I will try to kep this short, but informative. This was my first RCCL cruise as was my husband's, so we have only other cruise lines to compare to. In my opinion....there is no comparison. This was my all time best cruise thus far. We did a pre-cruise stay at the Holiday Inn Port of Miami. We stayed there prior to our last cruise and were very satisfied. There are plenty of things to occupy you at Bayside Marketplace.
Day 1 Embarkation.
This went very smoothly, but we were one of the first to arrive at the port that morning. We arrived around 9:45 and had all our embarkation papers ready before we arrived. There was no line, so we went to the check in desk and were finished in less than 5 min. All we had to do then was wait for the other passengers to disembark and the ship to be readied for the next passengers. We were on board by 12:30.
We dropped off our carry-on at our cabin and went to explore the ship. We had a cabin on the hump of the ship. Our cabin was not quite as large as our last balcony cabin on Carnival, but our balcony seemed larger. We were very pleased with the appearance of the ship. Some of the other members that were on this cruise were disappointed with a few LITTLE details that I never even noticed. ie. broken elevator buttons, burned out bulbs...ect. I did not notice any of these little details, but then again, I was in awe of the ship from the moment I boarded. She is beautiful!
We set sail around 5:30 after one of the most painless muster drills that I have ever been through. We were supposed to sail around 5:00, but were delayed due to the new customs ritual. No big deal. Dinner tonight was wonderful in the Columbus dining room (deck 5), can't remember what I ordered....but I never had a bad meal in there! We had a wonderful group of people at our table! I could not wait till dinner every night just to talk to everyone and ask about their day.
Day 2 Sea Day.
We awoke to beautiful blue skys and calm seas. We got ready to go to the Windjammer for breakfast. No huge lines, but we are fairly early risers. I think a lot of people were still sleeping. Food today was good, but eggs were cold. French toast was wonderful EVERY day! We never went to the main dining room for any meals except for dinner. We only used room service one time,and that was for juice, they were a little slow so we decided we could get what we wanted 5 times faster if we got it ourselves. After breakfast...I was on a quest for sun! Straight to the pool deck for some relaxation. Plenty of empty deck chairs today....but then again...I am up earlier than most other people. I laid out by the pool for about 2 hrs (maybe less), I don't like to be in the sun during the middle of the day. I then went to explore the ship with my husband. He had been to the casino while I was sunning, only to realize that the casino was not being kind to his wallet! He is not a big gambler thank goodness, so we did not give the casino too much.
We had a Cruise Critic meeting at 11:30, and had a decent sized group, but nowhere near the number that was registered. We had already met up with most of them the night before in Miami at Bayside. We continued to see most of them throughout the cruise and would ask how everyone was doing.
Dinner tonight was formal, and it was the Captain's reception party in the Promenade, free champagne cocktails! We were feeling giddy at dinner that night!
Day 3 San Juan.
We were up on deck when we arrived at San Juan around 2:00. Beautiful skies again for this port. Very warm today! We intended to go to the forts and just wander around on our own. Soon as we disembarked, we asked a few cab drivers how to get to the Bacardi factory....they all acted like we were speaking a foreign language that they did not understand. No one wanted to tell us how to get there. They just wanted to give us a tour of the area of Old San Juan and New San Juan. We finally gave in reluctantly. After the tour, we were dropped off in the shopping area and were told that we could walk to one of the forts.....NOT! The heat was too much for a long walk. Even if we had made the trek to the forts....they would have been closed anyway! We found out that everything historical is closed at about 4:00. We never even got to see the historic churches. We did not buy anything in town, we just headed back to the ship for a MUCH needed shower!
Day 4 St. Maarten.
When we awoke this morning, we were just pulling into port. We went out on our balcony to watch us dock. Skies were a little overcast, but only a little. Cleared off very quickly. We rushed to go eat breakfast so we could get off the ship and explore this BEAUTIFUL island. We did not have any excursions planned for this day, so we just went shopping. My husband was on a quest for an anniversary gift for me. Our anniversary was the next day! We found some Tanzanite earrings to match a pendant we had purchased on our last cruise. We had originally planned to shop more in St. Thomas, but had heard from the shopping talk that if you find something that you really liked you better buy it! I am glad that we did, because we looked in every jewelry store in St. Thomas and could not find anything to match my pendant. After shopping, we found a cab driver to take us to the beach. We wound up at a place called Bikini Beach I think....a clothing optional beach. We only saw a few people who decided to bare it all. Mostly young girls that took off their tops.
Day 5 St. Thomas.
Our Anniversary! Again....another Beautiful day. We had to clear customs before getting off the ship which took a little time, but if you were prepared, it was not a problem. Some people do not know what it takes to be prepared! It was raining in some areas on the island, but we only felt a few scattered drops. Since we did our shopping the day before, we made plans with our tablemates the night before to go snorkeling at Trunk Bay on the recommendation of some of the crew from another ship. We had taken our own snorkel equipment. We shared a cab with them on the way back to the ship the day before. It wound up costing about 22.00 pp for the cab, water taxi and cost to use the beach round trip! I was a little disappointed! We saw very few fish, but the beach is gloriously beautiful! We found out that we should have gone to Turtle Cove with the ship snorkel excursion. Everyone said they saw some beautiful fish. After snorkeling, we went back to the ship for lunch then changed clothes to go shopping.
A couple of women were too late returning from their day at the port....and were left standing on pier! They would have to catch up 2 days later in Nassau! I found out from others on the ship that their families had to pool some money for them to buy plane tickets to Nassau because they did not have credit cards or any extra money with them! Make sure you are on board BEFORE they tell you to be.....it is expensive to play catch-up!
That night before dinner we put on our formals just to get some formal pictures on our anniversary. You should have seen the faces of some of the other passengers. They thought they were dressed wrong, and even had one couple to ask if they had changed the nights for formal....we finally had to tell them that we just dressed up for our special occasion. We really could have had some fun with that!
Day 6 Sea Day.
We slept a little later this day....stayed out later than usual. We awoke around 9:00 to another day of beautiful blue skies! We went to the Windjammer for breakfast.....and there was barely anyone in there! Within 10 min of sitting down to eat, there was a huge crowd coming thru the line. Perfect timing! I guess everyone slept in that day! With breakfast out of the way, I was on my way to the pool deck for my last day to catch some rays. It was a little harder to find 2 chairs together, but still not a big problem. I was still within easy walking distance of the pool to cool off and hear the band when they started playing.
The ship was rocking more today, but nothing I could not handle. Our last cruise was rough seas EVERY day! We talked with our table mates about booking the ship's snorkel excursion for Nassau. We decided to do it since we had little luck on our own.
Day 7 Nassau.
We again were up on deck to watch the ship dock in Nassau. If you have never witnessed a ship pulling in to to this port.....you have missed out! It was amazing watching the ship go through a somewhat narrow channel to get to the docks. I could see the bottom of the ocean just about 150 feet from the ship! We chose to do the Sea Trek sail and snorkel. It said on the description, that there would be one complimentary rum punch on the trip out (so you don't get drunk before snorkeling), but UNLIMITED rum punch on the return trip. That is not what we received, so when we returned to the ship...we all went to the guest services desk to report the discrepancy. We complained while on board the catamaran, but did not do any good. We filled out a form explaining the problem, and they removed ONE of the fees for the snorkel trip. We only paid for 1, which made me feel better. We did see more fish, but it was a big hassle to get to the catamaran before we went out to the destination. No one was standing outside the ship with a sign letting you know where to go or what to do. We boarded the OVERCROWDED catamaran 20 min later than we had planned because they were so unorganized. After we boarded the 1st catamaran, we were moved to another one that was a LITTLE less crowded. Finally we were on our way! After we were underway....that is when the crew tells you about what to expect and they handed out ONE drink coupon and explained that WITHOUT that....there would be no complimentary punch! Never again! After we returned from snorkeling, we stopped of at Senor Frogs for a snack and a drink since we were not satisfied with our excursion. We did a quick run through the straw market and returned to the ship. We had to pack and get ready for dinner.
Tonight was a formal night again. We were getting sad about our cruise coming to an end! We exchanged addresses and phone numbers with our tablemates tonight.
We arrived in Miami at 7:00 that next morning, and soon after we docked a few people were getting off. There is no way to describe everything that you do while on such a big beautiful ship, so I just hit the highlights. We had a great cruise, and definitely plan to cruise with RCCL again!