Backround: This was technically our 11th cruise, 4th on RCL and 5th cruise for my daughter, 2nd on RCL. I work in the travel industry(not a sales agent) so I know what to expect on a cruise and each cruise line's specific traits. Our daughter just turned 13 and it was her first cruise with freedom!
We are only 3 hrs from Baltimore but decided to go a day early and see some of the local sights. Stopped at Charm City Cakes for some pics and stayed at Country Inn & Suites at BWI. The hotel was 15-20 minutes from the pier. Arrived at 10:30am. GREAT port easy to park, terminal os centrally located, not a lot of walking. $75 to park, half of NYC. I would drive the extra 30 minutes over Bayonne/NYC anytime. One minor issue was that we were coming from BWI and the signage for entry into the actual terminal was lacking. There were about 100-200 people already in the terminal but check in went smooth since I come prepared and we were on the ship by 11:15am. It would have been sooner but there was a group of travel agents for a ship tour and a wedding party. It was also in the 90's with a heat index over 100 so they held people up in the shaded area. Went up to the Windjammer since we were advised the cabins would not be ready until 130pm. There was a small crowd so we grabbed some food and then walked around the ship. The heat was bad, the forecast was for 102 with heat index 110-112. Even the pool deck was empty as many first timers stayed in the AC.
The cabin was standard fare and our bags arrived soon after. Our cabin steward Owen from Jamaica came by and introduced himself. He was fabulous the whole trip. One thing for the RCL execs, they need to upgrade this ship if they intend to keep it in Baltimore. 13" tv's, not interactive, no ship wide wi-fi, no sports court...people in that geographic area will not keep sailing on this ship when the Carnival Pride has all these upgrades.
The ship overall is in good shape and all the personnel that we dealt with were courteous and helpful always saying hello. This is one area that has not changed on RCL is the quality of service.
Dining: We booked late and the only option was late seating which we have never had on a previous cruise. We were seated with a mother and her 2 children 12 and 14 so my daughter had someone to talk to besides mom and dad. The other couple did not sir with us the first and 4th nights but they also had children but were traveling alone this time. We all got along great and always had things to talk about at dinner. Our waiter Lenson(India)and assist waiter Nigel(India) were GREAT!! We missed traditional dining with the same waiters. By the second night Nigel knew what drinks everyone wanted and Lenson catered to the kids. My wife is vegetarian so she ordered the Indian selection the first 2 nights. The waiters loved that and kept asking her how she liked it and they could bring her more. The head waiter, can't remember his first name but his last was Moto, was another great asset to RCL. On other cruises we were on the head waiter had very little interaction but Moto came by every night and showed the kids magic tricks and illusions. The food was very good and tried a few new things. My wife was very happy with the veggie selections every night. My daughter tried a few new things but resorted to steak almost every night. Yes 13 y/o and she likes steak and spinach...go figure!
The Windjammer was another story. The selections were nearly identical every day and my wife had problems finding things to eat except salad. We ended up eating almost all our meals in the MDR. I never complain about buffets but this one was lacking. Maybe we are spoiled after Princess(best buffet) but still needs improvement. The Solarium grille had hamburgers, salad, hot dogs, pizza, etc. The pizza was not very good but again we are comparing it to Carnival and Princess. I also think that RCL needs to change their standard fleet wide menus more ofter.
The activities were standard trivia, name that tune, etc. Another thing that Carnival does much better but we didn't go on RCL for activities.
The teen club 12-14 was disappointing for my daughter. They very rarely ran the scheduled activities due to lack of interest and she would walk around the ship with friends that she made the first few nights. The ship was about 80% first timers so that may have been a reason but why schedule things when they cancel 90% of them. They grouped the 12-14 and 15-17 together but the 12-14 were kicked out of Fuel after 11pm?? Maybe they need 2 clubs like Carnival. The bungee trampolines were closed most of the cruise due to high winds.
As stated earlier the service was stellar. That's why we go on RCL and they did not let us down. Always friendly and attentive. The only cruise line that is in the same league is Princess, so far.
The entertainment was good the comedians were hilarious and the Broadway show was ok. My wife hates those shows but she liked the comedy. The cruise director was better that average and kept us entertained.
Bermuda was nice we were there before but this time we ventured out from the Dockyard. Went to horseshoe bay, nice beach stayed there about1 1/2 hours, got sunburn went back to the ship. This was a relaxation cruise so we really didn't care about sigh seeing. The Dockyard terminal is much nicer with the overhaul. NCL Spirit was there at the same time.
We arrived back in Baltimore promptly at 7am, we had express debarkation but hung around until around 9am, we were off the ship and headed home by 930am.
Overall we got what we expected great service, good food, nice ship and plenty of relaxation! The areas that need help were the Windjammer, ship updates, teen club, and more of the bells and whistles even the pre-Freedom class and Oasis class ships have. Maybe a splash zone? We booked under a t/a rate but if I was paying $3000 like most people did, I would be upset. We are planning on going on the Carnival Pride in January to compare..just because I like sailing out of Baltimore. We are still fans of RCL but a bit disappointed.