Cruise staff: - It seems that this group had not been working with each other for awhile. During the cruise, one member of the staff joined the ship at the first port of call, another left at the second port of call. This disrupts the continuity of the staff. The programming was not run with the usual RCCL efficiency. Some activities were planned, a few people showed up but no cruise staff were there to facilitate the event.
This was a family cruise for 10 people. One couple was celebrating a 30 year anniversary, another couple celebrated a 10 year anniversary, and one couple celebrated a 1 year anniversary. The group came from different cities, Memphis, TN, Fredericksburg, Va, Atlanta, Ga, and West Palm Beach, Fl.
Dining Room - The food was back to RCCL superior standards. The quantity was sufficient and food was tasty with a good variety every night in the dining room. Only one dish was bad such that another dish had to be ordered in its place (baked cod). Dining room staff was extremely attentive and pleasant. The waiter always had a good suggestion for dinner. The head waiter was visible and assisted when needed. The assistant waiter was always on the move but was there when we needed him with a smile. Our group celebrated a 30 yr anniversary, a 10 yr anniversary, a 1 year anniversary, and a birthday. All 4 nights, as planned, a piece of cake was delivered to the table and the Head Waiter coordinated the event. They knew exactly which couple or individual was to get the cake and there was wait staff around to sing.
Windjammer Cafe - typical buffet fare. After a couple of days, one learns the routines and what is good and what is fair. Due to the number of passengers, announcements were constantly being made asking for people to leave the area when they were done so others could eat. Never had this type of "attitude" before at the Windjammer Cafe.
Specialty Restaurants - Chops and Portofino were available but did not use them this cruise. The main dining room food was excellent. Johnny Rockets was the usual hamburger, french fries, onion rings, and milk shake shop. Noisy but good. Other specialty places along the Promenade were open but we did not use them.
Ice Show - Four showings were done to accommodate the large crowds. The show was good and entertaining. Skaters were not perfect, but for the environment, they did a great job. Front row seats would be the recommendation here.
Children's Program - There was a 6 year old in our group and she used the Children's program a few times. When she went, she enjoyed herself. We chose not to use the program that much because we had enough people in our group who would take care of her and entertain her. She did participate in the Children's Circus Parade and this was very good.
Entertainment - Due to the timing of the shows, we missed a number of them. This all falls back to the poor planning of events by the cruise staff. From what was heard, there were some good events, especially the love and marriage show and the Quest event. Many different trivia contests were done during the evening and the days at sea. This seemed to draw standing room only crowds. Bingo had its usual die hard fans. A free cruise was given away one day and the final jackpot game was over $2,900 (to one lucky winner). The casino was nice, but a little smokey. This may keep some folks out if they do not want to be around the smoke. The Texas Hold-um game is all electronic with no dealers. My opinion: bring back the dealers.
Midnight Buffet - is GONE!. With the inclusion of the 24 hour coffee shop, 24 hour pizza place, and 24 hour room service, the Midnight Buffet is now a thing of the past. It was always fun to see the ice sculptures and the food displays, but from a business point of view, it must have been a big waste of food. I still think one buffet would be good. Instead, they had a lunch buffet on the Promenade area on the last day of the cruise. With so many people, the area could not handle the volume of people and seating was at a premium.
Embarkation / Disembarkation / Muster Drill - Embarkation area in Miami is well suited to moving people onto the ship quickly. This was a very efficient area. However, the unloading of baggage at the curb was another story. The Miami Police were extremely rude and the baggage handlers were almost fighting over each other to grab your bags and move them away from where the car was before one could figure out what was going on. Almost got into an altercation with the Miami Police about walking away from the car, but a baggage handler took my stuff before I was ready.
Disembarkation ran into a snag. We asked for an 8:00 AM time but we made the mistake of marking on the form that we had our car at the dock. This put us into the last group. Customs got backed up and delayed everyone from about 8:30 AM onward by an hour. Getting the bags off of the carousels was no easy matter, either. Again, too many tired people (most woke up at 6:00 AM or earlier) and not enough space.
On the better side, the muster drill did not require you to bring the life vests with you. As funny as it is to look at everyone with the vests on, this process went smoother without them.
Overall Impression: The ship offers many activities for all ages. However, it is not designed well when there is a full complement of passengers. Space is at a premium and it makes for an unpleasant trip. Food was back to RCCL superior standards and most of the staff was pleasant. Cruise Staff interaction and programming needed some tuning.
Others in our group went to the Bacardi factory. Nothing to write home about on this spot. They did bring home some rum, so I guess it was worth it.
A few folks took a walking tour of old and new San Juan. They enjoyed that tour and the visit to the castle. Sounds like this was the better of the three excursion that our group did.
Shopping in the town where the ship docked was basically jewelry. If you were looking for something else, you were out of luck. Maybe the shopping would be better on the other half of the island, but with an afternoon excursion planned, there was no time.
Tiki Hut snorkeling trip was a nice excursion. I wish there was more to see, but maybe we did not swim towards the places where the fish were this day. Hit and miss for viewing fish, but that is true on most snorkeling adventures.