This was our first RCL cruise. Past cruises have been with Celebrity a few times (will do again) and one with Carnival (that will be out last). Overall, the ship, service and food quality was good... just not great. This being said, we paid a lot less for this cruise than we would have with Celebrity (plus we would have to fly to a port of departure adding to the cost). The reason I bring this up is that we booked cabins for my wife and I along with (2) additional cabins for our young adult kids and their significant others. Had to save money somewhere when booking three cabins.
1. Accommodations We booked three 2nd level outside cabins. This was partly to cut some cost but also because I find little value in the balconies unless you are really going into the tier one suites. They are small and cramped. Generally, we spend so little time in the cabin anyway that all we want is impeccably clean and serviceable. These cabins fit the bill. Yes... some stains on the carpet and couches but no disasters there. In every other respect, the cabins were up to par with Celebrity and a huge step above Carnival (which we found to have absolutely disgusting bedding). Cabin service was excellent and attentive but not obtrusive. High marks here.
2. Food I won't repeat a lot of the prior reviews. The food was good but not great. It's better on Celebrity and, again, worse on Carnival. Note... the food is definitely fine. Please don't be hesitant about this cruise because of the food. On RCL, you pay a little less but the quality is up to par. Nothing dramatic or flashy but good. Yes... I we all put on weight so how bad could it have been.
With an early MD dinner seating, we often met up with our kids in the WJ for late (just prior to 9:00) snack, as if we needed that. It was less about the food and more about the quality time with the kids and their guests. BTW... pizza is standard on all cruise lines, it seems. Good cheese, non-existent sauce and bland crust. Did I say plenty of cheese?
3. Entertainment & Recreational The entertainment was quite good. Probably the best we have ever experienced on a cruise. Not up to, say, Broadway quality but quite good and solid entertainment. This was the first cruise we were ever on where I could honestly say the alleged comedians were actually funny. There's a ton of stuff to do on the ship on the sea days. Frankly, I hate the pool scene and go running to get as far from it as I can. If I wanted to be packed in like Jones Beach, I'd stay home. However... here's a little secret... there's a nice hot tub in the lobby to the Gym/Spa. There is hardly ever anyone there. Run, don't walk there. Also, if you hate being in the sun and heat, what could be better than a hot tub in a nice cool, air conditioned space? Doesn't get any better than that for me. The gym is very nicely equipped with enough cardio stuff for all interested as long as you are not too fussy about what kind of cardio workout you'll do. My daughter and I did the spin class. The Austrian chick running that was awesome. She really got us all kicking it up a notch. I may have worked off the rolls and danish that day. Recommended. My daughter's fiance and I took in a facial and a shave. Really great experience and not bad, cost wise, compared with the other options. My daughter, wife, and son all did one kind of treatment or another and were satisfied. It was a little pricey but, hey, it's a cruise. It's the going rate. My son's girlfriend opted out of a spa treatment. The bar scene... I have never seen a cruise ship with so many bars. My wife and I are not big drinkers but we did sample a few. My kids, etc. hit them all the 2nd night of the cruise (that hurt my pocket book a little!). They had fun.
4. Service We were very pleased with the service everywhere. All the crew members from the MD to the WJ and everywhere else were extremely friendly and genuinely helpful. They were quite good.
5. The ship No really issues although, I will say, there was one instance of a "messy" (to be polite), non-functioning bathroom near the WJ one night. I guess that can happen but, having used many of the "facilities" on board, I can say everything else was shipshape. The boat is 10 years old which, in the cruise business, means it is time for a refurb but this "old" tub is holding up just fine and is aging well.
6. Embarkation/Debarkation The on-boarding process was OK. Had to wait about 15 minutes to check in. No big deal really. We arrived around 2:00. From what I can see, you can ignore RCL's claim that boarding is at 2:00. By the time we got there, the party was already well under way. Here's a tip about debarkation. The express thing is an absolute JOKE! Most folks on this cruise are from the NJ/NY/CT area which means we arrive and depart by car. There is no rush to get off the boat. It seems have the passengers picked the express departure which turns it from an "express" into a very painful "local" with you lugging hundreds of pounds of baggage. That process started at about 8:30 with the queueing up starting by 7:30. By 9:15, the express folks were off having waited in line and having to haul all their crap around. We took a 9:15-9:45 scheduled debarkation. We went got called by 9:45 and by 10:00 we were at the curb waiting for our car pickup (through picking up baggage, and customs). No stress, no lines... simple and easy. SUGGESTION: Forget the express debarkation. Cool your heals in the MD and take the regular debarkation. Why cap off your cruise with a real down experience? Got an 11:00 debarkation tag? Go to the guest services desk and ask for an earlier debarkation. They will give it to you. You will thank me later.