Boarding the ship was pretty good. We arrived at the cruise terminal around 10:30 before the lines were actually open, so there was a line outside the terminal, but once the lines opened, things moved quite quickly. Our Set Sail said that our boarding time was 12:00 pm, but we were all checked in and on the ship by 11:15. We only stopped to make reservations at Chops, then went right to the Windjammer for lunch. We were easily able to get a table, but before we were finished eating, the place was packed and our table was pounced on as soon as we stood up.
The doors to the staterooms were opened promptly at 1:00, and we checked it out. We were in #1362. The bed was by the balcony and the sofa was closer to the hall door. It was a new arrangement for us, but felt a bit roomier than the stateroom on Holland America that we had in September. The closet was smaller than on other ships, but adequate for us. The shower in the bathroom was rounded and although still small, gave the illusion of having more space then the rectangular ones. It could actually hold four average sized adults if one wanted to try for some kind of shower stuffing record. (Don't ask how I know this.)
My husband bought the Fountain Soda package on the first day. He won't do it again. He felt he had to drink more sodas than he otherwise would have in order to break even with the individual price. With the only diet option being Diet Coke, he got tired of the whole thing. The package comes with a big insulated bottle, but is a pain to carry around. Fortunately the package includes drinks served in regular glasses anywhere on the ship. He wound up adding his own vanilla to the Cokes after our first port stop. That helped.
The ship is quite nice. The Promenade is especially impressive. The Promenade Café is a great place to pick up a snack (loved the granola bars) 24 hours a day. The rooms that overlook it are a bit strange, but we talked to a man who was in one and said he really liked it. The double paned windows kept out the noise except when one of the parades was going on. There were signs of wear and tear, but you also saw people working on maintenance during the trip too.
The best show on the show on the ship was the “Ice Under the Big Top”. The skating, costumes, set, etc. were all comparable to the land based ice shows, although smaller. Knowing that the skaters are working on ice on a rolling ship was most impressive. A nice touch is that skating classes are offered late in the cruise (sign up early), and they are conducted by the performers themselves. They also handle handing out the skates and getting people signed up. It was fun meeting them up close and getting to interact with them. They were quite patient with us newbies. They do have periods when the rink is open for free skating. Some people even brought their own skates. The production shows on the main stage were OK, but the talent was not the best. We missed one that sounded like it was the only one not to miss. We did enjoy the backstage tour one day conducted by the dance captain and the lighting director. Even if the shows are great, you can appreciate what the performers especially the dancers have to cope with when you feel the stage moving.
There are lots of activities on board. Of course all the usual, but the ice skating and the rock wall climbing were unique and quite fun. The fitness center was very nice and well maintained. A couple of treadmills were out of order one day, but back in use the next. The trivia and Name That Tune contests were mostly held in the Schooner Bar. There were so many people participating that it was often impossible to find a seat and once you did, to hear what was being said. For popular activities, they should find a larger more convenient venue.
We found the crew to be friendly and helpful. Our waiter in the dining room, Jasonn Joya, was great, as was his assistant, Reynato. In the Windjammer, Verheek was the best. The iced tea from concentrate that they serve is undrinkable, so I brew my own, much to the mystification of most waiters, but when I put in my standard order, Verheek knew I wanted to brew my own tea and brought me extra ice and extra hot water. Kudos.
The food was adequate. A few individual dishes were outstanding, but the overall quality could only be considered average. We did have an excellent meal in Chops, one of the specialty restaurants, but wouldn't have paid the extra cost for it. We got it comped as part of the deal for booking the cruise.
Our major complaint was the corridor outside our room. Apparently someone was sick there, and it took days for the smell to dissipate. It made you gag, and we were holding our breath walking down the corridor until we got into our room. The second day after it happened, we overheard an officer telling the steward to shampoo it. It helped, but the smell didn't completely go away until the last day of the cruise.
We really appreciate the Express Departure on RCL. We had used the same procedure on Holland America, which was much better publicized and operated. On RCL, the information was just three lines on the As You Depart sheet. You really had to look for it, then listen to the whole 20 minute TV presentation about disembarkation to get any details. The Guest Relations desk didn't have any information when we checked there. We were told to report to one location, then moved to another. It appears that the popularity of just walking off and taking you own bags with you was underestimated by the staff, so procedures were changed at the last minute to accommodate the crowd. It was a minor inconvenience, and the crowd was adapted to quickly, but with a little more planning (like Holland America does), they would have known ahead of time how many were planning on doing this.