these towels are made of gold and WILL NOT give you one w/o running your card. Very inconvenient. I always bring 4 of my own beach towels so I don't have to worry about this or someone taking a $20 ship's towel from my seat. Comes in handy for going to beaches on port days as well. All in all..fun vacation, I love cruising. Never a dull moment unless you want one! I recommend this ship, enjoy!! One more thing...Cruise Director Richard Spacey is awesome. He was on Freedom last year w/ us and we loved him back then too. He's perfect for this ship. He just left for vacation to fly back to UK but hopefully he will be back onboard Oasis again soon. He has a very quick wit about him, very funny. You can find him on youtube.