I will start with some pointers and some miscellaneous info for "virgins" like us (actually, we cruised 22 yrs ago on a much smaller ship - no comparison!). Here goes... if this information is helpful, great, if not, disregard and go to review.
Helpful Information We Learned from CC or Wish we Had... 1) Embarkation stuff: When you get to the terminal in PC, the porters will take your bags (make sure you have your RCCI luggage tags affixed). You will proceed through security and will need passport and signed seapass doc (from RCCI website). They will scan your carry ons similar to airport security. You will then be ushered to a line based on your last name. The rep will ask for the same signed seapass doc. You will then be issued your seapass card which is like a credit card which serves as your room key and your onboard charge card for drinks and other purchases. You will enter the boat on the 4th dock based on where your cabin is. No one is there to give you a map or guide you in anyway. But, there are ship diagrams all over. In fact, when you walk in on #4, the middle MDR and casino are on tbis level. If you go up the steps, you will be at the promenade non level 5 which is like the center of the ship. The guest service desk is there as well. Plenty of elevators and steps(front and back) are avail to get where you need to go. Minors will get a punch in their seapass cards. The cards will also denote wine packages or soda package. Soda package is on the card when you get it. You will receive your soda cup in your room if you signed up in advance. RCCI will be selling soda packages to those that didn't sign up ahead... we tried to get a soda cup from them, not realizing they would be in the room. Also, no cruise compass for day 1 in your room but you can get it from the guest services.
2) Wine package: I bought in advance but they also sell on day 1 in Promenade. I "activated" my package in MDR on the first night and brought my unused bottle back to my room so I could drink at my leisure. You can also get your wine in Chopps & Portofino (they will send your unused wine back to MDR). I was told I could get in Windjammer but I asked at WJ bar and they said no, MDR. You can buy wine at Vintages by the glass (and bottle). Not cheap! RCCI makes some money here, but that's OK. I didn't like not having all my wine in my room. It was very inconvenient but certainly not the end of the world. Lastly, if you are interested in a fitness class, sign up TODAY as some fill up quick (pilates).
3) Rooms, etc.: Your room will be cleaned 2x/day unless you have the do not disturb card in your key slot. I thought the rooms were huge compared to our first cruise! Lots of storage, well designed. Empty suitcases will fit nicely under the beds(s). One outlet so might want an extension cord or power strip. We used ext cord and that was plenty. No Irons! I brought a mini steamer and it worked great. I used the little desk as a vanity. There is a medicine cabinet in bathroom and shelf under the sink. Plenty of room unless you have lots and lots of toiletries. The desk also has two wall shelves that are small and hidden behind the mirror. The clothes line is in the shower. I brought a couple of clothespins that worked great. Each night you will recieve a cruise compass on your bed when they turn down the bed. We did not use. There was an unlabeled soap dispenser in our shower which was shampoo, not soap. Bar soap, no conditioner. We brought our own shampoo and conditioner. There is a blow dryer in the top desk drawer but you have to hold down the lever while you use it. If you have adjoining doors, you will need to ask the room steward to open it and it stays open! So, if you don't want your kids barging in, take the room where the door opens in so you can put the door stop at the bottom... we didn't do this! Next time we will. We also brought an electric candle for light at night. Kept it in the bathroom. There are no clocks. You can get laundry done for $25 for a small bag on Thurs and they will return it on Fri eve. You need to list the items in the landry bag on a sheet they will give you. Dry cleaning can be done anyday.
4) Dining: we had late seating at 8:30 on the lower level on deck three. It's about an hour too late but the early seating is too early. We wished there was a nice appetizer place where we could get drinks. We had to improvise by ordering room service (in front of your book on your table in room)snacks, antipasto, etc. from Sorrentos or snack sandwiches from the Prom Cafe. We would take them to Olive or Twist great bar on 14 that overlooks pool and ocean), Schooners (piano bar), etc. This worked OK. Also, I discovered a great cereal bar in the MDR for breakfast where I would make a nice nut mix for later in the day. Lunch and breakfast are served in MDR as well as WJ on lower level only. Both breakfast and lunch in the MDR were good. And, you can order anything you want. One day, they had choc shakes for breakfast (all you want). In the MDR for dinner, you could order the entire menu if you wanted. You can also bring your dessert back or ask for something to go. WJ is open for all three meals but not all day long (most of the day). Nachos bar out from 3-5 which we also used for our appetizers. Specialty restaurants can order anything as well. Lastly, each day,on TV, the cruise director will do a morning show discussing the events from the prior night and the events of the day ahead. So funny AND helpful!
5) Gratuities: if you prepay, you can still leave extra. They will give you slips to put in the envelopes which will be on your bed the 2nd to last night so you can bring with to personally hand to your wait staff. Fees for wine/soda package and specialty restaurants includes gratuity but you can leave more if you'd like. All drink bills will already have a 15% gratuity added on but you can add more.
6) Ports: you disembark on deck 1 but do not go down until the captain gives the OK. You will need to stick your sea pass in the machine (they actually check your picture each time). When you return from the port, you will need to scan again. In only St. Thomas, they required our passport or other ID in addition to Seapass. Not St. Maarten (even tho they say you need ID). Lastly, no issues bringing towels from the ship (pool towels) as long as you return them. 7) Attire: I was very surprised by the number of people that dressed up EVERY night. I dress up every day for work so, I prefer to dress casual every day. This is personal preference. Many like to dress up. I felt a little under-dressed at time but it didn't bother me.
Here is my review... finally!!!
First, my jaw is still on the floor... I cannot get over the beauty of this ship. Many of you have cruised on this ship or others that may compare... so not quite the same for you as it was for us, I am sure. It is truly beautiful with so many entertainment and dining venues, it is hard to not find something. So, the WJ and MDR were fine, not great. I didn't expect great. Cooking for the masses, from around the world, at an affordable price is a challenge, I am sure. Having said that, Portofinos was spectacular. We did it twice and the food was beyond words and the staff was top notch. A definite five star! Maybe six! So, Chopps... great food. Didn't have the best service but loved the food. Not quite the culinary experience as Portofino. I would give them a second chance as the food was great. All were well worth the $20! You can make reservations on the ship.
So much activity for the teens, too. Our 16 and 17 yr olds are completely hooked. RCCI had so many activities for them. They met others their age. We never saw them. They shold write their own "teen" review!
We both loved the fitness facility. DH did the spin class four days. I did pilates reformer 3 days. Great facilities. No issues getting a machine. We also loved the track on deck 12. I did a spa service that was out of this world.
As with any business, RCCI was entrepreneurial and would sell what they could when they could (pics, spa, drinks, etc). This didn't bother us at all. We have no issues saying no. Nor did they.
Loved the service from RCCI! The MDR (Eric) and our room steward, in particular... Sandra was so helpful and made our PR feel like home every day! Our teenage boys were no picnic to clean up after!! So, hats off to RCCI!! We are not huge show people but did see the love and marriage show and Drew Thomas, the magician. Both were fantastic. Can I tell you how funny and amazing Graham Seymour is? He cracked me up on TV every morning and was great in the shows we did see. Would like to have seen more of him. His staff did a great job at the pool as well.
We cannot wait to go again! I will do separate port reviews on all but Coco Cay. So, Coco Cay... we did was another CC member suggested... stayed on the boat in the AM relaxed, worked out, had lunch and then took a tender to Coco Cay. We brought our own snorkel gear and enjoyed the beaches. Not much to see underwater but a quaint little island.