A little over a week before the cruise I signed into the Royal Caribbean website to reserve specialty dining and show reservations. I thought it was strange that I couldn't book reservations for dinner at Chops at 6:00pm. on Sunday night. I also found it strange that the only show I could get reservations for was Chicago. I thought there was a problem with the website and figured I would make reservations when I got on the ship the first day. We never had problems getting reservations before so I thought I would be OK.
Embarkation went quickly. We arrived shortly after 12:00pm and were on the ship within 20-25 minutes drinking a fruity drink with rum. We waited in the pool area till our cabins were ready at 1:00pm. Our cabin was on the 14th floor. This was a good location. Close to the pool area and the Windjammer cafe.
Once in our room I quickly dropped off our carry-on luggage and set out to explore the ship. My first stop was Central Park. I found a nice quiet, free place to eat lunch away from the craziness of embarkation day. My next stop was Chops to see if I could make reservations at 6:00pm. I was shocked to find that all reservations for two people were sold out for the entire voyage. They put me on a waiting list for 6:00pm on other days but the only call I got was on the first formal night. They had a reservation at 9:00pm, much later than we usually dine, so I never made it to Chops.
The next place I went was Studio B to reserve all the shows. I was really looking forward to seeing Oceanaria. Again, I was disappointed to find out that Oceanaria was sold out as well as most of the other shows. They told me I could go to the shows about 20 minutes before they start to be on a waiting list. While this would be OK for me, it would be very hard for my husband who has trouble standing for long periods of time. Thankfully, I was able to see Oceanaria by doing this. It is a must see show. I was surprised that Royal Caribbean didn't schedule more shows to accommodate the increase in passengers.
Favorite places to hang out: Deck 15, pool deck. I always found a good spot. One end has the sports deck. A good place to people watch is the Wipeout cafe. You can watch the the zip liners, people playing on the sports court, and miniature golf. The Wipeout cafe also has frozen yogurt for a nice afternoon snack.
Another favorite place is the boardwalk. There was always something going on. Occasionally the singers and dancers rehearse on the aqua theater stage so you can have some informal entertainment while you enjoy the fun boardwalk atmosphere.
Overall, we had a wonderful time. The important thing to remember is to be flexible. Even though I couldn't get to see all the shows and we did not use the specialty dining, we had a great time exploring the ship and having a great time together. The only regret my husband mentioned is that he missed being able to see a new show each night after dinner. This is something we used to take for granted but cruising is not the same as it used to be now that cruise ships hold 5200 passengers. If someone from Royal Caribbean sees this, I hope they can improve the availability of seeing shows. They tried to convince me to see the late shows at 10:30 or later, but when since we eat dinner early, this did not work out.